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Things to do in El Nido Palawan Philippines | 2023 Travel Guide

Things to do in El Nido Palawan Philippines | 2023 Travel Guide

El Nido Palawan Philippines has some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever encountered. This cluster of islands is off the tip of the Palawan Island and is full of dramatic rock formations and surrounded by bright blue waters.

There are a ton of things to do in El Nido, so give yourself a week in El Nido if you can. The town itself has enough options for food and the basics for a week-long trip.

El Nido Palawan Guide

Jump to information about El Nido:

How To Get To El Nido, Palawan

There are three ways to travel to El Nido: Air, boat, or land. We’ve taken all three.

  • Traveling to El Nido from Manila – Flight time: 80 minutes. Prices vary based on season average price low season: 5,000P  high season 8,000P
  • Travel to El Nido From Coron – Flight time to El Nido: 40 minutes. Prices vary based on season and demand average 3,800P – 5,000P. There are ferry boats from Coron to El Nido, and they are the easiest and cheapest way to travel between the two Palawan islands. On our last trip to El Nido in January 2019, we took the Montenegro ferry from El Nido to Coron. Make sure to book online in advance because the ferry sells out days in advance.

Related Article: Coron Palawan Guide

Expedition Cruise To El Nido

Hands down, the most adventurous way to travel between Coron and El Nido is an Expedition Cruise. A newer offering is a super unique adventure cruise traveling between Coron and El Nido. The expedition cruises range from three to five-day options, and you’ll stop and camp at various islands that lie between Coron and El Nido.

We recommend booking an expedition cruise with El Nido Paradise. They have six different expedition cruises. The cruises include all your meals, water, rum & coke, snorkel equipment, tents & bedding, and amazing scenery. Prices vary based on the dates and length of the expedition cruise. Click here to book online.


Related Article: Best Way Coron to El Nido Ferry or Plane?

 Top 20 Things To Do In El Nido Palawan

El Nido is more than just a place. It’s a cluster of 45 small islands on the tip of the Palawan island. There are plenty of things to do in El Nido to fill a trip itinerary for more than a week exploring all that El Nido has to offer.

The islands of El Nido are some of the most beautiful and enchanting in the entire world. Here is a list of the top activities in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.

Top down Aerial drone photo of Secret Beach - Day Trip C El Nido Philippines

1. Swim Through The Hole To Secret Beach

Secret Beach is a pristine piece of sand hidden from sight by large limestone cliffs on all sides. Once inside, it feels like you are the only person on the planet.

From the water level, there is a hole in the rock wall that leads to a small, completely enclosed beach. This tiny hole in the rocks and the beach on the other side is what brought us all the way to El Nido and was a big reason for our first trip to the Philippines back in 2014.

Secret Lagoon lived up to the hype. You can visit Secret Lagoon on El Nido Tour C when visiting El Nido.

 Secret Beach is one of the best places in the Philippines and should be on everyone’s itinerary – it’s one of the best things to see in El Nido, hands down. A trip to Secret Beach is accessible on the El Nido tour. Book El Nido tour C online here for online $28.

Yellow Kayak paddling through Big Lagoon on Miniloc Island in El Nido with Aqua colored water and tall limestone rock cliffs surrounding

2. Kayak in El Nido’s Big Lagoon

The Big Lagoon in El Nido is a magical place. The water here is a one-of-a-kind color surrounded by tall rock formations. It’s nothing short of breathtaking. It’s paradise!

Update: Plan your time right, now, you can only visit Big Lagoon or Small Lagoon during your Tour A in El Nido, and the traditional Filipino boats are not allowed inside the lagoons. You must take a kayak.

Related Article: El Nido Tour A

Man standing on Snake Island in El Nido - Top attractions in the Palawan

3. Visit Snake Island

This island is another great example of the beauty of El Nido. What makes Snake Island so special isn’t necessarily the island itself but the strip of sand leading up to it.

When the tides are right, Snake Island has a thin strip of sand wiggling its way through the bay, pointing right at Snake Island. Snake Island is the top thing to do on the El Nido Tour B day trip.

Diver swimming underwater in El Nido near Miniloc island

4. Diving In El Nido

El Nido is home to over 30 dive sites, with frequent trips to about ten, depending on the tides and conditions. Bacuit Bay is home to a wide range of beautiful sea life and interesting structural formations.

