Right now, only Island Transvoyager Inc. (ITI) offers direct 1-hour flights from Manila to El Nido's Lio Airport. Prices for one-way flights range from less than 5,000 (off-peak season) to less than 9,000 (peak season). An alternative would be to take a one-hour flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa via commercial airlines like Cebu Pacific Air and PAL Express followed by a 5 to 6-hour land travel to El Nido. This option is ideal if you want to save more on fares and if you don't mind the long journey.
For those who are on a tight budget but with patience for long journeys, you can always try traveling to El Nido via ferry. Shipping lines like 2GO Travel offer 12-hour ferry trips to Coron. From there, you'll have to take an 8-hour ride aboard an outrigger boat to El Nido.
You have two choices to get to El Nido after your arrival to Puerto Princesa International Airport. One option is to ride a van. Some shuttle vans are already stationed outside of the airport, and the fare costs around 600 pesos. Travel time takes around 5 to 6 hours. Meanwhile, if you want to ride a bus, you'll have to ride a tricycle to San Jose Terminal. Bus rides are cheaper, with fares ranging from 367 pesos to 483 pesos; however, travel time takes longer than van rides. Cherry Bus or RoRo Bus can get you to El Nido after 6 to 7 hours of travel with two stopovers.
How to Get Around
El Nido is a small town so everything is just within walking distance. However, for tours, the most popular form of transportation to points of interest around town would be the tricycle. Aside from paying for one-way rides, you can also hire tricycles for a day tour, especially if you want to visit places that are not included in any of the tour options. If you have friends traveling with you, you can save money by splitting the fare among yourselves.
By Motorbike (Habal-habal) or Scooter
If you want to explore El Nido on your own, you can also rent a motorbike or habal-habal if you know how to drive one. Motorbikes are good for 3 people (including the driver), and they're a good mode of transportation if you are exploring some destinations off the beaten path.
By Boats and Kayaks
Of course, riding a boat is the only way to get around the different islands and beautiful spots in El Nido. Boat rides are automatically included in the tour options as well as a boatman who also doubles as your tour guide. The agencies also offer kayak rentals that range from PHP 800.00 to PHP 1,200.00.
What to See
St. Francis of Assisi Parish Church is the town church of El Nido. Let it be the first stop for your vacation so you can say a prayer of thanks and guidance for your vacation.
As many would claim, El Nido is a paradise full of many natural wonders. There is no shortage of beautiful things there. If you are a nature lover, you will surely get a kick out of your El Nido trip.
The best way to explore El Nido's wonders is by availing of the different tour options. There are four (4) island hopping tours offered by tour agencies to take you to the different islands, lagoons, and beaches around El Nido. These tours are named Tour A, Tour B, Tour C, and Tour D. There is also a land tour. The tours let travelers explore the different attractions of El Nido so make sure to pick out the ones you want to visit. But of course, it's best to avail all of them so you can make the most out of your vacation.
Tour A is concentrated around Miniloc Island, with the Big and Small Lagoons highlighted during the trip. These beautiful lagoons feature clear waters and a rich marine life, making them perfect for snorkeling. Two beautiful beaches are also included in this tour: Shimizu Beach and 7 Commandos Beach.
If you choose Tour B, you can do more island hopping plus spelunking and cave exploring activities. This tour covers Entulala Island, Pinagbuyutan Island and Snake Island. In addition, you'll also visit the Cudugnon and Cathedral caves.
Tour C, meanwhile, takes you to Matinloc Island, Talisay Island, and Helicopter Island. In this tour, you'll visit two beaches: Hidden Beach and Secret Beach, with the latter said to be Alex Garland's inspiration for his book, "The Beach."
Tour D brings you to Cadlao Island. With this tour, you'll get to swing by Cadlao Lagoon and four more beautiful beaches: Bukal Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach, and Paradise Beach.
Lastly, the Land Tour takes you to the white sands of Marimegmeg Beach and to the quieter twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang in Sitio Calitang. It also includes a trip to some waterfalls, including Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls where you can swim in the fresh waters at the bottom.
Aside from the attractions included in the tour, you can also hike Taraw Cliff where you can savor a mesmerizing view of the whole Bacuit Bay upon reaching the peak. Also, there are many dive shops around town so if you want to marvel at El Nido's coral reefs and tropical fishes, be sure to sign up for a scuba diving session.
