El Nido means much more than just a gathering of 45 islands, randomly chosen from the over 7000 of the Philippines.
It is an idyllic place where breathtaking landscapes are the gift you receive at the end of an exhausting but beautiful day, full of activities meant to increase your adrenaline and adventurous spirit.
I only had 5 days for El Nido, which is undoubtedly not enough to enjoy this wonderful place fully. However, in the 5 days, I have done so many things to have memories for life and photos to load all my computer memory.
What I use every time I travel:
- To book hotels: Booking.com
- To book tours: GetYourGuide.com
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Where to stay in El Nido:
El Nido Philippines has a wide range of hotel alternatives to meet the demands of every traveler. There’s something for everyone, from opulent beachside resorts with breathtaking views to budget-friendly guesthouses.
These are my top 3 recommendations depending on budget:
- budget: Corong Beach Resort – good location, beachfront
- mid-range: ANITSA RESORT – pool, breakfast included, spacious rooms
- luxury: Maremegmeg Beach Club – great design, beautiful pool, restaurant, bar, beachfront
So, I have built a list of 18 things you shouldn’t miss when in El Nido:
18 things to do in El Nido – best El Nido tours
1. Visit Las Cabanas
Las Cabanas Beach is one of the most beautiful and famous beaches in El Nido, primarily due to the “postcard” panorama revealed by nature in front of your eyes.
The view to the island of Depeldet and its connection through a mini beach only exists during the high tide, sending it directly to the category of unique places.
I recommend spending a whole day in Las Cabanas, or at least an afternoon, and taking advantage of the strategic orientation of the beach to the sunset.
Take a seat on the beach, enjoy a coconut or a fresh made of exotic fruits, and enjoy the calm of the waves and the sunset colors.
There will be many people around you who will do the same thing. Still, unlike the other places assaulted by tourists, there is a tacit understanding of respecting the relaxing moments between the travelers coming to Las Cabanas.
Therefore, you will not feel your space invaded, but you will instead feel like you are at an outdoor cinema decorated with palm trees, shells, and fine sand, in which the film that unfolds is the divine landscape of Bacuit Bay.
2. Zip lining to Depeldet Island | Unique things to do in El Nido
Though I have tried the zip line before, in Transfagarasan (Romania), I knew the experience would be much more different and frightening this time.
The zip line of El Nido crosses Marimegmeg Beach and a few hundred meters of water.
The view deserves all the effort and all the fear, as you will have a bird’s eye view of the turquoise waters, the remote islands, and the palm trees.
You can go one way to Depeldet Island or back and forth.
We chose one way only, then went down to Las Cabanas beach, where we continued the rest of our day.
I must warn you from now on that you must climb long enough until you reach the top of the hill, which is the starting point of the zip line, so I hope you have an acceptable physical condition.
We got up almost breathless, but we had enough time to be okay, and we also stood in the queue until our turn came.
Don’t take any valuable items that could easily fall as you zip line. You could buy a strong plastic bag for your mobile phone to wear on your neck.
The zip line is one of the most beautiful experiences in El Nido. For this reason, you are not allowed to miss it! 🙂
Some essential information you need to know about the El Nido zip line:
- The price for one way is 500 Php
- The climbing time to the starting point is about 10 minutes
- You can choose between a sitting position or a Superman position on your belly
- The distance to Depeldet Island is approximately 750 m;
- The crossing can be made, depending on speed, weight, and other physical factors, in more than or less than 1 minute
- The program is from 9 am to 5.30 pm
- You may not be able to get to the other platform yourself (yes, it happened to me), but do not worry; A member of the staff will be happy to help you
- Once you reach Depeldet Island, you will have to descend bamboo stairs until you reach the ground
- Such an incredible experience!!!
3. Ride the tricycle
As mentioned in my previous article, the complete guide to El Nido, the tricycle, will be the most commonly used means of transport.
You should try the tricycle even if you like walking or renting a scooter for road trips and longer distances.
It is part of the place, and if you do not try it, the experience of El Nido will not be complete.
Do not forget, for almost any road inside the city, the price revolves around 50Php ≈ $ 1, so don’t fool yourself. For routes longer than 20 minutes, the price reaches 150 Php.
