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15 Best Things To Do In El Nido (Philippines) 2019

Written by:
Cazzy Magennis
/
Last updated:
September 13, 2019
Travel stories
El Nido is the most picturesque areas of Palawan, Philippines and it's packed with amazing sights. Check out our guide on the top things to do in El Nido.
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El Nido Philippines
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El Nido is one of the most popular places to visit in the Philippines thanks to its natural waters, blue skies, amazing sea life and much more.

It was one of our favourite stops, so check out the top things to do in El Nido, plus some more information which will help make your trip fuss-free.

Where is El Nido?

El Nido is located on the beautiful island of Palawan in the Philippines. Palawan is regarded to have some of the most beautiful waters in the world, and I can tell you, that statement is true. Beyond breathtaking.

When is the best time to visit El Nido, Palawan?

The best time to visit El Nido is between November and May. This is when the weather is at its best. Hot sunny days, with only small amounts of rain. We visited in May and I think it rained for 10 minutes one day and that was it! I suggest going in May as it’s a “little” less touristy!

How long do I need to spend in El Nido?

You could easily spend weeks in El Nido, but with so many amazing islands to see in the Philippines, it’s important to make good use of your time.

If you want to do all the island hopping tours and see everything El Nido has to offer, then you will need a week there.

Bradley and I stayed 3 nights, and went on two tours, but this is because we were in a rush to do as many islands as possible.

I recommend 4-5 nights to do a few tours, see all the best thing to do in El Nido and have a chance to party!

How to get to El Nido

There are a number of different options available when it comes to getting to El Nido

Flying: El Nido now has an airport, so you can fly direct from Manila if you wish. The flights get booked up pretty quick, so book in advance if you can.

You can also fly to Puerto Princesa and get a bus up to El Nido from there. It’s worth spending a few days in Port Barton on your way up!

You can check the latest prices on SkyScanner.

Ferry: Lots of people visit beautiful Coron before they head to El Nido, so you can easily get a ferry from Coron to El Nido. It takes around 4 hours and costs around $20.

There are a few different companies that do boats, but be aware, in high season these boats sell out super quick, so make sure you book your boat in advance or you could end up being stuck on Coron!

The Top Things To Do In El Nido

Okay, now it’s time for the part you came for: a guide to the top things to do in El Nido! This list is based on everything Bradley and I did with the 3 nights we spent in beautiful El Nido.

1. Spend a few hours at Nacpan Beach

Nacpan beach is regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia and it’s no surprise why. It’s 4 KM long of beautiful sand and stunning clear blue water. And it’s got a backdrop of miles of coconut trees.

It’s one of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever been to and Bradley and I loved it. You can easily find a whole stretch of the beach to yourself and enjoy a romantic sunset.

The sunsets are epic and this is a brilliant spot to drone.

There are also some restaurants and bars on the beach with cheap food and drink, so it’s a perfect place to spend a few hours.

You can get a tricycle to the beach, or you can rent a moped and drive yourself (it’s about 45 minutes from main El Nido town).

The water is amazing. I didn’t want to get out! Definitely one of the best things to do in El Nido!

nacpan beach

2. Camp under the stars

On Nacpan beach, and other beaches near that area, you can the opportunity to camp or “glamp” under the stars. Bradley and I would have loved to have done this, but it was actually sold out, which doesn’t surprise me!

So if you’re looking for a unique experience, then I suggest this. This was the company we were interested in.

camp ndeer stars nacpan baech

3. Discover waterfalls : Nagkalit waterfall

There are one or two waterfalls in El Nido area that are worth a visit. These are the type of waterfalls that are crazy big or have lots of jumps/water etc. They are more picturesque type waterfalls which are nice to swim in and relax.

When you park up at the waterfall entrance, it’s about a 1 hour hike to the falls, however all the locals will say you have to pay for a guide, which isn’t that expensive, but I am unsure if it’s actually a “requirement” or whether they just say it to make money…

So if anyone actually knows, then please comment below!

4. Check out Duli Beach

Duli beach is the centre of El Nidos surf community. Yes, I didn’t know you could surf in El Nido either, I thought Siargao was the top spot for that. But, apparently you can!

The season is November to March and its 500 a day for a surfboard. However, if you’re not surfing, don’t worry, this is still a beautiful place to chill and grab some food and there is a beach resort if you fancy staying here too.

5. Romance at Las cabanas beach

Just a few minutes from town, this beautiful beach is one of the most popular things to do in El Nido, and it’s really no surprise why.

It’s a great sunset spot and it’s only 15 minutes from the tourist centre of El Nido (150 php via tricycle) or rent a moped for the day.

