El Nido travel

El Nido, Philippines Complete Travel Guide and My Six Days Solo Travel Itinerary

Last Updated on July 23, 2021 by Tina

El Nido is a municipality in Palawan in the Philippines. It is famous for its stunning beaches, crystal clear waters, lagoons, and massive limestone cliffs. It has been consistently voted as one of the world’s best islands. I visited El Nido in 2018, and it’s still one of my favorite destinations. I almost canceled my trip there. Good thing my Turkish friend convinced me not to cancel the trip. He describes the place as heaven. Until now, my El Nido trip is still the best and most memorable solo trip I’ve had so far and I would love to go back there again when traveling is much easier. The town is very safe and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a destination for their first solo trip. Here’s an El Nido travel guide to help you plan your trip to this amazing place.

Located in the northernmost tip of mainland Palawan, El Nido is bordered by Linapacan on the north, the Sulu Sea on the east, Taytay in the south, and the West Philippine Sea on the west. This municipality has 64 islands and islets.

What Are The Requirements For Tourists Visiting El Nido?

Because of the current situation, gone are the days when you could just book your flight and accommodation, pack your bags and go. Before you leave, you need to check the travel requirements in the city or town you are going to visit. El Nido reopened last July 7, 2021, and new and updated guidelines for tourists traveling to El Nido were released by the municipality.

Here are the requirements for tourists visiting El Nido:

For Tourists From Outside Palawan Visiting El Nido

  • Negative RT-PCR test result from a Department of Health (DOH) accredited facility. Saliva based RT-PCR test result issued by the Philippine Red Cross is also accepted. The test must be taken 72 hours prior to the time of arrival in El Nido.
  • A valid government-issued ID with a permanent address indicated in the ID
  • El Nido Tourism QR Coded Tourist ID (QT-ID). Register online at elnidotourism.ph to generate a unique QT-ID. Your QT-ID will be scanned for electronic contact tracing and contactless entry and exit purposes upon arrival in El Nido, during hotel check-in, and upon visit to different tourist spots and tourism-related establishments in El Nido.
  • A copy of the approved S-Pass Travel Coordination Permit (TCP). The application can be made through https://s-pass.ph.
  • Confirmed hotel booking/reservation in a Department of Tourism (DOT) accredited hotel covering all dates on flight itinerary.
  • Roundtrip airline ticket (either via the Lio Airport, San Vicente airport, Puerto Princesa airport, and the Busuanga/Coron airport). You must have private transportation from the point of entry to the hotel and vice versa.

For Palawan-based Tourists Visiting El Nido

  • Negative Antigen test result. All antigen tests are valid only for 24 hours after sampling with a certification from a licensed clinic or medical facility.
  • Proof of Palawan residency. You can show a valid government-issued ID indicating the address of residency is in Palawan or a school ID from any school located in Palawan.
  • Confirmed hotel booking/reservation in a Department of Tourism (DOT) accredited hotel
  • El Nido Tourism QR Coded Tourist ID (QT-ID). Register online at elnidotourism.ph to generate a unique QT-ID. Your QT-ID will be scanned for electronic contact tracing and contactless entry and exit purposes upon arrival in El Nido, during hotel check-in, and upon visit to different tourist spots and tourism-related establishments in El Nido.

For Tourists Arriving From Outside Palawan Who Stayed in Other Areas in Palawan Visiting El Nido

  • Negative Antigen test result. All antigen tests are valid only for 24 hours after sampling with a certification from a licensed clinic or medical facility.
  • A valid government-issued ID with a permanent address indicated in the ID
  • Confirmed hotel booking/reservation in a Department of Tourism (DOT) accredited hotel
  • El Nido Tourism QR Coded Tourist ID (QT-ID). Register online at elnidotourism.ph to generate a unique QT-ID. Your QT-ID will be scanned for electronic contact tracing and contactless entry and exit purposes upon arrival in El Nido, during hotel check-in, and upon visit to different tourist spots and tourism-related establishments in El Nido.

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Best Time to Visit El Nido

From October until the first or second week of June, the weather in El Nido is generally dry, hot, and sunny. On average, the temperatures are always high with May as the warmest month. January is the coldest month. A lot of rain falls from June to October, although even in rainy months there are dry days. It also does not rain all day long on a rainy day. August is the wettest month and March is the driest. With that said, the best time to visit El Nido is from December to April.

Related Post: Why El Nido in the Philippines is a Good Destination For Your First Solo Travel Trip

How To Get To El Nido

You have different options when going to El Nido. You can book a direct flight from Manila to El Nido or San Vicente, you can fly into Puerto Princesa and ride a van or bus to El Nido, or you can take a ferry if you are in Coron.

Option 1: Book a direct flight from Manila to El Nido. This saves you from all the travel time. Air Swift has daily flights to El Nido from Manila. You can make reservations through their website.

