Our time in El Nido, Palawan, was a little different from what most visitors experience. El Nido is situated in northern Palawan, one of the most photographed regions of the Philippines. It’s the jumping off point to go island hopping out to breathtaking Bacuit Archipelago, a cluster about 50 protected islands with towering limestone cliffs, crystal blue water, pristine white sand beaches, and enchanting lagoons.
Despite being THE reason people go to El Nido, we didn’t do a single island hopping tour. We originally intended to do some island hopping, but when arrived to find too many boats full of too many people going to all the same iconic spots, we opted out.
For us, beautiful places lose their magic when experienced in large herds of people. We knew immediately that we wanted to stay away from the crowds of tourists and experience something a little different. So we did. We didn’t miss out on the beauty of El Nido. We missed out on the seas of bobbing orange life vests and screaming tourists.
For two days we went out into Bacuit Archipelago on a SCUBA boat. They took us to some beautiful remote bays and islands that had no other tourists. The most crowded it got for us was driving past the saturated tourist hot spots littered with dozens of boats on our way to a dive site, getting to our destination and seeing another dive boat pull away.
The diving itself didn’t “wow” us the way we hoped, but they were still really cool dives. We swam around and through towering rock formations, picked sea grass and hand-fed a turtle, lovingly chased an octopus as it camouflaged itself and swam from rock to rock, and saw vibrant, electric clams for the first time.
One of the SCUBA days I had sinus issues so I joined Nick on the boat but didn’t dive. I snorkeled at each increasingly more scenic spot and swam up to the uninhabited beaches to explore.
On one deserted island I searched around for the 4-foot long lizards that lived there. I found a series of large footprints originating from under a massive boulder and going down the beach to the water. Where the prints finally disappeared into the gently lapping water I came across dozens of baby lizards hopping around from rock to rock. They ranged in size from 1 to 3 inches long but wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to get a close look.
Another SCUBA stop with no other boats was at twin rocks, a place where two towering rock islands nearly touch. The swirling water between them attracts various shark species although I wasn’t lucky enough to spot any. I snorkeled my way to the white sand beach. It was completely empty and no bigger than 100 feet long. The rocks were perfect for me to scramble up and get a birds eye view of the clear blue water while Nick was diving below.
That day turned out to be an exclusive, private island hopping tour where I saw no other tourists and experienced some of the most beautiful beaches and snorkeling in the Philippines