This is a pretty romantic spot, so if you’re on the lookout for romantic things to do in El Nido, then a sunset moment here is pretty darn cute.

beach el mnido

6. Zip Lining in El Nido

You can zip-line “between” islands in El Nido and I have to say, it looks awesome! Bradley and I didn’t do this, and the reason is...I didn’t know about it! This has to be one of the most unique things to do in El Nido and its 500 PHP per way which is very reasonable.

It’s basically island hopping, via ziplining!

You can do a sitting or superman position (or both). Make sure you have a go pro!

Since I didn’t do this, I think this is a pretty good article explaining everything you need to know about the zipline experience in El Nido.

7. Party, Party, Party!

El Nido is actually one of the backpacker party places of the Philippines. There are lots of bars and clubs so plenty of chances to drink and dance. We went with our friends Sophie and Wayne for a few (too many) drinks at one of the beach front bars.

The locations are great and the drinks are super cheap! It’s definitely a great place for a party, and when you’re done, you’ll find lots of places open for that drunk food craving.

I don’t recommend getting an early boat ride the next morning (Sophie and Wayne, I’m talking about you! :P ) as I think it near killed them haha...So drink when you don’t have a busy morning the day after!

8. Rent a moped and discover your own unique places

One of the best things to do in El Nido, is definitely renting a moped and just driving around the island discovering your own unique places.

You can easily spend a full day driving around the whole island and finding your own waterfalls and beaches where no one else will be!

Plus, driving a moped is so much fun. Rental is around 500 for the day, or if you’re only renting it for half a day it’s usually 250-300. Make sure you wear a helmet.

9. Head to the El Nido Full Moon Party

Obviously this will be dependant on when the full moon is, but El Nido has its own version of the full moon party. Not as crazy as the original and best full moon party of Thailand, but still an awesome chance to party on the beach!

You can check online for when the full moon is so you can plan your trip for a chance to go to the full moon party.

10. Chase sunsets

The sunsets in El Nido are amazing. Truly stunning with lots of reds, pinks and yellows.

There is nothing better than chilling on a beach, or a bar with a drink or some food and just witnessing the stunning sunsets on offer.

I would suggest heading to Nacpan beach for a good sunset spot, but many of the other beaches in the area also offer awesome sunset views.

Try to go somewhere different each night!

11. Go on an Island Hopping tour

Since the island hopping in El Nido, is the ultimate best thing to do in El Nido, it’s going to get it’s own section and everything you need to know about tours A,B,C & D and how to book the best deal.

12. Get your Dive certification

Did you know the Philippines is one of the cheapest places in the world to learn how to dive? Yup, and still me and Brad didn’t do it. We stupidly didn’t give ourselves enough time. But this is an awesome place to learn because the dive sights in the Philippines and El Nido are beyond amazing!

13. Eat your heart out

El nido is packed with amazing restaurants and since we had some amazing eats, I thought I’d list some of our favourite places!

Gandhi's Revenge

When you’ve visited India, you’ll know how hard it is to find a place that makes curry as good as they do in India, well I’ve found it. Without Doubt the best curry I’ve had, outside of India! And it’s great value.

It'll be a little “out” of the tourist centre, so hop on a trike for 15 each to get there.

Art Cafe

The Art Cafe did delicious food and drinks for a reasonable price. Brad had lovely fish and I had the pesto pasta dish which was great.

Cafe Athena

We thought the Greek food here was great and the 2-4-1 cocktails were awesome! It’s also in a nice location close to the beach.

Altrove

They are an Italian chain across the Philippines and if you're looking for decent Italian food at a moderate price, then it’s a good choice. You can’t go wrong here!

14. Get massages and treat yourself

There are lots of opportunities to rejuvenate and revive yourself in El Nido, especially if you’ve been travelling for a while. Healthy food, smoothie bowls etc are all readily available, and you can get decent coffee in El Nido which is nice!

There is also a lot of places to get a massage done so you can end your trip feeling relaxed! (if the beaches didn’t already do that for you!)

15. Manikit Hot Springs

You never really hear anyone talk about the hot springs in El Nido, but they are there! You can’t actually sit in them because they are SO warm, the locals actually use them to cook eggs apparently, which is just funny!

But worth a visit if you’re heading to Nacpan beach or the waterfalls as they’re in the same location.

Island hopping in El Nido

Okay, so this whole section will be the island hopping options in El nido in detail.

I’m going to go through each tour individually, what they include, how much they cost, why they’re good and then end the section with the best way to book your El Nido island hopping tour.

island hping eel nido

Tour A: Lagoons & Beaches

Tour A is one of the most popular island hopping tours in El Nido and it’s the tour Bradley and I did!

I think this is a great tour if you’ve only got limited time in El Nido and want to see some amazing sights. Our tour operator was awesome and our whole boat had so much fun together. We actually booked it through our hotel, so I’m not even sure what it’s called.

Seven Commando Beach

This was actually our final stop on the tour and it’s bloody awesome! It’s a beautiful beach that has great snorkeling spots, places to relax, a volleyball net and of course stands selling beer and rum. Since it was our last spot we enjoyed a few rum and coke with our new friends we made on this awesome tour.

Big Lagoon

The Big Lagoon was everything I wanted it to be...amazing. You can rent out kayaks for 200 or swim once you get there, but I recommend getting a kayak. As you head down the lagoon you’ll see how blue and clear the water is as you are submerged between beautiful limestone cliffs.

We threw the drone up and got some amazing sights of the lagoon! There is also a cave you can kayak to and you might spot some turtles.  

Shimizu Island

It’s either this island, or a similar that you will stop at for lunch. Lunch will always be a fresh BBQ consisting of fish, pork, chicken, rice, noodles, vegetables and fruit. It’s super delicious and you just dine on the beautiful beach.

The place we stopped had stunning water and great snorkelling spots around it, Brad seen nemo (clown) fish here.

Secret Lagoon

I believe the area next to the secret lagoon is nicer than the Secret Lagoon itself, BUT, if you’ve never been to a secret lagoon before, then you’ll find it cute.

You have to “queue” to get through the little rock into the secret lagoon. Be aware the water is filled with little stinging jellyfish. It just feels like little shocks and it’s not painful, just really annoying!

Don’t stand on the coral!

When you get into the lagoon, depending on the tide, the water will either be clear, or just murky. For us it was murky and it didn’t impress me! But next to the lagoon is a beautiful beach and blue waters to chill at.

PS, you used to visit both Big lagoon and small lagoon on tour A, but this is no longer the case. Due to the areas becoming over crowded, they limit the amount of people on each sight each day. Which is a good thing!

Cost: 1200 for the tour with lunch PLUS you have to pay 200 for an environmental fee that lasts 7 days in El Nido. You need it to do a tour, but you only pay once.

If you book online via Klook, it’s cheaper. We had every intention of booking online, but you need to book 2 days in advance, and I didn’t realise, so there was no spots left!

big lagoon el nido

Tour B: Caves and beaches

Love beaches and unique caves? Then tour B is the tour for you! I’m not a big fan of caves, so this wouldn’t be for me. But snake island looks awesome and looks like a great drone opportunity!

Pinagbuyutan Island

This is a dome shaped island and is considered to be one of the most picturesque spots in all of El Nido...and the Philippines, so definitely worth a visit!

Snake island

Snake island (also known as virgin island) is basically a sand bank that stretches in the water, but it looks pretty darn cool! You can get great views from above and you can walk on the sand during low tide.

Cudugnon Cave

You enter this cave through a narrow opening and inside you’ll be greeted with unique rock formations and bats! It’s quite a huge cave.

Entalula or Papaya Beach

These are idyllic islands and beaches, perfect for a spot of lunch, the chance to swim, snorkel or simply relax on the beach. They are truly beautiful with amazing scenery surrounding them.

Cost: 1100, again it’s cheaper to book online via Klook!

islands el nido

Tour C: Hidden Beaches and Shrine

If you want a tour that takes you to unique spots with a lot less people than tour A, then this is the tour for you. This was actually the other tour Brad and I wanted to do, but simply ran out of time. It looks amazing and has some truly unique spots to see.

Helicopter island (Dilumacad Island)

Helicopter island is famous for its beauty and unique shape. It boasts towering limestone cliffs, great snorkelling, lush vegetation and amazing beaches.

Secret beach

Secret beach can only be accessed via swimming through a keyhole, which makes it a true secret. It’s very small too, but ever so beautiful. The author of the famous “The Beach” movie wrote this book in El Nido, so it was probably inspired by this beach.

Matinloc shrine

You reach this beautiful shrine by climbing the steps of an abandoned building. There is a chapel on top and you’ll be greeted with a stunning panoramic view.

Talisay beach

This is a great spot for your on the beach lunch. It’s got beautiful white sand and blue waters perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

Cost: 1300, again, cheaper to book online.

clear water

Tour D: Islands and beaches

If you want a tour that consists of beautiful beaches, unique islands and lots of chances to snorkel, then tour D is the one for you. This tour is quite popular due to its inclusion of the famous small lagoon, so it’s quite a popular choice.