Option 2: Fly into Puerto Princesa, Palawan where most of the commercial flights land. From the airport, there are vans that offer direct service going to El Nido. Travel time is about 5-6 hours. Van trips are priced around Php 500. You can also ride a tricycle going to the bus station and ride a bus but the travel time takes up to 7-8 hours due to many stops for local passengers. The van is faster but it is not too comfortable especially if you get the seat at the back.

Option 3: Fly into San Vicente International Airport then ride a van to El Nido. Vans are available at the airport’s arrival area. The ride is around 4 hours and costs around Php 600.

Option 4: If coming from the Calamian group of islands (Coron, Culion, and Busuanga), you can take a ferry to El Nido. The trip takes around 8 hours. It is priced at approximately PhP 1800 per person.

Booking a direct flight from Manila to El Nido is the fastest and most comfortable option but it is the most expensive. As of the moment, due to the many restrictions brought about by the pandemic, the best option is to take a direct flight to Lio Airport in El Nido via Airswift.

Mobile Signal and Internet Connection in El Nido

Mobile signal/mobile data is available in El Nido town proper. There are spots in other areas such as in Matinloc Island that have very weak or no signal at all, but who needs it when you are in paradise? Most hotels and hostels in El Nido have a free wifi connection.

Getting Around El Nido

There are several ways of getting around El Nido:

  1. Rent a motorbike- If you are traveling alone, have a driver’s license, and know how to drive a motorbike, renting one is the cheapest option.
  2. Charter a tricycle- If renting a motorbike is not an option for you, you can charter a tricycle to take you to Marimegmeg Beach or to other areas in El Nido.
  3. Rent a car- If you want a more comfortable means of getting around El Nido, you can arrange with your preferred travel agency a car to take you around.

Where to Stay in El Nido

El Nido has a range of options for accommodations depending on your budget. El Nido got you covered, from luxury hotels to backpacker’s hostels. Some of the accommodations you could try are the following:

Huni Lio Resort

Charlie’s El Nido

Frendz Hostel

The following are the accommodation establishments in El Nido that have been accredited by the DOT as of July 12, 2021:

From El Nido Tourism Facebook Page
From El Nido Tourism Facebook Page

Where To Eat

I’m not sure what restaurants are open now in El Nido and I haven’t really tried a lot when I was there because I had free breakfast at the hostel which was very good, and there’s free lunch during the island hopping tour. Here are three that I recommend:

Happiness Beach Bar

Happiness Beach Bar is a restaurant located along Serena St. and serves great Mediterranean food. They have hummus plates, pita falafels, salad options, and some more yummy selections for you to chose from. I love their swing!

Cafe Athena

Also located in Serena St., this restaurant serves really good Greek and Mediterranean dishes.

Jarace Grill

Jarace Grill is located along the beach and lined up outside the restaurant are the catch of the day, large squids, fresh pork belly, and pork skewers. You can choose whatever you fancy and they will cook it for you.

El Nido Tours

When I visited El Nido in 2018, the island hopping tours in Bacuit Bay were named as Tour A, B, C & D. These island hopping tours usually take you to 4 to 5 different spots. Months after that visit, the tours have been rebranded into the 7 Wonders of El Nido Tours. With the rebranding, you can’t visit both Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon in one day. They rebranded the tour to avoid crowding in the spots.

Related Post: El Nido Tour A: Lagoons and Beaches

With the current situation, they prioritized proper physical distancing, making sure crowding in the spots is eliminated. Get to see three different spots with breathtaking island views and amazing experiences in one day. Combination tours are not allowed.

They’ve set temporarily limited capacities and pre-booking of these tours is strongly advised. Only Department of Tourism (DOT) Accredited Local Travel Operators are allowed to conduct premium tours, so make sure you check that your travel operator is DOT accredited before you book a tour. Below are the accredited travel operators in El Nido:

From El Nido Tourism Facebook Page

What To Do In El Nido

Go Island Hopping in Bacuit Bay

As I have mentioned earlier, El Nido has 64 islands and islets and one of the most popular activities in El Nido is island hopping. Bacuit Bay has magnificent views and rich biodiversity that you will surely love.

Visit Nacpan Beach

Located around 20 kilometers from the town proper, Nacpan Beach is a 4-kilometer stretch of golden sand and strong waves. It is one of the most famous mainland beaches in El Nido and has been named in different travel magazines as one of the world’s best beaches.

It is a good place to hang out if you just want to spend the day chilling and swimming.

Chill at Las Cabañas Beach and wait for the sunset.

Also called Marimegmeg Beach, it has white sand, clear water, palm trees, and a beautiful sunset. It is easily accessible as it is only 6 kilometers away from the town proper. Shops, bars, and restaurants could be found here and you can even go ziplining.

Do the El Nido Taraw Via Ferrata Canopy Walk

If you want to catch a bird’s eye view of the town and the bay from Taraw Cliff in a safe way, do the El Nido Taraw Via Ferrata Canopy Walk.

Surf at Duli Beach

Located 28 kilometers away from the town proper, Duli Beach is a remote area popular for surfing. Surfing here peaks from June to August and December to February. Restaurants and surf shops are available here and the area has rock views ideal for photoshoots.

