El Nido is neither a pretty town, nor is it a party place or a town where you can relax. However, El Nido does not have to be either of these things, because it sports the most beautiful landscapes and islets in the Philippines, maybe the whole South East Asia. Enough reason for most travellers to the Philippines to pay the town in the north of Palawan a visit.
El Nido Canopy Walk
Even in the city you cannot miss the majestic lime stone rocks that El Nido is famous for. If you want to enjoy a nice view of El Nido Bay, but have only limited rock-climbing skills, look no further than the Canopy Walk: For 500 Pesos (9,5 USD) you can climb a limestone rock on a scaffold. Although the walk is very safe, you might have an adrenaline rush when crossing a shaking bridge. The walk is pretty short, though. After about 20 minutes you reach the viewpoint where you can have a photo taken (that you have to pay for later, of course). All in all, the price is quite hefty, but the view on top of the rock was enough compensation for me. Experienced climbers, however, might feel bored.
Of course, when you are in El Nido, you will want to enjoy its beaches. One of the most beautiful by far is Nacpan Beach, which takes roughly 1 hour to reach by tricycle. The ride is very bumpy, but well worth it if you want to relax on one of the nicest beaches in the Philippines with soft, pearly white sand and crystal-clear water. You can also enjoy a romantic sunset here before you make your way back to El Nido proper.
Island Hopping in El Nido
No visit to El Nido would be complete without an Island Hopping tour. In El Nido you have the choice between 4 tours. I would recommend a tour with a good balance of Snorkeling spots, caves and islets. The price is around 1200 Pesos (23 USD), including lunch.
Our tour started at Entalula Island. Here we went Snorkeling at the corral reef. Our guide warned us about jellyfish, but I did not encounter any. A very beautiful reef, though maybe not as nice as the ones in Port Barton.
Next stop was Snake Island. Like Starfish Island near Port Barton, this is a sandbank which gets completely submerged in the course of a day. If you come before noon, however, you can still access it. Walk through a mangrove forest and up a hill and you can enjoy a beautiful view of the sandbank and the nearby lime stone rocks.
The next stop was Cudugnon Cave, which can only be ontered via a small entrance. The cave itself sports interesting coloured rocks. If you are not afraid of heights, you can climb up to a view point inside the cave.
After a bit of climbing, lunch was ready. And I was not disappointed. Expect freshly grilled fish, chicken, shrimps, rice, vegetables, along with mangoes, pineaplle and water melon. It was delicious and I advise everybody to book an island tour with lunch included.
Thus nurished, you can make your way to Cathedral Cave, which can only be accessed by boat. With its form and height it resembles a cathedral, and while I did not have any spiritual feelings there, it is an interesting structure that makes for a good photo opportunity.
However, the best was yet to come – in the form of Pinagbuyutan Island. If I were ever to be stranded on an island, this would definitely be my choice. Pinagbuyutan has everything: pearly white sandy beach, lush palm trees, majestic cliffs and an awe-inspiring view of the surrounding lime stone rocks. Definitely one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines, if not South East Asia.
If you want to relax on the beach without venturing to far from El Nido Proper, you can go to Marimegmeg Beach. It lies only a 20 minute drive from the town, and while it is not as scenic as Nacpan Beach, it is definitely a relaxing spot for swimming, sunbathing and watersports.
If you visit Palawan, you have to visit El Nido. The town itself might not be pretty and can get quite crowded, but the breathtaking scenery makes up for this quite easily. You will definitely want to take an Island Hopping tour there, to see the majestic lime stone rocks up close. It also has some beautiful beaches, although some are not that easy to get to.
El Nido is probably the most touristic place in Palawan – accordingly, expect prices to be somewhat higher than in the rest of the country. You can still find reasonably cheap accomodation, but it is not always easy, at least in high season. And while I was able to find a cheap eatery, the more touristy restaurants are quite expensive, compared to other tourist spots.
A typical day in El Nido, including an Island Hopping tour should not cost you more than 2100 Pesos (40 USD) if you stay in a hostel rather than a hotel.
Accommodation: 500 Pesos
Food: 400 Pesos
Island Hopping Tour: 1200 Pesos