El Nido Marine National park in Palawan is a unique place that will satisfy even the most demanding travelers who visit the Philippines. El Nido Marine Park consists of small islands near the northern part of the island of Palawan and includes:
- Incredible bays and lagoons
- Snow-white beaches
- Majestic cliffs
- Pure emerald water
Imagine all this and rich underwater world with coral gardens and mysterious marine life!
Absolutely any traveler will find how to spend active and exciting time in El Nido Marine park.
🎒 If you are planning a trip to the Philippines – do not forget to include El Nido in your itinerary and you will never regret it!
After visiting El Nido, Palawan at least once, you will leave there a piece of your heart and you will dream of coming back!
Palawan claimed top spot based on over 76,000 votes in Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2014
In this article we share photos from El Nido, Philippines and give advice on things to do, the places to visit, where to eat tasty and delicious food and get bright impressions on Palawan.
Our tips will help you make an unforgettable trip to El Nido, Palawan Island and have an idea of the budget needed for visiting this region in the Philippines.
What will you find in this article?
- Budget tips – we write the estimated cost for food, entertainment and leisure, so that you know how much money you need
- List of the best places – explore the islands of the marine park
- Suggested itinerary – use our itinerary or part of the itinerary to plan your trip so that not to waste your time on it
- Transport tips – find out how to get to the island, read about our experience of renting a motorbike and going with a group island hopping tour; and do not miss the information about a transfer from El Nido to the airport of the capital of the island – Puerto Princesa airport
- Tips on where to have a meal – find out the list of the places where you can eat delicious and cheap food
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Take Care of Yourself Beforehand – Make Online Insurance
El Nido on the map of the Philippines
Vacation in El Nido, Palawan – What’s New in 2020
Accommodation for rent: review of the hotels
12 popular hotels in El Nido
Where to eat delicious and cheap food?
- The beach on Entalula island
- Snorkeling near Popolcan island
- Snake Island
- Lunch on the boat during the island hopping tour
- Cudugnon Cave
- Pinagbuyutan Island
- Cathedral Cave
How to get to Puerto Princesa airport from El Nido
Philippines Travel Video: Places you must visit in El Nido (WATCH THIS!)
The trip to El Nido – our review
Complete Philippines Travel Guide
Do you still have questions? Ask them in the comments!
El Nido, Palawan – How to get there?
✈ By Air
To get to El Nido, basically all who travel around the Philippines fly to the capital of Palawan island- Puerto Princesa. And then they overpass 230 km by bus, minivan or taxi to the north.
The road from Puerto Princessa to El Nido on Palawan is not easy – there is a serpentine, and those who may feel sick should take pills. The transfer usually takes 4-5 hours. We ordered a minivan transfer in the opposite direction – from El Nido to the airport of Puerto Princesa, and Here you can read about our trip.
Useful tips on how to buy tickets for domestic flights around the Philippines I’ve described Here.
There’s an airport in El Nido too (the code of the airport is ENI) but it is very small and serves only several flights per day by Airswift airlines, which actually owns the airport in El Nido. When we searched for flights to El Nido, there were only direct flights from Manila for about $150 per ticket.
Actually El Nido airport is a good choice if you want a direct flight to El Nido and you can afford a more expensive ticket than a ticket to Puerto Princesa airport. The tourists who buy package tours to El Nido and the tourists who stay at El Nido Resorts also fly to the closest airport. In any case, if you want to get to El Nido from Manila you can choose either El Nido airport or Puerto Princesa airport.
The airport in El Nido is so small that when we were passing it by on our way to Nacpan beach, we didn’t even notice it. Anyway, now this airport is under reconstruction and hopefully soon, after its opening, it will be much easier to get to El Nido, not only from Manila.
⚓ By Water
It was the most comfortable and quick way for us to get to El Nido, Palawan from Coron, Busuanga. Ferry trip takes less time than a plane + 2 transfers.
Departure is from the ferry terminal of Coron Town and arrival is at the ferry terminal of El Nido, so only 3.5 hours on the way – and you are in El Nido Bay, Palawan, where all cafes and hotels in the center of the town are within easy reach.
You can also go back by ferry from El Nido to Coron Town. The ferry leaves the terminal in El Nido at 6 am and comes to Coron Town at 9.30 am.
El Nido, Philippines: first impressions and why the region is special
For the first time, we saw El Nido, Philippines from the bay, when we arrived on the ferry. We immediately fell in love with its colorful buildings, surrounded by high cliffs on both sides, and boats near the beach with white sand and emerald water.
