Complete Guide to El Nido, Palawan
This island in the Philippines is one of the most hyped places I have ever seen. I had been scrolling Instagram for months and couldn’t seem to escape seeing this place splashed all over my feed. A few years ago if you asked me some of my top destinations, Philippines was nowhere on my list. However, after seeing the stunning blue waters and the beautiful lagoons/ caves around the island- this seemed like nothing short of paradise. Naturally, I had to go and see for myself if it was truly as beautiful as it looked in pictures. For once, I actually believe the pictures don’t even do it justice. It is hands down one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
What people neglect to tell you or show you on Instagram, is how difficult or expensive it is to get there. You basically have two options. You fly into El Nido, Palawan from Manila direct on AirSwift or you fly into Puerto Princesa and take a 6 hour bus to El Nido.
The direct option on AirSWIFT will cost you around $400 round trip. There are only 4 flights a day and the journey is about 45 minutes. The airplane is super tiny, like maybe fit 30 people so you have to book in advance. The other more economically friendly option to fly into porto Princesa will cost you about $160 for the flight from Manila and about $11-24 on a bus or car. We opted for the direct flight into El Nido as we only had 3 nights there, and did not want to spend 2 days essentially travelling to and from Puerto Princesa.
Where to stay: Seda Lio was a gem we found here. It is secluded out of the bustling town center, only 10 minute drive from the airport, a 10-12 min tuc tuc to the center and a very quiet beach of it’s own. This hotel was just built, so we got a discount and the hotel, which was a great price and the place was nearly empty. The food at the actual hotel was average, but the rooms were spacious with great A/C the pools were incredible and the private beach is a HUGE plus. We will definitely be coming back here!
There is also a free shuttle that takes you into town, which is about a 15-20 minute drive. There is only one road in El Nido so depending on traffic it can take more or less time. Another great mode of transport is the local Tuc Tuc- you can try to bargain with the driver but we ended up paying around $8 every time we had to go into downtown.
Boat tour- this is a must. You have a few options here- you can take the public tours A, B, C which avergae to about $20 a person. You can also get a speed boat tour with max 8 people for $80 each. We opted for the speed boat option, through the company El Nido Yachting Club. I read a lot of articles before coming that the public ones can get very crowded, with little to no opportunity to have a place to yourself. We wanted time alone and to relax so we opted for the speed boat. Our tour ended up being private because no one else signed up for the boat. This was hands down one of the best days of my life. Our driver took us to all the locations out of order to avoid the crowds from the tours. We had every single beach to ourselves.
For lunch we were taken to a private island called Star Beach, where they cooked us a huge meal from all the fresh ingredients they brought on the boat with us. We had an entire 5 course meal of fresh seafood, meats, veggies and fruit. They let us relax on this private island for about 2 hours, little boats would even sail right up to the island and sell you fresh coconut, water and beer. If I could live here, I absolutely would- it is truly a slice of heaven.
Beaches: On the tour we went to: Helicopter Island - Star Beach - Secret Beach - Hidden Beach -Big Lagoon.
Dinner: For dinner we went to a mediterranean restaurant called Happiness. It was located right in the heart of downtown el nido with tons of fun bars around. The spot is super cute, very Instagram worthy, and the food is amazing! We shared a hummus bowl with Falafel, highly recommend coming here.
Breakfast: True life, I had my very first ever Acai bowl here in El Nido at Shaka. I am forever changed and will always be returning back to this exact spot for this bowl. We also went here our first night and had amazing vegan nachos and Pad Thai.
Sunset Drinks/ Food: Panorama was one of my favorite spots on the Island. By far has the best spot to watch the amazing sunset. They have day beds on the deck, right on the waters edge. If you get there early enough before sunset, you can snag a great bed. The food is also great here, got hummus and some chicken kebab. Highly recommend.
Dinner: Trattoria Altrove- This was actually one of the best pizza’s I have ever had. It was insanely good. No reservations, so expect a wait that is well worth it.
Other Tips to El Nido: Bring CASH. There are limited ATM machines here, so bring as much as you think you will need. Pack bug spray, there are a lot of mosquitos. Bring sunscreen- the sun is super strong, and sunscreen is expensive and hard to find here. Take tuc tuc’s and negotiate the price. Explore and have an incredible time!