Cadlao Mountain in El Nido
El Nido is a coastal settlement on the Philippines island of Palawan. El Nido is comprised of 45 islands and islets; limestone cliffs are also found here, which form a Karst backdrop similar to those found in Ha Long Bay, Krabi and Guilin. El Nido is a popular destination for locals during the long holidays of Holy Week but, until recently, has been relatively unknown to foreign tourists. El Nido is more than just a stereotypical tropical paradise. Beaches, clear waters, jungle, steep limestone cliffs and stunning inlets make for one of the world's most beautiful seascapes.
Before El Nido became a popular tourist destination, fishing and harvesting swift nests ("Nido") were the main source of income. Nowadays tourism has become the municipality's main source of revenue; however, the authorities are trying to keep it sustainable and hotel chains are refreshingly absent. Huge tour groups are nowhere to be seen. El Nido is also known for water sports such as diving, snorkeling and kayaking.
El Nido Airport(IATA: ENI) sees several flights a day to and from Manila by (ITI)Island Transvoyager and this is also the charter airline for El Nido Resorts. Non El Nido Resorts guests may book with ITI only 5 days in advance, while the El Nido - Manila flight is bookable ahead of time through their General Sales Agent by going through the Art Cafe. The airport can accommodate only small aircraft, so the prices tend to be higher (P6.750) compared to those departing from the main town Puerto Princesa.
Upon arrival by air in El Nido, the El Nido Resorts passengers are whisked away in vans and those remaining take local tricycle taxis (motorcycles with modified side car). The ITI workers will call the tricycle taxis from town and the 5km (3 mile) ride costs about P200-P250 for two people and luggage.
Puerto Princesa International Airport(IATA: PPS) is Palawan's premier gateway. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, airphilexpress, Seair and Zest Air fly from Manila, Davao, Busuanga, Cebu and Clark to Puerto Princesa. You can catch a bus, private or public van from Puerto Princesa to El Nido on arrival.
From Puerto Princesa
Three Van companies are doing regular shuttle trips to El Nido, departing from San Jose bus terminal in Puerto Princesa.
Fares are ₱600 per person and ₱700 for Hotel or airport pick ups (minimum 2 people) and the travel time is 5-6 hr. The ride with a van is quite rough though as the road is only partially paved properly and aircon-bus rides tend to be much more comfortable.
If you are in a hurry (flight etc) then don't depend on timely departure as these minivans almost never depart on time. The departure time is actually when they start picking up people around town and actually get on the road 30-60 minutes later. Also they sometimes make you change minivans along the way once or twice and your luggage is tied on the roof and despite the covers can be becomes covered with heavy dust from the gravel road 1h before El Nido.
[Eulen Joy Shuttle Van ] PPS-El Nido-PPS have daily trips from Puerto to El Nido at 7:30, 10:00 and from El Nido to Puerto at 7:30, 9:00, 13:00h. Phone: PPS +639494498858, El Nido +639494498858. Tickets are available at Artcafe Travel Center and other outlets.
Lexus Company goes from Sabang to El Nido daily at 8:00AM, 10:00AM and 2:00PM. Fare is P900 but will only run if they have enough passengers. Tel. 09121002652. From El Nido to Sabang at 5:00 AM and 10:00 AM. To & from Puerto Princesa P600.
Tickets are available from most guest houses and tour booking office
Daytripper Palawan is a new transport company that offers comfort and convenience. Pre-booking is a must at their website or by calling +63-917-8488755, +63-921-7423683.
Air-conditioned RORO buses departs San Jose Bus terminal, Puerto Princesa and El Nido Market every 2 hours during the day and at 10pm and 4am during the night. Fare ₱380 and about 7h travel time. These are relatively new buses and absorb bumpy roads much better than the smaller vans, and with more leg room. These buses do, however, make many stops along the way to pick up passengers, so the empty seat next to you will be filled eventually, and the stops can get quite annoying.
From Sabang or Port Barton
Several minivans leave Sabang daily, the first at 7am & last at 4:30pm. Ride is 5hours and 800peso. Another option is to take a van or jeepney to the intersection with the National Highway and flag down a RoRo bus.
It is also possible to charter a boat from either Sabang or Port Barton to El Nido, although this is more costly than a bus and weather dependent.
