El Nido was one of the top destinations in the Philippines that I wanted to visit during my early years of traveling.

This coastal town found on the northernmost tip of mainland Palawan is home to gorgeous islands, white-sand beaches, and lagoons. It should be on your bucketlist of places to go in the country because the sea views here rival the best of Asia.

El Nido had changed quite a bit since my first visit. There had been a lot of improvements including how easier it is to get to, now, and the wider variety of options on places to stay, eat, etc…

I truly recommend a visit, especially for first-time travelers to the Philippines.

Get started

How to go — Most travelers arrive in El Nido on a 1.5-hour flight to Puerto Princesa Airport (PPS), followed by a 5-6 hour shuttle ride. Princesa Airport serves direct flights from Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, Clark, and Davao. If you want to skip the long land journey, fly directly to El Nido from Manila, Cebu or Boracay-Caticlan. This is the fastest but more expensive way. For adventurous travelers who want to maximize their trip, book a flight to Coron-Busuanga Airport (USU) and continue the sea journey to El Nido by ferry.

Don’t miss island hopping in El Nido — The boat tours around Bacuit Bay islands is the main highlight in El Nido. Don’t ever skip it during your first trip. The best spots are found in “Tour A” & “Tour C.” Book the combination tours, especially “Combo Tour A + C,” if it is available.

You need to go on a 3-day trip, or longer — El Nido island hopping tours usually start in the morning and run the whole day. Taking into account the long journey from Puerto Princesa, you’ll have to add one day each for your arrival and departure in Palawan. So, 3 days is the minimum, but I recommend that you spend at least 4 days so that you can enjoy 2 full days for island hopping & inland tours. They are worth it!

Bring all the cash you need — Do not rely on getting money from the ATMs in El Nido. There are only two of them in town (as of early 2017). It will be safer to withdraw your money in Puerto Princesa or before arriving in Palawan.

Pre-book online — You can remedy the issue above by booking your room and tours online before your trip. That way, you can bring less cash with you.

El Nido hotels & hostels

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El Nido tours & packages

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El Nido does not have to be expensive — Many people think of posh island resorts with a mention of El Nido. Truth is, there are many options here for travelers on a tight budget. If you can afford to stay in a luxury resort, go for it! If you want to save money, stay at many budget-friendly hotels and hostels in mainland El Nido. You can enjoy the islands on day tours.

El Nido is very solo travel-friendly — This town is one of the few places in the Philippines that can be traveled easily and cheaply by solo travelers. The daily island hopping tours accept joiners & there are a lot of these tours organized daily, even on low tourist seasons.

El Nido tourist spots & things to do

1. Go island hopping around Bacuit Bay islands — See amazing underwater and “over water” views of El Nido. These islands are found just off the coast of the town proper.

Island hopping in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Shimizu Island in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Secret Lagoon Beach in Miniloc Island, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Matinloc Island in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

2. See Nacpan and Calitang — The twin beaches of El Nido.

Calitang Beach, in El Nido, Palawan Philippines

3. Take a sunset stroll along Corong-Corong and Marimegmeg Beaches — Get away from the crowded main beach of El Nido and enjoy peaceful late afternoon views. These sandy shores can be reached on a quick tricycle ride from the town proper.

Sunset from Corong-Corong Beach in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

4. Hike to the top of Taraw Peak — Enjoy breathtaking views overlooking El Nido. This steep karst hill is located right within the town proper.

Overlooking Bacuit Bay Islands of El Nido from Taraw Peak, in Palawan, Philippines

5. Try the Bird’s Nest soup — This rare and often expensive Chinese delicacy is made from the nest of swiftlets (Balinsasayaw) that are harvested in El Nido. One kilogram of the edible nest can fetch prices of up to USD1,000 in Hong Kong and the US. Get a taste of it in El Nido, where it is a lot cheaper.

6. Indulge in fresh seafood — Go on a food trip in many seafood restaurants along El Nido beachfront.

7. Explore inland El Nido — In addition to Nacpan and Calitang twin beaches, there are many places to see in El Nido mainland like Makinit Hot Springs, Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls, Kuyawayaw Waterfalls & Sibaltan Beach.

Beyond El Nido

8. Discover Coron, Taytay, and Linapacan — El Nido’s Bacuit Bay is just one of the islands groups in Northern Palawan. Adventurous travelers can ride a ferry to more islands worth visiting in Coron, Taytay, and Linapacan.

9. See mainland Palawan — Take a land trip south and visit beautiful spots dotted on Palawan mainland. Extend your trip to Taytay, San Vicente / Port Barton, Puerto Princesa, Tabon Caves in Quezon and Balabac.

Where to stay?

The most popular place to stay is in El Nido town proper area. You can find many hotels along the beachfront and nearby streets that cater to budget-conscious and mid-range travelers. This area is perfect if you want to stay within easy walking distance to a wide variety of restaurants, bars, shopping, and tourist offices.

If you want to enjoy El Nido’s best, stay at many island resorts in Bacuit Bay. Not only do they offer amazing private beach views, they are also a short boat ride away from the island hopping highlights in town.