Though they may seem small and unsafe, we had no incident or accident as a tricycle passenger. We even used them to carry our luggage. Tricycle for the win!
4. Taste traditional dishes
You are on a famous and beautiful island in the Philippines. So it would be a shame not to try their traditional food.
From my point of view, it’s not the best cuisine (I’m a bit pretentious about what gets inside my stomach), but I think chicken, rice, and mango sauce should be to everyone’s liking.
Although all kinds of food seem the same, and you feel that on the menu there are only rice and various meats, the sauces, the way of preparation, and the countless spices they use, make all the difference.
5. Go on an island-hopping tour
Of all the things listed, the tour is a mandatory experience. There are 4 El Nido tours in number, marked with letters from A to D, the best rated being A and C.
I chose A, and I don’t regret the decision at all. I visited Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7Commando Beach.
I’m not going into the details because I will debate everything in a separate article. Still, if I were to nominate a single activity you would not miss in El Nido, it would surely be to go at least on a tour with an organized group or a private boat.
Generally, a tour will take half of a day’s schedule, and they all start in the morning, around 9 o’clock, and end 7 or 8 hours later.
On tour, you can discover the most beautiful natural attractions in Bacuit Bay, the turquoise waters, and so clear that you can easily see the fish and the coral reefs, the karst relief, the white sandy beaches, and the palm trees. Here you can book all the El Nido tours:
⇒ Book Tour A⇒ Book Tour B ⇒ Book Tour C⇒ Book Tour D
6. Swing on the beach | What to do in El Nido
There are several beaches with swings in El Nido, but the most fun and beautiful view I found is on the 7Commando beach, the last destination in Tour A.
Swinging on El Nido’s beach is a surreal experience and one of the most unique things to do in El Nido, one that involves palm trees, soft sand, and blue waters. The picturesque vista of limestone cliffs and emerald islets adds to the peace.
As the sun sets, the beach transforms into a colorful canvas, providing a peaceful retreat and an opportunity to connect with nature’s splendor. A swing on El Nido’s beach will be a treasured memory of happiness.
7. Road trip the island on a scooter | Best El Nido tours
No matter how detached from the urbanized world you will feel in the footsteps of El Nido, the feeling of freedom will capture you even more when you ride the roads of the villages, hills, and forests on the island’s north side on two wheels. I also put a mini-map with the route of the itinerary we chose.
Rent a scooter for a day, fill it up, and start looking for the most beautiful panoramas in El Nido Bay and Base Bay.
Don’t forget to take a bag of supplies from the downtown bakery, your bathing suit, comfortable clothes, and many adventurous spirits.
It is also essential to protect yourself, so you shouldn’t refuse to wear your helmet.
Many unpaved roads are full of deep pits formed by heavy precipitation. Therefore, it is not appropriate to put at risk various parts of your body just because you feel lucky.
If the gas finishes, you can stop at the shops in the villages you cross. Most likely, they will have bottles stuffed with gasoline, easily spottable.
You won’t have a signal, so you only have to rely on the road signs and indications … of the locals, of course! 🙂
8. Relax in the hammock | Best things to do in El Nido Palawan
If it’s not a swing, then it’s a hammock. And as you feel exhausted after many climbs, miles on foot, tours and adventures of all kinds, the hammock will become your best friend at the end of the day.
Relax under the shade of palm leaves, and charge your batteries for the next day. Your feet will be grateful!
* You will find the Hammocks in the photos on the coolest beach of El Nido. Have I told you about Las Cabanas? : D
9. Walk on Serena Street in downtown
The city of El Nido has no impressive dimensions, but it is so full of life that it gives you the feeling that you are in a crowded intersection of a metropolis.
Many locals, tourists, tricycles, and scooters shuffle the narrow, dusty streets into chaos.
Though small, the city is sprinkled with restaurants, shops, and local travel agencies.
If you are not sure which way to go, and it seems to you that every new street is a true copy of the previous one, I recommend you go to Serena Street, which is distinguished by many fine restaurants, good food, high-quality shops, and decent wifi, here and there.
The best restaurants seem to be Happiness and Art Cafe.
