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Mike and I went to El Nido, Palawan the following day after our wedding in Metro Manila. This trip is not yet our honeymoon. We both wanted Maya to enjoy her first trip to the Philippines.
Mike and I have always been in a long-distance relationship even after our wedding. He stays in the US while I stay in the Philippines.
Maya was part of our wedding entourage that’s why she was with Mike on this trip.
The plan was for me to spend a two-month vacation in the US with Mike after our wedding to spend more time with him and also for our honeymoon.
Going to El Nido the day after our wedding was our way to make the most of Mike and Maya’s vacation in the Philippines before the three of us went to the US.
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El Nido is the star attraction of Palawan in the Philippines which is known for its limestone cliffs, crystal clear water and white sand beaches, and amazing coral reefs.
If you are looking for a honeymoon destination in the Philippines, El Nido is definitely one of the top picks!If you are looking for a honeymoon destination in the Philippines, El Nido is definitely one of the top picks! Click To Tweet
Aside from El Nido, the top Philippine tourist destinations like Coron and Puerto Princesa are also in Palawan.
Compared to the two, El Nido is more popular with celebrities but is also more expensive especially the airfare.
Things To Know When Planning a Trip to El Nido
No visa is required for up to 30 days of stay in the Philippines.
Though visa is not required for short stay, you should take note of the following:
- your passport should be valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended period of stay
- you can present a return flight ticket upon arrival to the Philippines
For longer stays, you will need to apply for a visa to the Philippine Embassy or Consulate in your country prior to your arrival.
The Philippine Standard Time is UTC +8 which is the same time with Singapore and Malaysia.
The best time to travel in El Nido is in March and April as this is the peak of the dry season.
We went to El Nido in June where we experienced rain for a couple of days during our 5-day vacation but this only occurred after our island tours. Yep, we’re lucky!
It is humid in the Philippines so wear lightweight and breathable clothes that will make you feel comfortable in our tropical weather.
What to pack
Sunblock – we recommend the reef safe type so we don’t harm the corals when protecting ourselves from the sun
Sunglasses – to protect your eyes when you go out during the day
Insect repellent – always protect yourself from mosquitoes when you go to islands that are abundant with trees and when you go out for dinner where the dining area is open
Reusable water bottle – keep yourself hydrated all the time in an eco-friendly way
Dry bag – your phone or your camera is the last thing you want to get wet when island hopping
Wet shoes – always wear this when island hopping as you may step on sharp rocks and shells, or worse, on sea urchins or stonefish
Mask and snorkel – these are available for rent just in case you don’t want to bring this in your bag but in our case, we don’t want biting someone else’s mouthpiece
Fins – fins are not required especially if you will just be snorkelling but if you will be freediving, this will help you to propel better in the water
Our currency is Philippine Peso. 1 US dollar or 0.90 euros is approximately 50 pesos.
Banks like BPI, RCBC and Metrobank have branches in El Nido but for an island with a flock of tourists, it is better to be ready with cash prior to arrival.
Moneygram, Palawan Express, M. Lhuillier and Cebuana Lhuillier are available for money transfer.
They also exchange money but it is recommended to exchange money when you arrive in Manila as more options are available.
Take note that not all establishments accept credit cards so bring enough cash for the entire trip.
Wi-fi in our hostel and in most establishments is just okay but we did not pay that much attention to this as we really wanted to relax and to disconnect.
I did not experience any issue with my signal and mobile data with Globe during the few times that I used my phone.
But if you want to stay connected and updated in social media, rent a pocket wi-fi in advance then claim it upon your arrival in Manila.
Klook offers a 4G LTE WiFi for only ₱90 a day but this is at 150MB data limit only. They also have plans for 300MB, 500MB, 1GB and unlimited.
Below are the rates for 4G unlimited data up to 5 devices:
- Klook rate is at ₱490 per day and can be booked for 1 day only. BOOK HERE!
- Get Your Guide rate is at ₱1,350 for 3 days or ₱450 per day. This is cheaper per day but the minimum rent is 3 days. BOOK HERE!
Power interruptions are no longer a thing in El Nido but blackouts are still possible. We did not experience any blackouts during our trip.
The widely used electrical plug is Type A and the standard voltage and frequency is 220V, 60Hz.
In case your electronic chargers are not compatible, make sure to always bring a universal adapter.
The island has a low crime rate but we can never be too confident when we travel.
Always keep an eye to your belongings.
One thing that Mike loves about the Philippines is that the majority of the Filipinos can speak and understand English.
