The information below is from our visit in March 2016. To make things easier for ourselves we were working off the exchange rate of AUD$1 = PHP₱30
The Places We Travel
El Nido is located in the province of Palawan, south east of Manila. There are currently 2 ways of getting to El Nido.
This option is the quickest but also more expensive option.
You can fly direct from Manila into El Nido airport for about ₱15,500 return.
AirSwift, the airline that operates this flight also operates a flight from Cebu.
If the price is within your budget then you can get all of the information on the link below.
This option is the most popular and the option we went with. It involves flying into Palawan and driving for 5 hours to El Nido.
Step 1 – Fly into Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan from a number of places, most popular being Manila & Cebu. We flew from Manila with Philippine Airlines and most of the people we met in El Nido either did the same or flew with Cebu Pacific. Air Asia Zest also flies into Puerto Princesa.
Step 2 – Depending on your arrival time into Puerto Princesa, stay the night at a hotel and take a minivan or bus the next morning to El Nido or walk out of the airport and jump straight into it. We opted to stay the night in Puerto Princesa and left early the next day for El Nido. A seat in a minivan shouldn’t cost you any more than ₱600 one way. We paid PHP500 per person and noticed that this was generally the going rate. Some companies seem to quote higher prices but do seem to be set up better and have nicer vans. As there are so many companies I would try to see if you can get a look at the minivan before booking with someone just to make sure it’s actually as they say it is. Our first minivan was crammed with people and the air-conditioner only started working an hour into the trip!
Step 3 – Once you arrive in El Nido you will be taken to the bus terminal and there will be a line of tricyles waiting if you need one. Going rate varies depending on how far you are going from the bus terminal but you can expect to pay around ₱50 per tricyle to get into town.
A word of advice:
As both options include flying be aware that the airlines have a 10kg checked baggage allowance and anything over that you will be charged ₱200 per kg. If possible try to only take a minimal amount with you to El Nido so you don’t have to worry about it or contact the airline you choose to fly with well inadvance to see if you can buy additional baggage prior to flying. We couldn’t get in contact with Philippine Airlines while over there so had to pay the excess baggage charges, while a friend we met booked additional baggage when she first booked her flights as they were travelling with children and she didn’t want to stress about it.
If you are stopping in Manila before and after your trip to El Nido your hotel may be able to store your luggage for you until you return, however if they aren’t or you don’t feel comfortable doing that you can leave your luggage at Manila Airport NAIA Terminal 3 with Protecta Bag. They have secure lockers with CCTV to ensure safe storage of your luggage.
The Places We Stay
We stayed on Caalan beach as we wanted to be out of town but always wanted to be near a nice beach. We would recommend staying here if you think you will spend most of your days by the beach as the beach in town is full of either boats or restaurants so there isn’t a lot of space to actually sit by the beach and relax. It’s about a 30 minute walk into town, so just remember to take a torch when walking at night. Tricycles will also take you to and from, however I would always get your hotel to call one for you so that they can direct them.
The Places We Sleep
We stayed at a property through Air BnB which was ok, however even though it was on the beach, there wasn’t space for us to actually sit on the sand so we walked further up which we ate lunch at one day and looked great, although we can’t comment on the rooms themselves. You can get a basic double room in El Nido for anywhere between ₱800-₱2500 a night. Nicer hotel’s prices start in excess of this.
The Places We Eat
We found a couple of places that we enjoyed eating at in El Nido.
El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe
We had decent western food here both times we ate here and the service was always quick.
They also have a space for live music and a travel desk where you can book flights, tours and transfers.
We also ate along the beach front in town as pretty much all of the restaurants are set up to offer BBQ seafood. Some only offer BBQ while others have a regular menu you can order from as well. We found these restaurants to be really good value for money as a BBQ fish steak will cost you around ₱200 depending on which type of fish and the size of course.
You can get to these restaurants by just walking to the beach at town at night. You won’t be able to miss them!
The Places We Visit
The thing we found with El Nido is that all tour companies offer the same tours for the same price no matter where you go.
Island Hopping Tours
Island hopping tours seem to be the most popular for travellers to El Nido. There are 4 options – A, B, C or D. These group tours will cost you ₱1200 per person for the day, including lunch and snorkel. Some companies will charge ₱1200 and you will need to go to the Tourism office in town to buy an Eco-tourism Development Fee (ETDF) ticket for an additional ₱200. The office is located opposite the post office in town. Other companies will charge ₱1400 as they include the ETDF with the tour.
We booked Tour A as it looked like the most picturesque, through Midnight Sun El Nido Tours as they were close to our hotel in Caalan Beach and we heard good reviews. For what was offered we couldn’t fault them as they also offer a laundry service so we dropped our laundry off and booked a tour at the same time!
Diving is also very popular in El Nido and although neither of us dive we did notice all of the places offering diving tours and certificates. PADI have information online as to where you can get your dive certificate if you are interested.
The Places We Write About
You can read our blog post from our time in El Nido by clicking on the link below.