El Nido Palawan Island, Philippines: Island Hopping Tours Guide

For myself and many other travelers, El Nido Palawan island was the place that put the Philippines on the world map (and our bucket lists).

El Nido’s exotic turquoise lagoons and jagged limestone rocks are way too unique and beautiful to miss, and the photo ops here are limitless.

It’s rare that you’ll see this place missing from a travel blog or a list of the best islands in the world, and rightfully so. All of the beaches and island hopping tours in El Nido Palawan are top notch.

Best of all, El Nido is quite affordable, and there are high quality hotels and restaurants here to suit every budget and type of traveler, from backpacker to luxury seeker.

This El Nido travel guide will give you some details on how to get there, what to do, where to stay, best beaches of El Nido, top El Nido sunset spots, and all about how to experience this paradise of the Philippines yourself!


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Where Is El Nido Palawan Island?

El Nido is a small town and municipality located on the northern tip of Palawan island, in the Philippines.

The area around El Nido Palawan has lots of small islands (almost 50 total), making it pretty much heaven for tropical island hopping!
 

How To Get To El Nido

El Nido town can be reached by air, van, bus, or ferry.

The easiest, fastest, and most expensive (but recommended) way to get to El Nido Palawan is one of the direct flights sold by AirSWIFT.

The El Nido island airport (ENI) is not served internationally, so this means you will first need to fly to one of the big cities in the Philippines — Manila or Cebu — and then fly to ENI from there.

Read More: How To Get To El Nido Palawan

 

Where To Stay In El Nido

 

How To Get Around El Nido

El Nido town is pretty small and easy to get around.

It’s small enough to be walkable by foot for restaurants and most other things, but if you want to do some exploring outside of town you’ll need transport.

Scooter rentals are about 500 peso ($10 USD) per day. You can flag down a tricycle taxi for 100-250 peso per trip, but the scooter is more economical for long trips or multiple stops.

Airport transfers can be arranged by your hotel and should run about 250 peso for a tricycle (2 pax) or 1,000 peso for a van.
 
 

El Nido Palawan Island Hopping Philippines
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El Nido Island Hopping Tours

By far the biggest draw of El Nido Palawan would have to be the incredible island hopping boat tours that can be done here.

The tours are split into 4 different areas of coverage: A, B, C, and D. You can find a summary of each of them below.

In my opinion, there is no ‘best’ tour, because they’re all amazing! Do them all if you have time.
 

🔹 Tour A

‘Tour A’ is the most popular touring route in El Nido, and for good reason.

The crazy blue lagoons and pointy rocks have made this one of the best bucket list items in the Philippines. Lots of great kayaking and photo ops on this tour!

Other top sights on Tour A include the Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and Seven Commandos Beach.

El Nido Tour A: Book Now (or Read More)

El Nido Palawan Island Hopping Philippines
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El Nido Palawan Island Hopping Philippines Big Lagoon
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Big Lagoon El Nido

 

🔹 Tour B

Witness some of Palawan’s best beaches and caves on El Nido Tour B!

The main sights of Tour B are Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Island, Cudugnon Cave, and Cathedral Cave. Sometimes this tour also includes Papaya Beach.

You won’t want to leave Pinagbuyutan or Entalula. These two islands are really spectacular. If you have a drone, Tour B is also one of the best for getting incredible aerial shots.

El Nido Tour B: Book Now (or Read More)

El Nido Palawan Island Hopping Philippines
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El Nido Palawan Island Hopping Philippines Pinagbuyutan
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Pinagbuyutan Island

 

🔹 Tour C

Explore hidden beaches and shrines on El Nido Tour C!

This is the longest tour in the bunch, and it takes you the farthest from El Nido town, but you get to see massive dinosaur shaped islands and exotic limestone coves.

The main sights of Tour C are Matinloc Shrine, Tapiutan Island, Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, and Helicopter Island.

El Nido Tour C: Book Now (or Read More)

El Nido Palawan Island Hopping Philippines
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El Nido Palawan Island Hopping Philippines Matinloc
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Matinloc Island

 

🔹 Tour D

See two more beautiful lagoons on El Nido Tour D!

This Palawan tour is underrated and has the least crowds, but all of the sights are amazing, as usual. You’ll have some great kayaking opportunities at the lagoons, and the snorkeling spots on this tour are some of the best.

