For those who have limited time and don’t really fancy roughing it, this is the most updated El Nido Travel guide to ensure a hassle-free trip to El Nido, Palawan. Our local expert handpicked some of the best activities, hotels, and restaurants to make the most out of your tropical holiday.
What makes El Nido a dream tropical destination to spend your vacation are the welcoming and friendly people, white sand beaches, magical lagoons, a cluster of islands, dramatic rock formations, soothing environment, and gorgeous over the water beach huts. If you are looking for a tropical paradise, don’t think twice and head to El Nido, Palawan. Below are some of the essential things you need to consider during your travel planning.
Hassle-Free El Nido Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit El Nido
The high season is from November to May when the temperatures are ideal for sun and fun activities. The temperature averages around 30 degrees Celsius and rainfall rarely occur during this period. The peak season is between December, and March to April.
How to Get to El Nido?
Air travel is the most recommended mode of travel to and from Palawan as it is faster, cheaper, and more convenient than ever. For a hassle-free El Nido travel, fly directly to El Nido via Air swift, the charter company for El Nido resorts. Air Swift has daily flights to or from Manila, Cebu, Caticlan (Boracay) and other destinations in the Philippines. The resort guests are usually given priority on flights. Depending on the season, one-way fares range from $85 to $100. The flights land at Lio airport, 6 km from the main town. Make sure to ask our itinerary specialist if you want to arrange an airport pick up.
You can also take the cheaper flight to Puerto Princesa City. After landing Palawan, head to El Nido by van (5-hour travel time overland). The domestic airlines serving Manila to Puerto Princesa are Air Asia, PAL, and Cebu Pacific. Make sure to ask our itinerary specialist if you want to arrange a van transfer from Puerto Princesa airport to El Nido.
How to Get Around El Nido?
The town of El Nido surrounds the entire northern peninsula of mainland Palawan. It is very easy to get around on foot. You have convenient access to the market, shops, ATMs, restaurants, and bars if you stay in town. There are also ‘tricycles’ as a popular public transportation and the most authentic way to get around. Renting a motorbike is the most popular way to explore the northern peninsula. Getting around by bicycle is also possible but it can be quite a hassle due to traffic. Cycling is recommended for going on special trips to other places along the coast. Just take note of the uphills and rough roads that require some off-road experience especially during the wet season.
There are small communities outside the town proper worth visiting such as Corong Corong, Nacpan, Duli, and other pristine beaches in the north and east coastline. We arrange day tours by private van for a more comfortable and hassle-free trip to these beaches.
Where to Stay?
We handpicked the best hotels in El Nido to ensure you get both comfort and character. Please talk to our itinerary specialist to learn more about our recommended accommodations and get exclusive deals. Let us know if you would like to incorporate one or a few in your personalized Palawan itinerary.
Photo Credit: Cauayan Resort
Casa Kalaw is located in Lio Tourism Estate, an ecologically sustainable tourism destination developed by Ayala land in El Nido Palawan. Inspired by contemporary Filipino design, Casa Kalaw resort features 42 air-conditioned guest rooms, recreational area, and a private pool surrounded by a lush garden. There’s also a free shuttle service every hour to and from the main town courtesy of Lio Tourism Estate. Casa Kalaw is the most recommended accommodation for those looking for a comfortable place to stay on the beach away from the party crowd, but not too far from the main town.
For those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of town, Cauayan resort is your best choice. This luxury 5-star resort is located in stunning Cauayan island. The picturesque beach coastline offers a perfect tropical ambiance in El Nido, with a pristine beach, clear blue water, a vast stretch of white sand, and a lush backdrop. Cauayan Resort offers peaceful and luxurious accommodations to ensure that the guests will have a great time during their stay on the island. They have an on-site restaurant, a well-equipped fitness center, a spa, and an outdoor infinity pool. Each villa is designed with spectacular views that redefine coziness and relaxation.
Seda hotel is also part of Lio Tourism Estate, a newly built beachfront property showcasing the rich biodiversity of its surroundings while adopting eco-friendly practices. The hotel uses refillable glass water bottles and offers soap, shampoo, and other amenities in ceramic jars in an effort to ban single-use plastics detrimental to El Nido’s marine life. The luxurious hotel features 153 air-conditioned rooms, function rooms, three interconnected swimming pools, an in-house bar and restaurant, gym and spa. Seda hotel caters to leisure travelers, corporate groups and wedding parties.
Sea Cocoon Hotel
Sea Cocoon is a reputable hotel conveniently located in El Nido town, a place good for hardy and casual travelers. You don’t have to get away from the town’s main attractions and activities as the hotel is built for comfort and convenience. The beach town is just a short walk from the hotel. The free shuttle service to Lio is just beside the hotel if you want to hang out on a more tranquil beach away from the crowd. Sea Cocoon hotel takes pride in the comfort of its guest, offering spacious air-conditioned rooms with sea view, complimentary breakfast, and special features such as memory foam over spring mattress, private balcony, individual electronic safe and a small pool next to their in-house bar.
Cuna is the newest boutique hotel right in the heart of El Nido town. Cuna has 87 rooms fashioned with modern interiors, all carefully designed to give you the most relaxing stay. Each room is fully air-conditioned with complete amenities such as a 32″ flat screen TV, hot & cold shower and safety deposit box. They also boast their infinity pool located at the roof deck overlooking Bacuit Bay, the only one of its kind in the island. Cuna also features a shared lounge and an in-house bar and restaurant. The Scape Skydeck offers Western, American, and Filipino cuisine to cater to the taste of both local and foreign guests for an incredible dining experience. Overall, the accommodations at Cuna Hotel are excellent.
El Nido Cove Resort
Located 9 km away from the main town, El Nido Cove resort boasts peaceful beachfront accommodation, outdoor pool, on-site restaurant, and massage services. The resort implements sustainable practices for a more fulfilling and guilt-free getaways. They have a greenhouse farm, solar panels, and soon-to-be-installed ‘reed-bed’ system. El Nido Cove resort is the perfect place to escape from the humdrum and the mundane, spend lazy days by the beach, and unwind to your heart’s content.
Lagùn Hotel is the first luxury boutique hotel in El Nido town, with 37 spacious rooms, service elevator, spa room, roof deck bar and a restaurant that can accommodate 100 guests. The roof deck infinity pool offers a great view of the islands around Bacuit Bay. The clean and comfy rooms are all equipped with first-class facilities, flat-screen TV (cable channels), a desk, fridge, and shower with free toiletries. The hotel is quite famous for its amazing food, and the complimentary breakfast offers buffet and continental options. Lagùn Hotel’s services are top-notch to ensure a worthwhile stay and experience.
What to Do in El Nido?
El Nido is a definition of perfection for a lot of reasons. When you visit this place, you can indulge yourself in various activities. So, if you are pondering over the question what to do in El Nido, we have gathered the top activities that you should definitely do on your visit to El Nido.
Our itinerary specialist will expertly craft a day tour according to your interests and needs, whether it’s island-hopping or scuba diving. We only focus on one small group at a time for a more personalized experience and to minimize our environmental impact. To live up to our sustainable ecotourism values, we are only partnered with reputable 100% locally-owned small businesses that operate the following activities in El Nido:
Island-hopping is no doubt the most popular activity in El Nido. It takes you on a journey to the stunning islands, with magical lagoons, hidden beaches, towering limestone cliffs, and other iconic spots around the Bacuit Archipelago. This tour lets you experience water activities in one day, from kayaking to snorkeling. Do you prefer to visit more secluded beaches or caves, or do more snorkeling, kayaking, and a bit of hiking in between? We can craft the perfect island-hopping tour according to your needs and interests!
Personalized El Nido Island-Hopping Tours
If you like to dive and enjoy some beach relaxation time, El Nido ticks all of the boxes. And if you want to do more than just snorkeling, then scuba diving is way more impressive! It gives you exclusive access to the hidden wonders in the deep blue. El Nido has some of the best dive sites for experienced divers and beginners. The Bacuit Archipelago has stunning coral reefs, diverse marine life, and staggering limestone cliffs. As a seasoned diver ourselves, you can trust our expertise when it comes to selecting the best scuba diving packages in El Nido for you. We are partnered with a local scuba diving center that will focus on your needs throughout the trip. You can even dive with a personal guide for a more personalized fun diving experience!
Island expedition is a unique adventure activity if you want to take your El Nido vacation to the next level. This is a 3-day camping trip to uninhabited islands. This island expedition is for those who want to get more than just the El Nido island-hopping tour. You’ll get to visit more pristine beaches, camp under the stars and stay in remote islands. Take note that this is not for those who are looking for resort-type of comfort, this is for those who are willing to get out of their comfort zone to experience more of nature. Do you like fishing, scuba diving or cooking class during your island expedition? We can craft a perfect island expedition according to your interests and preferences. So, if you want to make the most out of your tropical holiday, then El Nido island expedition is the right adventure for you!
Beach and Backcountry Tour
There are stunning beaches away from El Nido town and you can reach those either by riding a motorbike or hiring a private van for your group. This El Nido overland tour also lets you see the rural landscape and laidback villages along the way. Located 4 km south of El Nido town is the Las Cabanas beach, here you can enjoy a more quiet beach and panoramic view of the outlying lands. While Nacpan beach is located 20 km north of El Nido town, it is a vast stretch of beach with clear waters and white sand. And here you can swim, relax, and catch the fiery sunset.
Kayaking lets you enjoy El Nido’s nature at your own pace. You’ll get to paddle through the calm waters and explore nearby islands and lagoons at your own pace. During your free day in El Nido, you can Kayak away from the busy beach town and visit stunning beaches around Bacuit Bay. You can also get a water-level view of El Nido’s marine life with a clear Kayak. Our itinerary specialist can offer paddling options to suit your interests (guided kayaking tour or on your own).
A country’s culture is very linked to its food. If you are looking for a more cultural experience, why not join a cooking class? It’s one of the best experiences you can have in a new country. The cooking class offers hands-on culinary experience to foreign visitors with a curious appetite. The local chef will teach you how to cook traditional Filipino dishes. Our itinerary specialist can help you sign up for a class or arrange a private cooking class for your own group.
Where to Chill, Eat and Drink?
El Nido is not just known for its stunning views, crystal clear waters, or pristine beaches, the food alone can make you fall in love with this place. As foodie ourselves, we can personally guide you to some of the best restaurants in town. We handpicked some of the best places in El Nido where you can chill, eat and drink!
Tambok’s El Nido
Tambok’s restaurant is located outside of Lio Tourism Estate. They have a good selection of local cuisine and other Filipino comfort food. If you are coming from El Nido town, this local restaurant is worth the tricycle ride!
Happiness Beach Bar
Happiness Beach Bar offers Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Israeli, and Vegetarian dishes made of fresh ingredients. This place is all about healthy food, good music, and awesome cocktails.
El Nido Grill
El Nido Grill is a local restaurant located in Lio Tourism Estate. This restaurant offers typical Filipino dishes and the usual grill popularly known as ‘ihaw-ihaw’. Live music, uncrowded beach, and tasty local food await you here!
Location: Lio Beach, El Nido
Hours: 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Seaside Resto Bar
Seaside Resto Bar is located right on the beach. This local’s favorite serves traditional Filipino dishes, sizzling seafood, and stir-fry vegetables.
Location: Calle Hama, Brgy. Buena Suerte, El Nido
Trip Advisor Rating: 3.0/16 reviews as of Sept. 30, 2018
Globy Traveling Chef
Globy Traveling Chef is located in Lio Tourism Estate, a great restaurant with a relaxing atmosphere in an uncrowded beach. They serve a wide variety of signature dishes from all over the world, from Western to Asian food.
If you are looking for great pizzas made with fresh ingredients, this popular Italian restaurant in El Nido town is for you. Trattoria Altrove serves pasta and other Italian dishes too. Relaxing and cozy ambiance.
