I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging but it’s not me, it’s the biggest media and travel sites who declared El Nido as one of the best island and beach destinations in the world. And there are still a lot of raves and accolades, but the list might not be enough.
What I am trying to say is, if you’re planning to visit the Philippines, don’t forget about El Nido. For Filipino travelers, El Nido should be the ultimate destination in your bucket list!
The Story of El Nido
Formerly known as Bacuit, the town was renamed El Nido in 1954, a name that derives from swiftlets’ nest found in the crevices of limestone cliff.
But its splendor has long been hidden to the world until a sea accident happened in 1979 that led to its discovery. Now, El Nido is one of the most popular tourist spots in the Philippines known for its wonder of nature.
How to get to El Nido
The best way to go to El Nido from Manila is via Puerto Princesa. Book a flight, and once you’re at the Puerto Princesa Airport, there are vans that offer direct travel to El Nido. We were able to get the service of Eulene Joy van for only 450Php per person. Travel time is 6 hours. We were there last November so it was off-peak season, that’s why I think we were able to get that price.
But usually the fare is about 550 Php to 600 Php base on van services like Lexus Van and also Day Tripper Vans.
If you are the adventurous type and you want longer travel and waiting time, you can try traveling by bus. Outside the airport, you can hail a tricycle to take you to the terminal for about 150 Php.
Also, for an affordable 8 Php fare, tell the driver to drop you off at Junction 1, and from there ride a multi-cab going to the bus terminal named as San Jose Bus Terminal for 13 Php each. The fare is cheaper with buses at about 380 Php for ordinary and 480 Php for Aircon. Bus companies are Cherry Bus and Roro Bus.
By Direct Flight via AirSwift
This is the only one airline that flies from Manila to Lio Airport El Nido, it’s Airswift! It’s easier access I know, but with the price of about 7,000 Php, not recommended for budget travelers Haha!
Things To Do in El Nido
It was fun roaming around the town, eating at restaurants and carinderias and also meeting new friends in El Nido, but definitely the best thing to do in El Nido is to try the island hopping tours.
El Nido offers 4 island hopping tours or packaged tours namely tours A, B, C and D which has its own unique beauty to boast. Tour A is all about Lagoons! For Tour B, it’s the caves. Beaches are the hottest attractions in Tour C. While for Tour D it’s the islands of Cadlao.
Here are the attractions from each Island Hopping Tour. During our 4 Days Travel to El Nido, we were able to experience Tours A and C, which are also the most popular.
Like I said Tour A is all about adventures while exploring the secret and hidden lagoons of El Nido. It was 8AM when we met with the tour organizer, Northern Hope Tours, together with the other tourists near the port to start our awesome island hopping experience. Here are the attractions we visited.
7 Commandos Beach
Though tour A is known for Lagoons, our fist stop is actually an Island, a beach. It was a good way to start our tour, like a prologue to an awesome adventure in the paradise of El Nido. (READ STORY: 7 Commandos Beach of El Nido, Palawan)
The entrance to the Big Lagoon was definitely a sight to behold. Those towering cliffs with green vegetation surrounding the crystal clear water. One of the most picturesque places in the tour. (READ STORY: Big Lagoon of El Nido: Just like a Fantasy Movie)
Coined as the favorite island of the boatmen. Haha they were the one who told me that. Well, obviously because this is where we had our lunch. The food was delicious, with all those grilled fishes and liempo with ensalada, veggies and fruits! Aside from the food, Shimizu island has a charm of its own.
We passed through this hole on these huge rocks and limestones until we reached the secret lagoon. The place was truly enchanting.
READ STORY: Exploring the Secret Lagoon of El Nido
Whoah! Small Lagoon was all about enjoying nature’s grandeur while kayaking, you’ll pass through this small entrance of limestones until reaching the small lagoon.
We finished the tour at around 4:30 PM and we all had a big smile on our faces. If you need a more detailed post about Tour A, check this article, El Nido Tour A: Breathtaking Lagoons.
This is all about the Caves! Here are the attractions when you avail the tour B.
- Snake Island
- Cudugnon Cave
- Pinagbuyutan Island
- Cathedral Cave
This is a personal favorite because this is where I found and experienced some of the best beach adventures! Here are the highlights.
We started off the tour at Helicopter Island. The name of this island is pretty obvious, it’s because ot looks like a helicopter, especially from afar while you’re on a boat going to the island. But aside from that it’s limestone cliffs, fine beaches and underwater world will surely captivate you.
READ STORY: Helicopter Island of El Nido, Palawan
An unforgettable experience. Behind those huge rocks and cliffs is a paradise, a beach hidden from the outside world.
READ STORY: Uncovering the Hidden Beach of El Nido
A relatively smaller beach from Tapiutan Island where tourists take their lunch. Though it has shorter shoreline, it’s still filled with the same beauty as the other El Nido islands. (READ STORY: Talisay Beach, Tapiutan Island in El Nido)
This is one of the best adventures in El Nido. Imagine swimming and passing through this hole and then inside, you’ll find a beach. Mindblowing.
READ STORY: The Secret Beach of Matinloc Island, El Nido
Snorkeling at Matinloc Island
The tour originally includes Matinloc Shrine, but for some reasons, our guides said that we will snorkel instead. Well, I don’t have problems with that. At least we were able to experience the underwater madness of El Nido.