Stay at peaceful resorts along beaches near the town proper if you want to stay away from the crowds, including Corong-Corong Beach, Marimegmeg Beach, Sibaltan Beach.

El Nido resorts, hotels & hostels

See top rated resorts, hotels, hostels & pension houses in El Nido. Click below to check rates, discounts & guest reviews.

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1. Our Melting Pot Hostel

Budget backpacker | El Nido Town Proper

2. Spin Designer Hostel El Nido

Budget backpacker | El Nido Proper

3. El Nido Viewdeck Cottages

Budget | El Nido Proper

4. Bnky Bed and Breakfast

Budget | El Nido Proper

5. Swiftlets Inn

Mid-range | El Nido Proper

6. Joaquinn’s Bed & Breakfast

Mid-range | El Nido Proper

7. Lolo Oyong El Nido Pension House

Mid-range | El Nido Proper

8. El Nido Bayview Hotel

Splurge | Marimegmeg Beach

9. El Nido Resorts Miniloc Island

Splurge | Miniloc Island

10. Matinloc Resort

Splurge | Matinloc Island

11. Cauayan Island Resort

Splurge | Cauayan Island

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El Nido Itinerary

Here’s a sample itinerary that you can follow during your trip. Scroll down for the budget and list of expenses.

4 days El Nido trip via Puerto Princesa

Day 1

5:50 am — Manila to Puerto Princesa flight departure.

7:10 am — Puerto Princesa Airport (PPS) arrival.

7:10 am to 1 pm — Puerto Princesa to El Nido transport shuttle transfer. Ride a direct shuttle to El Nido at the airport parking if available.

1 pm — Arrival in El Nido

Visit El Nido Tourism Office. Register & pay PHP 200 Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF)

1 pm onwards — Visit Taraw Peak or go sightseeing in El Nido town proper.

Rest in El Nido

Day 2

8 am to 5 pm — El Nido “Combo Tour A+C” island hopping

5 pm to 6 pm — Sunset at Corong-Corong Beach / Marimegmeg Beach

Rest in El Nido

Day 3

8 am to 5 pm — El Nido inland tour.

5 pm onwards — El Nido town proper sightseeing / pasalubong shopping

Rest in El Nido

Day 4

7 am — El Nido to Puerto Princesa transport on bus / shuttle van

1 pm — Puerto Princesa arrival

1 pm to 4 pm — Puerto Princesa city tour / pasalubong shopping

4 pm — Flight check-in at Puerto Princesa Airport.

5:50 pm — Puerto Princesa to Manila flight

7:10 pm — Manila Airport arrival

If you only have 3 days to spend in El Nido, you can skip “Day 3” of the itinerary posted above. If you are not up for the Taraw Cliff hike, you can visit Nacpan-Calitang Twin Beaches instead.

El Nido budget

To help you set a budget, here are expenses you can expect to spend during your trip.

Expenses breakdownPricePrice per person. 2 people in group.
Puerto Princesa to El Nido shuttle — One-way fare per person.PHP 550
El Nido terminal to town proper tricycle — One-way fare per tricycle.PHP 50PHP25
El Nido Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF) — Price per person.PHP 200
Taraw cliff climbing — Guide fee, up to 3 people.PHP 500PHP 250
El Nido island hopping combo tour A + C — Rate per person.PHP 2,000
El Nido inland tour tricycle rental/charter — Whole day (round trip) rate per tricycle.PHP 1,500PHP 750
Marimegmeg Beach tricycle charter — Round trip rate per tricyclePHP 300PHP 150
Puerto Princesa Airport terminal fee — Price per person.PHP 200
Food — Budget per day, per person.P300 to P600
Mid-range hotel — Aircon room good for two people. Rate per room per night.PHP 2,400PHP 1,200
Backpacker hostel dorm/bed — Rate per person per night.PHP 450

Here are the budget estimates for the 4 days El Nido itinerary posted above. It includes accommodation, food, transport and all tours in El Nido. It excludes the cost of flights and tours you might want to do during your transit in Puerto Princesa.

Budget estimate per person2 people in groupSolo traveler
Budget backpackerPHP 7,000PHP 8,500
Mid-range travelPHP 10,000PHP 15,550

If is, of course, possible to travel cheaper in El Nido and bring the budget down to P6,000 or less.

You can easily do this by traveling in a bigger group so that expenses are shared among more people. If you are traveling solo, look for other travelers willing to join you.

Also, If you’re only interested in the island hopping tours, you can skip the inland tours and do two full days on Tour C and Tour A instead.

Travel tips before you go

How to get from Manila to El Nido?

You can either book a flight via Puerto Princesa, El Nido Airport or Coron.

Via Puerto Princesa Airport (PPS) — The most popular and cheapest way. Go on a 1.5-hour flight to Puerto Princesa. Then, ride a bus or shuttle van to El Nido (5 to 6 hours). Flights are operated by Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, AirAsia.

Via El Nido Airport (ENI) — The most convenient but expensive option is to fly directly to El Nido Airport. Manila-El Nido flights only take one hour. From El Nido Airport, the town center is a 15-minute ride away by shuttle van or tricycle. Flights are operated by AirSWIFT.

Via Coron-Busuanga Airport (USU) — If you are feeling adventurous, you can book a flight to Coron. Then, continue the journey to El Nido by ferry. That way, you can maximize your time and visit two of Palawan’s best destinations in one trip. Flights are operated by Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, SkyJet, Air Juan.

Palawan flights

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How to get from Cebu, Clark, Iloilo, Davao & Boracay to El Nido?

If you are coming from places in the Philippines outside Manila, you can book a flight to Palawan from Cebu, Clark, Iloilo, Davao & Boracay.

Here are alternative routes you can consider booking:

Cebu – Puerto Princesa (1 hour) — Operated by Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, AirAsia.

Cebu – El Nido (1.5 hours) — Operated by AirSWIFT.

Clark – Puerto Princesa (1.5 hours) — Operated by Philippine Airlines.

Iloilo – Puerto Princesa (2 hours) — Operated by Cebu Pacific.

Davao – Puerto Princesa (2.5 hours) — Operated by AirAsia.

Boracay (Caticlan) – El Nido (50 minutes) — Operated by AirSWIFT.

How to get from Puerto Princesa to El Nido?

Ride a van from Puerto Princesa Airport arrivals area. Travel time by shuttle takes 5 to 6 hours. You can also catch a bus (P360+ to P480+ fare per person) or van (P550 to P600 fare per person) from San Jose Terminal located on the outskirts of the city center. Travel time by bus may take 7 hours, or more if the bus makes frequent stops along the way.

Vans depart from San Jose Terminal almost every hour from 5 am to 6 pm. Meanwhile, Cherry & RORO buses depart almost every hour from 4 am to 10 pm.

To get to San Jose Terminal, can charter a tricycle from the airport (P100 per ride). If you prefer to do a local commute, ride a tricycle from the airport exit (main road) to Junction 1 (P8 fare per person). Then, ride a multicab / jeepney to San Jose Terminal (P13 fare per person).

How to get from Coron to El Nido?

Coron to El Nido ferries depart once a day, 3 times a week. This route is operated by MBCA/Overcomer. Travel time takes around 7 to 8 hours. Book in advance because the ferry trip may be fully booked on the day of departure.

How to find cheap flights to El Nido?

The easy way is to search on airfare comparison sites that can show you the lowest fares on many airlines in one go. You can also check promo fares for flights on sale & discounts.

Start now on Momondo, or Wego.

What tour should I book?

You can choose between many types of standard island hopping tour routes. They are codenamed “Tour A,” “Tour B,” “Tour C,” etc.. You can go on a mixed/combination tour, if available. For example, “Combo Tour A+B” and “Combo Tour C+D.”

The best spots are in “Tour A” and “Tour C.” So, book a “Combo Tour A+C” if your can.

See the list below for a list of islands & spots included in each route:

El Nido island hopping tour packages

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Island hopping tour A — Small Lagoon*, Big Lagoon*, Secret Lagoon*, Shimizu Island*, 7 Commando Beach.

Island hopping tour B — Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Beach*, Cudugnon Cave, Snorkeling Site.

Island hopping tour C — Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine*, Secret Beach, Star Beach, Hidden Beach.

Island hopping tour D — Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach, Bukal Beach.

*Items marked with an asterisk are the best spots.

Other tours & packages

Taraw cliff climbing

El Nido inland tour — Nacpan-Calitang Twin Beach, Las Cabanas Beach, Nagkalit-kalit Falls / Bulalacao Falls

How to book an island hopping tour?

You can book your island hopping trip when you arrive in El Nido. Multiple tours run every day. It is very easy to find and book one even in the low tourist season. The tours start early in the morning, so you need to make arrangements a day before or earlier.

There are a lot of offices along the main tourist area in El Nido town proper that sell these tours. You can shop around before booking to get the best deal. Tours usually have picnic lunch, drinking water, and snorkeling gear (mask/fins) included in the package.

Better yet, book your tour online to avoid the hassle of bringing large amounts of cash on your actual trip.

Eco Tourism Development Fee

This is P200 fee is required for all tourists visiting El Nido. It is paid once per person, valid for all tours for a 10 day period. If you’ve already paid the fee, take the receipt with you.

Should I book my room online?

It’s highly recommended that you book your stay online to get ahead of fully-booked rooms & enjoy cashless convenience.

See the best rates available today by searching below:

You can find many places to stay, book cheap prices, and read guest reviews on these trusted travel sites:

AgodaBooking.com

Is there an ATM in El Nido? Where can I withdraw money?

Yes. You use your ATM card to withdraw money from these locations: (1) RCBC ATM at the municipal hall entrance; (2) BPI Branch ATM. These ATMs accept international cards but be mindful of daily withdrawal limits, which is usually P20,000 per day.

Prepare extra batteries

Power outages are common in the mainland. Bring a power bank and extra batteries for your camera/phone to avoid running out of power during your trip.

How many days to spend in El Nido?

You should spend at least 2 full days for El Nido island hopping & inland tours. Considering the long travel time to get to El Nido, plan a 4-day trip, or longer, if you are traveling via Puerto Princesa Airport.