“Heaven on Earth” is the official nickname for the paradise that is El Nido, Palawan. The descriptions are cliche, I agree. However, they’re the only accurate terms to illustrate the beauty of this remote municipality.
After all, aren’t cliche things cliche because they’re true? El Nido is home to 45 islands known for their biodiversity, immaculate white beaches, picturesque mountains, enchanted caves, clear lagoons, imposing limestone cliffs, and amazing wildlife.
If you don’t think that’s paradise enough, you must be out of your mind (no offense). Now, if you’re convinced that this island is as glorious as I say, read on for the ultimate guide to enjoying this thalassic nest.
How to Get to El Nido Palawan
There are several ways to get to El Nido, Palawan. You can travel by air, land, or water. It all depends on where you’ll be coming from and your preference, of course.
It’s important to consider your mode of transportation according to the budget you’ve allotted for the trip. Flights from Manila going to Palawan are not that cheap, especially in seasons you would love to visit the island.
To make your travel to El Nido easy, I rounded up the several ways you can reach El Nido, Palawan. Read on and see which one works best for you.
There are two ways you can travel to El Nido from Manila. You can travel by air or by sea. Either way, I’ve made the complete guide for each option from their costs to their pros and cons.
Flying from Manila to Puerto Princesa is the most common way to get to El Nido. Book a flight from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS).
The main airlines operating flights for this route are Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines. There are also direct flights to El Nido Palawan Airport, but they cost quite high for a domestic flight.
You can fly directly to El Nido Airport (ENI), which is owned and operated privately by AirSWIFT. The company charges 10,000 PHP for a roundtrip flight during high season.
That is distinctly more expensive than the regular Manila-Puerto Princesa fares, which only range from 2495 PHP to 6500 PHP depending on how ahead you are in buying the tickets before your planned trip.
With the pricey direct flight, you’re at least paying for guaranteed comfort. It takes 6 hours to travel by bus or van from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, so think about it. AirSWIFT also gives out free snack bags for passengers departing NAIA Terminal 4.
2Go Travel offers boat transportation from Manila to Coron, which lasts 4 hours (1900 PHP). From Coron, you’re going to book another ticket for a fast-craft trip that will take you to El Nido (1800 PHP).
The only problem with the latter part of this route is that waiting for the ride in Coron will take at least a day and an additional night. In total, that’s a two-day trip compared to the standard 1 ½ -hour flight.
Still, if you hate to fly or prefer this much cheaper option, you can at least book your boat and fast-craft tickets ahead of time. El Nido Paradise offers online booking for these rides, as well as van transfers.
From Puerto Princesa
Let’s say you chose the Manila-Puerto Princesa flight route. What’s next for you is to choose between the three options of getting to El Nido. You can take the bus, van, or a rental car.
Each choice has its pros and cons. Don’t worry about the costs, though, as they are all relative to the practicality and comfort levels provided by these rides.
If you want to immerse yourself in the local scene, this is the best way to enter El Nido. This ride will take about 6-8 hours of your precious time, but at least you get to interact with the locals and get some tips.
The most comfortable bus line is Cherry Bus, and its fares even come cheap (400 PHP). You’re also most likely to catch one of their units with airconditioning and lazyboy seats.
Just note that despite this cozy design, the bus terminal is still 4 kilometers away from the Puerto Princesa International Airport. That means you would have to go through the hassle of dealing with local tricycle or jeepney drivers to take you to the station.
In that case, it’s best to hire an El Nido Palawan tour guide from Rakuboss for the most affordable price you’d ever get for quality service. The people offering travel assistance on the platform are locals who know their way around the places and communities.
You can hire these individuals to assist you, especially in cases such as getting decent tricycle or jeepney fares. They’ll also see to it that you complete the whole El Nido Palawan tour experience by introducing you to underrated spots you’re going to love.
This is the most common mode of transport tourists choose to get to El Nido from Puerto Princesa International Airport. It’s usually arranged by tour groups, who you can contact ahead of your trip so they can book you a spot. The seat price is just around 600 PHP.
The trip can also take as long as 6 hours but usually, it’s only about a 4 ½ -hour ride. The problem is that if you’re taller than most Asians, the van might not be so comfortable for you.
By Rental Car
You can rent a car for 2500 PHP in Puerto Princesa so you could just drive from there to El Nido. What’s also convenient is that you can use the car to get around El Nido once you’re there.
Note that you can also return the car in El Nido instead of Puerto Princesa for 2900 PHP. That is a hefty fee right there. Besides, you’ll probably need the car going back to the Puerto Princesa airport to catch your flight home.
It’s best to book the rental ahead of time by clicking the link above. That way, you won’t be offered high rates when you’re inquiring for a rental car at the airport.
10 Things to Do and See in El Nido, Palawan
Your El Nido Palawan tour isn’t complete without a bucket list of to-dos and to-sees. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to spend your entire trip by the shores and miss out on the beach parties and breathtaking rock formations.