My El Nido Solo Travel Itinerary

As with my previous solo trips, I went to El Nido unprepared. The only thing I prepared for was my accommodation. I only booked my van to El Nido when I was about to board the plane to Puerto Princesa. My flight arrived at Puerto Princesa before 12 noon and I was picked up by the van at the airport.

Day 1: Arrived in El Nido; dinner at Jarace Grill

The van to El Nido left Puerto Princesa around 1:00 in the afternoon. We arrived in El Nido before 6:00 PM. After checking in at Spin Designer Hostel, I went to Jarace Grill to have dinner. Since I didn’t research much about the place, I decided to just ask the receptionist at Spin where is a good place to have dinner and she recommended Jarace Grill. It is within walking distance from the hostel and is located along the beach. Lined up outside the restaurant are the catch of the day, large squids, fresh pork belly, and pork skewers that were on display for you to choose from. Because I love crabs, it is what I ordered and I asked them to cook it with gata (coconut milk).

Day 2: Island Hopping Tour A and waited for sunset at Maremegmeg Beach; dinner at Angel Wish Restaurant

At the Big Lagoon

On the second day, I decided to do the Island Hopping Tour A. What I love about El Nido is that even if you are traveling solo, you can still go on island hopping tours without having to pay for the whole boat because their tours are join-in tours. The tour had 5 stops: the Seven Commandos Beach, Small Lagoon, Payong-payong Beach, Big Lagoon, and Secret Lagoon. You can read about my island hopping tour A experience in this post.

After the island hopping tour, I went to Maremegmeg Beach for the sunset though it wasn’t that nice because it was drizzling that day. After that, I had dinner at Angel Wish Restaurant which is located along the beach.

Day 3: Island Hopping Tour C; barbecue night at Spin Hostel

For my third day, I went on an island hopping tour again. The tour had five stops: Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, Tapiutan Island, and Matinloc Shrine. I had the best time during this tour because it was a smaller group and most of us are ladies. One of them stays at the hostel I stayed at. She was really nice. We did things together during the trip so it didn’t feel like I’m traveling alone.

After the island hopping tour, I had dinner at the hostel because it was barbeque night.

Day 4: Explored Nacpan and Lio Beach; dinner at Cafe Athena

On my fourth day, I spent most of the day chilling at Nacpan Beach. I checked out what was on the other end of the beach and on my way there, I saw a sea snake. I thought it was dead because it wasn’t moving. Good thing I didn’t go too close because when I started walking, it moved. In case you don’t know, sea snakes are venomous.

I don’t know what these flags represent, maybe countries of the owners of the hostel.

It also rained while I was in Nacpan so I just read a book while waiting for it to stop. From Nacpan Beach, I asked my guide to take me to Lio Beach. It is a long white beach with shops and restaurants along the beach. For dinner, I went to Cafe Athena.

Day 5: El Nido Taraw Via Ferrata Canopy Walk and spent the rest of the day chilling at Maremegmeg Beach; dinner at Happiness BeachBar

 

On my fifth day, I was planning to just spend the day at Maremegmeg Beach. But when I hailed a tricycle, he suggested that I try out the El Nido Taraw Via Ferrata Canopy Walk. It seemed interesting so I went to check it out. The view of the town from there was very nice, and I had a really interesting conversation with the guide.

From the canopy walk, I went to Maremegmeg Beach and spent the whole day just chilling and swimming. Before dinner, I met up with a half-Aussie-half-South African guy who has been residing in El Nido for 6 years already. It was quite interesting talking to him because he used to work as a driller in an oil company. He worked in the same company as my college classmates.

After that, I went to Happiness Beach Bar to have dinner.  I ordered a frozen margarita for my last night in El Nido and I was also given a free shot of BBK. I don’t remember what it is anymore, but I remember that it was really good and that I had a great night.

Day 6: Travel back to Puerto Princesa

On the sixth day, I left El Nido early and traveled back to Puerto Princesa. I spent the night there before going back to Manila.

Some Useful Tips When Visiting El Nido

    • Don’t forget to bring sunblock. You’ll be staying under the sun for very long periods of time so better protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
    • Single-use plastic bottles are not allowed during island hopping tours so don’t bring one.
    • Bring your own mask, snorkel, and other similar gears because rentals of these gears are temporarily banned.
    • Wear your life jacket at all times during island hopping. Sharing is strictly prohibited.
    • Observe minimum health standards always.
    • Philippine peso is the currency used on the island. Make sure you exchange your money for the local currency in big cities before going there to avoid having the problem of looking for money changers.
    • There are banks on the island where you can withdraw money but I suggest bringing enough cash before going just in case the machines are offline.
    • The island is very safe even for solo female travelers but as in any place, don’t leave your things especially your valuables unattended.

It’s so nice to reminisce about the good old days. I wish I could go back to this paradise again someday. If you have other questions about El Nido, feel free to write them down below.

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