The El Nido Travel Guide
Updated December 2023, The El Nido Travel Guide was originally written in December 2018
El Nido has easily become one of the Philippines’ most recognizable hotspots, and rightfully so– it’s absolutely stunning, (this should come as a shock to most of you since we all know I’m not a beachy holiday destination type). Truth be told, I’ve been sitting on this information for quite a bit of time now. I’ve been to El Nino twice and will be back again, so sit back, get to planning, and enjoy this El Nido Travel Guide!
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First Things First: How To Get To El Nido
By Flight + Van
Easily the most common way to reach El Nino is by flight to Puerto Princesa and then by van to El Nido. There are frequent and cheap flights to Puerto Princesa from Manila and other cities in the Philippines. Flights can vary in price depending on how far out you book. Shuttle vans will set you back 850 PHP per person, each way.
By Direct Flight: There are direct flights to El Nido from Manila on AirSwift, as well as Cebu and Boracay. Direct tickets are a bit more expensive than those flying into Puerto Princesa.
- Daily flights to El Nido from Manila: 8:00, 12:00, 16:00, 17:35
- Daily flights from El Nido to Manila: 6:30, 9:55, 11:00, 14:00
- Price are: low season- ~5,300 PHP and high season ~7,500 PHP
- Flight time Manila-El Nido: 1 hour
- Daily flights to El Nido from Cebu: 15:15
- Daily flights from El Nido to Cebu: 12:55
- Prices are: low season- ~4,500 PHP and high season- ~6,300 PHP
- Flight time Cebu-El Nido 1 hour 30 minutes
Ferries go back and forth between El Nido & Coron, taking about 8 hours. A ferry from Coron to El Nido will cost you 1,700 PHP per person, each way.
It is possible to reach Coron by ferry from Manila as well for 1,350 PHP per person on up. It is run by 2Go Travel and runs on Tuesday and Friday, the ferry continues to Puerto Princesa as well. The ferry returns to Manila from Coron on Wednesday & Saturday.
Note that ferry cancellations due to bad weather are very common.
Where To Stay In El Nino
- There are many accommodation options in El Nido ranging from backpacker hostels to nice hotels to fit most budgets. The most popular area to stay in is El Nido town, which is handy for those who plan to get by on foot.
- Good, quieter options are Corong-Corong Beach, Marimegmeg Beach, and Sibaltan Beach. These are easily reached by the numerous tricycles around town or if you rent your own motorbike/scooter.
Where To Go & What To See
The biggest attraction to El Nido is getting out and exploring the scattering of gorgeous islands nearby by boat. Note that there is a 200 PHP Eco Tourism Development Fund fee that must be paid on your first trip to the islands and to visit several sites around El Nido that is valid for 10 days. If you book a tour they will include this as an additional fee on the price if you don’t already have one.
As of November 2018, The Department of Environment & Natural Resources has banned all combination tours and party boats. These changes reflect the desire to protect El Nido from the damages of over-tourism. It no longer possible to visit Big and Small Lagoons in the same day, and you will need to book Tour A in advance with a tour operator as they will need to register your name with the Protected Area Office.
Tour A will cost an additional 200 PHP that is paid to the Protected Area Office to visit premium locations of either Big Lagoon or Small Lagoon.
Tour A: Beaches & Lagoons
This tour will bring you to see stunning beaches and amazing lagoons hidden from plain view. A Tours range in price from 1,000-2,000 PHP per person for a day tour on a boat with about 20 other passengers.
There will be an additional 200 PHP fee on A Tours as required by the Protected Area Office as an entrance fee for visiting either Big Lagoon or Small Lagoon.
Tour A Stops Include:
- Big Lagoon OR Small Lagoon*
- Seven Commando Beach
- Secret Lagoon
- Shimzu Island
- Talisay Beach
Tour B: Beaches & Caves
Tour B is less popular but includes wonderful islands that are typically less crowded. You’ll get to explore some cool caves and visit the lovely sandbar of Snake Island. B Tours range in price from 1,000-2,000 PHP per person for a day tour on a boat with about 20 other passengers.
