El Nido Travel Guide

Overview of El Nido

El Nido, nestled in the northern part of Palawan, Philippines, stands as a tropical haven celebrated for its breathtaking natural beauty and unspoiled landscapes. The allure of El Nido lies in its pristine beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and iconic limestone cliffs that define the region's dramatic scenery.

A quintessential El Nido experience involves embarking on island-hopping adventures, where each tour unveils hidden lagoons, vibrant coral reefs, and secluded beaches. The towering limestone karst formations create a mesmerizing backdrop, contributing to the enchanting charm of this paradise.

The Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon are among El Nido's signature attractions, drawing visitors with their crystalline waters enclosed by towering cliffs. Kayaking and swimming in these lagoons offer a serene escape into nature's beauty.

Nacpan and Las Cabanas Beaches add to El Nido's allure, featuring long stretches of powdery white sand and clear waters. Nacpan Beach, often acclaimed as one of the world's most beautiful beaches, invites relaxation amid a picturesque coastal setting.

For diving and snorkeling enthusiasts, El Nido's diverse marine life is a treasure trove to explore. Bacuit Bay is teeming with vibrant coral reefs and an array of marine species, making underwater adventures an integral part of the El Nido experience.

El Nido is also known for its secret and hidden beaches, accessible only by boat or through challenging hikes. These secluded spots offer a sense of exclusivity and tranquility, allowing visitors to connect with nature in a more intimate setting.

In the lively town center of El Nido, vibrant restaurants, bars, and shops create a bustling atmosphere. This hub serves as a convenient base for travelers to unwind, dine on local delicacies, and share stories of their exploration in this captivating slice of paradise.

Where to Go


El Nido is renowned for its island-hopping, categorised into Tours A, B, C, and D. Each tour takes you to different islands, beaches, and lagoons, providing a diverse range of landscapes and marine attractions.

Big Lagoon

One of El Nido's iconic attractions, the Big Lagoon captivates visitors with its stunning limestone cliffs and crystal-clear waters. Kayaking or boating through the lagoon's entrance is a surreal experience.

Small Lagoon

Tucked away behind towering karst formations, the Small Lagoon offers an intimate and serene environment. Kayak through its narrow entrance to discover the lagoon's calm waters surrounded by limestone walls.

Nacpan Beach

A paradise for beach lovers, Nacpan Beach boasts a long stretch of white sand and turquoise waters. Relax, swim, and enjoy the scenic views of this pristine coastline.

Las Cabanas Beach

Known for its vibrant sunsets, Las Cabanas Beach offers a laid-back atmosphere. Climb up the viewpoint for panoramic views of the bay, or unwind on the beach with a refreshing drink.

Secret Lagoon

Accessible through a small crevice in the rocks, the Secret Lagoon provides an intimate and secluded setting. Navigate through the entrance during low tide to discover a hidden world of tranquil waters.

Matinloc Shrine

Located on Matinloc Island, this historical site features a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The island also offers picturesque views and hidden beaches for exploration.

Shimizu Island

A popular stop for snorkeling, Shimizu Island boasts vibrant coral reefs and an abundance of marine life. It's an ideal spot for underwater enthusiasts to witness the beauty of El Nido's diverse ecosystem.

Seven Commandos Beach

With its palm-fringed shoreline and inviting waters, Seven Commandos Beach is perfect for relaxation and water activities. The beach is named after seven Japanese commandos who reportedly lived here after World War II.

Corong-Corong Beach

Just a short distance from El Nido town, Corong-Corong Beach offers a tranquil escape with a laid-back atmosphere. It's a great place to unwind, enjoy local cuisine, and witness stunning sunsets.

What to Do

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Dive into the crystal-clear waters to witness the rich marine life and vibrant coral reefs. El Nido is a haven for snorkelers and divers, offering a chance to encounter diverse underwater ecosystems.

Kayaking in Lagoons

Rent a kayak and paddle through the enchanting lagoons like the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon. Enjoy the calm waters surrounded by towering limestone cliffs.

Sunset Watching

Head to Las Cabanas Beach or Corong-Corong Beach to witness breathtaking sunsets. Relax on the shore or from a beachfront bar while enjoying the stunning views.

Join Local Tour

Explore the diverse beauty of El Nido through island-hopping tours (Tours A, B, C, and D). Discover hidden lagoons, pristine beaches, and vibrant coral reefs on each tour.

