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El Nido Palawan Travel Guide: Hotels, Itinerary & Tips + COVID-19 Travel Requirements
Big Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

El Nido Palawan Travel Guide: Hotels, Itinerary & Tips + COVID-19 Travel Requirements

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Secret Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

Get your sun-kissed adventure in the islands and beaches of El Nido, Palawan. Find out when is the best time to go here, what are the must-visit tourist spots and things to do, which resorts and hotels to stay in, and how to plan your itinerary with this detailed travel guide. 

When it comes to pristine white sand beaches and islands, El Nido in Palawan comes highly-recommended by local and international travelers as the top choice to go to when in the Philippines.



El Nido has been named a number of times by travel publication sites as the best island beaches in the world because of its paradise-like attractions with white sand, turquoise waters, vibrant coral reefs, and stunning limestone cliffs. 

El Nido the gateway to the awe-inspiring Bacuit Archipelago which houses 45 islands and islets, each with its unique geological formations. It’s no wonder that El Nido has been ranked consistently as one of the best island destinations not just in the Philippines, but in the world. 

There are a lot of things to do in El Nido from island-hopping, lounging on beaches, hiking up cliffs, and even scuba diving. Reading this guide on El Nido, Palawan will make it easy for you to plan a trip and maximize your time in one of the best islands in the Philippines.

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El Nido Tourist Requirements & Guidelines | COVID-19 New Normal

Starting November 30, 2020, travelers from Manila can once again explore El Nido’s stunning beaches, majestic lagoons, and other scenic spots. With the threat of COVID-19 pandemic, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the Local Government Unit (LGU) has announced a set of guidelines and tourist requirements to follow before you make your way to this prime destination in the Philippines.

1. Who are allowed to go to El Nido?

El Nido in Palawan is currently open only to local residents and domestic tourists coming from Manila provided the have a negative RT-PCR test result taken at least 48 hours prior to travel, valid IDs, confirmed accommodation booking at a Department of Tourism (DOT)-accredited hotel or resort, confirmed tour booking with a DOT-accredited tour operator, and a roundtrip direct flight to El Nido,

There are no age restrictions for tourists planning to participate in leisure activities in El Nido.

2. What are the entry points in El Nido?

Domestic tourists can only enter via a direct flight to El Nido.

3. What travel requirements do you need to prepare?

Here are the requirements that you need to prepare before going to El Nido: 

Secure a Negative RT-PCR Test Result

The IATF has authorized a test-before-travel requirement. All domestic tourists from Manila must provide a negative RT-PCR test result taken at least 48 hours prior to travel. Check out the list of accredited laboratories here.

Secure a QR Code

Tourists who want to visit El Nido must get a QR code first that will serve as their entrance/exit pass to various attractions within the island. To get one, guests must upload necessary documents like health declarations and IDs at https://elnidotourism.ph/.

Direct Flight to El Nido

Tourists must book direct roundtrip flights to El Nido. Both Puerto Princesa City and San Vicente are not yet permitting guests to fly in.

Confirmed Booking at a DOT-Accredited Accommodation

Tourists can only stay at DOT-Accredited Hotels and Resorts in El Nido with CAO (Certificate of Authority to Operate). 

For a more detailed list of accommodations, visit: https://elnidotourism.ph/tourism-partners/

Book Tours with DOT-accredited Operators 

El Nido tours to explore its attractions should be booked only with DOT-accredited travel agencies or tour operators with the LGU’s LSOC (Local Seal of Compliance). Do-it-Yourself (DIY) or day tours are not allowed. 

For a more comprehensive list of travel agencies/tour operators, check out: https://elnidotourism.ph/tourism-partners/

Observe Strict Quarantine

Tourists must abide with strict quarantine protocols until their arrival at El Nido. This includes wearing face masks, face shields, observing proper social distancing and regular sanitizing of hands.

4. What are the guidelines and protocols to follow when you're in El Nido?

Once you're in El Nido, make sure you follow these safety protocols:

Minimum health standards: Mask and face shield

Tourists must use face masks, face shields, sanitize hands regularly and practice social distancing especially in public. This is to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

Transport protocols

Tourists are allowed to leave their hotel and visit the islands to do some recreational activities like scuba diving or snorkeling as long as it’s part of the EL Nido tour packages handled by a DOT-accredited travel agency or tour operator. Trips to mainland beaches are not yet allowed.

Dining protocols

Guests can either take their meals at their hotel/resort or request food delivery only as of now. Food establishments and restaurants must abide by the health and safety regulations of the government.