The magnificent waters of El Nido are not just for swimming or taking your Instagram photos. Read on and learn more about the adventures you can have once you’re surrounded by the
This is the best way to see the Bacuit Bay’s stunning and serene lagoons. There are tour agencies on site that offer kayaking packages. They hand out maps and guides for explorers who want to enjoy a quiet time between the incredible rock formations surrounding the waters.
These groups also have people you can hire to help you navigate the island, in case you’re not so keen on wandering by yourself. Kayaking is usually already part of tour packages that come with island hopping and free lunch.
The kayaking routes will let you see Big lagoon, Small lagoon, and Miniloc Island. The prices for this activity range from 1400 PHP to 1800 PHP.
Hike the Nagkalit-Kalit Falls
Okay, hiking may not be for everyone but hiking El Nido’s Nagkalit-Kalit Falls is just a stroll. The journey just takes 1 to 2 hours, and that’s already back and forth!
Since the hike is very easy, you can just wear flip flops so you could also enjoy the cool waters leading to the falls. It all begins in the forest, going through the path between palm trees until you find the vertical steam with a shallow pool that is the Nagkalit-Kalit glory.
The estimated tour cost per head is just around 250 PHP to 300 PHP.
Relax on the Twin Beaches
The Twin Beaches of El Nido are made of the gold-sand stretches of Nacpan Beach and Calitang Beach. Nacpan alone is a 4-kilometer extension of the strong sea waves.
There, you can visit multiple resto-bars that offer a variety of drinks. You can also play at the nearby volleyball courts that do not discriminate against any level of expertise in the game.
Just head there to meet interesting people and revel in the friendly competition with sand on your feet. If that’s not your scene, just indulge in a drink under the sun, on the velvety sands of the Twin Beaches.
Zipline at Las Cabanas Beach
Kayaking around the lagoons of El Nido is only one good way to see just a quarter of the greatest sights in the area. Ziplining at Las Cabanas Beach allows you to see everything from above, as in all 750 meters of the beach.
This experience will let you fly over the famous white sands of Las Cabanas, as well as its translucent waters and sky-high palm trees. Once you’ve reached the end and have been taken off the safety straps, make sure to watch the sunset on that bottom end of the beach.
That particular Las Cabanas spot is known to make its sightseers feel some kind of way, and as a single gal I would guess, romantic blues? Whether you want to get a thrill from the zipline or some emotions from the sunset view, the ride will only cost you 500 PHP to 1100 PHP.
Get on the El Nido Party Boat
At this point, I think I might have already put you in a melancholic mood by describing the awfully moving charms of sunset viewing on Las Cabanas. Let me make it up to you by introducing you to the El Nido Party Boat.
Yes, there is an existing 2-story vessel of unlimited booze, good food, and fun people. This whole island hopping/party tour also offers day activities like snorkeling, dancing, and swimming (doesn’t have to be in that order, no worries) for only 2500 PHP.
The party starts at 11AM, because lunch is happy hour in El Nido. The boat returns at 6PM but I’m sure you would have already made new friends by then to take to an afterparty.
Join the El Nido Full Moon Party
This would be the best party extension to take you El Nido Party Boat pals with you. Every month during a full moon, a Full Moon Party takes place on the island.
It’s just as you expect it to be–a whole night of dancing, drinking, and meeting free-spirited strangers who may later become friends or more.
To get the vibe, let it be known that everyone in the party dresses up with neon garments and are face-painted with random fluorescent symbols. You’ll also find it cool that they play live reggae music.
Still, the evening doesn’t get any less warm with fire spinners performing around a giant bonfire. The entrance to this night of fun is free, but we’re not sure you’ll be leaving this party without a morning-after price to pay (ladies, let’s just hope it’s not the type that grows in your belly within a month).
See the Cathedral Caves
If you’ve made it the next day after the Full Moon Party, it would be great to kill the hangover by enchanting your eyes with the spectacular Cathedral Caves. You can swim inside the dark 40-meter stalactite installation whose waters are luminescent enough to guide you out into a literal light at the end of the tunnel.
For as low as 900 to 1000 PHP, you can visit this cave and other striking caves in El Nido by purchasing the popular El Nido Island Hopping Tour B. There, you’ll have professional local guides take you around the unique caves around the island and prepare scrumptious lunch or hangover food for you.
An island trip is never complete without seeing what’s under the waters. That’s why the staple tours (A,B,C, and D) in El Nido all have snorkeling in it. Who wouldn’t want to see the beguiling life outside of the familiar land, anyway?
To know which package will suit you best based on budget and you fascinations, here are the details of each El Nido tour package:
Price: 1200 PHP
- Small Lagoon
- Big Lagoon
- Secret Lagoon
- Shimizu Island
- 7 Commando Beach
Price: 1300 PHP
- Snake Island
- Pinagbuyutan Island
- Cudugnon Cave
- Entalula Beach
- Snorkeling site in the middle of Entalula waters
Price: 1400 PHP
- Helicopter Island
- Star Beach
- Secret Beach
- Hidden Beach
- Mantinloc Shrine
Price: 1200 PHP
- Ipil Beach
- Pasandigan Beach
- Cadlao Beach
- Paradise Beach
- Bukal Beach
- Natnat Beach
Which tour do you think will give you your ideal snorkeling experience?
