El Nido is a tropical haven on the northern coast of main Palawan Island. El Nido itself is a small town with a mediocre beach, narrow streets, and mostly backpacker and mid-range hostels. However, it is the basecamp when exploring the Bacuit Archipelago, making it one of the Philippines’ most favourite beach destinations.
Bacuit Archipelago is a paradise of 45 islands – a mix of limestone formations, pristine beaches, lush forests, enchanting lagoons, turquoise waters, and colourful marine life. You can explore these through standardized tours. Whether you pick a group or private tour, I can assure you that you will meet some of the funniest and friendliest tour guides in El Nido!
Best time to visit is between November to May, when the seas are mostly calm and the weather is dry. I personally prefer around January to February, when days are hot but nights are soothing. Better if you can get an accommodation by the shore so you can sleep and wake up to the sound of waves. These sell out fast on the main beach in Corong-Corong though!
We don’t recommend visiting during the rainy season (June to October). Local Coast Guard is very strict and they don’t allow boats to set sail when seas are rough. This sometimes happens even on the good months, though. But don’t worry, if it’s just mild rains, you will still have plenty of things to do with El Nido’s inland tours.
4 Awesome Things to Do in El Nido
#1 Island-hopping in Bacuit Archipelago
There are 4 basic island-hopping tours from El Nido: Tours A, B, C, & D, each with a different set of islands to visit. Tour A is the most popular because it allows you to explore a good mix of lagoons and beaches. There are also Combo Tours, but we don’t recommend them. With the Combo Tours, you’ll have to hurry through several destinations without having enough time to enjoy them.
If you’re staying a few days in town, we suggest joining at least 2 island-hopping tours. Rates start at 890 PHP ($15.50) when you book via Klook. This is a 7-hour tour that usually starts at 9:00. Apart from the wonderful stops, our favourite part is the buffet lunch – a choice of grilled fish, chicken or pork, rice, and fresh fruits. These are cooked and prepared on a white-sand beach, where you can eat with your hands while looking out to paradise.
#2 Inland tours – beaches, waterfalls & hot springs
Although El Nido itself is just a regular town, its outskirts are a whole other story.
Nacpan–Calitang are twin beaches located some 20 km north of El Nido town proper. You’ll love their golden sand, laidback vibe, and crystal waters. Make sure you climb the hill where the two beaches meet for a beautiful bird’s eye view. We recommend taking a side trip to Makinit Hot Springs and Nagkalit-Kalit Waterfalls when making this journey. Note that you might need a guide when trekking to the hot spring and the waterfalls.
Nearer to El Nido town is Las Cabanas Beach, just about 5 km away. It is famed for its beautiful sunset that you can watch while downing a drink from its short strip of resto-bars.
Book a tricycle tour or rent a motorbike to explore the rural roads that lead to these gems. Rates start at 1,500 PHP ($26) for a trike tour and 500 PHP ($8.50) for a motorbike rental per day.
#3 Climb Taraw Peak
If you’re a sunrise person, we highly recommend an early morning hike to Taraw Peak. It is the best viewpoint in El Nido and well worth waking up early and sweating out all the way up. The hike is very humid, which is why we recommend doing it in the morning. Wear comfortable clothes and hiking shoes or sneakers, definitely no slippers!
There are 2 ways to climb Taraw Cliff: via canopy walk with optional dreamcatcher and the good old rock-climbing.
The canopy walk is the most common approach because it is generally easy and very safe. To reach the top, you only need to take the stairs and a 75-m hanging bridge. You can book this tour on ground with Via Ferrata or book it online via Klook for 340 PHP ($5.50). There is also an option to add the dreamcatcher experience for a total of 600 PHP ($10). This will allow you to stand on a spiderweb-like harness with a good view of the rocks below!
If you have a good level of fitness and are absolutely not afraid of heights, we’d like you to consider actually climbing up its rugged rocks. The climb takes about just 30mins to 1 hour, but requires a lot of strength and courage. The canopy walk gives you a great view, rock-climbing gives you the best view. Think about that when deciding which way to climb Taraw Cliff! You’ll need a guide for this route and rates start at 500 PHP ($8.50) per person.
Whichever method you pick, you will be provided with necessary equipment like helmet and gloves.
#4 Eat your heart out!
El Nido is a hub for foreign tourists, so don’t be surprised when you mostly find international cuisine around town. The great thing about them though is that they don’t only offer good food, most times they also give you amazing views and lovely ambiance.
The Nesting Table is our favourite spot for brunch and afternoon snacks. We love their pancakes, fruit shakes, and variety of vegan choices, all for a good price. Most of all, they offer a good view of the beach and the surrounding karst landscape.
Looking for a more romantic ambiance? Trattoria Altrove specializes in firewood pizza and pasta. Customers have to take off their shoes before entering the resto, an old Filipino tradition. The place itself looks old but well-maintained. What we love about this is that they highly discourage gadgets or anything that will distract you from your food and your companion. It’s not really hard though when you’re enjoying the food so much!
For Filipino dishes, Tambok’s offers the widest variety of options – from seafood to grilled meat and vegetable dishes. Whatever dish you choose won’t disappoint, but we highly recommend trying out their chicken inasal and pancit buko.
These are just our top 3. Most probably you will find a restaurant that answers to your craving when you scour the many choices at El Nido town!