The Dilumacad Underwater Tunnel – Located about a mile and a half from the shores of Dilumacad Island (Helicopter island), there is a dive site most local divers call ‘ The Tunnel.’ 12 meters under the surface, there is a 40-meter tunnel that you can swim through filled with fish and other sea life. Just another one of the amazing things to do in El Nido. For more info on the Dilumacad Underwater Tunnel

White Filipino boat anchored at Secret Lagoon Beach

5.  Secret Lagoon & Beach

The southern bay of Miniloc Island has some of the most remarkable stone structures around El Nido. Large pieces of limestone rise out of the sea, forming thin curtains of black rock. Some of these rocks have small holes in them that make you wonder how they were formed. This beach is a popular lunch stop on the El Nido day trip A tour.

Drone photo of Secret Lagoon with tall limestone rock walls surrounding a small lagoon - El Nido Day Trip A

The tours actually stop here for another reason than the beach actually. Tucked behind a tall wall is the Secret Lagoon, surrounded on all sides by tall jagged limestone. A short crawl through an opening in a rock brings you into an open-top natural cathedral. There is also a cave to explore at on this stop as well be sure not to miss it. 

Drone view of Taraw Peak from the bay overlooking El Nido Town at the top of the Palawan

6. Hike up to Taraw Peak

For the best views of El Nido Town and Bacuit Bay, head up Taraw Peak. As of 2022, there are two versions of this hike. The new hike costs 400 pesos and brings you along a well-cared-for path that is generally easy, with a fun suspension bridge and a formal viewing platform at the end. 

While the new version is nice, we prefer the original hike. This hike is more strenuous, with some actual real rock climbing involved and a much more rugged path. The hike and the higher 700 peso price are totally worth it once you reach the top. From here, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of El Nido while perched high on the jagged limestone rocks 230 meters above sea level. You really need to take a guide for this hike, don’t attempt it alone. Most tours leave at 4:30 am to watch the sunrise from Taraw Peak. 

Cost: 400 pesos per person, or 700 peso option for the longer trek

Pink and Orange sunset of Las Cabanas Beach near El Nido Town on Palawan Island

7. Spend A Day At Las Cabanas Beach

Las Cabanas is one of the best beaches reachable by land from El Nido town. A long walk or a short tricycle ride to the beach entrance. Las Cabanas beach seems to go on forever and is largely empty.

There are a few resorts popping up and a few restaurants to have a beer or a meal. Las Cabanas makes for a great day trip from El Nido and is one of the best things you can do independently or without a boat. If you want to spend the night, we suggest Las Cabanas Beach Resort.

Yellow Kayak in Small Lagoon in El Nido's Miniloc Island on Day Tour A

8. Splash around in the Small Lagoon

After a short ride from El Nido town is the small lagoon. This lagoon sits on the northern end of Miniloc Island. What makes this a thing to do in El Nido is the fact that it’s an open-top cathedral of limestone. Vertical walls of stone from a lagoon of shallow water in nearly a perfect circle.

Once inside, staring up at the imposing walls, it starts to look like a very alien landscape. The water depending on the tides, isn’t really deep enough for swimming, but it’s fun to splash around a listen to the echoes off of the stone. You can reach the small lagoon on the El Nido Tour A day trip.

Blue boat anchored in tropical waters infront of the Matinloc Shine

9. Visit The Matinloc Shrine

An abandoned shrine to the Virgin Mary that seems a bit out of place in the middle of this tropical paradise. Also, on the island with the shrine are some amazing lookouts.

A quick hike up the rocks brings you to a viewpoint where you can see the entire channel running between the small islands. The viewpoint kind of reminds me of Kayangan Lake in Coron, which should also be on your Philippines itinerary.

Hidden Beach drone photo with large rocks surrounding a secluded beach in el Nido Palawan

10. Visit Hidden Beach

Tucked away behind high walls of stone, a small opening reveals shallow pools of clear water and soft sands. It’s only visible to the open side by a tiny break in the natural stone walls. Visit this island by joining an El Nido Tour C day trip.

Related Article: El Nido Tour C

Man sitting infront of a waterfall in El Nido called Nagkalit Kalit

11. Nagkalit-Kalit Waterfalls

A 1-2 hour hike through the lush forest area brings you to the Nagkalit-Kalit waterfalls. The falls are a 10-meter tall trough of water that slides down the rocks and shifts right and left. There are two falls, and at the base is a pool to take a swim in. If you have lots of time in El Nido, this can be a nice day trip, but during the dry months, don’t expect to be blown away by the waterfall.

Drone photo of Helicopter Island on an El Nido Day Trip

12. Helicopter Island

Shaped like, you guessed it, a helicopter, this island looks remarkably like a giant helicopter sitting in Bacuit Bay. The island is home to a few nice beaches and is part of the El Nido Tour C day trip.

There are also many dive trips that will take you to this part of the bay. The biggest draw to the island is the shape, and it’s best seen from a boat. You don’t necessarily need to stop at the island unless you just want to have some beach time, but there are so many things to do in El Nido you might not have time to lie around.

Pizza on a wooden board at Altrove Pizza in the Philippines

13. Eat Pizza at Altrove

Of all the amazing things to do in El Nido, it may seem strange to include pizza on the list of things to do, but it’s that good. Every night there will be a line down the street. It’s worth the wait. If you ask us, it’s one of the best restaurants in El Nido. | Read Trip Advisor Reviews 

view from the 7 commandos beach in El Nido Palawan - places to visit - Day Trip A

14. 7 Commandos Beach

Visit the island where 7 Japanese commandos lived for a period of time near the end of WWII. The names of the soldiers are said to be written on stones around the island, but not much else is known about these soldiers, including what happened to them.

Top down aerial view of Cadlao Lagoon Tour D El Nido Palawan with turquoise pools of water

15. Visit Cadlao Lagoon 

Located on the far side of the large Cadlao Island that you can see from El Nido Town is the lagoon by the same name. This is the highlight stop on Tour D, along with a few other nice beaches on the island on the way to the lagoon. This is really the only tour you might be able to do independently by renting a kayak and following the shoreline of  Cadlao Island. 

16. Rent a scooter and go exploring

One of the best ways to explore El Nido by land is by renting a scooter or motorbike. Scooters are very reasonable to rent by the day and are a lot more fun than being part of a shuttle van tour. Quickly cruise between Las Cabanas Beach all the up to Nacpan Beach, with lots of sights along the way. 

Don’t forget your insurance! You never know when you’ll need it. We suggest getting travel insurance with Safety Wing. Which coverage includes medical, trip interruption, lost luggage, and more. Often rates are as low as $12 a week. 

17. Day trip to Nacpan Beach & Twin Beaches

Nacpan Beach and Calitang Beach are about a 30-minute drive from El Nido town.  To reach Twin Beaches, you can rent a scooter, join Tour E (inland tour), or pay a tricycle driver to bring you (1500 pesos whole day fits 3 ppl).

This is a nice beach – probably one of the nicer beaches on the mainland of the E Nido Area. However, it is just *nice* compared with all of the amazing beaches surrounding El Nido. Nacpan Beach is worth a visit if you are staying for a long time or need a break from the day trips. It also pairs well with Nagkalit-Kalit Waterfalls, especially if you rent a scooter. 

A plate of traditioanl Filipino food served on a white plate at Maa's Grill in El Nido - Top Restaurants

18. Try Local Filipino Food 

Get a taste of classic Filipino food. There are a few restaurants in El Nido offering traditional Filipino food. One of our favorites was Maa’s Grill (pictured above), right in El Nido Town. 

Related Article: Must Eat Filipino Food 

view of Depeldet Island and Las Cabanas Bay Zipline - El Nido Tourist Attractions

19. Zipline in El Nido 

Soar high above the beautiful Las Cabanas Beach across the water to the small island in front of the beach. The ziplines will carry you 2500 ft across the bay to Depeldet Island. Prices to ride start at about 500 Pesos, with chances to add on to your adventure. 

View of the sunset over the islands surrounding El Nido from the El Nido town in Palawan Philippines

20. Watch The Beautiful Sunsets Of El Nido

El Nido town is facing to the west so every night you are blessed with an amazing sunset to finish your action-packed day in El Nido. Grab your camera and a Filipino beer and enjoy while reflecting on all the amazing things you’ve done in El Nido.

Optional Things To Do In El Nido

Makinit Hot Springs

I would put this on the maybe list, or something to do in El Nido if you have been in El Nido for a long time and have done everything else. You can’t really swim here – Many other posts about things to do in El Nido listed the hot springs as something to do, but seriously? You are surrounded by some of the most beautiful islands in the entire world, but you are going to go and look at a couple of muddy puddles of hot water. I would recommend doing any one of these other top things to do in El Nido over this.

Surfing at Duli Beach

The next big beach further north of Nacpan Beach is Duli Beach. The nice deep beach is the place to go if you want to catch some waves while visiting El Nido. Its position is higher up the Palawan Island without the clusters of islands in front. This means the surf is not blocked, and some decent waves roll up the shores of this beach from November to March. So if you want to go surfing in El Nido, Duli beach is where you want to be. Renting a scooter or motorbike is the easiest way to reach Duli beach, but if you are carrying a board, you might want to hire a trike to bring you. The ride out to Duli Beach will take around 45 minutes in a car, slower on a trike or bike. 

Related: Siargao – The Surf Capital of the Philippines

El Nido Hotels 

There are tons of hotels in El Nido, something for everyone’s budget. Rooms are becoming more and more available to book online. Hotels range from gorgeous over the water beach huts, to budget-friendly rooms, or you can even rent an entire beachfront home.

Suggested El Nido Hotels

Budget El Nido Hotels $25-50 a night – Ipil Suites El Nido center of town – Check Prices

Midrange El Nido Hotel $50-$100  night – Last Frontier Beach Resort Adults Only – Check Prices

Luxury El Nido Hotels $100-$300 a night – Miniloc Island Resort overwater bungalow rooms – Check Prices  or Matinloc Resort private beach – Check Prices

El Nido Day Trips

I would plan on making a day trip while in El Nido at least every other day because most of the best things in the Palawan are on the outer islands. There currently are five tours A/B/C/D/E. Prices for El Nido Day trips average 1200-1400P per person. For more details & a review of El Nido Tour C, and for El Nido Tour A

TIP: Make sure you have a big boat for day trip tour C – A big boat is always better and more comfortable, but El Nido tour C goes into the open water outside the bay for a short bit, where it gets rough in the afternoon. You will get wet in any boat, but a little boat would be the worst. Art Cafe’s boat is a good size for that tour. 

  • Bring water shoes for El Nido tour C, and Tour B – Many of the stops have sharp rocks when coming in and out of the boat. El Nido Tour A is manageable without, but tour C is much better with water shoes.
  • Bring a water bag or a GoPro on tour C to bring a camera with you into Secret Beach. 

El Nido FAQ:

Is El Nido worth visiting? Yes, El Nido is one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines, and Palawan Island has been voted one of the best islands in the world by multiple publications. 

Is El Nido an island? El Nido is on Palawan Island, and El Nido generally refers to the town on that island and the surrounding 45 small islands. Many of the most stunning beaches and scenes are from the small islands surrounding El Nido Town. 

Does El Nido have an ATM:? Yes, El Nido has an ATM so getting money is possible. However, ATMs in remote parts of the Philippines can run out of money or be out of service. It’s always best keep enough cash on hand for at least a day or two. 

Why is El Nido Palawan famous? El  Nido is famous for stunning beaches surrounded by tall limestone cliffs and rocks with beautiful clear waters. Scenes like this can be found on many of the small islands referend to as El Nido. 

Best Restaurants in El Nido Palawan

Altrove: There is a line for a reason. It’s some of the best food in El Nido. They do a good stone oven pizza with a nice crust which is enough for two if you are not too hungry. The crust is thin but nicely puffed at the edges, with real cheese and good toppings. Some nights there is a 30-person line at Altrove, and some nights no wait – earlier is better. 

Art Cafe: This open-air cafe and tour center has been a staple in El Nido well before this place was on most travelers’ maps. Always good food and quality tours. 

Big Bad Thai Bistro: Another favorite in El Nido Town is this Thai restaurant that makes a pretty good curry for being on a remote island in the Philippines. The Atmosphere and views are too bad either. 

See our Full El Nido Restaurant Review Here

We fell in love with the Palawan and have been back to El Nido Multiple times. Hopefully, our El Nido Palawan guide will help you plan your trip to paradise!


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