We usually take a 10-minute walk back to our hostel if we had dinner at the restaurants near El Nido beach.
When we go to farther restaurants, we usually take a tricycle ride.
Tricycle ride within the town proper is at ₱10 per person but we were always charged for ₱50 per trip.
Somehow, I felt that we were overcharged because Mike is a foreigner but since we were on a vacation, we didn’t want to get stressed on this.
When we went to an Italian restaurant, the tricycle driver said he had no change for our ₱500 bill.
It was my mistake that I did not check our money on hand before leaving our hostel.
We insisted we really don’t have a smaller bill but he was unhelpful.
Because of this, Mike initiated to go inside the restaurant to exchange our money for smaller bills and returned handing me the bills in hundreds.
I handed one to the driver expecting to get a change of ₱50.
Out of the blue, he said our fare was ₱100 because it was already evening. We felt we were scammed but we just decided to let it go.
To prevent this from happening to you, always check that you have smaller bills. You can also ask for the rate and if the driver has change for your bill before taking the ride.
This is not required but we encourage you to include this in your trip budget planning.
Mike and I give a tip of about 10% to 20% of our bill.
Other things to know
You may encounter some locals who will ask for something they want from you. I can see that Mike always feels uncomfortable when locals ask for his favorite cap, an attractive item to basketball fans.
This also happened on other trips but the most remarkable transpired in a mall where someone just randomly approached us to ask for Mike’s cap.
It was in El Nido when he got asked the third time so I guess Mike let it go so he will not be bothered anymore.
Mike was approached graciously but this can still make someone in a foreign country feel uncomfortable.
When you encounter this, you can give it for the sake of kindness or stick on your right not to be bothered by random people when on vacation.
You may also experience that locals will not name the price for a ride or a service, saying that the amount will be up to you. We find this tricky or can make us feel guilty.
You are puzzled if you paid less, more or just right. We don’t mind paying extra for a tip especially when the service was really good but we want to know the price.We don’t mind paying extra for a tip especially when the service was really good but we want to know the price. Click To Tweet
To prevent this, you can either research before your trip or talk to your hotel/hostel staff about your plan for the day so they can give you tips and help you.
Also, I would like to encourage travellers to support small businesses like the sidewalk fruit or souvenir vendor as our way to give back to the local community.
How To Go To El Nido
Airswift is the only airline that has direct flights from Manila to El Nido and the flight cost is not cheap.
See the screenshot of our flight itinerary below. We paid ₱9,557 per person!
I found lower rates than this with Airswift several months before our trip but we still have dependencies at that time so we did not book early.
Those rates rate were lower but it still expensive, about ₱7,000+ per person.
We suggest booking early to minimize your airfare cost but the cost is still higher compared to flights going to other destinations.
Despite the expensive airfare, I was surprised that our flight was full.
Also take note that:
- the free check-in baggage allowance is 10 kilos
- departure in Manila is in NAIA Terminal 4
We arrived in a small airport, the El Nido Lio Airport, where we were welcomed by the staff of the tour company who arranged our vacation.
Our van transfer from the airport to our hostel in the town proper is approximately 15 minutes.
Click below to book the cheapest flight to El Nido
Your alternative options to save money on flight cost are:
First option is to search for cheap flights from Manila to Puerto Princesa then ride a van or bus to El Nido. A van ride is approximately 5 to 6 hours.
Search and book van ride from Puerto Princesa to El Nido for ₱650 below
Another offers for van ride from Puerto Princesa to El Nido are:
Second option is to search for cheap flights from Manila to Coron then a fastcraft to El Nido via Montenegro Lines or Phimal Fast Ferry. The ferry ride is approximately 4 hours.
Search and book fastcraft from Coron to El Nido below
Where To Stay In El NidoHotel/Hostel rate may vary depending on the booking date and availability. Use the search form or links we provided below to check price and availability.
We stayed in Swiftlets Inn during our vacation in El Nido.
Its location is along the road and about 10 minutes walk to the beach.
To our convenience, the Iglesia ni Cristo church is a minute walk from the property.
Our room has a private CR with a bathtub and a balcony space. It is clean and the space is enough for the three of us.
They provide complimentary American breakfast daily and coffee all day. The staff are nice and courteous. A double room stay starts at ₱3,150 per night.
The town proper has four barangays namely Buena Suerte, Corong-corong, Masagana and Maligaya.
We meet our tour guide at the El Nido Beach in Buena Suerte.
