12 Things To Do in El Nido: A Local Travel Guide

We’re nearing the end of the pandemic which means it’s time to plan out your next beach trip. I have many favorites but one that won my heart is El Nido, a small town in Palawan. Its name came from the word Nido meaning the nest.

According to the locals, it was named that way because of the swiftlet bird that nests in its caves. This bird uses its saliva to build a nest which is harvested and sold by the locals. The nest apparently is one of the world’s most expensive food product.

Well, it’s a must try but apart from it, there are many things to experience in El Nido. And, to give you a glimpse of what El Nido has to offer, I made a travel guide. This guide is based from my own experience living in this place I now call my Island Home.

12 Things To Do In El Nido

Go on an Island Tour (A, B, C, & D)

El Nido Palawan Tour Packages
Photo from @El Nido Palawan Tour Packages

With over 45 Islands, El Nido is famous for its picture-perfect limestone and ocean views. In fact, it’s been nominated for one of the best islands in the world. So, if you are traveling to El Nido, make sure to include this in your itinerary. My personal favorites are Tour A & C as they both include the famous lagoons: Big Lagoon & Small Lagoon.

Sign up For Fun Diving and/or Free Diving.

Turtle Divers
Photo from @Turtle Divers

El Nido is also home for many different species of sea turtles, manta rays, corals, crustaceans, and fish. So, if you have the budget and if you want to feed your marine life curiosity, sign up for fun diving or free diving. It’s a little bit expensive but it’s totally worth it! Plus, you might even come face to face with the famous Philippine Dugong!

Surf in Duli Beach.

Duli Beach Surf
Photo from @Duli Beach Surf

Duli is El Nido’s very own surfing spot. According to the locals, the surf is consistent and works all around the year. Don’t worry if you are a newbie as there are surf shops that offers surf lessons for beginners for only 500 pesos like El Nido Surf. There surf instructors are quite friendly too!

Coffee and Brunch at Tahan-Pugad ng Lukso.

Tahan is a new-open vegan canteen at Amboy’s Street, one of the the town’s center streets. This canteen serves coffee in the morning and vegan food in the afternoon. What I like most about this place apart from it being pure magic and work of art is that all their ingredients are locally-sourced plus the handmade tsokolate and vegan coffee drinks of Pugad are wonderful!

Attend a Yoga Class in Namaste.

Namaste El Nido Yoga & Spa
Photo from @Namaste El Nido Yoga & Spa

If you are practicing yoga like me or if you just like to have a slow morning, the best spot to start the day is at Namaste in Pops District, Brgy. Corong, Corong. Namaste is the only place in El Nido that offers yoga classes. It also offers other healing activities from time to time including reiki, sound healing, and animal flow. Classes starts at 9 AM. The last class is at 5 PM.

Hike Taraw Cliff.

Mt.Taraw El Nido
Photo from @Mt.Taraw El Nido

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or not, this is for you. Taraw is one of the two limestones surrounding El Nido. Taraw is a cuyonon word for Tanaw which means to look at. The other one is called Cadlao meaning laugh. It’s open to tourists and locals alike but a tour guide is needed to hike this cliff as it’s a bit challenging and can be technical for beginners. It’s a beautiful spot to watch the sunrise and sunset.

Visit Kalye Artesano.

This place is the art and wellness hub of El Nido located in Lio Estate. They offer a wide range of activities such as undoing yoga, rope flow, animal flow, and salsa- check out their page for schedule! On thursdays, locals gather around here to dance and jam with El Nido’s very own local indie band named Mike & The Wolf and other local artists.

Train Muay Thai at Madness.

Madness MMA El Nido
Photo from @Madness MMA El Nido

Madness El Nido is the go-to place of people who are into martial arts and combat sports. If you’re into those stuff, Madness El Nido is the place for that. It offers two major classes: boxing and muay thai for less than 500 per session. They welcome walk-ins however it’s best to book your class beforehand.

Watch the Sunset at Marimegmeg Beach.

Maremegmeg Beach Bar
Photo from @Maremegmeg Beach Bar

Marimegmeg beach makes a picture perfect beach trip with its white sand, limestones, and crystal clear waters. But, what makes this beach so special is its majestic sunset that splashes bright colors across El Nido sky and seas- It’s a sight to behold! It’s also a good spot to chill at night and watch the night sky.

Dinner at Kape Ni Manang.

Kape ni Manang
Photo from @Kape ni Manang

This place is a local’s favorite. My favorite too- I spend my downtime days here. It serves all the Filipino comfort food, from silogs to inasal, sisig and barbecues. They serve craft beers and they make the best refreshing fresh juices in town. So, whether you’re in for brunch or dinner, Kape ni Manang is definitely a go to place.

Party at Hama Street.

Hama Street is one of the best street on which to bar-hop. It’s where you’ll find the best bars in El Nido- Kuridas, Sava Bar, and Pangolin to name a few. So, if ever you pass by this street, don’t miss the Happy Hour at Sava bar and Pangolin Bar which starts at 5 PM until 8. DJ sets start at 9 PM until midnight.