5. What activities can you do in El Nido during quarantine?

Don't miss the chance to enjoy the tourist spots of El Nido, which include beautiful islands and beaches, stunning lagoons and one-of-a-kind experiences like the Bacuit Bay Cruise, relaxing in Nacpan Beach, sunset-watching at Marimegmeg Beach, and more.

7 Wonders of El Nido Tours

The former El Nido Island-hopping A, B, C & D tours are now called the 7 Wonders of El Nido Tours, prioritizing travelers’ safety wherein limited capacities are set:

  • Small Lagoon - Only 30 guests allowed at a given time for the following attractions: Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, and Payong-Payong.

  • Matinloc Island - Only 15 guests allowed at a given time for the following attractions: Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, and Matinloc Shrine.

  • Cave Exploration - Only 50 guests allowed at a given time for the following attractions: Cudugnon Cave, Snake Island, and Cathedral Cave.

  • Tapiutan Strait - Only 30 guests allowed at a given time for the following attractions: Talisay Small, Talisay Beach, and Istar Beach

  • Cadlao Channel - Only 55 guests allowed at a given time for the following attractions: Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, and Matinloc Shrine.

  • History Islands -Only 75 guests allowed at a given time for the following attractions: Lagoon, Pasandigan Cove, and Dilumacad Island.

Single-destination tours

For travelers wanting to relax without the burden of moving from one attraction to another, these are some of the best single-destination tours:

  • East & Main Entalula - Only 100 guests allowed at a given time.

  • West Entalula - Only 30 guests allowed at a given time.

  • Papaya Beach -Only 115 guests allowed at a given time.

Kayak Tours

For travelers wanting to have some peace and quiet, here are some of the attractions that are a few minutes away by kayak:

  • Bukal Beach - Only 55 guests allowed at a given time.

  • Paradise Beach - Only 40 guests allowed at a given time.

  • Ipil Beach - Only 20 guests allowed at a given time.

  • Nat-nat Beach - Only 265 guests allowed at a given time.

Travel health protocols

Tourists must abide by health protocols such as wearing face masks, face shields, and observing proper social distancing in these tourist sites. For more information, check out: https://elnidotourism.ph/experiences/

Best Time to Go to El Nido

January to April are the best months to visit El Nido, Palawan and enjoy the summer season

The season when traveling to El Nido, Palawan is crucial. It is because the activities that you will be doing are outdoors like island-hopping, exploring beaches, and climbing cliffs. To make the most of your time in this island paradise, plan your trip during the dry months. Read on to find out when you should book your trip to El Nido.

Dry and Summer Season | January to April

The best months to go to El Nido, Palawan is from January to April, when it’s dry and sunny. The summer season in the Philippines is from March to April so expect more local travelers during this time. The rains start by around May, but the weather can still be sunny during this time if there are no tropical storms. 

Climate and Weather

Like other island destinations in the Philippines, El Nido is warm and humid. The warmest month is during April, with the temperature averaging at 28.7 °C. The month with the lowest temperatures is in September, with the temperature dropping to 26.8 °C.

El Nido receives the most rain during August, its wettest month, so best to avoid going there during that time. Make sure to check weather updates before booking your tours in El Nido, Palawan.

Here’s an overview of the average temperature and rainfall in El Nido, Palawan all year-round:

Year-round average temperature and rainfall in El Nido, Palawan

Source: climate-data.org

What to Wear

Pack your breathable summer outfits if you’re planning a trip to El Nido, especially during the dry and summer season. Make sure to bring sun protection like sunglasses, hats, and scarves especially if you’re exploring El Nido on a motorcycle. At night, bring a light jacket or a scarf with you to keep you warm if you’re by the beach.

How to Get to El Nido

There are several options to get to El Nido via Manila or other Palawan destinations namely Puerto Princesa, Coron, and San Vicente

The main jump-off point from El Nido is the capital of the Philippines, Manila. You can either take a direct flight or fly to Palawan’s capital, Puerto Princesa, then ride a bus or van.

If you are already in other Palawan destinations like Coron or San Vicente, El Nido can be accessed by land or sea travel. Read on to find out what your options are on how to go to El Nido, Palawan. 

From Manila by Direct Flights

Currently, AirSWIFT is the only airline that offers direct flights from Manila to El Nido

Photo by AirSWIFT

The fastest way to go to El Nido is to fly directly to Lio Airport from Manila. Currently, AirSwift is the only airline that services the Manila to El Nido route. AirSwift operates up to four direct flights per day from Manila. The travel time is 1 hour and 20 minutes. From the airport, the Town Proper is just 30 minutes away by land travel. 

From Puerto Princesa

The most common travel option when going to El Nido is by riding a plane to Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan. The flight fares are cheaper compared to a direct flight.

