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


Where to Stay in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Find the best hotels and resorts in El Nido, including budget options in Where to Stay in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.

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Things to do in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

1. Island-Hopping

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Entrance to the Big Lagoon in El Nido

There are countless of El Nido tour packages to choose from, an even more tour companies offering these packages.

As such, you can choose to book your El Nido Palawan package tours by going down to the tour agents’ booths at El Nido Pier, or book in advance from online travel agencies. GetYourGuide and Klook are two of such online operators.

The two most highly recommended tours are El Nido Island Hopping 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.

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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!

a. El Nido Tour A

  1. Seven Commandos Beach
  2. Big Lagoon
  3. Hidden Lagoon
  4. Shimizu Island
  5. Small Lagoon
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Goofing around on Seven Commandos Beach

b. El Nido Tour B

  1. Snake Island
  2. Pinagbuyutan Island
  3. Entalula Beach
  4. Cudognon Cave
  5. Snorkeling Site

c. El Nido Tour C

  1. Helicopter Island
  2. Matinloc Shrine
  3. Secret Lagoon
  4. Star Beach
  5. Hidden Beach

d. El Nido Tour D

  1. Ipil Beach
  2. Cadlao Lagoon
  3. Paradise Beach
  4. Pasandigan Beach
  5. Natnat Beach
  6. Bukal Beach

2. Visit Las Cabanas Beach

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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

Las Cabanas beach, El Nido sunset copy

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.

How to get to El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

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Getting from Coron to El Nido

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.

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Getting from Puerto Princesa to El Nido 

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 from Manila to El Nido 

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a domestic flight into El Nido, there is a small local El Nido Palawan airport operating within the island 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, Philippines

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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.

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Food in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

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Mains:

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:

  1. Taverna Agape (Greek/Mediterranean Food)
  2. El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe (Western & Filipino Food)
  3. Trattoria Altrove (Pizza and Pasta)
  4. Big Mama’s Pinoy Hotpot & Grill (Filipino Food)

Grilled Seafood:

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:

  1. Bacuit Grill
  2. Last Frontier Beach Restauran
  3. Jarace Grill

Snacks:

el nido kayak shop drinks

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:

  1. Falafel – A food cart that serves falafel and other Middle Eastern snacks.
  2. Mezzanine Restaurant – A restaurant that serves great churros – you can opt to buy them to go.
  3. Midtown Bakery – Great local pastries at affordable prices.

Desserts:

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!

  1. Cocolush – the famous Hong Kong Egg tarts with frozen yogurt.
  2. Gusto Gelato – Serves ice cream and local desserts like Halo-Halo.

Nightlife in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

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:

  1. Pukka Bar
  2. SAVA Beach Bar
  3. Rooftop Bar

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:

  1. Republica Sunset Bar
  2. Happiness Beach Bar
  3. Kalabar

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!

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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!


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Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on belaroundtheworld.com/about.

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