The El Nido Guide 2020

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. 

Big Lagoon 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.

El Nido boat

Diving

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.

Massaaaage

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

El Nido food

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. .

El Nido shop

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.

Bar in El Nido

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.

Duli Beach
Swing at the Duli Beach Resort (the beach is empty!)

El Nido beach
Walk on Marimegmeg Beach and watch the sunset

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.

Happy Travels!

Elke

More Philippines?

 

The Philippines » The Palawan Guide

Palawan is the place you dream about when you think of paradise. Make the most out of it and come prepared in this guide!

After traveling to Cebu, Bantayan Island and Bohol we flew to Palawan. I was anxious to see it because I had been daydreaming about Palawan for ages.

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Getting there

I flew from Cebu City to Puerto Princessa, the capital of Palawan. This is a town with a cute name but be warned; it’s not a place to chill in my opinion. The center is full of cars and tricycles and you need to get out of the center to find a place to chill. I stayed in a wonderful boutique hotel called Balay Tuko Garden. They have a swimming pool and a nice garden for about 40 euro’s per night during high season. Most people travel straight up to El Nido but I wanted to see some places in between. You have a few options: Sebang (the underground river), Port Barton and TayTay.

Puerto Princessa

At the time, it was raining and I was told that most tours around the area got canceled as well as the underground river tour I wanted to do.
If you do want to go, you should book this in advance at Puerto Princessa instead of booking it at the spot. No idea why, but that’s the way it works.
It’s 1500 peso’s and it includes transportation, lunch and entrance fees.  The Underground River is one of the longest navigable underground rivers in the world, with a total length of 8.2 Kilometers and you’ll go in a boat with about 5-6 people which will take you into a cave. Yes, it’s a tourist attraction but if you pass it on your way to El Nido, you might as well right?

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Busy Puerto Princessa


Port Barton

I decided to take a van up to Port Barton. 3 hours from Puerto Princessa. After a very bumpy ride with our friendly driver, we arrived in the cute Port Barton. (yes, this town is cute!) At arrival, you are guided to the tourist office where you pay a small environmental fee of 50 peso’s (1 euro) and you are given a few options on where to stay. A young man (called David) offered us a room and although we were a bit skeptical, he took us to a nice place where we met more travelers (lot’s of hippies!) and we only paid 600 peso’s a night. The place is called Pisces and although the rooms are simple, it’s clean and the owners are extremely helpful and friendly.

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Eating coconuts at White Beach, Port Barton

Port Barton is a place for the traveler that wants to chill, save money and enjoys the simple things in life. You can go snorkeling, visit the Pamuayan waterfall (1,5 walk and make sure you ask the way) or check out the amazing white beach. (1 hour walk, no restaurant, bring water) We booked a snorkeling tour for 700 peso’s with David and his crew and I can highly recommend this! You depart at 9am and return around 5pm. You eat a freshly prepared lunch on a beautiful beach and visit some snorkeling spots. 

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Chasing waterfalls

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Fresh fish and veggies at the snorkel tour, Port Barton

Tip » Bring enough cash to El Nido! Do this in Puerto Princessa or even Cebu if you’re there beforehand. There are no ATM’s in Port Barton and El Nido only has one. If it’s empty, you have a problem. If you do get into money troubles, check the western union which is now situated inside the First Consolidated Bank.

Where to eat

Port Barton isn’t that large but has quite a nice variety of nice places to eat.
» Ausan Beachhouse Restaurant  along the beach Eat in a treehouse!
»  
Evergreen  in the village great breakfast and dinner. (my evening meal took a loooong time, but it was delicious)

»  Barton Bistro  I haven’t tried it but I’ve heard great stories!
»  Greenview  beach view and live music on several days in this popular hotel
Warning: Jambalaya Cajun Cafe, (recognisable of a big smiley face on the front) the Lonely Planet describes this as one of the best places to drink coffee but I had a glass of warm milk that they called a latte. It’s also extremely expensive and they are too overconfident.

Where to sleep

» Ausan beachhouse cottages – sleep in a treehouse for about 1200 peso’s
» Pisces – this is where I slept. Good vibes and only 600 peso’s a night. Mind you, it’s very basic, but perfect for the backpacker that wants to save some money. The locals are very nice here.

ausan beachfront cottages
Eat in a treehouse at Ausan Beachhouse cottages. Source

Nearby Port Barton

It’s a long drive from Port Barton to El Nido, so if you have time break up the long trip with a stop at the gorgeous white sand Lumambong Beach halfway between the two. 

