Tour C: Wandering Among El Nido's Hidden Beaches - Isla Story

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Tour C: Wandering Among El Nido's Hidden Beaches

We all know El Nido – probably the whole world does – it's popular because of the picturesque, serene ambiance, and thrill-setting. Usually, to experience the best of El Nido, it is recommended to do Tour A or Tour C or a Combination of both.... but that was last year before the new El Nido tour policy was issued.
Lucky for us we were able to see best of both tours in a day since we went to El Nido last year in November, but with the strict implementation of no combination tours, the hardest question now is which is better? If you'd only be visiting El Nido for 3 days, which package is the best option? 
Don't worry! I'll give a few notes on our El Nido experience to give you an idea as to which tour you should opt to. Though we didn't get to visit all the sites; out of 6 destinations we went to 3 of 'em which are the top sites.  So here goes my list.

As the name suggests, Helicopter Island is uniquely shaped like a parked helicopter when viewed from afar.  This was our first stop as it is closest to the town port, which I think is about 30-minutes boat ride.
Helicopter Island literally stands in the middle of the sea, like a welcome party for all the boats coming in for an island hopping adventure.  This for me is how I could best describe the Island. We left the town port at around 9 AM and pass by these two adjacent peeking summits of Ipil Town (part of El Nido) and Cadlao Island that seems to be an arch to paradise...  then there it is, at the center of our course is Helicopter Island.
Only one area of the island is open for the public which is the only beach on the island.  Aside from frolicking by the beach, we took our time snorkeling at the island's thriving marine sanctuary. On our arrival, we got too excited seeing that there were barely tourists and the boat captain advised us that there are some turtle sightings.  Lucky us! I don't know about you but a very teeming coral grounds plus a sea turtle at one site is pretty much what we spent for this tour.  
We spend a good 30-40 minutes at Helicopter Island, wandering through the underwater world, then head out to the next stop.

Even before coming to El Nido, I've always been so confused with the islands. It seems so hard to distinguish as they all look the same from the pictures. Their only classification was the name that was literally given after their characteristics. With that being said, Hidden Beach is a white sand beach behind the huge towering limestone islet. It's found at the island of Matinloc on the other side where Matinloc Shrine is located.
There's nothing much to do in here but getting to the beach and the surrounding was interesting enough to make our stay. There are three ways to get to the beach:
1) Passing through a small cave
2) Walking through the usual route
3) Docking by the other side then swimming and walking to the beach (but given the water current this isn't a smart choice.)
Our guide leads us to the first one, a small cave opening by the side of the usual route. It was kind of dark but the light from the other end helps us get through that dark, small, slippery, and jagged cave going to Hidden Beach. (It’s weird, right? There is a perfect, wide, and brighter way but we choose to go to the challenging one. That's how I like it!)
After taking a few IG-worthy pictures at the beach, we roam around and discovered a few spots such as the spot where some coral life thrives. There's also an arch that looks like Batanes' Mahayao Arch at Morong Beach but the water current was too strong then to even get close.

I would say Matinloc Island is one of the most popular and diverse islands in El Nido. A few unique sites can be found here such as Secret Beach, the luxurious El Nido Matinloc Resort, and probably around 6 beaches. 
For our visit, we stopped at the Matinloc Shrine. Entrance here is optional wherein a fee of Php 25.00 (approx $5 cents) per person is to be settled upon arrival.  Matinloc Shrine is an abandoned shrine for the Virgin Mary built in the 1980s. You'll see a rugged white dome structure just by the foot of the limestone formation where cross and dedication is engraved.
What's popular at this site is the addition of the jagged short hill trail where you can get a picturesque view of the Bacuit Bay.  The internet is already bombarded with such images but it's still a good place to visit especially for first-time travelers.  Plus there's a romantic vibe when in Matinloc Shine that some travelers plans their engagement proposal here. Sweet!
Our picnic style lunch was served at Matinloc Straight which we picked. Usually, the lunch would be served on a specific island – which for tour C was at Star Beach but we weren't able to go there – or in the boat but when we saw this small and secluded beach just nearby Matinloc Shrine, we asked the boat captain and he nicely agreed to the idea.  And, alas, it was a perfect spot for a break as while waiting for the food to be served there is a snorkeling spot nearby.

Here's another island with a literal name.  Secret Beach is named after it's characteristic of being in a secret place which is accessible only through a small opening.
From a bird's eye view, you'll see that Secret Beach is a heart-shaped jagged rock formation with a small beach in the middle.  For the adventure seekers, this site is one of the must-visit ones!   Here's why...
Getting through the opening is a challenge already; the water current is too strong that it will push you to the hole but then pulling you back out as the waves revert hence rocking you back and forth. So,  our expert guide pulled us in as it was a matter of good timing, which he was definitely an expert already.

Upon entering you might say that there's nothing special inside, well, that's 'cause only the greatest tour guides will lead you to the adventure spot - which our guide was! 
Just beneath one of the seemingly huge rock platform is a small tunnel-like path swarming with lively fishes. The challenge was getting through in and out as you may get stuck midway because of the water current so this one is definitely for freedivers with good stamina.  (Good thing my friend was able to do it!)
Unfortunately, we had to visit a few sites from Tour A package so we weren't able to visit the TAPIUTAN ISLAND even though it was just beside Matinloc Island.  But based on some blogs I've read, Tapuitan Island harbors a rich diversity of marine life and a fine white sand beach called Star Beach.

So that's it! Hopefully, I've given you a few insights to help you decide. 'Cause overall, whether you choose Tour A or C, you'll surely get a different taste of adventure!

 © David Kim
Helicopter Island long stretch of white sand beach
Hidden Beach
Heart shape Secret Beach
Hidden Beach
Entrance to Hidden Beach
Matinloc Shrine Crucifix Dome
Bancuit Bay view atop of Matinloc Shrine hill
Entrance to Secret Beach
Secret Beach entrance taken from inside
Picnic lunch served at Matinloc Straight

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