Tour B Stops Include:
- Snake Island
- Pinagbuyutan Island
- Entaluta Island
- Popolkan Island
- Cudognon Cave
- Cathedral Cave
Looking to explore more of Ocean? Check out my budget guide to Palau
Tour C: Secrets & Shrines
Tour C is an easy favorite with visits to beaches that are completely hidden from view and an epic shrine. C Tours range in price from 1,000-2,000 PHP per person for a day tour on a boat with about 20 other passengers.
Tour C Stops Include:
- Matinloc Shrine
- Hidden Beach
- Secret Beach*
- Helicopter Island
- Star Beach
Tour D: Secluded Beaches
The D Tour is least popular but with that said you can get out to some less crowded spots making it worth the while. D Tours range in price from 1,000-1,500 PHP per person for a day tour on a boat with about 20 other passengers.
Tour D Stops include:
- Ipil Beach
- Cadlao Lagoon
- Paradise Beach
- Pasandigan Beach
- Natnat Beach
- Bukal Beach
Tour E: Inland Twin Beaches & Waterfalls
This tour is offered around town, but can easily be done DIY by renting a scooter. The inland tour usually costs about 1,300-1,500 per person if doing it with a tour operator.
Tour E Stops Include:
- Nacpan & Calitang Beach
- Nagkalit-Kalit Falls
*Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon are premium locations. You will need to pay an additional 200 PHP for each visit to either one. Note that you may not visit both in one single day. These locations are only open to visit between 7 am-4 pm, and tours must be booked in advance so that your name can be registered.
**It is likely Secret Beach will eventually join Big Lagoon & Small Lagoon as a premium stop.
Hike Taraw Peak For Sunrise
The top of Taraw Peak gives awesome aerial views of Bacuit Bay below. Typically you will start this hike very early in the morning in the dark in order to reach the summit as the sun peeks above the horizon at about 5:50 am.
The hike takes about 2 hours to reach the top and a local guide is recommended. Guides will charge 350 PHP per person for the trip up there.
Chill On Las Cabanas Beach
Las Cabanas Beach sits just south of Corong-Corong. It seems to stretch on nearly forever and is typically pretty quiet. There are some guesthouses that have popped up behind the beach as well as restaurants and bars.
From Las Cabanas Beach it is possible to zipline over to little Depeldet Island and walk along the isthmus of sand back to Las Cabanas. Prices start at 500 PHP per person.
El Nido Day Trips & Outlying Areas
There are some great things to do outside of El Nido. These are all easily accessed by motorbike/scooter.
Nacpan & Calitang Beaches
The stunning Twin Beaches north of El Nido Town. For the best views hike up the hill to the east where you can see both beaches. Some tour boats offer trips out here as Tour E, which cost 1,300-1,500 PHP per person.
Two waterfalls and a pool to cool off in after the hour or so hike to reach this point? Perfect! Make sure and bring a bottle of water with you. 300 PHP per person to visit with a guide.
3 waterfalls not too far from Nagkalit-Kalit Falls. About 90 minutes roundtrip and the possibility to swim in the pools around the falls. 400 PHP per person to visit with a guide.
Archeological site with cave paintings and remains dating back to 12,000 years ago. It’s also possible to hike to the top but is quite treacherous in areas. 400 PHP per person to visit with a guide.
Located just a short stroll from the main road if you’re headed towards Nacpan Beach.
7 Day El Nido Travel Itinerary
Here is a rough itinerary for those headed to El Nido. Mix and match days as needed!
Day 1: Welcome To El Nido Town, Relax On The Beach & Catch Sunset
Get situated at your accommodation, grab some lunch at one of El Nido’s restaurants and catch some sun at one of the nearby beaches.
Day 2: Tour A
This seems to be the favorite tour of most visitors to El Nido, and easy to see why as it brings you to some very unique beaches and lagoons not quite like anywhere else.
Day 3: Tour D
Now that you’ve taken in some of El Nido’s most famous sites on Tour A, now visit some of the lesser-known and visited sights on Tour D.
Day 4: Nacpan Beach & Waterfalls or Inland Tour E
Rent a scooter and head out to Nagkalit-Kalit Falls for a quick hike and swim before continuing on to the Twin Beaches of Nacpan & Calitang. Just be careful and don’t wreck your bike as I did on my 2016 trip (I have several scars to prove it). If you’re not that adventurous you can set up an Inland Tour ‘E’.
Day 5: Tour B
Today go explore more of El Nido’s islands and check out the caves and beaches offered on Tour B. For those not interested in island hopping today, use this day to explore more of El Nido Town, Las Cabanas Beach, go zip lining, trek Taraw Peak, cruise on scooters or just relax.
Day 6: Tour C
Take in the rest of the beautiful islands of El Nido on this day. Tour C is actually my personal favorite with secret beaches and shrines.
Day 7: Morning Trek Up Taraw Peak, Relax At Las Cabanas Beach & Say Goodbye
Get an early rise and begin the two hour trek to the top of Taraw Peak (sunrise is typically around 5:50 am) and enjoy a magical sunrise over the stunning Bacuit Bay. After you descend back to sea level make your way over to Las Cabanas to relax and get some sun before you say goodbye to El Nido.
Got More Time?
Make sure to take a Tour D trip and take your time exploring more of the outlying areas like Ille Cave, Bulalacao Falls, Makinit Hotsprings & more.
El Nido Travel Budget
Since there are several options to reach El Nido, these prices do not include the costs of getting there and away. I’ve included a breakdown of prices for different categories:
- Backpacker hostel dorm bed: 600 PHP/night
- Decent Double With A/C: 2,000 PHP/night
- Splurge On A Bougier Double Room: 5,000 PHP/night
- Tricycle Taxis: 300 PHP one way for trips to Corong-Corong and Merimegmeg and 1,500 PHP for return trips to Nacpan including waiting on you
- Scooter/Motorbike Rental: 500 PHP/day
- Island Hopping: Tour A, B, C or D will cost you roughly 1,500 PHP/day. These also include lunch. Check out tour options here.
- Budget: 450 PHP/day if sticking to Filipino dishes and fast foods
- Midrange: 1,000 PHP/day for midrange sit-down places. There are heaps of restaurants offering up dishes from all over the world in El Nido
El Nido Travel Tips & FAQ
- There is an ATM in town but it doesn’t hurt to stock up on cash before your arrival
- Electricity is available 24 hours/day, most of the time. Outages aren’t uncommon. Grab an external battery before you leave home
- Buy a waterproof bag for electronics at shops or stalls in El Nido Town
- The internet and wifi sucks in El Nido, if you need to be connected at all times rethink your travel plans… Though who would come here and want to be on the internet?
- Don’t skip out on an island hopping tour, this is how you get to the most beautiful parts of El Nido
- Book tours that include Big or Small Lagoon in advance. Don’t forget you can no longer visit both on the same day
- Book in advance if you plan to visit in the high season (November-March)
- I don’t recommend anything less than 3 days in El Nido
- Don’t forget you’ll need to pay the 200 PHP/person ETDF fee that is good for 10 days. You will also need to pay the 200 PHP PAO fee for each visit to Big or Small Lagoon
- There is a medical clinic in El Nido, the Dr isn’t on staff on evenings and Sundays but is reachable if having an emergency. I know because I wrecked a motorbike on a Sunday evening and waited until Monday morning to get stitches
Have Any Questions Not Answered In This El Nido Travel Guide?
Ask any of your El Nido travel questions comments below!