» Lumambong Beach – This undiscovered gem is closer down by San Vicente, has a sparkling white sand beach and is completely undeveloped so you’ll have the whole beach to yourself. We’re excited to check out the Binga Beach Resort opening there soon with big glamping cabins right by the beach. It’s currently under construction and they are planning to open in April/May 2019.

Binga-Beach-Sunset


El Nido

After 3 days it was time to move on and travel to El Nido. Another 4 hours in a van. 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. It’s a fishers town overrun by tourist that come for one thing only; El Nido’s many islands. Once at sea, your mouth will fall open when you see the beautiful rock formations and lagoons.

Which Palawan tour to pick?

The most popular thing to do in El Nido is to take a tour around the islands. You can choose from tours A, B, C and some have tour D (whatever that may be) Usually, it includes lunch and snorkeling gear. To make your life easier I’ve made a shortlist of the ones I can recommend:
» Kraken Tour not the cheapest but highly recommended. Music, lunch, drinks, WiFi, 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. Book here
All tours are best booked in El Nido. (via the website you may need to pay an extra fee)

Furthermore, you can also book the famous Tao Expedition from El Nido.

Big Lagoon El Nido, Palawan
Tour A takes you to the picture perfect Big Lagoon

Diving & more

Another popular activity is diving. 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 located in the same street as the Art Cafe, right at the end on the left side.

Massages are also widely available in El Nido. Expect nothing more than a few curtains to divide the guest but hey, this is Asia and you’ll only pay 400 peso’s for one hour. Above all, they are based in El Nido town. Just follow the “massaaaaaaage” voices and you’re good.

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Beautiful diving spots

Where to shop

To clarify, 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 is without doubt Little Corner of Paradise. They sell tops, shirts, bikini’s, summer dresses and jewellery. 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 centre, you will find a nice place where you will find 3 stores (bags, flip-flops, clothes) food and drinks. Also, you can also book 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. Bazaar feels like a little European community in the middle of El Nido.

A little corner of paradise, El Nido, Palawan
Beachvibes

Food & Drink

Someone has to say it so I guess it will be me; the food in El Nido isn’t great. It’s OK if you eat meat but as a vegetarian you’ve got a bit of a problem.
There are a few places 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

El Nido Coffee, Palawan
Small but great coffee

Where to stay

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. You can always opt for the expensive El Nido Resorts but you just don’t want to to that (unless you want to eat nothing else but plain rice for the rest of your holiday)
» Sei Nazioni Cottages – Cute cottages in the middle of town with en-suite options and air-con. 
» The Resort Bayview Hotel – Nice view. Book here
» Anywhere along Marimegmeg Beach – I’ve seen some nice cottages there you should check out.

cottages in El Nido, Palawan
Sei Nazioni Cottages, El Nido town

Nightlife

Thankfully, it’s not like Koh PhiPhi in Thailand were the beach turns into a place full of drunk teenagers. Well, El Nido does it a bit different. After dinner people go to the beachbars and the Pukka Bar is everyones favorite. That is to say, 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.

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The Kala Bar is part of the Bazaar

Around El Nido

Rent a scooter for a day or 2 and explore! A few places you can visit:
» 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 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. Warning »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. It’s part of Twin beach and you can eat tasty mussels here. 
» Marimegmeg Beach – Just a short tricycle ride from El Nido town you’ll 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.

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Swing at the Duli Beach Resort (the beach is empty!)

Nacpan Beach, Palawan
Nice food at Nacpan Beach, Palawan

El Nido, Palawan
Walk on Marimegmeg Beach and watch the sunset

To summarise, Palawan’s beauty is truly breathtaking but be prepared to go back in time a little bit. Less tourist (positive), less tasty food than you might be used to in Asia, beautiful nature, but not a lot of beautiful architecture. Beaches enough though! Drop me a line in the comments if you need any other tips!

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Love,

Elke

The more Affordable Island Tour in Palawan

If you are in the Philippines, the one thing people always book, is the amazing island hopping tour with TAO. However, did you know there is a more affordable option?

One of the things I really wanted to do whilst on my trip in the Philippines, was to take an island hopping tour for 3  or 5 days. Departing from El Nido to Coron or the other way around, in Palawan.

The Tao Expedition

This is a tour that not all tour operators offer. The most famous one around is the TAO Expedition tour. (they are highly recommended by the Lonely PlanetTao have become extremely popular over the last year because of all the media attention they have been given. They have the biggest and most badass boat in Palawan and they are extremely well organised. BUT. (Yes, there is a but) they are very very expensive. For a 3 days, 2 nights tour, you will need to pay 25.000 peso’s per person. This is almost 500 euro’s! Besides this shocking fact, they are fully booked if you don’t book in advance. I did however check in with them to see what my options were but they were fully booked.

The more affordable option

I thought this tour wasn’t going to happen.. Until I walked through El Nido town and saw a sign outside of a tour operator saying: ” El Nido to Coron 3 days, 2 nights, leaving 25th of December” I walked in and learned that this tour was offered at only 11500 peso’s. Jackpot! Yes, that’s still about 250 euro’s but half the price then TAO’s tour. Tip » Be aware that they will ask you to pay in cash. This is normal in El Nido but if they offer credit card payments or paypal, you should take that option as you need your cash in Palawan due to the lack of ATM’s.

crew el nido to coron tour
The crew!

The ultimate tour, but more affordable

What to bring:

» Sun protection +30 or more
» Bikini/Swimwear
» Towel (one that dries quickly
» Mosquito repellent
» Sunglasses
» Hat (for sun protection)
» Something warm (it can cool down at night)
» Toiletries but minimal (toothbrush, face cream etc)
» Slippers or watershoes
» Sea sickness tablets
» Paracetamol (just in case)
» waterproof camera or case

Elnido to Coron tour
Day 1 from El Nido to Coron

Unlike some places in Asia, the coral is very much alive and full of colours.

Day 1

Departure was at 10 in the morning. Make sure you confirm the right time and double check this. Getting out of El Nido town is always a beautiful sight with islands and beaches surrounding you. After 2 hours we stopped for some snorkeling and it was one of the most beautiful coral reefs I have ever seen! After 30 minutes of snorkeling, we continued our way to a beach where we could relax and enjoy our first lunch. On the first day you will be at sea a lot so prepare yourself for a sore bum and perhaps some sea sickness. 

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Our tents at our first camping site

At around 4-5pm, we arrived at our first camping ground. A simple island with nothing special but big enough to walk around the beach for about 20 minutes. Dinner is always freshly prepared and really tasty! Vegetable curry, Shrimps, Chicken or Pork and fresh Watermelon. The men of the boat (crew of 4), set up all the tents and prepare your food so you can relax. We made a big campfire and enjoyed the full moon. After all, it was Christmas!

El nido to Coron island hopping tour

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Waking up like this..

Day 2

The sun rises about 6am and that’s a pretty special moment so if you’re awake, you should get up and watch it. After breakfast we headed to the Linapacan islands, which have some of the cleanest and clearest waters on earth. It’s a great place where to snorkel and relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in Palawan. You will also get to meet the Tagbuana, the local people of Linapacan, and discover their culture. Here you can buy bread, sweets and soft drinks if you want. You will also visit 2 more snorkeling spots and spent the night at an island where there is a small village and a change to wash yourself. (don’t expect much!) This is also the only island that has a toilet. After a full day of swimming and exploring, I was tired before 10pm so decided to call it a day.

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Bluest sea ever?

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Local children of Linapacan

Day 3

This is the last day and probably the most relaxing day of all. I was used to the sea by now and enjoyed flying fish and water splashing against my salty skin. We were heading up north and stopped for lunch at the most beautiful beach ever. Apart from the occasional resort guest, you and the baot crew have this island for yourselfs. Be sure to wear sun protection or a hat as there is no shade. The water is shallow and clear and we stopped here for 2 hours before arriving in Coron at around 6pm. From here you can choose to continue your way here or go back to El Nido. 

Don’t head back at night!

I decided to go back as I wanted to celebrate New Years in El Nido but Coron has a lot to offer so plan your trip wisely! We went back at night as it was full moon and bright enough to see but it took us 10 hours to get back because of the stormy weather. Nope, that’s something I wouldn’t do over again. Thank god, nothing happened! 

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Jump!

Total Cost:

On the website it says 18.000 peso’s and on the leaflet in the tourist office (in El Nido) it says 11500 but if they are not fully booked, you should be able to get it at 11000 or less. Remember, it’s all a game. I paid 10500 in the end. Tour operator: El Nido Paradise The best period to do the El Nido to Coron Tour is between Dec – March when the typhoon season is gone.

Included:

» Breakfast, lunch, dinner
» Water, beer, rum
» Tents, sheet, small pillow (No mattress!)
» Snorkeling gear (No flippers)
» English speaking guide
» Eco Fee

Tip »

Be aware that there are no showers or toilets on the first island and that on the second island you have a barrel of rainwater that you need to wash yourself with. If you can’t handle that, this trip is not for you. It’s the perfect way to travel from El Nido to Coron although I do think the TAO tour offers the best experience. Is it worth 500 euro’s? I’m not sure but at least you have a few options. Another tour I heard of is the Native Exploration Tour. They only offer a 5 day tour though for 20.000 peso’s.

For more tips and recommendations in the Philippines check below!

Love,

Elke