It was a big difference with the port of Coron Town on the island of Busuanga, from where we arrived.
And during our walk from the ferry terminal along the central streets, we noticed that El Nido is more developed for tourists than Coron Town.
During our stay in El Nido, Palawan on our trip to the Philippines we picked several local features:
- When choosing a vacation rental in El Nido you should pay attention to whether the accommodation has its own electricity generator, as there is often no electricity in the town (during our stay there was no electricity after 22 hours every night). Keep in mind, that everything depends on electricity, even water supply and of course such luxury as wi-fi
- By the way, wi-fi in El Nido, like everywhere in the Philippines, is bad — it works from time to time even with the local SIM card
- The main entertainment and activity in El Nido are boat tours to the islands, beaches and coves – island hopping tours (TOP things to do and see in El Nido, Philippines), but there are also other excursions – for example, to the underground river in Sabang or a canopy walk. You can buy all the activities on the central streets in El Nido
- When moving to / from the region, you can not bring fresh mangoes! Numerous announcements in the port and airport will remind you of this rule
- The cliffs of El Nido are inhabited by swiftlets – birds that make their nests of saliva. These nests are totally edible and are used for delicacy in some countries, for example in China (Bird’s nest soup). The cost of the nests comes up to $3,000 per kilo. Actually, El Nido was named after the nests of swiftlets, because “nido” means the nest in Spanish
- The nature of El Nido Marine Park is similar to Busuanga and Coron Islands, but the region has more amenities for tourists, and thereafter there are more travelers, with all the pros and cons
- A single additional fee is taken for visiting all the attractions in El Nido Marine Park, eco fee – 200 PHP ($4) per person, the ticket is valid for 10 days
- Tourists can rent different types of accommodation in El Nido, Palawan – from b&b and hostels to houses/villas for rent, beach hotels and dive resorts.
- There is a great number of luxury beach resorts on private islands in El Nido, Philippines. The best and most popular resorts are Resorts Miniloc Island, Resorts Lagen Island, Resorts Pangulasian Island. If you stay at Resorts you will have many privileges, starting from your flight from Manila – you’ll wait for it in a VIP lounge. The cost of staying at El Nido Resorts includes various island hopping tours, so you won’t get bored and will remember your days in the Philippines forever!
Take Care of Yourself Beforehand – Make Online Insurance for a Trip to the Philippines
We recommend to make insurance before your trip, although at first it may seem completely not obligatory. The Philippines is the best place for scuba diving, surfing, motorcycle rides and many more adventures, so it’s better to insure yourself for the time of the trip. Like many other travel sites, we personally recommend World Nomads Instant Insurance service. The various insurance options that the company offers are truly beneficial compared to the others, especially when it comes to active tourism. Check for FREE your insurance price below ⤵
El Nido on the map of the Philippines – Places to Visit & See on Google Maps
For your convenience, we marked all the important locations of El Nido on the map.
Vacation in El Nido, Palawan – What’s New in 2020
Like all the major resorts in the Philippines, El Nido is becoming better, developed and more comfortable for tourists. Below we describe the 2020 innovations of the most popular tourist place in the Philippines – El Nido, Palawan.
It is no secret that there are few good comfortable hotels in the Philippines, so you should book such hotels at least six months in advance in the high season, as the demand for good hotels is high during this time. Therefore, the opening of a new comfortable hotel on the tourist islands of the Philippines is always an event.
In 2020, there’s already a new long-awaited superior Huni Lio hotel. The hotel is located between Lio Beach and the forest, away from the noisy central streets. The new comfortable Huni Lio hotel has only 50 rooms and it is a perfect place surrounded by the amazing nature of the Philippines to escape from the noise of the city. While staying in the new comfortable hotel you can enjoy the birds singing from the forest and the sound of the waves from the sea.
View the photos of the hotel and book accommodation on This link.
Among the innovations of spending vacation in El Nido in 2020, there is an opportunity to visit and enjoy the beauty of Bacuit Bay on a yacht. El Nido Yachting Club – is a new Island Tour Provider in El Nido, Palawan. They use several modern boats, including a high-speed boat (for 17 people), a yacht (for 45 people) and a catamaran (for 25 people). Boats sail among the islands of the El Nido marine reserve, the cost of island hopping tours start from 3,499 PHP ($ 70) per person. Island hopping tour packages include transfer to the hotel, lunch, access to the private beach, snorkeling equipment, drinking water, licensed tour guides and fees (eco-tourism development fee and fees for visiting natural attractions).
Yacht club also offers private excursions and island hopping tours for couples and groups.
