For many travelers, El Nido is a must-see stop on the Philippine itinerary. Located on the island of Palawan and famous for its crystal-clear waters and nightlife, El Nido remains an idyllic getaway full of charm and spectacular scenery. Here’s a comprehensive travel guide to help you plan your dream vacation!

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Island Hopping

I’m not usually a big fan of tours because I find them too touristy, but I have to say that on my trips to the Philippines, I really think this is the best way to discover a region (plus, the guides are some of the best I’ve come across).

There are four options in El Nido: Tour A, B, C or D. I followed the locals’ recommendations and chose Tour A. A and C seem to be the most popular choices, but it’s up to you and also depends on what you’re looking for.
Tours usually include buffet lunch and fees for some attractions, all for between PhP 1,200-1,400 ($15-20).

What to bring on the tour?

  • a towel
  • your swimsuit
  • snorkel & mask if they were not provided
  • a waterproof bag
  • an action camera
  • (waterproof shoes if you have sensitive feet)

Here are the spots we saw on Tour A:

1. Seven Commandos Beach

Seven Commandos beach in El Nido

Always packed with boats, the good thing is that you can always find a secluded spot since the beach has a long stretch of white sand. Crystal-clear waters, views of other distant islands, and maybe even turtles if you’re lucky.
But what about the name of the beach? There are many different stories, but some say it comes from 7 soldiers who washed ashore here during the Second World War.
Either way, it’s a perfect first stop to get you in the relaxed vacation mood!

2. Big Lagoon

Big Lagoon in El Nido

You can only explore Big Lagoon by kayak (PhP 200), as no boats are allowed inside. You can also admire the limestone cliffs and surrounding area with your own eyes and meditate on the beauty of the place.

3. Small Lagoon

Small lagoon in El Nido

This is a perfect place for snorkeling or kayaking, with its calm waters and stunning, massive rock formations. Although smaller than the Grand Lagon, it’s still a magical place to explore.

4. Secret Lagoon

At the southern end of Miniloc Island lies a secret place – well, not so secret any more. After climbing a hole, you’ll find yourself in a natural pool where you can swim and relax.

5. Shimizu Beach

This is where you can sample the delicacies prepared by the boat’s staff. This was one of my favorite spots on the tour, as the marine life is so abundant and we had plenty of time to swim and explore the surroundings. What’s more, the lunch was delicious!

> We didn’t visit Secret Beach as recommended by our guide and preferred to spend more time at the other sites, as he told us the beach was far too busy that day.

Other things to do in El Nido

6. Lounging on Las Cabañas Beach

Easily accessible by motorcycle or tricycle, you can also choose to go on foot. That’s what I did, and even though it’s a bit long (about 1.5 hours), I enjoyed it, as I was able to appreciate the panorama and get a bit of exercise.

Panorama on El Nido

The entrance to the beach is called “Vanilla Beach”, but I’d advise you to keep walking on your left until you see the sandy path leading to the other small island, as you’ll have more space to lie down. You can also choose to come early in the morning and have the place to yourself. This is one of El Nido’s best beaches for swimming, as the water is clean and the scenery splendid.

7. Admire the sunset

Although El Nido’s beach isn’t exactly renowned for swimming or sunbathing, not only because the water isn’t the cleanest, but also because of the many boats that come and go, it’s still a great place to watch the sunsset.

El Nido's sunset

Whether you’re sitting in one of the bars or restaurants, or simply strolling along the beach, make sure you arrive in time to see the sun disappear behind the immense cliffs, making for an enchanting picture.

Sunset in El Nido

8. Diving

Photo by Bobbi Wu on Unsplash

With its abundant marine life, El Nido is a perfect destination for diving. Whatever your level, whether you’re a beginner looking to get your scuba diving certificate or you’re already an experienced diver, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

9. Hike Taraw Cliff

If you still have time in El Nido, you should do the Taraw cliff hike, but as it’s considered very dangerous and difficult, hire a guide and prioritize your safety. Breathtaking scenery guaranteed!

Where to eat?

The small municipality of El Nido actually has a lot of options when it comes to food. I’ll give you my 2 best addresses:

H & C RestoBar

Great staff, quality products and tasty food. Oh, and they cook the freshly caught crab right there for you. You know what, even the portions are big, probably as big as the staff’s hearts! I loved it!

Ver De El Nido

A wonderful vegan restaurant. The best way to enjoy their tasty cuisine? Order several dishes and share them with your loved ones, or enjoy them on your own if you’re up to it (I am, especially when the food is as delicious as it was)!

How to get to El Nido

Depending on your point of departure, here are the different options:

  • Manila to El Nido by plane: this isn’t the cheapest option, but it’s the fastest (1.5 hours) and most comfortable. Expect to pay around $100 for the ticket.
  • From Manila to Puerto Princesa by plane, then by minivan to El Nido: the flight takes about 1.5 hours and costs $15-20. You’ll then need to take a minivan that will take you to your destination in 5 hours for $9.
  • From Puerto Princesa: you can take the 5-hour minivan, but I just want to mention that even if it’s not the most comfortable option (some roads are quite bumpy and even still under construction), it’s still the cheapest and my favorite option too.

Best time to go

To avoid the typhoon and monsoon seasons, but also to enjoy as much sunshine as possible, it’s best to visit between December and April.

Good to know: when you arrive on the island, you’ll have to pay an environmental tax of PhP 200 ($3.50), valid for 10 days.

Final Thoughts

El Nido is a beautiful place, with breathtaking scenery and a relaxed Philippine atmosphere. It’s an excellent first stop to set the tone for your trip to the country. El Nido is beginning to attract more and more tourists, and this is particularly evident in certain areas where the beaches are rather messy, as is the case in many Asian countries.
But all in all, the friendliness of the people, the atmosphere and the colors of the lagoons made my trip to this archipelago unforgettable.

Interested in the small but sumptuous island of Coron? Here’s my guide to this must-see!

🎯 Would you like to go straight to my recommendations?

🛌 Hostel: Happiness Hostel El Nido

🗺️ Recommended Tour:
El Nido Tour A

🚐 Minibus Transfer: From Puerto Princesa to El Nido

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