Republica Sunset Bar
A great place to view the best sunset in El Nido. Republica Sunset Bar offers cocktails, Paellas, Spanish Tapas, and free shots. This place is also worth the tricycle ride!
La Plage Sunset Bar & Restaurant
La Plage is a small family restaurant located in Corong Corong Beach. They offer French and Asian cuisine made with local ingredients. La Plage has a laidback atmosphere and a nice pool for their restaurant guests. They have DJs spinning weekly during high season.
Where to Party?
For those who prefer more action and nightlife, here are some of the popular bars/clubs you can visit during your stay in El Nido.
Sava Beach Bar
Sava Beach Bar is a stylish beachfront bar with a cool modern vibe. They have awesome cocktails and great bar chow. The best spot on the beach to relax and have a drink.
Coco bar is a beachfront bar with live music. The local bands play rock and alternative music every night. If you prefer a more authentic local vibe and cheap beers, this the best place in town to chill!
Pukka Bar in El Nido town is the most popular beach bar if you want to party and dance to the Reggae music. Local bands and DJs playing every night. Good cocktails and local beers.
Mad Monkey is a popular party hostel located in stunning Nacpan beach. If you don’t mind the young party crowd, then stay in Nacpan for the sunset then head to Mad Monkey to party until late. The beachfront hostel offers delicious food, crazy cocktails, and free shots at the bar every night of the week.
Good to Know
Some of the essential things you need to know before you go.
There are now 6 ATMs in El Nido. There are four ATMs in the main town, one in Corong Corong and one in Lio Beach. Don’t expect these machines to work all the time though. Some foreign credit card holders may also experience difficulties getting money as there are withdrawal limits. More ATMs are located in Puerto Princesa City which is 6 hours away.
Credit cards are accepted at some fancier resorts or restaurants. But there’s a hefty 4% surcharge. There are a few money changers in town though but pay close attention to the exchange rates. It’s best to exchange your foreign currencies in cities such as Manila or Puerto Princesa. It’s best to carry small bills when taking the ‘tricycle’. The local shops in town always have difficulty breaking bigger notes.
El Nido is just a small beach town and even the locals themselves are having problems with the public health center and its services. There’s a pharmacy and a private clinic called ‘Medical City’ in case you need immediate medical assistance.
The power is frustratingly unstable, especially during summer and rainy seasons. The regular power outage is something to be expected and be patient for. This should not be such a big problem if you are not planning to stay indoors for 24 hours. Most of the big hotels and fancy resorts have their own generators that cover the blackouts.
Most of the bars, hotel, restaurants, and resorts have free Wi-Fi access, and there are also a few internet cafes in town. You can get free 30 minutes of Wi-Fi in Lio Beach. One can also purchase a mobile phone sim card and register to 3G data. The Globe 3G network seems to work better in Lio beach area. However, it can get crowded here during peak season and all 3G services and Wi-Fi connections can be painfully slow.
Never make the mistake of drinking tap water if you don’t want to have any health problems during your trip. If you are in a bar or restaurant, always ask where the ice or water came from. There are also water stations that sell safe-to-drink, filtered water in case you want to refill your own water bottle. It is best not to purchase smaller plastic bottles as El Nido is fighting against single-use plastics. Please conserve water if possible as people and a lot of establishments have issues of not having enough water especially during summer.
Smart and Globe are the two major network operators in the Philippines. Smart seems to work better in El Nido and Corong Corong town while Globe works perfectly fine in Lio beach. The sim and prepaid cards are available and are quite easy to purchase in some shops in town.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help in planning a personalized and hassle-free trip to El Nido.
We hope this comprehensive El Nido Travel Guide helps in making your trip to El Nido more memorable. And if you have any burning questions, our local expert is ready to respond to your queries right away. We are the only tour operator in El Nido that is available 24/7 – we take client service very seriously!
Karen is the local expert and itinerary specialist of Palawan AlterNATIVE. When she’s not traveling, she likes to immerse herself in a good book or blog about her life. Parts geek, parts scuba diver. Her other obsessions include things-to-do lists, cycling, solitude, and cryptocurrency. She currently lives with her cat in El Nido.