In addition to island hopping tours, tourists now have a lot to see and to visit while spending vacation in El Nido region in 2020, for example, Lio Tourism Estate offers to start exploring the island with visiting Kalye Artisano – the village of artists where local handicrafts sell the souvenirs, from clothing to home stuff and food.
Lio Beach is also famous for its restaurants and bars. One of the newest bars that is recommended for tourists in 2020 is the Jungle Bar by Piopio.
In Jungle Bar they serve classic and modern Philippine dishes and some international cuisine. New to the menu is the giant chicharron, perfect for a company of several people. Philippine cocktails are also available on the bar’s menu, combining local ingredients with classic ones. For example, Ternatonic is a gin and tonic with a flower of blue peas, which turns a usually transparent drink into a purple one.
In addition to the Jungle Bar, Lio Beach in El Nido now has a number of other good bars & restaurants, including
- Pizza & Amore with Italian cuisine
- The Red Crab specializing in seafood
- El Nido Grill, which offers Philippine dishes and live music every evening
- Bead Cafe – a coffee shop where you can make yourself a bauble
- D’Factory – where the menu is based mainly on ice cream and desserts
However, the 2020 changes regarding vacation in El Nido are also restrictive. For example, tourists can no longer join combined island hopping tours in El Nido region. This was made in order to limit the number of tourists traveling to each of the islands from tours A, B, C, D, and in particular to Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon and Hidden Beach. Now tourists cannot visit these most popular El Nido marine reserve attractions on the same day.
This means that if you plan to visit El Nido for just one day, you should choose only one island hopping itinerary – A, B, C or D, according to your preference. Moreover, pre-registration called Premium Spot is required before visiting Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon and Hidden Beach.
The registration fee is 200 PHP for each of the three places listed above. In addition, boats are now prohibited to enter the lagoons, so renting a kayak is required if you want to visit incredibly beautiful Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon while staying in El Nido.
Due to innovations, the itineraries of El Nido island hopping tours have changed a bit. Tours in 2020 include such places to visit as:
- Tour А – Big Lagoon OR Small Lagoon (extra 200 PHP per person), Simizu Island, 7 commando beach, Secret Lagoon, Payong Payong Island
- Tour В – Cudugnon Cave (extra 100 PHP per person), Snake Island, Entalula Island, Cathedral Cave, Pinagbuyatan Island
- Tour С – Matinloc Shrine (extra 100 PHP per person), Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, Tapiutan Island
- Tour D – Small Lagoon (extra 200 PHP per person), Nat nay Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan Beach, Paradise Beach, Ipil Beach
Accommodation for rent in El Nido: review of the hotels
We recommend to book a hotel or apartment on Siargao Island well in advance. Check the accommodation options below ⤵
In El Nido we had a problem with the first hotel we stayed in. Before the trip, we booked the hotel in El Nido, Palawan for all the 3 nights of our staying in town. Since we made the booking just before the trip, there was no wide choice of available hotels and resorts in El Nido. So we chose a hotel with 8.0 points rating on booking.
After we arrived at the hotel, we were a bit disappointed:
- There was a construction, so it was noisy and dusty all the time
- Our room wasn’t clean, it looked like someone had a shower just before we came into the room. In addition, there was a persistent smell of paint, but we couldn’t open the window because of the construction right in front of the room.
We were denied to change the room, as there were no free rooms.
Nothing to do, we spent the first night at this hotel: the construction was held even at night, we had a headache because of the smell of paint, and the air conditioner did not work.
Breakfast was set on the terrace on the top floor.
It was raining that morning, and there were only 3 dry tables. So there was also a queue of those who wanted to have breakfast and stay dry. We did not wait, we had a bad mood since the evening.
And we decided to change the hotel in El Nido, Philippines
After we chose several vacation rentals in El Nido, Philippines on Booking.com, we did not book anything. We wanted to go to the center of the town and have a look at the hotels and resorts, and if everything would be ok – to pay for the rooms on reception.
The fact is that the hotel, we spent the first night in, was not in the center of El Nido, but as it was written in the reviews – in a quiet area on the outskirts, near the bus station (in our case, a 24 hours a day construction made the area not quiet at all).
So we packed the bags and wanted to go in search of new hotel right away with suitcases, so as not to waste time because we also planned to go to Nacpan beach that day.
But then the most interesting began.
Booking.com charged us the payment for all 3 nights in advance. Our booking was non-refundable because our hotel stay at that time had already begun.
So, the fact that we leave the hotel, having lived there for only 1 night out of 3 – seemed to be our own business. But the staff of the hotel told us to pay (once again) for all the 3 booked nights.
