El Nido, The Philippines

El Nido, Philippines – Travel Guide

Not only is El Nido the gateway to the stunning Bacuit archipelago but it is also quite possibly (I think we’ve finally found it!), the backpacker hub of the Philippines! If you’re trying to find a place with a distinct backpacker vibe, tour offices on every corner and banana pancakes on every menu, then look no further than El Nido.

The setting… A quaint bay dotted with banca boats overlooking almighty limestone islands. 

The vibe… Beach bars, chilled sunsets, day trips to lagoons and an array of white sand beaches.

This area will suit a full range of travellers, from the adventurous, who must get off the beaten path at all costs, to those who want tour options handed to them on a plate.

El Nido Map & Resources

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El Nido, The Philippines – Travel Guide

Best Time to Visit El Nido

The dry season in Palawan runs from November to May and the wet season from June to October. December to February are generally considered the best months to visit the Philippines as this time brings good weather with cooler temperatures. March to May is usually very hot so bear this in mind if you struggle to cope with tropical temperatures.

Sip Sunset Lounge 2
El Nido is the backpacker hub of the Philippines!

Where to Stay in El Nido

Most travellers will choose to stay within El Nido Town Proper which although its small size, has easily enough dinner options for a week-long stay. Accommodation tends to get booked up in advance so it is good to have a look at what is available before you arrive.

Corong Corong Beach is a 20-minute walk from the centre of town and has plenty of accommodation options for those who want to stay somewhere a bit quieter. 

A little further afield, Nacpan Beach is another popular spot. Most of the accommodation here is high-end resorts, but there are a few budget options including the infamous Mad Monkey Hostel. 

Note that Nacpan beach is a 40-minute drive from El Nido town, perfect for beach bums but perhaps not the best spot for those that enjoy being close to lots of activities and amenities.


On the outer islands, although there are some options on the islands in the Bacuit Archipelago they are typically aimed at those with bulging wallets!
El Nido Beach 1
Who wouldn’t want to stay on a beach like this?!

Best Hostels in El Nido

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Spin Designer Hostel – Located on the edge of town. A bed in a four-bed dorm starts at approx. $18USD and privates begin at around $44USD. There is an onsite bar, lots of common areas and even free use of the onsite washing machine. The staff are very friendly, complimentary tea and coffee are available all day and the free breakfast is fantastic!

Outpost Beach Hostel – Directly on Coron Coron beach. This is a party hostel with daily activities and very happy and enthusiastic staff. It offers clean comfortable rooms with 6, 8 or 12-bed dorms starting at $20USD. They also offer a 25% discount on rooms at their sister hostel in Coron if booked through reception. There is an onsite bar and restaurant and lots of common spaces with fantastic sea views.

Happiness HostelLocated in the centre of town in easy reach of everything and within walking distance to the beach, this is a sociable hostel where it’s easy to meet fellow travellers. The hostel has dorm beds with sliding doors for privacy and a fan and light inside from around $18USD. The staff (especially April!) are super friendly and can help you to arrange island hopping tours and onward transport. The breakfast is not free, but there’s a nice verandah where you can enjoy unlimited tea and coffee and the downstairs restaurant and bar (Happiness Beach Bar) is excellent. WiFi is reportedly fast.

Mad Monkey Hostel Nacpan Beach – The popular backpacker hostel chain Mad Monkey has opened a branch in El Nido with the typical shenanigans of happy hours, drinking games and sociable activities every day and night. Dorm beds start at $12USD per night and there are even glamping tents!

Mad Monkey hostels are great if you’re looking to meet fellow travellers and party. The location is pretty spectacular, with a bar and restaurant area that leads right onto to the beach, however, it’s quite far away from the main town of El Nido (16 km) down a dirt road.

Top Things to Do in El Nido

1. Kayak to the Outlying Islands

If you’re of the adventurous variety then all you’ll need is a waterproof bag, a tent and a kayak! There are many isolated beaches to discover and on a 3-4 day adventure will see some amazing sites. Be aware that it is not possible to kayak to all of the islands. Some require you to be accompanied by a licensed guide. Try to pick good weather days and don’t contemplate this in the rainy season! It just won’t have the same appeal.

Kayaking to the islands
Find a deserted island all to yourself in Palawan – there are so many to choose from!

Also read: How this traveller became Robinson Crusoe on his personal Filipino island.

2. El Nido Island Hopping Tours – A, B, C and D

Showcasing the best scenery that the Philippines has to offer, you definitely need to check out some of the outlying islands of El Nido! The advertised Island Hopping Tours have set itineraries and are helpfully distinguished by the reveal-all names of tours A, B, C, D. If you want to explore the islands of the Bacuit archipelago but have no idea which tour to pick, don’t worry as we’ve got you covered!

Check out this article: Which El Nido Island Hopping Tour should I choose? It will help you to understand the difference between each tour so you know which one to pick.

Book El Nido Island Hopping Tours A, B & C here.

3. Hike up Talaw Cliff

A climb up Talaw Cliff from El Nido Town will offer travellers some amazing views of the bay and outlying islands. The hike takes 45 minutes and it’s best to go early in the morning before it gets too hot. If you’re not sure of the route, you can hire a guide which will cost you around 500 PHP. Be sure to bring a pair of gloves so you can grip onto tree branches and rocks as there is not a proper trail. You will have to climb and hold on to the rocks (some are sharp). Leggings are also recommended to avoid getting scratched. Be sure to bring insect repellant too. 

Taraw Cliff El Nido
Views from Talaw Cliff, El Nido – Photo and info by Xtie Diamante.

4. Visit the Nagkalit-Kalit Falls

There are many attractions that will take you inland to explore the beautiful scenery. Jungle treks to areas such as the Nagkalit-Kalit waterfalls are popular and offer some incredible views. The falls themselves are around 10 metres and there are also beautiful pools to swim in.

5. Hire a Motorbike

Hire your own dirt bike and explore the area at your own pace. Bella’s Rental comes highly recommended. 

6. Go Snorkelling or Diving

You can do this independently or to see some of the best spots book one of our recommended El Nido Island Hopping tours.

YouTube video

7. Party at the El Nido Full Moon Party

Much like Thailand, these parties are held every month. Go crazy with some of the strong alcohol buckets and dance in the glow of the fire artists all night long! 

8. Zip-Line Between the Islands

Try out a 750 m zip-line from Las Cabanas Beach over to the small Depeldet Island opposite. The experience costs around $22USD and is best done around sunset.

9. Do the El Nido Via Ferrata Canopy Walk 

A less taxing climb than the hike up Talaw Cliff but with equally impressive views of El Nido bay. Take a walk over a suspension bridge to the viewpoint and enjoy the picturesque scenery. Guided tours with safety equipment start at 430PHP and take around an hour. 

10. Visit Nacpan Beach

A trip to El Nido wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the stunning Nacpan Beach. This idyllic powdery sand beach stretches for 4km and is backed by swaying coconut palms and green-cloaked hills. 

Nacpan Beach
The beautiful Nacpan Beach.

Laze on the beach with a cold coconut while watching the turquoise waters lap the shore for a taste of paradise. Nacpan Beach is around 40 minutes from El Nido town. Be aware that the final stretch of road down to the beach, after you turn off of the main road, is rough and little more than a dirt track in places. Be extra careful if riding a motorcycle and be prepared for a bumpy ride if you take a tricycle.

Food and Drink in El Nido

Unlike Thailand or Vietnam, The Philippines isn’t famed for its food, but be sure to try the local fare while you’re in the country. If the cuisine really isn’t for you, you’ll be spoiled for choice with Asian and Western options in El Nido.

Maa’s Grill is a popular spot for lunch and dinner, serving local dishes such as porksilog, cornsilog and spamsilog as well as grilled fish, chicken and shrimp.

To satisfy your sweet tooth sample some of the mouth-watering range of paletas at Chulas – gelato on a stick!

Chula_s Paletas
Just some of the delicious ice cream on offer at Chulas!

Wilnags serves up a mix of local and Western dishes to please a broad range of diners.

The Hub, which is attached to Frendz Hostel, has a large and varied menu with everything from Filipino and Thai dishes to tikka masala, Mexican, pasta and pizza.

The Food Truck El Nido serves up a range of Asian food including pad thai, Japanese noodles, kimchi fried rice, laksa and more.

The Food Truck
Delicious Asian food can be bought from The Food Truck!

Big Bad Thai is a hugely popular restaurant with a tasty and authentic Thai menu, with everything from tom yum soup and massaman curry to mango sticky rice. Make a reservation to be sure of a seat!

Taste is a small vegan café offering salads, wraps and smoothie bowls – all plant-based and all delicious!

If you’re craving a burger, head for the popular Malditas Burger House.

For juices, fruit shakes and smoothies check out Zip and Bite.

Head over to Sip Sunset Lounge on Coron Coron Beach for happy hour between 5-7 pm and enjoy a drink in this chilled-out bar as you watch the sun go down.

Sip Sunset Lounge 1
Happy hour at Sip Sunset Lounge is THE place to be!

Getting Around El Nido


El Nido town is compact and it’s easy to walk everywhere, including Coron Coron Beach which is just 20 minutes away.


If your feet need a rest or you’re heading further out of town, tricycles (the Filipino version of a tuk tuk) are available to take you anywhere you need to go. You can even hire one for the day to take you to Nacpan Beach where a return journey costs approx. 1,500PHP.


Motorbikes are available for hire from all over town. Ask your hostel for recommendations, some even have ones to hire direct. Expect to pay around 500PHP for a day’s hire.

View from Sip Sunset Lounge
Who would you whisk away to El Nido?

How to Get to El Nido

Located 230 km from Puerto Princesa, there are three ways to reach this stunning location either by land air or sea. 

  • By Land: You can catch a bus from Puerto Princesa direct to El Nido. Taking around six hours and costing 600 pesos, this is by far the cheapest option however, it does take the majority of the day. You can book local transport on 12Go.asia.
  • By Sea: If you’re coming from Coron (Palawan), a boat leaves daily at around 8 am from the port and costs around 2,816PHP per person. The journey takes around eight hours and you will arrive in the afternoon.
  • By Air: Direct flights are available from Manila (an hour and a half) and Cebu (approximately a couple of hours), however, they are quite costly. AirSwift is the only carrier servicing the airport and flights cost around $100USD from Manila or $150USD from Cebu. A much cheaper, but longer option is to fly to Puerto Princesa with AirAsia or Cebu Pacific for around $30USD and then take a bus to El Nido.

Where to Next:

  • Coron – It’s just one day’s boat ride away and will complete your trip to Palawan. Wreck diving and more island hopping await…
  • Port Barton – An idyllic spot located a half hour from the highway along an incredible jungle road.  The extra travel time is worth it, this is an extremely laid-back, relaxed and beautiful spot.
  • Puerto Princesa – Even though Puerto is small by city standards, after a few days in the remote Palawan you might be happy for a bit of hustle and bustle. Reggae bars and shopping for cool local artefacts will make your stay complete.

Updated by Lisa Barham.

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