The Philippines is a gorgeous country, with over 7000 islands (!) it was hard to narrow it down. But everyone seems to agree on this: don’t miss El Nido.
The town of El Nido was the closest thing to a city we got, and you all know I really love cities. since we weren’t able to spend much time at all in Manila. It’s not really a city, but there are a decent amount of restaurant options and some little shops. For me, it was the surrounding area that made El Nido worth the lengthy trek to get to. Giant rock formations bulge around tiny islands and gorgeous private beaches, inland fabulous hiking abounds, while under water untouched reefs wait for exploration. Palawan, the island El Nido is on, easily took the prize for the most gorgeous island I’ve ever been too.
I want to take you on a photo journey of El Nido, because, frankly, sometimes it’s better to show you the beauty of a place rather than just tell you. Plus, I took a lot of photos. El Nido is seriously photogenic!
The Beaches of El Nido
Trust me on this one, explore by boat! I can’t stand crowds, so we opted to pay extra for a private tour. The guide took us the opposite direction of the other boats and we couldn’t have been happier.
El Nido Town
How to Get to El Nido
Getting to El Nido isn’t really that easy, and it can be pretty time intensive. Since we are part time travelers that are short on time, we chose the priciest option: flying on a tiny plane. You can book through email here. Many people choose to fly into Puerto Princesa and take a 6 hour bus to El Nido, but we chose not to because it would have cost us more than a day on an already too short trip. We were coming from Dumaguete via Manila, and it would have required an overnight in Puerto Princesa. For those that have plenty of time, the boats might even be a better option, some even leave from Manila, and many leave from Coron.
What you really need to know about El Nido
If you’re heading to El Nido, there’s some things you should understand. None of the accommodations are amazing. The beds are just OK, the rooms are just OK and the reviews were all just OK (are you getting the trend here?). There are no ATMs in El Nido, and wifi can be sparse. Prepare yourself to keep an open mind and remain laid back. Get cash before you get there. Some places will allow you to transfer money via paypal to pay for accommodations, but need to know in advance and even then I wouldn’t rely on it.
There are about 45,896,584 tour operators in El Nido, since the boat trips are likely the biggest attraction there (rightfully so, did you see the pictures earlier?!). I highly recommend you save the extra cash for a private tour. We took one from our hotel, Pura Vida Inn & Tours. The other boats all followed each other and it was crowded and some of the tourists were really loud (read: obnoxious).
If you have the time, but don’t want to switch accommodations, there are several drivers that would love to take you to some of the other beaches near El Nido, or you could rent a motorbike. Outside of the town, Palawan is relatively remote and untouched. Hiking, diving and beach hopping are all amazing things to do in El Nido.
Where to stay in El Nido
We decided to go based on location, we wanted to be close to the town after spending time “off the beaten path” on Apo Island and Zamboanguita. The better accommodation options are outside of the city, if you’re looking for great beaches and quiet/relaxation. We chose to split our time between Pura Vida Inn & Tours and Qi Palawan on the east side of the island, so we got the best of both worlds.
This is where we stayed, it’s about the middle-high end of the road as far budget goes for a private room, but includes a decent breakfast and fabulous view! It also has a great location, right on the beach and near many restaurants and shops. Price: $70-100 USD
Decent location in the heart of the town, and reasonably priced, at about $40+ USD. The balcony, although shared, is a nice touch and it offers great value for the money and location.
Further away from the main town, but it’s easy and cheap to catch a ride into El Nido, or free to just walk. Reasonably priced at $25-40+ USD/night, the decor and atmosphere at this place might be worth the distance from town. The rooms are all set up to look like old beach cabins, with a lot of teak wood and bamboo decor. The outdoor space looks awesome, surrounding by trees, as does the view from some of the rooms.
I hesitate to mention this in this particular post. It’s an amazing resort, much is very untouched by tourism here. However, it’s about 1.5 hours by bumpy van ride from El Nido. Once you’re there, you’re kind of stuck. Which we were very glad for. There are no shops and no restaurants nearby; the diving is pristine, the beaches are remote and the resort is spectacular. The food was some of the best we had. It’s pricey at $250+/night, although you do get your own large cabin, beachfront, with an outdoor bathroom. I just love outdoor bathrooms.
Have you been to a place like El Nido? What would you recommend?
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