The desire to arrive at a destination – idyllic, isolated and untouched by man – is as real as it was when Alex Garland wrote “The Beach” in 1996 as it is now in the millennial age. In 2000, the novel was adapted into a film, directed by Danny Boyle and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
While El Nido is now not foreign to tourism, the cluster of islands off the tip of the Palawan Island that is full of dramatic rock formations and surrounded by cerulean waters still retains its charm – and is what draws visitors over and over again to El Nido.
Recommended duration in El Nido: 3 days
Read: Coron, Palawan Itinerary
Where to Stay in El Nido, Palawan
Due to the growing popularity of El Nido, there are now a variety of accommodation options for tourists to choose from. From hotels to hostels, and from swanky villas to beachside residences, there is one to suit every taste.
The cost of staying in El Nido can range from as little as $13 per night, to over $700 per night.
Search for your perfect accommodation on HotelsCombined, Agoda and Booking.com
Luxury hotels in El Nido:
Want to pamper yourself? Unwind away from the hustle and bustle of the town in one of the villas on these private islands in the beautiful waters of El Nido.
Indulge in the activities that these resorts provide, which can include a candlelight dinner by the sea, snorkelling with the fishes and a relaxing spa and massage.
Here are some of the more glamourous options that you can find in El Nido, with prices starting as low as $350:
- El Nido Resorts Miniloc Island ($488/night)
- El Nido Resorts Lagen Island ($490/night)
- Matinloc Island ($350/night)
Mid-Range hotels in El Nido:
There are many new hotels and Airbnb apartments sprouting up all over El Nido too.
Some are located very close to the port, where most of the shops, restaurants and entertainment areas are located are, whilst others are located slightly further away from that.
Some of the better options, based on online reviews and personal experience, that you can go for include:
- Cadlao Resorts & Apartments ($190/night)
- The Nest El Nido Beach Resort ($146/night)
- Las Cabanas Beach Resort ($150/night)
- Last Frontier Beach Resort ($171/night)
Budget hotels and hostels in El Nido:
If you’re looking for a way to travel light and travel cheaply, hostels are the way to go! You’ll get to meet lots of like-minded travelers, eager to share their experiences and tips with you. In fact, this is one of the easiest way for you to make friends if you’re travelling on your own.
Otherwise, you can opt for one of the budget hotel options. There are many budget hotels that are not listed on popular hotel booking websites like Booking or Expedia, so you can try exploring the streets of El Nido Pier and ask the hotel staff at the counters to make bookings directly there and then.
There is no shortage of cheaper accommodation in El Nido Town.
Here are some of the more popular options:
- Talindak Beach Cottages ($35/night)
- Tapik Beach Park Guest House ($8/night)
- Outpost Beach Hostel ($41/night)
- Spin Designer Hostel ($65/night)
- St John Island View Pensionne ($20/night)
Themed hotels in El Nido:
Since you’ve come all the way here to a foreign country, why not try something new? Break away from the conventional hotels and hostels and kick it back “glamping” style – that’s glamorous camping for you. Experience a brand new accommodation experience, coupled with its tailored tours and adventures for you, all in one.
Some glamping options for you include:
- The Birdhouse El Nido ($315/night)
- Aetas Glamping El Nido ($150/night – request for price by contacting them directly)
Find these hotels on HotelsCombined, Agoda and Booking.com
What to do in El Nido, Palawan
There are countless tour companies offering the standard island-hopping tours. As such, you can choose to book your tours by going down to the tour agents’ booths at El Nido Pier, or book in advance from online travel agencies. KKday and Klook are two of such online operators.
The two most highly recommended tours are El Nido Tour A and Tour C. There is even an option to combine these two tours into one single tour for those who are time-strapped.
Before purchasing any tour, enquire if the tour packages include miscellaneous fees such as rental of snorkelling masks, El Nido Eco-Tourism Development Fee of 200 Pesos per person, pick-up and drop-off service from the hotel and food for lunch.
The approximate cost of each tour is 1,200 – 1,500 Pesos per person, but you can definitely try bargaining, especially if you were to purchase the tours over the counter.
The 4 classic tours can be found below. The locations that they head to are below each respective list. Depending on where you want to visit, you can select the tours accordingly!
