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Travel Guide to El Nido: Where Dreamers Fall and Islands Rise Edit

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Michelle Tobias  • Contributor
Opinions expressed by Explora.ph Contributors are their own.

Cover photo by Cris John Tagupa. Graphics by Noodle Donato.

At a Glance

Named after swiftlets that build nests on high cliffs, El Nido nestles striking limestone islands and cream-white coastal beaches. Consistently ranked as one of the world’s best island destinations, El Nido is brimming with adventures, from bar-hopping and full moon parties to kayaking, rock climbing, and camping under the stars.

Overview

North of mainland Palawan, El Nido’s town proper hides in the shadow of lofty limestones. Its main beach serves as a port and jump-off point to 45 islands and islets in the wonderful Bacuit Bay. Lagoons big and small, monolithic limestone islands, and karst towers stud the town’s western horizon. All of these are accessible through four different island tours. Chilling on Maramegmeg Beach in Barangay Corong-Corong is enough of an eye-feast facing this incredible bay, even more so at sunset.


Travelers who have more than two days to spare go further north to catch the less populated beaches of Lio, Nacpan, and Calitang, with a side trip to Nagkalit-Kalit Waterfalls. Just a few kilometers further north of Nacpan, three more staggeringly long white beaches await. Duli Beach is a well-known surfing spot, although lacking in facilities and dining options. Meanwhile, the dazzling Mariposa Beach and Verde Safari Beach are undeveloped and often empty, due to their remoteness and limited transport options.


On the east coast of El Nido lies its cultural hotspot. More known to travelers wanting to escape El Nido’s crowded town proper, San Fernando and Sibaltan make for a relaxed excursion suitable for quiet, extended stays. Turarod Beach and Buluang Beach are long white coasts suitable for swimming and kitesurfing. While Tebey Beach and Santa Monica Beach with their surrounding jungles are best for camping and bonfire. Not to be missed are Ille Cave and Museum, Balay Cuyonon Museum, and Pangko Museum, which feature the lifestyle of the early seafaring settlers in El Nido.

Top Things To Do: The Ultimate El Nido Bucket List

Written by Michelle Tobias and Colleen Cabili

Island-Hopping in Bacuit Bay

The most loved destination in El Nido, Bacuit Bay is home to 45 islands and islets, hundreds of white-sand beaches, and towers and walls of limestone karst. To explore these, you can pick one from the town’s packaged tours (A, B, C, or D) or charter a boat or yacht to explore islands of your choice. While tours A and C are the best of the four, it would be better to do all four!

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Photo by Cris John Tagupa.

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Photo by Cris John Tagupa.

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Photo by Cris John Tagupa.

Taraw Peak

Get an incredible bird’s-eye view of Bacuit Bay at sunrise from Taraw Peak. Guests start the steep hike at 4:30 am, when the limestone formation is cool from the night before. Make sure to climb this with a guide, or you can get lost easily. There are no markers along its trail. You can also bring a thermos of hot coffee here and enjoy the view! For people afraid of heights or trekking, a safer route can be scaled through Ferrata Canopy Walk.

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Photo by Sarah Andres.

Nacpan and Calitang Beaches

Nacpan Beach is the first of a series of long white beaches towards the northwest of mainland El Nido. Most of the stretch is still undeveloped, but few cottages, eateries, and convenience stores can be found at the mouth of the beach entrance. From Nacpan Beach you can head out to a hill with great sea views and visit the shorter Calitang Beach on the other side.

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Photo by The Lost Boys.

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Photo by The Lost Boys.

Ille Cave and Museum

This complex cave system found in eastern El Nido is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. Several 12,000-year-old artefacts such as animal bones and pottery fragments have been unearthed in the area. Its most featured item, however, is a 9,000-year-old cremation burial, the oldest in Southeast Asia. Permian era fossils can also be seen embedded on the walls.

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Photo by Aly Pabellano.

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Photo by Aly Pabellano.

Maremegmeg Beach

Just a short trip from El Nido's town proper, this beach in Barangay Corong-Corong has a spectacular view of Bacuit Bay. When the sun dips below the horizon, the islands and islets make for dramatic silhouettes. The beach is dotted with hotels and bars (the highest rated one at Las Cabañas), and has a 750m zipline to another island. Maramegmeg Beach is also best visited during full moon when parties abound and drinks are endless. Read more.

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Photo by John Ray Aligato.

Duli Beach

Found further north from Nacpan Beach, Duli Beach is one of the longest coastal beaches in El Nido. It features a mesmerizing stretch of cream-white sand, the same as the kind found on Bacuit Bay’s islands. Duli, however, is characteristic for its waves, which is ideal for surfing. At one end, you’d find a surfing school where you can learn riding the waves on long boards and short boards. At the other end, you can cross some crags to explore more long white beaches!

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Photo by The Lost Boys.

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Photo by The Lost Boys.

Sail for 5 Days!

With Tao Philippines, you can venture into the lost world of stunning remote islands in northern Palawan. Other than sailing aboard what looks like a pirate ship, guests can go cliff-diving, snorkeling, rock climbing, trekking, beach-bumming, and making new friends! Sleep in nipa huts, tents, or netted mattresses on the open beach. All food are cooked island-style and taken from vegetable gardens and the sea. 

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Photo from Tao Philippines.

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Photo from Tao Philippines.
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Photo from Tao Philippines.

Where is El Nido, Palawan

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El Nido is located at the north of Palawan, in west central Philippines.

How to get to El Nido, Palawan

From Metro Manila, there is only one air carrier that goes straight to El Nido and that is through Air Swift. Travel time is about 1.5 hours, with plane fares ranging between P7,000 and P9,000. A cheaper alternative is to book a flight with Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, or Philippine Airlines to Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan. Plane fares range between P500 to P7,000 depending on the season and promos. From Puerto Princesa Airport, you can just hop on a van going to El Nido. Travel time is four hours with fare at around P450. The cheapest way to get to El Nido, meanwhile, is by ship, via 2Go Travel, which stops at Coron. Travel time is 1.5 days for around P1,300 per person.


Joining island hopping day tours in El Nido are standardized and costs between P1,100 to P1,400 per person per tour, lunch included. To get around El Nido, you can rent a motorcycle (approx. P500 per day) or mountain bike (approx. P300 per day). There are scheduled jeepney trips to different areas of El Nido too, if you prefer to commute (P20 to P80 per person). Just head to the jeepney terminal near Caltex gas station. Short trips within the town proper can be made by hopping on and off a tricycle at P10 per person.


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