EL NIDO PALAWAN TRAVEL GUIDE
In the last few years, Palawan island has become a top destination of the Philippines. The 3 most popular tourist area of Palawan are Puerto Princesa, Coron and, above all, El Nido, where you’ll be amazed by giant limestone formations surrounded by turquoise and emerald water, perfect to be explored on a boat and indeed with snorkel gear.
El Nido’s area stretches in the northernmost tip of Palawan island and encompasses the 45 rocky islands dotting Bacuit Bay. El Nido is a protected area where dramatic rock formations, pristine beaches, spectacular hidden lagoons, sandbanks, and emerald blue water make this place among the world’s best beach destinations. It has some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever encountered on our trips around the world.
- BEST TIME TO VISIT EL NIDO
December to April are the driest and sunniest months. Unfortunately, from December to March also blows a strong wind that, in some case, can spoil your boat ride. March and April are quite hot and very crowded since they are considered the Philippines’ summer months. In February, we visited El Nido finding partly cloudy weather (only a single day completely sunny) and strong wind. It didn’t mess up our boat tours, but it was extremely annoying.
- HOW TO REACH EL NIDO
Reaching El Nido is easy since it’s well connected to the main municipalities of Palawan. You can use the 12go.Asia.com transport search engine below to find flights, ferries, bus and van rides.
1. Manila / Cebu to El Nido
By flight: the small Lio Airport is located only 6 km away from El Nido town proper. The only company that flies from Manila to El Nido is the AirSwift, with 4 daily flights. Once here, you can take a tricycle to reach your accommodation. Airswift also operates a flight from Cebu to El Nido.
2. Puerto Princesa to El Nido
Puerto Princesa is the central hub of Palawan Island, and its international airport is well connected to many airports through the Philippines. From Puerto Princesa to El Nido, you have 3 options: by bus, shared van or a private van.
By bus: the bus is cheap and comfortable, and it takes about 7 hours to reach el Nido (they’ll make several stops along the way to pick up passengers). The bus terminal is the “San Jose terminal”, located in the north area of Puerto Princesa, about 5 km from the airport. If you don’t sleep in Puerto Princesa, you’ll find tricycles to reach the Bus station out of the airport. You can choose between two bus companies: Cherry Bus and RoRo Bus.
By Van: it’s the fastest option to reach El Nido, and it takes about 5/6 hours. The shared van is cheaper than the private one but could be more uncomfortable for your legs space if packed. If you book in advance, the van can pick you up at the airport and take you straight to El Nido. Multiple rides are available from 5:30 am to 8:30 pm. You can book your van using 12go.asia.com, klook.com or even at your accommodation in Puerto Princesa if you sleep in town. Alternatively, you can also find the shared van at the San Josè bus terminal for the locals that go to El Nido.
- Click here to see the different options and reserve your ride with 12go.asia.com.
- Click here to check the availability with klook.com.
3. Coron to El Nido
By ferry: 3 ferry companies serve El Nido’s port: Jomilia Shipping Lines, Phimal Fast Ferries and Montenegro Lines. The ride takes about 4 hours and costs 1700 pesos (30 USD). We took the Montenegro Lines, but we suggest taking Jomilia Shipping because the boat is slightly larger and better holds the sea, which is always rough. If you suffer from seasickness, it is better that you take some tablets for it.
By flight: the AirSWIFT connect Corn Airport to El Nido airport with a single daily flight. If you book in advance, you can find the ticket for around 60 USD.
4. San Vicente to El Nido
Only a couple of companies connect San Vicente Poblacion (the town proper) to El Nido by minivan, and the daily rides are a couple. You can go to the San Vicente Poblacion pier, near the public market, where you will find a travel agency (the San Vicente tour and travel) to book the minivan ride to El Nido or other destinations. You can also ask at the reception of your accommodation or book directly on the Deskubre Palawan company’s website. The two rides leave around 7.30 am, and the trip takes around 4 hours. The minivan also stops in Tay Tay. The cost is about 700 PHP.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN EL NIDO
The base for all the activities to explore El Nido is the two small peninsulas that jut out into Bacuit Bay on the west side of the municipality. This area is divided into 4 villages (called barangay in Philippino): Buena Suerte, Maligaya, Corong-Corong, and Masagana. We slept in Buena Suerte at the Aqua Travel Lodge Hotel, an excellent accommodation located along the “walking street” and close to the pier. If you prefer sleeping away from the crowd, a good choice is Lio Beach or Nacpan beach.
- WHERE TO EAT IN EL NIDO
There are restaurants and takeaway everywhere, especially along Serena street (and its alleys), known as the “walking street” since in the evening becomes pedestrian. The food is good, especially the seafood and fish, but most of them are overpriced, charging 350-450 pesos for a meal.
Our favourite restaurants are Trattoria Altrove, ArtCafè, Happiness Beach Bar, Big Bad Thai Bistrò, Osaka Castle El Nido Sushi, Bella Vita El Nido. Don’t miss the chance to taste the delicious local pastries in the El Nido Midtown Bakery along Rizal street. Watching the sunset is indeed one of the must-do in El Nido. The best place where to enjoy this wonder is Republica Sunset bar in Corong Corong.
- METHOD OF PAYMENT, ATMs, MONEY CHANGER
The method of payment is mostly cash, but many accommodations accept credit card too. There’re several ATMs in El Nido town and some pawnshops where you can exchange your currency.
- HOW TO MOVE AROUND IN EL NIDO
If you sleep in Buena Suerte, you can easily reach the walking street on foot. Anyway, there are tricycles everywhere. Another good option is to rent a scooter (about 400 pesos x 12 hours – 700 pesos x 24 hours). We rented a scooter for 6 days, getting a discount (500 pesos x day).
- TRAVELLER’S HEALTH
Some pharmacies in town sell the most common drugs and, in case of a more severe sickness, a medical clinic in Rizal street and another clinic in Corong Coring close to the bus terminal. There is no hospital in El Nido, and therefore, in case of a severe injury, you need to go to Puerto Princesa. Medical expenses abroad can be high. Don’t forget to stipulate travel insurance. We always do it with Worldnomad.com. They also offer scuba diving insurances.
Important: It is highly recommended to consult a travel medicine specialist to assess travel-related risks and have information to ensure your health and safety.
- WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN EL NIDO
The protected area of Bacuit Bay hosts 45 paradise islands and has been named one of the most beautiful destinations in the entire world. The islands and beaches are grouped into tour packages: tour A, B, C & D. The several operators in town offer shared or private tour to explore the bay. In case for a day you don’t want to join a boat tour, you can relax on one of the beautiful beaches on the mainland. We highly recommend Nacpan beach.