Spend a night at Dryft.

DRYFT Camp
Photo from @DRYFT Camp

If you crave for solitude and privacy, go offgrid at DRYFT. Dryft is a glamping resort located in Brother island, Daracoton, a 1 hr boat ride from the town. It’s very secluded and private. Their glamping tents are huge and are constructed with scraps and beach wood logs. What I like most about this place is that it’s far from the hustle and bustle of town and their staff are very friendly and welcoming.

Where To Stay In El Nido

Hostels/Dormitories

If you’re traveling alone, hostels is your best option. Sure, they’re not as comfy as deluxe hotels but they offer plenty of benefits and some even have the same amenities as hotels like Frendz and Outpost. Dormitories provides a social environment for solo travelers and backpackers who love to meet new people. Most have communal areas where guests can lounge, dine, and drink.

Hotels

Lagùn Hotel El Nido
Photo from @Lagùn Hotel El Nido

Hotels costs around 1-1500 for a one bedroom room. If you look around, you can definitely find cheaper hotels that come with hot shower and air-condition. What’s great about hotels is that it offers you privacy, better amenities, and comfort that you may not find in hostels and dormitories.

Island Resorts

El Nido Resorts
Photo from @El Nido Resorts

Resorts in El Nido are really expensive but the price is definitely worth it. You’ll get to have your own villa or luxurious hut and you’ll have access to a variety of amenities- pool, private beach, restaurants, bars and many more. However, we don’t really recommend this as it’s far from the mainland and yes, staying in town is a better option.

Tips:

  • Stay in dorms to save money.
  • Ask for discounts if possible.
  • Stay in town to save transportation costs.
  • Opt for hotels that serve breakfast.
  • Plan ahead.

Where To Eat In El Nido

Restaurants

Happiness Philippines
Photo from @Happiness Philippines

There are many restaurant options that you can choose from when in El Nido. There’s no need to go far as everything is located at the towns center. You can find restaurants which serves Italian, Indian, Mediterranean, and French cuisine. They offer good food but just so you know, they’re a bit expensive.

Restaurants To Try:

  • Artcafe
  • Bella Vita
  • Osaka Castle
  • Clay Kitchen
  • Wilnags
  • Bulalo Plaza
  • Happy Homes
  • Angel Wish
  • Happiness Philippines
  • Kollektiv El Nido

Restaurants for Vegans:

  • Soul Kitchen
  • Tahan
  • Paul’s Vegan Burger
Pauls vegan el nido
Photo from @Pauls vegan el nido

Karenderya

If you’re a first timer and a budget traveler, you’ll probably find El Nido a bit of an expensive place when it comes to food. But, fortunately, there are karenderyas that offer just as good meals from seafood to filipino comfort foods. There’s not much karenderyas in El Nido though but good thing is all are located at the town’s center.

Ihaw-ihaw

There are many ihaw ihaw restaurants along the beach too that offers fresh seafood. What I love most about these restaurants is that they have tables placed outside so customers can see straight away what seafood are on the menu. Also, they’re less expensive than the restaurants on the high streets plus you could enjoy the view of the beach and the ocean breeze.

How To Get To El Nido From Manila

Airswift

AirSWIFT Airlines
Photo from @AirSWIFT Airlines

Airswift is the only airlines that offer direct flight from Manila to El Nido. They also offer direct flights from different origins such as Bohol, Boracay, Cebu and Coron. This is the most convenient option however it’s pricier compared to other.

Via Puerto

Another option is taking the plane from Manila to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Cebu Pacific and Air Asia are the two airlines that offer this flight. They’re less expensive, however, they can be more expensive than airswift especially on days surrounding holidays.

2GO Via Coron

2GO Travel
Photo from @2GO Travel

You can also opt for 2GO from Manila to Coron. This is a good option if you want to explore other places in Palawan besides El Nido. From Coron, you can take a boat or ferry to El Nido.

Requirements For Entering El Nido

For Fully Vaccinated Tourists:

S-PASS
Photo from @S-PASS

Approved S-PASS Travel Permit with submission of the following requirements:

  • Negative Antigen test taken 48 hours prior to arrival
  • Confirmed booking from DOT accredited hotel / accommodation
  • COVID-19 vaccination card or certification issued by LGU, vaxcert.doh.gov.ph or legitimate vaccinating establishment
  • Round-trip tickets
  • Government issued ID

For Partially Vaccinated or Unvaccinated Tourists:

Approved S-PASS Travel Permit with submission of the following requirements:

  • Negative RT-PCR swab test result from DOH accredited establishment or negative saliva test result from Philippine Red Cross taken within 48 hours prior to arrival
  • Confirmed booking from DOT accredited hotel / accommodation
  • Round-trip tickets
  • Government issued ID

Other Tips:

Lakwatsero Motorcycles
Photo from @Lakwatsero Motorcycles
  • Book your accommodation in advance.
  • Always bring an insect repellant on the beach.
  • Bring a dry bag or any waterproof bag for your things and your trash.
  • If you know how to ride a motorbike, rent one.
  • Bring a power bank.

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