One of the top attractions to visit in El Nido is Matincloc Shrine. This abandoned church is included in Tour C.
Events and Festivals
El Nido celebrates several festivals so make sure to schedule your visit just in time for one. The native Tagbanua people celebrate two festivals: Pagdiwata Ritual Festival to ask their gods assistance on healing the sick and the lively Tarek Festival.
Lambay Festival has been around for hundreds of years and used to celebrate the start of hunting season. But in present times, it's held to commemorate the coming of spring.
Where to Eat
More than a place where you can disconnect from the unnecessary stress and worries brought by city living, El Nido is also a haven for food lovers as it boasts several restaurants that offer a variety of cuisine. Of course, a majority of the offerings are seafood which are guaranteed to be from the fresh catches of the day. From Asian to European to Middle Eastern, you'll surely find what you crave here.
Well-loved restaurants here are the Artcafe for a taste of European meals, Sea Slugs for some local flavor at pocket-friendly prices as well as Squiddos for their bestseller stuffed squid and other seafood dishes.
Of course, the best way to experience being local at your destination is to eat like one. Dining at carinderias or eateries not only give you a chance to experience the simple lives of the locals by sampling their local dishes, but it also lets you save more money. There are lots of eateries and food stalls around town for a taste of El Nido's native flavor.
If you have a flair for the exotic, then you should try Palawan's famous Nido Soup or Bird's Nest Soup. It is made from the edible bird’s nest that come from a species of bird named balinsasayaw which you can only find in El Nido.
Bars and clubs
El Nido also has its own club and bar scene. Pukka Bar, La Sagane, and Water Hole are just some of the places where you can have a nightcap. For a unique experience, you can also try smoking a hookah at Habibi Restaurant & Shisha Cafe.
Where to Shop
Just like any town, El Nido has its own public market where you can buy some fresh produce and seafood. You can save a lot if you'll cook your own meals instead of dining out. Just make sure that the place where you will be staying allows cooking within the premises.
Aside from the market, you can also buy from the fishermen themselves. Not only do they sell the freshest catches of the day, but it will also be cheaper since you're buying directly from the distributor.
El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe is known to be a one stop shop for everything in El Nido. Aside from offering tours and a place to eat, it also has a wide variety of souvenir and pasalubong items such as shirts and handicrafts.
Perfect for travelers on a budget, there are lots of street vendors, stalls, and small shops in the town center. They also sell different kinds of souvenirs including small items like keychains and even freshwater pearls.
What to buy
Popular items for pasalubong in El Nido include souvenir shirts and other merchandise like handicrafts. You should also buy some freshwater pearls because they cost cheaper in El Nido than in Metro Manila.
ATMs and Money Changers
El Nido has no ATM, banks, and money changers. However, there are a few shops that accept credit cards for payment. So before coming to El Nido, make sure to withdraw cash or exchange your foreign money to pesos in Manila or Puerto Princesa.
Fare: PHP 4,000.00 to PHP 9,000.00
Fares depend on when you'll be traveling to El Nido. Flights are cheaper on weekdays. Be sure to subscribe to your favorite airlines so you'll know when they'll have promos.
Food: PHP 80.00 to PHP 500.00
Lunch is usually included in the island hopping tour so if you're on a different tour everyday, you'll only need to pay for your breakfast, snacks, and dinner as well as after-dinner drinks.
Shopping: PHP 100.00 to PHP 500.00
There are lots of items you can buy in El Nido so make sure to buy in bulk so you can save more if you’re planning to bring home souvenirs to all your friends and family members.
Accommodation: PHP 400.00 to PHP 18,000.00
Accommodations around El Nido vary so if you have a strict budget, you can stay at a dormitory or budget inn. But if you want to experience a luxurious El Nido escape, you can stay in private resorts like El Nido Resorts Miniloc Island.
Activities: PHP 300.00 to PHP 1,500.00
You'll need a tour guide when hiking up Taraw Cliff so be sure to set aside some money for the fee. Meanwhile, island hopping tours range from PHP 1,200.00 to PHP 1,500.00 per person.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 200.00++
El Nido requires you to pay an Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF) of PHP 200.00. It is valid for 10 days and is used to fund environmental preservation and tourism projects.