The staff didn’t let us leave the hotel arguing that they had not received our payment yet. But our money was debited from the card, and we did not want to pay the hotel the second time.
As a result, after a long, useless conversation on high tones, we managed to get out of the hotel.
We took a tricycle and finally decided to stay at “Villa del Vincejos Hotel”.
The hotel is located in the heart of El Nido, but there’s no noise from the street inside. Moreover, you do not need to go on a tricycle every time you want to eat or walk along the central streets.
The building looks quite simple, but inside everything is new, clean and tidy, the rooms are spacious. We have only positive impressions about staying at this hotel in El Nido, Philippines. The only disadvantage was that wi-fi worked only near the reception desk and breakfasts could be better, but you can always eat in any cafe a few minutes from the hotel.
So what was the end of the story with Booking and our first hotel in El Nido?
Immediately after leaving the hotel we sent a email to Booking.com. In the email we wrote that the hotel didn’t not correspond to its description.
We attached photos, mentioned that the room wasn’t clean and it had a persistent smell of paint, which it was impossible to get rid of. In conclusion, we wrote that, given all of the above, we could not stay in the hotel for all the booked period and asked to return the cost of 2 nights which we didn’t manage to spend in the hotel.
By the way, the name of the hotel is Raje Residence.
And after 2 days our problem was solved – Booking returned us the cost of 2 nights back to the card. This experience of solving the problem with Booking.com was useful to us, and I hope it will be useful to someone else.
12 popular hotels and resorts in El Nido, Palawan: prices, photos, reviews
💰 Budget accommodation
From $17 per night – Spin Designer Hostel, 9,0
No doubt this is the best hostel in El Nido, Philippines. The hostel is made in a modern style. It provides common rooms for 4 people as well as separate rooms for 2 or 1 person.
From $17 per night – Smile Lodge, 8,4
The most simple hotel. Among the advantages – a good location, if you do not take into account the cocks in the neighborhood, which definitely will not allow you to sleep longer.
A neat mini-hotel in El Nido 2 minutes from the beach.
💰💰 Mid-range accommodation
From $45 per night – Villa del Vincejos Hotel, 7,0
The hotel we stayed in. Inside everything is new, clean and tidy, the rooms are spacious. We have only positive reviews about this hotel. The only disadvantage was pour wi-fi and breakfasts.
💰💰💰 Luxury accommodation
We recommend to book a hotel or apartment on Siargao Island well in advance. Check the accommodation options below ⤵
El Nido, Philippines: where to eat delicious and cheap food?
The question of “where to eat” in El Nido was not as acute as in Coron Town on the island of Busuanga, where we stayed before coming to Palawan. There’s a wide choice of cafes and restaurants in El Nido.
In El Nido, as everywhere in the Philippines, you can easily find cheap food. Another matter is whether will you be satisfied with cooking conditions or not. In the evening everywhere in the streets they fry kebab – this is one of the options to eat cheap. We did not try the food on the streets.
SAVA Beach Bar
During our first evening in Palawan, we visited a few cafes on the shore of El Nido bay, among which was SAVA Beach Bar – cozy atmosphere with evening lights, pleasant music, delicious cocktails priced from 200 PHP ($4), happy hours from 4 to 6 pm for cocktails – you order 1 and receive the second one. They often make happy hours in bars in the Philippines.
Osaka Castle El Nido
We also visited Osaka Castle El Nido. It specializes in sushi, Asian and Japanese cuisine.
Prices start from 200 PHP ($4), an average price for sushi is 350 PHP ($7).
It tasted like an ordinary sushi. But we did not like the atmosphere in the cafe at all. There are plastic tables with plastic chairs along the street under a canopy, and it forms something like food court — there are 3 kitchens: Osaka Castle and 2 other. Absolutely uncomfortable.
The 1st place where we went to have a meal right after arrival in El Nido was Artcafe. We liked the food and the atmosphere in ArtCafe, and after visiting other cafes during the first evening, which I described above, we dined only at ArtCafe the following days.
ArtCafe is a popular place in El Nido because there is not only a cafe but also a money exchange, as well as a sales office of island hopping tours, excursions, day trips around Palawan and even flights to Manila from El Nido airport.
As for the food in Artcafe, everything we ordered was delicious – fish with mango, pizza, cream-brule for dessert, etc.
There is live music and usually no empty seats in Artcafe in the evenings.
