BIG LAGOON EL NIDO, PALAWAN: Ultimate Travel Guide

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Big Lagoon El Nido is one of those places that literally takes your breath away, from whatever angle you look at it. We’ve been lucky enough to visit this epic Palawan tourist spot a number of times and have seen it transform over the years from a new tourist destination to one of the most popular places on earth, and even the site of the Redbull Cliff Diving World Series in 2019.

What was really spectacular though, was visiting Big Lagoon in March 2021, not long after El Nido reopened to domestic tourism in the Philippines. We had the entire place to ourselves – nope, that’s not a photoshopped picture above, it really was just our boat! Thanks to the pandemic, there’ve been a few changes to the way island hopping to Big Lagoon El Nido is done these days, so we’ve put together the ultimate guide to Big Lagoon El Nido in 2021.

WHERE IS BIG LAGOON EL NIDO

You’ll find Big Lagoon El Nido on the island of Miniloc, about 45 minutes by boat away from the mainland jump-off point. Island hopping is the only way to get to Big Lagoon, as it’s too far to kayak and the waves can get a little big.

READ: SMALL LAGOON EL NIDO

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HOW TO BOOK A TOUR TO BIG LAGOON EL NIDO

Since the only way to get to Big Lagoon in El Nido is by island hopping, you’ll need to book a tour through a registered company. We did all our El Nido island hopping with Ape Tours and can’t recommend them enough. It’s critical that you book with a DOT-accredited tour provider during the pandemic, as there’s a lot of procedures and protocols that need to be followed. You can read about the full El Nido Travel Requirements for more information here.

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Ape Tours were incredibly professional but at the same time so fun. They put safety and sustainability first whilst mixing in dance parties every chance they could. If you’re lucky enough to get Jason, Dar and Pineapple Head (Ricardo) as your guides, you’re in for a good time. We’re also so excited to share a 10% discount code with you! Just quote ‘NOPOSTCODE’ when reserving your tour to avail of the promo.

WHAT TO BRING TO BIG LAGOON EL NIDO

Prepare for your trip to Big Lagoon El Nido with our must-have travel essentials.

Waterproof backpack & phone case: Earth Pak 35L or 55L Heavy Duty Backpack, IPX8 Waterproof Phone Case Included (click for price)
Quick dry microfiber travel towel: Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Travel Towel (click for price)
Action camera: GoPro HERO9 Black (click for price)
GoPro dome: TELESIN Dome Port Lens for GoPro Hero 9 (click for price)
Drone: DJI Mavic 2 Pro (click for price)
Snorkel, mask & fins: Cressi Adjustable Mask, Fin & Snorkel Set with Carry Bag (click for price)

READ: EL NIDO TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS IN 2021

OUR EXPERIENCE

After a 45-minute dance party on the boat, we arrived at Big Lagoon, one of the most iconic Palawan destinations. Boats aren’t allowed to enter the lagoon so we anchored at the entrance and took our kayaks in. This was our third time visiting Big Lagoon El Nido but only our first using kayaks. You can actually walk in until you reach the deep blue, but we recommend using a kayak for a better experience.

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The narrow and very shallow channel eventually makes way to Big Lagoon in all its glory. We kayaked around for a while admiring how clear and blue the water was, point out fish, sea urchins (so, so many sea urchins) and even baby blacktip reef sharks. Now, don’t go panicking about there being sharks in Big Lagoon, they barely pose harm to humans and will swim away from you anyway.

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Our kayak tour even led us to a little cave tucked away in a corner of Big Lagoon, which is where we saw our first baby shark (doo-doo-doo-doo, lol sorry). Even though this was our third time coming to Big Lagoon El Nido, this was somehow our first time visiting this cave. That’s another thing we loved about Ape Tours. They don’t try to get their tours in and out as quickly as possible and onto the next location, they take their time and make sure we don’t miss a thing.

READ: CADLAO LAGOON EL NIDO

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There are endless spots for photo ops above sea level in Big Lagoon, but the real magic lies below the surface. The deepest part of Big Lagoon goes down to around 20 metres, so freedivers will have a field day. The limestone cliffs make for an epic backdrop in half-half photos, which is why we recommend investing in a dome for your GoPro. This particular spot in the photo below is exactly where the Redbull Cliff Divers jumped in 2019!

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After an hour or so of kayaking, swimming and taking pics, we made our way back to the boat. With so few tours operating due to the pandemic, we were able to take our time and truly appreciate the beauty of Big Lagoon El Nido. If there’s any time we recommend you visit, it’s now when you can have the place all to yourself and take in every magical moment there.

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Big Lagoon El Nido Palawan Philippines Travel Guide

WHERE TO STAY IN EL NIDO

There’s no shortage of accommodation in El Nido, but having all those options can be a little overwhelming when it comes to choosing the best place to stay. We’ve chosen our top four picks for budget, midscale, boutique and luxury hotels in El Nido to make things easier for you.

BUDGET: DEN’GI INN

If you’re planning on being in El Nido for a while and you’re not looking to break the bank, Den’Gi Inn is our top recommendation. We stayed for two weeks and found it was the best value for money. It’s one of the cheapest properties in El Nido, but offers clean rooms, good amenities and is in a prime location in town.

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Where to stay in El Nido
Image by Den’Gi Inn

MIDSCALE: FRENDZ HOSTEL

Frendz Hostel has a million dollar view without the million dollar price tag. It’s right in the centre of town but its height offers unbeatable views of the bay. From private to share rooms, it boasts having a bed for every budget, and its social environment makes it a great place to make new friends.

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Where to stay in El Nido
Image by Frendz Hostel

BOUTIQUE: THE BIRDHOUSE

If you’re looking for something a little different, The Birdhouse is that something. It’s a small five tent glamping hotel with unbeatable sunset views. Their tents are decked out with all the finer things in life, including private bathrooms, and their yoga platform is a destination in its own right.

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Where to stay in El Nido
Image by The Birdhouse

LUXURY: SEDA LIO

For those with a little more cash to throw around we recommend Seda Lio, one of the biggest luxury beach resorts on the mainland. Housed within the Lio Tourism Estate, Seda Lio offers a haven to escape to after a long day of activities and island hopping.

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Where to stay in El Nido
Image by Seda Lio

SEARCH ALL HOTELS & RESORTS IN EL NIDO

MORE EL NIDO TRAVEL GUIDES

Cadlao Lagoon, El Nido
Small Lagoon, El Nido
Entalula Island, El Nido
Shimizu Island, El Nido
Nacpan Beach, El Nido
Duli Beach, El Nido
Las Cabañas Beach, El Nido
Papaya Beach, El Nido
Seven Commandos Beach, El Nido

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Philippines | Asia

April 1, 2021

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