The majority of travelers take this route because it’s cost-efficient, although you will need to allocate extra days for your trip just for the transfer to and from El Nido.

By Flights

There are flights to Puerto Princesa from Manila (1 hour and 25 minutes), Clark in Pampanga (about 1 hour and 30 minutes), and Cebu in the Visayas (about 1 hour and 15 minutes).

You can book through Philippine AirlinesCebu Pacific, or AirAsia. Once in Puerto Princesa airport, you will need to ride a van or bus for 5-7 hours going to El Nido.

By Van 

Vans are the most popular option among travelers for land travel to El Nido because it’s slightly faster than the bus with a travel time of 5-6 hours. The vans only leave once it’s full of passengers. The only stop is halfway for restroom and snack breaks.

It’s advisable to book these in advance so they can pick you up straight from the airport. You can also hire a private van if you’re traveling as a group for a more convenient trip.  

By Bus 

It is a good option if you're traveling with big or multiple luggage because buses have luggage compartments. Compared to vans, buses have more extensive legroom. However, travel time is longer at 6-7 hours because they make stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers.

From the airport, ride a tricycle going to San Jose Terminal where you can board a bus going to El Nido. You have the option to ride an ordinary (non-air-conditioned) and air-conditioned bus. The bus will drop you off at a terminal station in El Nido where you can ride a tricycle going to your resort or hotel. 

From Coron by Boat

Montenegro Lines has daily trips to El Nido that leaves Coron at noon

Photo by Montenegro Lines

If you're already in Coron, Palawan, you can ride a fast craft going to El Nido. The travel time is around 4 hours. The boat leaves Coron at noon and arrives by 3:30 PM in El Nido. There are no direct flights from Busuanga Airport in Coron to El Nido.

From San Vicente by Flights and Van

Located 2-2.5 hours away by land from El Nido is an emerging Palawan destination called San Vicente. You can fly to San Vicente Airport by booking flights with SkyJet (from Manila, 50 minutes) or Philippine Airlines (from Clark in Pampanga, 1 hour and 30 minutes).

From there, you can hire a van that will take you to El Nido. Make sure to book your van transfer in advance so they can pick you up at San Vicente Airport. 

Getting Around El Nido

El Nido is a small town that travelers can easily explore by riding small vehicles like motorcycles or tricycles, and vans for bigger groups. Here are your options for transportation. Make sure to choose based on your group size, budget, and comfort preference.

Motorcycle

The majority of visitors traveling solo hire motorcycle taxis (called habal-habal) driven by a local. They are best for land tours within El Nido. You can hire this per drop-off or for the whole day. Rates will vary on the destination. You can find these usually parked at the Town Proper or ask your hotel to call one for you. 

Self-drive Motorcycle

If you know how to drive a motorcycle, you can rent a unit at the shops located in the Town Proper. It is a good option if you're traveling alone or by pairs, and want to explore El Nido at your own pace.

Tricycle

Get around El Nido Town Proper on a tricycleThese auto-rickshaws can accommodate about four passengers, so it's a good option if traveling with a small group. Like motorcycles, you can hire this per drop-off or for the whole day if you want to do a land tour. You can find these at the Town Proper or ask your hotel to call one for you. 

Private Van

For bigger groups or if you want the most comfortable transport option, you can hire a private van. These can take you around El Nido for a land tour, and you can also hire for your whole trip or travel to neighboring destinations in Palawan such as Puerto Princesa or San Vicente.

It's better to book this in advance since they are on call and don't have their terminal.

Where to Stay in El Nido

Beachfront resort in El Nido, Palawan

El Nido offers accommodations that can provide you with rest for any budget and preference for your temporary home. Read on to find out what types of accommodations there are in El Nido, which places to stay in, and which are the highly-recommended resorts and hotels that you can book.  

Types of Accommodations

El Nido is a small beach town that maintains a rustic rural vibe. There are no 5-star hotels here, like in the big cities of Metro Manila. However, there are the luxury island and beach resorts for those who are willing to splurge.

For budget travelers, there are also backpacker hostels or inns with basic amenities. Below are the accommodation options that you can book in El Nido. 

Island and Beachfront Resorts

There are several accommodations in El Nido that are located on islands and beaches. The higher-priced resorts are those in private islands, while the mid- to high-range resorts are those in the beachfront of El Nido's main island or town center.

These offer full amenities, including breakfast and generator for 24 hours of electricity. If you want to wake up with the most stunning views of El Nido, then book one of these island and beachfront resorts.

Backpacker Hostels/Inns

Sunset view at Mad Monkey Hostel Nacpan Beach in El Nido, Palawan

Photo by Mad Monkey Hostel Nacpan Beach

El Nido is also a budget-friendly destination for backpackers or solo travelers. You can find many cheap hotels in the inner streets of El Nido’s mainland or town center. These are usually dormitory and private fan rooms with a shared bathroom and common areas.

