Post summary: A list of things to do in El Nido to include in your itinerary for your next visit!
With Instagram becoming a source for travel destination ideas, it is almost impossible not to see content coming from El Nido.
If you often see Instagram travel influencers frolicking in paradise with clear aquamarine waters and dramatic limestone cliffs, chances are they are in El Nido.
El Nido is home to some of the most beautiful beaches and islands in the world – not just in the Philippines. In fact, Condé Nast and Travel & Leisure often rank El Nido at the top of its best islands in the world list for several years.
Since El Nido became a regular in these topics of the best island in the world, the island experienced a sonic boom in tourism in the last few years.
I remember visiting El Nido for the first time in 2013, where the island only had electricity for 8 hours a day from 6 pm until 4 am, and two ATMs (more like one functional ATM) for the whole island.
Flash forward to today, El Nido has several branches of banks, restaurants, and electricity 24/7 to accommodate the thousands of international and local tourists that visit daily.
So if you are looking to visit El Nido for the first time, below is a list of things to do for your itinerary!
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Things to Do in El Nido #1: Visit the Big Lagoon
The Big Lagoon is arguably El Nido’s number one main attraction, which is why you see this iconic Lagoon in so many tourism campaigns, in the Philippines and abroad, when promoting El Nido.
El Nido’s crown jewel, The Big Lagoon, is part of the Tour A Island Hopping tour. The Big Lagoon is magical once you see its towering and dramatic limestone cliffs. The surrounding deep blue waters transform into sparkling green water towards a tiny beach inside the Lagoon. It’s simply breathtaking.
Once you arrive at Big Lagoon on your tour, you may rent a kayak and spend time exploring the little caves and hidden passages inside the Blue Lagoon.
Visiting the Blue Lagoon, without a doubt, will be a highlight of your list of things to do in El Nido!
Things to Do in El Nido #2: Take the Tour to Small Lagoon
The Small Lagoon is part of Island Hopping Tour A, alongside the Big Lagoon.
Before El Nido became a popular destination, tourists were able to visit both the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon while doing Tour A. However, tourism in El Nido became very popular in the past few years, and tourists can now only select to visit one or the other Lagoon.
If you want to avoid the crowds, pick the Small Lagoon. The area feels secluded, and you can kayak around the Lagoon. The water in the area is also warm, which is perfect for swimming!
Things to Do in El Nido #3: Seven Commandos Beach
The stunning Seven Commandos Beach is part of the tour A island hopping tour, and typically the first or last stop.
In El Nido, seven Commandos Beach is beautiful, dotted with palm trees under a dramatic limestone cliff that is present all around the island.
While at Seven Commandos, you may get some refreshing drinks, a beer, local Filipino treats, and relax under the huts on the beach. There is also a net for people to play beach volleyball if you fancy a game!
Things to Do in El Nido #4: Snorkel at Shimizu Island
Shimizu Island is only accessible by joining Island Hopping Tour A in El Nido.
It’s one of the popular stops on Tour A because of the amount of natural beauty and landscape once you get to Shimizu Island. Once you get to Shimizu Island, you will discover plenty of secluded coves, a colorful reef with plenty of marine life, and stunning limestone cliffs that dominate the archipelago.
Things to Do in El Nido #5: Take a Walk on Snake Island
Snake Island is one of the highlights of Island Hopping Tour B. It’s an excellent alternative and nice change of scenery if you are looking to discover other places in El Nido besides lagoons and secret beaches that Tour A and Tour C is most famous for.
Snake Island is a long stretch of sandbar that connects two islands. Don’t worry; there aren’t any actual snakes on this island. The term came about because of the shape of the sand bar itself. Before people started calling it Snake Island, it was previously known as “Vigan Island.”
Things to Do in El Nido #6. Visit Matinloc Shrine
Matinloc Shrine is an abandoned shrine in Matinloc Island, a highlight of island hopping Tour C.
The Shrine was built in 1982 as a place of worship. Today, the Shrine has been wholly abandoned, with only a few structures still intact, including a few religious sculptures.
Tourists love coming to Matinloc Shrine for the stunning view of the islands. When you get to the Matinloc Shrine, look for rocks that you can climb up to witness the views of the sheer natural beauty of the surrounding islands. I have visited El Nido about ten times the past seven years, and I always make a point to bring a friend here on every single visit.
Things to Do in El Nido #7: Rent a Scooter
I can’t recommend enough renting a scooter while in El Nido.
There is something about being able to explore every corner of the island whenever and wherever you feel. For me, riding a scooter on an exotic island, with the wind blowing through my hair and the heat of the sun touching my skin, gives me a sense of freedom and added adrenaline that makes me feel extra alive.
Scooters in El Nido usually cost around 350 to 400 pesos per day, and I recommend renting for at two to three days to explore the island.
Things to Do in El Nido #8: Spend a Day in Nacpan Beach
Nacpan Beach is one of the best reasons to rent a scooter.
This stunning beach is about a 40-minute scooter ride from El Nido town proper, tucked away just north of the town. I love coming here because it’s peaceful and able to enjoy the stunning white sand beach and the warm, aquamarine waters without much of a crowd.
I recommend spending much of your day here. There are a couple of restaurants where you can order lunch, snacks, and even some fresh fruit shakes at the beach.
