Asia,  Philippins,  TDM,  Travel Journal

El Nido (Philippines): dream beaches

2 hours flight from Manila and we are in Puerto Princesa on Palawan Island. This city is only a stopover because we take a bus directly from the airport to El Nido.

Part 1: Travel Diaries
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diaries

We had to wait a little while before the bus left. Indeed, we are first dropped in a restaurant by explaining to us that they will come to pick us up after having picked up two other passengers at the airport. During this long wait, the guy of the restaurant has enough time to push us to the consumption: you have to have lunch, you have to book your boats for El Nido bla-bla-bla what we do not follow up, determined to be ready as soon as the bus reappears. 1 hour of wait and still nothing, we moan as a Frenchman knows very well how to do it and magic, the bus is ready to leave.

The landscapes on the way are picturesque, there are many rice fields, but we are struck by the poverty of the Filipinos who, unlike other Asian regions, still live in bamboo houses.

Arrived at the bus terminal, a tricycle (that’s what they call their kind of side-car) offers to take us to the hotel for 50 pesos. It is the good price (for tourists) so we accept without negotiating
El Nido is a very small town with two parallel streets and a main street that intersects both, connecting the bus terminal to the port. Our hotel Blessed Inn is located on this main street.

There isn’t much to do at El Nido:

  1. Take boat tours (there are 4 to choose from: A, B, C, D, in English it’s called Island Hopping Tours). Tours A & C are the most popular. Tour A covers the lagoons while tour C goes to Helicopter Island, a location for the Jason Bourne 2 movie.
  2. Inland Tour which consists of going to two beautiful beaches, the waterfall and zip line: to be done with a tricycle or by renting a scooter

A lot of people complain about Tripadvisor, saying that it’s horrible, there are a lot of tourists at the same time and that it’s better to rent a private boat for twice the price etc. But when I see that even the Filipinos take these boats, I tell myself that it’s not only for “white skin tourists” so let’s give it a try. And then, the more people there are, the more choices for mosquitoes and sand fleas ahahaha and the (bad) chance to get bitten will be greatly reduced. It must also be said that we are in low season and it is certainly quieter at the moment.

Here is the beach of El Nido from where the boats leave every morning


Day 2: Tour A

We are woken up at 5am by the incessant noise of motorcycles and tricycles coming from the street. Having booked the cheapest room in the hotel, one is also entitled to the most exposed room.

We book tour A directly at our hotel for 1000 pesos/person (+200 pesos/person for the obligatory eco fee). A tricycle will pick us up for free at 9am to drop us off at the port where our boat and 10 other people are waiting for the departure. At 9:30 am, the boat starts and after only 10 minutes, the water becomes transparent and green and becomes transparent and China ink blue. I have never seen this before! The water must be very deep to have this color, what a beauty!

Because of the weak tide, the crew announces that we will not be able to go to Secret Lagoon and our tour will finish earlier than usual (14h instead of 16h) but the crew is zen and cooks very well so we will forget this inconvenience.

We pass first to the Big Lagoon where the water is transparent and green, we can see small fish jumping, they are so small and numerous that they look like waves. The boat that you see on the picture is the bangka that we all take to go to the islands.


We then go to the Small Lagoon where JB has the opportunity to show all his talent for kayaking by directing us exactly where we need to go. A narrow passage allows us to reach the Small Lagoon, where the different depths can be seen thanks to the colors of the water. There aren’t many fish, but exploring the rocks by snorkelling is very fun.

Starving after these sports activities, we each buy a coconut at 50 pesos from a vendor who is accosting our boat in a kayak. He even makes a spoon from the nut so that we can eat the flesh.

While we are heading to another island, the crew lights the barbecue and cooks. We are invited to swim or snorkel while waiting for lunch to be prepared. Unfortunately, because of the presence of too many boats, nobody wants to swim, and we wait for lunch, sitting on the sand, serving lunch to the sand flies.

Lunch, or rather the feast, is more than enough to feed 15 hungry bellies: there is grilled fish (1/2 per person), grilled chicken (my favorite), plenty of rice, lots of fruit, cucumber salad and crab (1/2 per person).

After this copious lunch, we stop on a paradisiacal island where the white sand and turquoise water invite for swimming and idleness. It is quite deep with more or less strong waves, but it is enough to move away a little to make the water calmer and the swimming less dangerous. I sincerely think that this is the beach I like the most since the beginning of our World Tour because you can really swim and there are no sand fleas (unlike Thai beaches where the water is up to your ankle).

We return to El Nido, too happy with our excursion and have dinner in a restaurant overlooking the beach. JB indicates the fish on the display that he wants to eat and the cook takes care of grilling it on the barbecue, for 250 pesos.

Day 3: Inland Tour

After dropping off our dirty laundry at the first Laundry found, we rent a scooter for the day. 1 hour and hundreds of potholes filled with water later, we arrive at Nacpan Beach which is linked to Twin Beach, offering a heavenly beach and an extraordinary view of El Nido. If you are looking for THE beach, I recommend this one.

We then head to Las Cabanas, which has a very positive opinion of its sunset. Well no sunset for us because the sky is cloudy, but the resort with hammocks opens its doors to us against a drink (expensive, 90 pesos). From Las Cabanas, we can walk to the island opposite. Or take the zip line and in 20s, reach the destination. There isn’thing to see on the island opposite, but the zip line offers a beautiful view. We don’t want to do this activity, finding that watching people screaming and having trouble reaching the destination is more fun. Beach level, it is less well preserved than Nacpan Beach, there is a lot of seaweed, coconut leaves . I can’t see myself paying 100€ a night at Las Cabanas Beach Resort to swim here. The beach of El Nido, even if it is frequented by many boats, seems cleaner than this one.


We return to the hotel before nightfall and have dinner in a Filipino restaurant where they serve “beef stew”. I must admit that I am a bit disappointed by the restaurants here, which prefer to serve pizzas and burgers rather than traditional Filipino dishes. When it’s time to pay, it’s raining like hell, and after 15 minutes of waiting, we decide to take a tricycle because the rain doesn’t seem to stop anytime soon. The streets are already flooded.

We take advantage of the calm of our new room (by paying 5€ in more we have the right to the room the farthest from the street, with air conditioning) and finally spend a night a little calmer than the other nights (alarm clock at 7 am instead of 5 am).

Day 4: Tour B


The weather not being compatible with tour C, we choose instead tour B for a snorkelling/beach day. And we loved it !

Tour B is less popular than Tours A & C, there are many less people (on the boat and at the sites), which makes the visits very pleasant.

We start with an almost deserted island where the swimming is nice but the snorkelling a little less (only small fish). However, this beach is interesting because at only 25m from the edge, there is like a ditch where it goes down abruptly and we do not see the bottom anymore, amazing.

It starts to rain when we go to the caves. Foresighted, we take out our ponchos to protect ourselves from the rain and cold under the astonished, amused and jealous eyes of other tourists. And yes friends, it is there that we see the difference between tourists and farsighted adventurers.

The two caves are very pretty and worth the detour. The second cave has only a mini entrance where you almost have to lie down in caving mode to enter. We have lunch on the boat, a real feast as for the tour we did a few days ago, before going to the Snake Island which unfortunately hides its snake-shaped strip of sand because of the too high tide. Fortunately, the weather is fine again. A path allows to take height and to have a magnificent viewpoint (prettier in real than on the photo)

The last stop is my favorite. It’s an island with a beautiful white and super fine sand beach, the water is transparent and full of fish


We can swim in peace. For snorkelling fans, there are plenty of fish only 5m from the beach. The corals are unfortunately, for the most part, dead. Usually, I don’t like snorkelling but facing so much beauty, I did some for one hour. There is even a fish that likes to attack tourists, including JB. Me, as soon as someone shouts, I move away from the area 🙂


We return to El Nido in the rain, very happy with our day. The crew, as for the other tour, is adorable, pro, on time. We can only recommend you to book these sightseeing tours because it’s really worth it despite the world there is. The beaches are big enough for everyone to find their own little personal space.

This small glimpse of the islands really makes you want to live in the Philippines. There are however two points which make us think (1) the Internet connection is really bad, either at the hotel or in 3G (2) the beaches we like aren’t very accessible, we have to take the scooter during one hour or take a boat. In the long run, it will cost us a lot. But good, we just visited El Nido, we will maybe change our mind on these two points. Next stage: Coron.

Part 2: Practical Tips

How to get there

From Manila: Direct flight to Puerto Princesa then 5h bus (departure every 2h from the airport) to El Nido
From Coron : Boat from 6-7h, departure 6 days a week
From Cebu: Direct flight to Puerto Princesa then 5h bus (departure every 2h from the airport) to El Nido


  • Be careful, there is only one ATM in El Nido, reserved for local credit card holders, so remember to withdraw in Manila or Puerto Princesa before leaving. We withdrew 10 000 pesos for 4 days and paid the hotels online via Agoda
  • Transport

    • Manila – Puerto Princesa : 50€ via Cebu Pacific
    • Puerto Princesa – El Nido: 500 pesos/person
    • Bus terminal El Nido -> hotel: 50 pesos by tricycle
    • Scooter rental: 400 pesos/day, no need for a motorcycle license, you must leave your ID card or passport as a guarantee. Gasoline: 55 pesos/liter on the road, a little less in the station.

  • Laundry service: between 55 and 60 pesos/kg
  • Tours (Island Hopping, go from one island to another by bangka, 9am to 4pm, lunch, mask and snorkel included)

    • Tower A: 1200 pesos/person, negotiable, not counting the 200 pesos eco-person fee. 300 pesos more for kayaking for those who want to do it
    • Tower B: 1300 pesos/person, negotiable, not counting the 200 pesos eco-person fee
    • Tower C: 1400 pesos/person, negotiable, not counting the 200 pesos of eco-person fee
    • Tower D: 1200 pesos/person, negotiable, not counting the 200 pesos eco/person fee

  • Food: 2 times more expensive than in Manila

    • 250 pesos per dish
    • 60 to 80 pesos/drink
    • 50 pesos/coconut


  • There are plenty of travel agencies in El Nido, do not book your tours in Puerto Princesa, you will have less room for negotiation. Prefer to book directly at your hotel which will take care of the pick up.
  • Filipinos are very nice, but also very poor, tricycle rates are generally not exaggerated, negotiate if you want but frankly avoid negotiating for 10 pesos, it doesn’t change anything for you (53 pesos = 1€) but for them, it’s important.
  • For those who hate crowded tours, there are private boats (50€/person) leaving earlier (7:30 am), allowing you to visit the most important places without being bothered, ask any travel agency, they will know how to guide you
  • For the laundry service, ask at any agency, otherwise there is a big store in front of the Catholic church (same street as Art Café, a must for expats)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *