One thing I have learned during my trip around the world – the Philippines has some of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders. I have yet to see most of the country’s attractions, but I know I have seen one of the best – El Nido. An enchanting paradise, El Nido is located in the northermost tip of Palawan and includes the many islands and islets in Bacuit Bay. It features stunning karst formations, fascinating lagoons, enticing beaches and clear blue waters. A foreigner and a local – Jon and I simply fell in love with this magical place in the Philippines, El Nido.
Island Hopping in El Nido (Bacuit Bay)
The highlight of any trip to El Nido is the island hopping tour which takes you across the different gems of Bacuit Bay. There are four tour options from A to D which range in price from Php 1,200 to Php 1,400 per person. The tour lasts for a whole day and includes lunch, snorkel and mask, life vest and guide. Note that this rate is for a shared boat for about 10 people. It is also possible to find boat tours which provide kayaks but prices are steeper. The Eco-Tourism Development Fund (EDTF) worth Php 200 is not included in the quoted tour prices.
Since we were only in El Nido for a few days, we arranged for a combination of the best tours, A and C for a day. We booked the private island hopping tour with our guest house for Php 4,500. You can book this private combination tour for the same price up to 4 – 5 people and it will be a pretty good deal.
Here are the destinations for the different island hopping tours in El Nido:
Tour A: Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Simizu Island, Secret Lagoon and 7 Commandos Beach
Tour B: Entalula Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave and Cathedral
Tour C: Hidden Beach, Helicopter Island, Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine and Star Beach
Tour D: Bukal Island, Ipil Beach, Nat-Nat Beach, Cadlao Lagoon and Paradise Beach
Highlights of our combination A and C tour included snorkelling in the lagoons (it was Jon’s first time to snorkel!), swimming in clear blue water, walking on beautiful beaches and seeing the magnificent view from the top of Matinloc shrine.
Depending on the weather, it is possible that the guide will decide to leave out some parts of the tour. We visited in June, the start of the wet season; the sea was rough and we had to skip the Secret Beach. It was too bad really. I guess that means Jon and I have to come back to El Nido. We will, for sure. We actually plan to have a guest house someday in a place like El Nido.
The Beaches of El Nido
Other than the outlying islands of Bacuit Bay, there are a few beaches on the main island that are worth-seeing. Make sure you have time to check them out especially Nacpan Beach!
Nacpan Beach and Calitang Beach
Nacpan Beach stands out among the rest with its long line of golden sand, clear waters and deserted atmosphere – there are very few tourists here. Aside from one house and a small hut that serves barbeque meat and fruit shake, there are no resorts in Nacpan Beach (yet). We actually asked for the prices of the property in this area but most of the land had been sold.
Calitang Beach is another beach very close to Nacpan Beach. It’s not as nice though as there are a lot of fishing boats on the shore and the water isn’t as clear.
How to Go: You can reach Nacpan Beach by taking a tricycle from El Nido town. It takes 45 minutes (on a rough road) and costs Php 1,000 for a return trip (2 people).
Marimegmeg beach lies just outside of town further down from Corong Corong. It is a long stretch of beach with very few and expensive accommodation options. It was raining when we were there and the tide was quite low so we weren’t that impressed by this beach. However, aside from Nacpan Beach, this is the other beach near town that is appealing for swimming.
How to Go: You can reach Marimegmeg Beach (also known as Las Cabanas Beach) by taking a tricycle from El Nido town. It takes about 15 minutes and costs Php 150 per way (2 people).
Corong Corong Beach
Best known for its beautiful pinkish sunsets, Corong Corong Beach is a charming spot near the main town. Not appealing for swimming as the water doesn’t look too clean (there are a few boats that dock here too) but the beautiful sunsets are definitely worth the short visit. There are accommodation options in this area too. If you are looking for something more relaxed than the main town but still fits your budget, here it is. We stayed in Corong Corong for our 4 nights’ stay (Php 1,000 per night) and it was a pretty good experience – away from the busy main town with the same relaxing views of the sea.
How to Go: You can reach Corong Corong Beach by taking a tricycle from El Nido town. It takes about 5 minutes and costs Php 10 – 20 per person per way.
El Nido Town
A small town surrounded by beautiful lush cliffs and blue waters, the main town in El Nido is one of the Philippines’ nicer tourist towns. Although more and more tourists flock its shores each year, El Nido maintains its charm. The streets are small with rows of restaurants and shops but the tourists remain more local than foreign. The atmosphere remains very Filipino – the barbeque by the beach, the guitar and song, the occasional street vendor. El Nido is world class in beauty yet its humble roots as a small town reflects well in its people. I am glad I got to see this part of the Philippines that every Filipino can be proud of.
Transportation: There are no commercial flights to El Nido. However you can book a charter flight or fly to Puerto Princesa the take a shuttle to El Nido. The shuttle is available just outside the airport in Puerto Princesa and takes about 5 – 6 hours. Another option is to fly to Coron and take a boat from there to El Nido, which takes about 8 hours in good weather.
Money and Electricity: During the time we were there the electricity was only available from 2pm to 6pm. Most hotels also don’t have wifi. There is no ATM in town so make sure to bring enough money for your whole stay. Some hotels accept credit card payment. Mobile phone service is available.
Read more: Travelling to Palawan? You won’t want to miss the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
Note: We travelled to El Nido on June 2014.
Have you been to El Nido, Palawan? What is your favourite tourist spot in the Philippines? Let us know.