Ultimate Travel Guide to El Nido, Philippines – Everything you need to know.

El Nido is one of the more popular destinations to travel within the Philippines, and for seriously good reason! Since my recent trip, I have been flooded with messages & questions for travel advice whilst visiting El Nido. Boy oh boy do I have some tips including where to stay, how to book tours, where to eat, planning ahead, & of course the best beaches/islands to visit.

El nido is located in Palawan, and is known for its white sand beaches, tropical islands, extravagant blue lagoons and coral reefs. As beautiful as it is, the Philippines can be found to be quiet challenging to travel within, and I can vouch for that first hand. I have created this travel guide not only to share its beautiful locations and islands, but to also assist on making your next trip as smooth as possible.


Planning Ahead

If I have one piece of advice from my experience I would say PLAN AHEAD. Plan all flights and dates in which islands you want to visit beforehand so your not left having to catch an overnight dodgy ferry, or spending your entire budget on a last minute flight. Keep in mind that flights can book out weeks in advance!

We were caught in a serious moment of panic when we realised all flights from Coron to Manila were booked out a week in advance, and the only flight left was a $500 flight stopping in Cebu first. What was meant to be a $100, 1 hour flight, somehow turned into managing to book the only 2 seats left on a ridiculously expensive, non direct, flight!

Booking tours to islands in prior to your arrival isn’t overly necessary as its quiet easy to book once you are there. More on this below.


How To Get There

Coming from Manila?

Option 1: Fly directly to Puerto Princessa, then catch a 5 hour car transfer to El Nido. Transfers from the airport to El Nido can be arranged with your hotel or online through this link.

Pros?  Flights are more frequent and affordable. Prices usually range between $50-$100 one way. Easily book flights now either through SkyScanner OR Cebu Pacific Air.

Cons?  Having to drive 5 hours from the airport to El Nido town

Option 2: Fly directly to El Nido. Book your flight either through SkyScanner or Air Swift.

Pros? Quicker! 5 hours quicker to be precise. If budget isn’t an issue then this is your best option.

Cons? Almost double or four times the cost of a flight to Puerto Princessa. Fewer daily flights that book out fast.

Coming from Coron?

Option 1: Cheapest and quickest way to get to El Nido from Coron is by the 4 hour fast ferry for $39 through Travelertick.com.

Option 2: Catch a direct flight to El Nido or Puerto Princessa. Downfall about this option being very few flights, and costing between $100-$300. Book flights through SkyScanner or Air Juan.

How to get around one you’re there:

Easiest way to get around is catching tricycles. If you are staying out of town a tricycle ride costs between 50PHP – 100PHP to get into town.


Where to Stay

Our first night we had arranged to stay at a hotel called Residencia Katrina Bed and Breakfast which I highly DO NOT recommend. Extremely over priced for the value and comfort! We ended up driving down the road and finding a much nicer hotel for similar price called Country Inn. You will always get a cheaper price when booking upon arrival over booking the hotel online. We paid $100AUD per night for 3 nights. Head to booking.com to search for accommodation options that are best suitable for you.

If you are looking for a unique experience check out these hotels!

Cabanas de Nacpan Camping Resort

The Bird House


Where to eat

There a few spots on the island which we regularly ate at, and thoroughly enjoyed, for a really cheap cost. Traveling as a vegan/vegetarian can be hard and I found these places to be the most accommodating. Here are my top recommendations.

I usually love eating the local food, but unfortunately most Filipino restaurants serve mostly meat based meals. If you are looking to try local cuisine, Pork Adobo is the Filipino specialty!

Glow Juices & Smoothies

This little smoothie shack serves fresh juices, smoothies and even Acai bowls! Absolutely loved it here! Found it super fresh and healthy for a morning or afternoon snack.

El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Glow Juice Smoothie bowl barEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Glow Juice Smoothie bowl bar

Falafel Restaurant

You’ll find this little gem in the Main Street serving the tastiest falafel wraps! This place is not exactly a restaurant but more so a hole in the wall that only offers takeaway. Super cheap and perfect for lunch!

