El Nido is a municipality on the northernmost tip of the province of Palawan, characterized by awe-inspiring natural beauty, from dazzling lagoons, white sand beaches, rocky islets, towering limestone cliffs, and glasslike waters teeming with abundant marine life. No wonder El Nido has earned nothing but praises from visitors, and numerous accolades of being one the best island and beach destinations in the world.
El Nido also encompasses over 40 islands peppered across the Bacuit Archipelago, each with its own unique geological wonders but the same natural majesty. And everywhere you look, the scene is almost otherworldly — its surrounding waters are a stunning mix of blue-green colors, its palm-fringed beach pockets have ultra-powdery sands, and its marine protected areas offer some of the best diving experiences in the entire Philippines.
Despite being a first-class municipality, the town still has a sleepy and laid-back atmosphere. But El Nido has also seen a rise of numerous establishments over the years, accommodating record-high tourist arrivals in the area of about 150,000 in a year, which range from budget-friendly hostels and homestays, mid-range beachfront hotels, to luxurious and exclusive resorts. Truly, El Nido has something for everyone.
Puerto Princesa serves as the gateway to El Nido, and together with Coron, these three areas are the most-visited in the entire Palawan, owing to their magnificent sights and adventure-filled activities.
Exploring the wonders of El Nido is mostly done outdoors, so weather conditions are the primary considerations on planning when to visit the town and its surrounding islands.
Cheapest time to visit El Nido
Low season for travel in El Nido is pretty much the same with the rest of the Philippines, during the wet months of June to October. Rains are to be expected this time, but also cheap flight tickets and low hotel prices.
Weather in El Nido
El Nido experiences two seasons. Dry months are from January to May, while wet season starts from June until the end of the year.
Peak season in El Nido
Because it is primarily an island and beach destination, El Nido sees large tourist crowds during the peak summer months of March, April, and May. It will be generally sunny and dry during these times, with very little chances of rain.
When to avoid visiting El Nido
Rains and typhoons come in the country, including El Nido, mostly from July until October and extending until December. El Nido receives most rain during August so this is not the best time to visit. Most activities here require boat trips and transfers, so it can be unsafe to traverse the seas when it is rainy and windy.
There are two main ways to get to El Nido. The most popular route and more affordable choice is taking a flight from Manila, Clark, or Cebu to Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan. From here, visitors will need to take a bus or van going to El Nido. Vans will take less time to reach El Nido compared to buses.
The second option is to fly directly from Manila to El Nido, with only Airswift servicing this route and landing at the Lio Airport. From here, El Nido will be accessible by land travel for less than an hour.
If you are coming from the neighboring Coron, there is a fast craft going to El Nido. The boat trip leaves Coron at noon, arriving in El Nido after almost 4 hours. Currently, there are no direct flights from the Busuanga Airport in Coron going to El Nido.
Those who are in San Vicente, a rising travel destination in Palawan, may take a 2.5-hour van ride to El Nido from here. There are direct flights from Manila to San Vicente, currently serviced by SkyJet and Philippine Airlines.
El Nido is a very small town with a tranquil and laid-back atmosphere, and it is deemed very safe to be traveling around here. The locals are warm, welcoming, and accustomed to travelers coming from different parts of the country and around the world.
Visitors are always encouraged to be respectful to locals, be mindful of their belongings, and to never leave any trash behind, especially when visiting its main tourist attractions.
The main town of El Nido is very small, and its streets are not as busy compared to other tourist destinations in the country. The main modes of transportation are tricycles and motorcycles.
Motorcycle taxis, locally known as habal-habal, are very popular for tourists because getting from one place to another will be much faster. You will see these parked at the town proper or driving around looking for passengers, so they are pretty easy to spot. These can be hired for just one drop-off or a tour around town the whole day.
If you are visiting El Nido as a small group, it is best to hail a tricycle or auto-rickshaw as this can accommodate up to four passengers. These are also easy to spot around town.
Those who know to drive a motorcycle may save up a lot by hiring one for the whole day or the entire duration of their stay. This is a great option for solo travelers or pairs.
There are four tours in El Nido, namely Tours A, B, C, D, and all of them require boat trips to be experienced. The best thing about these tours is that they are all regulated and standardized.
There are quite a number of dining and drinking options in El Nido, including iconic restaurants and cafes that you should not miss. The town has preserved its laid back vibe, so heavy partying is not to be expected here.
One delicacy that El Nido is famous for is its bird’s nest soup. In fact, the name El Nido translates to “the nest” in English. This is made of the Balinsasayaw bird’s saliva that they form into birthing and breeding nests, found in crevices of El Nido’s limestone karsts. Because of how difficult it is to harvest, the delicacy is on the expensive side.
As with the rest of the Philippines, tipping is not mandatory in El Nido. Most establishments would already include a service charge, but gratuities are still highly appreciated by local service crew and staff.
Most dining establishments are concentrated in the town proper and by the main El Nido bay. They range from small, local eateries to mid-range restaurants serving international cuisine. Some of the go-to establishments in El Nido include El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe, Squidos Sports Bar, and Trattoria Altrove. Expect to sample fresh seafood, pizzas, and local beers in these places.
The party scene in El Nido is on the calm and quieter side, which best compliments the natural charm and small-town atmosphere here. Nightlife mostly begins with happy hour sessions watching the glorious sunset from the bay. Most drinking establishments are also found in the main town and bay. Head to Pukka Bar for a good dance after drinks.
Drinking in public
There has been a nationwide ban for drinking in public, so it is best to enjoy your beers or cocktails inside restaurants, bars, or your accommodations (in accordance with their own rules). This goes for cigarette smoking as well.
Most of the attractions in El Nido are not within town, but on its islands and islets dotting the Bacuit Bay. But from the main town, you will still see breathtaking views of the beach, the neighboring islands, and towering limestone cliffs.
Corong-Corong, located near Marimegmeg Beach, offers a more tranquil spot with great views of the sunset.
Stay within the town proper to access small boutiques and souvenir shops, local sundry shops, and small convenience stores.
Fot Entertainment & Arts
Most hotels, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops are concentrated in the main town, so staying within this area is a great and convenient option.