How to plan a El Nido Trip

El Nido: Plan your trip

El Nido is a top-rated tourist spot in the Philippines. This travel guide provides essential information on the best time to visit and the ideal places to stay, ensuring that your trip to El Nido is unforgettable.

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When to Visit El Nido:

El Nido, Palawan has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons – the dry season (November to April) and the wet season (May to October). During the dry season, the weather is generally warm and dry, with temperatures ranging from 25-32°C (77-90°F). Humidity levels are moderate, and rainfall is minimal. This makes it a popular time for tourists to visit El Nido, as the weather conditions are ideal for outdoor activities such as island hopping and beach lounging.

High Season

El Nido is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit is during the dry season from November to early May. This is also the high season when the hotel rates are generally higher, and Christmas, New Year, and Easter holidays can be very crowded. Plan and book your accommodation in advance if traveling during these periods.

Low Season

Many travelers are understandably concerned about the impact of weather on their holiday in Palawan. After all, few things can be more disappointing than having bad weather or typhoons spoil your plans.

The good news is that El Nido is generally not in the direct path of typhoons, which is a relief for visitors. However, if you plan to travel to El Nido between June and October, you should be prepared for some storms with heavy rain and strong winds. These storms can last for a few days and may cause some disruptions to your itinerary.

During the rainy season, El Nido typically experiences short but intense showers of rain, usually occurring in the late afternoon or early morning.

Bad Weather

Inclement weather can be a significant factor that affects travel plans, especially when it comes to activities like island hopping tours or ferry rides.

In the event of tropical storms, flights and ferries may be delayed or even canceled, causing disappointment and inconvenience to travelers. To mitigate this risk, it is highly recommended to consider purchasing travel insurance if you are visiting Palawan during the rainy season.

With the right insurance policy, you can be covered for unexpected events such as adverse weather conditions, which could prevent you from proceeding with your travel plans. This can provide peace of mind and protect you financially in case you need to reschedule or cancel your trip due to weather-related reasons. So, before embarking on your trip, it’s always wise to explore your travel insurance options to ensure that you have adequate coverage.

Attractions You Should Consider Visiting:

Classic El Nido Tour Options:

El Nido Island Hopping Tour, Palawan, Philippines

Tour A is one of the most popular tours in El Nido, and it takes visitors to some of the most scenic locations in the Bacuit Bay.

The tour usually covers five destinations, including Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and Seven Commandos Beach. Big Lagoon is a stunning lagoon surrounded by towering cliffs, known for its crystal-clear waters .

Secret Lagoon is a hidden gem with a small entrance that opens up into a secluded pool. Shimizu Island is a popular snorkeling spot, while Seven Commandos Beach is a picturesque stretch of sand ideal for swimming, relaxing, and enjoying a picnic.

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El Nido Tour B is another popular tour package that allows visitors to explore the stunning natural landscapes of the Bacuit Bay. This tour usually includes visits to five different locations, including Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave, Cathedral Cave, and Entalula Beach.

Snake Island is the first stop on the tour and is named after its winding sandbar, which resembles a snake. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the sandbar and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding islands. Cudugnon Cave is an ancient cave system that served as a shelter for the first settlers of El Nido. 

The next stop on the tour is Cathedral Cave, which is named after its cathedral-like opening. Visitors can enter the cave by boat and explore the inner chambers, which are adorned with limestone formations. Finally, Entalula Beach is a secluded beach with stunning rock formations and turquoise waters, ideal for relaxation and taking in the scenic views.

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El Nido Tour C is a popular tour package that takes visitors to some of the most beautiful destinations in the Bacuit Bay. This tour usually includes visits to five different locations, including Hidden Beach, Helicopter Island, Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine, and Star Beach.

The first stop on the tour is Hidden Beach, a secluded beach hidden behind towering limestone cliffs.  Star Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand located on a small island with clear waters and colorful marine life, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling and swimming.

The next stop on the tour is Secret Beach, another secluded destination hidden behind a narrow opening in the cliffs. Visitors can only access the beach by swimming through a narrow opening in the rocks, making it a unique and exciting destination.

Matinloc Shrine is a historical site located on the eponymous island, featuring an abandoned shrine and stunning views of the surrounding sea.

Finally, Helicopter Island is named after its shape, which resembles a helicopter. Visitors can enjoy snorkeling in the clear waters around the island and exploring the stunning coral reefs.

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El Nido Tour D is a tour package that allows visitors to explore some of the lesser-known destinations in the Bacuit Bay. This tour usually includes visits to five different locations, including Small Lagoon, Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach, Bukal Island, and Paradise Beach.

The first stop on the tour is Small Lagoon is a stunning lagoon surrounded by towering cliffs. Cadlao Lagoon is a serene lagoon surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. Visitors can enjoy kayaking, swimming, or simply taking in the stunning views of the lagoon. Pasandigan Beach is a quiet beach with crystal-clear waters, ideal for swimming and sunbathing. 

Natnat Beach is another secluded destination with powdery white sand and turquoise waters, making it an ideal spot for relaxation and taking in the scenic views. Bukal Island is a beautiful island with a small lagoon that visitors can explore by kayak. The final stop on the tour is Paradise Beach, a stunning beach with powdery white sand and crystal-clear waters, perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

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Discovering El Nido in 4 days:

Day 1: Arrival in El Nido – Nacpan Beach
Upon arrival in El Nido airport, take some time to settle into your accommodation and head to Nacpan Beach, one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in the area, and enjoy swimming and sunbathing.

Day 2: El Nido Tour A
Start your day early and embark on El Nido Tour A, which will take you to some of the most stunning destinations in the Bacuit Bay, including Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and Seven Commandos Beach.

Day 3: El Nido Tour C
Another day, another tour in Bacuit Bay! Join El Nido Tour C to explore some of the lesser-known but equally beautiful destinations in the area, such as Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Helicopter Island, Secret Beach, and Star Beach.

Day 4: Departure from El Nido
If you have time, you can also visit some nearby attractions, such as Taraw Cliff and Las Cabanas Beach. Depart from El Nido airport.

Where to stay:

Swimming pool at the Seda Lio Resort

To explore Bacuit Bay’s islands, stay at hotels in El Nido town, Calaan beach, or Corong Corong beach. But these spots get crowded in high season. For a quieter vacation, try Las Cabanas Beach or Lio Beach resorts instead. For luxury, head to El Nido Resorts on private islands.

Seda Lio Resort, located on Lio Beach, is the most exclusive resort on El Nido mainland and just a short 5-minute drive from the airport. With modern amenities and outstanding service, it’s the perfect retreat for those seeking a tranquil escape.

Huni Lio is a two-story resort located in the ecologically sustainable area of El Nido Lio Beach, offering families and couples a tranquil destination to relax and unwind. With stunning views overlooking the pristine and turquoise waters of Bacuit Bay, Huni Lio is the perfect retreat. It’s also conveniently located near El Nido Town, the starting point for Island Hopping Tours.

Nestled on Caalan Beach with stunning views of Bacuit Bay, Cadlao Resort & Restaurant is a one-of-a-kind tropical hideaway that’s just a short walk from El Nido Town.

The resort’s 25 well-appointed guest rooms are inspired by traditional-modern Filipino bungalows, each featuring its own outdoor terrace with views of the lush garden or the South China Sea and El Nido’s Bacuit Bay.

Mahogany Resort & Spa is a charming beachfront accommodation located in Corong Corong Beach, El Nido. Surrounded by a coconut grove and tropical garden, it offers a tranquil and cozy atmosphere with exceptional rooms and stunning views of Bacuit Bay.

The resort features unique Villas, Seaview Cottages, and Garden Cottages that are spacious, beautifully designed with a sleek wood touch, and equipped with high-quality furnishings and fittings. Each room has large glass windows and a big terrace/deck.

Guests can relax and unwind by the swimming pool or in the gazebo with its own bar after a day of diving or island hopping.

El Nido Sea Cocoon Hotel is a modern hotel located in El Nido town. This mid-scale hotel boasts 27 cozy and serene rooms, with plans to expand to 44 rooms in the near future. Just a short 5-minute walk from the beach, it’s the perfect base for those seeking a relaxing getaway

El Nido Sea Cocoon Hotel is conveniently located just a few minutes’ walk from El Nido’s famous beachfront and a short drive from other popular attractions like Corong Corong and Las Cabanas.

What to bring along:

Are you planning a trip to  El Nido? Don’t forget to pack these beach essentials to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable vacation.

Useful information:

Where to Stay in El Nido?

El Nido offers a diverse range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. From budget-friendly hostels to high-end beach resorts, you can find something that meets your needs.

If you’re looking for convenience and accessibility to island hopping tours, El Nido town is an excellent option. The town has a wide selection of affordable accommodations, making it an excellent choice for budget travelers.

Corong Corong beach is another popular area for tourists, boasting several restaurants and bars. It is also home to many hotels spread along the beachfront. Las Cabanas, located nearby, offers a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere, with several mid-range and luxury resorts available.

Calaan Beach provides a peaceful setting away from the hustle and bustle of El Nido town. Although it’s a bit quieter, it’s still easily accessible via a hotel service tricycle or a short walk from the town.

Lio Beach is a stunning stretch of white sand beach located in El Nido, Palawan. It is a relatively new development that offers a more upscale and eco-friendly experience compared to other areas in El Nido. One of the main reasons why accommodation in Lio Beach is great is that it offers a serene and secluded atmosphere that is perfect for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of El Nido town. The beach is surrounded by lush greenery and crystal-clear waters, providing a peaceful setting for relaxation and unwinding.

For a compromise between natural beauty and comfort, Nacpan is a fantastic option. The crystal clear waters and pristine white sands make it a great place to unwind. It offers both luxurious and affordable resorts, restaurants, and beach huts.

For an exclusive and luxurious experience, private island resorts in Bacuit Bay are the way to go. These resorts offer the ultimate relaxation and are perfect for those seeking a peaceful vacation. However, they come at a high price starting at PHP 20,000 per room per night compared to hotels on the mainland.

Exploring Bacuit Bay in El Nido:  Join a Group Tour or Take a Private Boat?

When it comes to exploring Bacuit Bay in El Nido, you have two main options: joining a group tour or taking a private boat. While both have their pros and cons, there are some key considerations to keep in mind.

If you value flexibility and customization, a private boat is the way to go. With a private boat, you can customize your itinerary, pace, and start time according to your preferences. You can also avoid the crowds and experience the beauty of Bacuit Bay in a more personalized way.

On the other hand, join-in tours are a more affordable option for those traveling on a budget. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to follow the group’s timetable and may have to wait for long periods before departing. Join-in tours can also be crowded and lack the personal touch of a private boat experience.

Ultimately, the choice between a private boat and join-in tour depends on your priorities and preferences. If you prioritize flexibility and a more personalized experience, a private boat is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for a more affordable option and don’t mind sacrificing some flexibility, a join-in tour may be the better choice.

Practical Tips for Visitors to El Nido

When it comes to paying for goods and services in El Nido, it’s important to have some cash on hand in local currency (Philippine peso). While some restaurants, shops, and hotels may accept credit cards and foreign currency, this is not always the case. There are banks and ATM machines in El Nido.

While many hotels, cafes, and bars in El Nido town and nearby beaches offer free and fast Wi-Fi, the same cannot be said for the northern part of El Nido and Nacpan beach. In these areas, the Wi-Fi speed is often below average and may be unreliable. It’s important to note that some of the more remote islands and beaches in El Nido may not have any internet access at all. 

If you need mobile data during your stay in El Nido, you can purchase a SIM card from either Smart or Globe. Both providers have coverage in the area, but Globe generally has better coverage than Smart.

Dining in El Nido

El Nido offers a wide variety of dining options for all tastes and budgets, with many restaurants located in the downtown area serving delicious and affordable food.

From classic Filipino dishes to western cuisine, you’ll find plenty of options to satisfy your appetite. Some must-try dishes include chicken adobo, sinigang soup, pork lechon, and halo-halo dessert, which are all well-known for their unique flavors and textures.

Whether you’re looking for a casual meal or a fine dining experience, El Nido has something to offer. Many restaurants offer outdoor seating with beautiful views of the beach adding to the dining experience.