l Nido was our second destination in the Philippines. Before, we had visited Siargao which completely blew us away. Therefore, we didn’t dare to get our hopes up that El Nido would be as amazing as Siargao.
Well, it sure did exceed all our expectations by far and we quickly understood how El Nido is one of the top destinations in the Philippines. You can explore unreal islands, enjoy vast beaches, venture through thick jungles, visit waterfalls, go diving, paddle in a canoe or relax during a soothing massage.
Hi! Nice to meet you, we are Marina and Ben. We live in Berlin and travel the world full-time 🚀
This is a simplified map of El Nido and for your convenience, we marked all the highlights we discovered during our stay. In the next section, we're describing each spot in more detail.
First of all, we somehow expected the city of El Nido to be much bigger and crazier, perhaps due to all the hype we heard before coming here. But quite to the contrary, El Nido is a small town at a beach with a few main streets, which allows you to know your way around pretty quickly. You will find plenty of restaurants, bars, shops and tour guide offices. During certain hours, there are even more street stands offering souvenirs, waterproof bags and more.
In the morning and evening, El Nido Town is quite packed with tourists. But during the day, most of them disappear on their day trips so you can solemnly walk by the beach, get some shopping or errands done or organize your own trips.
We were very happy to find a great choice of restaurants and bars in El Nido. Here are our favorite places that you definitely can't do anything wrong with:
Our favorite restaurants for breakfast:
Some of the best smoothie bowls we had, you should try the peanut butter one! It's on the same street as Gusto Gelato, 50m further east.
Super cute interior, a lot of vegetarian or even vegan options, and also very delicious breakfast bowls.
Not only the ice cream of this place is delicious! The crepes are freshly made and taste delightful with some sweet Filipino bananas.
Our favorite restaurants for lunch or dinner:
They put so much love into their interior, there are even swings at the bar. The food is delicious (especially the hummus), yet a little bit pricy.
Solid greek food like garlic bread with tzatziki, and you'll be sitting right next to the beach with a nice view over the bay!
We were surprised how good pizza in the Philippines could be! This place serves delicious pizza like you would find in Napoli. You might wait in a queue.
The island tour is the top one thing you can’t miss when you’re in El Nido. Maybe, even the top four things as there are four main tours you can choose from ;)
Which route to choose?
The four tours are creatively named tour A, B, C and D, and they all target entirely different locations. If you have the time, you could probably go on at least two trips and you'll still enjoy it.
All the tours start in the morning and will keep you busy pretty much the whole day. When we talked to the local tour guides, they mentioned tour A and C are the most popular routes. Here‘s an overview:
As you can see, the tours don't differ too much in terms of price: per person, you'll pay around 1.500 PHP (25€). Our guide‘s favorite route was tour B, so we went for this one. You can read about our full experience in our El Nido Island Hopping Tour Guide.
There are a lot of fantastic beaches to explore around the area of El Nido. The beach in town is fine for strolling along at night while enjoying some ice cream, but it’s not the best choice for sunbathing or swimming. Even though there are not a lot of people during the day, it still feels more like a harbor for all the long tail boats. So if you’re looking for a nice beach, we recommend to check out one of the following (sorted by the closest distance from El Nido Town):
Vanilla Beach / Marimegmeg Beach (10 min from El Nido Town)
This is the closest beach from El Nido Town and it’s actually quite nice. There are a lot of cozy beach bars and restaurants, some of which even provide free beach chairs or even beds. Also, there is a large zipline (500 - 700 PHP / 8-12 €) with which you can swing/fly from the top of a hill to a neighboring island.
Pro tip: Vanilla beach is the easy way to reach to a spot with an unbelievable view on Jurrasic Park Island (see below). Simply continue walking south around the corner and you’ll get to a nice lonely beach from where you can see our favorite island in El Nido.
Dolarog Beach (20+ min from El Nido Town)
You‘ll easily have one of the most epic views towards Jurassic Park Island from this beach. In fact, we actually discovered this spot while we were heading home from that island on our island hopping tour (you can read about that in our El Nido Island Hopping Tour Guide).