Most establishments are also near this beach so expect a little crowd of people and tour boats.
Top Budget Hostels
Staying in hostels can save you money and provide the convenience of being within the town proper but depending on your location, it may also mean the vicinity can disrupt your peace and serenity.
It is a hip hostel with private rooms and a dormitory. The property is perfect both for couples and solo travellers.
Continental breakfast is served daily.
Activities like movie nights, beer pong and margarita nights are also arranged daily in the property.
A bed in the dorm is as low as ₱940 while a private room rate is as low as ₱2,650 (plus taxes and other charges).
This was the cool hostel that caught our attention because of its swings at the bar and in its terrace while we were at Athena Cafe.
The rate of a bed in the dormitory starts at ₱982 plus tax and other charges.
It is a popular place and provides a vibe that is true to its name, happiness.
The hostel is near to other bars, restaurants and the El Nido beach which is very convenient but may not be a good place for people sensitive to noise.
A best-seller hostel on the island that offers both private rooms and dormitories.
It has a bar, a rooftop pool and billiards table.
A bed in the dormitory is at ₱1,200 while a private room rate is at ₱4,400 (plus taxes and other charges).
You can spend a little more or splurge on your accommodation if you can afford it and if that’s your preference. The cost is higher but you get more peace and quiet time.
The resort is more than 2 kilometers away from the town proper and has a private beach.
It has well-designed bungalows that are perfectly instagrammable.
A double room starts at ₱5,175 (plus taxes and other charges) and includes daily continental breakfast.
All rooms have a terrace with pool view and access to the indoor and outdoor pools.
Another property that is more than 2 kilometers away from the town proper that offers a different kind of accommodation that is glamping.
The tent is perfect for couples who want to relax.
A night stay for two is at ₱6,503 (plus taxes and other charges) with breakfast.
Located in the Seven Commando Beach that is more than a kilometer away from the town proper, this luxurious resort is perfect for honeymooners.
A night stay for two starts at ₱23,250 with breakfast, outside seating area and a view of the white sand beach with clear waters.
Located at Bacuit Bay that is 10 kilometers away from the town proper, the resort is the perfect island getaway for couples.
Enjoy a luxurious and peaceful stay on an island with lush greenery, a private beach and an outdoor pool.
A room for two starts at ₱18,052 with breakfast.
The resort provides airport shuttle and boat transfers so make sure to arrange your transportation with them in advance.
Where To Eat In El Nido
Breakfast was provided in our hostel while lunch was included in our island or beach tours.
The lunch served in our tours has meat, fish, vegetable, fruit and of course, rice!
We only went to restaurants to have dinner.
Sometimes, we stopped on kiosks for random buying of ice cream.
Below is the list of restaurants or cafes that we have tried during our trip to El Nido.Business hours may change due to the current COVID19 lockdown. It is recommended to always contact the restaurant first.
We ordered the family-sized pizza and we were not ready for it.
It was enormous and delicious!
Our pizza cravings were satisfied!
This pizza is at ₱1,250 but a regular serving of pizza or pasta ranges from ₱300 to ₱400.
Our visit to this cafe was because of a rush. As soon as we returned to El Nido beach from island touring, a heavy rain fell.
We immediately looked for a place to shelter and this cozy place was right at the beachfront so we ended up going here.
It is a Greek and Mediterranean restaurant that is vegetarian friendly.
We were not that hungry so we just had snacks and drinks.
Starters range from ₱180 to ₱250.
The drinks were good while the starters were okay.
The place for Filipino cuisine in El Nido!
We went here because Mike always craves for Sinigang but they don’t have the pork variant.
Click the menu link above for your reference on their food plus its description and price.
Ristorante La Lupa
A restaurant that serves authentic Italian cuisine and is recommended for intimate fine dining.
We ordered the Diavola pizza and we loved it!
Click the link above to see their menu.
What To Do In El Nido
The most famous thing to do in El Nido is of course, ISLAND HOPPING! All island hopping tours are about 7 to 8 hours long and include lunch on an island.
Tours may include pick-up from your hotel. It is recommended to confirm this with the tour company as packages may vary.
We were picked up in our hotel on the first island hopping day but for some reason, on the other days, they said it is not included in our package so we did not mind going on our own.
On this trip, I booked all our tours with Endless Weekends Travel Services instead of my usual DIY as I was too busy with all the wedding preparations.
It was nice of them to initiate the refund of our transportation cost going to the meeting point in El Nido beach as their tour agency partner might have misunderstood our package inclusion.