Bacuit archipelago of El Nido
Breathtaking views of nature are the main reason to visit El Nido. The pristine waters of El Nido offer beautiful coral reefs, while its beaches are uncrowded unlike the popular Boracay, exploring the lagoons by kayaking is a great way of visiting the islets, coves and caves are also abundant. Inland El Nido, springs and waterfalls are also found. Bacuit Bay composes of limestone islands, where its possible to either dive, snorkel or hike.
The easiest way to see the Bacuit Bay is on an island hopping boat. These boats carry 6-12 people and will visit 4 or 5 islands in a day. The boats usually take set routes named A to D, but can vary depending on tides and weather. Boats normally cost around P1200-P1400 per person depending in the route and travel agency (ask for discount, if you do more than one tour). The trip takes one day (cca 9:00-16:00), normally includes a good lunch and can be arranged from most guesthouses and travel agencies in El Nido. El Nido municipality also charges P200 as an Environmental fee which is valid 10 days. It's a good idea to book a boat with only 6 seats and experienced crew (e.g. at Relucio's).
If you have time, go for overnight island hopping (3 days 2 nights is a good option) where you get to camp on deserted island ala Survivor style. (Though most places you can be dropped at are included in the daily island hopping tours.) It gives you the best option to visit lots more islands that are included in those bundle package tours but at your own leisure time. Find a few more people to get a much better rate. Recommended place a booth at Aplaya Restaurant, look for Nhel who will give you the best deals and arrangements.
Rock climbing & walking. The western side of El Nido township lies in the shadow of an impressive sheer cliff face which is just the visible portion of an even more impressive headland. There are guided walking treks (P350) to the top of the headland and it's breathtaking views all the way. The hike is rather adventurous though as you have to hike over sharp stones and make steep climbings without any gear.
- Catch a tricycle taxi to Las Cabanas (P50) and plonk yourself down out front of Orange Pearl Bar for a day away from the crowds on a white sandy beach and crystal waters. It's a short walk down a dirt road from where you will be dropped off. There is also an island with some OK snorkeling which can be reached easily wading through waist deep water.
- There is an usually empty beach right north of the El Nido airport if you are looking for some solitude (tricycle ride :P150).
- Take a tricycle taxi to Nacpan beach (P1000).
Island Hopping, Snorkeling, Kayaking, Trekking, Cliff climbing; Bacuit Bay consists of islands with limestone cliffs which are ideal for climbing, Diving & Snorkeling; The most popular activity is island hopping costing from P1200 a day including BBQ lunch and snorkel gear. There are 4 basic day trips to choose from named Tour A to D and can be booked from all over town. The quality of the boat, guides & tour depends on who you book it through.
- Island Hopping & Kayak Tours (El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe), Serena St., ☎ +639209026317 or +639175604020 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . The El Nido Boutique & Artcafe is one of the most experienced island hopping and kayak tour operator in El Nido with since over 15 years. They also rent out Kayaks, Stand up Paddle boards, Snorkel Equipment and Bicycles.
- El Nido Adventure Scuba, Serena St. (near Artcafe), ☎ +639283220958 (email@example.com), . Dive with the "locals" and most experienced dive masters in the area. SSI and PADI open water and advanced dive courses are offered.
- Submariner Diving Center, Hama Street Brgy Masagana (Beachfront), ☎ +63 905 484 1764 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Submariner Diving Center is the first and only PADI 5* Dive Resort in El Nido, Palawan Philippines, which is operated by the German Ronny Oliwka who is PADI MSDT and TDI AN/DP Diver. Submariner is also certified as Aqualung Partner Center who offers high standard in Diving and Education as well as diving gear branded by Aqualung and Apeks. Not only the Equipment considers a high standard. Also the staff is highly qualified
- Palawan Divers, ☎ +63 939 958 1076 (email@example.com), . Palawan Divers is the most established dive center in town. Created 10 years ago, it is the first certified PADI Dive Resort in town. Friendly and professional team of instructors, divemasters, and crew. They will make your stay safe and comfortable as you explore the diverse marine ecosystem of El Nido. From the beginner to the experienced diver, there is something for everyone here.
- Sea Dog/Plankton Divers, Serena street (beach front, next to Alternative restaurant), ☎ +639494495399. SSI and PADI instructors (including dive masters) with 20+ years experience. Jacques' Mayol personal tour guide in El Nido.
