Discovering El Nido: Your Travel Guide to The Best in the World

El Nido is perhaps the most awarded destination in the entire Philippines, which makes it a must-visit if you’re headed to Palawan.

Just this year, El Nido is listed as ‘The Best in the World’ by Reader’s Digest, and recognized as among ‘The Best in Asia’ by TripAdvisor.

Even CNN Travel hailed the beaches in El Nido as some of ‘the most beautiful places around the world’.

The only way to appreciate the magnificence of El Nido—far more than seeing it in photos and videos—is to actually see it for yourself.

How to Get to El Nido

From Puerto Princesa, you can take a shuttle van or tourist van to El Nido. This is the most common mode of transport (more details to follow). Travel time is 6-7 hours.

What to Do in El Nido

The local government is enforcing stringent rules for tourists visiting El Nido. For a hassle-free and convenient holiday, you can book a private tour.

Several tour agencies are happy to personalize your itinerary in compliance with current rules and regulations.

Here are some of the places worth visiting, as well as the activities you can do in El Nido:

Nacpan Beach (Watching the sunset)

El Nido is undoubtedly a romantic and charming town. Set the mood for your entire El Nido trip by watching the sunset in this part of the world.

The best couple beach is at Nacpan Beach, which is one-half of the popular Twin Beaches, the other being Calitang Beach. Other great beaches for sunset-watching are Corong Corong Beach and Las Cabanas Beach.

Las Cabanas Beach (Zipline)

For adventure-seekers, try the zip line at Las Cabanas Beach. The trek going to the starting point takes a lot of walking (Tip: wear proper walking shoes!), but trust that it’s all worth the sweat.

Bacuit Bay (Island hopping)

Fun fact: El Nido has 45 islands collectively known as Bacuit Archipelago or Bacuit Bay.

Bacuit Bay is Palawan’s very own mini archipelago, where you can literally hop from one island to another.

If you’re into scuba diving, the pump boat driver can take you to the best nearby diving spots, too.

Tip: Here are the most Instagrammable spots in Bacuit Bay: Cadlao Island, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Cove, Pinasil Island, Snake Island, Matinloc Island, and Helicopter Island/Dilumacad Island.

Miniloc Island (Kayaking and snorkeling)

Kayaking allows you to appreciate the magnificent limestone karsts in full view. Then you can snorkel and explore different underwater creatures like fish, corals, urchins, starfish, and many more.

Big Lagoon (Kayaking)

This large lagoon looks like a photo taken straight out of a postcard. You can ride a small boat and explore clear, blue waters walled in by limestone structures.

Small Lagoon (Kayaking)

Think the Big Lagoon is the big ending? There’s another surprise waiting. From the Big Lagoon, you have to get through a small opening to get to the Small Lagoon, another breathtaking spot.

Hidden Beach (Swimming)

Walled in by tall limestone formations, you have to wade through a tiny cave to see another surprise: the Hidden Beach. You have to swim and navigate your way in, which makes the experience more fun.

Taraw Cliff (Hiking)

If you’re into mountain climbing, hike to Taraw Cliff, the highest peak in El Nido. It’s actually a gigantic limestone karst—climbing to the peak gives you the best view of the town.


Start at P7,900 ($156) per boat

*Rates vary per agency and the number of destinations


Captain, attendants, boat, fuel, life jackets, lunch, entrance fees, pre-registration fees to premium spots


Midnight Sun El Nido
TripAdvisor Rating:

El Nido Paradise
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◐

Discover El Nido Travel & Tours
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◐

Where to Eat in El Nido

Filipino dishes are hearty, filling, and sometimes exotic. It’s no different in El Nido, where the cuisine is an adventure of its own.

We recommend the following restaurants and cafes:

Fat Choy Lio Beach (Chinese, Taiwanese)

The Nesting Table (international, fusion)

Bella Vita (Italian)

Tambok’s El Nido (Filipino, grilled)

Taste El Nido – The Vegan Cafe PH (American, vegetarian, vegan)

Tip: While you’re in El Nido, indulge in fresh seafood — whether raw, grilled, fried, or stewed.

And don’t forget to sample the local delicacy: the Bird’s Nest Soup, which translates to ‘El Nido’. This titular dish, made from edible bird’s nests, is ingrained in Filipino cuisine, and you’re in the right place to try it.

Where to Stay in El Nido

Due to the influx of tourists, there are a lot of accommodations to choose from. We do recommend booking in advance, especially during peak season.

