A Complete Guide to Exploring El Nido, Palawan
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A Complete Guide to Exploring El Nido, Palawan

Are you looking for a tropical escape with crystal clear waters, stunning limestone cliffs and vibrant marine life? Look no further than El Nido, located in the Palawan archipelago of the Philippines, it is a traveler's dream destination. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the essential things to know in exploring El Nido, Palawan and make the most of your tropical getaway.

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๐Ÿ‘‰ Check out the accommodations for your visit
๐Ÿ‘‰ Don't miss on the best tours in El Nido, Palawan

Another famous destination in Palawan is Coron. Some people like it better than the other and vice versa. If you are interested to know more, we listed a few differences between El Nido and Coron.

Here's our 4K drone footage from our trip to El Nido, Palawan, shot with DJI MIni 4 Pro.

1. Planning Your Trip to El Nido, Palawan

a. Choosing the Best Time to Visit

El Nido, Palawan enjoys a tropical climate year round, but certain months offer better weather conditions. The dry season, from November to April, is ideal for beach activities and island hopping. Keep in mind that this is also the peak tourist season, so plan accordingly.

Corong Corong beach at sunset, ultimate guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

b. Booking Your Flights

The nearest airport to El Nido is Lio Airport (ENI), which is well connected to Manila and Cebu. Another option is booking a flight to Busuanga Airport (USU) in Coron and then taking a ferry to El Nido, after exploring the beauty of Coron. The most popular option is flying to Puerto Princesa (PPS) airport as it is the largest airport with the most flight availability on Palawan. From here, you can take a van ride to El Nido.

c. Accommodation

El Nido offers a range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hostels to luxury resorts. Research and book your stay in advance, considering factors such as location, amenities, and guest reviews. See Section 5 below for further details.

2. Getting to El Nido from Puerto Princesa

As most travellers reach El Nido by flying into Puerto Princesa, we will be discussing more on this. A lot of people fly to Puerto Princesa and take a van or bus to El Nido. This is the most common and cheapest option. The journey takes around 5 to 6 hours, depending on road conditions and stops taken (for bathroom and meals). Several transportation options are available at the airport. You can book online and choose the time and arrange pick up location as well if possible. We booked ours with Lexxus Shuttle. They are great and very easy to communicate with through Whatsapp, perfect if you don't have a local number.

3. Exploring El Nido's Island Hopping Tours

a. Tour Options

El Nido is renowned for its island hopping tours, labelled A, B, C and D. Keep reading for more details. Each tour explores different islands and lagoons, offering unique experiences. Research the tours beforehand and choose the ones that align with your interests. 

Snorkelling is the other main tour attraction in El Nido, as the nearby islands are home to some spectacular coral reefs. Palawanโ€™s healthy reefs are home to sea turtles, harmless but beautiful whale sharks, and countless species of tropical fish.

Island hopping tour, ultimate guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

Tour A: Most popular. Big Lagoon > Secret Lagoon > Shimizu Island > 7 Commando Beach. Highly rated with its two lagoon visits, including kayaking and snorkelling across impressive coral reefs and concluding the tour with a white sand beach.

Tour B: Underrated. Snake Island > Pinagbuyutan Island > Entalula Beach > Cudugnon Cave > Snorkelling Sites. For those who want to avoid crowds, explore an incredible sandbar at Snake Island, a historical cave and snorkelling within a very impressive coral reef. 

Tour C: Most popular. Secret Beach > Hidden Beach > Matinloc Shrine > Talisay Beach > Helicopter Island. The catamaran will take you further away from El Nido, Palawan to some remote locations with hidden beauty. The turquoise waters in the area were incredibly clear and great for snorkelling.

Tour D: Underrated. Ipil Beach > Cadlao Lagoon > Paradise Beach > Pasandigan Beach > Natnat Beach > Bukal Beach. Explore white sand beaches and a beautiful lagoon to kayak through. Every beach on this day trip is gorgeous with white sand, tropical vegetation and reefs to snorkel. We saw a sea turtle while on a kayak!

b. Booking Tours

You can book tours through local agencies or even with your hotel in El Nido town. It's advisable to book in advance, especially during peak season, to secure your spot. Prices are the same when booked online or in person, and if you pay in person you will likely have to pay cash.

4. Must-Visit Spots in El Nido, Palawan

a. Big Lagoon

Big Lagoon surrounded by limestone cliffs, guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

A mesmerizing emerald green lagoon surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. Kayaking is a popular activity here, with rentals available on site, โ‚ฑ350 for a 3-person kayak and โ‚ฑ300 for a 2-person. This is the main destination of Tour A.

b. Snake Island:

An incredibly picturesque sandbar in El Nido bay, Snake Island is a must-see secluded spot in Palawan. It is named after its shape and not because there are snakes living in the area. This is one of the destinations in Tour B

c. Secret Beach

Secret beach with white sand surrounded by limestone cliffs, guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

Secret beach is found by swimming through a small clearing in the rocks to find a picturesque sandy beach surrounded by stunning limestone. This is one of the destinations in Tour C.

d. 7 Commando Beach

aerial view of 7 Commando Beach, guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

A beautiful white sandy beach with views of the many islands of El Nido, Palawan, named after the 7 commandos that lived here. Usually, the last stop for Tour A where you can relax, swim, snorkel and have a drink.

e. Cadlao Lagoon

Drone shot of Cadlao Lagoon with DJI mini 4 pro, guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

One of the spots to visit with Tour D, the Cadlao Lagoon is another amazing spot to kayak. Paddling through the turquoise water is an enchanting experience. On a shallow area of the lagoon, we were even able to see a sea turtle.

f. Helicopter Island

Drone shot of Helicopter Island with DJI mini 4 pro, guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

This island is named after its shape and where Tour C usually ends. A long-strip of white sand, this place is perfect for relaxing. The water is clear and ideal for swimming and snorkelling.

g. Hidden Beach

Drone shot of Hidden beach with DJI mini 4 pro, guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

Part of Tour C, and one of the unexpected spots you can visit is this beach hidden behind limestone formations. There is a sandy area to relax but you would want to put your snorkel gears on and observe the healthy marine life. The coral is so shallow you'll literally be walking on them.

