El Nido forms the northern tip of Palawan Island in the Philippines and is famous for its incredible scenery and natural beauty. With its limestone crops jutting out of crystal clear water, incredible marine life, and white sand beaches, this is arguably the most beautiful place in the whole of the Philippines – if not the world!
The easiest way to get to El Nido is to fly via Manila or Cebu. Air Swift offers several flights a day to El Nido airport (also known as Lio airport) from both Manila and Cebu. Flight time is around 1 hour. El Nido airport is located right on the beach, and so you will need to arrange a boat transfer from the airport with your hotel if you are staying on an island resort.
If you are traveling into town, you will find motorized ‘tricycle’ drivers waiting at the airport. The ride into town takes around 25 minutes and costs approximately 200 pesos. Be sure to negotiate the fare before you set off.
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El Nido town itself is not particularly picturesque. As the whole point of visiting the region is to delight in the beauty of the surrounding islands, the best places to stay are therefore the island resorts that are dotted around. El Nido Resorts runs the three top choices in El Nido: Pangalusian Island, Lagen Island and Miniloc Island. Each of these resorts offers luxurious accommodation and a vast range of facilities and activities to keep the whole family entertained. Another island resort option is Cauayan Island.
If you can’t afford the high-end price tag of one of these luxury havens, then more mid-range and budget options are available closer to El Nido town.
With such stunning scenery and crystal clear water, it’s all about watersports and island hopping in El Nido. Most hotels and resorts will be able to organize all these activities for you, with some of the high-end island resorts even including these in the price.
*Island Hopping: If your hotel or resort doesn’t offer island hopping, there are many tour companies in El Nido that organize these. All companies offer the same four tours covering the main highlights of El Nido – the rather unimaginatively named tours A, B, C and D. Island hopping tours usually include time for kayaking, snorkeling, and beach time and include lunch.
*Lagoon Exploring: The three famous lagoons of El Nido – Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon and Secret Lagoon all offer something different. Incredible clear water for snorkeling is the highlight of Big Lagoon, while Small Lagoon is most popular as a kayaking spot for exploring the limestone cliffs and rock formations. Kids will love the adventure of ‘discovering’ the Secret Lagoon by climbing through a hole in the rock wall to find a swimming hole beyond.
*Beach time: So many incredible white sand beaches to choose from! If you head to one of the more popular beaches such as Secret Beach, Star Beach, Hidden Beach or Snake Island you may have to share the stretch of sand with other people. But there are many beaches where you will have the whole place to yourselves.
*Snorkelling: El Nido has some of the clearest water and most incredible marine life of anywhere in the world. The water is calm and shallow and ideal for kids to learn snorkeling. You can go snorkeling as part of an island hopping tour, or hire a kayak and go and find a reef nearby. There are so many to choose from.
*Kayaking and SUP: Exploring by kayak is a popular way to get around in El Nido and taking off to explore on your own is a great way to escape the crowd. The calm waters here make it ideal for kids to learn to kayak and stand up paddleboard.
The main downside to staying at an island resort is the lack of choice in scenery. El Nido Resorts can arrange for you to visit one of their private island beach clubs for lunch if you want to escape the resort for the day, or try out the restaurants at one of their sister island resorts.
If you choose to stay in El Nido town, you will find a large selection of restaurants, beachfront bars, and cafes, all serving local and western cuisine. Island hopping tours often include lunch – either served on the beach or cooked BBQ-style off the back of the boat.
High season: The high season runs November to May when there is more sunshine and less rainfall. Expect prices to be higher and hotels to be busier during this time, especially during peak periods of Christmas & New Year, Chinese New Year and Easter.
Low Season: The low season from June to November is a quieter and cheaper time to visit El Nido. Do beware of typhoons during this time, particularly in July and August, which may lead to flights and island hopping activities being canceled.