READ STORY: El Nido’s Underwater Madness
For a more detailed story of Tour C, check this article – El Nido Tour C : Secret and Hidden Beaches
This is an island hopping of the Cadlao islands. Here are the attractions of this tour.
- Bucal Beach
- Pasandigan Beach
- Nat Nat Beach
- Paradise Beach
TOUR E – El Nido Land Tour
Aside from Island Hopping Tours, El Nido is filled with more stunning beaches, waterfalls and other attractions. That’s why there’s the Tour E or the Land Tour. You can avail this through the tricycle drivers or even tour operators in town. Don’t worry there are tons of tour operators there. When you avail the land tour, here are the destinations to expect.
- Las Cabanas and Marimegmeg Beach
- Nagkalit-kalit waterfalls
- Nacpan and Calitang Twin Beach
- Kuyawayaw waterfalls
- Mt. Manslawit
- Ille Cave
- Bulalacao waterfalls
El Nido Tours Prices
This summarizes the price of each island hopping tour in El Nido. All island hopping tours include buffet lunch and snorkeling gear. Prices may vary by tour agency, but this is the standard one imposed by the local government.
- Island Hopping Tour A – 1,200 Php (24 USD)
- Island Hopping Tour B – 1,300 Php (26 USD)
- Island Hopping Tour C – 1,400 Php (28 USD)
- Island Hopping Tour D – 1,200 Php (24 USD)
- Land Tour (Tour E) 1,500 Php (30 USD)
There are a lot of restaurants and karinderia (eatery) in El Nido that offer Filipino and international cuisines. But the standout for me because of its afforadable and quality of food is IBR Fast Food. Their serving is generous in affordable prices. If you’re on the budget and still wants to eat something delicious, go for IBR. It’s just near the beach located at the center of the town. For more restaurants in El Nido, check this article.
Where to stay in El Nido
Our travel to El Nido was like months of preparation of checking the affordable and best hotels and accomodation. We also got some recommendation from friends and also checked out some blogs. Here are the recommonded hotels based on your needs as a traveler like if you’re looking for budget friendly, mid-range hotels and the luxury hotels.
Budget Friendly to Mid-range hotels in El Nido
- Our Melting Pot – One of the most popular hostels among backpackers. Located in El Nido town, just a walking distance to the beach and at the center of everything, this hostel is known for affordable accommodation and an avenue for travelers to meet new friends from all around the world.
- Swiftlets Inn – One of the best in terms of quality for affordable hostels in El Nido. They serve breakfast every morning, and is popular for hands-on service from the staff and even from the owners.
- Ocean Vista Inn – They have a spectacular view of the El Nido beach. Another quality yet affordable hotel in El Nido. Located near the beach and just a walking distance to the town, shops and restaurants. Check my review, Ocean Vista Inn and its breathtaking view
- Spin Designers Hostel – When it comes to hotel’s design and comfortable rooms, this hostel is one of the best choices. Also located near the town so you’re near to everything you need.
- Ipil Suites – Fully furnished, and near thebeach and the town. Another worthy accomodation in El Nido.
Luxury Resort and Hotel
When it comes to luxury, on the top of the list is the Miniloc Island Resort. Located in the secluded island of Miniloc, this haven is perfect for lavish and ideal relaxation.
El Nido Itinerary
We stayed there for 4 days and we had an awesome trip. Here is a summary of our itinerary
- Day 1 – Arrival in El Nido, Explore the beach and town
- Day 2 – Tour A
- Day 3 – Tour C
- Day 4 – Nacpan beach in the morning. Then leave El Nido 🙁
- Day 1 – Arrival in El Nido. Explore the town and the beach
- Day 2 – Tour C
- Day 3 – Nacpan Beach. Leave El Nido
- Day 1 – Arrival in El Nido. Explore the beach and the town
- Day 2- Tour A
- Day 3 – Tour B
- Day 4 – Tour C
- Day 5 – Nacpan or/and leave El Nido
El Nido travel Tips and more info
- ATM – For a long time, there’s no ATM in El Nido. But not anymore! Now, there’s BPI in town, and also an ATM of RCBC at the Municipal Hall.
- Credit Cards – Still, few establishments accept credit card. It would be better to stack some cash.
- Electricity – Electricity is now 24/7. Unlike before it was only 2pm to 6am.
- Camera – Don’t forget to bring underwater cam or action cam when you do the island hopping.
- Food in El Nido – Food in El Nido is quite expensive, that’s for Filipino backpacker’s perspective. But luckily, there are eateries in El Nido that are of quality food yet very affordable. Just look around. Or else, look for IBR restaurant. It’s recommended!
- Currency Exchange – If you need currency exchange, there are several pawnshops and currency exchange shops in town. Please do your research on the currency exchange rate.
- Internet – Wifi and Mobile Data internet is still slow in El Nido. And you’re in the Philippines, one of the countries in Asia with slow internet connection.
- Dry Bag for Cam – If you need to bring your cam, buy a reliable dry bag
I left El Nido feeling like there was a hole in my heart. This paradise has given me my needed relaxation and reflection on my life, my dreams and aspirations. I’ll definitely be back. And since this haven is getting more popular to the world each day, the best time to experience El Nido is now. I hope this travel guide helps.
Stay inspired. Get out of your cubicle and explore the beauty of the Philippines.
Disclosure: Thank you Northern Hope Tours. Our El Nido tour was complimentary. All opinons,as always, are my own.