Paradise on earth can be found in El Nido! Sailing around the many islands I was reminded a of both Koh Phi Phi and Ha Long bay thanks to the epic limestone cliffs. These are then dotted with beautiful secluded palm tree fringed beaches and the iconic fluffy filipino clouds.
A few things you should know about El Nido:
– it is more expensive than the rest of the Philippines
– the wifi and cell signal is rubbish / practically non existant so don’t expect to be able to connect much
– the beauty of this place does make it very popular so be prepared for lots of tourists (both foreign and filipinos!).
– we heard it was hard to withdraw money here but we found 2 ATM’s in El Nido town and had no problem withdrawing cash, but maybe bring a lot of cash though just in case!
– I would give yourself at least 3 full days here.
I’m going to share a few of my tips with you to ensure you have the best possible time!
WHERE TO STAY
If you are on a budget I would recommend staying in El Nido near the port. There are a lot of bars and restaurants here as well as a beach (boats do moor here but they generally go out during the day). This is also where all the tours leave from and where you will arrive from/leave to Coron/Puerta Princesa.If you are not on a budget then I would definitely stay in a resort on one of the many islands!
You can easily book your accommodation on Booking.com
WHERE TO EAT
It is more expensive to eat in El Nido than the rest of the Philipines but there are a lot of nice restaurants! Make sure you check out Happiness express (very tasty falafals) and Trattoria Altrove (the best pizzas!). We also had really nice burgers at the beach bar Sava but it was quite expensive!
Unlike a lot of other spots in the Philippines, El Nido actually has a few beautiful beaches onland! So if you’re after a relaxed (and cheap) day this is the place for you!
We spent half a day at Las Cabanas beach (150 pesos tricycle ride one way from El Nido town). There are a few beachside bars to chill at and enjoy the crystal clear waters and epic sunsets!
You can also do a day trip to Nacpan beach, voted the number 1 beach in Asia! It is extremely long and wide so matter what time you go you will definitely find a secluded spot. The broken roads make it more awkward to get to so I would avoid getting a tricycle here. You can book a shuttle here which is 600 pesos one way (per person).
There are a few other beaches north of Nacpan, I didn’t explore these but this is something I would like to do if I went back! You could also opt to visit Lio beach which is about 15 minutes north of El Nido town.
TOP TIP: Another great way to explore the nearby beaches is by kayak! We hired a kayak for the morning from El Nido town for 400 pesos (it’s 500 pesos for full day) and kayaked out to Cadlao island. The island is around a 30 minute kayak from El Nido port and we even spotted a huge turtle surfacing for air! The easiest beach to kayak to is Paradise beach – this will be basically empty in the morning (just fellow kayakers) but will have a few boats in the afternoon from Tour D.
There are 5 tours to choose from in El Nido. Tour A and C are the most popular, all of the tours (except tour Z) have multiple boats doing the same trip.
1) TOUR A – 1200 pesos per person – small lagoon (this is where you’ll need to hire a kayak for 400 pesos), big lagoon, secret lagoon, 7 commando beach, shimizu island.
2) TOUR B – 1300 pesos per person – snake island, cathedral cave, cudugnon cave, entalula island, pinagbuyatan island.
3) TOUR C – 1400 pesos per person – secret beach, helicopter island, talisay beach, hidden beach, matinloc shrine.
4) TOUR D – 1200 pesos per person – bukal beach, pasandigan beach, ipil beach, paradise beach, cadlao lagoon.
5) TOUR Z – 1500 pesos per person plus you can pay 500 pesos onboard for unlimited drinks. Papaya beach, pingabuyatan island, sand bar for volleyball, lagen island.
You can book these tours either through your hotel (this is what I did as usually you then get a free pick up), or an agency in town. You will need to book the day before as tours start around 8-9am.
I opted for the A/C combination tour on one day and tour Z on another. The combination tours are a generally less busy and it also works out cheaper then paying to do the 2 tours separately, for example my tour was 1700 pesos and only 10 people onboard. The only downside is that you skip one item from each tour in order to have not too much of a jam packed day.
The below photo was taken in the big lagoon as part of the A/C tour – we each took a turn to climb on the front of the boat for a photo, so it was possible for everyone to get a nice photo here!
Tour Z was great fun and I 100% recommend! Yes the boat has a lot of people on it (around 30-50) but it’s big and everyone is there to enjoy themselves. For each stop we were the only boat and sailing around I felt like we were the only people in the world! We also got to play volleyball on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean, such a surreal experience!
If you are considering a private tour be warned these are expensive! Prices start from 7000 pesos for 2 people to do tour A. However this does mean you will be able to leave earlier than the other tours and benefit from one place being empty. You will find it difficult to avoid people all day though!
I hope you enjoy your time in El Nido, escaping from the digital world and submerging yourself in the crystal clear waters! Check out my Ultimate Guide to the Philippines for more information!
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