5. Where to Stay in El Nido, Palawan

Boatwreck found at El nido beach, where to stay in El nido, palawan

El Nido is a fairly large region, but most of the action is centralized in one area. We believe choosing the right location to stay is essential for your enjoyment of your trip here. We highly recommend staying in Barangay Buena Suerte, which is on El Nido beach. Staying here will allow you to walk to the pier for tours and close to the main port of Coron when arriving by ferry. Several streets become walking only at night, where you will find bars, restaurants and street vendors and street foods making the town come alive.

a. Recommendations

Though we recommend staying on the main town, there are plenty of stay options in El Nido depending on what you are looking for. Here is a list of our recommendations:

Mad Monkey Hostel - For the island vibe, located at Nacpan beach, one of the best places to visit in El Nido.

Lime Resort El Nido - For a fancier stay, has free breakfast and a fitness center.

Outpost Beach Hostel (Adults Only) - Beach front hostel with amazing sunset views .

Coco Garden Villas - For a remote stay and closer to the mountains. This stay comes with free breakfast.

El Nido Coco Resort - For local vibe, has an outdoor pool and walking distance to beaches.

MaryGold Beachfront Inn / BPod El Nido - Located at El Nido beach, has free breakfast.

Panari Lodge - Located at Corong Corong Beach, breakfast option available.

6. Enjoying the Local Cuisine

a. Seafood and Local Delights

Seafood dinner at a local restaurant in El Nido, Palawan

El Nido is a food lover's paradise. Don't miss trying the local catch of the day, such as grilled fish and squid or try a local cuisine like adobo and pancit. You can walk around town and look for what your taste buds are craving.

b. Beachfront and Rooftop Dining

Beachfront and patio dining, ultimate guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

Numerous beachfront restaurants offer stunning sunset views. You can easily find one while walking by the beach. Another great option is finding a rooftop restaurant that offers a view of El Nido, Palawan from a different perspective. Either way, you can enjoy a delightful meal while soaking in the beauty of El Nido's coastline.

7. Responsible Tourism Practices

El Nido is committed to sustainable tourism. Respect local ecosystems and adhere to responsible tourism practices. Make sure to leave no trash. Avoid single use plastics and follow designated paths during island tours. Also note that there is an environmental fee of โ‚ฑ200 payable by cash before your tour and it is good for 10 days.

8. Essential Tips for a Memorable Trip

a. Pack Accordingly

Bring essentials like sunscreen, swimwear, waterproof phone case and water shoes especially if doing island hopping as most places have rocky areas. Most of your essential items you can buy around town. The waterproof bags that the vendors sell here are great. For shoes, we recommend bringing your water shoes from home.

b. Flying your drone

kayaking in Cadlao Lagoon, guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

Flying a drone is generally allowed, however you need to plan accordingly when on a joinerโ€™s tour. We are currently using the DJI Mini 4 and it has been amazing - the longer flight time, vertical shooting and the 360 degree obstacle sensing especially flying over islands were our favorite features. Plus the camera quality and stabilization is perfect for beginners. 

c. Cash

While there are ATMs in El Nido town, it's advisable to carry enough cash, especially if you plan to visit remote areas during island-hopping tours. Cash is also ideal for shopping and buying souvenirs. Credit card acceptance is low.

Also take note that kayak and environmental fees are paid in cash and not included in the tour package.

d. Renting a Kayak

kayaking in Cadlao Lagoon, guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

Kayak rentals are available in the island lagoons and can only be paid by cash. It is โ‚ฑ350 for a 3-person kayak and โ‚ฑ300 for a 2-person. Donโ€™t know how to kayak? No problem! Your tour guides can take you on one and can take you on the best spots and will also snap your Instagrammable photos!

couple at the end of a boat, island hopping tour,  guide to exploring, el nido, Palawan, Philippines

e. Embrace the Island Lifestyle

El Nido, Palawan operates at a more relaxed pace. Embrace the island lifestyle, take your time and soak in the natural beauty surrounding you. Donโ€™t be shy to ask for local recommendations.

Final Thoughts

Limestone cliffs and blue waters of El Nido, Philippines

Visiting El Nido is a journey to paradise, where every island and lagoon tells a unique story of nature's beauty. With careful planning and an adventurous spirit, your trip to El Nido is sure to be an unforgettable experience. Get ready to explore the beautiful islands and underwater life of this world-renowned haven.

Heading to Coron next? Check out our Ultimate guide to exploring Coron.

Curious on what drone we have? We currently have the DJI Mini 4 Pro and we couldn't recommend it enough especially for beginners as it has good stabilization and obstacle avoidance (because you don't want to crash on a tree on day 1!)

Exploring other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Japan and Indonesia? Make sure you equip yourself with these helpful Apps and Tips for traveling Southeast Asia.

Enjoy your travels!

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