- Seven Commandos Beach
- Big Lagoon
- Hidden Lagoon
- Shimizu Island
- Small Lagoon
- Snake Island
- Pinagbuyutan Island
- Entalula Beach
- Cudognon Cave
- Snorkeling Site
- Helicopter Island
- Matinloc Shrine
- Secret Lagoon
- Star Beach
- Hidden Beach
- Ipil Beach
- Cadlao Lagoon
- Paradise Beach
- Pasandigan Beach
- Natnat Beach
- Bukal Beach
2. Visit Las Cabanas Beach
If not for the recommendation from my local tour guide from my island-hopping tour and a taxi driver, we would have missed visiting this beautiful beach, hidden away from the touristy town.
When you’re at Las Cabanas, take in the simple pleasures of the following:
Watch the beautiful sunset
About 20 to 25 minutes away from the port lies a hidden enclave, the Las Cabanas Beach. It is less popular than El Nido Town Proper, so expect lesser tourists here.
While your time away at one of the bars through the evening, and gaze at the horizon as the glorious crimson ball melts over the water in the evenings and at around 6pm, we saw the sun setting behind the hills with bright, yellow and orange rays decorating the evening sky.
Hit the bars
There are many other things to do here apart from sunset-watching; to start, you can have a drink and have a meal or a snack in one of the many hip, popular bars along the beach. Some bars even go the extra mile by providing beach mats and beach chairs for you to enjoy your drink or food on the soft sand. The prices of the drinks here are not pricey at all – in fact, you can get a decent bottle of cider for as little as 50 Pesos.
Zipline across the beach
There is also something for the thrill-seekers at Las Cabanas Beach – ziplining. Clip on the zipline that hangs you over the sea to Depeldet Island.
Prices for the zipline can range between 700 to 900 Pesos per person.
The climb up to the zipline platform takes about 10 minutes up muddy terrains, but the view at the end is worth it.
Take a stroll
Finally, for great nature lovers just like me, you can take a walk to Depeldet Island during low tide, where there are mainly more plants and trees.
Otherwise, take a stroll along the beach, where you will be greeted by many playful dogs, as you admire the beauty of the waters and the calming sound of the waves crashing. You can also take a dip in the waters, as many others did. In fact, you could even rent a kayak or stand up paddle to explore the surrounding areas while having a great workout!
3. Hike the Taraw Peak
For a panoramic view of the whole of Bacuit Bay, climb up to the Taraw Cliff/ Taraw Peak, a limestone karst rising over El Nido. I won’t say it doesn’t take effort to go up, but for such a bird’s eye view, it’s only expected.
The whole hike takes 2 to 2.5 hours round trip.
Getting to El Nido, Palawan
Getting to El Nido from Coron
1. Fast Ferry
The fastest way to get to El Nido from another island paradise, Coron, is by the fast ferry operated by Montenegro Lines.
This journey allows you to travel in the comfort of an air-conditioned ferry as you lean on soft, cushioned chairs.
Cost: 1,760 Pesos (There will be an additional 20 Pesos you need to pay at the entry on top of the ticket price for Terminal Fee.)
Duration: 3.5 hours
2. Slow ferry
Operated by Bunso boats, this is an option for those travelling on a slightly tighter budget, or if you happen to travel on the one day the fast ferry doesn’t operate.
Cost: 1,400 Pesos (There will be an additional 20 Pesos you will need to pay at the entry on top of the ticket price for Terminal Fee.)
Duration: 6 – 8 hours
Departing Time: Between 8am – 8:30am, so be at the port by 7:30am
Tip: Book them at least a day (24 hours) in advance to make sure you have a seat on the boats!
If you’re wary or skeptical about the authenticity of the tickets you’ve purchased, you should always ask for a receipt. The vendor will issue you a ticket for the Montenegro Lines ferry, but for the Bunso boats, you’ll need to show your receipts instead.
Getting to El Nido from Puerto Princesa
El Nido is a huge island on its own in the Palawan region, and its nearest major airport is Puerto Princesa.
Cost: 700 – 1,000 Pesos per person
Duration: 6 hours
Departing time: Between 7:30AM to 6PM
The capacity of the van is kept to a comfortable number of people – no more than 8 pax. While 6 hours in a van may sound daunting, there are multiple rest stops in between.
In fact, when I took the van to Puerto Princesa airport, we stopped at a diner in a city called Taytay (about halfway to Puerto Princesa). It was a good break to see more clear waters and listen to the sound of waves crashing again after hours in the car.