The best in value backpacker hostels or inns in El Nido are those that are located near the beach. For solo travelers, hostels with dormitory-type rooms offer the best option for budget-friendly accommodations and the possibility of meeting up with fellow travelers to join up with for your tours. 

Glamping 

Be one with nature in glamping resorts and hotels in El Nido. There are a few in various beachfront and island locations all over El Nido that have been surging in popularity in recent years.

Glamping is a glamorous style of camping where tents are set up with resort-style amenities and services including air-conditioning and mattresses. It's a definite must-try when you're in a beautiful place like El Nido, Palawan.

Vacation Rentals

A lot of travelers from locals to foreigners have fallen in love with El Nido. It's no wonder that investing in property in this island destination has become famous for those who can afford it.

A number of these private properties are available for rent. They vary in location from the town center, neighboring barangays, beachfront, and even private islands. These are usually equipped with the kitchen and the exclusive use of one group at a time for privacy.   

Neighborhoods and Areas

Limestone cliffs and turquoise waters of El Nido, PalawanThere’s no shortage of places to stay in El Nido, from secluded high-end luxury hotels or resorts and gorgeous beach huts perched over the water on remote islands to backpacker-friendly hostels right in the heart of the town. There are four main areas where you can book your home base while in El Nido: Town Proper, Islands, Corong-Corong, and Caalan.

Town Proper

Staying in the busy Town Proper is a good option if you want the closest spot to the main beach of El Nido. This area is also accessible to tour offices, restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. The majority of beachfront resorts and hostels are found in this area. 

Islands

Do you want the exclusivity of a secluded island? You can stay in the islands by booking a room or villa in the luxury resorts of El Nido, Palawan. These offer the best home base in El Nido if you are willing to splurge for it.

These accommodations include full amenities and in-house restaurants and bars, aside from direct access to the beautiful beaches and turquoise waters of El Nido. 

Corong-Corong

Beautiful stretch of beach in Corong-Corong, El NidoCorong-Corong offers a more secluded spot compared to the Town Proper. Located near Marimegmeg Beach, this area has a beautiful stretch of beach and quiet environment with a great sunset view facing west.

It can take roughly 10-15 minutes to walk to the town proper to reach the restaurants. The beach in this part of El Nido is known for its stunning sunset views. 

Caalan

For those who prioritize rest away from the crowds during their El Nido vacation, it might be best to base in Caalan. This peaceful area will give you the best views of the neighboring Cadlao Island while being just a tricycle ride away from town. 

Accommodation Highlights in El Nido

Now that you know what accommodation options and where the best spots are to stay in El Nido. Read on to find out which are the highly recommended El Nido hotels and resorts from budget-friendly, mid-range to luxury.  

Budget Accommodations

You don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket to enjoy El Nido, Palawan. There are plenty of affordable hotels that you can book. These are some of the top-rated by tourists because of their amenities, location, and customer service. 

Spin Designer Hostel 

Mixed Room at SPIN Designer Hostel in El Nido, Palawan

Photo by SPIN Designer Hostel

One of the top-rated best value hostels in El Nido is this hip accommodation that is a favorite among digital nomads and backpackers. It has dorm-type and private rooms with shared or private bathrooms.

Movie night at SPIN Designer Hostel in El Nido, PalawanPhoto by SPIN Designer Hostel

They also have a shared kitchen and barbecue facility, gaming room, and a shared terrace with a forest view. Guests love their movie nights (with free popcorn!), beer pong games, and margarita nights. The hostel is also just around a 5-minute walk from the Town Proper. 

Outpost Beach Hostel

Located in Corong-Corong's Sunset Beach, this beachfront social hostel is one of the most popular backpacker home bases in El Nido. They have dorm-type and private rooms with air-conditioning and fans, hot shower, and lockers.

It is the perfect hostel for those who love socializing with new friends from different parts of the world. Hang out by their beachfront bar and restaurant to watch the sunset or befriend other guests. 

Mad Monkey Hostel Nacpan Beach 

This beachfront accommodation in Nacpan Beach, about 30 minutes away from the Town Proper, is a popular hostel for laid-back night parties in their on-site restaurant and bar. They offer dorm-type rooms with fan and glamping tents. It’s part of the Mad Monkey Hostels group, a famous chain of party hostels in Southeast Asia. 

Mid-range Accommodations

Sea view from the El Nido Garden Resort's beachfront pool

Photo by El Nido Garden Resort

Are you willing to pay for a slightly higher priced rooms for more private and comfortable accommodation in El Nido? Check out these mid-range priced resorts that have full amenities and more than basic room features. These are top-rated by travelers because of the location and service. 

