Have you always been dreaming of tiny islands, deserted beaches, limestone cliffs and dramatic sunsets? It was in 2008 when I found El Nido Palawan for the first time and this year I had the chance to come back to this exotic paradise. El Nido Island Hopping should be on every travellers bucketlist.
Let me help you to not miss anything as I sum up the 14 best things to do, plus practical info on how to get here and where to stay in El Nido.
El Nido is the pearl of Palawan, but did you know there is actually also a Natural World Wonder on the island. Go check out the Underground River in Puerto Princesa. It is only a couple hours south of El Nido! Totally worth going.
El Nido is just a simple little beach town in the North of Palawan that has developed fast over the last years. When I traveled to Palawan the first in 2008 there was not that much going on, but it changed into a backpacking hotspot with travellers from all over the world. With so many beautiful islands just off the coast of this popular tourist village it is no wonder that hotels, restaurants and tour companies are popping up from everywhere!
If you Google ‘things to do El Nido’ you will find many island hopping tours but there is more around on the main island as well: zip-lining, scooter tours, secret beaches, camping trips, rock climbing, etc. I am seriously in love with El Nido, but I also have another island crush in the Philippines, check out my blog about Kalanggaman Island Leyte.
1. Island hopping El Nido Tour A
This is the most popular tour due to the famous Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon. All boats leave early morning around the same time and have the exact same itinerary. When I first did this tour, there was one other boat, but this year I for sure needed more than 10 hands to count all the tour boats around Big Lagoon.
Still there was some space to admire the beauty of this amazing spot, but due to its popularity it is not my favorite tour anymore. After visiting Big Lagoon where you can snorkel and cliff jump, you will head over to Small Lagoon where canoeing and snorkeling are the main thing.
Afterwards you will visit a couple more islands and of course will enjoy a delicious bbq lunch somewhere on no-name island on a deserted beach.
2. Island hopping El Nido Tour B
According to the tour guides this is the most boring of the 3 trips, but to me it was the most photogenic one. El Nido Tour B is a little off the tourist trail as not many people take this tour.
But perfect if you are interested in secluded beaches and deserted islands. Pinagbuyatan Island is a magnificent photo spot and so is Snake Island, simple fantastic! Probably my favorite.
3. Island hopping El Nido Tour C
Another golden pick in the El Nido Palawan Tour Package is El Nido C. Just as stunning as the other two tours and the second most popular one.
This day trip will lead you to the picture perfect Matinloc Shrine.
Be amazed as you will sail through a magnificent passage with limestone cliffs on both sides.
And then we have not even spoken about the Secret Lagoon.
Oh yeah and almost forgot about Hidden Beach. Wow Tour C is definitely a must do in El Nido.
Island hopping your thing? I can also help you with island hopping adventures in and around Cebu and Siquijor. Check out all my blogs on my blogs about the Philippines. Or if you need help with Island Hopping in Thailand I have loads of information for you too. Choose the best island destination before you book.
4. Climb Taraw Cliff for best view of El Nido
Don’t tell anyone in El Nido you are about to do this. Due to some serious accidents there are not many people who will encourage your plans to climb Taraw Cliff. But this risky climb will give you the best view of El Nido. It takes an hour to reach the top of Taraw Cliff. There is also a safer option nowadays, not so high up but still good views. And I tell you up here you have the most amazing view over El Nido plus you have a really good 4G connection to do an Instagram Live video. Unfortunately I did not save my video.
5. Visit Nacpan Beach
Nacpan Beach is an endless stretch of beach a little North of El Nido, about 20 minutes by tricycle. This laid-back beach is popular with travellers playing volleyball, soccer or just enjoying local food from the stalls.
On the Southern tip there is the famous outlook Twin Beach a great photo spot and sunset point.
6. Rent a kayak and explore the islands on your own
If you are really adventurous you don’t need an El Nido tour package, you can create your own Island Hopping El Nido tour. There are many places in town that rent out kayaks and when the sea is calm and you are sporty and brave enough you can peddle out on your own.
There are some nearby islands that are not too far actually, but don’t underestimate this.
Buy lunch, snacks and don’t forget to bring a lot of drinking water, you will need it! There are even some kayaks with a glass bottom which is cool way to see some more of the underwater world around the islands. Kayaks go around for $14 - $20 for a full day.
7. Camping at the beach
Overnight camping trips are a fantastic way to go on a little adventure. Whether you stay with locals on Nacpan Beach like I did or you bring a tent in your kayak and camp on one of the deserted islands, everything is possible.
There are also arranged camping trips through agencies. I stayed with locals on Nacpan Beach and slept on a mattress in a little hut next to the ocean. I taught locals how to play Flip-cup, almost killed a chicken for dinner, drank rum around a bonfire and saw a sea turtle laying eggs in the middle of the night!
8. Rent a scooter
A great way to explore more of Palawan is to rent a scooter and go on a little adventure. I explored the rugged North coast and getting there is already a cool adventure. Drive to the unspoiled Duly Beach, Mariposa Beach or Verde Safari Beach and be stunned by the green landscape, viepoints and the completely deserted beaches. Take your scooter on to the beach and drive along the shore. Scooters can be rented around town easily. Another great place to rent a scooter in the Philippines is the haunted island of Siquijor. Jump on a scooter and go cliffjumping in Siquijor Island.
9. Zip lining El Nido
A little out of town towards the South there is a zip line that takes you to an offshore island. The Las Cabanas Zip Line is about 750 meters long, the ride is about 1 minute and the price for one way is around $15. You can walk back through the sea, as there is a sandbank between the island and the mainland.
10. Scuba Diving
Of course is diving in El Nido a must do for every scuba diver. Turtles and whalesharks are regularly seen in the months April and May. From June to October visibility can be disappointing due to the rainy season. Because of my ear problems I did not dive this time in El Nido. More about scuba diving in my blogs about Thailand, where I did my divemaster training.
11. Party on the beach
There is actually only one place to go for a little party and that is in the Reggea Bar on the beach where all travellers meet after too many beers. For a little more upscale atmosphere Sava Beach Bar is a great hangout and the best bar in town.
12. Eat pizza at Altrove
For drinks and dinner the classic Art Café is a really good option. It is the most famous place in town so always busy and a great place to meet travellers. For the best Italian food we got directed to Altrove, one of the best restaurants in El Nido and their pizzas are delicious, just like the owner of our hotel told us.
Book your bus/boat tickets online through 12Go Asia and save the hassle.
13. Try a Balot
Daredevils should try Balot! There are kids running around selling eggs, not normal eggs, but a hardboiled egg with a little embryo inside! Yeah I admit that sounds disgusting, even worse it looks disgusting. But I tried it and it is not as bad as it seems. I filmed it for my Snapchat, unfortunately forgot to take a photo. I was too busy enjoying my egg! LOL ;)
14. Sunset on the beach in El Nido
The best place to watch sunset is on Caalan beach, just a little 10 minute walk from the beach in El Nido. There is not that much going on but the views are better. On El Nido beach it is not bad either securing a spot on one of the many terraces on the beach and drink a happy hour beer!
There is a myth that there is no ATM in El Nido, but for once and for all, this was in 2010 this is 2023 and of course there are ATMs in El Nido nowadays. The village is small and walking around the small streets of this busy travellers hub will make you feel at home for sure. There are a ton of tour operators, guesthouses, restaurants, souvenir shops and bars so you won't get bored that quickly.
There are no real safety issues, just use common sense and you will be totally fine! I have lived on Koh Tao for a while and El Nido has a little bit of a Koh Tao feel to me. If you have been you know what I am talking about: islandlife all day, every day. Just shorts an old t-shirt and flipflop is all you need to fit in with the crowd. Parties on the beach, sunset sessions and a beautiful bay. Koh Tao and El Nido could be sisters. Because traveling here is made so easy with all these tourist things clustered in a couple narrow streets El Nido is a perfect first solo backpacking trip destination. If you are not sure yet if traveling with not much money is your thing than first read my guide with tips on traveling the world on budget.
El Nido Tour Package
Where to stay in El Nido
I stayed at Sea Cocoon, a fairly new hotel and one of the most upscale ones in El Nido center. It is only a 2-minute walk to beach and rooms are modern and spacious. The breakfast is great and there is a pool where you can chill out after a long day island hopping. Like everywhere the staff is super friendly, but the owner of the hotel will give you an extra homey feeling as he is always around asking if you are enjoy, honestly an amazing host. Check out their best rates at Agoda.
How to get to El Nido
There are several ways to get to El Nido but the most convenient nowadays is to take a direct flight to El Nido airport. Only Swift Air flies directly to the airport from Cebu and Manila. Mostly you will end up taking a bus from Puerto Princesa to El Nido which takes around 6 hours. You can also take a mini van from El Nido to Puerto Princesa. To secure a spot book it online:
I know getting to the Palawan can be a pain in the ass sometimes. Traveling in Philippines is a little more complicated, but may be 12Go Asia can help you to book tickets in advance and travel hassle free.
Interested in more travel adventures from this country? Another favorite island to travel in the Philippines is Cebu as they have the most incredible tours around the island. What about snorkeling with whalesharks in Oslob, or the picture perfect Kawasan Falls? Canyoneering through the most spectacular gorge and island hopping in North Cebu to dive with the rare Thresher Sharks. This island has so much to offer in terms of adventure!
The adventurous island Cebu where canyoning, island hopping and hiking to waterfalls is just as hot:
Ever hear of Kalanggaman Island? This little paradise destination is just an hour boat ride away from Cebu. What about spending a night on a deserted island? Read all about it in my Kalanggaman Island blog.
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