#1 Easy El Nido Palawan Travel Guide: Tips From A Local

El Nido Palawan travel guide - An aerial photo of secret lagoon in El Nido Palawan.

Want that postcard-perfect tropical escape? If you’re looking for paradise, this El Nido Palawan travel guide is for you! As a born and raised Filipino who’s fallen head over heels for this place, I’m telling you – it’s pure beach bum paradise. Think blindingly white sand, water so clear you can see your toes wiggling, and those massive limestone cliffs. Total Instagram gold!

Of course, you gotta try all the yummy Filipino food – grilled seafood by the ocean? Yes, please! And hey, if you want to connect with Filipinos, try learning a bit of Tagalog or use the Ling app for more comprehensive learning. A friendly salamat po (thank you) goes a long way with the locals. El Nido is a dream for family trips, too, so pack the sunscreen and get ready for non-stop fun!

How Do I Get To El Nido Palawan Philippines?

First, let me tell you how to actually get yourself to visit El Nido island wonderland. Here’s a breakdown of your best options:

Fly Directly To El Nido

If maximizing beach time is your jam, fly straight into El Nido Airport from Manila. It’s a super-quick flight, about an hour and a half!

From there, a tricycle (like a motorbike with a sidecar) will zip you into town. You could even fly through Cebu or Clark or go super fancy and charter a private plane if you’re feeling extra.

Fly To Puerto Princesa + Van Ride

Want to stretch your travel budget? Fly to Puerto Princesa, then grab a van to El Nido. It’s a 4-6 hour ride, but hey, the views are pretty awesome! Just make sure to book with a good travel company for a comfy journey. They’ll drop you off right in the heart of El Nido.

Take The Ferry From Manila

Got a serious love of boats? You can actually take a ferry from Manila, but it’s a long haul – over 17 hours! This is only for the truly dedicated seafaring explorers who want an epic travel story. For most of us, flying is the way to go!

El Nido Palawan travel guide - A photo of a tourist riding a public transportation.

How Do I Get Around El Nido?

Now that you’re ready to explore El Nido, it’s time to talk about cruising around. El Nido town is tiny, so walking is totally doable! It’s got that relaxed beach vibe, with shops, cafes, and places to book tours. Here’s the lowdown on getting around:

  • Tricycles: These are your go-to for short hops within the town. Think of them as little sidecars attached to a motorbike. Rides are super cheap, like ₱10-20 one-way!

  • Private Vans: Going to farther beaches like Nacpan? Rent a private van (around ₱2,500-4,000 for the whole day). It’s more expensive but comfy, and you can stop whenever you want.

  • Island Hopping Tours: This is the classic El Nido experience – join a group boat tour and see all the best spots! Most tours cost around ₱1,200-1,500 and even include a yummy lunch!

  • Private Boat: Got a crew of about 6? Rent your own boat (around ₱4,000-8,000) and design your perfect island-hopping route!

  • Walking: Exploring town or nearby beaches? Your own two feet are perfect (and free!)

My insider tip? When you travel to the Philippines in general, use tricycles! They’re cheap and fun, and they’re everywhere. The drivers will even wait while you snap those awesome “look at this view!” photos.

Where Should I Stay In El Nido Palawan?

El Nido has a spot for everyone, whether you’re a backpacker on a budget or dreaming of that ultimate luxe getaway. Here’s a breakdown of some of my personal faves:

Live The Luxe Life

  • El Nido Resorts: If you’re ready to splurge, their resorts on Pangulasian, Lagen, or Apulit Islands are next-level. Think private overwater villas, amazing food, and that secluded Palawan island paradise vibe.

  • Matinloc Island Resort: Want to wake up to ocean views from your overwater villa? This resort is pure romance and perfect for a special occasion.

Mid-Range Comforts With Island Vibes

  • Cauayan Island Resort: Imagine cute beach cottages just steps from the sand on a private island nearby – perfect if you want that getaway feel.

  • Cadlao Resort: This spot offers comfy cottages on its own private beach cove. Plus, there’s incredible snorkeling right off the beach!

Backpacker Budget? No Worries!

  • Outpost Beach Hostel: This is the place for backpackers! Get ready for bonfires, surf lessons, meeting new travel buddies… the whole beachy hostel experience.

  • Chislyk Cottages: Simple fan-cooled cottages starting at just ₱700 a night. Nothing fancy, but you can’t beat waking up right on the beach!

My top tip based on experience? For that once-in-a-lifetime splurge, an El Nido Resort on a private island is pure magic. But honestly, El Nido has something amazing for every budget!

Traveling to El Nido Palawan Philippines - An aerial view of small lagoon with tourist boats.

El Nido’s Must-Do: Island Hopping Adventures!

Can you imagine impossibly turquoise water and those iconic towering limestone cliffs right in front of you? It’s the postcard-perfect tropical escape you’ve been dreaming of!

