You are planning to visit El Nido and are looking for more information on the Bacuit archipelago, then this is the article for you! In this article, I’ll tell you about the background of the Bacuit archipelago first. Next, I’ll provide you with info about the various islands and several attractions. You’ll also find more info about the amazing underwater world of the Bacuit archipelago, followed by useful tips, so you’re well prepared to see this unique place.
Intro: A Piece of Paradise in Palawan
Island Hopping: Discover the Bacuit archipelago
The islands: paradise islands in Southeast Asia
The sights at the archipelago
Diving: the Bacuit archipelago underwater
Stay: lodging Bacuit archipelago
Tips and advice
A piece of paradise in Palawan
Going to Palawan, the Bacuit archipelago in the South China Sea, is one of the places you can’t miss out on. The archipelago is situated in northern Palawan and is best reached from a town named El Nido. From El Nido, several boat trips (whether, or not organized) leave to discover the Bacuit archipelago. The archipelago consists mainly of sea, bearing 45 islands that offer as much as you can expect of a remote tropical island. The archipelago has not yet been discovered by mass tourism, which means you can still enjoy the tranquillity, space and the pure beauty of nature.
When you first visit the Bacuit archipelago, the enormous limestone cliffs that emerge high above the landscape, stand out. Due to influences of the water, these limestone cliffs are shaped in some spectacular formations. The water dissolves limestone particles which create a wonderful landscape. And this isn’t it. In addition to the impressive rock formations, this spectacular landscape has a lot more to offer, including caves and waterfalls.
The water around the islands is crystal clear and has an emerald green colour. This contrasts well with the white powdery beaches. On the islands, you will find a luxuriant vegetation that create “the feel” of a deserted tropical island. Besides a wide variety of plants and trees, there are also many animals, including birds, lizards and monkeys.
In addition to the rich flora and fauna above sea level, the Bacuit archipelago offers visitors a beautiful underwater world, colourful and full of life. Both snorkelers and (experienced) divers will be exposed to stunning locations, with a wide variety of marine life and corals to admire, including manatees, sea turtles, whale sharks and manta rays as well as large schools of fish and unique shellfish.
Palawans ecotourism is highly valued. The government recognizes its importance and therefore does everything to protect and preserve the Bacuit archipelago and its unique ecosystem.
Discover the Bacuit Archipelago
The easiest way to discover the archipelago is to rent a boat in El Nido, in which you can explore the archipelago. Because, hiring a boat rental by yourself can be quite pricey, there is also a cheaper option: an organized tour. This means that you’ll visit a part of the Bacuit archipelago with other travellers. Below is a description of several tours on offer.
Tour A: 1200 peso’s This tour explores the different lagoons around Miniloc island, including the large lagoon, the small lagoon and the secret lagoon. You’ll be taken to the seven commands beach and a lunch will be served on the Shimizu Island. This tour will be dedicated to kayaking, snorkelling and visiting the lagoons
Tour B: 1300 peso’s This tour visits two caves, the Cudugnon and the Cathedral cave. They’ll take you to Lagen Island, visit Vigan and Pinasil Island. Lunch will be served and there is plenty of opportunity to go snorkelling.
Tour C: 1400 peso’s When you join this tour, you’ll be visiting various beautiful beaches. The tour includes Secret and Hidden Beach, takes you to Matinloc, Tapiutan and Dilumacad Island, all stunning islands. This tour is dedicated to adventure in and on water.
Tour D: 1200 peso’s This tour is mostly dominated by the Cadlao Island. On this island, you’ll find several beautiful beaches, including Nat-Nat and Paradise beach and it has a beautiful lagoon. In addition, the tour goes to the small island, Bukal and is mainly focussed on beaches and water activities.
Most tours, more or less, take up to a day. The prices are fixed so haggling and trying to negotiate about the tour price will be a waste of time. However, you may choose to rent a boat for the day, so you can decide where to go, yourself. There’s also the option of combining tours together. Please note that some destinations in the Bacuit archipelago are far apart and therefore cannot be combined (on the same day). Next to that, an entrance fee for most places is required. So, the more places you visit, the more expensive your tour is.
In addition to a day tour, it’s also possible to spend the night on one of the islands, or to make a tour of several days. For more information or bookings, contact your accommodation officer or go to one of the local shops in the high street of El Nido. They deal with these matters daily.
Bacuit Archipelago: the islands!
