Do you enjoy forests of palm trees? How about towering limestone cliffs shooting out of emerald water? What about kayaking through hidden coves, and exploring quiet lagoons?
If you answered yes to any of these then your next vacation must be to El Nido!
El Nido is located five hours north of Puerto Princesa on the Filipino island of Palawan and has been named by CN Traveler as having the most beautiful beaches in the world! It is gaining in popularity but still doesn’t feel like the mega tourist traps some islands around the world have become.
Here are five tips that will make planning your trip to El Nido easier.
1. PICK A MODE OF TRANSPORTATION THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU
There are a couple of different ways of getting to El Nido so it is important to pick whichever works best for you and your wallet!
AIR: There is an airport in El Nido which you can fly direct to, this option is quite a bit more expensive but if you have a short amount of time this could be a more efficient option.
VAN: The most popular way to get there is by van. Lexus Shuttle is the most common company used. If you are staying in Puerto Princesa you can expect that your accommodation will have a van provider that they are affiliated with and booking should be no problem. The journey should be around five hours.
BUS: This is a least popular method of transport just due to its journey time, it will take you around 7-8 hours to get there, although in a bus you will have extra room and could be more comfortable. There are two main providers of buses to El Nido: Cherry Busses and Roro Busses. These tickets will go for around 350 – 450 PHP (7-9 USD) and you will depart from the San Jose Bus Terminal. You should be paying around 500 PHP (10 USD) for your one way ticket. Sometimes van providers will try and rip you off so it’s important to understand what is a normal price before you go.
You will arrive at the Corong-Corong bus terminal in El Nido, this is located a little outside of town so you will need to get a tricycle into the city to your accommodation. There are no sidewalks into town from the bus station, leaving a tricycle to be your only option, especially if it is at night!
The roads up to El Nido are not the best; they are very windy and bumpy so make sure to pack a little pillow, a good book, and anything to make the journey a bit more comfortable! The cell phone service was a bit spotty so prepare to unwind and disconnect.
2. TAKE TOURS THROUGH THE ISLAND
The actual town of El Nido doesn’t have a huge beach to lounge on; many of the dreamy escapes you many have seen online are off shore on one of the myriad of different islets that surround the city.
The easiest way to witness all the amazing beaches is to go on a Island Hopping El Nido tour. There are four water based tours that you can take while in El Nido! Each tour takes you on a different route, highlighting different archeological wonders.
Around the town of El Nido there are many different booths where you can book a spot on these tours. They usually leave mid morning and come back in the late afternoon. Times are not set in stone though; it depends on the influx of people.
Each of these tours range in price from 800 – 1,200 PHP (16-25 USD). All the tours are great but if you are short on time opt for Tour A! This is the one where you get the best of the best; you see the top spots and most beautiful places!
When you are going on the tours bring along some money. There will be opportunities to buy a fresh coconut or grilled banana! Not to mention some tours don’t include kayak rentals. It would have been devastating to miss out on kayaking the stunning lagoons.
3. SEE THE MAJESTIC VENTURE INLAND
El Nido is more than just its majestic island paradises. Rent a scooter or hire a Tricycle (a Filipino taxi) for a day and explore the beaches on the mainland. If you travel about an hour north of El Nido you can chill on the quiet Duli Beach. There you can take surfing lessons and even spend the night in a beachfront bungalow!
The ride out to Duli Beach is just as beautiful as the beach! You will whizz by field upon field full of rice stalks and water buffalo. Same goes for if you travel south to Las Cabanas Beach. Here you can sip island inspired cocktails at beach bars where the water is right at your toes! You can even zip line across the ocean to the small Depeldet Island that is connected to Palawan by a rocky sand bar.
4. BOOK A KAYAK TOUR, OR PLAN YOUR OWN!
To get a better feel for the islands without going on a boat tour you can alternatively do a DIY Kayaking tour! Kayaks can be rented for around 300 PHP – 600 PHP a day. This way you can make your way to some of the top beaches after most of the tour groups have gone. Then you not only have the beach to yourself, but also the flexibility to leave whenever you would like. Seven Commandos beach is about an hour away from the main town by kayak, and it is absolutely stunning!
5. EXPLORE THE TOWN OF EL NIDO
Although the area which is called El Nido is very large, the actual town of El Nido is quite small. There are basically three main streets that make up the downtown area – Real Street, Rizal Street and the other Calle Hama. There are smaller little streets connecting these, but these are three good reference points.
In this downtown area there are some awesome restaurants and bars lining the water. They have all sorts of cuisines including Italian at Altrove, V and V Bagels breakfast, and IBR late night snacks. Sava Beach Bar or Pukka Bar are great places where you can hangout until the wee hours of the morning!
From lounging to beaches to exploring hidden coves there is no shortage of otherworldly wonders to be discovered off the shore of El Nido. It’s small town feel makes your stay there feel like you have uncovered a wonderful secret – but it won’t stay that way for long. I think it’s time for you to buy a plane ticket!
Have you been to the El Nido? Please share your experience in the comments below!
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