The main sights of Tour D are Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Cove, Cadlao Lagoon, and Small Lagoon.

El Nido Tour D: Book Now (or Read More)

El Nido Palawan Island Hopping Philippines
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El Nido Palawan Island Hopping Philippines Cadlao Lagoon
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Cadlao Lagoon

 

Best El Nido Day Tour Packages

Klook has high rated El Nido day tours for very competitive prices:

  • El Nido Tour A – Island hopping to Big Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Secret Lagoon, and 7 Commando Beach.
  • El Nido Tour B – Island hopping to Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Cudugnon Cave, Cathedral Cave, and Entalula Beach or Papaya Beach.
  • El Nido Tour C – Island hopping to Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Tapiutan Island, and Hidden Beach.
  • El Nido Tour D – Island hopping to Paradise Beach, Natnat Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, and Small Lagoon.

You also get free lunch and hotel pickup. These are better prices than many of the tour companies you’ll find on the street in El Nido town!

The other advantage of booking an online tour like this is that you can pay by credit card or Paypal, so you won’t have to run to the ATM constantly (and the ATMs in El Nido are not known for being very reliable in the first place).

Book Now: El Nido Tour A / B / C / D

El Nido Palawan Island Hopping Philippines
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El Nido Palawan island hopping in the Philippines

 

El Nido Multi-Day Trips

Aside from the popular 1-day tours, you can also join multi-day sailing trips in El Nido and the surrounding area, with some expeditions lasting up to 4 days and 3 nights, taking you all the way from El Nido to Coron, or vice versa.

This can be a great way to go island hopping in paradise without the crowds and time constraints of a simple day tour, and you get to see a lot of nice new islands that are off the beaten path and not included on the main day tours. It’s also a fun way to meet other travelers.

There are several companies offering multi-day trips in Palawan, but one of the highest rated is Big Dream Boat Man. They’re based in Coron, but they also have sailing expeditions that start from El Nido!

Book Now: El Nido Palawan Sailing Expeditions

Tropical palm trees
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El Nido Palawan Island Philippines
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El Nido Beach Guide: The Beaches Of El Nido

El Nido has quite a few nice beaches on the mainland that can be seen without island hopping tours.

Here are some of our top El Nido beach recommendations:

  • Marimegmeg Beach. A prime sunset spot, with nice white sand and lots of restaurants, bars, hotels, and beach clubs. Even though this beach has plenty of accommodation, it’s not nearly as developed as El Nido town.
  • Las Cabanas Beach. Another nice beach that’s just a short walk from Marimegmeg, and it has nice island views. You can reach Las Cabanas and Marimegmeg by driving only 15 minutes from El Nido town.
  • Nacpan Beach. Probably the most famous beach in mainland El Nido Palawan. It’s a 4 kilometer strip of white sand, with a twin beach next to it called Calitang Beach. There are some nice beachfront hotels, clubs, and restaurants popping up here by the shore. You can get to Nacpan with a 45-60 minute drive from El Nido town.
  • Dolarog Beach. A small but scenic beach that can only be reached by boat or walking. It’s home to the Dolarog Beach Resort, and it has unreal views of Pinagbuyutan island.
  • Duli Beach. A big, beautiful white sand beach on the north side of El Nido Palawan island. This one is home to the Duli Beach Resort.
  • Corong Corong Beach. One of the closest beaches to El Nido town, so you can reach it in just 5-10 minutes of driving. This beach has lots of hotels and beachfront resorts.
  • Lio Beach. Also known as Airport Beach, this is a clean, peaceful beach located right behind the El Nido airport. It has nice scenery and a number of resorts to choose from, including Seda Lio and Charlie’s El Nido.

These are some of the best beaches in El Nido mainland, and many of them have nice accommodation on the beachfront.

Regardless of which beach you choose to visit, you’re sure to enjoy some amazing scenery!

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El Nido Sunset Spots

The two most famous spots for sunset in El Nido are definitely Marimegmeg Beach and the adjacent Las Cabanas Beach.

These beaches have lots of nice restaurants, bars, and clubs along the beachfront, so you can sit and relax while watching the evening scenery.

Another great spot to see the El Nido sunset is Corong Corong Beach, which is located right by town.