Lagen Island Eco-Sanctuary Resort

Very tranquil, private, and worth the high rates. Best for couples and families.
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◐
Room Rates:Start at P22,000 ($440) per night

Miniloc Island Eco-Discovery Resort

Fun, vibrant, with impressive snorkeling sites. Best for families and small groups.
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◐
Room rates: starts at P21,800 ($435) per night

Vellago Resort

Luxurious, exclusive and charming. Best for couples and honeymooners.
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◐
Room rates: starts at P21,000 ($420) per night

El Nido Mahogany Beach Resort

Homey and relaxing. Best for families and big groups.
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◐
Room rates: starts at P10,000 ($200) per night

Seda Lio

Modern, upscale, and conveniently located near the airport. 5-star services at affordable rates. Best for all sorts of travelers!
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤
Room rates: starts at P9,500 ($190) per night

Sea Cocoon Hotel

Affordable and located in the heart of the town. Best for solo travelers and backpackers.
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◐
Room rates: starts at P4,000 ($80) per night

Regular Tour Packages in El Nido

If you find the private tours expensive, many travel agencies offer cheaper guided tours to select destinations in El Nido.

Tour A

What to expect: island-hopping around Miniloc Island, kayaking, limestone formations, and enchanting lagoons.
Highlights: Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon

Tour B

What to expect: Snorkeling at small islands, beaches, and caves
Highlights: Pinasil Island, Snake Island

Tour C

What to expect: More beaches, islands, limestones, and historical sites
Highlights: Helicopter Island, Matinloc Island, Hidden Beach

Tour D

What to expect: More limestones, lagoons, beaches, and islands
Highlights: Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan Beach


Start at P1,200 ($24) per person*
*Rates may vary per agency

Captain, attendants, boat, fuel, life jackets, lunch, entrance fees, pre-registration fees to premium spots


Corazon Travel & Tours
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◐

Maambeng Travel & Tours
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◐

El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤

Tip: Smoking and bringing in disposable plastic bottles are not allowed while touring.

Important note:

Since November 2018, the government has banned all combination tours and party boats to protect marine wildlife.

The number of tourists is now regulated, and hence limited. Doing two tours in one day (Tours A and C, for instance) is now prohibited.

Advanced booking is now compulsory for premium spots like the Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, and the Secret Beach. Unfortunately, you can’t visit two premium spots in one day.

With that said, you have to pre-register if you intend to visit any of these premium spots (courtesy of your tour operator). There is also a Pre-Registration Fee of P200 ($4) per person for every visit to a premium spot, which goes to the protection and maintenance of such areas.


El Nido airport only services domestic flights, so most tourists choose to arrive at Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS).

You can explore Puerto Princesa first before heading to El Nido.

We recommend booking a private chartered trip instead of the regular tourist van. Though more expensive, it’s much safer and more comfortable. They only need about 4-5 passengers to get going.


P875 ($17) per person, one-way


TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤

Tip: Regularly check Klook, you might catch cheaper deals from DayTripper!

If you like more privacy (and lots of legroom!), you can book a private tourist van. You’ll set the time and place of pick-up, too. This is great if you have kids in tow. Definitely worth the rate considering how long the journey is.


Starts at P5,000 ($100) per van, one-way


Hello El Nido
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◐

El Nido Paradise
TripAdvisor Rating: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◐

More Tips

  • Always coordinate with your tour agency. Know the representative and save their contact details.
  • Bring quick-drying clothes and swimwear. Don’t forget walking shoes and flip-flops/outdoor sandals.
  • Pack light. Rent snorkeling gear and other watersports equipment instead.
  • You can get a local prepaid sim card with data allowance, but expect some areas to have limited signal. Hotels, however, have decent Wi-Fi.
  • Consider cash to be the main mode of payment. Bring enough bills and coins in Philippine Peso.
  • Check the weather when plotting your itinerary. Activities in El Nido involve a lot of boat rides, which can get canceled during bad weather.

Sample Itinerary

We understand some tourists don’t have that much time. If this is the case, we strongly suggest booking with a tour agency so they can help maximize your short holiday.

Here’s a 4D3N itinerary at El Nido (show this to your tour agency, if you wish!):

Day 1
Arrive at El Nido.
Check-in at hotel.
Try the zipline at Las Cabanas Beach.
Watch the sunset (and sip cocktails) at Las Cabanas Beach.

Day 2
Go island hopping or visit caves (try Tour A or B, or book a private tour).
Explore the local town.
Go to Nacpan Beach.

Day 3 (optional, if you have more time)
Visit more islands and lagoons (try Tour C or D, or book a private tour)
Hike to Taraw Cliff.
Try local food.
Watch the sunset at Corong Corong Beach.

Day 4
Check out from hotel.
Leave for the next destination (usually Coron).

Tip: Check-out early. Trips from El Nido to Coron are scheduled in the morning.

You can join more regular tours if you have more time, but remember—no combination tours are allowed in a single day. Schedule one tour per day.

If you prefer a private tour, expect that you can visit only one premium spot in a single day.

An El Nido holiday sounds like quite a trip, doesn’t it? You may think, at some point, that you’ll see enough limestones and islands—but you see even more, and it will still amaze you nonetheless.

What do you think would be the first spot in your El Nido itinerary?

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