El Nido, a hidden paradise?

El Nido is a small town in the North of Palawan. In the past it was a fishing village but since tourism is developing rapidly there, most people changed their profession. The small town is now mainly known for the paradise-like beaches, picturesque islands and the high cliffs which also form the Bacuit Archipelago around El Nido.

Disclaimer: All the information about the Philippines available on this blog is based on our stay in January 2016. Since then, the political situation in the country changed drastically. While we do believe that visiting the country will still be safe for tourists, we recommend to follow the recent news about the country closely and be in touch with your local embassy!

A trip to El Nido takes 6 hours by car from Puerto Princesa, costing us 500 pesos. For around 1000 pesos you can also travel from Coron on a 6 hour ferry.

To get cash in El Nido there is only one ATM in the town hall which only accepts Union Pay. You can also get cash at the local petrol/gas station charging a 6% commission – not exactly cheap. Many restaurants accept credit cards however if you don’t want to rely on cash.

Sights close to El Nido

There are almost no sights close to El Nido, instead they can be reached by tricycle or by renting a scooter for around 500 pesos per day.

Las Cabanas

The closest tourist friendly beach from El Nido is “Las Cabanas”, a tricycle ride only takes about 10/15 Minutes and costs around 150 pesos.

The first part of the beach might be exactly what you are searching for: water to swim in, some sand to lay down on and palm trees over your head to give you some shade.

View over the sea from Las Cabanas!
View over the sea from Las Cabanas!

Along the beach is a zip line connecting the beach with a small island at the end of the beach. A one-way ticket costs 500 pesos and a roundtrip for 900 in the restaurant below the station.

I tried out zip lining here for the first time and as a first experience it was really great, however I thought it was quite expensive. Here is a video of my experience:

We recommend going to the point at the end of the beach where both islands meet, the view along the beach is very beautiful and there are small restaurants to stop by if you want to.

At the "Beach Shack" you can enjoy a nice lunch right by the water
At the “Beach Shack” you can enjoy a nice lunch right by the water
The "Las Cabanas Beach Resort" offers the best view over the area, cozy hammocks and great mango shakes!
The ‘Las Cabanas Beach Resort’ offers the best view over the area, cozy hammocks and great mango shakes!

The beach after this point becomes quite rocky and shallow so not many people go there. If you want enjoy a day on the beach undisturbed and don’t mind the rocks then this is the place for you.

From what we heard Nacpan beach is a lot more beautiful than Las Cabanas, however it is 450 pesos to visit. The price we were originally quoted was 1200 which we thought was extortionate.

Corong-Corong

The village of Corong-Corong is in between Las Cabanas and El Nido and can be reached by walking approximately 20 minutes. We recommend going there after a day of swimming at Las Cabanas, as it is a great place to enjoy a sunset.

Unfortunately, we cannot recommend eating dinner here, we tried out two different places here and both were massively disappointing. Eating in El Nido is not only cheaper but also better.

The Boat tours

To get the best view of the Bacuit Archipelago you should try out the boat tours which are offered around town. From our information Tour A and Tour C are the best, but during our stay we could only try out Tour A because of the windy weather.

The prices for different tours vary quite a lot, the cheapest one is tour A at 1000 pesos while tour C at 1400 pesos is the most expensive one. Either way, you can always haggle a little bit with the sellers and get tour C at 1100.

Because almost every destination is accessed by swimming we recommend bringing a waterproof camera, if you don’t have one you can rent GoPros in El Nido.

Most of the destinations can also be explored by a kayak which would cost 300 pesos per destination. This is quite expensive but on Tour A there’s not much to see underwater so taking a kayak might be a nice option.

Tour A

Your boat will drop you into this wonderful turquoise water in front of the small lagoon...
Your boat will drop you into this wonderful turquoise water in front of the small lagoon…
...so that you can enjoy the cliffs surrounding you inside the lagoon
…so that you can enjoy the cliffs surrounding you inside the lagoon
The big lagoon seems kind of similar...just... bigger...
The big lagoon seems kind of similar…just…bigger…

The lunch that we had on the boat was mainly dominated by meat again however this goes quickly and you may end up with worse…just rice.

The not so secret lagoon
The not so secret lagoon
The seven commando beach was by far my favourite destination, you can walk along the beach on the soft sand...
The seven commando beach was by far my favourite destination, you can walk along the beach on the soft sand…
... while drinking a Halo-halo or a fresh Coconut juice from one of the beach huts
… while drinking a Halo-halo or a fresh Coconut juice from one of the beach huts

Restaurants

During our time in El Nido we tried out many different places. Today you can get decent Filipino food at almost any restaurant along the beach. However some of them might be a little expensive so you should compare the prices.

As we were a little bit bored of all the meat by then, we were happy to try out the Pizzeria Altrove. This was without doubt the best pizza I have eaten in Asia so far and the prices were more than fair.

If you are just searching for some cheap good bread or cake, the Midtown Bakery is your place. This is one of the cheapest places to get breakfast and is quite central in El Nido along the main road to the waterfront.

Hostels

In El Nido you can find a huge variety of hostels and unless you are in the peak season it is easy to get a hostel for about 500 pesos per person per night.

Most hostels have air con but do not always have hot water, which is hard to find in many places in the Philippines. We stayed in the Francisco Inn which is quite central and visited friends who were living in the Peak House closer to the beach. We both payed 500 pesos per person but while they had hot water we didn’t.

Conclusion

Today we have mixed feelings about our stay in El Nido. The nature and the time we had there was nice and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it but at the same time I am a little disappointed. El Nido was our most expensive stop in the Philippines and the fact that there were no nice beaches within walking distance disturbs me a lot. Boracay instead has beautiful beaches right next to its hostels and instead this may have been a better place to visit.

Have you been to El Nido? How did you like it? Share your opinion below!
Do you agree or disagree with our opinion? We would be happy to hear from you!

More information for your stay in the Philippines:
1. Information about the country!
2. See the Underground River in Puerto Princesa!
3. Coron, not only a divers heaven!
4. Hiking around rice terraces

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