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 that combines pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and breathtaking limestone cliffs? Look no further than El Nido, a town nestled in the Palawan archipelago of the Philippines. Famous for its stunning landscapes and vibrant marine life, El Nido is a traveler's dream destination. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the essential steps on how to visit El Nido, Palawan and make the most of your tropical getaway.

Here's our 4K drone footage from our trip to El Nido, Palawan! Link to our drone here.

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.

El Nido, Palawan. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days. Big lagoon, small lagoon kayak.

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. 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. Palawan’s reefs are home to sea turtles, harmless but beautiful whale sharks, and countless species of tropical fish.

El Nido, Palawan. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days. Big lagoon, small lagoon kayak.

Tour A: most popular. Big Lagoon > Secret Lagoon > Shimizu Island > 7 Commando Beach. Highly rated due to two lagoon visits, including kayaking and snorkelling across impressive coral reefs, and concluding 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 on our tour!

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

El Nido, Palawan. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days. Big lagoon, small lagoon kayak.

A mesmerizing emerald-green lagoon surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. Kayaking is a popular activity here, with rentals available on site, ₱350 for a 3-person kayak and ₱300 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

El Nido, Palawan. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days. Secret beach.

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

El Nido, Palawan. 7 Commando Beach. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days.

A beautiful 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

El Nido, Palawan. Cadlao Lagoon. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days.

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

El Nido, Palawan. Helicopter Island. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days.

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

El Nido, Palawan. Hidden beach. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days.

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

El Nido, Palawan. Where to stay. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days.

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’d 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 also enjoy the vibrant night-life of Palawan. Several streets become walking-only at night, where you will find bars, restaurants and street vendors under the lights.

a. 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 centre.

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

El Nido town, Palawan. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days.

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

El Nido, Palawan. Nightlife. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days.

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 200 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

El Nido, Palawan. Drone footage. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days.

Flying a drone is generally allowed, however you need to plan accordingly when on a joiner’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 is stunning. 

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

El Nido, Palawan. Big lagoon kayak. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days.

Kayak rentals are available in the island lagoons and can only be paid by cash. It is ₱350 for a 3-person kayak and ₱300 for a 2-person. Don’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!

e. Embrace the Island Lifestyle

El Nido, Palawan boat. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days.

El Nido, Palawan operates at a more relaxed pace. Embrace the island lifestyle, take your time, and savour the natural beauty surrounding you. Don’t be shy to ask for local recommendations.

In Conclusion

El Nido, Palawan. Island drone footage. How to go, what to see, what to do, how many days.

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 immerse yourself in the beauty of this world-renowned haven and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Deciding between El Nido or Coron? Check out our Guide to Coron, here.

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