You can rent a motobike(P700/day on the frontline, but in Rizal St, you can get it for P500 with some bargaining) and go around the countryside.
The roads are well maintained and you will find it rewarding to find secluded places and beaches. A good example of such a beach is Duli Beach in the northern part of El Nido.
The maps given by motobike rentals provide a few attractions.
The waterfall wont be hard to find. But the hot springs it's virtually impossible to find by yourself since there is no signs, and it's hidden on the jungle. Although it's nothing more than a small boiling lake, walking on the countryside to get there, you can have good views.
- El Nido Boutique & Artcafe, Sirena Street (Buena Suerte), ☎ 09209026317, . 7.00-21.00. El Nido T-shirts printed in their own Artshop, Souvenirs, Handicrafts, Postcards, Books, Photo supplies and Cameras, Snorkel Gear, Swimming clothes and beach wear, Sarongs, Dresses, Jewerly, Suntain lotions and drugstore items, Wine and Liquors, Bags and Backpacks, Hammocks and lots lots more.
Generally speaking the number of and standard of eating houses are very good. Menus have good variety mostly European, American and Filipino dishes, and prices are moderate. Most are accessible from the laneway as well as from the beach and seating has the advantage of views of the bay and environs.
- Art Cafe a beautiful well established Restaurant with very good food such as seafood, salads, steaks, pizzas, spaghetti, homemade bread, cakes and fruit shakes and very good Coffee. They have Live-Music several nights a week. Free Wifi all day. Travel Center for all your inquiries about your onward travel. * Art Cafe, Sirena St. (toward the pier), ☎ 09209026317 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 6:30-23:00.
- Live acoustic music is played while you dine in Balay Tubay Bistru at Galeri(Balay Tubay Bistro and Galeri in English), they offer pizzas, European and Filipino dishes.
- El Nido fastfood offer nido soup; bird's nest soup perhaps.
- Marber's Great food and atmosphere right on the beach. Dishes include pasta, pizza, sandwiches, Filipino and German food as well. Nice staff and reasonably priced.
- Habibi Restaurant & Shisha Cafe, Hama Street, Zone 3 (Beachfront), . Good food and beverages, and they are the only Shisha Bar in Palawan. Drinks are made with fresh ingredients, pizzas are also popular. The full bar offers all varieties of premium drinks. The owner frequently visits the local market to find the best/freshest fish available. Free Wi-Fi, widescreen projection television, and games. The vibe is warm and friendly. The restaurant is ideal for groups wishing to enjoy the freshest fish. The fish are presented to you for selection, and prepared to order.
- The Alternative. Offers tasty & health-conscious food at good prices. Also has a pair of scenic beach-perched "nests" available for dining.
- Aplaya Restaurant Great food, portions are big for the price range and relatively nice atmosphere. Not too crowded. Dishes include Seafood, Chopsuey, Pancit Noodles, Beef dishes, Pizzas and pastas. There is free wifi, just ask the staff for the password
- Filipino listless eateries a couple of them on the main street, for prices around 70P.
- BBQ stands 10P for a stick
- El Nido Corner, North end of the beach in El Nido. Great beachfront restaurant with a Danish owner. Try the fresh catch of the day.
- Altrove Trattoria Great freshly made brick oven pizza.
As most of the accommodation in El Nido town is lined one-next-to-another along the road paralel to the beach it is pretty easy to find a room that suits budget and needs. Booking recommended during Christmas, Easter and Chinese new year, as all places especially on the beaches can become full.
- El Nido Four Seasons Beach Resort, Sito Lugadia, Barangay Corong Corong (The property is just 3 km or a 3- to 4-minute ride from the town center), ☎ +63 (0) 9175419804, . All rooms are equipped with Air-conditioning, TV with cable channels, Hot shower, Private balcony, Private toilet and bath. Some of its facilities and services are Island hopping tours, Airport transfer, Massage service, Room service and Laundry service. Rates start at 2300.00 PHP.
- Anang Balay Turista, Sirena St. (near pier), ☎ +639296033589 (email@example.com), . P800-1200. A small friendly place with good air-con rooms.
