El Nido Palawan 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 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 or so. Hotels range from gorgeous over the water beach huts, budget-friendly rooms, or you can even rent an entire beachfront home on Airbnb.
Jump to information about El Nido:
How To Get To El Nido, Palawan
There are 3 ways to travel to El Nido: Air, boat, or land. We went by bus from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, which 137 miles and took 6 hours and cost only 480P or $15 USD. You’ll have to fly to Puerto Princesa first, which is easily reachable from most major Philippines destinations and affordable (average $40 USD) with Air Asia or Cebu Pacific. Click here for reverse directions from El Nido to Puerto Princesa.
The easiest and fastest way to El Nido is by air. There are daily direct flights to El Nido from Manila and Cebu. Air Swift is the airline that services El Nido Palawan, flights are on a 50 seater ATR. El Nido flights land at the Lio Airport, which is a 20-minute tricycle ride from El Nido Town. Flights can be booked online here. Flight schedule is as follows:
Traveling to El Nido from Manila
- Flights to El Nido from Manila: 8:00, 12:00, 16:00, 17:35 daily.
- Flights from El Nido to Manila: 6:30, 9:55, 11:00, 14:00 daily
- Prices vary based on season average price low season: 5,350P high season 7,500 P
- Flight time to El Nido: 55 minutes
Traveling to El Nido From Cebu
- Flights to El Nido from Cebu: 15:15 daily
- Flights from El Nido to Cebu: 12:55 daily
- Prices vary based on season average price low season: 4,550P high season 6,344P
- Flight time to El Nido: 90 minutes
There are boats from Coron to El Nido, but we didn’t take this nor would we recommend it. After you explored Coron Palawan you could get on a boat heading to El Nido, which on a map this journey makes the most sense. Boats from Coron to El Nido are scheduled to run 4-5 times a week and take 7-10 hours. It is very common for the boat to be canceled for days, as the trip is very dependent on the weather. Seas can be really rough and not suited for those prone to even the slightest seasickness. Ferry price to El Nido averages around 1,800P.
Related Article: Coron Palawan Guide
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. Below is a general El Nido hotel price range.
- Beachside room in El Nido with AC: 2200-4000P
- El Nido over the water bungalow room: 15,000P +
- Air conditioning room in El Nido town: 1000-2000P (Private Bath, clean, simple, AC) we stayed at Marikit Pensionne which had: free wifi, free breakfast, a really nice family with a clean and simple room.
- Fan room in El Nido Town: 600-800P (Private Bath, clean, simple)
- Basic room in El Nido: 400-600P (shared bath, no shower in some cases)
Suggested El Nido Hotels
Backpacker Budget El Nido Hotels Less than $25 a night
Budget El Nido Hotels $25-50 a night
Midrange El Nido Hotel $50-$100 night
Luxury El Nido Hotels $100-$300 a night
Ultra Luxury $300+ a night
- Miniloc Island Resort over water bungalow rooms Hotels.com | Orbitz | TripAdvisor
- Pangulasian Island Resort luxurious resort with huge rooms Hotels.com | Orbitz | Expedia | TripAdvisor
El Nido Airbnb
Why stay in a hotel when you can stay in an epic beachfront home on Airbnb and be steps from the ocean. Airbnb has listings for luxurious homes to rooms in a local guesthouse. Some rooms are only listed on Airbnb or available in person. Here is $40 off your Airbnb stay, I would opt for a beachfront home on my next visit.
You get so much more for your money when staying in an Airbnb vs a standard hotel. We have used Airbnb around the world and always check our Airbnb options before even looking at hotels.
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.
#1 – Swim Through The Hole To Secret Lagoon
This hole is what brought me all the way to the El Nido and a big reason for the trip to the Philippines. Secret Lagoon lived up to the hype. Visit Secret Lagoon on El Nido Tour A when visiting El Nido. The secret lagoon is one of the best places in the Philippines and should be on everyone’s itinerary. Book El Nido tour A online here for online $32.
Related Article: El Nido Tour A
#2 – Stare Into The Turquoise Waters Of The Large Lagoon
The Large 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!
#3 – Visit 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 people on the planet. Secret beach is one of the best things to see in El Nido hands down. A trip to Secret Beach is accessible on El Nido tour, book online here for only $45 with Viator.
Related Article: El Nido Tour C
#4 – 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.
#5 – Diving In El Nido
El Nido is home to over 30 dive sites with frequent trips to about 10 depending on the tides and conditions. The Bacuit Bay is home to a wide range of beautiful sea life and interesting structural formations.
#6 – Simizu Island
This island has some of the most remarkable stone structures around El Nido. Large pieces of limestone rising 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. Simizu Island is a popular lunch stop on the El Nido day trip A tour.
#7 – Hike up to Taraw Peak
For the best views of Bacuit Bay takes an average 2 hours round trip, Taraw Peak rises about 230 meters above sea level. On the top is a bird’s eye view of Bacuit Bay. Cost: 350 pesos per person for a guide.
#8 – 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 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.
#9 – Dive 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
#10 – 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 run 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.
More Things To Do In El Nido
#11 – 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 of Kayangan Lake in Coron, which should also be on your Philippines itinerary.
#12 – 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 El Nido Tour C day trip.
#13 – 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 shifting right and left. There are two falls and between them is a pool to take a swim.
#14 – 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.
#15- 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. | Read Trip Advisor Reviews
#16 – 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.
#17 – Enjoy A San Miguel On The Beach
Enjoy one of Southeast Asia’s best beers, while sitting on SE Asia’s best beaches in El Nido. Take a break from all the things to do in El Nido and just relax with some cold San Miguels.
#18 – Day trip to Twin Beaches
Nacpan and Calitang Beach are 1.5 hours from El Nido town. To reach twin beaches you can rent a bike, or join Tour E (inland tour), or pay a tricycle driver to bring you (1500 pesos whole day fits 3 ppl).
#19 – Eat Filipino Tocino & Garlic Rice For Breakfast
Get a taste of classic Filipino food. One of our favorites was the garlic rice served with Tocino for breakfast! We ate it daily at our El Nido hotel.
Related Article: Must Eat Filipino Food
#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.
Unique 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 are 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.
Eat a Balut egg in the Philippines
Try one of these Filipino classics balut, balut doesn’t seem to be as popular in El Nido but there are kids selling them on the beach from the coolers. If you’ve never tried it, it’s a must do in El Nido!
Related Article: Eating A Filipino Balut Egg In Manila
Try The Banana Flower Curry
El Nido has been one of the only places I have seen this dish on a menu. Several restaurants in El Nido make this dish with the flower of the banana tree chopped up in a curry.
Send A Postcard Home
The postage rates to send a postcard home from El Nido are ridiculously cheap. It’s cheaper to send a postcard from El Nido to the U.S. Than it is to send one within the U.S. (not sure how that makes any sense).
Don’t forget the insurance. We don’t take the insurance offered when purchasing flights/hotel, but instead, we always get travel insurance with World Nomads. Which coverage includes medical, trip cancellation, your belongings from theft or damage, baggage, car rental coverage, and much more.
El Nido Day Trips
I would plan on doing 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 5 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 worst. Art Cafe’s boat is a good size for that tour. Bring water shoes for El Nido tour C – It seems everywhere they take you on tour C you are walking on sharp rocks. El Nido Tour A is manageable without, but tour C is much better with.
El Nido Basics / FAQ:
Does El Nido have an ATM:? Yes
As of October 2015, El Nido now has an ATM so getting money in El Nido is possible. The El Nido ATM machine is located in the Municipal Hall. Prior to this El Nido didn’t have an ATM, therefore, you would have to travel to El Nido with enough money to fund your trip or travel to Puerto Princesa (6 hours away) for a working ATM. We would still suggest bringing cash with you to El Nido, ATM’s in such remote locations are known to run out of money often or even be out of service for days at a time. Trust us you don’t want to run out of money in El Nido.
Does El Nido have power all day? Yes
As of November 2014, electricity in El Nido is 24 hours a day. Prior to this electricity was only 2pm-6am. Power outages still happen but several places have a generator.
How Much Money Do I Need In El Nido?
The amount of money needed in El Nido will be based on your travel style. Here are some general figures to use. Filipinos have realized they have something special here and the prices are starting to reflect. I guess you can’t blame them, but there is a lot of price fixing where everyone raises the price together. Day trips now cost 1200P per person, I say now because all the signs around town use to say 600P, but have a piece of masking tape with sharpie written over to say the new 1200P. Prices below will change as demand is higher and tourism increases.
Best Restaurants in El Nido Palawan
- A meal at a local Filipino restaurant: 100-200P
- A meal at the average resort: 200-400 with many options at 250P
- Beer at a store: 35-55P, once you find a cheap beer store keep going back
- Beer at an El Nido bar: 35-70P Happy hour in El Nido on the beach typically has two for one beer at 70P (2 beers)
- Water: 1Liter – 35p or 6Liters -90P
- Soda: 25-30P a can, 65P for a 2L bottle
Eat pizza at 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 for 310-400P enough for 2 if you are not too hungry, or if you are each get one, they’re good, you’ll finish them. 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, some nights no wait we went when there was no wait, and just walked by when there was.
We feel in love with the Palawan and can’t wait to get back to El Nido ourselves. Hopefully, our El Nido Palawan guide helped plan your trip to paradise. It really is a magical place.
For Additional EL Nido & Philippines Information Check Out Our Other Articles:
Get there soon – Because the road is almost paved to town. Who knows what that will do, based on what we saw compared to what we read about it, it seems as if El Nido has undergone some big changes already.
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