Island Hopping the Best Beaches around El Nido

Discovering El Nido’s Secret Beach: Palawan Island Hopping Day Trip



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One of the most popular things to do around El Nido is an island hopping day trip. Kris and Kristen put together a “best of the best” island day trip from all the spots they had visited near El Nido. The highlight for me had to be the incredible “Secret Beach” that you had to swim through a narrow crack in the sea wall to get to. It wasn’t even visible from the outside, and I have no idea how our guide spotted it.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Possibly the most popular activity around El Nido is to hire a boat and visit a few of the incredible small islands that make up the Bacuit Archipelago. This "boat for hire" sign was just outside our bungalow on the beach in El Nido.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Before we left I figured this was a good time for an island hopping photo on the boat.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    The next stop was the very appropriately named "Secret Beach" on Matinloc Island. Behind this forbidding wall of jagged basalt and crashing waves is what must be one of the hardest beaches in the world to find. Local legend has it that the Secret Beach inspired Alex Garland to write his novel "The Beach".

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Boats can't access Secret Beach so the only way to get there is to swim.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    And not just any swim, you have to swim through a narrow underwater crevice in the rock wall.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Once clear of the rock wall, the water is calm and flat.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Surrounded by towering rock walls like a castle, the coral lagoon of the Secret Beach is brightly lit by the tropical sun overhead.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    After the swim through the Secret crevice, everyone wanted to just sit back and absorb the incredible surroundings.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    The basalt rock walls that surrounded the Secret Beach are literally razor sharp and have a dark, gothic appearance up close. Don't try to climb this barefooted!

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Nobody else was at the Secret Beach that day, so we had it all to ourselves.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Somehow Christopher climbed up on the jagged cliffs above us in his flip-flops. We spotted him silhouetted against the afternoon sky.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Kris and Kristen are friends with a family who owns a pump boat and they offered to take us around on a day trip to see a "best of the best" of El Nido's islands. Required uniform for the day as you can probably tell from this photo was a pair of dark blue shorts and a light blue shirt.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    You can get an idea how steep the walls surrounding the Secret Beach are in this photo.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Because the tide level can affect how difficult it is to get in and out of the Secret Beach, we couldn't stay too long. After about an hour, we had to go back outside the walls and meet our boat.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Here's a shot to give you an idea what it looks like inside the Secret Beach lagoon. While it's not a very large beach, it really is an amazing place.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Unfortunately it was time to go. The good news was that we had a few more stops left on the island hopping trip.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Schools of small fish guard the underwater entrance to the Secret Beach.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    As we left the tide was low enough to catch a glimpse of our boat moored outside. At this point in the afternoon there were some pretty strong swells coming in from the South China Sea.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Here is a shot of Kris swimming out of the entrance to the Beach.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Preston was on his way out next.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Once we were back at the boat we all had some mangoes that we picked up at the market in El Nido.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    And we were off to the next island.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Christopher was our young captain for most of the days' inter-island voyage, though sometimes his dad also took over the helm. Jovelyn, Christopher's sister works at the Dara Fernandez cottages where we stayed in El Nido.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    The last stops on the trip were the Big and Small Lagoons of Miniloc Island.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    The water inside the lagoons was very calm and great for snorkeling.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    The water is a brilliant shade of turquoise and contrasts nicely with the rock faces and green trees growing precariously from the walls.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    This family of clown fish was living in their anemone here.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    They had another roommate--this little crab was also living inside the anemone's tentacles.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    After a full day of traveling between the islands everybody was tired but definitely had a great time.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    We motored in to the El Nido harbor with just enough time to catch the sunset over Cadlao Island.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Back in El Nido and ready for the next adventure.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    The first stop on the island hopping trip was Tapiutan Island, about an hour by boat from El Nido (click here for a close up view of the this photo).

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Just off the beach of Tapiutan Island these clown fish live in their anemone.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    The anemone was perched precariously at the edge of the coral wall dropoff.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    In the shallow waters, this crown of thorns starfish munches coral day and night.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    Instead of opting for the more traditional island hopping vittles such as fish and rice, we ordered up a stack of Squidos pizza in the early morning and brought them along with us. I think Kristen was as surprised as we all were to find the pizzas relatively intact after bouncing through the waves and getting cooked a second time in the tropical sun.

  • El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005

    El Nido, Palawan Island Hopping - February 2005
    After he finished eating, Christopher was spotted on the roof of the little building on Tapiutan Island.