El Nido Garden Resort

Premium Sea View Deluxe Room at El Nido Garden Resort

Photo by El Nido Garden Resort

This beachfront resort has rooms with air-conditioning, flat-screen cable TV, fridge, coffee and tea, and a private bathroom. Some of their rooms also have a patio that you can lounge in with the sea view of El Nido's main beach. They offer buffet breakfast for guests, a bar, and an outdoor swimming pool.  

The Nest El Nido 

This boutique resort in Calaan Beach has air-conditioned rooms with amenities like a flat-screen cable TV, kettle and minibar, and private bathroom. They serve continental breakfast at their restaurant with a view of the nearby Cadlao Island. They also have a yoga floor when you can do your morning practice with a stunning view of the islands and Bacuit Bay.  

Nacpan Beach Glamping

This palm-tree filled beachfront property in El Nido's Nacpan Beach. They offer unique rooms known as glamping, where huge tents are designed to look luxurious and fitted with the comforts of an air-conditioner and quality mattresses.

Comfortable and spacious glamping tent surrounded by palm trees at Nacpan Beach in El Nido, Palawan

Photo by Nacpan Beach Glamping

Each is spacious enough to include lounge chairs and a table for dining. They also have safety boxes to keep your belongings secure.

Luxury Accommodations 

Do you want to live the royal life in El Nido and stay in the best island resorts? Check out these highly-rated accommodations. You’ll have the exclusivity and serene vibe of a private island without the crowds and get the best service from these resorts: 

El Nido Resorts 

Water cottages at dawn in Miniloc Island, El Nido

Photo by El Nido Resorts

The most premier resorts on this side of Palawan are those that belong to the El Nido Resorts group of sustainable island resorts. In El Nido, you can choose from the resorts in Apulit Island, Miniloc Island, Lagen Island, and Pangulasian Island.

Guests are picked up from the Lio Airport in El Nido or from the El Nido Resorts Jetty Lounge and transferred by boat to the island where they're staying in.

Beachside room at Miniloc Island in El Nido, Palawan

Photo by El Nido Resorts

The resorts offer rooms designed with indigenous Filipino materials but have modern features and amenities. You can choose from the rooms by the beach, in the gardens, or the villas perched on the water that features modern amenities. They also have their restaurants and bars and spas on each island. 

Cauayan Island Resort

This luxury resort located in Cauayan Island of El Nido’s Bacuit Bay is another top choice for those who want to splurge for the best amenities and services. You can choose from their villas located by the beach, gardens, pool, or those perched on the water.

Villas are designed like nipa huts but feature modern amenities like a flat-screen cable TV, minibar, indoor and outdoor shower facilities. They also have a restaurant and pool bar on the island where they serve local and international dishes.  

What to See and Do in El Nido

Things to do in El Nido, Palawan mapAs a top beach and island destination, most of the attractions and activities that you can do in El Nido are spent outdoors. El Nido has 45 islands and islets, but not all of them are open to the public for tours.

Aside from beaches and islands, El Nido also has land tours and activities that are fun to explore as side trips. Read on to find out what tourist spots and activities await you in El Nido, Palawan:  

Go Island-Hopping

El Nido's main highlight is its pristine islands, beaches, lagoons, and caves, which you can explore by booking island-hopping tours. These are full-day tours that include boat transfers, lunch, and guides. The tours are grouped into four, namely Tour A, Tour B, Tour C, and Tour D. These are available for private, and joiner/shared tours.

For joiner/shared tours, you will be grouped with other travelers in one boat. This way, you won't have to worry about shelling out extra cash for the fees to cover the entire tour. Opinions vary on which island-hopping tour offers the best value for money.

While all the spots in El Nido have their charm, travelers usually recommend Tour A or C for first-time visitors. 

It’s best to book El Nido tours in advance before your arrival, especially if you're going during peak season. You can also rent kayaks from your tour operator for an additional fee. They will board the kayak on the boat, and you can use them any time during the tour. 

Aside from the regular boat transfers, you can opt to try the El Nido yachting club experience where you tour the islands and beaches in style. 

Here’s an overview of the island-hopping tours in El Nido, Palawan:

El Nido Tour A 

Big Lagoon of Palawan's El Nido Tour AThe island-hopping Tour A will take you to paradise-like destinations in El Nido’s Miniloc Island the famous Big Lagoon. These are the attractions in El Nido that you will most likely see in travel photos online and in magazines. Here’s a rundown of the destinations included in Tour A: 

  • Big Lagoon - A stunning site with emerald-colored waters surrounded by dark towering limestone cliffs. Boats are not allowed to go inside, but travelers can get off the boats and ride their kayaks to explore Big Lagoon.

