Philippine Gem: A Complete Guide to El Nido, Palawan

Philippine Gem: A Complete Guide to El Nido, Palawan

Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor Philippines, Travel Blog, Travel Guides 10 Comments

El Nido is known as the Philippines’ last frontier, and if you’re looking for magnificent beaches in an unspoiled setting, it’s a perfect place for you to vacation.” – Tripadvisor

Do a basic research before your trip and you will surely read nothing but good words for the paradise that is El Nido, Palawan. Boasting of its clear waters, superb snorkelling sites, pristine beaches and a laidback atmosphere, the photos you will get to see during your long distance exploration will definitely make you want to jump right in those awesome landscape shots.

Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in El Nido.

el nido getting there

el nido how to get there

El Nido is in general an accessible destination, and routes obviously depend on your point of origin. In this article, we shall briefly discuss the most widely traversed paths on the road to this local pride.

BY AIR

(CHEAP OPTION) Common touchdown point to travellers is the Puerto Princesa Domestic Airport. Popular carriers such as Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia offer low rates to Puerto Princesa. I was able to purchase a return ticket for as low as Php300 – a few weeks before my travel dates!

Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Puerto Princesa.

(OTHER OPTION) Enjoy the luxury of landing directly to El Nido in the comfort of a chartered plane. One-way fare costs around Php7,000. For more information, email this address.

BY SEA

Cargo/Passenger Ferries travel from Manila to El Nido via Coron. More about it here.

el nido transportation

el nido the road from puerto princesa

El Nido is about 5 hours away from Puerto Princesa. Several modes of transportation are made available for the travelling crowd:

BY SHUTTLE VAN

Conveniently located near the airport exit, the van terminal to Puerto Princesa is hard to miss. If booked in advance, a representative will be waiting for you as you exit the airport and assist you on your way to the terminal (which is actually just a breezy 3-minute walk) EULEN JOY charges Php600 per trip. It is best to call in advance for slot reservation, although walk-in passengers are most welcome.

Eulen Joy offers trips every 2 to 3 hours starting from 5:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Call their booking office at 0926-6998700.

BY BUS

If your flight to Puerto Princesa is arriving in the late afternoon (most flights with promotional fares do) CHERRY BUSES have trips as late as 9:00 PM. Call 0935-8666569 for more details.

RORO BUSES, on the other hand, offer trips as early as 4:00 AM. Get in touch with them at 0998-1846761.

e nido locals

el nido locals

El Nido locals are generally pleasant and accommodating. At times, you get to see and test a community’s prevalent culture by the way it treats you especially when you look (and act) like a clueless tourist in the neighborhood. As with El Nido, what probably struck me is their way of “doing business” or “offering services” to you – in a polite, smiling manner, very far from the usual aggressive approach of business people elsewhere.

el nido I met Mr. Philip Morales during my trip in El Nido. He grew up in the area, established a tourism-inclined venture and just recently renovated their beachfront ancestral house to a nice inn overlooking the splendors of the island. He helped me arrange my itinerary and even went way beyond his duties as a host to show us that there is more to El Nido than its pristine beaches (though I think I don’t need more marketing – I’m already sold out!)

Know more about Philip as we move along in the article. He will be more than happy to welcome you to his humble roots.

el nido local life

el nido the way of life

A week is not enough to get a decent grasp of the island lifestyle. With the towering stilts as your backyard and the sound of crashing waves your alarm, you can’t help thinking how good life is, right?

By mere observance of a traveler, the day starts at about 6 AM, when you can already hear students rushing to the nearby school and inn caretakers sweeping the backyard with their trusty brooms.

People and tourists alike roam around early in the morning to catch the laidback sunshine vibe. A land tour in the area will make you appreciate the place even more.

“Are you sure we’re just leaving our vehicle on the side of the road, without any chain lock?”, the city girl in me asked. Our guide just smiled. “Paranoid urban settlers. How can they live life with too much threat?” he must have thought.

el nido getting around

el nido getting around

“Habal-habal” is a popular means of transport in El Nido. It is basically a motorcycle, covered or uncovered, transporting about two people (plus the driver) at a time. Price range varies, depending on the distance and any negotiations made prior to the trip.

Dependable tricycles can also be found in the area. Short distances will cost you about Php20, provided you pick up your ride in the proper terminals.

Vehicles for rent are widely available in El Nido, too. A popular choice for tourists are motorbikes-for-rent.

el nido accommodations

Booking accommodation in El Nido is made hassle-free by the wide choices available both online and onsite. El Nido’s offerings have gradually improved in the course of five years, wherein more local properties are being converted and reconstructed to accommodate the varying needs of the modern tourist.

Related Article: List of Best Hostels in Puerto Princesa, El Nido and Coron

Two Monkeys Travel Group recommends:

OCEAN VISTA INN 

ocean vista el nido

Conveniently situated in Buena Suerte and right in front of the tour boat dock, Ocean Vista is a nice inn owned and managed by Philip, our El Nido host.

The lot formerly housed the family’s home, and when Philip saw the need for an additional accommodation in the area, he decided to convert the place into a three-storey inn. Two floors are dedicated to family and sharing rooms, while the third floor is perfectly conceptualized as a bar overlooking the vast waters and towering cliffs of El Nido.

Give it three to five years more, and Ocean Vista will have a spacious section specifically dedicated to backpackers.

ocean vista el nido

EL NIDO RATES 1

ocean vista el nidoTake note that high season starts in November until June of the following year.

Contact Philip at 0917-5616080. A proper website is under construction; meanwhile, you can contact the team on Facebook. (Mention our blog and they can give you discount!)

ALSO CHECK OUT:

Together Pension – a simple, convenient and well-maintained pension house; also near the tour boat docks. Good choice for unfussy travelers on a budget (but without sacrificing comfort.) Check their reviews on Tripadvisor.

el nido together pension

el nido tours

What is El Nido without island hopping?

The divine tours of El Nido are one of the most sought-after arranged tours in the Philippines. The destination has breath-taking underwater sceneries and spectacular islands to boast, so in order not to miss such beauty, make sure to do a weather check before coming to this destination.

Several instances have been reported wherein tourists were not able to go on already-booked tours because of Signal 1 typhoon warnings from the municipality. Yes, the officials and tour operators take weather announcements from the bureau very seriously, and even if you reason out that no rain seem evident, or worse – you rent a local’s unauthorized boat just to push through with your tour – chances are there will be no one giving in to your appeal. Stay safe and follow regulations, yes?

el nido sealand ventureTwo Monkeys Recommends:

SEALAND VENTURE EL NIDO

Before joining the accommodation providing sector, Philip has already made a name for giving professional and fun island tours through his business Sealand Venture. Its office is situated right near the bay wherein tours commence (with Ocean Vista now as its backdrop). Aside from its office’s accessibility to tourists, Sealand Venture also takes pride of its well-trained staff and safe vessels. Rates are found below:

EL NIDO RATES 2

el nido tour a

EL NIDO TOUR A

el nido tour c

EL NIDO TOUR C

el nido tour combo

EL NIDO TOURS B & D – COMBINATION

Included in the tour rates are as follows:

Licensed boat, Licensed in-house tour guide (1 tour guide per 6 persons), Passenger insurance, Picnic lunch, Drinking water, Mask / snorkel, Towels, Hotel pick-up

All tours start at 9:00 AM. Lunch commences in one of the stopovers at about 1:00 PM. Expect to arrive back in town by 4:00 PM. As with combination tours, two tours will have to be squeezed in on a 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM time frame. No tour boats are allowed to go past 6:00 PM.

In a dilemma which island tour to choose? If you need to choose…

ONLY 1 TOUR – Go for Tour C

el nido tour c

Why: Based from reviews and local recommendations, Tour C is the most picked option among all tours. It features good diving sites and varied sceneries. Our tour guide said that most postcard-worthy photos that we see all around media are in Tour C. The view of El Nido atop the Matinloc Shrine cliffs is a must-see.

ONLY 2 TOURS – Go for Tours A & C

el nido tour a

Why: Personally, on picking the best tour, it was a really close call between Tours A and C. A definite good addition to your already-awesome Tour C would be Tour A’s Small and Big Lagoons. You can rent paddleboards and kayaks in this area for about Php200.

ONLY 3 TOURS – Go for Tours A, C and B

el nido tour combo

Why: Make your visit even more memorable by adding in Tour B. On this tour, you get to explore the Cudognon cave from the inside and walk through Snake Island’s sandbar.

LEAVING OUT TOUR D?

Why: Don’t get me wrong – Tour D is also remarkable, but its offerings are not as grand as the three’s. Upon snorkeling in the aforementioned tours, your tendency is to expect that all snorkelling sites are as superb as the others’. What you can experience in Tour D, you can also experience in the other tours.

el nido las cabanas

Rainy season? Do not fret. Inland tours are almost always available!

Get personal advice from a trusted local. Contact Philip at 0917-5616080 or drop him a message on Facebook.

el nido food

There has been no major disappointment with regards to offerings during our stay in El Nido. It actually has a lot to offer, cuisine type-wise:

“I’m craving for…”

COMFORT FOOD: Try EL NIDO PIZZA

LocationClick here

Must-order: Any flavor of their hand-tossed brick oven pizza, Mushroom risotto

Price range: Php 400 to 500 for a group of 3 small eaters

SEAFOOD: Try SQUIDO’S

LocationClick here

Must-order: Seafood curry, stuffed squid

Price range: Php 500 for a group of 2 hungry tourists

el nido food

WESTERN FOOD: Try V&V BAGEL

LocationClick here

Must-order: Delicatessen Bagel

Price range: Php 250 for a person who would like to splurge on food

LATE-NIGHT DRINKS: Try LONESOME CARABAO

LocationClick here

Must-order: Quesadillas partnered with their local and foreign liquor brands

Price range: Php500 per person for a night of adult fun

el nido food

DESSERT: Try BELLE ILE TAKE OUT RESTAURANT

LocationClick here

Must-order: Honey calamansi crepe, Assortment of muffins

Price range: Php 100 for a person who likes desserts so much

For travellers on a tight budget, there will always be a trusty nearby carinderia in every turn, and food choices vary daily. You only have dinner to think about, anyway, as breakfast would almost always be included in your accommodation and lunch will be served during tours.

el nido essentials

Aside from your usual travel must-have, these are some essential items you might want to highly consider bringing with you when you come to El Nido:

  • Powerbanks (One thing you need to take into consideration when going to El Nido is its recurring electricity blackout. Know the “no-electricity schedule” once you arrive. Although most establishments do have their own generator sets, some small businesses still do not have theirs.)
  • Waterproof pouch for your mobile phone (The Php50-pouch in Divisoria worked fine.)
  • Waterproof or underwater camera (That DSLR will almost always have to stay in your bag during tours, except if it is properly geared for water activities. If you have no waterproof camera, there are some for rent in the area – talk to your Tour Provider beforehand.)
  • Extra money during tours (You will be asked to pay a one-time environmental fee. Allot a sum for tips as well, if you are the kind who gives.)

el nido why go back

If you have seen all tours…

There will always be that one tour which will emerge as your favorite. Why not go back, take that tour and linger longer? Better yet, bring your friends and family who have not been to this paradise before. You’ll be with a new set of explorers – who knows what awesomeness that brings?

GROUP

If you have seen all tours, but just ‘dropped by’ at the Secret Beach (which cannot be accessed during high tide)…

I believe it is worth going back to. It will not be ‘secret’ for nothing, right?

e nido under the sea

If you have picked only one or two tours…

Take a chance on the other tours that you missed. Anyway, in a year or so you will find yourself daydreaming about El Nido again!

el nido with family

If you were not able to take any tours due to unforeseen circumstances…

Need I say more? El Nido is waiting for you, my friend!

e nido sealand venture

A Note of Gratitude: Two Monkeys Travel Group would like to thank Mr. Philip Morales of Ocean Vista Inn & Sealand Venture for a superb El Nido experience!

Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Palawan.

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Comments 10

  1. thank you for writing such a nice post on El Nido! I’m planning a trip to the Philippines for 2019 and I’m still doing a lot of research to see what I can do during my 3 weeks there! I want to do some diving, I’ve heard that Paglugaban is a fantastic cave to explore, but I really want to see all the best that this part of the world has to offer.

  2. Very informative El Nido blog I’ve read so far! Readers would really dream of going to El Nido upon reading your blog. Keep it up…

  3. Hi Pauline!
    My boyfriend and I were looking to go to El Nido at the end of the year. I’ve read some disturbing things about safety in the area and was wondering if you could shed some light on precautionary measures to take. Is it ideal to go what with the occurrence of kidnappings etc…any info. Would be muchly appreciated!

    1. Hello Ameera,
      As someone that has been to El Nido and to many parts of the Philippines, El Nido is not the area you need to worry about. The island of Palawan is massive. The island is roughly 65o kms long. El Nido is at the northern tip of the island, and the security threat comes from the far southern tip of the island. I will be traveling to El Nido in August and I always feel more safe in El Nido than I do in many parts of America. The people of Palawan are some of the most generous people in the world. They may not be the richest (monetarily) but if you are in need, many will give you the shirt off their back.

  4. Hi Pauline!
    I am having a hard time figuring out Airswift’s baggage allowance. If I bring 20kg in December (prior to Dec. 15), how much (extra) would I have to pay? How about after Dec. 15? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  5. Wow!!it’s really amazing…I can’t wait to go there..We’re planning to go to El Nido month of oct.this year..Beautiful..

  6. hi,
    i just wanna ask which camera did you use during your tour? all your pictures are amazing!!

    thanks,
    jeff

  7. What an informative post! I have a question though. If I’m traveling on a budget, should I go to El Nido, Coron, or Puerto Princesa? Thanks! 🙂

    1. Hi Faith! Thank you =) Ironic as it may seem, El Nido is out of the list then, and it would be a battle against Coron and Puerto Princesa. The expense of travelling to El Nido from the airport is the sole factor I considered for you. Aside from that, the three will require almost the same budget from you.
      I guess it will totally depend on the cost of your flight tickets. Frequent seat sales – by observation this point goes to Puerto Princesa.

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