- Cliffside Cottage, Brgy. Maligaya (near Globe Tower), ☎ +639109567957, . single P600, Doubles P700. Located slightly away from the centre but set in a quite setting with porches facing the garden. Friendly staff, free wifi and kitchen available for cooking. If heading there from the bus station ignore the over inflated tricycles turn left and after 10 minutes walk cliffside cottages will be on your left.
- El Nido Beach Hotel, ☎ +6348-723 0887 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . P3500-5500. Each room and suite is designed with the comfort and convenience of guests in mind. All rooms have hot Water, TV, Mini fridge and free Wifi.
- Islandfront Cottages and Restaurant, Sitio Lugadya, Brgy. Corong-cong (just 1.5 km away from the town proper), ☎ 09296501284 (email@example.com), . Rates start at 1500.00 PHP. Rooms are equipped with Air-conditioning, High-speed Internet access, and Daily Breakfast.
- Kalinga Beach Resort, Caalan, El Nido, Palawan, ☎ +63 9215700021, . Located along Calaan beach, has 8 cottages and beach villas available.
- La Salagane, Serena St. 33, (firstname.lastname@example.org), . With two different locations, both seafront, La Salangane Hotel offers a variety of accommodations according to the wishes and budgets of its guests.
- Lagen Resort, Lagen Island, . Have 50 rooms and cater a la carte meals and buffet. A clinic, library, boutique, a swimming pool and a game area are some of the facilities offered here.
- Lally & Abet Beach Resort, Barangay Masagana, . A Dept. of Tourism accredited hotel, it has 34 rooms with an A/C, telephone and shower, a laundry service and foreign currency exchange is also provided here. For leisure they also have sports facilities for badminton and volleyball games. Major credit cards are accepted here.
- Lualhati Cottage, Brgy. Maligaya, ☎ +639193196683 (email@example.com). P500 fan room, P1000-1200 aircon. Comfortable family runned accommodation at the edge of town.
- Marina Garden Beach Resort, Buena Suerte, ☎ +639176247722, . P980-2500. In Center of Town Beach on the beach.
- Miniloc Resort, Miniloc Island, . Have 51 rooms, aside from being a resort, they also offer snorkeling facilities, and they have kayaks, aqua bikes and other water sports equipments available for rent.
- Nido Bay Inn, Sirena St. (near Art Cafe), ☎ 09275608535. P1500-1700. Building with 10 rooms right at the Sea shore.
- Og's beach pension, brgy masagana, ☎ +639204040223 (firstname.lastname@example.org). P700-2900. Three story building with run down rooms but a great view right on the beach. Happy Hour from 5pm to 7pm with P40 Beer. Divers should seek out one of the staff named Mator as he often does private trips.
- Rosanna's cottages, Brgy. Masagana (near Bus Terminal), ☎ +639206054631. P1200-P2500.
- Relucio Traveller's Pension, Serena St, Brgy. Buena Suerte (left end of the main street), ☎ +639262196640. nice family-house-turned-pension, bay view terrace, free coffee, free wifi P600-P700.
- Shore Pass Lodge, Sirena St. (near Art Cafe), ☎ 09179059659. P1300-1500. 5 rooms right at the Shore Line.
- Stunning vistas beach resort, Corong Corong (before entering El Nido from Taytay), ☎ +639217515783 (email@example.com), . PHP 2400-3600. Famous for a beautiful sunset. Easy tricycle access from town (5 mins)
- Lorenzo, Corong-corong (Ask for Lorenzo to any tricycle driver). Nice basic bubgalows in front of the beach. Free hot water, mosquito net, free hot water and friendly owner. 600 (double, private bathroom).
- Krizma Cottages, ☎ 09126548487, . On a quieter road back from the beach, these new cosy cottages are great value with hot shower and wifi and lovely managers.
- Francisco Inn. Cheapest room is P350
- Biolina Guesthouse, Calle Lisang, Brgy. Maligaya, ☎ +639075278584. An ideal place for wise and budget conscious travelers and backpackers. Fan and AC rooms available with its own toilet and bath. Room rates starts at P500. (+639102005072)
- Tay Joe Cottages, El Nido, Palawan (Nat'l higway. Sitio Lugadia, Bgy. Corong-corong), ☎ +639195379595, . 2 rooms available, Fan room, 4 person capacity of every room, 15meters away from bacuit bay & 1.5 kilometers away from town, we also arranged Island tour, Inland tour, Motorbike rentals & Breakfast. P 800.00 to P 1000.00.