  • Secret Lagoon - Also known as Hidden Lagoon, this enchanting attraction in El Nido will require visitors to enter a small hole in one of the limestone cliffs to see the natural pool inside. 

  • Shimizu Island -  Also spells as Simizu Island, this is usually the lunch stopover for Tour A in El Nido. It’s a great spot not just for swimming, but for snorkeling as well because of its abundant marine life. 

  • Seven Commandos Beach - This is a 320-meter long white sand beach where you can lounge by the sand or go swimming and snorkeling. 

El Nido Tour B

Snake Island of Palawan's El Nido Tour BThe island-hopping Tour B takes visitors to secluded caves and islands in El Nido. The most famous attraction in this tour is Snake Island. Here's a rundown of the destinations included in El Nido's Tour B: 

  • Snake Island - It is named because of the S-shape of the white powdery sandbar that connects another island to the mainland of El Nido during low tide. 

  • Pinagbuyutan Island - A picturesque island with a white sand beach, also known as Ellis Island, and is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. 

  • Cudugnon Cave - This historical cave with high ceilings and majestic rock formations is where antique jewelry and pottery were discovered. 

  • Entalula Island - This small and secluded island with a short stretch of white sand beach is the usual lunch stop for Tour B. 

  • Cathedral Cave - It's called a cathedral cave because of its open chamber and high ceiling that make it look like a cathedral. Swimming isn't allowed in here though because of venomous snakes in the area. 

  • Popolkan Island - One of the best snorkeling spots in El Nido because of its colorful school of fish in different kinds.  



El Nido Tour C

Matinloc Shrine of Palawan's El Nido Tour CAnother popular tour in El Nido is the island-hopping Tour C, which takes visitors to stunning island and beach destinations. This tour covers some of the best vantage points and landscapes in El Nido that are perfect for beach lovers and first-time visitors. These are the stops included in Tour C: 

  • Secret Beach - This is a small patch of white sand beach hidden inside limestone cliffs. To get to the beach, you need to swim through a hole first. It is believed to have been the inspiration of author Alex Garland for writing the novel The Beach, which starred Leonardo di Caprio in the film adaptation.

  • Hidden Beach - This is a beach hidden behind high walls of limestone cliffs. The best way to get inside is by riding a kayak from your boat where you'll pass through towering karst cliffs. At the end of your kayak ride, you will see a beach concealed by the cliffs. 

  • Helicopter Island (Dilumacad Island) - This island is shaped like a helicopter from afar, thus the name. It's an excellent spot for snorkeling and swimming. 

  • Matinloc Shrine - This is a spiritual oasis that houses the Shrine of Our Lady of Matinloc and provides a beautiful view of the jagged cliffs overlooking a crescent-shaped cove. 

  • Tapiutan Island/Star Beach - One of the most stunning island and beach destinations in El Nido because of its crystal clear and azure waters. It is usually where lunch stops are during Tour C.

El Nido Tour D

Small Lagoon of Palawan's El Nido Tour DLast but not least is the island-hopping Tour D, this will take you to scenic spots in Miniloc and Cadlao Island. The most famous place included here is the Small Lagoon, which used to be in the Tour A with Big Lagoon, but was transferred to Tour D in November 2018 to minimize overcrowding. Here are the stops included in Tour D: 

  • Small Lagoon - The smaller version of Tour A's Big Lagoon has calm blue-green waters that are perfect kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling. This lagoon in Miniloc Island is a sight to behold because you'll be swimming in the middle of a natural pool surrounded by towering cliffs. 

  • Pasandigan Beach - This top diving site in Cadlao Island is an excellent stop if you want to snorkel and see the abundant, vibrant corals. It is also where the lunch is served during the tour. 

  • Paradise Beach - This uncrowded beach with a stretch of white sand has majestic cliffs as its background. It’s an excellent spot for swimming or getting a tan.

  • Ubugon Cave - Explore the unique formations inside this cave in Cadlao Island during your stop here. 

  • Nat Nat Beach and Bukal Island -  These are located in front of each other and can be explored at the same time. Stroll along its powdery sand or swim in their turquoise waters.  

Do a Land Tour

Twin Beaches of Nacpan and Calitang in El Nido, Palawan

Aside from the stunning islands and beaches, you can also tour El Nido’s land attractions. You can hail a tricycle or motorcycle, or drive a rented motorcycle to visit these spots if you're coming from a resort or hotel in the mainland.

Alternatively, you can also hire a private van tour for a more comfortable and convenient travel experience. Make sure to include these spots when doing a land tour of El Nido. 