Altrove 

A must try when visiting El Nido & Coron! Don’t be put off by the line out the front, the wait is well worth it! This restaurant is reasonably priced and serves some seriously amazing wood fired pizza and pasta. We ate here almost every night.

Osaka Castle

A little outdoor Japanese restaurant serving mainly sushi and sushi bowls. All fresh and super tasty!

Booking an Island Tour

There are a few different options you can take when booking either a private or group island tour. These include:

  • Booking through your hotel. Most hotels arrange boat tours, the only downfall is you aren’t able to choose a specific boat to take you out.
  • Booking through a tour company. There are plenty of tour companies around town that can help arrange a tour for you the day beforehand. I was recommended to book a tour through Skipper Charters, which seems to be the only tour company you need to book in advance! They are well known for providing some of the best tours in Palawan.
  • Booking at the port with a local. I prefer this option myself as I can meet the captain and pick what boat to take us out. This option is best when organising a private tour.

Private Tour Rates range between 5000-7000 PHP depending on the size of the boat. We paid 6000 Peso for a larger boat and lunch provided. Most tours will include lunch for that price. Price is for entire boat not per person.

Group Tour Rates usually cost 3000/Person PHP for a full day. Lunch is provided in cost.


What Islands to Visit & Tours to take

There are 4 different island tours in El Nido including A, B, C & D tour. To find out what islands are including in each of these tour groups, or to find out the different combo tours you can book click here.

During our time in El Nido we took 2 full day private boat tours and explored numerous islands and lagoons. We kindly asked our tour guide to take us to spots when they were the least busiest to avoid the crowds. Our tour guide, Tony, was amazing and so so friendly. I absolutely loved how he became really involved in flying the drone with us and taking photos whenever we asked.

The spots we explored include:

  • Small Lagoon
  • Big Lagoon
  • Secret Lagoon
  • Shimizu Island
  • 7 Commando Beach
  • Pinagbuyutan island
  • Entalula Beach
  • Cadlao Lagoon
  • Papaya Beach

Small lagoon

We arrived early morning to Small Lagoon as we were trying to avoid the crowds, but unfortunately the lagoon was completely shaded so we didn’t take any shots. If you don’t mind it being shaded I highly do recommend you go early morning to beat the crowds. The lagoon is absolutely stunning but can get really crowded later in the day!


Big Lagoon

LOOOOVED Big Lagoon! We visited big lagoon after small lagoon when it was still early enough for there to be little to no  crowds. The entrance to big lagoon is extraordinary, we asked to do a loop back around just so we could experience entering it once more.

El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Drone photo of big lagoonEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Drone photo of big lagoonEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Big lagoon girl sitting at the front of boat

El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Big lagoon girl sitting at the front of boat


Secret Lagoon

Secret Lagoon is known for its ‘secret lagoon between the cliffs’ that can be found parallel to the beach in my photo. We decided not to explore the lagoon after our tour guide mentioned it wasn’t overly spectacular. Instead we ran around beneath these palm trees enjoying an almost empty island to ourselves.

El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Hidden Lagoon Beach girl walking through palm trees


Shimizu Island

Arriving at Shimizu was incredible. The rock formations were extravagant and towering high above the crystal clear water beneath. We anchored here for about an hour swimming around and snorkelling with dozens of fishes.

El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Shimizu Island blue water boatEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Shimizu Island underwater had under half above


7 Commando Island

One of our last stops during one of our tours was 7 Commando island. Here we discovered an epic basketball court beneath the palms. Basketball courts can be found all over the Philippines (which are excessively used by the locals) with this one being my favourite. How cool is it! Almost feels like an abandoned court that has a history of 100 years.

El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: 7 Commando Island Beach hutEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: 7 Commando Island basketball court beneath the palms


Pinagbuyutan island

Pinagbuyutan (dare you to say that outloud) Island, is worth seeing just to admire the jungle of palm trees lining the shore.