The prices in ArtCafe:
- Toasts — in average 230 PHP ($4,5)
- Sandwiches — from 180 to 270 PHP ($3,5 — $5,5)
- Soups — from 95 to 250 PHP ($2 — $5)
- Salads — from 120 to 330 PHP ($2,5 — $6,5)
- Pizza — in average 320 PHP ($6,5)
- Fish and seafood — in average 300 PHP ($6)
- Fruit shakes — 120-150 PHP ($3)
El Nido Market
The market in El Nido is located across the street from the bus station. And compared to the market in Coron Town it is much better. Trade pavilions are divided into several zones – fruits / vegetables / fish / seafood / meat, and they also sell fruits / vegetables / greenery outside, at the entrance to the market.
Nacpan Beach in El Nido: how to get there, where to rent a motorbike in El Nido?
Even before our trip to El Nido, Philippines we planned that we would spend 1 day for a trip to Nacpan beach. In the morning of the day of our trip, our plans nearly collapsed because of the weather — it rained and the sky was covered with heavy clouds.
Nevertheless, we decided not to change our plans, because we wanted to visit and see as many attractions in El Nido, Palawan as we could.
How to get to Nacpan beach?
To get to Nacpan beach which is not far from El Nido, you can take a taxi-tricycle. The driver will wait for you while your stay on the beach. Such a trip will cost you about 1000 PHP ($20).
You can also rent a motorbike and go to Nacpan beach from El Nido, Palawan on your own.
We did it that way — it cost us 400 PHP ($8) to rent 1 motorbike for a day + 100 PHP ($2) for gasoline. The cost of renting 2 motorbikes for 4 people was equal to the cost of a trip with a driver on a tricycle, but the impressions of a self-made trip were much brighter.
The advantage of a self-made trip from El Nido to Nacpan Beach is that you can adjust the itinerary and stop for example at Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls waterfall.
The disadvantages of a self-made trip are:
- You will probably feel unsafe on the road, cars will sweep too close to the motorbike
- It’s uncomfortable to drive through a not asphalted part of the road during or after the rain because of deep puddles of mud there
We decided that it’s boring to take a tricycle with a driver because during our trip to the Philippines we used tricycles almost every day. And it was a completely different feeling to rent motorbikes and go by ourselves – which was the key argument in choosing how to get to Nacpan beach from El Nido.
Where to rent a motorbike in El Nido?
It’s not a problem to rent a motorbike in El Nido, Palawan. There are many offices on the central streets where you can rent a motorbike, you can also buy there excursions around Palawan island and island hopping tours.
We rented motorbikes Here.
It cost 400 PHP ($8) to rent 1 motorbike for 1 day, and it was necessary to leave a driver’s license for a motorbike in return (I’m not kidding).
So we went to Naсpan beach, which is located 20 km to the north from El Nido, Philippines.
At first the road is good — one-side concrete road, with not too intense traffic, but when you are overtaken by a car or truck – it’s not entirely comfortable since the road is narrow. The road runs through the usual non-tourist Philippine villages.
There are breathtaking views on both sides of the road between the villages: dense mountains, rice fields and palm groves.
If you have time – on the way to Nacpan beach you can stop by the waterfall.
So, from El Nido to Naсpan beach you need to drive 16 km on the good road, after – you turn left – and drive 4 km more along the road that leads to beach entrance.
Be ready for adventures if you go to Nacpan beach in rainy weather!
During our trip, the roads were so blurred that sometimes there was no chance to pass the puddles of dirt.
👙 To go to Nacpan beach in rainy weather it’s better to wear clothes and shoes, which you are not afraid to bedraggle
4 km of the road seemed endless to us, at first it was even funny, but later we wanted to get to the beach as quickly as possible.
And then passing through the village, we were asked to stop at one of the houses — it turned out that we were almost on the beach, and this house was a kind of tourist center. We were given sheets of paper where it was necessary to write our names, as visitors of Nacpan beach.
Visitors also pay fee for the entrance to the beach in the tourist center of Nacpan beach. But on the day of our visit the fee was not charged because of the rain and bad roads. In good weather the fee is 100 PHP for tourists, 50 PHP for locals per person.
A few minutes later we parked at Nacpan beach. Ignoring the weather, we were pleased with the beach. Naсpan beach is spacious, it’s length is about 2 km. And there are not many people on the beach all the time.
That’s how Nacpan beach looks like: tall palms and fine sand, smooth entrance to the sea, clean and sandy bottom. It’s pleasant to swim and spend time on Nacpan.
There is a cafe to the right of the entrance to the beach, where we stopped, as it rained from time to time.
We had lunch in the cafe – fruit shakes, grilled meat, fish and shrimps with rice. The prices were from 250 to 400 PHP for a dish — $5-$8.
We stayed on Nacpan until 3 pm, swam and enjoyed the beach. We really liked Nacpan even in rainy weather.
The way to El Nido from Nacpan Beach
On the way back we decided to rent a tricycle on Nacpan beach for us girls, which would take us to a good road, to save time and not to go in dirt on foot. So, our boys drove rented motorbikes by themselves. To rent a tricycle cost us 100 PHP per person — $2.
And again we had enough impressions of the trip – the puddles were so deep that the water poured directly into the tricycle.
In general, the trip to Nacpan beach was outstanding and rich in memories.
On the way from Naсpan beach we stopped in El Nido at the gas station and filled 2 liters of gasoline into each motorbike (100 PHP).
Is Nacpan beach worth visiting?
If you have enough time in El Nido, Palawan and you want to enrich your vacation in the Philippines not only with island hopping tours – you should definitely go to Nacpan beach!
It’s up to you to decide whether to go to Nacpan beach on a tricycle or to rent a motorbike and go on your own. The trip will be rich in emotions in any case. On the way to Nacpan beach you can also stop at Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls.
If you decide to drive by yourself in rainy weather – be ready for the fact that 4 km in each direction you will have to go through the mud, so it’s better not to wear light, smart clothes and shoes. The beach is good, spacious, there is a place where to have lunch, you can rent deckchairs and play volleyball there.
Island Hopping tours from El Nido, Philippines: prices and reviews
One of the main things that attract travelers to El Nido, Philippines are island hopping tours with the opportunity to visit the surroundings of Palawan island and enjoy the best beaches of El Nido with breathtaking nature. Island hopping tours are at the TOP of the things to do in El Nido, Philippines and the most popular activities in the region.
Jacques Cousteau called Palawan the most beautiful place he had ever explored. He admired the fascinating rainbow of fish and coral colors there when viewed through a mask while floating among the giant jackfish, luminous angelfish, feisty clownfish and the much bigger manta rays and whale sharks.
Jacques Cousteau (Jacques-Yves Cousteau)
French naval officer, oceanographer, explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, and author who researched the sea and all forms of marine life. – Wikipedia
⛵ A variety of island hopping tours – is a common feature of El Nido, Palawan island and Coron Town, Busuanga Island. If you go to Coron or El Nido you should definitely try this activity. The nature in El Nido and Coron regions is fascinating!
When choosing an island hopping tour in El Nido, Palawan we wanted to visit the places that differ from those we already saw during our island hopping tours from Busuanga Island.
We rented an individual boat on Busuanga. In El Nido, we decided to join a group island hopping tour to see how the group tours in the Philippines are held and to have our own opinion of this kind of leisure.
You can buy island hopping tours, all the activities and day trips in tourist offices, shops and cafes in the center of El Nido.
Island hopping tours in El Nido, Palawan – itineraries & reviews
Tour А – El Nido Lagoons and Beaches Day Trip – 1200 PHP ($24)per person : Small Lagoon OR Big Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Secret Lagoon, 7 Commando Beach, Payong Payong Island. Tour to the lagoons and beaches of Palawan with the opportunity to snorkel and go on kayaks. According to reviews and tourists’ pictures, Tour A is the most popular boat tour from El Nido.
Tour B – El Nido Caves and Coves Day Trip – 1300 PHP ($26)per person: Entalula Island, Snake Island, Cudognon Cave, Pinagbuyutan Island, Cathedral Cave. Tour to the islands and caves of Palawan with the opportunity to snorkel. We chose Tour В, so I describe this tour below.
Tour C – El Nido Hidden Beaches and Shrines Day Trip – 1400 PHP ($28) per person: Matinloc Island, Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, Helicopter Island, Tapuitan Island. Tour to the distant islands and beaches of Palawan.
Tour D – El Nido Islands and Beaches Day Trip – 1200 PHP ($24) per person: Small Lagoon, Nat nay Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan beach, Paradise beach, Ipil Beach. Tour to the beaches of El Nido Marine Park that are close to El Nido town.
Tour – El Nido Nacpan and Duli Beach – 3400 PHP ($68) per person: Duli Beach, Nacpan beach. You can also make this trip by yourself – for a company of up to 3 people you can rent a tricycle at a cost of 800 – 1400 PHP ($16-28) to go to Nacpan beach.
Lunch is included in the price of each tour
- Beverages (water, coca-cola, fanta)
When you pay for the tour, make sure whether the price includes masks for snorkeling, fins or kayak rental. For example, we had only masks for snorkeling on the boat.