  • Twin Beaches of Nacpan and Calitang - One of the most famous land tour spots in El Nido is the 4-km Nacpan Beach. It is adjacent to Calitang Beach; that's why they're called the Twin Beaches. Go here to swim, lounge by the beach, or hike up to the hill where you can see the view of the Twin Beaches.

  • Nagkalit-kalit Falls - "Nagkalit-kalit" translates to "nagsalit" (taking a moment). You will take a moment to appreciate the beauty of this majestic falls.

  • Las Cabanas Beach (Marimegmeg Beach) - This beach is an uncrowded tourist spot known for its beautiful sunsets and laid-back vibe. There are also restaurants and bars lined up by the beach, perfect for a relaxing drink or snacks while watching the sunset. 

Dive to Explore the Marine Life

Entalula Island in El Nido, PalawanFor scuba divers, diving in El Nido offers an unforgettable adventure as there are over 40 dive sites to choose from, just a boat ride away from town. Do you prefer shallow dives with coral gardens, steep vertical walls, sandy flats, tunnels, drift dives or deep dives? There's a dive site in El Nido just for you. Here are some diving spots you can explore in El Nido: 

  • South Miniloc - The most famous dive site in El Nido. This diving spot offers colorful, shallow-water coral gardens combined with a rare chance to see sea turtles, yellowtail barracuda, and smaller schools of chevron. 

  • North Rock - Located near the center of Bacuit Bay, its location makes it a great diving spot for pelagic sight. 

  • Dilumacad Island - A stunning site for experienced divers in Helicopter Island. It’s known for cave dive sites called the Dilumacad Tunnel. 

  • Entalula Island - It is known for two diving spots called Entalula Wall and Entalula Drift. You can see vibrant coral gardens, small inhabitants like the electric oyster, and schools of fish. 

  • Nat-Nat Beach - It is popular with macro photographers and critter hunters. Here you can find an exciting collection of corals and macro life. 

See the View from Taraw Cliff

If you’re not afraid of heights, a must-do in El Nido is to hike Taraw Cliff. You will climb its steep limestone rocks that oversee the entire town of El Nido. You’ll be treated to a breathtaking panoramic view of the main beach and its surrounding islands. Climbing and hike Taraw Cliff requires a guide. 

If you want another way to see the view, you can try the Canopy Walk. Guests are provided with helmets, safety harnesses, and a guide during the trek. It is perfect for inexperienced hikers who don't want to climb the limestone rocks with their hands and feet only.  

What to Eat and Drink in El Nido

Food in El Nido, Palawan

After a day of island-hopping and touring, one of the best things to do in El Nido is to enjoy the restaurants and nightlife around town. El Nido has that small-town charm that is preserved by the locals, and travel businesses, so don't expect the night scene to be similar to Boracay.

Local Cuisine

El Nido has a diverse food scene, with boutique restaurants serving international cuisine right next to humble hole-in-the-wall eateries. You can find any cuisine here to suit your mood.

Just walk along the side streets, and you can easily come across Japanese sushi, Mediterranean cuisine, artisanal gelato, and good-old Filipino grilled specialties. 

But one thing not to miss when in El Nido, Palawan is the bird's nest soup. It is a delicacy made from the bird's nest of the Balinsasayaw bird that it forms with its saliva. El Nido is named after this, as El Nido translates to "The Nest."

The nests are found in the crevices of the limestone cliffs found around El Nido. This simple soup is pricey, though because of its limited supply and the difficulty of harvesting it. 

Recommended Restaurants and Bars

Whether you're traveling alone or as a group, you will enjoy hanging out in the restaurants and bars in El Nido. These are mostly located in the Town Proper, with the best ones lined up or near the beach. Check out some of our recommended dining and drinking spots in El Nido:

El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe

El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe's pizza

Photo by El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe

One of the long-time homegrown places, best known for their view of Cadlao Mountain, the beach, and their delicious pizza and pasta dishes. It is one of the oldest and more established restaurants serving a variety of rice meals, tasty appetizers and, Italian fare.

It's also one of the leading establishments that serve craft beer from Palaweno Brewery, a local brewery based in the capital Puerto Princesa. 

Squidos Sports Bar

Craving for seafood in El Nido? Get a table at Squidos Sports Ba where they serve fresh seafood in big servings. Their house specialty is the stuffed squid. The mixed seafood platter is a must-try too! 

Trattoria Altrove

Dubbed to be the best pizza place in El Nido, this restaurant has already made a name for itself. More and more travelers are discovering this gem that serves brick oven pizza. Don’t miss their Pancetta Con Tartufo (truffle bacon pizza) and Gamberreti Aglio Olio paired with a chilled bottle of wine.

