With its limestone cliffs, emerald green waters, and craggy karst formations, the Big Lagoon can almost seem fake—too beautiful to possibly be real. This isn’t some tropical dream, however, but an actual place with a placid lagoon that’s perfect for snorkeling and swimming.
From the moment you enter the Big Lagoon on an island hopping tour from El Nido, the rest of the world seems to fade away, unable to penetrate the cliffs, and there’s a moment of stillness, serenity, and calm as smooth as the tropical waters. If you choose to jump off the boat for a swim when visiting the Big Lagoon, take a second to look back at your boat and notice how small and toy-like it appears at the base of the towering cliffs. Everything here is grandiose, and it’s little wonder why the Big Lagoon is considered one of the most scenic spots in El Nido, the Philippines, and the world.
Insider's Tip: The water looks dark when you enter the lagoon, but the rich green waters are actually very clear—particularly when visiting in winter.
The Big Lagoon is on Miniloc Island and one of the stops on “Tour A.” El Nido’s tourist routes are regulated by the government, and are designed to help with overcrowding and protecting the natural resources. December-March is the best time of year to visit the Big Lagoon, with the wettest months being June-August, which are prone to heavy rains. Crowds can definitely be lighter, however, if you visit El Nido in the off-season.
Much like the neighboring Big Lagoon, the Small Lagoon is a scenic cove where reality seems to meld with a place that’s out of a tropical dream. Unlike its larger cousin, however, the Small Lagoon offers added adventures like swimming in hidden sea caves, and squeezing through narrow holes in the rocks to access the placid waters. This spot is popular with kayaking tours since they can squeeze through the narrow openings, but it’s just as easy to swim through the channel and emerge in the tranquil lagoon.
Because of the shear, near vertical walls and towering karst formations, swimming or paddling through the Small Lagoon can make you feel like you’re on the set of a Hollywood action film. A place this naturally stunning, after all, couldn’t possibly be real, yet here it is just a boat ride away from impossibly gorgeous El Nido.
Insider's Tip: There’s a small sea cave toward the back of the lagoon where you can swim inside through the inky black darkness and go as far as you dare.
The Small Lagoon is on Miniloc Island just minutes from the Big Lagoon. It’s accessed as part of “Tour Route A,” and popular with El Nido island hopping tours that visit the scenic coastline.
Address: Small Lagoon, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines