El Nido, Palawan, Philippines: Travel Guide

We arrived in El Nido at around 8PM, so it’s already dark when we rode the tricycle from the bus station to the hotel. We’re a little worried at first because we are not yet familiar with the place. But according to the landlady of the hotel that we stayed in, there’s nothing to worry about because it’s safe in El Nido.

When to Go

The best time to go to El Nido is from December to March, the weather is cool and dry. April to May is good too if you don’t mind the hot summer. June to November is rainy season. According to our tour guide, it rains in El Nido but storms don’t usually pass by due to the blockage of mountains in Visayas.

In our case, we went June which is the end of summer and beginning of rainy season plus the classes just started so the place is not that crowded.

How to Get There

  1. Direct flight – El Nido has airport too, but only the (expensive) charter flights use it.
  2. Through Coron – take a flight to Coron then take a 7-10 hour boat ride to El Nido. Many tour agency offers boat transfers that costs around P1,000. The journey can be slow and rough if the wind is strong.
  3. Through Puerto Princesa – cheapest among the options. Take a flight to Puerto Princesa; daily flights with PAL, Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific, Zestair and Tiger Airways. Then take either bus or van going to El Nido.
  • Buses depart at San Jose Terminal in Puerto Princesa every 2 hours from 4:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Fare costs P500, travel time is 6-7 hours.
  • Vans can pick you up in the airport if you booked in advance, I recommend Northern Hope Tour for van transfers. Travel time is 5-6 hours.
    Sharing van costs P600/pax; but if you travel as a group, you can take a private van for P6,000/van.
    The bus/van will drop you in the terminal, from there take a tricycle to your hotel.
Hunt for airfare bargains like “Piso Base Fare” by following carrier’s Twitter and Facebook page.

How Long to Stay

If you’re in a tight budget and short time, two (2) days is enough to have two tours and a night to drink along the beach. But I highly recommend staying up to four (4) days to have all the tours plus side trip on other places near El Nido.

If you’re travelling from/to Puerto Princesa, don’t forget to consider the 5-7 hours land travel. We arrived in Puerto Princesa Airport at 1:00 PM, left at 1:30 PM via picked-up van then we arrived in El Nido at around 6:00 PM. That’s a whole afternoon already.

What to Bring

Underwater camera is highly recommended. You’ll definitely get wet in the island tour so don’t bother bringing your phone with a plastic cover, you can just left it with your things in the boat. Bringing dry bag is also advisable.

On island hopping: food (lunch), life vest, mask & snorkel and guide are included in the tours; while aqua shoes are available for rent. For those who don’t want to get tanned skin, you may need to bring your own sunscreen or rush guard.

Do NOT forget to rent or bring your own aqua shoes to protect your feet from sea urchins.
Swimming at El Nido

Where to Stay

Choose a place near the port because lots of restaurants and tour agencies are located near there. Plus tours starts and end there too; after a very tiring adventure you might want to walk going straight to your hotel than taking another transport. You can start looking for hotels and inns along Calle Real and Serena St., but below are some of the place I know.

  1. Northern Hope Inn – the same tour agency we had, also offers an P800 per night air-conditioned room with own bathroom. The place is not that great but enough for a place to sleep and change clothes; anyway, you’ll be outside of the inn the whole time. Plus if you take the same tour agency for your Island Hopping, the tour meetup is just in the corner, so you can ask the land lady to inform you once the tour will start and leave.
  2. Cliffside Cottages (rates as of Nov 2015) – is one of the cheapest (if not the cheapest) and popular place to stay in El Nido. P700/night for a small fan room for 2 pax; P800/night for a big fan room for 2-4 pax. While an air-conditioned room for 2-4 pax with breakfast is P1,500/night for 2 pax plus P500 for additional pax.
  3. Ipil lodge (rates as of Dec 2015) – resided in Calle Real and just a walk away from the port. You can have a standard room for P2,500.

Getting Around

Getting around is not a problem because you’ll probably be on island hopping the whole day and will have a good dinner or booze by the beach.

  • Walking – in the port, you can walk around to visit souvenir shops, restaurants and bars.
  • Tricycle – you can find tricycle almost everywhere. But if you want to go to a bit far places like Las Cabanas and will stay there until dark, make sure to tell your driver to wait for you because sometimes it’s hard to get tricycle back especially once it gets dark.
  • Bicycle or motorcycle rental – I saw some signage but prices we’re not shown, unfortunately we’re on a tricycle that time so I wasn’t able to stop and ask for the price.
  • Boat – of course, boats are already provided by the tour agency if you avail island tour.

Where to Go / What to Do

There are other places you can visit too in El Nido aside from the island tours, but unfortunately we we’re only able to add Las Cabanas in our itinerary due to our short stay.

Island Hopping

You’ll see lots of tour agencies near the port (and online) and prices are almost the same, ranging from P1,000-P1,400. You can also haggle and some of them can even pull the price lower.

Tours provides life vest, mask & snorkel and guide. Lunch is also included with fruits & vegetables, grilled chicken, grilled pork, grilled fish and shrimp/crabs/squid subject to availability in the market. The activities you can do on the island hopping are snorkeling, kayaking and of course swimming.

I recommend Northern Hope Tours; below are their list of tours and prices (as of Dec 2015).

  • Tour A – P1,200; Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Simizu Island, Secret Lagoon and 7 Commandos Beach
  • Tour B – P1,300; Entalula Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave and Cathedral Cave
  • Tour C – P1,400; Hidden Beach, Helicopter Island, Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine and Star Beach
  • Tour D – P1,200; Bukal Island, Ipil Beach, Nat-Nat Beach, Cadlao Lagoon and Paradise Beach
Tour agencies will also collect an extra P100/pax for Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF) which is good up to 10 days.
There are islands where kayak can be rented for P300/hour, good for 2 persons. Rental fee is separate from the tour and can be paid directly to the owner of kayaks.

Las Cabanas

Las Cabanas was not included in our itinerary, luckily the people we met from Tour A invited us to join them. There are few bars and resorts here but many foreigners are staying for the sunset viewing.

Las Cabanas

Where and What to Eat

There are lots of restaurants and bars in the beach near the port. Restaurants along the beach are lighting their tables with candles and it looks very romantic, perfect for love birds. For those who want to party, jam or have some drink, there are bars with live performance.

Sample Itinerary and Budget

Below is a sample itinerary for 2 persons base on our trip in El Nido.

Sample Itinerary for 2 Persons
Time Description Transpo Amount
Day 1: Arrival in Puerto Princesa (and travel to El Nido)
8:00 AM ETD: Manila (to Puerto Princesa) Plane
10:00 AM ETA: Puerto Princesa
10:30 AM ETD: Puerto Princesa (to El Nido) (P500) Van 1,000
Lunch @ stop over
3:00 PM ETA: El Nido, Bus Terminal
to Northern Hope Inn Tricycle
4:00 PM Check-in @ Northern Hope Inn (2 nights) 800
7:00 PM Dinner @ Sea Slugs
10:00 PM Back to hotel
Day 2: El Nido, Tour A
6:00 AM Wake-up call
8:00 AM Breakfast @ Marber’s
9:00 AM Tour A (P1,000) Boat 2,000
Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF) (P200) 400
Aqua Shoes (P100) 200
Kayak 300
4:00 PM Back to hotel. Change clothes, rest
4:45 PM Las Cabanas Tricycle 150
7:00 PM Back to hotel Tricycle 150
8:00 PM Dinner @ Beach
10:00 PM Back to hotel
Day 3: Tour C (and back to Puerto Princesa)
6:00 AM Wake-up call
7:00 AM Breakfast @ Art Café
9:00 AM Tour C (P1,000) Boat 2,000
4:00 PM Back to hotel. Change clothes, rest
5:00 PM Check-out
8:00 PM Dinner @ Beach
9:30 PM to Bus Terminal Tricycle 50
10:00 PM ETD: El Nido (to Puerto Princesa) (P500) Van 1,000
Day 4: Early Departure
5:00 AM ETA: Puerto Princesa
Breakfast @ Airport
7:20 AM ETD: Puerto Princesa Plane
Terminal Fee (P200) 400
9:20 AM ETA: Manila
Total Expenses (for 2 persons) PHP 8,450

Estimated expenses for 2 persons is PHP 8,450.00 excluding air fare and food. Please remember that we’re only 2 persons in our trip. You can still lower the cost by inviting more to your trip. And please make the necessary adjustments to match your flight schedule.

Things to Remember

There is NO ATM in El Nido and stores are not accepting debit cards. The nearest ATM is back in Puerto Princesa. There are other blogs saying that there’s an ATM now near the municipal hall but it’s not yet confirmed. So make sure to bring enough cash or extremely reliable credit cards.

Have fun!

This post is based on my personal travel experiences and research for this trip. Please feel free to share your experiences, as well as, suggestions or your questions on comments below.

I hope this helps you on your next travel. Enjoy!

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