The easy way to get here is if you walk over from Vanilla Beach. The adventurous way is to come via motorbike and find your way through the jungle. Ben did this the first time he wanted to get here and to be fair, while the trip might be fun, you‘ll cross through private property of the resort which they sort of frown upon.
The beach itself is pretty simple and there are no restaurants and bars. So if you‘re up for a lonely spot, this might be it. Note that once you get closer the Dolarog Resort, they may tell you it‘s private property.
Ben talked to the guests of the Dolarog Resort about taking a canoe over to Jurassic Parc island, because you could actually rent one from the resort. According to them, it will probably take you 30 mins to paddle over to the island, but you should be aware of sudden weather changes. When it gets windy, it might be tough to return to the main land if you're inexperienced.
Lido Beach (20 min from El Nido Town)
This beach is close to the airport, so you could also take a tuktuk to get here. We absolutely loved what probably were the tallest palm trees we had ever seen. The beach is pretty big, so you‘ll have plenty of space to yourself. There is a good selection of bars and restaurants and even a pier to walk into the sea.
The sunsets are absolutely amazing as the surrounding islands are creating a fantastic backdrop. If you like you could even stay over night at the Lido Resort.
Nacpalm Beach (45 min from El Nido Town)
We rented a motorbike to get to this beach, but you could also take van that bring people here regularly. This beach is huuuge, probably at least 5km from one end to the other. Compared to the other beaches, probably the best choice of beach bars and restaurants. They also offer some fun activities like a trip with a sailing boat.
Duli Beach (70min from El Nido Town)
Since this beach is even a bit further up north than Nacpalm beach, we didn’t manage to go here. But we did hear good things about it from others who made the trip.
We were very much looking forward to doing this, as some tour offices rent out transparent canoes. Unfortunately, we got sick during our last two days so we had to pass up on this opportunity.
If you have the time, this could be a fantastic way to explore the bay on your own and discover some hidden islands and beaches. If you’re confident on a canoe, you could even cross over to Jurassic Park Island from the Dolarog Resort.
On our way to Nacpalm beach, we passed a little village that had a lot of signs showing the way to the Nagkalit-Kalit waterfall. We stopped by and talked to locals who informed us that this trip only makes sense during the rain season. So, if you‘re here during that time, this could be fun.
In general, El Nido is pretty expensive compared to other destinations in South East Asia. While we paid 70€ per night for a pretty luxurious room in Siargao, the same amount would have gotten us only a standard hotel in El Nido.
In terms of location, you have two main options: either stay directly in El Nido Town or, if you want to save a bit of money, look for accommodation a bit south of town around the area of Corong Corong. Another small plus for Corong Corong: the local food market is located here if you‘re looking for cheap food as well.
There are two main ways you can get to El Nido, one is much easier than the other but may cost a bit more:
Option 1: Fly in directly
El Nido has its own little airport that you can reach from Manila or Cebu. Do check flights a bit in advance since they don‘t fly in daily. The airport itself is quite pretty and super efficient. They basically hand you your luggage directly, they don‘t even have conveyer belts.
Option 2: Fly to Puerto Princesa + Bus/Van
Most likely, flights to Puerto Princesa will be cheaper than to El Nido directly. The catch: you‘ll need to drive around 6 hours to get to El Nido town. There are both vans (500PHP / 9€ per person) and big busses (300-450PHP / 5-7€ per person)
Technically, you could even rent a motorbike in Puerto Princesa and drive up yourself, but unless you know you way around a motorbike, this trip could be quite an effort. In terms of money, if you consider gas, you won‘t even save much compared to the van.
We visited El Nido at the end of March and had fantastic weather. It gets quite hot but chances of rain are super low. The driest and hottest months are March - May.
If you’re looking for a more precise weather description of the other months, we found this site to be useful: https://www.elnidotourism.com/weather.html
Here are a few things that we initially didn't think about when we went to the Philippines. You don't need to do the same mistake, just stock up before: