Located on the beautiful island of Palawan in The Philippines, El Nido is commonly regarded to have some of the most beautiful waters in the world.
And from experience I can tell you, that statement is true!
It is beyond breathtaking and home to many of the best things to see in The Philippines.
So, if you're planning your own visit to this wonderful spot in Palawan, then hopefully my fully fledged El Nido travel guide will help you find the best things to do here, as well as some more information which will help make your trip fuss-free.
First up ...
There are a number of different options available when it comes to getting to El Nido.
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!
El Nido is bursting with great accommodation 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 options below.
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.
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!
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.
There are one or two waterfalls in the 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!
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 it’s 500 pesos 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.
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.
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.
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 nearly killed them haha...So drink when you don’t have a busy morning the day after!
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 pesos 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.
Obviously this will be dependent 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 In 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.
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!
Since the island hopping in El Nido is the ultimate best thing to do there, 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. OR you can go straight to my guide on El Nido tour A and how to book it.
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!
El Nido is packed with amazing restaurants and since we had some amazing eats, I thought I’d list some of our favourite places!
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 pesos each to get there.
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.
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.
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!
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 are 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!)
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.
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 things to do in El Nido and have a chance to party!
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.
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.
You can book El Nido Tour A online here (for a fantastic price- they all go to the same spots, so it doesn't matter if you book online or in person)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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 (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.
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.
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!
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 is famous for its beauty and unique shape. It boasts towering limestone cliffs, great snorkelling, lush vegetation and amazing beaches.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
This is the largest island in El Nido and a perfect place to escape the crowds and experience untouched beaches and beautiful waters.
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.
This a beautiful small island that is often the setting for lunch. You could relax all day here and take amazing photos.
Another beautiful beach with bright blue water perfect for swimming and relaxing! Great drone pictures.
Cost: 1250, it will be cheaper to book online.
If you don't want the fuss of swapping tours, or sharing the boat with loads of people, and simply want a more authentic experience, then I suggest you check out the guys at Big Dream Boat Man!
They offer multi-day excursions starting in either Coron or El Nido, and it's perfect if you hate organizing things, and want to see the best of what El Nido has to offer. You'll get to see some of the more famous sites, but you'll also get to go "off the beaten track" where there will be less crowds and more of a chance to connect with your surroundings and the beauty on offer.
The reviews for this company are crazy good, and if we had of found them on our travels, we would have headed out with them! We have full intentions of doing so in the future. But if you want something that's not associated with mass tourism, then you're gong to love this trip. Limited to 18 people, the chance to make friends, connect with locals, eat amazing food and do make a better decision for the environment, a trip with BigDreamBoatMan is a good choice!
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 lagoons on the same day due to environment constrictions.
You should check if your tour includes:
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 Guide, 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.
If you want to explore more of the beautiful sites 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!
For more help planning your trip through the rest of The Philippines, check out these other posts ...