Everyone has heard of the beautiful El Nido on the famous island of Palawan, nestled in the archipelago of islands that is the Philippines. And if you haven’t, well you’re about to! Perhaps my favourite stop in all of Philippines, what makes this place extra special is the care the locals show their area – keeping the beaches and ocean clean, ensuring people are being responsible and understanding the impact that the mass amount of people could have on their slice of paradise and the tourism income that comes with it. But enough with my preaching. You came here for fun! So let me deliver to you a slice of responsible tourism that isn’t just incredibly awesome, but totally bucketlist worthy.
Explore El Nido town
El Nido town sits upon a gorgeous beach lined with bars and restaurants. Really what more do you need? Shopping, I hear you say? You got it. Plenty of cute clothes shops that are actually a huge step above the usual tourist fare and of course your usual souvenir bits and pieces.
My recommendations for a tummy filler; hit up Altrove for the best pizza I ate in MONTHS, Agape to revisit Greek tastebud heaven or Big Bad Thai for.. well I think that one is self explanatory. Rooftop Bar was my fav for the happy hour special!
Chasing those waterfalls
Of course there’s a waterfall section. Is this Philippines or what?! We visited two;
Bulalacao Falls was smaller, but you were free to roam, climb and swim as you pleased – no guide was needed. There was still a small entry free, but nothing to complain about – about 50 peso. A bit of a mission to get to on the scooter, bring your dirt bike skills with you.
Nagakalit-Kalit Waterfalls was a two stage water fall, which required a guide. Here they tried to charge 250 peso EACH, but reduced it to 150 peso after Matt and I balked at the price. Easier to find, entry on the side of a main road.
Both waterfalls required a 20 minute walk to get to, and both crossed through rivers to get there. Wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. Not your leather converse shoes (facepalm).
Now there’s a lot of talk about Twin Beach being the place to go in El Nido Philippines, but Matt and I just never made it up there. It was a long ride, there promised to be a buttload of tourist and we plain old couldn’t be bothered. We heard from a fellow traveller that Lio Beach was a 10 minute ride away (or you could get a free shuttle!) and was a quiet beach that you could relax at all day! Sold.
The best part was that the beach was lined with restaurants and bars, hidden just past the tree line, and they sold NO plastics and NO straws. In fact, you could be fined if you brought plastic any where near the beach. And they’d refill your reusable water bottle for a small fee. Winning!
The best, I repeat, the BEST island hopping I did in Philippines. No exceptions. I mean Honda Bay was good, but this was totally better. We did a combo tour of tours A & C, and visited all the hotspots of A (big and little lagoon, secret beach, etc). If you google El Nido Philippines, this tour was basically your search results. There was 6 stops in total, 30 minutes at each stop, lunch and snorkel included. The tour boasts EVERYTHING included, but that’s just a straight out fib. There was an entry fee for the shrine, and a hiring fee for the canoes. Check out our day in the video below!
Oh yes, of course… scuba diving. You’re not going to go to El Nido Philippines without visiting some amazing underwater locations. Matt and I did 3 dives in 1 day with Submariner Diving. The dive sites were good and the marine life plentiful. Highlights for me was the oldest turtle I’d ever seen, and a super friendly pufferfish. Lowlight was the fact that I got a reverse block, and didn’t really have the best day. No fault of Submariner or El Nido though. Public service announcement; don’t dive if you have a cold.
There’s this and so much more to do in El Nido Philippines, which is why Matt and I would’ve stayed longer if we could. Our accommodation, Dragonfly, was just outside of the main El Nido strip, either a 15 minute walk or a 5 minute scooter ride. Scooter is, as always, the best way to get around, but you can grab tricycles or cars if you prefer. Tours and day trips can be organised by the various outlets around El Nido, just ask around to make sure you’re getting the best price.