Nacpan Beach is one of the most beautiful stretches of sand you’ll experience in the Philippines – and that says a lot considering the number of beautiful beaches there are in the Philippines.
Nacpan Beach is everything you’d imagine a paradise to be. The soft cream-colored sand, stretching four kilometers long, with the backdrop of the aquamarine waters with a few crashing waves and swaying coconut palm trees dotting the whole island. It’s perfection
Things to Do in El Nido #9: Relax at Lio Beach
Lio Beach is one of the “newest” beaches in El Nido, where you can dine, shop, and lounge, all the while enjoying some beach time.
It’s a beautiful beach with a vast stretch of soft sand, turquoise water, and plenty of towering palm trees. While at the beach, you will hear music playing in the background from all the relatively new bars and restaurants.
You can get to Lio Beach by renting a tricycle (about a 300 Pesos fare) or renting a scooter. The distance from El Nido Town proper to Lio Beach is about a 15-minute ride, which is also right next to the airport.
Things to Do in El Nido #10: Watch the sunset at Corong-Corong
If catching the best sunset in the world is on your checklist for things to do in El Nido, you must head to Corong-Corong.
Corong-Corong is a coastal village in El Nido, about a ten-minute scooter ride south of the town proper. It’s a place where you can watch one of the best sunsets you’ll ever see. As the sun sets behind the famous Bacuit Bay, the island transforms into a dreamy, beautiful, fiery, silhouette.
If you are taking a tricycle from El Nido town, the fare is usually around 150 Pesos for three people. An additional 50 pesos per person is added for parties more than three.
Things to Do in El Nido #11: Eat Fresh Seafood
Besides exploring secret coves, lagoons, and hidden beaches, eating seafood is one of my other favorite things to do in El Nido.
For every seafood lover, El Nido is a dream.
Much of the seafood is in El Nido comes from its neighboring town, Taytay, which is home to the largest fishing industry in the whole Palawan.
There is no doubt you will find a variety of fresh seafood in El Nido at an affordable price. What’s more, you can enjoy the seafood grilled right on the beach!
Get ready to lick your fingers!
Things to Do in El Nido #12: Explore El Nido Town
Exploring El Nido town is an excellent alternative for the days you want to take a break from the island hopping tours, riding the scooter from one end of the island to another or a break from tanning on the beach.
There’s a lot to do when you get to El Nido town. There are plenty of restaurants, cafés, and massage places for you to explore.
I love wandering around El Nido town during the day when most of the town (aka tourists) are on their island hopping tours. It’s a lot quieter and feels like you have this quaint little town all to yourself.
El Nido town also gets vibrant at night, when most of the tourists flock the town to lounge at a bar and watch a sunset, before heading to dinner.
Things to Do in El Nido #13: Get A Massage
It’s hard to fathom visiting an island in Southeast Asia and not experiencing a massage. It goes without saying that getting a massage should be somewhere on your list of things to do in El Nido.
I’m not sure if it’s the actual massage that I enjoy more, or paying roughly 12 USD for an hour’s worth of massage. Perhaps both. But if you are coming from a western or developed country, 12 dollars an hour for a massage is absolutely insane. For Americans, 12 dollars is not even enough (not even close) to the tip you are expected to give!
There are plenty of massage places in El Nido town. I particularly love getting a massage at night, after a day of island hopping or a full-day excursion. I enjoy the foot massage and a one-hour full-body massage!
Things to Do in El Nido #14: Hangout at Las Cabanas Beach
Las Cabanas is one of the most popular tourist destinations in El Nido.
It’s a great place to unwind, swim, and tan. The area also has a very “beachy” vibe – similar to what you can experience in Bali. There is music all around, restaurants, and bars full of bean bags where beach-goers casually lounge with a drink in-hand.
Apart from relaxing on the beach, there is also a zipline between the coast and a nearby island.
Along with Corong-Corong, Las Cabanas is also a perfect place to watch the sunset.
Things to Do in El Nido #15. Hidden Beach
Hidden Beach is one of the most popular beaches in El Nido, but also one of the hardest to get to.
Booking Island Hopping Tour C can get you to Hidden Beach. Even though it’s rather far, the secluded location, fine white sand, and clear azure waters are all worth the effort. Hidden Beach has a rugged appearance, which is part of the appeal for many tourists.
It’s also a perfect place to drone with the clear turquoise waters and the stunning limestone surrounding it.
Things to Do in El Nido #16: Try Trattoria Altrove
Trattoria Altrove is a popular restaurant in El Nido.
It’s an Italian restaurant most famous for its pizza. It’s so popular that there is a long line to enter on any given night, regardless of its peak hours.
We once waited in line for more than 45 minutes just to get a table. By the time our first order arrived, we can definitely tell you that the wait and hype were all worth it! It’s delicious and highly recommend trying it out!
Things to Do in El Nido #17: Go Workout
For the gym rats who need to look at their best for Instagram, El Nido has a small gym at the town proper!
It’s a rather small gym with the necessary equipment that dates back from the seventies (eighties at best). But it has enough weights to get your blood pumping and veins popping to work off that extra calories for you to turn extra heads once you hit the islands and beaches!