El Nido – All you need to know

El Nido, Palawan is the place you have probably heard of and that won awards for best island in the world for a couple times in a row.

So how beautiful is it exactly?

Part of a highly detailed assessment, Travel + Leisure magazine has rated Islands on activities, sights, natural attractions, food, friendliness, beaches, and overall value.

The fact that Palawan came out as winner of this particular award says a lot about it’s beauty. Not in the least because food as a category was part of the total score, while in reality food poisoning is more common than grass on a football field. On top of that tourism is still relatively underdeveloped and pretty much the only activities are boattours, snorkeling and diving. So if it won it must have scored in the other categories right?

Palawan is just great

Obviously you want to know from us if the award is justified and the short answer is ‘Yes’.

1. Palawan Island, Philippines
2. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA
3. Boracay Island, Philippines
4. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
5. Santorini, Greece
6. Maui, Hawaii, USA
7. Kauai, Hawaii, USA
8. Ischia, Italy
9. Hvar and the Dalmatian Islands, Croatia
10. Bali, Indonesia

We have to say we don’t stand behind the full list because  for example we didn’t particularly like Boracay and really miss Isla Holbox and Bora Bora (even though we haven’t been to Bora Bora) in the list.

Most people will know Palawan from either the picture perfect Instagram photos or television programmes like Survivor. It was also featured in Hollywood blockbusters The Bourne Legacy, The Beach and James Bond’s The World Is Not Enough. So if directors want to go there, you should too.

But enough about all the textual proof, you will have to see it to believe it and that is why we made thousands of photos of which we made a small selection for our blog.

Palawan is a paradise. But in this article we will focus on El Nido and it’s boattours.


Which tours are the best in El Nido?

We also read blogs. The thing with blogs is that most of the times we use them as very reliable sources to determine what to see on our trip. The problem this time is that the blogs we read were all saying the same and probably all did the same because of reading eachother. Everyone is raving about tour A and tour C but there is absolutely no doubt in our mind that tour B is the best by far. Obviously you should do all of them if you have the time but if you have to choose, take B and then A. We haven’t done tour D but also we haven’t heard anyone about it so we will focus on A, B, C.

Tour C looks closer but the sea can be more rough. If you expect bad weather in the coming days make sure you start with C.

What do you need on your tours?

  • You will need a dry bag which you can buy in El Nido for about € 6,-
  • You probably need a drone. We have the DJI Spark.
  • Salted potatoe chips and water is always good after snorkeling
  • You can rent kayaks and snorkeling equipment
  • Clothing that is allowed to get wet. Because it will! Just by entering the boat in El Nido you will get wet. Their is no pier if you expect one haha

Tour B ✩✩✩✩✩

Tour B has probably the best white sand beach and some snorkeling. You will also visit a cave. One of the main attractions is Snake Island which looks like Bora Bora and has an extraordinary sandbar in the middle of the sea.

Price: 1300 Pesos
Duration: 7 hours
Start: 09:00am End: 16:00pm
Locations: Snake Island (aka Vigan Island), Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Beach, Cudugnon Cave and in a special snorkeling site.

Our profile picture on instagram was made at Pinagbuyutan Island which we found the most beautiful place in the Philippines. We were lucky to be the only boat to go there. The little red beach house that you see in the picture was so cute and this is one of the best places to fly your drone. The Filipino kids loved to check it out.

Snake Island was so much cooler than we even imagined. And it was already the main reason I wanted to do tour B. It’s a long white beach sandbar that looks like a snake from above. It looks like you are walking on the water which is pretty cool. Also the mountains in the back make it look like Bora Bora.

You will also visit the Cudugnon caves. These are caves that used to be hiding places for the Filipinos during World War II, to hide from the Japanese invaders. The beach next to it has swings and is pretty as well. Maybe not really a location, but the limestone formations you will pass are incredibly beautiful. You can’t enter them unfortunately but that won’t make you appreciate them any less.

Just before you go back you will have a chance to snorkel which we found a little bit underwhelming and we would have liked to stay longer on some of the other places.

Tour A ✩✩✩✩

Tour A is the most popular island hopping tour in El Nido. The best thing are the beautiful lagoons, and the beach of Secret Lagoon is super pretty. Shimizu Island is especially beautiful by drone and the 7 commando beach isn’t bad at all, just a tiny but crowded.

Price: 1200 Pesos
Duration: 7 hours
Start: 09:00am End 16:00pm
Locations: Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island and Seven Commando Beach.

The best location is the Small Lagoon in which you should rent a kayak which is 300 pesos per kayak. You can officially swim here but off the record you actually can’t because it’s full of jellyfish. Our tip if you are on a grouptour is to sit in front of the boat. You will be first with a kayak all the time which means more quality time at the locations.

Another great locations is the beach of Secret Lagoon. The Secret Lagoon in itsself is pretty cool but the beach that lies just next to it is very awesome. Most of the times it is empty as well which makes it look even more magical.
We had lunch at Shimizu Island which was crowded at first but was awesome as soon as two boats left. I wish I was better with the drone back then because if you can get it high in the air it is just magnificent. (don’t look at the pictures on https://www.elnidoparadise.com/island-hopping/el-nido-tours/tour-a/ as they show you photo’s of different locations than what you are actually visiting. For example Pinagbuyutan Island which is on tour B)

The big lagoon was kind of shallow when we arrived because of low tide. Which on the positive side meant no boats could enter. But on the negative side meant that a lot of people were walking in the lagoon which messed up all the pretty photo’s we wanted to make.

We ended the trip with the 7 commando beach which was a fine beach but once again a lot of people were on this beach. We had some fun with the basketball field in between the palms but honestly this wasn’t close to being the best beach and I don’t think we took a single photo we find instaworthy. If that’s a word.

Tour C ✩✩✩✩

Tour C is second most popular island hopping tour in El Nido. When the weather is a bit rough it is one of the first tours they cancel so if you see bad weather coming make sure you take this one first. You will see the most beaches of all the tours.

Price: 1400 Pesos
Duration: 7 hours
Start: 09:00am End 16:00pm
Locations: Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach en Hidden Beach, plus snorkeling in Cadlao lagoon

Helicopter Island get its name because of its limestone cliffs that look exactly like a a helicopter when it is seen from a distance. You can actually see the shape of the helicopter when you go to tour A an B as well. This island has a long white sand beach.

Matinloc shrine is located at the Matinloc Island which is the longest slim island in El Nido. The Matinloc (which means: Beautiful) Shrine is hidden in the forest on the island. There is a story I forgot, about the blessed virgin Mary. But honestly we were too distracted by the the surroundings.

The island is also home to Secret Beach, which is a beautiful sand beach at the corner of a sinkhole, that isn’t accessible by boat. You will have to swim underwater through a narrow hole to get there.
You will then go to Hidden Beach which is very pretty. Star Beach is next and is a really great snorkeling spot. It is possible you will have lunch by the beach here but it depends on your tour.

Where to stay in El Nido?

We highlighted some of the best options in El Nido. We normally do most of our bookings on booking.com. Should you want to do the same you can use our link which will get you € 15,- discount and will give us € 15,- credit as well. Win-win.

Discount: https://www.booking.com/s/35_6/8b436923

The best ones

The best allrounder: Hotel Covo

We have read a lot of blogs before we went to El Nido which was very helpful because it pointed us in the direction of Lio Beach which was a blessing really.

We had perfect stay at Hotel Covo located at Lio Beach just outside of El Nido. The hotel is part of a newly built resort and is clean, modern and is close to the El Nido airport. If this one is full take a look at http://www.lio.ph/ because they have more hotels at this beach.

Rating: 8,0 on booking.com
Cost per night: € 95,- per night
Book here: http://www.booking.com/Share-VixG3L

About Lio Beach

  • The resort is full of restaurants like an Italian, burger restaurant, grill and steakhouse, chinese restaurant and many more. Clean and of high quality, absolutely no food poisoning here.
  • The complex has a hyperfast wifi. You’ll even be able to Netflix if you get hit by a Typhoon
  • The Spa and massage was just so relaxing.
  • You can book your tours including environmental tax there + transfer. No hassles, just how we like it.
  • They have all types of activities like, fatbikes for the beach, beach volleybal area, surfing and a long peer to watch the sunset
  • It’s just next to the El Nido Airport (Air Swift) for direct flights to Cebu.

The most luxurious: Cadlao Resort & Restaurant

One of the highest standard resorts in the vicinity of El Nido is the Cadlao Resort & Restaurant. They have a beautiful infinity pool if that’s your thing. It is ours (A). Everyone has it’s own bungalow with airconditioning and wifi.

Rating: 8,5 on booking.com
Cost per night: € 150,- per night
Book here: http://www.booking.com/Share-oWF2TC

Cheaper options

Best budget: Spin Hostel El Nido

Spin Hostel has a very modern and stylish atmosphere. They also have comfortable rooms and free wifi in the public rooms. For the budget traveler it doesn’t get much better than this.

Rating: 9,0 on booking.com
Cost per night: € 35,- per night
Book here: http://www.booking.com/Share-oKWABo9

The Cheapest: Amakan Bed Bunk

Amakan is located in El Nido Town. It is only a 5 minute walk to the beach and has free wifi in the public area’s. But if you are backpacking alone or with a friend this is a very solid cheap option.

Rating: 8,4 on booking.com
Cost per night: € 15,- per person for a bunk bed
Book here: http://www.booking.com/Share-Y7xZcBp

We hope our article helped you in planning your next destination. If you have any questions let us know in the comments. We also love you to just say Hi!

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