El Nido, Philippines- Nichole
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Oh El Nido….I left a piece of my soul in this magical place. Easily one of our top 5 favorite destinations in all of Asia, you’ll fall in love with the culture, people, food, ocean, diving, snorkeling, zip lining, lagoons, fish…pretty much everything! P.S. It’s VERY safe, so don’t believe what people say…
How To Get There…
It’s a bit of a trek getting to El Nido, so be sure to stay for at least 4++ nights. You have two options:
Fly To Puerto Princesa, Bus To El Nido: 6 hours by bus $10USD
Fly To Manila, Fly To El Nido: (our choice) The Manila to El Nido flight via Airswift in 1 hour. Airswift was an impressive airline, although ridiculously overpriced. Tip: Call ahead if you know your baggage (15kg limit) will be overweight and add on, otherwise it’s very costly. $300USD roundtrip
How To Get Around…
Trike: The ‘El Nido’ version of a Tuk Tuk, this is the fun (and cheap!) way to get around the island. You won’t pay more than $2 per ride (100 Pesos) (airport transport is $4).
Where To Stay…
Caalan Beach Resort (our choice):
We had such an AMAZING stay with them, as they are family owned and the nicest, kindest, most accommodating people we’ve ever met (ask for John!). We’ve never had an owner go ABOVE and BEYOND the way they did. The rooms are large and can be shared with 4+ people. $75USD/night
El Nido Resorts:
If you’re looking for an island getaway and you have a BIG budget, then El Nido Resorts is the way to go. They have multiple locations on various islands all over El Nido, but Miniloc Island came as a personal recommendation. We didn’t stay here because of the budget and lack of cultural/local experiences that you can get by staying in town. This would be a great honeymoon spot!
Where To Eat…
La Plage Beach Bar & Restaurant:
The BEST place to eat and watch the sunset on the island (a bit pricey as far as Philippine standards go) and located in Corong Corong (10 min trike from downtown, $50 Pesos-$1USD). It offers up European and local cuisines, with a daily changing menu. Be sure to get the mahi baked in a banana leaf, tuna tartare and fish medallions wrapped in bacon.
The BEST local, Filipino food in town, with super kind owners! This place doesn’t even exist on the internet, so you’ll have to ask your accommodation for location when you arrive. Be sure to get the Bolelo (duh) and the Adobo.
With a queue around the block at dinnertime, you’ll have to go early if you want to dine in for the best pizza in El Nido. Tip: If the queue is huge, go just around the corner to it’s sister location ‘Altrove Express’ and get takeaway (they have a few seats to dine in as well, if you get lucky).
Recommended for their pizza and drinks, this place has an epic atmosphere for just hanging around too.
Awesome for ice cream, Nutella crepes and Bailey’s with coffee. YUM!
Sava Beach Bar:
Located beachfront on the main street in town, this new high end bar mixes up some original cocktails. Happy Hours BOGO 4-6pm. No food is served here.
What To Do…
Tours can be booked everywhere, but check with your accommodation first, as they can recommend a reputable company. Caalan Beach Resort runs their own private tours, which were awesome because we had a private boat to ourselves the entire time.
Cost: Tour A & D $1,200 Pesos ($24USD), Tour B $1,300 Pesos ($26USD), Tour C $1400 Pesos ($28USD) .
*Single payment of $200 Pesos/person for Eco-Toursism Development Fee (ETDF) valid for 10 days*
Time At Attraction: 7 hours per tour
El Nido makes it easy to choose from different types of island hopping excursions…there are only 4 (Tour A, B, C, D). The most popular (and the only two we had time for) are Tour A & C.
Breakdown of Tours:
Tour A Lagoons & Beaches: Small/Big/Secret Lagoons, Shimizu Island, 7 Commando Beach
Tour B Caves & Coves: Pangulasian/Snake/Pinagnutuyan Islands, Cudognon Cave, Cathedral Cave
Tour C Hidden Beaches & Shrines: Secret/Hidden beaches, Matinloc Srine, Tapiutan/Helicopter Islands
Tour D Island Beaches: Nat Nat Beach, Pasandigan Cove, Cadlao Lagoon, Bukal Island
Tips: Bring SPF 30++ (or you can buy it in town) and re-apply every few hours…the sun is SUPER strong here! A hat, towel and extra water are a great idea too.
El Nido has some of the BEST diving spots in all of SE Asia. If you’re a diver, then it’s almost a sin not to explore the underwater world while you’re here!
Company: Submariner Diving Center
Cost: 3 fun dives, lunch on boat $4,100 Pesos ($82USD)
Note: This company is the BEST company we’ve ever dove with and they have the biggest, nicest boat in El Nido (ask for AJ as your divemaster!). Go with them, trust me.
Zip Lining At Las Cabanas Beach:
Cost: $500 Pesos one way ($10USD), $700 ($14USD) superman position
Time At Attraction: 1-2+ hour depending on queue (we waited almost 2 hours–go early)
This was an EPIC experience and is NOT to be missed! The views on the 750 meter long way down are truly gorgeous and worth the long wait (have your GoPro ready!). Take a trike take you to the entrance ($100 pesos, $2USD), then a small uphill climb of 10 mins. Only go one way on the zip line and walk back to Las Cabanans Beach…there’s a bar right on the end with gorgeous sunset views.
Las Cabanas Beach:
A gorgeous beach that is best visited after taking a one way down the zip line.
If you’re up for the 45 minute, bumpy ride to get there, Nacpan Beach is worth it! Hire an air conditioned van for $600 pesos ($12USD)-if you go by Trike, it takes 1.5 hours and is a painful ride.