El Nido Travel Guide
El Nido, at the tip top of Palawan island in the Philippines, is a popular tourist destination for good reason. It's budget-friendly, a great place to meet other travelers, and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches I've seen in my life. Here's my top tips before you go:
How to get there: El Nido is serviced by a tiny airport that has limited flights only from Manila and Cebu. I wasn't able to find an affordable flight into El Nido airport, so the second option is to fly to Palawan's main airport, Puerto Princesa. From there, you must take a 5-6 hour bus ride to arrive in El Nido town. The bus ($10) leaves from right outside the airport and you can get tickets from the office located there as well - very easy to find and figure out. When I arrived at Puerto Princesa airport there was a huge welcoming party for everybody getting off the flights- just outside of the gate there was live music playing, people dancing, and all the arriving passengers got necklaces! I don't know if this is an everyday thing, but I just knew my time here was about to be special.
Where to stay: El Nido is a small town but there are many choices of budget accommodation. I stayed at Our Melting Pot Hostel which cost me less than $10 each night. I highly recommend this hostel - they organize boat tours everyday and the hostel becomes like one big family while you stay! In general, though, the town of El Nido is very compact and there's no 'better' or 'worse' area/hostel to stay in.
What to do: You're probably coming to El Nido for the famous island hopping boat tours. There are 4 main tours - A, B, C, and D. Tour A is easily the most popular (and best), visiting the Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7 Commando Beach. These, in my opinion, are by far the most beautiful and worthwhile destinations in El Nido, making this tour the best choice if you're only choosing one. The tours take a full day, but if you have time, opt for Tour C next, which is the second most popular. They cost around $20 each, providing lunch and drinks on board.
There's other great adventure activities to do on El Nido as well. Taraw Cliff is a beautiful hike with a viewpoint of El Nido, but was unfortunately closed when I went because of heavy rains the week before. There's also plenty of other beaches a cheap tricycle ride away- don't miss Nacpan Beach and Las Cabanas Beach. If you're scuba certified, El Nido is home to dozens of incredible dive spots. Last but not least, if you've got time, make the LONG 8-10 hour ferry ride to adjacent Coron Island and stay for a few days! All of these activities can be arranged with your accommodation - most hotels and hostels have arrangements with tour agencies and you can book directly at your reception desk!
Other tips: There is one ATM machine available for cash withdrawal, located in Municipal Hall. Depending on your travel style, you probably won't need much money in El Nido. Meals can cost anywhere from $2-$5 if you're budget-minded, and alcohol is also extremely cheap. Wifi was pretty weak here, but there are plenty of shops selling local SIM cards for your phone. I loved El Nido and can't wait to get back there someday soon. I hope these tips helped you plan your trip to paradise! It really is a magical place.