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El Nido Travel Guide.

January 14, 2020

Philippines

Asia, Philippines, Travel Guides, Where to Stay

El Nido is one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines. El Nido is a town on the island of Palawan, and it’s truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. From the stunning lagoons and white sand beaches to the limestone cliffs and crystal clear blue water, El Nido is the perfect spot for relaxation, adventure, and raw natural beauty. It was definitely one of our favorites places while we were in the Philippines. El Nido is definitely a budget destination, which means it’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for epic beauty without spending a fortune. Here’s our full El Nido Travel Guide:

El Nido Travel Guide:

How to Get to El Nido:

You can get to El Nido by plane, ferry, or car.

Van from Puerto Princesa:

You’ll have to take a flight to Puerto Princesa (from Cebu or Manila) and then get in a shared van that will take you from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, which takes about six hours. Even though this is the cheapest option (about $10-15 USD per person), we definitely don’t recommend it. Being squished in a van full of people and luggage for six hours just isn’t how you want to spend your time in the Philippines in our opinion.

 Ferry from Coron:

If you fly to Coron and spend a day or two there first, then the easiest way to get El Nido is to take the ferry from Coron. It takes about 4 hours and costs around $30 USD per person. Then take a tricycle from the port to your hotel, which should be about 50-100 PHP ($1-2 USD) for two people with luggage.

 Flight from Cebu:

Flying is the most expensive option, but it’s also the easiest way to get to El Nido. You can fly direct to El Nido from Cebu on AirSwift for around $100 USD one way. It’s about an hour and a half flight on a small plane. Then you can take a tricycle from the El Nido airport to your hotel or El Nido town, which should be about 250-350 PHP ($5-7 USD) for two people with luggage.

what to do:

 Take a Boat Tour:

Boat tours are by far the most popular thing to do on the island and with good reason. Part of the beauty of the Philippines is all of the tiny islands and lagoons and beautiful beaches just off the coast of El Nido. They are truly breathtaking. Imagine the bluest water you’ve ever seen in your life, soft white sand beaches, and epic rock formations everywhere you turn. This is what makes El Nido one of the most beautiful places in the world. There are four different boat tours you can choose from in El Nido—Tour A, B, C, & D. There are various tour companies and stands all over town that offer the tours at different rates. Generally, we saw that most tours cost between 1200-2700 PHP ($24-54 USD). We chose to do a private tour, packed our own lunch (to cut down on the price), and combined some of the stops from Tour A and C and we paid 6500 PHP ($130 USD). But that didn’t include a kayak or environmental fees, so we ended up paying about $20 USD more for those fees. We stopped at Small Lagoon, Hidden Beach, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Helicopter Beach, and Cadlao Lagoon all of which were absolutely incredible. The island has been cracking down on over tourism over the last few years, and as a result, they only allow a certain number of boats and tours to go out each day. So due to that and the fact that different boat drivers and guides having different permits, we weren’t able to just pick any place we wanted to go and go, but everywhere we went was absolutely stunning. The boat tours are the most expensive activities on the islands, but they’re also the most worthwhile in our opinion. Doing the private tour was definitely more expensive, but it was worth it for us, because then we got to determine how long we spent at each place, and we were able to take all of the photos that we wanted. We’d definitely suggest doing at least one of the boat tours during your time in El Nido.

Price: Group tours cost anywhere from 1200-2700 PHP (about $22-$50 USD) per person depending on which tour route you choose and which company you go with. We negotiated a “cheaper” rate for a private tour and paid 6500 PHP for both of us. We suggest making sure whatever tour you book includes entrance fees, environmental fees, water, lunch, a snorkel mask, and a kayak, because we found that a lot of the “cheaper” options didn’t include those things, and then once you paid for all of them separately, you ended up paying more than other companies where all of those things were included in the price.

El Nido is working hard to be plastic-free, so you can’t bring plastic bottles on the boat tours with you. Your tour should include drinking water, so be sure to ask about it when booking. Or plan ahead and fill up your reusable bottle before you go.

 Relax at Nacpan Beach:

Rent a scooter and drive to Nacpan Beach. It’s about an hour drive from El Nido town, but once you get there, it’s a beautiful white sand beach lined with palm trees. There are quite a few little restaurants and beach bars there and you can even get massages right on the beach, so it’s easy to spend the whole day there. We suggest leaving before sunset so you don’t have to drive back in the dark. The roads in El Nido aren’t fully paved or well-lit, so driving in the dark can be extra dangerous. As of October 2019, there’s no entrance fee, but you do have to stop before you go in and “sign in” saying you’re going there.

 Get a Massage:

One of the best things about Southeast Asia in our opinion is being able to get massages for an incredible price. We had a 90 minute massage at Mahogany Resort for $20 each, and it was an absolutely amazing experience. There are various spas around the El Nido, but we didn’t find any other spas where we felt very comfortable; however, we highly recommend getting a massage from Mahogany Resort.

 Rent a Kayak and Explore the Islands on Your Own:

Rent a clear Kayak and explore around Cadlao Island on your own. Or take the kayak and paddle out to one of the beaches on the island and relax there for the day.