If you’ve always dreamed of spending a day on a paradise island than the Bacuit archipelago is the place for you. But, how do you know which islands to should visit, when having the choice of more than forty! Below you’ll find a description of some of the most popular and well-known islands. Not every island in the archipelago is freely accessible. Most are private islands and charge an entrance fee.
With an acreage of 1,000, Cadlao Island, also known as “Ubugon”, is the largest island in the Bacuit archipelago. The island also has the highest point of the archipelago. With more than 600 meters above sea level, this is the highest point in El Nido. Cadlao Island is famous for its beautiful beaches, amazing lagoons and tropical forests. When you are looking for a beautiful beach in the Bacuit archipelago, then beaches as Paradise, Balinaod, Pasandigan and Nat-Nat can’t be left out! The long white sandy beaches present you with a lovely tropical beach feel. Perfect to sunbathe, swim, snorkel and dive. When you ask permission, you have the opportunity to stay the night. Especially Paradise beach, with its palm trees, white sandy beach and blue sea looks like the front of a postcard. Paradise beach is perfect for novice divers and snorkelers. Master the basics? I would go to Nat-Nat. Chances you will see turtles here! You can also stay on Cadlao Island. Pasandigan beach is suitable for camping (in exchange for a fee). Besides beaches and the underwater world, the lagoon is definitely worth a visit. It is great for kayaking, swimming and snorkelling!
Most tourists choose to go on tour A or C. This quite often results in a quiet atmosphere on Cadlao Island. When you time it right, you have the beach to yourself! If you like beaches, calm water and water activities: Cadlao tour D is your best bet!
Dilumacad island is, because of its shape; also known as ‘helicopter island’. You will find that the locals like to a name the islands after the rock formations on it. And we have to give them that, if you look at Dilumacad from a distance, the island does look a little like a helicopter. This island has three attractions: an alluring, white sand beach, beautiful rock formations and awesome dive spots! The sandy beach is about 300 meters long and blessed with soft white sand! The fine white sand is ideal for sunbathing or a picnic. The green vegetation, high cliffs and the view of the Bacuit archipelago make this island extra special.
Do not forget to bring your snorkel because snorkelling is a ‘must-do’, here. There are many diving excursions around the island. Dilumacad Island has a number of dive sites including a cave. The chances that you will see turtles here are not small, as well as beautiful corals and many fish species.
Lagen Island is the ultimate holiday destination for tourists. On Lagen Island you’ll find one of the four El Nido resorts. This is a luxury eco resort with good accommodation options and several facilities. Lagen Island is a private island, which offers a lot of peace and tranquillity to its visitors. The island is blessed with an impressive beach with which it tempts its guests to visit the island and is known for the giant limestone rocks that tower high above the landscape. Lagen Island consists of a small lagoon and a tropical forest of 4 hectares. In the tropical forest, you encounter a huge variety of plants and animals, including monkeys and the Palawan hornbill. Next to that the island offers an impressive marine life with lots of different fish and corals, available for you to admire when snorkelling. Divers can explore the coral reefs and have the opportunity to encounter a sea turtle. The island hosts its own diving centre, which offers different courses. There is a cave with historical relics, the Leta-Leta cave, in which jewellery, pottery and an axe were found. These objects are all exhibited. From Lager Island you can explore the fine Bacuit archipelago!
When you are looking for an intimate island with a beautiful panoramic view, then Matinloc Island is certainly worth a visit! Matinloc offers a luxury resort, but the island, luckily, is big enough to also welcome day visitors! Matinloc, with its stunning scenery is perfect for diving and snorkelling or just to enjoy the beach. Of which Matinloc has enough! One of the most famous beaches of this island is Hidden beach. It is regularly used for television programs in which the participants have to try to survive on a tropical island. This beach is perfectly suitable for it, because it is ward off by rocks. To reach the beach. you’ll have to swim through an opening between the rocks. Hidden Beach, also known as Secret Beach and one of the highlights of this island. It is said that Alex Garland has gained his inspiration for the movie “The Beach” here. Besides this one, I would like to recommended Kulasa beach. This beach consists of about 100 meters of fine white sand, so beach lovers can relish here. Do not forget to take your goggles because there is a lot to see underwater! Also, divers won’t get bored here. The most famous dive sites are: Banayan point, Bikanayos rock and Inbogal point. Next to several corals, you will find abundant fish and invertebrates. Matinloc is also a sacred place. The Matinloc shrine locally known as “Sanctuary of Our Lady of Matinloc” and “Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin.” Matinloc Island offers its guests a luxurious stay and its day guests cliffs, emerald waters and beautiful beaches. Matinloc Island should not be missed during your exploration of the Bacuit archipelago.
Manioc Island is perhaps one of the most striking islands of the Biscuit archipelago. The island is blessed with three beautiful lagoons and a beautiful white sand beach. Big, Small and Secret Lagoon are three of the highlights of the Biscuit archipelago. As its name suggests, Big Lagoon is the largest. A very photogenic place and must-see when you are visiting El Nida! The small lagoon is also worth a visit. The walls are closer to each other. Secret lagoon, is a lagoon surrounded by high cliffs. Because this is the most popular stop of tour of A, it may be a bit busier than other places. Especially in high season, it is advisable to try to be here when there are not as many other people. Also, renting a canoe is a must, if it is not already included in your tour. Manioc has some beautiful beaches including the Secret lagoon beach. This is close to the Secret lagoon, but are in no way related. Also, located on Manioc Island is one of the four El Nida resorts. A stay here results in having these natural attractions, on your doorstep. Besides the imposing limestone cliffs, lagoons and beaches Miniloc also has some great dive sites including one with a lot of cabbage corals. This dive site is visited by Jacques Cousteau and has therefore become very famous. Miniloc Island is one of the busiest islands of the Bacuit archipelago but should not be left out!
Pangalusian island is known as the island of the sun because of the beautiful sunrise and sunset. On this island, you’ll find a super-deluxe hotel which offers its guests breath-taking views, as well as a wonderful stay. This romantic island has a soft sandy beach and a very rich marine life. Beautiful coral reefs provide a safe haven for a wide variety of fish and other marine life. Dives here are ‘out of this world’. The island itself has a lot to offer; a stroll through the beautiful forest to discover the flora and fauna, including various birds. In for a bit more luxury in Bacuit archipelago: Pangalusian island is waiting for you!
Pinagbuyutan, also known as Inabuyutan (which means delightful), has a magnificent view. Most travellers visit the island in the first place to enjoy this beautiful view. The cliffs towering to a height of about 377 meters. Underneath you’ll find a beautiful sandy beach. The rest of the island is covered by a carpet of trees and shrubs. The sandy beach offers visitors a great place to swim and sunbathe. The palm trees provide some shade under which you can enjoy a delicious picnic. This makes Pinagbuyutan Island a tropical paradise in the archipelago.
Pinasil Island is home to a cave that resembles a cathedral. So, it probably doesn’t surprise you, the cave is called ‘Cathedral cave’. Around the cave you will find towering cliffs. The cave has a narrow entrance, but inside the cave is higher than the underground river. The high ceiling of the cave leaves an impressive impression. There are beautiful stalactites to see and on the wall, you’ll see heaps of lizards passing by. The nests of the birds are collected by the locals. Diving in the cave is not recommended because among a lot of other water animals, it’s home to sea snakes.
Shimizu Island, also known as Zimizu is just in front of the coast of El Nido. The island is named after a Japanese diver who has passed away on the island. It is characterized by the beautiful limestone cliffs that raise protrude above the landscape like skyscrapers. These rock formations create a beautiful scenery. The island is also famous for its beach of which the sand has a very fine, powdery structure. The crystal-clear waters surrounding the island are home to a wide variety of marine life, including squid, sea turtles, various shellfish and large schools of fish. Shimizu Island is ideal for swimming and snorkelling. The beautiful blue water causes a stunning contrast with the white sandy beach. Exploring the Bacuit archipelago? Do not forget to visit Shimizu island!
One of the most striking islands of the Bacuit archipelago is Tapiutan Island. This secluded island is located adjacent to Matinloc island. On the other side adjoins the island to the open waters of the South China Sea. This makes that the island sometimes get exposed to the strong water flows. When this happens, it causes difficulty for the various boats, trying to visit the island. Tapiutan is famous for the several beaches, of which is most beautiful and best known; Star beach. This beach faces the neighbouring island Matinloc. The sane of the beach also has a fine, white, powdery structure and is ideal for sunbathing. Besides sunbathing and enjoying the beautiful surroundings, Star beach offers a beautiful coral reef, ideal for snorkelling and diving.
Very near to El Nido you’ll find Vigan island, it’s literally a stone’s throw away and so, you do not have to travel far to visit this island. People come to Vigan Island to see the sandbank shaped in the letter S. This brilliant creation of mother nature is also called “Snake Island” due to the winding shape. The sandbank is best visible during low tide. Due to the ocean current, running along the island, the sandbank is rich in shellfish species. Besides shellfish (and stones) there are also stonefish. Kindly advise to always put on your water shoes if you want to explore, so you cannot accidentally hurt yourself.
Vigan island has a fascinating underwater world, that certainly should be honoured with a visit! There is a path that leads to the top of a high rock. From here you can admire the sandbank from above, stunningly beautiful. During your climb, you’ll be may spot a pitcher plant. This plant catches insects in its ‘pitcher’, whereinafter they get digested.
The Big Lagoon is probably the most famous natural attraction in the Bacuit archipelago. When you explore the archipelago, this lagoon may simply not be missing from your list. The imposing cliffs and emerald water makes this one of the natural wonders of El Nido. Although the lagoon is known by the general public, it’s still worth visiting! Here, you’ll be able take a holiday photo that will get everyone enviable.
Cathedral cave: the natural cathedral
Cathedral cave is an impressive cave inside a large space that resembles a cathedral, hence the name. Fun to explore.
Cudugnon cave: history of the Bacuit Archipel
Cudugnon Point Cave is an important historical place in El Nido. Archaeologists believe that this cave was used as a cemetery for residents of Borneo. Among jewellery and pottery, they have found many other things in this cave. When you enter the cave you come across a large colony of bats. And those aren’t the only creatures living here, also swallows are found in and around the cave. If you are looking for a bit of history, then this place is worth a visit.
Small lagoon is a magical place and well worth a visit. Through an opening in the rocks you can reach the inner part of the lagoon. The high grey rocks, green vegetation, the blue sky and the green/blue waters make this place extra magical. Even more charming when it is less busy! When you arrive at the Small lagoon and it is busy, I would definitely recommend to rent a kayak instead of swimming yourself! This way you do not have to watch the other kayaks. If you do decide to go swimming, use water shoes! This prevents injuries, caused by sharp rocks and coral!
Diving in the Bacuit Archipelago
When you visit the Bacuit archipelago, you can’t skip some sort of underwater exploration. There are 25 beautiful dive sites available, that make your stay extraordinary.
There are several dive centres in the archipelago. Available for people who have never dived before, to people with (a lot of) experience. Choose a dive centre that suits you best and explore the archipelago. For snorkellers as well, there is plenty to see and admire.
The dive sites in the archipelago
De Nat-nat dive site: The south from Cadlao Island Nat-nat is a well-known beach on Cadlao Island. Divers know this place for the beautiful reef with sandy spots. The spot is especially suitable for night snorkelling and diving. Among the hermit shrimp, you’ll find a lot of different crabs. You will also come across the seahorses. Other animals you may encounter are the Spanish dancer, flying gurnard and nurse hound.
The tunnel: under water tunnel at Cadlao Island One of the most impressive diving spots in the archipelago is the tunnel. The tunnel has a length of 40 meters at a depth of approximately 12 meters. In the tunnel, you get to see beautiful anemones, different cleaner shrimp, the lionfish, hatchet fish, scorpion fish and moray eels. This tunnel is ‘a must’ to explore for experienced divers
Miniloc dive spot: Jacques Cousteau! Just off the coast of MiniLoc Island you’ll find three beautiful dive sites, suitable for novice divers. The dive spot south of Miniloc has a reef less than 20 meters’ depth with interesting ribbon eels (native to the moray family). On the west side, there is a downhill of which the bottom about 30 meters deep. However, the main place is known as “the fish feeding place of Bacuit”
Twin rock dive spot: perhaps the most beautiful dive spot The twin rock dive site is located in the north of Miniloc Island. This is an impressive dive site comprising two rocks on which beautiful table corals, horn corals and sponges grow. The base is located at a depth of 21 meters and is full of life. Meet reef octopus, sea turtles, mantis shrimps and various sea anemones on this beautiful dive site full of life.
