Tucked away behind a towering limestone cliff lies the incredible Small Lagoon El Nido. It’s an iconic Palawan tourist spot, and for good reason! Hidden from view, you enter through a small hole in the limestone, only to be met with a large open space and turquoise blue waters. We’ve visited Small Lagoon El Nido a few times now, but our most recent trip in March 2021 would have to be the most memorable, for a couple of reasons.
When we visited, El Nido had only just opened to domestic tourism and was basically empty. We had Small Lagoon El Nido, a place that’s usually packed full of tourists, all to ourselves. It was absolutely surreal and we consider ourselves one of the very lucky few to be able to experience Small Lagoon so peacefully. We didn’t have to photoshop lifejackets out, or look out for other drones in the air. We were able to take our time and simply enjoy this magical place, just us.
WHERE IS SMALL LAGOON EL NIDO
Small Lagoon El Nido is part of Miniloc Island, about 45 minutes away from mainland El Nido. It’s only accessible by boat, so you’ll need to book an island hopping tour if you want to visit. It’s actually right next to Big Lagoon El Nido, but they’re part of different El Nido island hopping packages, so you’ll need to book the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon tours separately.
READ: BIG LAGOON EL NIDO
HOW TO BOOK A TOUR TO SMALL LAGOON EL NIDO
We booked all our island hopping with Ape Tours after researching all our options thoroughly. After 4 days of island hopping with them, we’re confident we made the right choice! These guys make island hopping so fun, with music, dancing, and great vibes. Their boat is also huge and can accommodate large groups, with even more space on top for dancing, sunbathing and taking in the incredible views.
Aside from being professional party people, they also know their way behind a camera. They even have a drone! This is a huge perk for people who want to capture the best memories of El Nido but don’t have all the gear. One of the guides will always be snapping pics, and at the end of your tour, you’ll get them all sent to you at no extra cost. Not to mention, you can get 10% off your island hopping package with Ape Tours if you quote ‘NOPOSTCODE’ at the time of booking!
WHAT TO BRING TO SMALL LAGOON EL NIDO
Prepare for your trip to Small 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: CADLAO LAGOON EL NIDO
OUR EXPERIENCE AT SMALL LAGOON
The entrance to Small Lagoon is one of the things that makes this place so cool! We parked our big boat out the front and hopped into kayaks that took us through a hole in the limestone and into Small Lagoon. Kayaking in Small Lagoon El Nido is a must unless you fancy a long and tiring swim.
It’s all in the name, but in case you weren’t sure, Small Lagoon El Nido is considerably smaller than the neighbouring Big Lagoon El Nido. That doesn’t make it any less spectacular though, and if anything, adds to its enchanting feel. Once you’re through the hole, you’re just about enclosed by massive limestone cliffs towering above from every direction.
We kayaked through the narrow entrance and into the middle of Small Lagoon El Nido, where the depth reaches around 10 metres. The water in Small Lagoon is amazingly clear and calm, even when the swell outside picks up. It was also still really blue despite it being an overcast day.
The conditions were near perfect for some fun freediving, except for the fact that there were literally thousands of jellyfish in the lagoon. In all our times visiting Small Lagoon El Nido, we had never seen it like this. In fact, Big Lagoon right next door didn’t have any! We were actually able to touch the jellyfish without any stings, but there’s just something a little off-putting about diving into a sea of jellies, stingers or not. We did, however, submerge the GoPro to get a better look.v
Despite not being able to swim, we still had an awesome time kayaking around Small Lagoon El Nido. If anything, the jellyfish made the whole experience more memorable, as we’d never seen anything quite like it. If you’re not a fan of jellyfish (who is?) don’t let it deter you from visiting! It’s such a rare occurrence and Small Lagoon is simply too beautiful to miss out on.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
MORE EL NIDO TRAVEL GUIDES
Big Lagoon, El Nido
Cadlao 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