In any popular tourist destination, there are always two sets of places to explore: tourist-y attractions (those that are commonly included in tour packages) and the off the beaten path (which typically includes hidden gems that many tourists don’t know about).
If you’d like to truly get to know a place, you won’t be contented seeing only the first set, you’ll also make time for the underrated attractions that can be just as beautiful (or sometimes even more) than the usual tourist spots.
In El Nido, these are the other natural attractions that you would want to see and experience.
Drop by the charming quaint village of Sibaltan. It’s where you can immerse yourself in the culture and everyday life of the locals of El Nido. The residents of Sibaltan make their living farming, fishing and gardening. The place is surrounded with beautiful scenery and inhabited by warm and friendly Cuyonons. There’s a beach bar and a cultural museum that you can visit while you’re here.
You don’t have to be a history buff to marvel at the Illi Cave, a 100-meter-high limestone cliff where artifacts as old as 14,000 years can be found. The cave was explored as part of the joint project of the National Museum, Solheim Foundation and the Archaeological Studies Program of the University of the Philippines. Over 20,000 artifacts have been excavated in this cave in the late 1990s. A few of these are currently in display inside the cave.
It’s not only the collection of islands and coves that should be visited during your stay in El Nido, so should be the attractions located a few kilometres from the town proper. A 30-minute drive from the town of El Nido takes you to Nagkalit-kalit falls. Here, you will have to go on a 45-minute hike through the forest to reach the waterfalls. It’s advisable to wear waterproof shoes as you’ll be crossing several rivers to get there. Although it can be quite exhausting, the waterfalls are majestic enough to make your trip worth it.
Yaposan Beach is a quiet secluded beach in the town proper of El Nido. To get here, you can go through the back of the building of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and then walk straight to the rock formations that you can see from afar. You can walk along the beach and get to know more about the locals residing there. During high tide, you can ride a tricycle going there. Stroll along the beach and marvel at the different rocks formations that can be found here.
Mangrove Eco Park
The Mangrove Eco Park was established to protect and conserve the mangrove forests in El Nido. As you probably know, mangroves are a significant part of our ecosystem, providing a barrier against the sea to ward off typhoons, tidal waves and floods, and at the same time, serve as habitat to various plant and animal species.
To get to this place, you will have to rent a tricycle from the town proper. Some of the tricycle drivers may not be familiar with this eco park but you can mention Maremegmeg Beach and ask them to drop you here.
The tricycle rental is about P300 but you can try to negotiate for a lower price. Since there are no tricycles there, you have to ask the driver to wait for you to finish the tour so he can bring you back to the town proper. Travel time from El Nido town to Maremegmeg Beach is 15 to 20 minutes.
The wooden trail winding through the thick mangrove forest spans about 500 meters. It takes about 30 minutes or so to finish the tour. You’ll hardly notice time go by because you’ll be preoccupied marveling at the mangrove trees around. The park staff will probably warn you about some snakes dangling from the trees, so you have to watch out for those.
Unlike the mangrove tour in Sabang which is a popular side trip for those visiting the Underground River, the mangrove park here in El Nido is not well-known. It’s a shame since the park is surrounded with fascinating sights of mangrove trees that make you feel like you’re in a different world.
Over time, the park most likely will take off and will welcome more tourists. For now, those who venture into this off-the-beaten path will be happy that they were able to get a chance to see this gem tucked beneath the popular tours of El Nido. Make sure that you help preserve its beauty by being a responsible tourist. Try to drop by Nacpan Beach and Maremegmeg Beach while you’re in the area.
Even when you’re done with the standard tours A, B, C and D, you’re still not finished exploring the whole of El Nido. There are many other natural spots in here that are not as popular but should still be part of your itinerary.