El Nido really is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We could talk a lot about the insanely blue water, incredible limestone formations and beautiful hidden beaches and lagoons, but instead we’ll let these photos sell it to you.
In this quick guide we’ll cover everything important you need to know to have the best time in El Nido
The best way to see the beauty of El Nido is the island hopping tours, as soon as you arrive you’ll see that these are the main activity. There are 4 tours, and the most popular ones are A and C. A shows you some beaches along with big lagoon and small lagoon, where as C is more about beaches and snorkeling areas. You can see full routes of the tours here. We did both of these and they were incredible, so we’d definitely recommend them. The tours leave at about 9am and return by about 5pm.
Island tours are easy to book, in El Nido town what seems like every other shop is offering them, and they all seem to be similar in price and quality. You can either book on a group island hopping tour (~1200php per person), or a private island tour (7000-9000php, but with a bit of haggling you can get it down). We’d really highly recommend doing a private island tour, although it seems very expensive, you only need 6 of you to make it cheaper than the group tour. By doing the private island tour you’ll have a load of advantages:
- You can leave the harbor 1-2 hours earlier than the group tours (because you’re in a smaller boat) meaning you will beat the crowds and potentially have these beautiful spots to yourself
- There will likely be way less of you on the boat (in our group tour there were 20+ people)
- You have some control of where you are going – you can choose if there are any parts of the tour you aren’t as keen about and spend longer on the ones you really enjoy
- If like us you think alcohol and boat tours go hand in hand you can ask to use the crews cool box to bring on board your own drinks
As there were only two of us we decided to do a group tour for A, and then grouped up with friends we made that day to book a private boat for tour C a few days after. Obviously we enjoyed the private island tour a lot more, and would really recommend trying to do at least one that way.
Another thing we’d recommend seeing is Nacpan beach, which is about 1 hour from El Nido. Nacpan is such a huge and beautiful beach, which maintains an untouched charm.
We decided to rent a scooter and drive there, but you can also book tours in the same places you book the island hopping, and there are lots of tuk-tuk drivers offering to take you throughout the day. If you do decide to drive, most of the ride is super easy but the ‘road’ leading up to Nacpan beach is crazy bumpy with a lot of loose stone, but we found this to be more of a fun obstacle.
Where to stay:
You can either stay in El Nido town, or around the nearby beach Corong-Corong. We stayed in El Nido town, but next time we would potentially try near the beach as we liked the look of it and found El Nido town a little overcrowded. Our accommodation was called Bulskamp Inn and we really enjoyed our stay there. There are plenty of good places to stay around El Nido, but our main recommendation would be to stay somewhere with a back-up generator! El Nido has so many powercuts, while we stayed there was a powercut every night, and they last hours (the longest one for us was from about 10pm until about 4am). If you have a backup generator you will at least have a fan when this happens, which we might not have survived without.
What to eat:
The best food you’ll eat in El Nido might just be on the boat tours, the lunches are delicious! They usually consist of fresh fruit & veggies, grilled meat, seafood, and of course lots of rice! Other than that, there are quite a few good food spots in El Nido, some of our favourites were:
- Trattoria Altrove – Amazing pizza
- Cafe Athena – Delicious Greek food
- Taverna Agape – More delicious greek food
- Art café – Good brunch and dinner
- Midtown Bakery – Delicious filipino bakery, their banana bread was amazing
For drinks, there are a few great bars where you can watch the most unbelievable sunsets. Make sure you follow the beach round to the north and watch the sun go down from one of the little local bars there, then another night head to Republica Sunset Bar in the south (5-10 minutes by tuktuk).
How to get there:
To get to El Nido you can either fly directly into El Nido airport, or fly into Puerto Princessa and take a 5 hour bus or minibus from there. If you can book your flights in advance and get a good deal (or you have money to splurge), going directly to El Nido is a much quicker option. However, we did the five hour journey from Puerto Princessa and we found this completely fine: we went for an AV minivan transfer, which was organized through our hotels on both sides, and cost ~550php (per person, per journey).
How long to stay:
Other than the above there isn’t all that much to do in El Nido, we stayed for 7 days at the end of our month in the Philippines and found this was more time than we needed. We’d recommend staying about 3-5 days, this way you can make sure you do two island tours, check out Nacpan beach, and have some down time in between.
We hope this quick & easy guide to El Nido has been useful! We think we have covered all of the essentials and what we loved, but if there’s anything we’ve forgotten or you would like to know please leave us a comment!