From all the places on Palawan, travellers seek the amazing beaches and stunning backdrops El Nido has to offer.
We’ve created a complete 2020 El Nido island guide so that you know what to expect.
How to get to El Nido
Generally, El Nido isn’t the easiest of places to get to. However, many people think it’s worth taking the 6 hours bus ride. Make sure to book it at least one day in advance and ask to sit in the front if you get car sick. You can describe El Nido as a vibrant little town with a lot of underdevelopment. Like most of the Philippines, the houses and shops are self build and nothing seems to be finished. But thats the charm of El Nido.
Once at sea, your mouth will fall open when you see the beautiful rock formations and lagoons.
El Nido tours, which one to choose?
The most popular thing to do in El Nido is to take a boat tour. You can choose from tours A, B, C and it includes lunch and snorkeling gear. Here are the ones we’d recommend.
- Kraken Tour not the cheapest but highly recommended. Music, appetizers, lunch, drinks, WiFi, toilet, kayaks, paddle board, snorkel materials are included. Check here for more info
- The Artcafe tours. with Kayak 1900 peso’s. (recommended if you take tour A) no snorkling gear included. Accepts credit card.
- Northern Hope Tours. Professional and recommended by various sites.
Tip: All tours are best booked in El Nido. (via the website you may need to pay an extra fee) If you want to book an island hopping tour from El Nido to Coron, check all the info about TAO Expedition.
Above all, diving is a popular activity in El Nido. There are also plenty dive shops to choose from but I chose Adventurous Scuba. Smaller than some of the flashy expensive dive shops but more personal and professional. 3400 peso’s for 3 dives after a bit of deal making. We had a lovely scuba instructor called Bernie who was really nice to talk with. I can definitely recommend him! They are situated in the same street as the Art Cafe, right at the end on the left side.
Like the rest of Asia, massages are also widely available in El Nido. Expect nothing more than a few curtains to divide guest, but hey, this is Asia and you only pay 400 peso’s for one hour, which is only 8 Euro. Most massage houses are based in El Nido town. Just follow the “massaaaaaaage” voices and you’re good.
Food & Drink
Someone has to say it so I guess it will be me; the food in the Philippines isn’t that great, unless you stay in a luxury hotel. That being said, it’s OK if you eat meat, but as a vegetarian you’ve got a bit of a problem. There are a few places in El Nido however, that serve good food and these were exactly the places I would eat day after day.
- Art Cafe – great curries, fish and breakfast
- BAZAAR asian kitchen – just opened! Amazing Japanese dishes
- Deli Nido Café – the best Frappuchino in town hands down
- Bagel V & V – the girls who work there are a bit moody but the homemade bagels are nice enough to go there
Bazaar feels like a little European community in the middle of El Nido
Where to shop
To be fair, El Nido is not a place to get the best fashion items but there are some nice shops if you walk around. The best shop in town (and maybe even in Palawan)is without doubt Little Corner of Paradise. They sell tops, shirts, bikini’s, summer dresses, jewellery and everything has a beach vibe to it. Run by a French girl, it’s right across from a cute muffin/coffee store that shares the same owner. Another good place for shopping is BAZAAR. Just 2 minutes out of the center, you will find this nice place where you will find 3 stores with fashion food and drinks. Additionally, you can also have a massage upstairs which is definitely worth the 100 peso’s extra from what you pay in town. On Sunday’s they throw a small electro party with DJ’s and cocktails. .
Where to sleep
There are many accommodations to choose from but don’t expect anything top of the range. Even if you pay a bit more, you will get a basic room. Surely, you can always opt for the expensive resorts, but if you are traveling around, you might be on a budget.
- Sei Nazioni Cottages – Cute cottages in the middle of town with en-suite options and air-con. book here.
- The Resort Bayview Hotel – Nice view.
- Anywhere along Marimegmeg Beach – I’ve seen some nice cottages there you should check out.
Nightlife in El Nido
Thankfully, the nightlife is not to be compared to Ko Phi Phi in Thailand were the beach turns into a place full of drunk teenagers. After dinner people go to the beachbars and the Pukka Bar is everyones favourite. They play cool reggae music with a pretty sick live band that gets the crowd dancing until about 3am. Other beachbars are more chilled and close a bit earlier (around midnight) Bazaar throws a party on Sundays and it nice for drinks, ping pong and the occasional darts. La Place is a lively beachbar situated alongside Corong Corong beach and they host a few parties a week. With a small pool in the middle and the DJ booth high up, they come closest to a real club in El Nido. Expect deep/techhouse music.
Around El Nido
To be honest, I loved getting out of the busy town now and then. My advise, rent a scooter for a day or 2 and explore! (500 peso’s) A few places you can visit are:
- Duli beach – If you get there before 1pm, you might be the only person on the beach. There is one resort called Duli Beach resort (named after the Sea Turtles that lay their eggs here) and it’s run by a Dutch couple. Rooms are around 1000 peso’s a night and you’ll wake up on an amazing long stretched beach. You might be asked for a fee before entering the bumpy road up to the beach.
- Nacpan Beach – This is the most touristic beach around El Nido, Palawan. It’s part of Twin beach and you can eat tasty mussels here.
- Marimegmeg Beach – Just a 10 to 15 min tricycle ride from El Nido town you will find this beach with one of the best views you’ll ever see. There are a few beach restaurants and resorts where you can eat.
For the most part, Palawan’s beauty is truly breathtaking, but be prepared to go back in time a little bit. In essence, El Nido is less touristy compared to Thailand, but more touristy than other parts in the Philippines. Nevertheless, it has beautiful nature and stunning beaches.