Watch Sunset from Las Cabanas Beach:

Las Cabanas Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island and it’s only about a 15-20 minute drive from El Nido town. There are various restaurants and beach bars on the beach, so you can easily spend all day here. And if you’re up for an adventure, you can go on the 750-meter zipline between two islands from here.

Hike Taraw Peak:

If you’re up for the challenge and want to get an incredible view of the island, hike Taraw Peak, the highest point of El Nido. It’s takes about 2-hours and is incredibly steep with jagged rocks, so be sure to wear good shoes, bring lots of water, and be extra careful. We didn’t do it and we have heard that there have been some accidents along the hike, so be very cautious and hike at your own risk or ask a local and see if you can find a guide who will go with you.

Where to Eat:

Taste El Nido (The Vegan Cafe):

Taste El Nido was by far my favorite restaurant we ate at during our entire time in the Philippines. It’s completely vegan, and honestly so delicious. (And we live in LA where there’s some of the best vegan restaurants in the world, so our standards are high, haha.) The smoothie bowls and vegan mac and cheese are to. die. for. The Blue Bowl was my favorite and the Yellow Bowl was Ryan’s favorite. We literally went every day and cannot recommend it enough.

Happiness Beach Bar:

Happiness Beach Bar serves Middle Eastern food with a beach vibe. We had the falafel and hummus and it was delicious. They also make their pita fresh daily and you can tell, because it’s so good! There are cute little swings here too that are perfect for an Instagram shot.

 Bella Vita:

If you’re looking for delicious pizza and pasta with beautiful sunset views, Bella Vita is the place to go. We suggest going for dinner, because it’s right on the beach so it’s the perfect place to enjoy a meal while watching the sunset.

Where to Stay:

El Nido Overlooking:

El Nido Overlooking is a small boutique hotel with the absolute best views overlooking the El Nido. There are four separate villas, one with a private pool. There is also a shared pool, and while we were there, we were the only ones using it. We booked our boat tour through the front desk, and they were very helpful and accommodating and even packed up breakfast since we left before the scheduled breakfast time. It’s located on a hill, so it’s pretty secluded and quiet. Waking up here to the sun spilling in is a memory we will never forget. We highly recommend staying here if you’re looking for a quiet escape.
 

BOOK YOUR STAY AT EL NIDO OVERLOOKING HERE!

 

Mahogany Resort El Nido:

Mahogany Resort is a beautiful luxurious beach resort in Corong Corong. It has a stunning pool and each of the rooms are their own little huts under the palm trees. The rooms are spacious and beautifully designed, and if you’re looking for a bit more luxury for your stay in El Nido, Mahogany Resort is definitely the place to stay. There’s a beach bar and restaurant where you can sit with your feet in the sand and watch the sunset over the ocean. They also offer spa services, and we had massages there that were incredible. We absolutely loved our stay here and highly recommend it if you’re looking for a relaxing and comfortable stay in El Nido.

BOOK YOUR STAY AT MAHOGANY RESORT EL NIDO HERE!

PLANNING A TRIP TO THE PHILIPPINES? HERE ARE 10 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING THE PHILIPPINES!

What to Expect: 

Getting Around Town:

The easiest way to explore the island is by motorbike. We rented a bike for 350 pesos ($7 USD) per day. You can also hire tricycle drivers to bring you around town. We were usually able to get a ride into town from our hotel (about a 5-7 minute ride) for 50 pesos (about $1 USD) for the two of us.
 

Be Prepared to Negotiate:

Filipinos are very kind people, but they definitely believe in “tourist pricing,” so don’t be afraid to ask for a lower rate than the first one they offer. And always agree on a rate before you get in the tricycle, boat, etc.

Be Careful Where you Eat:

The last thing you want is to get sick while you’re on your trip, so be extra careful about the restaurants you choose to eat from. The restaurants we suggested above all have a reputation of making their food with filtered water. Neither of us got sick during our entire trip, but in our opinion, you can never be too cautious.
 

Only Drink Filtered Water:

While we suggest not buying plastic bottles, it’s very important that you only drink filtered water. Most restaurants and hotels have water filters you can fill up a cup or bottle from. Taste El Nido has a water filter that you can fill up your bottle at (we suggest doing this when you eat there). And if you’re not sure if a place has filtered water, just ask.
 

Get a SIM Card:

Wifi on the islands is very limited, and even at the hotels and restaurants that do have wifi, it’s very slow. Which can be a good thing if you want to just disconnect and enjoy the island life. But, if you want to share photos on Instagram or use maps to get around town, we suggest getting a SIM card as soon as you arrive in the Philippines. We got a 10 GB SIM card for 600 PHP (about $12 USD). 

Get Cash in the Morning:

Pretty much no one accepts credit cards on the islands, and if they do, they charge a huge fee for it, so just be prepared to use cash during your trip. There are a few different ATMs in El Nido, but they sometimes run out of money later in the day, so be sure to go to the ATMs first thing in the morning.

Plan to Spend 3-5 Days on the Island:

 There is so much to see and do in El Nido, and you definitely want to feel like you have enough time there to enjoy it all. We spent four full days on the island and felt like it was the perfect amount of time to do a boat tour, relax on the different beaches, and explore. And we even had a few rainy days.
 

ISLAND HOPPING IN THE PHILIPPINES? DON’T SKIP THE STUNNING ISLAND OF SIARGAO!

 

What to Pack:

 

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