El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Pinagbuyutan islandEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Pinagbuyutan island


Entalula Beach

If I had to pick a favourite spot in El Nido, I would have to choose Entalula Beach. It has that stereotypical tropical island look! We spent over 2 hours here swimming, taking photos and eating lunch. Check out how cute our salad was!

El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Entalulu BeachEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Entalulu BeachEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Entalulu Beachuntitled-40El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Entalulu BeachEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Entalulu BeachEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Entalulu Beach


Cadlao Lagoon

I call this spot, fairyfloss candy blue waters. The water is INSANELY vibrant I could lick it! Super cool location for drone footage.

El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Cadlao Lagoon girl sitting on edge of boat El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Cadlao Lagoon drone photo El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Cadlao Lagoon drone photo El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Cadlao Lagoon drone photo El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Cadlao Lagoon drone photo


What to do on El Nido Mainland

Click here to see the top 5 Mainland Beaches to visit 

The beaches we visited include:

Nacpan Beach

Nacpan Beach is located about a 45 minute tricycle ride out of town and is a great alternative way to spend your day if you aren’t taking an island tour. Although I didn’t find this beach to be anything special, I can appreciate it for a place of relaxation or a drink at one of the little funky beach bars.

El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Nacpan beach

Las Cabanas Beach

Las Cabanas is located closer to town and is extremely popular for enjoying a scocktail whilst watching the sunset. One of the best sunset spots in El Nido which I highly recommend.

El Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Las Cabanas beach palm treesEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Las Cabanas beach cocktailEl Nido Travel Guide - Philippines: Las Cabanas beach sunset pink sky


How to Avoid the Crowds

Best way to avoid the crowds is to take private tour boat out super early to the lagoons and islands that are the most popular. We left around 7am both morning of our tours.

Another great way to avoid the crowds, is again on a private tour boat, ask your tour guide to take you on the tour in reverse of every other tour boat. We didn’t take the usual routes of the other tour boats, so we were able to find quieter times at most of the locations.

It is almost near to impossible to avoid the crowds if you are exploring the islands with a group tour. I recommend spending he extra money to have the freedom!


Tips to save your ass

  • If you are unsure about your accomodation, book one night and if you don’t like it you are free to leave and easily find another hotel.
  • Take out cash before coming to El Nido. The ATMs can run out of cash all the time!
  • Always haggle prices of tricycles and tours (unless it is with a company)
  • BUY A SIM card! It will save your ass! I am soooo thankful we decided to grab a pre paid sim before heading here. Wifi is almost non existent! You can purchase SIM cards at most airports. We paid $20AUD for 8GB.
  • Book your flights ahead! Soooo important!
  • Don’t expect your trip to run smoothly. Accept that your traveling to a developing country and you will most definitely find have to overcome some speed bumps along the way.

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8 Comments

  1. Pauline

    May 9, 2018 at 8:18 am

    The Philippines are so so beautiful!! I really want to visit them one day *-*
    Those beaches, this clear blue water and so much to see because of so many different islands 🙂
    Love it!

    Xx Paulie <3

    https://mind-wanderer.com/category/adventures/

    1. haylsaway

      May 9, 2018 at 8:23 am

      Thanks for reading lovely! x

  2. danventuretravels

    May 9, 2018 at 8:20 am

    Wow! This post is fantastic. Your photos are perfect!

    1. haylsaway

      May 9, 2018 at 8:23 am

      Thank you!

  3. felixpolzer

    May 9, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Love it!

  4. Daniela De La Garza

    May 9, 2018 at 11:54 am

    Wow really enjoyed reading this as I’m headint there in a few weeks! Soo excited!!
    Just a quick question, you mentiones the private tour was around 6000 PHP. Is this price per person or the full private boat?
    Thanks again!!

    1. haylsaway

      May 9, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      No price for the full boat 🙌🏼🙌🏼 have fun!

      1. Daniela De La Garza

        May 11, 2018 at 11:33 pm

        Thank you! 🙂
        I have another question 🙈😬.
        What size/type of luggage did you travel with?
        Im having trouble deciding on it.

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