The Ultimate El Nido Travel Guide

el nido travel guide
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My first time to the Philippines and I ended up in El Nido on the island of Palawan.  El Nido was a mystery to me.  I arrived and was greeted with the most stunning views over El Nido Beach.  Giddy, I went to bed that night excited to wake up and explore town.  In my five days exploring El Nido, I experienced a strange range of emotions.  One second I loved the town it was so beautiful and lively.  And the next second I was frustrated by the tourists and party-goers.  I decided that El Nido is a great destination – but not for everyone.  As long as you come with your expectations managed, I’m sure you’ll find the beauty in El Nido.  This is the ultimate El Nido Travel guide!

 

If you’re planning a trip to the Philippines, don’t miss…

 

Where is El Nido?

El Nido is located at the northern tip of the main island of Palawan in the Philippines.  Palawan lies between the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea.  The island is south of Manila, the capital of the Philippines; north of Borneo, east of Vietnam, and west of Cebu (another popular island in the Philippines).

 

Best Time to Visit El Nido

When it comes to visiting El Nido, the best time is during the dry season, from December to May.  This period offers sunny skies and calm seas, making it perfect for island hopping, snorkeling, and enjoying the beautiful beaches.  The months of March to May are especially great if you love soaking up the sun on the beach, as the weather is at its best.  Just remember, while the dry season is ideal for outdoor activities, it’s also the peak tourist season meaning prices are higher and hotels can book up.  If you’re visiting during high season, just make sure to plan ahead!

 

How Many Days to Spend in El Nido

I would recommend spending 2-3 days in El Nido.  I would reserve one day for island hopping (an all day experience) and one day for exploring El Nido on motorbike.  You could also add in another day if you want to relax and lounge on the beach.

 

IDEAL 2-3 DAY EL NIDO ITINERARY…

Day 1

  • Arrive to El Nido/check into hotel
  • Walk around El Nido town
  • Lunch at Tales of the Islands
  • El Nido Taraw Peak Hike (leave from El Nido town)
  • Dinner at Big Bad Thai (reserve spot ahead of time for prime views over El Nido Beach & arrive before sunset)

 

Day 2

 

Day 3

  • Grab coffee at Hama Coffee El Nido (not recommend for breakfast)
  • Rent a motorbike to beach hop
  • Lunch at Hayahaya Cafe, El Nido
  • End your day at Las Cabanas Beach for sunset (show up one hour before the sunsets)
  • Dinner at Osaka Castle El Nido
  • After dinner drinks at Happiness Beach Bar

 

How to Get to El Nido

You can arrive to El Nido by bus, boat, or plane – it just depends where you’re coming from!  Below you’ll find specifics depending on where you’re coming from.

 

PUERTO PRINCESA to EL NIDO

One of the most popular ways to arrive to El Nido is from Puerto Princesa.  While you can certainly fly into El Nido Airport, it’s often much cheaper to fly into Puerto Princesa and take a bus north to El Nido.  The bus ride takes around 5-6 hours and should cost 700-800 PHP.  You can book your bus ticket from Puerto Princesa to El Nido here.

Note:  You can book your ticket or advance or book your ticket once you arrive to the airport.

 

CORON to EL NIDO

Coron is an island just north of El Nido (still apart of Palawan) and while you can fly between the two islands, it’s much cheaper to just take the ferry.  The ferry from Coron to El Nido takes 3.5 hours and costs around 2,800+ PHP.  You can book your ferry ticket here.

 

CEBU to EL NIDO

Another popular route around the Philippines is to combine both Cebu and Palawan.  If you do this and you start in Cebu, you’ll fly to Palawan.  You’ll more than likely want to fly into Puerto Princesa and grab a bus up to El Nido, but you can also fly straight into El Nido.  Make sure to compare prices for both airports.

 

MANILA to EL NIDO

Another popular way to get to El Nido is from the capital of the Philippines, Manila.  While you can take an overnight ferry that leaves once/week from Manila, it takes around 19 hours to get to El Nido (with a transfer in Coron).  To save time, I would just suggest flying from Manila to Palawan.  Make sure to compare prices between flying into Puerto Princesa vs El Nido.

 

How to Get Around El Nido

If you’re staying in El Nido town, you can easily walk to various bars, restaurants, and beaches.  However, if you’re not staying in El Nido town or you just want to explore a bigger part of El Nido, you can easily rent a motorbike.  Rentals go for around 500 PHP for the day (lowest starting price) and can be rented everywhere.

Alternatively, you can always waive down one of the taxi motorbikes on the streets (again, these are everywhere and should not be difficult to come by).   Just make sure to negotiate price before getting in.

 

Where to Stay in El Nido

When deciding where to stay in El Nido, I would make sure that you’re either in El Nido town, within walking distance of town, or on one of the beaches (Corong Corong Beach or Las Cabanas Beach).  These are some great options in these areas…

 

The Best Things to See & Do in El Nido

For such a small town, there are plenty of ways to spend your time in El Nido!  Perhaps the most popular is to take one of the boat trips to islands around, but below you’ll find more things to do and ways to spend your time when visiting El Nido.

  • Boat trip – In El Nido you can take a day trip to the surrounding islands.  Because there are around 1,000 people/day who do this, the groups are split into four – A, B, C, D.  Each letter represents a different route and you can choose which route you want to do.  (I did route A and loved it!).  Because this is so popular, it does come across as very “touristy” and that might spoil the experience.  If you’re set on island hopping but don’t want to deal with the crowds, you can also book a private tour at a higher cost.
  • Ziplining – You can biplane from Las Cabanas Beach to a small island 750 m away – Depeldet Island
  • Taraw Peak Hike – You have to have a guide to do this but you there’s a cliff walk where you’ll be treated to incredible views of El Nido Bay; guides depart around every 10 minutes from El Nido town starting at 0800
  • Beach hop – Rent a motorbike and visit the different beaches!  Just make sure to end at Las Cabanas Beach for sunset

 

 

The Best Bars & Restaurants in El Nido

I stayed in El Nido for five days and ate a lot of different restaurants.  The thing about El Nido is that the food is definitely more expensive than most other places I’ve traveled to in Southeast Asia, without being very impressive.  But with that being said, I did find some great bars and restaurants (just not many), so here’s where I would recommend you to eat and drink.

  • Big Bad Thai – Great spot for dinner with stunning views of the bay (make a reservation ahead of time and ask for an outdoor spot)
  • Blackbird Coffee – This was my favorite spot for coffee and breakfast
  • Hama Coffee El Nido – Great place for coffee with a view (I would not recommend eating here)
  • Happiness Beach Bar – Fun vibe for after dinner drinks
  • Republica – The best spot for sunset cocktails (food was mediocre, could get an app here and eat dinner elsewhere)
  • Tales of the Island – Perfect for breakfast or lunch

 

El Nido Travel Tips

Here are some general tips for visiting El Nido…

  • Have cash on you at all times (a lot of restaurants and bars are cash only)
  • The entire town of El Nido has had their water treated so you don’t need to worry about getting sick when eating out (this was done after many tourists were getting sick in town)
  • El Nido gets VERY hot – stay hydrated (I travel with a reusable water bottle that keeps my water cold)
  • Bring water shoes (some of the beaches are rocky)

 

Philippines Essentials – What You Need & Need to Know About Visiting the Philippines

TRAVELING THROUGH THE PHILIPPINES

  • The easiest way to book bus tickets/ferry tickets in the Philippines is through Bookaway or 12Go
  • To book a flight to the Philippines use a big search engine (like Kayak) to compare prices, then book directly through the airline (if you’re from the US sign up for Going to get free email alerts on flight deals)
  • Download Grab to get a taxi or motorbike (select cities)
  • I highly recommend travel insurance when traveling through the Philippines – I use and recommend SafetyWing
  • If you want an English speaking driver waiting to pick you up at the airport, use Welcome Pickups (select cities only)
  • If you need a SIM card, aloSIM for an easy and affordable e-SIM – use code “KYLEE5” for a discount

ACCOMMODATION IN THE PHILIPPINES

  • To easiest way to book hotels in the Philippines is through Booking.com or Expedia
  • The easiest way to book rentals in the Philippines is through VRBO

TOURS IN THE PHILIPPINES

  • For tours and activities in the Philippines, I recommend using Viator

WHAT TO BRING TO THE PHILIPPINES

 

If you decide to visit El Nido, I hope that this El Nido travel guide helps plan your trip and inspires your travels.  If you have any question about visiting El Nido, let me know in a comment below!

 

For more islands to visit in the Philippines, don’t miss…

 


For more information on things to see and do in the Philippines, make sure to check out my Instagram page/highlight reel by searching “#ppinphilippines” or under my highlights for “Philippines”; alternatively, head to my TikTok and search for the saved “Philippines” highlight


 

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Kylee is a NICU nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee has been a NICU nurse for 9 years and a travel nurse for 7 years. Since starting her career in travel nursing, she’s worked in six different states, 10 different hospitals, volunteered as a nurse in North Macedonia, worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia, and has traveled to 45+ countries. Her favorite travel nurse assignment was in Seattle and her favorite destination is Georgia (the country). Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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