If you’re looking for an amazing natural wonderland, look no further than Palawan island in the Philippines. With its prehistoric cave formations, secret lagoons, and incredible flora and fauna, Palawan is unlike any other place on earth. The northern part of the island is particularly stunning, with Bacuit Bay Nature Reserve surrounding the small fishing village of El Nido. Just offshore from El Nido are some of the most breathtaking islands and limestone rock formations you’ll ever see – dating back 250 million years!
Palawan has been on my wish list for years.Many argue that there is only one island in the Philippines you cannot miss and I would say they are correct. Never one to pass up an opportunity to visit an island, much less the “world’s best,” I knew my husband Dave and I had to go when we went to Asia this time around. Our Asian adventure began in Thailand with relaxing stops at Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe before heading off into Cambodia.
However, before I answer that question
I couldn’t find much helpful information when I was planning my trip to El Nido, so I decided to create this guide. In it, you’ll find all the useful information that I wish I had known before our vacation. This guide includes everything from where to stay and what to eat, to activities and tips for getting around the island. So hopefully by reading this, you will be able save time in your own research and have a better idea of what to expect on your trip!
How do you get to El Nido?
You can reach El Nido in one of three ways:
- Fly to Puerto Princesa & Drive – The most common and cheapest way to get from the Puerto Princesa airport to El Nido is by van or bus, but this journey takes 5-6 hours. I decided against this option after reading horror stories online about cramped conditions and dangerous roads. The last time we visited the Philippines, we had a particularly harrowing 2-hour transfer from Kalibo airport to Boracay. Taking that drive plus 3-4 more hours just wasn’t worth it to me.
- Take a Ferry from Coron –I was torn between El Nido and Coron, so I gambled on this option in the hopes of seeing both places. Here’s what I learned:
- The ferry ride is 8-10 hours long, though you will be told it only takes 5-6.
- Seating is limited and uncomfortable, with only hard wooden benches available.
- The luggage area is more susceptible to water damage.Ferries rarely run on-time and can be canceled due to rough seas.
- I once read a story about a boat that sunk while going between the two islands. If you can forget about that, then I’m sure it’s lovely trip with scenic views. As for me? I’ll pass. Next…
3 Charter Flight from Manila – The Air Swift charter service from Manila is the third (and by far the most civilised) method to get to El Nido. The chartered flights depart at various times throughout the day, and our round-trip prices were $265 each. It’s unquestionably worth saving a 6-hour car journey or risking being stranded on an unsafe ferry compared to paying for both and hoping they’ll arrive in time.
The charter flight from Manila to El Nido was comfortable and hassle-free.
We arrived at Air Swift’s passenger lounge excited to begin our Palawan adventure after a red-eye flight from Bangkok and a quick taxi transfer. The private charter terminal is just a 5-minute taxi ride from Manila’s international airport.
The flight was full, but I found it to be quite pleasant and hassle-free. We touched down at El Nido’s tiny open-air airport refreshed and eager to explore!
El Nido has a variety of hotels and resorts.
El Nido Resorts offers four exclusive private island resorts for the ultimate Palawan luxury experience:
- Apulit Island – The all-inclusive eco resort has overwater bungalows, which are called “water cottages.” These rooms offer stunning views of Bora-Bora.
- Miniloc Island – This tropical resort is designed as a coastal village, with just 50 thatched-roofed bungalows on a beautiful island. Enjoy all-inclusive access to eco-friendly amenities and breathtaking views.
- Lagen Island – On this eco-resort island, you may choose between forest rooms or water cottages.
- Pangulasian Island – This resort is the most luxurious of the four, and it offers prime beachfront access. All 42 rooms are private villas situated on the beach, six of which come with their own pool.
The majority of the passengers on our charter flight were booked at one of four eco-resorts. Their airconditioned transfers were arranged while they waited comfortably in the lounge, sipping umbrella-laden frosty beverages. As we made our way out of the airport in search of our own hotel transportation, I couldn’t help but stare wistfully at them.
On this trip, we were on a tighter budget than those beautiful El Nido Resorts would allow, so we went for a more cost-effective option in the heart of El Nido town. Our airport transfer? One of the many local tricycles that are popular. It was an easy 20-minute ride into town, but I was relieved we didn’t have too much luggage. There wasn’t enough room for the driver and us!
Budget-friendly El Nido accommodation
With limited choices for hotels in El Nido town, I wasagram photo of the captivatingEl Nido ocean viewhard-pressed to find a satisfactory option. However, after finding and commenting on an Idetails from the user who posted it. That’s howI discovered PURAding VIDA Hotel located centrally in El Nido town.
Pura Vida only had 3 rooms available, but I was lucky enough to snag one with a picturesque view of the water and mountains. Though the room itself wasn’t anything fancy, it was priced well at $104 per night.
Other budget-friendly El Nido hotels
If you’re looking for more affordable hotel options in El Nido Town, I recommend the MaryGold Beachfront Inn and the Sea Cocoon Hotel. Both locations have beautiful ocean views with stylish Room interiors. Additionally, being centrally located in town is optimal for easily booking tours and having access to nearby shops and restaurants.
We booked our first three nights at Pura Vida, but we needed to locate another place for our last night because the house was completely booked. So we decided to spoil ourselves and reserve a beachfront El Nido Cove Resort, which was only 15 minutes north of town. Most visitors come to El Nido for the breathtaking island-hopping experience rather than remaining in El Nido itself.