Nacpan Beach Day Trip

Spend a day at Nacpan Beach, basking in the sun on its long stretch of white sand. Swim in the clear waters and appreciate the picturesque coastal scenery.

Climb Taraw Cliff

For a challenging adventure, embark on the Taraw Cliff climb. Once at the top, enjoy panoramic views of El Nido and its surrounding islands.

Explore Secret Beaches

Seek out the hidden and secret beaches during island-hopping tours. These secluded spots offer privacy and a chance to connect with nature.

Visit Matinloc Shrine

Discover the historical Matinloc Shrine on Matinloc Island. Explore the shrine, enjoy scenic views, and uncover hidden beaches on the island.

Relax at Corong-Corong

Enjoy a leisurely day at Corong-Corong Beach. Unwind in beachfront accommodations, indulge in spa treatments, and relish the tranquil atmosphere.

When is the Best Time to Visit El Nido

The best time to visit El Nido is during the dry season, which spans from November to April. This period offers travelers optimal weather conditions with clear skies, abundant sunshine, and minimal rainfall. The seas are generally calm, creating ideal circumstances for island-hopping, snorkeling, and diving adventures. The peak tourist season falls within this timeframe, attracting visitors from around the world who seek to experience El Nido's stunning landscapes, vibrant atmosphere, and bustling energy. With comfortable temperatures, excellent visibility for underwater activities, and the chance to witness breathtaking sunsets, the dry season provides a quintessential tropical island experience in one of the Philippines' most captivating destinations.

The wet season (May to October) is characterised by occasional rain showers and fewer tourists, those seeking a quieter experience may find it appealing, along with potential cost savings on accommodations and tours. Ultimately, the choice of when to visit El Nido depends on individual preferences, balancing weather considerations with the desire for a more tranquil or vibrant atmosphere.

How to Get to El Nido

By Air

For those arriving internationally, the journey to El Nido often begins with a flight to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila, the Philippines' primary international gateway. Following your arrival in Manila, the next step involves catching a domestic flight to Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS) in Palawan. Airlines like Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and AirAsia operate flights to Puerto Princesa. The flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa typically takes around 1.5 to 2 hours. Once you land in Puerto Princesa, the final leg of the journey to El Nido is covered by land transportation, with vans or buses offering a 5 to 6-hour scenic ride covering approximately 220 kilometers. Alternatively, for a more direct but pricier option, you can opt for a direct flight from Manila to El Nido via AirSwift.

By Sea

For those seeking a maritime adventure, ferry services operate from Manila to Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan. Departing from various ports in Manila, ferries take approximately 24 to 30 hours to reach Puerto Princesa. Upon arrival in Puerto Princesa, travelers can then take vans or buses for the 5 to 6-hour overland journey to El Nido. This option provides a slower but potentially more scenic route, allowing passengers to enjoy the sea breeze and coastal views.

How to Get Around

By Tricycle

Tricycles are the primary mode of transportation within El Nido town and for short-distance travel.

By Motorbike / Scooter Rental

Renting a motorbike or scooter is a popular choice for those who prefer more independence in exploring El Nido and its surroundings.

Ideal for exploring nearby beaches, viewpoints, and attractions at your own pace.

By Walking

El Nido town is relatively compact, making it walkable for those who enjoy exploring on foot.

What to Eat

El Nido offers a diverse array of dining options catering to various budgets and preferences.

Local Food

El Nido, being a coastal town in the Philippines, offers a variety of local dishes and delightful array of local restaurants such as Art Cafe, El Nido Corner, Sea Slugs Beach Bar & Restaurant and Gusto Gelato & Caffe.

Fresh Seafood

Given its coastal location, El Nido is a seafood lover's paradise. Freshly caught fish, shrimp, crabs, and squid are often prepared in various delicious ways. Here are some of notable restaurants Cadlao Restaurant, Angel Wish Restaurant and Jarace Grill.

Western Food

Travellers seeking a taste of Western cuisine will find a selection of restaurants that blend international flavours with the tropical ambiance of the Philippines. Along the vibrant streets of El Nido town, you can discover establishments offering Western-style dishes in a relaxed and beachfront setting. Notable restaurants include Art Café, known for its picturesque views and a menu that spans Western, Filipino, and fusion dishes. Happiness Beach Bar provides a laid-back atmosphere with options like burgers and pasta.

For those craving wood-fired pizza, Trattoria Altrove is a popular choice, offering an authentic taste of Italy. These Western dining spots not only serve delectable dishes but also provide a cozy retreat for travellers looking to savour familiar flavours amid the stunning landscapes of El Nido

What to Buy

Exploring the vibrant markets and quaint shops in El Nido offers travelers the opportunity to bring home a piece of this tropical paradise.

From local handicrafts to unique souvenirs, there's a range of items to consider purchasing. Delight in intricately woven traditional Filipino textiles such as "malongs" or "sarongs," showcasing the artistry of indigenous craftsmanship. Capture the essence of Palawan with intricately designed pearl jewelry, a specialty of the region. Local markets feature an array of shell and woodcraft items, each telling a story of the island's rich cultural heritage.

For those looking to indulge in culinary delights, consider taking home native delicacies like cashew nuts and tablea, a traditional Filipino chocolate.

Where to Stay

El Nido offers a diverse range of accommodations to suit various preferences and budgets, providing a comfortable haven for travellers amidst its breathtaking landscapes. From beachfront resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses, the options are plentiful.

For those seeking a luxurious experience, beachfront resorts like El Nido Resorts Pangulasian Island and Miniloc Island Resort offer top-notch amenities, stunning views, and exclusive access to pristine beaches.

Travellers on a mid-range budget can explore boutique hotels such as Cadlao Resort & Restaurant, blending comfort with a tropical ambiance. These establishments often feature well-appointed rooms and facilities, including pools and on-site dining.

Budget-conscious travellers have an array of guesthouses and hostels to choose from, such as Spin Designer Hostel and Mad Monkey Hostel, providing affordable accommodations without compromising on social vibes.

What to Bring

  • Bring sunscreen with high SPF to protect your skin from the tropical sun. Pack a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for added protection.
  • El Nido is a tropical destination, so insect repellent can be handy, especially during certain times of the year.
  • Sandals, flip-flops, or comfortable walking shoes are ideal for exploring the beaches and town.
  • Carry a daypack or beach bag for your essentials during day trips and island explorations.
  • If you have your snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel, fins), it can be beneficial for exploring the vibrant underwater life.
  • Capture the stunning landscapes and underwater beauty of El Nido with a camera or GoPro.
  • While rain showers are infrequent, a light rain jacket can be useful during the occasional tropical downpour.
  • Bring a travel adapter to charge your electronic devices.
  • Pack any necessary medications and a basic first aid kit.
  • Stay hydrated by bringing a reusable water bottle. It's important to drink plenty of water in the tropical climate.
  • Don't forget your passport, travel insurance, and any necessary permits or reservations.
  • While some places accept credit cards, it's advisable to have some cash, especially for small establishments and local markets.

What to Wear

Prepare for the tropical paradise of El Nido by packing a wardrobe that embraces comfort and versatility. Opt for light and breathable clothing, such as cotton or linen shirts, shorts, and sundresses, ensuring you stay cool in the warm weather. Pack swimwear for beach activities and cover-ups or sarongs for easy transitions. Comfortable footwear like sandals or flip-flops is perfect for exploring sandy beaches and navigating the town.

Things to Note

  • El Nido is known for its pristine natural beauty, and it's crucial to practice responsible tourism. Respect local ecosystems, dispose of waste properly, and follow Leave No Trace principles.
  • While some establishments accept credit cards, it is advisable to carry cash, especially for smaller shops, markets, and local services. ATMs are available in El Nido town, but it's wise to have sufficient cash on hand.
  • El Nido has a tropical climate, and weather conditions can vary. Check the weather forecast before your trip and be prepared for occasional rain showers, especially during the wet season.
  • Stay hydrated in the tropical climate and use sunscreen to protect your skin. Bring any necessary medications, a basic first aid kit, and be cautious of food and water hygiene.
  • Internet connectivity may be limited in some areas of El Nido, especially on remote islands. Plan accordingly, and enjoy the opportunity to disconnect and immerse yourself in the natural beauty.
  • During peak seasons, it's advisable to make accommodation reservations in advance, especially if you have specific preferences. El Nido's popularity can lead to a high demand for lodging.

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