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El Nido Palawan – Glory Islands at the edge of the World

Stick to Facts, be Sceptical when bloggers brand it World’s Paradise

EL NIDO, PALAWAN: Here are stunning lagoons, white sand beaches, rocky islets, tall limestone cliffs, and waters packed with marine life. El Nido has earned tributes, and awarded as perfect beach destination in the Philippines.. It is not an easy ride to get here, but when you turn up you will feel like you´re almost at the edge of the World. Absolutely glory islands, but did I reach the world´s paradise…?

Snorkelling in El Nido, Palawan take you to the colorful world of the undersea.
Snorkelling in El Nido, Palawan take you to the colorful world of the undersea.

El Nido is a coastal settlement and major tourist destination on the Philippines island of Palawan. Include nearby 45 islands and islets and stunning limestone cliffs above the turquoise water.

Travel to El Nido

Most flights to the island of Palawan land in the main city Puerto Princesa. As El Nido is in the northern part, you have five hour ride on bumpy road to reach El Nido. From Manila, Boracay, Coron and Cebu, there are flights more or less every day. Or you could fly to Busianga and take a ferry from Coron to El Nido, a 3-4 hours boat ride.
The small Lio Airport can be reached by tricycle from the city, or by boat if you stay at Bacuit archipelago.

Bus from Puerto Princesa

Some fly to Puerto Princesa on Palawan, and then reach El Nido by bus or minivan. This trip is a cheap option and takes 4-6 hours. Bus is even cheaper, about 10 euro, but the journey will take up to 9 hours.

This is one of the boats taking you to the islands near El Nido.
This is one of the boats taking you to the islands near El Nido.

Island hopping Tours

As tourist you are welcome to join one of four island hopping tours offers different destinations. On the boat, you have to deal with 20 other people. If you decide to hire a private boat, it´s difficult to convince the captain to take you anywhere as he has to provide the coast guard with detailed itinerary in the morning.
If you want to avoid the hoards, hire a private boat and leave early before the coast guard office opens.

Warning! You´ll probably get Sick

I found plenty of warnings about food poisoning and stories of people getting ill during a visit in El Nido. Take some precautions to keep yourself healthy.
Brush your teeth with bottled water.
Keep your mouth closed in the shower.
When dining, make sure they use filtered water in their ice.
Avoid raw veggies or fruits washed with unfiltered water.
Bring your own medication against giardia that causes the diarrheal disease.
Treat Diarrhea: Drink water, ask pharmacy for Azythromiacin. No alcohol and get lot of rest.

Secret Lagoon: Not so secret any longer
Secret Lagoon: Not so secret any longer.

Cash is King

There are few ATMs and they are often run out of money or are out of order. Plan ahead by getting plenty of money. Yes, cash is king and El Nido is no exception. Book your hotel online so you can prepay.

Beach and food

You don´t need to be super active to enjoy El Nido. With plenty of white sand, turquoise water, and sun this is also a relaxing holiday. The restaurants are not very typical national cuisine, they are very varied, from Mexican to Italian, as well as grilled fish. If you are looking for the cheapest restaurants in the city, stay away from the beach and follow locals.

Cheap places to stay

Not fancy, not expensive, just cheap places to stay.
Tha Cavern Pod Hotel in Corong-Corong is a good place to stay for some nights. This is a small authentic village about 1km south of the city, and the rates are lower than in El Nido.

For party and nightlife, staying along the seafront of El Nido is the alternative for different styles of accommodation, from hostels to bungalows. If you choose a standard hotel, make sure you have enough cash, as very few accept credit cards.

Places to eat

I didn´t visit all the best places to eat, but with some advice from the tourist office here are some restaurants to eat well. Try some local specialities at street vendors, such as grilled chicken feet, a true delight to the Filipinos.
The Cadlao Resort and Restaurant – probably the best in El Nido.
Blue Azul – a veggie place.
Altrove – for Italian food
The Lonesome Carabao – for Mexican food.
Doy´s Grill – for fresh grilled fish.
Atmosphere – a good mix of Asian food.
V&V Bagels – for breakfast and snack.
La Salangane – for French food.

Art Cafe with a view: serves organic farm-to-table products directly from a farm
Art Cafe with a view: serves organic farm-to-table products directly from a farm

Bars and Happy Hours

It all stars with Happy Hour in the late afternoon. Then most beach bars turn into musical bars after dark. El Nido´s laidback evenings are ideal for socializing or simply relaxing. Partying and clubbing are not really the style.

Republica Sunset Bar – 4km south of the city. Enjoy a cold beer, cocktails and Spanish tapas, and the best sunset view.
Blue Karrot – a place to enjoy local food and listen to live reggae music every night.
Art Café – for live music and to watch sports.
Coco Bar – right on the beach for live music.
Balay Tubay – a favourite for expats.

Live music: Many bars in El Nido has live music
Live music: Many bars in El Nido has live music

Clothing, Shoes, Weather Gear

Of course, dress appropriately for whatever activities you will be doing, but some staples that you should bring in all cases are water-sensible shoes or sandals, a light wind breaker because it will get wet and windy while island hopping. Remember beach wear, sunglasses, and sun-protective clothing.

Puerto Princesa or Nido?

Two cities on the Palawan island. If you are urban-dweller and up for day-trips to the nature and comforts of the city, Puerto Princesa is your best bet. If you want a tropical experience and forget the hustle and bustle of the city, El Nido is the place.

The quickest way to get from Puerto Princesa to El Nido is to taxi which costs ₱4,200 – ₱5,500 and takes 4-5 hours.

Plenty of boats on the harbour of El Nido: for whole day tours
Plenty of boats on the harbour of El Nido: for whole day tours

 

Best time to visit

The best time to go to Palawan and its destinations is during the dry summer season, from November to May. The warmest months are from March to April, the summer season in the Philippines. There are direct flights from Manila and from Cebu to El Nido.

Things to do in El Nido

Most popular is island hopping – and for good reason. With 45 islands and islets, jumping on a boat exploring all that the sea and land has to offer. To see everything it has to offer, you need at least 4 days, which will include a full day trip to Nacpan beach, and 2 or 3 island hopping tours, plus a trip to the Zip Line.

The climate

The wet season is overcast, the dry season is windy and partly cloudy, and it is warm year-round. The temperature typically varies from 79°F to 86°F.
With a minimum temperature of 22°C on average, a maximum temperature of 33°C on average, and mostly sunny weather. The lowest in January, while the hottest months are April and May.

Stay out of trouble

Dirty massage: There are lot of offer in oil massages. The problem is they may not have air condition, and not clean the sheets. Look for places with overall cleanliness.
Mosquitos: Forest mixed with ocean is perfect for mosquitos. Take your precautions against mosquitoes.
Stealing: Common ways to get robbed in El Nido are from pick-pocket and from a broke thief in a hostel.
Gangs: Have an eye for gang activity, young men with tattoos and angry look. Don´t buy drugs and don´t look for hookers.
No Drugs: There is zero tolerance for drug activity in the Philippines.
Still judging this is a paradise of the world?

Internet is terrible

“Free Wi-Fi”-signs are all over, but at hotels and restaurant you will find that internet is incredibly slow or non-existent. Even doing the simplest things online is difficult.
The best advice is to notify friends and family that you´ll be off-line so they don´t worry.

El Nido is Expensive

There are plenty of hotels, but most seem to be overpriced. In general, El Nido is expensive compare to other cities in the Philippines. The cheapest room will cost you around 30 USD.
An expensive hotel is an alternative, without the increase in quality. Make sure you get a pool to make it worth.

Palawas is the long island, El Nido located on the top.
Palawas is the long island, El Nido located on the top.

Palawan island

Palawan is an island province of the Philippines located in the Mimaropa region. Its capital is Puerto Princesa, and it is the largest province in the country in terms of total area of jurisdiction. The islands of Palawan stretch from Mindoro in the northeast to Borneo in the southwest.
Luzon is the largest island, which includes capital Manila.

Discover all the colors and fish underwater.
Discover all the colors and fish underwater.

Truth about El Nido

These islands, azure waters and perfect beaches are a true feast for the eyes with essence of a paradise. But don´t believe in all swollen words from manic bloggers, because this is not the ultimate paradise of the world. Reports show that this area is surrounded by problems.
El Nido itself is nothing more than a little dirty town. Nothing more exciting than a starting point to explore islands, beaches, and hidden lagoons.

Truth and reality; The islands are a seaside paradise, one of many in the Philippines.

 

Gudmund Lindbaek
Gudmund Lindbaek
Journalist founded King Goya a few years back. Meeting people, local food and engaging stories are my passion. I plan for ambitious once-in-a-lifetime trips. My delight is the prospect of Future Travels: Longer, Slower, Farther! I just want a tiny slice of adventure to be alive, and then excited to return home.

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