Small lagoon

Small lagoon is literally the famous little sister/brother of the big lagoon. It’s very picturesque and beautiful and one of the most popular spots to see in El Nido. You need to swim via a hole to reach the small lagoon and you’ll be greeted with stunning clear waters surrounded by amazing limestone rocks as your backdrop.

You also have the option to rent a kayak.

Cadlao island

This is the largest island in El Nido and a perfect place to escape the crowds and experience untouched beaches and beautiful waters.

Nat Nat beach

This is a long stretch of white sand beach perfect for relaxing and sunbathing. You can only access via boat and it’s sheltered by amazing limestone rocks.

Bukal island

This a beautiful small island that is often the setting for lunch. You could relax all day here and take amazing photos.

Pasandigan Cove

Another beautiful beach with bright blue water perfect for swimming and relaxing! Great drone pictures.

Cost: 1250, it will be cheaper to book online.

Private island hopping tours in El Nido

If you want to create your own unique itinerary combining the options above and beat some of the tourists, then a private tour is the way to go.

We really wanted to do a private tour, but they are nowhere near as good value as the private tours in Coron!

You can check out these companies online, but expect to pay a lot of money!

el nido

So, which tour should you choose?

If you can only do one tour, I suggest tour A, and if you’ve got time to do two, I suggest tours A and C. Of course if your budget stretches and you have time, then absolutely do them all!

Or if money isn’t an issue and you have limited time, then create your own private tour with the best of the above so you can see everywhere you want in one day.

I believe you still can’t combine big and small lagoon on the same day due to environment constrictions.

You should check if your tour includes:

  • Kayak and snorkel rental (may be extra)
  • Environmental fee (200 PHP as of 2019)
  • Water (no plastic water bottles allowed)
  • Lunch

When it comes to price, the government has regulated the maximum amount that can be charged for the tours, so you’ll probably only find it ever so slightly cheaper online, as in person, they’re not really prepared to go lower than they have too.

This means if you book at one of the tour agencies or even through you're hotel, then everyone is paying the same, if you book online via Klook, or even Get Your Gudie, then you'll get a couple of pounds off your tour.

The other benefit of booking online (in my opinion) is that you can read reviews of the tour and see what the experience is like. When you book with an on-the-street company, it's a little hard to trust their reviews unless you know someone who has went with them before.

Where to stay in El Nido

El Nido is bursting with great places to stay and you’re truly spoilt for choice. Of course you can stay in the main town centre if you want to be close to everything, or you can stay somewhere a little more secluded and “in nature”.

There is something to suit every budget from 5 star resorts to budget hostels and everything in between. I’m going to list my 3 favourite luxury options and my 3 favourite budget options, including where Bradley and I stayed!

Luxury hotels in El Nido

Budget hotels in El Nido

Getting around El Nido

Moped: The best way to get around El Nido is via your own form of transport, which is a moped! Mopeds are cheap to rent and they give you a lot of freedom and flexibility to see the island.

Tricycle: Three-wheelers or tuk tuks are available all over the island and they will happily take you to waterfalls, Nacpan beach, or any other areas you may want to visit.

But, the strip of El Nido town is very long and filled with hotels and restaurants, the tuk-tuk is an easy option to get from A to B, rather than a very long walk in the hot sun.

It costs 15 PHP per person for any length of ride in the town centre.

Transfers: There are lots of tour agencies who offer van transfers to Nacpan beach, waterfalls and other areas in El Nido. These will be at set times, but if you want an air conditioned van to take you from A to B, then this is a good option! You will likely need to book a day in advance.

Where to visit after El Nido

If you want to explore more of the beautiful sights that Palawan has to offer then I suggest you visit Port Barton for a truly secluded and unique experience. If not, you can catch a ferry to stunning Coron and see some of the most beautiful waters in the world!

Other things to note

  • There are many ATM’s in El Nido town, so you’ll be able to withdraw money. If you’re planning on heading to Port Barton, make sure you get enough money out at El Nido as there are no ATMS in Port Barton!
  • There are no longer party boat tours for island hopping due to environmental concerns
  • Please be wary about coral and animals that surround you, don’t touch anything and go plastic free if and when you can. Don’t leave anything behind!  
  • You can get a transfer to Port Barton from El Nido at various times throughout the day, you only need to book one day in advance.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on the top things to do in El Nido. If you’ve got anymore places to see in El Nido that you think I should add, then please comment them below on this post!

Happy travels :)

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