“The best island destination of Southeast Asia” was how National Geographic Traveler Magazine sized up El Nido in its November-December 2007 issue. And has since been dubbing it as one of the best travel destinations. Alex Garland’s “The Beach was inspired by El Nido, many say. The Amazing Race, Bourne Legacy… it’s becoming a Hollywood favorite as well and for good reason.
Majestic karst limestone formation, enchanting lagoons, marble cliffs, lush forest, white sandy beaches, clear blue waters, wonderful marine life… all these epitomizes the Philippines’ so called “Last Frontier”.
Shops along the main streets of the town center offer the same A to D island-hopping tours. To be in El Nido and not do these tours is like going to an ice cream parlor and not have ice cream.
It is after all the gateway to Bacuit bay—
an exquisite nature gem scattered with limestone islands with stretches of white sand beaches and hidden coves.
Mang Rudy promised a good lunch in his tour and so, together with the French friends we met coming to El Nido, we booked a tour with him.
Tour C— because it was my favorite tour the last time and because the our French friends wanted to see “Secret Beach”.
First on the agenda was Hidden Beach on Matinloc Island and the farthest from town.
Beautiful beach with lush vegetation hidden behind towering limestone cliffs hence the name.
We did some snorkeling but didn’t step foot on the beach.
Matinloc Shrine, our next stop, is on one side of the island.
The shrine is a two-storey building towering in one corner and a concrete gazebo at the center of the site. Abandoned, the shrine is not in good condition but remains part of the tour— most likely because of its remarkable scenery.
In front of the building stands a limestone cliff with a stunning view of the nearby Tapiutan Island and other beaches of the island.
One has to climb the cliff to see the view while relatively easy; the sharp limestone edges can easily cut. So be careful.
A beautiful tiny cove, Shumizu Island, which we had all to ourselves, was where we stopped for lunch.
While the food was on the grill, we enjoyed the sun, sea and sand.
Lunch was a wonderful feast of grilled chicken and squid alongside a refreshing cucumber and tomato salad.
Thank you Mang Rudy, we were not disappointed.
Matinloc Island has a Secret Beach.
Inside the steep rock wall is an enchanting beach inaccessible by boat.
The only way to enter this secret beach is through a small crevice, which during high tide is submerged earning its name. When submerged, one has to swim through the crevice underwater making the reveal more dramatic, truth to tell.
This particular beach is said to have been the inspiration to Alex Garland’s “The Beach”. It is easy to understand why.
Inside those walls is another world, a secret paradise, if I may call it that. It is a sight to behold and this, dear friends, is why Tour C became a favorite.
Fronting the Matinloc Shrine is Star Beach. I particularly love the rock formation in front.
The reef nearby is a great snorkeling spot owing to good coral beds and the abundance of marine life.
Capping this tour is a stop at Dimalicad Island, better known as Helicopter Island because of the shape it resembles from afar.
The long stretch of sparkling white sand beach makes it ideal for lounging around with a good book or sunbathing perhaps.
Although the water beckons for a swim, the waves can be strong for some.
They couldn’t have chosen a more perfect cap for the day.