Make sure to also be on time when joining tours. There was a day when we waited for a long time because our tour companions were late.
Island Hopping Rules
As per one of our tour guides, the following rules were implemented to prevent El Nido from facing the same problems as Boracay due to tourism.
- You cannot visit the Big Lagoon, the Small Lagoon, and the Secret Beach in one day. These are the most-visited spots in El Nido. To protect these spots from overcrowding, they were distributed into different tours.
- Pre-registration is required to visit the three premium stops mentioned above. This will be done by your tour operator after you have provided your contact details such as your Name, Age and Country of Residence.
- Protected Areas Users’ Fee of ₱200 will be collected per premium stop.
- Premium stops have time slots with first entry at 7AM and last entry at 4PM. An hour stay is allowed per slot in the Small Lagoon while it is 1.5 hours for the Big Lagoon.
- Only kayaks are allowed inside the Small and the Big Lagoons. The island hopping boats have a designated area to wait for their passengers.
- El Nido Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF) of ₱200 will be collected on top of the Protected Areas Users’ Fee. This is valid for 10 days and the receipt will always be checked so don’t lose it. We thought we lost ours. Good thing, Maya was able to keep it.
Klook used to offer lower prices for the island tours but it is currently not available. eg. Tour A used to be offered at ₱885. Check here!
El Nido Island Hopping Tour A
Islands to visit in Tour A are Shimizu Island, Payong Payong, Secret Lagoon, Seven Commando, and Big Lagoon.
Joiner Tour Price: ₱1,200
Big Lagoon Protected Areas Users’ Fee: ₱200
Kayak Fee (optional): ₱300
A joiner tour with Get Your Guide is at ₱1,290 per person. BOOK HERE!
Klook as of this writing has no Tour A.
The Big Lagoon is a postcard worthy landscape! We went around the lagoon paddling a kayak but it has a shallow part where we just hang out and chill for a while.
Our boat men were preparing and cooking our lunch on the boat while we were touring island to island and was served on Shimizu Island.
One of our stops is the Secret Lagoon. You get to appreciate the limestone details when you go inside the Secret Lagoon. The entrance was small and has sharp edges where you can easily get hurt if you are careless so listen to your tour guide.
It was beautiful but we were joking that people might pee while they are inside the lagoon so we hurried to go out! Kidding aside, we wanted to get out first before the rest of the crowd started to pile up to exit the lagoon.
Last but not the least is the Seven Commando. El Nido has a lot of white sand beaches with pristine clear water but my favorite is the Seven Commando.
It is a long stretch of white sand with a lovely mix of coconuts and limestone in the background.
As for the trivia, the island got its name after the seven Japanese soldiers who lived on the island during World War II.
El Nido Island Hopping Tour B
Islands to visit in Tour B are Pangulasian island, Cudognon Cave, Cathedral Cave, Snake Island, and Pinagbuyutan Island.
Joiner Tour Price: ₱1,300
Cudognon Cave Entrance Fee: ₱100
A joiner tour with Get Your Guide is at ₱1,705 per person including entrance fees. BOOK HERE!
A joiner tour in a luxury wooden boat with Klook is at ₱3,799 per person. BOOK HERE!
We were not able to try this tour as we chose to give a day of touring to Nacpan Beach.
The Snake Island got my attention when I was reviewing the photos of all island tours. It is an S-shaped sandbar connecting an island to the mainland. You will not think that this place is in the Philippines.
Unfortunately, this tour is getting the least love as this doesn’t have a premium stop.
El Nido Island Hopping Tour C
Islands to visit in Tour C are Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Tapiutan Island, and Helicopter Island.
Joiner Tour Price: ₱1,400
Matinloc Shrine Entrance Fee: ₱200
A joiner tour with Get Your Guide is at ₱1,590 per person including entrance fees. BOOK HERE!
A joiner tour in a luxury speedboat with Klook is at ₱3,299 per person. BOOK HERE!
Our first stop is at the Helicopter Island who got its name as it resembles the shape of a helicopter when viewed from the side.
Another stop is at the Hidden Beach. It is a small cove behind a towering limestone.
We were dropped at the entrance then we walked to the cove. It was not that deep but I felt it was so deep that I had to cling to Mike just to be sure.
I felt lucky because a few meters from where our boat dropped us, the water is already at low level. The view was beautiful but a little crowded that we were not able to take a picture without anyone from the background.