- Dolarog Beach Resort, El Nido, . With its central location, Dolarog Beach Resort is within easy reach of most tourist attractions and business addresses in Palawan. All hotel's guestrooms have all the conveniences expected in a hotel in its class to suit guests' utmost comforts. Each guestroom has non smoking rooms, desk, shower, balcony/terrace. Services and amenities available for guests at this Palawan accommodation consist of bar/pub, laundry service/dry cleaning, restaurant, room service, safety deposit boxes, hotel/airport transfer, tours. For guests to unwind, the hotel offers a variety of facilities and services including pool (kids), water sports (non-motorized), outdoor pool, private beach, garden.
- Catian Beach (Ernesto Servantes), Nacpan Beach (1h North of El Nido town), ☎ +639062137793. Simple native houses right on beautiful Nacpan beach. While most of people only take a day trip from El Nido to Nacpan, it is nice to stay there few days to enjoy the nice sand and the laidback atmosphere. The owner Ernesto is a great cook too, don't miss the coconut milk seafood dishes for P150. Easy access to the hotspring and waterfalls. P800.
- Peak House Garden Pension, Hama St., Brgy. Masagana, El Nido, ☎ +639195273121 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 2:00 PM; checkout: 12:00 NN. Peak House Garden Pension is a family owned accommodation located right in El Nido town centre, just a few minutes walk to the beach. Guests have a quick and easy access to downtown and less than 5 minutes walk to some of the best restaurants, bars, bakeshop, pizza house and main shopping area. So come and experience the comfort of our tasteful design accommodation with a touch of modern and native inspired architecture, spacious terrace with wooden chairs and coffee table, native gazebo and landscaped gardens that will give you a very relaxing atmosphere.
- Zion's Welcome Inn, Lugadia, Corong-Corong, El Nido, ☎ +639494495399. checkin: 1pm; checkout: 12pm. Affordable quiet beach front resort located next to the most beautiful beach of El Nido. Offers fan and air conditioned rooms, free Wi-Fi and unlimited coffee. Very good hospitality, nice islands view and island hopping tours. Also offers scuba-diving courses, fun dives and kayak rentals. 1000-1500.
Electricity in El Nido runs from 14:00 to 06:00 but some places (not necessary the expensive ones) have their own generators that cover the period in between.
There are no banks or ATMs in El Nido. Make sure you cash up in Puerto or Manila before you set out. In case you have run out of cash you have the following options: the gas station right on the beach/at the harbour can give Cash advances on credit cards but charges a hefty 6% surcharge. You can change major currencies for a fair rates or either you can use Money transfers like Western Union. Dive operators and El Nido Boutique & Artcafe also accept credit card payments, this can save some of your cash as well.
Internet Access There are many Internet cafes in the town. Most restaurants, bars and guesthouses have free wifi. Internet access is subject to electricity availability, i.e. Internet cafes and most of WiFi work only after 14:00. A good alternative is to purchase a mobile phone SIM card and use the internet access on a phone.
Mobile Phones work well using the Smart Network prepaid cards which can be purchased at Art Cafe or at street vendors. 5-day internet flatrate is P200 and provides faster internet than most Wifi points there. Unlimited data usage is provided by the purchase of a SIM card, so Skype calls on a smartphone with this unlimited data plan makes for cheap worldwide calls.
- Coron There are bangka boats to Coron scheduled for every day of the week as of January 2014. Fare is 1,800 pesos one way and the journey takes 7-9hours.
- Sabang - visit Underground River, a UNESCO World Heritage site located roughly 50km north of Puerto Princesa. Or just relax on a white sandy beach in Sabang
- Port Barton is 4-5h away by bus and less touristy than El Nido and also has pretty beaches.
- Puerto Princesa is 7hours away by RoRo bus (380pesos, departs every 2hours between 6am and 10pm), or 5-6hours by minivan (depart all day, starting at 5am - less legroom, but fewer stops. Quality of vans vary, 500pesos+)
If you are traveling on a budget:
Water: Near the junction between Rizal St and Balisasayan Rd there is a water refill (P5/2 liter)
Eat: several eateries for P50-P60 a meal, including rice and meat/fish
Sleep: Outside the beach strip and along Rizal Street, its possible(2012) to find a room with WC for P300