EL NIDO, PALAWAN
If you’ve visiting Palawan, there’s a good chance that you’ll find yourself in El Nido. Although it’s a major tourist destination in the Philippines and you may see more tourists than locals, there’s a good reason that so many people flock to El Nido, and that is for the incredible natural beauty that is found in this area. Not surprisingly, you will most likely want to spend the majority of your time out on and under the water, but there are a few land-based activities too.
Here’s our list of fun things to see and do while visiting El Nido, Palawan:
EL NIDO Island Hopping Tours
Visiting El Nido is synonymous with island hopping and your visit to El Nido simply won’t be complete without enjoying at least one Island Hopping Tour! The El Nido region consists of 45 islands and islets, so hopping on a boat and exploring just some of these islands is an absolute must. Most locals and visitors will agree that if you can only pick one tour, then it should be “Tour A”, but to learn more about the different tour options and how to choose the one best suited to you, read our article How To Choose Your El Nido Island Tour.
No matter which tour you choose, you can expect a fantastic, fun day in the absolutely stunning scenery of El Nido, crystal clear waters for swimming and snorkelling and a delicious freshly cooked buffet lunch. It doesn’t really matter which agency you booked with, prices are mostly regulated and everybody is grouped together at the beach and ushered into the appropriate boat depending on the tour choice you made. Make sure that you are ready to get wet right from the beginning of your tour, as you will likely have to wade about waist-deep into the water to reach your boat from the beach!
Do not expect to be alone! Even in low season, there will be plenty of other boats following a similar route and particularly at the main attractions of Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon and Secret Lagoon. Note that even if you have a private boat, unless you manage to reach a location really early or very late afternoon, you will still find the crowds. If you prefer to be alone, then you will need to arrange a private boat and go in search of a private beach (of which there are many) for the day. You can rent a kayak at Big and Small Lagoon or you can just swim in as we did.
EL NIDO Island Tour A
We chose the “Tour A” and had a fantastic day with a variety of visiting a few beaches, both Big Lagoon and Secret Lagoon and two pretty good snorkel spots. We enjoyed our lunch buffet on the boat just outside Secret Lagoon as it was raining so we could not set up on the beach. Our favourite spot was Shimizu Island which is just too picturesque for words!
Kayak Around El Nido
Apart from renting a kayak when you visit Big or Small Lagoon, you can also rent a kayak per hour or for the day from El Nido town or from Corong Corong Beach. Kayaking at one of the lagoons is a great way to explore it, but if you are on an Island Hopping Tour, your time here will be fairly limited. We preferred to swim into Big Lagoon as it allowed us to feel slightly more removed from the chaos of most other people who were in kayaks! If you visit the lagoons on a private tour and can somehow miss the crowds and have more time, then kayaking here could be incredible.
A great way to spend your second day in El Nido would be to rent a kayak for the day from either El Nido town or Corong Corong Beach. You can make it all the way to 7 Commandos Beach before all the tour boats start arriving! Getting there would take much longer if you are paddling from El Nido rather than from Corong Corong Beach (which is only about 20 minutes from the town of El Nido by foot or 5 minutes tricycle). In our opinion, renting a kayak is a great opportunity to find some secluded beaches that the tours don’t visit, get really close to the staggering limestone cliffs and also get a bit of exercise while enjoying the beauty of nature!
Scuba Dive or Freedive
El Nido is home to more than 30 dive sites of which at least 10 are frequently visited. El Nido’s Bacuit Bay is one of the well-known areas for exquisite sea life and spectacular natural rock formations. Diving in El Nido is fairly easy as the bay is generally protected from the ocean’s strong currents. If you’re looking for somewhat more exciting wreck diving, then head over to nearby Coron. Read all about that in our article CORON - Island Hopping, Snorkelling & Diving.
Taraw Peak Canopy Walk
This one is for the adventurous traveller who is not afraid of heights - not Lisa in other words! Although in the past, you could make your own way up Taraw Peak, access is now regulated and you will need to pay an entrance fee (about 400 pesos) and wear a safety helmet. The entrance is just off the main road in El Nido town and then down a small alley. It is a short climb and you are attached to a wire as you cross swing bridges and climb up rocks with a guide. This will lead you to a viewing area where you get great views down over El Nido and the beach.
Nacpan Beach and Calitang Beach
Nacpan Beach is known as one of El Nido’s most stunning beaches. that has to offer. Nacpan is one of the famous ‘Twin Beaches’, with Calitang being the other, so you can easily enjoy both beaches in one trip. Apparently, Nacpan even has a small wave break that is surf-able some days! You can easily reach both of these beaches by tricycle from El Nido town or get a private guide for a whole day experience at some of the most beautiful beaches in the area.
Visit El Nido’s Public Market
This is definitely not the biggest, busiest or wettest market in Asia, but that in itself is part of the El Nido Public Market’s charm. The daily market gets going as early as 5:30 am, and has everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to fish and meat, bargain clothing and few souvenirs and even some tasty local snacks. This is a great place to pass by to watch the locals going about their daily business away from the tourist town centre. We loved that it had a truly local vibe and is not geared towards tourists at all. Located just opposite the Bus Terminal, it’s also just a short 15-20 minute walk from El Nido town.
Las Cabanas Beach
Las Cabanas can be reached by tricycle from El Nido town (100-150 PHP one-way). It is a bit more developed than El Nido’s other beaches, so you could easily enjoy the day here swimming and tanning while also being able to grab some local food and drinks at one of the many little beach bars. The locals will tell you that this is one of the best places in El Nido to enjoy the sunset over the ocean. We weren’t lucky enough to get a clear evening for sunset, so to be honest, we found the sunset from one of the beach bars right in El Nido town to be more than good enough!
Corong Corong Beach
Just a short walk or tricycle ride from El Nido town, this is quickly becoming a popular alternative area to stay as an alternative to El Nido town. While having a view over this bay may be beautiful, we didn’t find the beach itself that inviting. Perhaps if you walk further towards Las Cabanas Beach it may get better. This is a good place to rent a kayak though if you plan to paddle out towards 7 Commandos Beach.
On the way from El Nido to Nacpan, you can stop for a hike to the two waterfalls of Nagkalit-Kalit. It’s about a half-hour hike and there is a natural pool to swim in at the bottom of one of the falls. Don’t expect the most impressive waterfall in the Philippines, but it does make for something else active to do on land while in El Nido.