In addition to the cost of the tour, every tourist should pay eco fee – 200 PHP ($4). Eco fee is valid for 10 days. Do not forget to save the ticket for your days in El Nido, Palawan.
El Nido, Palawan package tours
You can also buy package tours to Palawan. There is an opportunity for tourists to choose either a package tour only to El Nido or a package tour with combined days in Puerto Princesa, El Nido and Coron. The price of a package tour includes transfers, accommodation and island hopping tours, which are the same tours as we described above.
You can learn more information about package tours to El Nido on this Link.
An individual or a group island hopping tour?
And I will hardly ever surprise anyone when I say that we liked the individual island hopping tour more, because:
- We made an itinerary based on our preferences, including places from different island hopping tours
- There were only our friends on the boat, and we decided by ourselves when to have lunch and how long to spend in one or another place
- Both on the boat and during attractions visiting there were no crowds of people + it wasn’t a problem to take photos or make videos with no people
But of course, there are advantages of group boat tours:
- In the group, you can communicate with other tourists, share your impressions of other islands in the Philippines, find out what else is worth visiting
- If you travel by a couple, the group tour is cheaper than renting an individual boat for 2 persons
The cost of renting an individual boat in El Nido, Palawan starts from 5000 PHP ($100) + extra charge for lunch and entrance fees.
In El Nido, we decided to go with the group to make our own opinion about this kind of tours, compare it with our individual boat tours on Busuanga. We came to the conclusion that of course, it is better to take an individual boat!
Island Hopping Tour В: from El Nido, Palawan to small islands, mysterious caves, sandy beaches
We bought tickets for a boat tour the evening before the trip. On the way to dinner, we noticed a tourist office opposite the Art Cafe. We came in, asked the information we were interested in and bought the tickets.
We were given a discount for 4 tickets – 200 PHP ($4) per person, so the tour cost us 1100 PHP ($22) per person. We were also asked about our food preferences. There is usually lunch for the group on the boat, and if you are, for example, a vegetarian, your food wishes will be taken into account, but you need to tell them in advance when buying tickets. All boats with group tours depart from El Nido bay at 9am. There were 14 people in our group. On the boat, we were given snorkel masks and life jackets, after we started our way to the islands and beaches near El Nido, Palawan.
The beach on Entalula island
A beautiful beach with white sand, emerald water, palm trees and cliffs.
The disadvantage is that a significant part of the beach is available only for the guests of the hotel, which owns the beach.
Free for visiting part of the beach is not so large. If several tourist groups come to Entalula beach at the same time, it will certainly be crowded.
The main attraction of the beach is a small rock that seems to grow out of the water. All the visitors of the beach make photos near this rock, and sometimes it’s a problem to take a photo without other tourists in the shot.
There’s good snorkeling near Entalula beach, do not forget to take snorkel mask with you — and you are guaranteed interesting pastime, while others take photos near the rocks.
Snorkeling near Popolcan island
A wonderful place for snorkeling in El Nido, Palawan. You dive straight from the boat and snorkel-snorkel-snorkel.
Multi-colored coral gardens, fish, starfish and marine life at arm’s length — isn’t it a snorkeling paradise? But you have to be careful – that all is not too deep, and when diving, you can easily cut yourself by corals.
The island, which is connected to Palawan island, where you can walk at low tide. The island is called Snake Island because of the shape of the connection. By the time we were visiting Snake island the weather turned bad, so we could not fully enjoy the beauty of these places. On the beach of the island, we were met not by a snake, but by monkeys 🙂
If you climb up the path to the top – you can get to the view deck and take a photo of Snake Island and Palawan from height. We did not go up, but we went for a walk into the mangrove forest, where orchids grow first, and then the mangrove forest begins.
Lunch on the boat during the island hopping tour
For lunch, the food was on the table right on the boat. Let me remind you that our group consisted of 14 people.
There was enough food, they served:
- Grilled fish
- Chicken and
- Pork kebab
- Vegetable salads
- Meat rolls
- Water, coca-cola, fanta
The entrance to the cave is on the beach, where the boats stop. The beach is quite nice. If not for the group tour program, we would have stayed on this beach quite longer.
There’s an interesting snorkeling along the coast of this beach.
We were unlucky with the weather — when we came to Codognon cave, a strong rain began, the visibility was so bad that we could not see the neighboring island, which was very close.
Of course, we could snorkel, but there was no way to relax on the beach.
As for the cave – I did not get inside. The entrance to the cave is in the rocks, you have to climb onto the rocks and then climb inside through the stones, which are quite sharp. Our friends got inside and told there was nothing special.