I’ve done this a couple of times before I wrote this El Nido Palawan travel guide, and it always takes my breath away! Here are the top spots you “must” experience on your island hopping tour in El Nido:

Small Lagoon

This hidden gem in Bacuit Bay is surrounded by cliffs, making the water a crazy vibrant turquoise. I always jump right in, and that cool water feels so good after being in the sun. Plus, swimming through that cave entrance is an absolute thrill!

Big Lagoon

Cruising this massive lagoon, totally dwarfed by those huge limestone cliffs, is unreal. I could take photos here all day, but no, it’s best to just soak it in.

Secret Lagoon

Okay, it’s called “Secret” for a reason! Squeezing through that little rock opening, then finding your own private tropical beach? Pure magic!

Shimizu Island

This skinny island juts out of the water like a giant rock. Hiking to the top gives you epic 360-degree views of all the other stunning islands around El Nido. Don’t forget to snap a selfie at the summit!

Pangalusian Island

This island is home to one of those super luxurious El Nido Resorts. The snorkeling right off the beach is unreal, seriously! Think colorful fish, corals, and abundant marine life everywhere! It’s pricey, though. But honestly, if you have the money, believe me, you won’t regret it.

Cadlao Island

Grabbing a kayak and paddling to the far side of Cadlao Island is my secret for finding hidden lagoons and quiet beaches. Shhh… the last time I went there with my wife, in December 2023, I didn’t see another person all day!

Snake Island

Forget about snakes! Snake Island is actually known for its incredible S-shaped sandbar connecting two parts of the island. It’s nestled between mountains, palm trees, and shimmering blue water – totally postcard-worthy!

Helicopter Island

This island got its name because, you guessed it, it looks like a helicopter from afar! Up close, the soft white sand beaches and clear turquoise water will blow you away. It’s perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

Nacpan Beach

Imagine a 4-kilometer stretch of powder-like, cream-colored sand lined with coconut trees and lapped by crystal-clear turquoise water. That’s Nacpan Beach! Located about 17 kilometers north of El Nido town in Palawan, it’s famous for good reason.

Spend a day here swimming, snorkeling, playing beach volleyball, or go full luxury and have a Nacpan beach glamping experience! This place was even voted the 10th best beach in the world by Trip Advisor users back in 2016 – that’s how amazing it is!

El Nido tour 2024 - A photo of a grilled local fish with salad.

What And Where To Eat And Drink In El Nido?

So after a day of island hopping, you’re gonna be starving. Luckily, El Nido’s food scene is awesome! It’s got that small-town charm with tons of variety. Here’s the scoop on what to expect:

The Local Flavor

El Nido has everything – from fancy restaurants to hole-in-the-wall spots hidden on side streets. But one thing you gotta try is bird’s nest soup. Yeah, it sounds weird, but it’s a local delicacy. Plus, El Nido means “the nest” in Spanish, so it’s kinda the town’s signature dish. It’s pricey, though, since those nests aren’t easy to get!

My Favorite Spots For Food And Drinks

It’s impossible to go wrong when visiting El Nido, but here are some of my faves. Don’t worry; most of these El Nido restaurants are just around the town center:

  • Trattoria Altrove: One of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. Try their pancetta con Tartufo (truffle and bacon) pizza with a nice glass of wine – heaven!

  • Boodmo: A little slice of Ukraine in El Nido! This brewery makes their own Cadlao IPA and Pale Ale, perfect for the tropical heat. Try it with their shrimp dumplings.

  • Dayo: Get your caffeine fix with their specialty coffees or matcha. Their soufflé pancakes are fluffy perfection, and those smoothie bowls are the perfect beach breakfast. For dinner, their red curry is a must-try.

  • Bella Vita El Nido: This Italian place is right on the beach in Corong-Corong – perfect for a sunset dinner. Their pasta is excellent, but their wood-fired pizzas are the star.

Something To Keep In Mind

El Nido has so many amazing restaurants serving international food. It’s a little trickier to find popular Tagalog foods, but for sure, you’ll crave lighter options anyway. Make sure to try tocino (sweet, cured pork) with garlic rice for breakfast at least once, or tosilog, as we call it – it’s the Filipino breakfast of champs!

Useful Tagalog Phrases In El Nido Palawan

This El Nido travel guide wouldn’t be complete without a little Tagalog! You can use these Tagalog phrases for tourists (super useful), making new friends, ordering the best food, and laughing with the locals. Plus, if you’ve got a Filipino family with you, they’ll be so impressed, and this is the best chance to connect with them!

Go And Use This El Nido Palawan Travel Guide!

I think you’re all set for an unforgettable El Nido adventure! Whether you’re chilling on the beach, exploring hidden lagoons, or stuffing yourself with amazing food, you’re gonna have a blast for sure! Remember, the best experiences often happen when you least expect them – so relax, go with the flow, and let the magic of El Nido wash over you.

If you run into any snags or have questions along the way, don’t hesitate to ask a friendly local (a little Tagalog goes a long way, remember?). And hey, if you get back and realize this El Nido Palawan travel guide was just the beginning, hit me up! I’ve got insider tips to share for days. Enjoy your trip!

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