Dimalucad dive spot: West of the coast from Cadlao Island Dimalucad, also known as Helicopter Island, is a capricious dive site west of Cadlao Island. Divers can enjoy a complex underwater life, including stag horn corals and vibrant sea ferns that make a lively coral reef. Here you’ll find various sea creatures including stingrays, flat fish, eels and pipefish that live in the sand around the reef. When you explore the deeper waters, you will encounter a lot of cool sea life, including octopuses and turtles.
North rock dive spot: a natural rock formation at Lagen Island If you like to dive with schools of fish, then the north rock is the place to be. This natural rock formation is full of life, including the huge table corals. Furthermore, you come across schools of barracuda, as well as rays, cuttlefish and a group of blacktip reef sharks. When you look a closer look at the coral reef, you’ll be able to encounter shovel fish.
Paglugaban dive spot: exciting and stunning Entalula This dive site has several passageways to explore. Among a lot of other things, here you can find the exuberant orangutan crab and pipefish. This dive site has a bit of a creepy touch, as some people have drown here in 1980. In afterthought, you’ll see a black cross under water. The dive site, however, offers an attractive landscape to explore.
West Entalula dive spot: the coral of Entalula Island The western part of the Entalula Island is known for its corals. The stag horn corals, just like other invertebrates, in particular, are common here. This beautiful dive site is covered with majestic soft and hard corals. Divers come here to spot squids and octopuses. You will also find several shrimp, stingrays and a school pipefish.
South Entalula dive spot: even more coral Looking for the most impressive corals of Bacuit, come to Entalula. The southern dive spot on the island is rich in marine life. This dive site acts as an important base for the different animals that live on the reef. This place is definitely worth a visit!
Several dive centres offer boat trips to the different dive sites.
Lodging in and around Bacuit Archipelago
The archipelago offers some top resorts to facilitate your stay in the Bacuit archipelago. Here you’ll find a perfect place with a friendly atmosphere next to luxury and comfort. My personal top three include Pangulasian, Miniloc and Lagen. Below are the resorts:
Cauayan Island Resort Cauayan Island Resort is a new resort in the archipelago.
Lagen Island Resort Lagen island Resort is an eco-friendly destination and perfect for young and old.
Matinloc Resort Matinloc Resort is a fairly new resort, located on Matinloc Island. A good location to explore the area.
Miniloc Island Resort Miniloc Island Resort is a resort on a beautiful beach, only a few kilometres from El Nido, rated with 3.5 stars. From Miniloc Island you can explore the other islands of the Bacuit bay. The island offers a variety of activities, such as kayaking, snorkelling and offered tours and actively helps in the preservation of the fragile nature.
Pangulasian Island Resort The Pangulasian Resort is a luxury resort, rated with 4.5 stars. Located on a beautiful 750-meter-long, white sand beach Pangulasian Island and ideally situated to explore the area. The resort offers a wonderful view over the Bacuit bay. This resort offers superior accommodation and facilities to its guests including swimming pool, spa, gym and various dining options. There is a walkway built to explore the island and has its own diving centre.
Vellago Resort Village Resort is a small resort located on the beach of Seven Commando. Keep in mind that this beach, during the day, full with day trippers. However, a nice beach, and a good place to explore the Bacuit archipelago.
In addition to these luxurious (and expensive) accommodation options the Bacuit archipelago also offers overnight stays in camping style. On Cadlao Island and on the beaches Papaya and Ipil you can stay in a tent. This saves the costs significantly, but you do have fewer facilities. Oh, well, who needs facilities when you can stay in such a beautiful setting!?
Tips and advice
The travel period: rain The year is divided into a dry- and rainy season. This does not mean that it does not rain outside the raining season. Bear in mind that it may well be raining when you are visiting! Worse, on the one day that you have decided to go island hopping in the Bacuit archipelago. So, make sure you stay several days in El Nido, just so you’re not dependent on that one day.
The travel period: wind Besides rain, it can also be very windy. Wind obligate the coastguard to prohibit all activities in the Bacuit archipelago. Make sure you will have a few extra days in El Nido.
The travel period: bustle In recent years, Palawan has become more known among tourists and the tourism industry experience a steady increase. Basically, there are three travel periods: mid-October to mid-December, late-December to late-February and March to mid-May. In October to mid-December there a fewer tourists. The chance of rain and wind then, is higher. Late December to the end of February it is a bit busier (especially during the holidays), but the weather is cooler than in the period from March to mid-May. From March to mid-May, you may expect a blue sky and a calm sea is, heat and lots of tourists.