A beautiful island with a long beach and a palm grove.
Our boat was the only one on the island, so there was plenty of space to relax. Everyone can find what to do on Pinagbuyutan – here you can snorkel, walk along the beach, through a palm grove or sunbathe.
The cave is on Cathedral Island. There’s no shore of an island, as it is the rock, surrounded by the sea. The boat stops near the cave and everyone watches it while staying on the boat.
This is one of the sacred places for the locals. Cathedral Cave was the last attraction during our island hopping tour and after it, we headed back to El Nido.
As for our impressions of the boat tour – it’s definitely worth going. We were not lucky with the weather – it was cloudy and sometimes it even dark because of the rain. Anyway, we were amazed by the nature of Palawan.
Island hopping tour is a great opportunity to visit 5-6 amazing attractions of El Nido, Palawan in one day and get impressions of the Philippines that will stay with you for a long time. If possible, it is better to rent an individual boat and include in your itinerary the places you want to visit and see, even if these places are included in different group boat tours. But even if you go with a group of tourists – the endless pleasure is guaranteed, especially if the trip is in good weather!
How to get to Puerto Princesa airport from El Nido: review of a transfer + price
We had a flight from Palawan Island to Cebu at 8 pm. So, we had to leave El Nido at 2 pm, because the transfer to the Puerto Princesa airport – the capital of Palawan island – lasts about 4 hours.
The distance between Puerto Princesa and El Nido is 230 km, it usually takes tourists 4 hours to overcome this way. I want to emphasize the word “usually”, because in our case everything was not that way.
It’s easy to find a transfer to Puerto Princesa — there are a lot of offices on central streets, which offer island hopping tours and day trips around Palawan, they also sell transfers. We bought transfer in the same place where we rented motorbikes, the evening before the trip.
The cost of the transfer was 400 PHP ($8) per person. We were given tickets where the driver’s name was written – June June.
The next day we took a tricycle to El Nido bus station. If to describe briefly, we left El Nido an hour later the timetable, in fact, only 4 of us went to the airport, the remaining 10 passengers were locals, who traveled between the villages and so we constantly stopped along the way.
The road between El Nido and Puerto Princesa is a serpentine, almost without straight parts of the road. We were at the airport 3 hours after leaving El Nido, this time includes a 30 mins stop for lunch on the halfway. It means that we overcame 230 km of the serpentine road in heavy rain and with constant stops in 2.5 hours.
It’s hard to imagine, but we seemed to be flying over the road. I was taking pills for nausea and sometimes even cried for fear.
For sure, usually a transfer from El Nido to Puerto Princesa airport passes more quiet, but that was not our case. 3 hours of “pure pleasure” – and we arrived at the airport of Puerto Princesa.
The airport of Puerto Princesa is new and spacious. In the airport everyone must pay fee for the entrance before the customs zone — 200 PHP ($4) if you have domestic flight and 700 PHP ($14) for international flight.
You can not get on board the plane without paying the fee. Our flight from Puerto Princesa to Cebu was delayed, like almost all of our domestic flights in the Philippines.
⏰ You should keep in mind frequent flight delays in the Philippines when planning your trip, it’s better to have more time
Philippines Travel Video: Places you must visit in El Nido, Palawan (WATCH THIS!)
The trip to El Nido, Palawan – our review
Memories of our days spent in El Nido make us think that we would like to come back again – this is the best proof that the trip was a success.
We really enjoyed our days in Palawan, despite the fact that we were not lucky with the weather because it was not as good as during our stay on Busuanga and Coron islands.
El Nido is perfect to spend vacation because from here you can go on island hopping tours to marine park or take activities and excursions to other attractions of Palawan island.
We spent 3 days in El Nido, and now I can say that this is not enough. Therefore, when planning the itinerary of your trip to the Philippines, I would recommend leaving at least 5 days for El Nido
- 2 days for island hopping tours, as 1 day on a boat tour in the region is not enough to enjoy the beauty of nature
- 1 day for a trip to Nacpan beach
- 1 day for visiting beaches in El Nido, such as for example Las Cabanas beach
- 1 day for a trip to other attractions of Palawan island, for example, to the underground river in Sabang
Include El Nido in the itinerary of your trip, and pleasant memories from visiting this region of the Philippines will stay with you forever!
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About Nastia Khanenia and Andrei Salokhin
Nastia and Andrei are the founders of Travel Blog Stories. They write about the places they visit, as well as how their blog is developing and the products they create. Click here to learn more about How to Start a Travel Blog!
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