Boat sunset
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Bangka boat in the El Nido sunset

 

More Things To Do In El Nido

If you’re looking for more things to do in El Nido, here are a few recommendations:

  • Taraw Peak Climb. This is a limestone cliff peak with amazing views of El Nido town and the whole Bacuit Bay. Taraw is located close to El Nido town and you can hike to the top of the jagged limestone rocks in about 30 minutes, but it’s an intense climb, so a guide is highly recommended for safety reasons.
  • Nagkalit-Kalit Waterfalls. These are some nice waterfalls near El Nido that you can reach with a 30-60 minute hike through the jungle. You may have to hire a guide for 200 peso (~$4 USD). The best time to visit the falls is in the wet season months (May to November) or after a big rain, otherwise the falls may be only a small trickle.
  • Scuba Diving. El Nido is known as a wonderful place for scuba diving, and there are many dive shops in town. You can see bright coral reefs and lots of underwater wildlife here.

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What To Bring To El Nido

If you’re putting together an El Nido packing list, here are a few ideas of good things to bring.

Most of the items below can be found in El Nido town in a pinch, but the quality of stuff you buy on the street won’t be guaranteed (personally, I’m not about to use a junky knockoff bag from a street vendor to protect my expensive camera gear).

It’s best to buy vetted products online!

  • Waterproof Bag: Essential for keeping your electronics safe on the boat tours. I brought a 30 liter bag and was able to fit my drone, tablet, camera, phone, and a bunch of other stuff inside. Everything was kept dry, even when I took the bag swimming a few times to reach hidden beaches!
  • Waterproof Phone Pouch: Same as above, but these are for your phone only. Great if you don’t have other electronics and just need something small to protect your phone with.
  • Snorkeling Gear: Many of the islands have nice corals and fish, and you won’t want to miss out on them. Snorkels and masks can be rented on the boat too, but if you plan to do multiple tours it’s more economical to bring your own gear.
  • Water Shoes: Save your feet a lot of grief and wear water shoes! We got so many cuts while walking to shore from the boats.

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Is El Nido Palawan Safe?

Yes! We’ve spent months in El Nido town and I’d say it’s a very safe place.

The Philippines does have some problems with drugs and violent crime, but this hasn’t touched the small, remote town of El Nido and it’s been a popular tourist spot for many years now.

You’ll be surrounded by international tourists at all times. Just keep your wits about you and follow normal precautions, and you shouldn’t have any issues.
 

Best Time To Visit

Palawan island is a tropical destination, so it’s warm all year round.

The best months to visit are November to May, when it’s less rainy and not quite as hot.

We went once in January and once in February, and both times had fantastic weather for almost the entire month.
 

El Nido Palawan Island Philippines
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How Long To Stay

I would try to spend at least 4 or 5 days in El Nido Palawan.

Remember, there are 4 different El Nido island hopping tours, not to mention the amazing multi-day sailing expeditions that are possible if you have more time. You could easily spend a few days visiting some of the beaches near El Nido town as well.

On our last visit, we stayed 10+ days and covered all of the island hopping tours (and repeated tour A once), with some rest days mixed in.
 
 

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Best El Nido Restaurants

El Nido has lots of good places to eat now, but these are some of our favorites:

  • Altrove. Best pizza in town.
  • Botanica Cafe. Good food, fair prices, and they have A/C.
  • El Nido Boutique Artcafe. The most well known restaurant in town. A little pricey. Great food, and they sell souvenirs and tour packages. Good WiFi.
  • The Vegan Cafe. Good fruit smoothie bowls for a hot day.
  • CB Cafe. Our go-to eating place last trip. Great food! Low prices and big serving sizes. Good WiFi.

 

El Nido Spa & Massage

El Nido has several spa and massage places to choose from, and the prices can be very affordable, at 500 peso ($10 USD) or less for a 1 hour body massage or foot massage.

A few El Nido spa places you can check out are The Organic Spa (in El Nido town) and Asian Massage El Nido or Namaste Yoga & Spa (in Corong Corong).

Many of the high end resorts in El Nido also have their own spa and massage centers, which are usually pricey but top notch.

It’s the perfect way to unwind after a full day of hiking or touring the islands.
 

Other El Nido Tips

  • Credit Cards: Most restaurants, hotels, and other things in El Nido are cash only. I like to book my bigger purchases online (like hotels and tours), that way I can pay for them with credit card and save my precious cash for fresh coconuts!
  • ATM: El Nido has several working ATMs now with big withdrawal limits. The pull fee is like 250 peso.
  • Electricity: There used to be long brownouts in El Nido every day, but the electricity situation in Palawan island has improved quite a bit. On our latest visit, there were still daily brownouts, but they were quite short and didn’t really impact our trip at all. Many hotels and resorts in El Nido also have generators in case there’s a problem with the electricity.
  • WiFi: Most hotels and places in town have bad WiFi connections. This is gradually improving. For now, the best solution is to buy a local SIM card and use your phone as a hotspot. We had great speeds with Globe in the El Nido area.
  • Language: Like many places in the Philippines, English is widely spoken by the locals in El Nido, so you don’t need to learn Tagalog to visit.
  • Hygiene: There have been some issues with sickness and food prep hygiene in El Nido town. This problem seems to be more common at the end of the dry season, although we’ve never gotten sick after multiple trips to El Nido. Just check restaurant reviews beforehand, and don’t drink or brush with the tap water in Palawan island. It’s easy to find filtered or bottled water in town.
  • Mosquitoes: There is some malaria present in Puerto Princesa city, but it’s very rare in El Nido Palawan. I’ve never heard of a tourist getting malaria in El Nido. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist there, but it’s certainly not common at all. There is still a risk of dengue fever from mosquitoes in El Nido, which can be pretty nasty, so it’s a good idea to wear mosquito repellent, especially in or near the jungle. You don’t need to wear mosquito repellant while enjoying the beaches and island hopping in El Nido, though.

 

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Where To Stay: Best Areas

Most people used to stay in El Nido town, but nowadays there are also lots of great options in the outer beaches like Marimegmeg, Corong Corong, and Nacpan.

As the tourist scene in El Nido expands, so has the wide variety of accommodation! The outer beaches are a lot more scenic, but El Nido town has more options for restaurants, shops, and hotels, and it’s where the boat tours generally depart from.

We travel on a budget, so we’ve always stayed in town. We found the prices and convenience hard to beat, and you can still visit the El Nido beaches on a short trip from town if you’d like.

However, if you have a bigger hotel budget ($50 USD per night or more) then I’d highly recommend staying in one of the outer beaches for the best possible scenery!

I’ve included a few hotel recommendations below for El Nido town and also the outer beach areas.
 

El Nido Hotels

 

Where We Stayed

We stayed at David’s Guesthouse in El Nido town for 1,600 pesos ($31 USD) per night. This price got us a clean double bed with cold A/C and a private bathroom.

Keep in mind this is a relatively remote town in the Philippines, and the hotel scene in El Nido is still struggling to develop and catch up with rapid demand, so don’t expect luxury in this price range.

Even so, this is one of the best budget friendly hotel options we could find in town. The location was perfect -— just a 3 minute walk to the beach and all the best restaurants -- and the owner was very helpful in booking all of our island hopping tours!

Prices may fluctuate from time to time, so just keep an eye out for a good deal.

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We stayed at this hotel in the center of El Nido town (© Booking.com)

Coron vs El Nido – Which Is Better?

Palawan island has become famous for its tropical scenery and island hopping, but in a head-to-head comparison of Coron vs El Nido which is better?

Both of these places are amazing, and it’s possible to do both (I’d recommend it!), but if you’re limited on time you may have to choose one or the other since the two provinces are separated in the Philippines by 100 kilometers of sea.

El Nido is more popular and more developed than Coron, but that’s not always a good thing. Coron is quieter and has better snorkeling and diving. Both El Nido and Coron have amazing islands and beaches to explore.

I wrote up a complete comparison of all the differences, and hopefully it’ll help you decide between Coron or El Nido!

Read More: Coron vs El Nido – Which Is Better?

 

More El Nido Palawan Travel Guides

Thanks for looking! I hope you enjoyed this travel guide for El Nido Palawan island in the Philippines.

Don’t forget to check out my other travel guides for each of the El Nido and Coron island hopping tours! You can find the links below.

Palawan Island Hopping — Tour A | B | C | D | Coron