10. Visit Nacpan Beach | What to do in El Nido
I admit, the primary purpose of the road trip with the scooter was the two twin beaches, Nacpan and Calitang, but especially the unmistakable panorama I had seen in so many pictures.
Unfortunately, when I visited, a fence blocked the passage to the hill, and a guard was placed there to ensure no one would break the law.
As I could see from the displayed placard, the hill is privately owned, and public access was strictly forbidden for a few weeks.
I don’t know if something has changed, but the disappointment at that time was relatively high.
However, I visited both beaches and concluded that Calitang is almost deserted, and Nacpan resembles Long Beach in San Vicente.
The significant difference is the number of tourists and restaurants on the beach, where Nacpan is the winner. The road from El Nido to Nacpan Beach takes about an hour.
11. Participate in a beach party | Best 18 activities in El Nido
The hottest parties take place on the beach. Even in El Nido, things are not different, so if you want to have fun with other tourists under the clear moon, you should go to Sun Bar, Marimegmeg Beach, the restaurants on Corong Corong Beach, or the bars in El Nido Beach.
El Nido beach parties are legendary! Their exciting atmosphere attracts both locals and tourists. The beach becomes a dance floor, with music, laughing, and joy blending in unison.
Fire dancers and energetic shows enhance the attractiveness. Bars and beach clubs serve cool beverages, which feed the crowd’s colorful energy. These parties promote friendship and adventure, making them a must-attend for nightlife fans.
You should definitely add attending a beach party to your list of El Nido activities!
12. Paddle a kayak on Bacuit Bay
Kayaking may be an excellent option for exploring the islands near the archipelago. For example, the 7 Commando, Lapus, or Ipil beaches are a few minutes away.
You can rent the kayak from the shore or when you’re on the tour. In fact, in many places you will go, a kayak is necessary to go to the beach or explore the lagoon.
Kayaking in El Nido provides a unique opportunity to enjoy the region’s natural beauty. Kayakers can explore hidden lagoons, limestone cliffs, and isolated beaches while paddling across blue waters.
Kayaking in El Nido, whether on guided tours or solo excursions, provides a fantastic connection to this tropical paradise’s pure nature and spectacular beauty.
13. Take a photo on a mini beach in the middle of the water
In the evening, the waters of Bacuit Bay break off some portions of the sea and form mini islands or mini beaches with fine sand.
It’s the perfect opportunity to crawl some frames that seem photoshopped or enjoy another perspective of the bay.
But wait till you see how beautiful the sunset colors reflected on the water surrounding these mini islands!
14. Admire the most beautiful sunsets | Unique things to do in El Nido Palawan
I will not even try to describe them because they left me speechless. Therefore, I challenge you to go and see them with your eyes!
Sunsets at El Nido are a riveting sight with a dazzling color pallet that creates a breathtaking panoramic perspective. The peaceful waters reflect the sky, adding to the enchantment of the scene.
Visitors and locals assemble on the beach or atop limestone cliffs to observe this natural spectacle. Sunsets in El Nido elicit awe and serenity, making them an ideal moment to reflect and admire nature’s splendor.
15. Enjoy the most spectacular scenery right on the beach | Unique things to do in El Nido
The fact that the landscapes of El Nido are breathtaking does not seem to be a secret anymore, but what appears to be very cool is that you can enjoy them as you relax at the beach.
And wherever you choose to tan, it’s too little possible for an eye-catching picture to be found right there.
Stones that rise in the middle of the bay, covered by the green of the shrubs and scalded by the most crystalline waters I’ve ever seen, make you feel like in paradise and not just on a regular beach.
16. Lose yourself among the vast rice fields
Even though the reputation for rice fields is more likely to be attributed to Indonesia’s Bali Island, the Philippines is not bad at all.
If I did not have time to visit Banaue when I spent 2 days in Manila, I would take my revenge in El Nido, where I found with great enthusiasm how large the stretches of green are and how important it is to the Filipinos.
El Nido’s rice fields highlight the region’s agricultural legacy and scenic beauty. These terraced fields, nestled in beautiful hills, demonstrate the labor-intensive rice farming process and the balance between man and the environment.
The fields are a photographer’s dream because of the rich foliage and changing colors. These tranquil countryside surroundings immerse tourists in traditional Filipino culture while emphasizing the role of agriculture in defining the region’s character.
17. Adventure into a snorkeling session | What to do in El Nido
The depths of El Nido enjoy abundant marine life. Over 800 species of fish, 120 corals, and 1,700 crustaceans are hiding in the turbulent waves of Bacuit Bay and are waiting for you to come in contact with them during snorkeling sessions.
In Tour A, the two best stops for snorkeling were the Small Lagoon and Shimizu Island. If you are not ready for an underwater adventure, do not worry.
Snorkeling equipment can be rented for one day at a price of 300Php.
The same applies to slippers that protect you from sharp stones and hedgehogs.
I think the words are superfluous, and it’s enough to look at the pictures below to understand more.
18. Lunch on the boat
The price of a tour, in which you can see all the beauties of El Nido, seems too small for what it would offer. But what if I tell you that with less than $29 you also have a meal included?
In El Nido, I first tasted yellow melon (ironically, right?) and algae salad.
The menu on the boat also includes rice, peanuts, tomatoes, cucumbers, grilled fish, onion rings, and many seasoned sauces.
Doesn’t it create a beautiful contrast between the turquoise water and the goodies on the table?
Things to know before visiting El Nido
What is the best time to visit El Nido?
El Nido is best during the dry season, from November to April, with mild weather and calm seas. The peak tourist season occurs between December and March, causing crowds and higher prices.
To balance fewer tourists and decent weather, visit in November or April. Monsoon season, from May to October, brings heavy rains and occasional typhoons, making it less desirable for travelers.
Where can you buy the best tours in El Nido?
I always choose GetYourGuide to buy my tours in the destinations I visit, and I did the same for the tours in El Nido.
How to go to El Nido?
You can fly into Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS) from Manila. From there, you can choose between a direct van, bus, or a direct flight to El Nido Airport (ENI).
Other unique things to do in El Nido
If you have more time at your disposal, you certainly cannot get bored here. There are a lot of things to do in El Nido. Here are some of them:
- Trek to Taraw Cliff for panoramic views of El Nido
- Enjoy sunset cruises for captivating evening views
- Visit the Nagkalit-kalit Falls for a refreshing hike and swim
- Join a firefly-watching tour along the mangroves at night
- Discover the Matinloc Shrine, an abandoned religious site with ocean views
- Relax with a massage or spa treatment to unwind after a day of adventure
How to prepare for an island-hopping tour in El Nido?
- Pack necessities such as sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a reusable water bottle
- Bring a light towel and a comfy swimsuit.
- Bring a waterproof bag for your possessions, cash for admission fees, environmental fees, and extra activities, and a waterproof camera or phone to photograph breathtaking scenery.
- Before leaving, notify your accommodations and check the weather forecast.
- Be punctual and follow the instructors’ directions for a safe and exciting adventure.
Which is better, El Nido or Coron?
El Nido and Coron provide distinct experiences based on individual choices. El Nido is recognized for its limestone cliffs, secret lagoons, and lively nightlife, but Coron is famed for its intriguing shipwrecks, pristine lakes, and less crowded locations.
El Nido has a more vibrant environment and a wider range of activities, but Coron has peace and natural beauty. They are both worth visiting!
What is the best SIM Card in El Nido?
Smart and Globe are the two leading communication carriers in El Nido. Both have reasonable data plans and coverage. Compare their current options and pick the one that offers the best network coverage for your requirements while you’re there.
What are some of the disadvantages of El Nido?
Although it shouldn’t stop you from visiting this island and enjoying the best things to do in El Nido, these are some of the disadvantages you may have here:
- Having few transit choices makes it difficult to get to the location.
- Higher costs for products and services as compared to other Philippine areas.
- High tourist numbers cause crowded beaches and attractions, especially during peak seasons.
- Increased tourism’s adverse effects on the environment
- Potential communication difficulties for visitors who do not speak English.
- There aren’t many medical facilities and services nearby.
- Limited cellular coverage and high-speed internet availability in some isolated areas.