Discover the Snake Island
To help you pick the tour package for you, here’s one island to add to your bucket list, which is part of the Tour B. Before you get disappointed of what you’ll witness when you get here, please note that there aren’t actual snakes here.
The reason why this island is called the Snake Island is because it is landscaped in the shape of a long snake. Of course, you’ll only see that completely from an aerial viewpoint.
Still, there are plenty of things to do there even without a drone to film the whole snake-shaped island. For instance, there’s a rocky hill you can climb to witness the picturesque view of the entire island with your own eyes.
After that little hike, you’ll also be rewarded by floating bars in the island that serve refreshing drinks like coconut juice and beer. Tour B seems to be such a catch then with this, the cave tour, and the promising snorkeling activities in the middle of Entalula beach.
Hit the Happiness Beach Bar
As if the island hopping tours aren’t enough to make you happy, El Nido comes up with the Happiness Beach Bar. Happiness is not taken lightly in this establishment. You’ll be surprised by how normalized day-drinking is here!
Thank God, the day-drinking in this bar is not caused by mentally unhealthy escapism. The blame solely rests on the ambiance of the bar, with its swings for seats, amazing food, nice bartenders, and their signature margarita.
The bar specializes in Mediterranean cuisine and serves vegan-friendly and gluten-free meals as well. The costs are said to be a bit pricey for their servings, though.
However, I guess you’ll be paying for their cook’s excellent skills and Instagram-worthy interior design. With the budget tours I’ve recommended, which you can even tweak for a smaller price, you’ll be able to afford dining here at least once.
Where to Stay in El Nido, Philippines
Getting affordable accommodations in El Nido is never an issue. The prices are all reasonable for what they’re offering. The only reason anyone needs a guide like this to figure out where they’re staying there is finding the place that matches the vibe they’re going for.
Worry no more as I gathered the perfect places for you whether you’re coming for a G-rated family vacation or a Rated X Sodom and Gomorrah excursion.
For a Family Affair: Duli Beach Resort
For as low as 2949 PHP a night, you can enjoy a spacious hotel room at a beach resort just a few steps away from the sea. Duli Beach Resort is a quiet resort just right for a family who’s trying to stay away from the noise and rowdy party scene.
The resort has a bar and restaurant on site that cater to different taste buds and all kinds of drinkers. Just behind the resort is also the jungle, which families might find as a good place to explore for some bonding (that is if it doesn’t end up in a fight over one brother forgetting the water jug with the heat and all).
For the Back to Basics Lover: Tapik Beach Park Guesthouse
El Nido is undeniably one of the most dreamy sites for that back to basics adventure. This municipality comes with a notable simple lifestyle, which a lot of busy city people are excited to switch to for a while.
In that case, the best place for that is the Tapik Beach Park Guesthouse. This is an uncommon location. Then again, typical parts of the island are already crowded and powered with high technology due to the influx of tourists.
Tapik Beach Park is located in the East of El Nido, in a “lazy fishing village,” as the management describes it. Here, you can disconnect from all the pressures of “reality” and have some time to reflect for as low as 352 PHP a night.
Experience the elegance of a basic life without compromising convenience and homely comfort. The guesthouses in this area are all made of indigenous materials, although important facilities like their bathrooms are as functional as they are in the city.
For the Solo Wanderer: Outpost Beach Hostel
Let’s be real, if you’re traveling alone, staying at a hostel with new people to meet is the dream. In that case, Outpost Beach Hostel is the place to stay for your visit in El Nido.
For as low as 1801 PHP for a bed per night, you’ll get to enjoy high-quality amenities like plasma TV and a seamless closeness to nature (seen in their open resto-bar/lounge). They surely know how to bring the best of both worlds here.
The hostel also coordinates with agencies offering island tours, inland activities, etc. That way, if you have no itinerary planned yet, you can just design it right there.
Have the openness to meet new people from different parts of the world there without worrying about losing your belongings in a shared room. They have reliable lockers in the rooms so you can explore the island and interact with your roommates in a trust-issue-friendly way.
For the Party Animal: Mad Monkey Nacpan Beach
Notorious for its sleepless nights and wild parties in Boracay, Mad Monkey Hostel recently opened a branch in El Nido. Located on Nacpan Beach, the brand certainly chose yet another potential island version of Las Vegas where whatever happens definitely stays there, swept away into the ocean.
For as low as 1430 PHP a night, you can experience the ultimate beach party that lasts 24/7. Have a grill party with fresh coconut juice during the day, right under the sun for some tan. Then sport that gold complexion at night when everyone’s alive to drink until dawn and maybe bring someone “home” early on.
Local Insider Tips
The locals share a couple of principles they want travelers to know. One, appreciate the luxury of their simple life on the island. Two, please dispose of your trash properly during your stay.
That basically translates to respecting what the island can offer instead of complaining for more despite knowing the nativity of the place. The locals may be working for you, but that’s their land right there. Pick up your garbage and don’t harm the environment they treasure so much.
Oh, and please take note of the costs of the basic travel expenses I indicated here so you won’t be scammed by the local hustlers.