Lunch was served at Matinloc Shrine which could have been a stop on another beautiful island. It was a place with an abandoned building and shrine.
Our tour guide led us to climb some steps to get a lovely view though.
After lunch, we were unable to go to the Secret Beach because of the strong waves and current during that day.
Our tour guide still showed us the location. He pointed to a small hole in a limestone karst where we will swim and make our way to the Secret Beach.
No one on the boat dared to insist to go.
Our guide took us to Cadlao Lagoon as an alternative to the Secret Beach.
El Nido Island Hopping Tour D
Islands to visit in Tour D are Small Lagoon, Nat-Nat Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan Cove, Paradise Beach, and Ipil Beach.
Joiner Tour Price: ₱1,200
Small Lagoon Protected Areas Users’ Fee: ₱200
Kayak Rental (optional): ₱300
A joiner tour with Get Your Guide is at ₱1,605 per person including entrance fees. BOOK HERE!
A joiner tour in a Luxury Catamaran with Klook is at ₱4,799 per person. BOOK HERE!
The first stop is in Nat-Nat Beach. It is the perfect beach for relaxation and photography with all the coconut trees and the limestone karst as your background.
During our island tours from the previous days, some stops were replaced due to the water condition.
Even if we have been to Cadlao Lagoon the other day, we have to stick to the itinerary because we booked a joiners tour and we have companions.
Since we visited Cadlao Lagoon twice, we decided to snorkel near our boat and then chillax.
Then we stopped at Paradise Beach for lunch. After lunch, we were guided to explore some rocks at the end of the beach.
Our last stop was in the Small Lagoon. Instead of renting a kayak, we decided to swim this time which was so tiring but we still enjoyed the tour.
You may go glamping in Nacpan Beach or visit it for a day.
To DIY your day tour, you can either rent a tricycle to take you to Nacpan Beach or rent a motorcycle and ride your way to Nacpan.
Ask your hotel/hostel staff to assist you to book a ride.
Our ride going to Nacpan Beach in a tricycle is not comfortable as there are a lot of potholes along the way.
Also, only two persons can sit properly in the tricycle. The third person, unfortunately, had to sit in a small seat and the trip takes about 45 minutes.
Our tour in Nacpan Beach is the perfect way to spend our last day in El Nido. It was peaceful and quiet.
Nacpan Beach is a long stretch of golden sand beach with big waves.
I was thankful that I was wearing a one-piece swimsuit as I see ladies in two-piece bikini clinging to their tops.
Sadly, the place where you can go to see the view of the twin beach, Nacpan Beach and Calitang Beach, was closed when we visited.
Our guide said the property has been bought and the owner closed it to the public. You can view the twin beaches by flying your drone.
If you get hungry, there are nearby restaurants to buy food or just chill and have drinks. Beach chairs are also available for rent.
Taraw Cliff Canopy Walk
We were not able to try this as we chose to maximize touring the islands and the Nacpan Beach.
It is also not doable after our island tours as the last entry to the Canopy Walk is at 3PM and island hopping ends at 4PM.
Try this activity if you want a breathtaking view of the Bacuit Bay!
The Canopy Walk tour with Klook is at ₱340 per person. BOOK HERE!
Hidden Gem near El Nido
Port Barton – a village on the north-west coast of Palawan.
Islands to visit in this tour are Exotic Island, Twin Reef, Inaladelan Island, and Luli Sand Bar.
A joiner tour with Klook is at ₱1,100 per person. BOOK HERE!
Duli Beach – a secluded white sand beach 25 km above El Nido. Perfect for a lazy beach day!
You can stay in El Nido and visit Duli Beach for a day by renting a motorcycle.
Or book a stay at the Duli Beach Resort. The resort has a restaurant where you can order your meals if you will just visit for a day.
Verde Safari Beach – another beautiful secluded beach 30km above El Nido.
You can visit this beach when you go to Duli Beach.
El Nido was a memorable place for us. It may not be our honeymoon destination but it was the first travel we had as husband and wife.
Maya also loved El Nido. She said she has never been to an island or beach whose water is as clear as El Nido’s.
Our photos did not give justice to how dazzling El Nido is, but hopefully, I was able to give you all the tips that you need to have an amazing trip to this destination.
Although El Nido was amazing, I told Mike that I need to take him to Coron and be the judge as I think the underwater sights of Coron are more beautiful than El Nido’s.
We will document Mike’s verdict when we visit Coron in one of our future travels.
Feel free to share your thoughts about this post by leaving a comment below. We love reading comments!