It can be an overwhelming process to determine which of Philippines 7000+ islands you’re going to visit. My hope is that this blog convinces you for or against the tiny area of El Nido Palawan.
You’ll find that most humans venture to El Nido with the plan of taking one of the four tours offered; A, B, C or D. Some people opt to do more than one of these, which is completely understandable because they are completely different.
I’ll be doing a full review of Tour B soon! (photos from Tour B below).
You can book tours at the Art Cafe.
I suggest doing this as early as you can. Tours fill up fast. And if you plan to do a private tour (which I highly recommend) you’ll need to book in advance. We booked on our first day there and our tour was not available until our fourth day on the island.
The tours cover four to five locations. Some are beach centered, some are lagoon centered, and ours was cave centered. They really do offer something for all types of travelers and desires.
Tour C is most popular so we stayed away from that. Tour B is least popular, which is in fact, WHY we chose it. Read more about that (tomorrow!) in my El Nido Tour B Review.
You can’t miss the sign for the canopy hike. I don’t remember it being expensive. Under $20 per person for sure. You can pay more to walk out onto a big net but that didn’t interest us. The views from the platform were plenty satisfying.
It is near the center of town. If you ask your hotel or hostel, they should be able to lead you in the right direction.
The walk does require some balance and fitness. It is VERY short but you cross a suspension bridge and are walking up narrow iron steps most of the time (as seen above).
This is a guided experience. You’ll be in a harness and required to wear a helmet. Wear tennis shoes and be prepared to sweat. But the view is WORTH IT.
El Nido is known for its sunsets. And rightfully so. It was absolutely breath taking literally EVERY night we were there.
As the golden hour begins to pass, Las Cabanas [via Las Cabanas Resort] fills with tourists and locals alike to watch the sun set over the far off islands. The sky fills with deep reds, oranges and purples. Even with the beach scattered with humans, it was a great experience.
The area leading down to Las Cabanas was under construction with what looked to be a high end shopping center. This was in March of 2019. I imagine it is completed now, which would make this area even more popular.
If you fancy seeing the sunset from a less populated area, I suggest stopping along the main road heading out of town.
With clouds, the sunset was more dramatic for sure. It looked like fire filling the sky. This photo was taken right off the main road on the hill heading back to our villa from the town center. We didn’t plan on stopping. It was just so gorgeous, how could we pass it up?
The streets are lined with masseuses sitting outside their shops, haggling you to come inside.
I can’t speak for them all, but we had a decent experience at the establishment across the road from Happiness Cafe on the beach front. It didn’t have a name that we could see, but we went for it anyway.
We were led upstairs into an attic-like area with two beds facing the ocean. The windows were open, which was both alarming and relaxing.
You could hear the waves rolling in, but your naked body was also on display for all to see. You’ll never see these people again, right?
We were sick in El Nido so a lot of our days were spent at our pool and in our air conditioned room.
But there was much more I wanted to do while in Palawan.
While we didn’t get to these, I do suggest them:
For being so small, there is quite a lot to do in El Nido. I don’t think we will go back, but I am certainly happy we went.
As with most places in Southeast Asia, it’s best to rent a scooter. We ended up renting a total of two scooters and one motor cycle during our time. You see, Nate and my body weight combined sits at a pretty 400lbs. A measly 125cc scooter is not going to cut it for the Millers. And that is all they had available. So, yes, there were some questionable trips up the hill into town.
You can also take a tuk tuk like three-wheeled cart. They are the taxi system of El Nido. And they too will struggle up the hills…
My guess is that in five years they will have more refined transportation options for the growing tourist population.
We rented scooters through our hotel. It was 300-500 PHP per day.
Whichever mode of transportation you choose, once you’re in the town center, it is very walkable. In fact in some areas, scooters aren’t allowed. So if you’re staying near the center, you likely won’t need to worry about transportation.
We stayed at the RC Villas and Resort. The villas are set up completely separate from one another with a walkway connecting from the front office to the villas all the way up to the pool and breakfast area.
It made for a very private, relaxing stay. Which was perfect. Because as I mentioned, we were both sick during our stay.
We booked our Philippines trip rather last minute. While we would have liked to say closer to the town center, it was a beautiful villa and we enjoyed being up and away from the chaos.
You can find budget hostels and five star resorts in El Nido. We paid $1,100 for seven nights in our Villa. Yes, that’s a steep price, but the service was awesome, the staff were VERY accommodating, and we were able to rent our scooter directly through them and have it delivered. Also, AC. It had AC. Which is a huge plus, and something they can inflate prices for.
You’re looking at three places.
The Art Cafe (all meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Happiness Cafe (great Greek food for lunch and dinner). Their falafel is amazing. Right down the street from Art Cafe.
We ate lunch or dinner here almost daily. Also met Nate’s old boss here for dinner one night. That was a large deciding factor in coming to Palawan. Nate’s boss was going to be there and we needed to fill that week of time, so we said, WHY NOT?!)
There is another Greek restaurant right across the road from Happiness Cafe. Interesting move. We didn’t eat there, but the restaurant is right on the water and looked adorable.
I am sure the options have at least doubled if not tripled since March of 2019. El Nido is a gem; a growing gem. New construction was all over when were there. So ask around for the best food options. Your hotel or hostel should have some good recommendations.
You NEED to get cash out. There is an ATM in the town center at the BPI bank. Perhaps there are more now, but that was the only ATM we found during our stay. It is your life line as most places only take cash.
If possible, get cash out wherever you first land in the Philippines. You’ll likely be coming from Manilla or Cebu.
Is a task…
We flew to Manilla, stayed in Puerto Princesa and got a van shuttle from there. This is the typical route. We opted to stay one night in Puerto Princesa due to our arrival time. Then got an Uber from our hotel to the “bus station” and awaited our shuttle to El Nido.
You can see via the map below, it’s quite a trek getting there. The drive is mostly pleasant and we stopped half way for lunch.
From the transport station in El Nido we hired a three wheeled vehicle to our hotel.
If I needed minimal wifi, I worked at our hotel. But if I needed to review videos or load a video, we had to hit up the Art Cafe. I spent one entire day there, working and ordering cold beverages. As long as you’re ordering, you’re welcome to use ALL of the wifi.
El Nido will likely blow up with tourism in the next few years. So if you are at all interested, GO NOW or forever hold your peace.
You can have whatever type of vacation you desire here. Backpack on a budget or take every tour and return home to your five star resort. Whatever suits you. It’s game in El Nido.
Want to go?
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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