GUIDE TO EL NIDO: THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND
UPDATED: December 11, 2017
El Nido is composed of 45 islands and islets, with each having their own dramatic rock formations, surrounded by some of the clearest water on this planet.
On my third visit to El Nido, it is evident how the island is adapting to the growing number of tourists. The infrastructure of the town has developed considerably, with a number of new hotels and restaurants that are being built one after another. I mean, it wasn’t long ago the island only had one ATM in the whole island!
Despite the newest additions to El Nido, one thing for sure hasn’t change: its beauty!
GETTING TO EL NIDO
There are three different ways you can get to El Nido. How you end up there will largely depend on your time, budget, and route.
For those who don’t have a budget and a lot of time, you may fly directly to El Nido from Caticlan, Cebu, Clark, or Manila. These flights are operated by AirSwift and is the only airline that flies directly to El Nido. As you would expect, the cost of the flights are typically a lot more expensive compared to flying from other cities in Palawan.
But flying AirSwift is a great experience. There is a designated private lounge for all passengers where you can enjoy free food and drinks just before your flight. Upon landing, there will be a group of ladies serenading as you get off the airplane. And as you wait for your luggage to be collected, there is reception area where they welcome you with coffee, tea, and other traditional Filipino snacks.
Add to the super convenient location of the airport, you don’t have to worry about extensive transfer time as the airport is only 5 kilometers (2 miles) from the town proper.
via Puerto Princesa:
For those who are on a budget but not in a hurry, Puerto Princesa is a great alternative to get to El Nido. There are several airlines that fly directly to Puerto Princesa that offers great flight deals, even for last minute trips.
Upon exiting the airport, you will see signs for direct transfers to El Nido. You can either take a van, which takes approximately 4-hours and costs typically 500 Pesos. Alternatively, you may take a public bus to El Nido, which takes approximately 6-9 hours and costs around 450 Pesos.
Since El Nido is located 230 km north of Puerto Princesa, travelers can also work their way up the island, stopping through multiple popular destinations as well.
A route that travelers usually takes start at Puerto Princesa and continue on to Sabang, Port Barton, and onto El Nido.
For those starting their Palawan adventure in Coron, you may reach El Nido directly by taking a ferry. There are now speedboats that can take you to El Nido from Coron in roughly 3.5 hours – almost cutting the travel time in half with the typical large outrigger boats. The cost for these speedboats are normally around 1,700 Pesos, just 300 pesos more than a regular boat.
WHAT TO DO IN EL NIDO
Arguably the best part of visiting El Nido. Explore the 45 islands and islets and explore the raw beauty of the islands. Below is a quick snapshot of what to expect before your island hopping tour:
– The island hopping tours are divided into 4: Tour A, Tour B, Tour C, and Tour D
– Tour A and Tour C are the most popular tours
– The tour usually starts at 9 a.m. and lasts for about 6-7 hours
– You’ll make friends! Each boat usually has between 10-14 other passengers with you. You’ll get close to them real quick 🙂
– Prices vary pear each tour, but mostly cost around 1200-1400 pesos (plus a one time environmental fee of 200 Pesos)
– Lunch is included in the price of the tour. Savor the moment when you are eating barbecue chicken and pork, grilled fish, and fresh fruits in a remote exotic island. I think this is my favorite part!
DAY TRIP TO NACPAN BEACH
My preferred place to chill – Nacpan beach is perhaps El Nido’s most beautiful beach. The powdery, white sand stretches for days and makes you feel as if you are the only one on the beach.
Nacpan beach has everything you need to squat for the whole day. There are beach chairs that you can rent for 200 pesos – perfect to relax and listen to music while you work on your tan with fresh coconut in hand.
There is also a place right on the beach where you can order cold beer, refreshing smoothies, and delicious food.
It is quite a trek to get here though. You may rent a tricycle for $1500 (the driver will wait for you the whole day) or rent a motorbike for 700 pesos, good for two people.
DON’T MISS THE SUNSET
For the best sunset views, we highly recommend La Plage and Las Cabanas for some of the most dramatic sunsets you’ll see. The best way to end the day!
DON’T FORGET TO TRY THE SEAFOOD
For seafood lovers, head over to the town proper right on the beach where you’ll see restaurants selling the freshest seafood out there. You have various selections of prawns, tuna, crab, lobster and various sorts of fish you probably have never even seen.
– El Nido now has a bank! It wasn’t that long ago when the whole island only had one functional (and questionnable) ATM. Gone are the days when you are in bad luck because you (AND THE ATM!) are out of cash!
– It’s only been up until recently where the whole island has 24/7 electricity. On my first visit in 2013, electricity was only available between 4pm- 8am.
– Majority of business owners in El Nido are French. They are also the number 1 foreign resident on the tiny island.
– Named ‘Best Island’ by Conde Nast three years in a row.
MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE
Waking up every morning with our coffee waiting and table prepped for breakfast while enjoying this view from our balcony:
You’ve all seen an ice cream truck, but have you ever seen an ice cream boat? We stopped in the middle of the sea for our lunch break during our island hopping tour when this guy with a boat full of ice cream (with his ice cream jingle on full blast) came out of nowhere. Just in time for dessert!