Our ultimate travel guide to El Nido, Philippines covers how to get there, the best things to do, where to stay and more!
Located within the stunning and lush mountains of Palawan’s main island, El Nido has been rated one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines. Forget crowded resorts in tourist cities, and escape to tranquil and awe-inspiring El Nido instead.
El Nido, Philippines Travel Guide
How to Get to El Nido
From your departing destination, you’ll likely fly to the Philippines’ capital of Manila before making your way to the main island of Palawan. If you are traveling from anywhere other than Asia, your best bet is to stay one night near the airport in Manila before embarking on your island hopper flight to the island of Palawan.
Manila is known as one of the busiest airports in the world, and, in turn, I was recommended to allot at least three hours to switch terminals or get to nearby airport hotels.
I was relieved to find it only took about 30 minutes to get from the international terminal to the Salem Airport Guesthouse (the closest airport hotel I could find) which was less than a mile away. However, that was after waiting nearly an hour for our shuttle driver to arrive.
The easiest and quickest way to travel from Manila to El Nido is on a direct Air Swift flight which will set you back about $200-$300 US. If you’re on a budget, you can also fly with Cebu Pacific to Puerto Princesa and hop on a 6-hour shuttle ride to El Nido.
When flying out of the domestic terminal in Manila, make sure to print your boarding pass or have the email confirmation readily available before you arrive at the terminal. They take security seriously and will not let anybody through without proof of a flight.
When leaving El Nido, I flew back into Manila with Air Swift and they provided a transfer from the domestic terminal (Terminal 4) to the international (Terminal 3) which avoided the airport traffic chaos.
Again, although you might save time with a transfer bus, it would be smart to play it safe and allow at least three hours between your island flight and your international flight home.
Best Things To Do in El Nido
Island hopping! Skipper Charters offers both private and group charters to some of the most beautiful and photogenic places in Palawan. A few favorites in the Bacuit Archipelago include Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Snake Island and Pinagbuyutan.
The Open Tours — with small groups of six — are a great opportunity to socialize and they’re perfect for budget travelers. A full day tour with food and snorkeling costs approximately $70 USD per person.
Private tours are better for groups who want to explore on their own schedule and like to get away from the crowds. Weather permitting, they also offer day trips to nearby Coron on a speedboat.
Nacpan Beach on El Nido’s main island is another must-see as it has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. On your hike through the jungle to the beach, you can also stop at Nagkalit-Kalit Falls to take a dip in the water and snap a few pictures under the falls.
You’ll likely spend your days island hopping, exploring sea caves, kayaking or snorkeling, but if you want to see more of the island, you can rent bicycles or motorbikes to explore on your own or book a car and driver for the day.
Where to Stay in El Nido
The Salem Airport Guesthouse is a great budget option close to the airport in Manila. They also offer airport transfer for 200 PHP — about $4 USD — each way per person, which saves you the hassle of dealing with taxis. If you don’t mind paying a little more for added comfort, the medium range Marriott is also within close proximity to the airport.
Within El Nido, the Spin Designer Hostel right in downtown is the perfect budget option for solo travelers, couples or groups of friends traveling together.
The guards on the property pay attention to who comes and goes, making this an extremely safe place — especially for solo travelers. The friendliness of the staff, cleanliness, and the location really makes this place one of my top stays in El Nido.
For luxury getaways, I would highly recommend El Nido Resorts Miniloc Island.
Picturesque water bungalows are a favorite here and the hotel’s all-inclusive amenities include three meals per day, transportation to and from the airport, snorkel equipment, kayak rentals, and daily boat tours around the archipelago. In addition to the standard activities provided, splurge a little and treat yourself to one of their spa massages.
NoaNoa Island is another luxe option for couples or groups (a group of friends or large family can rent out the entire island!). It’s a quick boat trip from TayTay, not El Nido, so plan your day trips and activities accordingly.
The gorgeous location, secluded from tourists and surrounded by a coral reef sanctuary, make this a perfect honeymoon destination or romantic getaway.
Philippines Packing Essentials!
Swimsuit Cover Up: Ladies, you’ll want to bring one or two of these if you plan on spending your time on the beach or island hopping!
Silica Packs: When I visited in October, it was HUMID! Humidity can wreak havoc on your electronics, so bring a few silica packs along with several large ziplock bags to keep your equipment dry.
Swimwear: Bring at least two to three sets of swimwear; there’s nothing worse than putting on a wet swimsuit! I always bring a rashguard for sun protection while snorkeling too.
Water Shoes: It’s always a good idea to have a pair of water shoes in your bag along with a couple pairs of comfortable flip flops. Don’t count on buying a pair when you get there unless you have extremely tiny feet!
Dry Bag: A dry bag will keep all of our electronics dry while island hopping, kayaking, or traveling from one island resort to another. You can choose from 5L to 55L — depending on your needs.
Check out our Palawan, Philippines video!