Boodmo

Another exciting addition in the local dining and beer scene is this Ukrainian nano-brewery established in El Nido in 2017. They serve Cadlao IPA, and Pale Ale brewed for the tropical climate along with Ukrainian beer chow like mussels and shrimp dumplings with pesto.

Practical Information and Tips

Before you jet off to El Nido, take note of these helpful travel tips for a hassle-free adventure. Find out what the mode of payment is if credit cards are accepted, and what languages are spoken by the locals. 

Currency

Make sure to bring enough cash in Philippine Peso (PHP). There's one ATM in the Town Proper, but there's no assurance that it will be online all the time during your trip. It's best to withdraw or exchange enough money while you're in bigger cities like Manila.

Some establishments like luxury hotels and high-end restaurants, accept credit cards, but again, it's better to bring enough cash. 

Language

The locals of El Nido speak Filipino, Cuyonon, and other varieties of Visayan languages. The majority of locals, especially in tourist areas, can speak and understand basic English. 

Sample Itinerary in El Nido

El Nido is best enjoyed when you're not in a rush. Unless you're flying directly to El Nido, a day trip isn't possible. Most first-time visitors allot at least four days for El Nido considering the travel time from Puerto Princesa and back.

Hidden Beach in El Nido, Palawan

For a complete tour, we suggest staying for at least five days. You can also book a full day El Nido island-hopping tour with transfers to and from Puerto Princesa if you’re pressed for time, Here is a sample itinerary for your trip that you can take inspiration from for your El Nido adventure:

Day 1: Travel from Puerto Princesa to El Nido

  • 08:00 AM - ETA at Puerto Princesa Airport

  • 08:30 AM - Van transfer to El Nido 

  • 11:00 AM - Lunch stopover

  • 1:30 PM -  ETA at El Nido terminal 

  • 1: 45 PM - Tricycle to resort/hostel

  • 2:00 PM - Check-in at resort/hotel; Settle in or rest

  • 04:00 PM - Go to the tourism office and pay the environmental fee 

  • 04:30 PM - Snacks in Town Proper

  • 05:30 PM - Sunset at the beach 

  • 06:30 PM - Dinner

  • 08:00 PM - Drinks 

  • 10:00 PM - Back to resort/hotel

Day 2: El Nido Island-Hopping Tour A

  • 6:00 AM - Wake up and prepare 

  • 7:00 AM - Breakfast 

  • 9:00 AM - Start of island-hopping Tour A

  • 5:00 PM - End of the tour; go back to resort/hotel to wash and change

  • 6:00 PM - Dinner 

  • 8:00 PM - Drinks 

  • 10:00 PM - Back to resort/hotel

Day 3: El Nido Island-Hopping Tour C

  • 6:00 AM - Wake up and prepare 

  • 7:00 AM - Breakfast 

  • 9:00 AM - Start of island-hopping Tour C

  • 5:00 PM - End of the tour; go back to resort/hotel to wash and change

  • 6:00 PM - Dinner 

  • 8:00 PM - Drinks 

  • 10:00 PM - Back to resort/hotel

Day 4: El Nido Canopy Walk + Land Tour

  • 6:00 AM - Wake up and prepare 

  • 7:00 AM - Breakfast 

  • 9:00 AM - Start of Canopy Walk

  • 10:30 AM - End of Canopy Walk tour; back to resort/hotel to freshen up

  • 12:00 NN - Lunch

  • 1:30 PM - Start of El Nido land tour 

  • 6:30 PM - End of the land tour; Dinner

  • 8:00 PM - Drinks

  • 10:00 PM - Back to resort/hotel

Day 5: Travel back to Puerto Princesa

  • 6:00 AM - Wake up and prepare 

  • 7:00 AM - Breakfast 

  • 8:00 AM - Check-out of hotel 

  • 8:30 AM - Van transfer to Puerto Princesa 

  • 11:00 AM - Lunch stopover 

  • 1:30 PM - ETA in Puerto Princesa 

Paradise Awaits You in El Nido! 

Big Lagoon in El Nido, PalawanEl Nido's powdery white sand beaches lined with coconut trees, crystal clear waters, clean natural pools, majestic limestone cliffs and more truly make it one of the best beaches and island destinations not just in the Philippines but the whole world. It's no wonder locals, and international travelers include El Nido at the top of their travel bucket list. 

El Nido, Palawan is the perfect destination for everyone who is dreaming of an idyllic tropical island vacation with breathtaking views not just above water but also underwater.

Visit it for yourself and see first-hand the beauty of this destination with different El Nido tours and activities to add in your itinerary.