Tip: Bring some spare cash for meals along the way or pack some on-the-go snacks while you’re on the road.
Head down to any tour agencies along the streets of the main town or ask your hotel staff to book on your behalf at least 24 hours before your departure.
The transport operator will fetch you from your doorstep.
Getting to El Nido from other cities in the Philippines
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a domestic flight into El Nido, there is a small local airport operating in El Nido itself, called El Nido Airport (also known as Lio Airport)
Flight operators: AirSwift & Air Juan Aviation
Departing cities: Manila, Cebu and Caticlan
Cost: Depends on where you fly from. Have a look at skyscanner!
Getting Around El Nido, Palawan
Just like many developing cities in the Philippines, the main mode of transportation here for the locals is motorbikes.
Having said that, don’t be surprised when you see big vans and cars cruising the roads too.
Cost: Starting from 30 Pesos for 2 people
For tourists and guests, if your hotel or hostel doesn’t provide you a shuttle to and from the pier, you can easily flag down a tricycle anywhere. Depending on the distance covered, it can reach up to 150 Pesos per trip.
My trip from El Nido Pier to Las Cabanas Beach, a 25-minute ride, costs about 150 Pesos.
Despite the brash sounds of the engine, it is the most common mode for getting around El Nido. Besides, there is little reason not to, especially with it being so affordable.
Food in El Nido, Palawan
There is a wide range of food here to satisfy the different palates and taste buds – it’s almost food paradise here.
For those seeking a fancy, delicious meal, you can opt for dining in restaurants, which includes local and exotic foreign food options. There are many local restaurants here, too, serving great Filipino food at reasonable prices.
Here are some of our recommended food eateries:
- Taverna Agape (Greek/Mediterranean Food)
- El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe (Western & Filipino Food)
- Trattoria Altrove (Pizza and Pasta)
- Big Mama’s Pinoy Hotpot & Grill (Filipino Food)
Grilled seafood can be found in abundance here, since El Nido is a port close to the sea after all.
Whether it’s at Corong Corong Beach, El Nido Pier or Las Cabanas Beach, your trip won’t feel complete without trying some of Filipino seafood, including squids, lobsters, prawns, clams and its huge range of fishes.
To start, here are some of the classic seafood restaurants to try out:
After all that walking and sightseeing, I’m sure you’d want to munch on some small bites to douse that hunger. Mostly located along the shops streets near El Nido Pier, get your quick sugar or pastry fix at:
- Falafel – A food cart that serves falafel and other Middle Eastern snacks.
- Mezzanine Restaurant – A restaurant that serves great churros – you can opt to buy them to go.
- Midtown Bakery – Great local pastries at affordable prices.
No holiday is complete without a little sinful treat. I pampered myself so much with the desserts that I can’t help but get seconds of. Dive right into one of these desserts shops yourself and have a great time!
- Cocolush – the famous Hong Kong Egg tarts with frozen yogurt.
- Gusto Gelato – Serves ice cream and local desserts like Halo-Halo.
Nightlife in El Nido, Palawan
Much like Boracay, El Nido is considered a touristy beach island. Hence, you definitely won’t find a lack of entertainment options late at night.
Here, you can find plenty of bars that offer great prices for a bottle of alcohol, on top of being in a great atmosphere.
You can choose to be seated right on the beach while sipping on your drinks, overlooking the pier. While looking for recommendations, I’ve gathered that these are the more popular bars in El Nido Town Proper:
There are other regions in El Nido apart from El Nido Pier that serves great nightlife ambience. One of which includes Corong Corong Beach, located south of El Nido Pier.
There are many hostels in that area, and as such, you will find plenty of tourists here looking for relaxing bars to unwind. Some of the best bars here include:
Another region would be, as mentioned before, at Las Cabanas Beach. From the moment you walk down the stairway leading to the beach, you will hear the bass beats blasting from the speakers of the many bars, and you know this is where the action’s at!
When the sun sets, the bars will blanket the beach with strobes of colourful lights, setting the ambience just right for a couple of drinks and mingling around.
Exploring these nightlife places gives you a great chance to meet other like-minded tourists, allowing you to exchange travelling tips, information and possibly getting deals that you otherwise may not have known. So give it go!