From Puerto Princesa to El Nido by minivan
We booked this bus in advance from 12goAsia, and although it arrived at 9.25am, we didn’t actually get out of Puerto Princesa until 11am as the a/c had packed up.
This wasn’t a great start to the day, but luckily we changed bus and made up the time on the single windy road heading up north, arriving at 3pm.
Where to stay in El Nido
Bunakidz Lodge (£18 a night, double room)
This place was in the perfect location and the cheapest we found with great reviews. El Nido accommodation is quite expensive in comparison to elsewhere in the Philippines!
Run by a family, we were welcomed and made to feel at home from the start. There was a different breakfast included every morning and although the interior was a little old fashioned, Bunakidz delivered all the facilities including good WiFi.
It’s only real fault was that we didn’t have much of a window and therefore could hear everything going on outside of our room.
The hosts are so lovely, they even let us leave our main backpacks there for 2 days as we crossed the return ferry over to Coron.
Things to do in El Nido
El Nido Beach
The small stretch of sand is lined with bars, restaurants and accommodation. The water is pretty polluted here because of the port being full with boats. Because of this, people come and go off the beach at all times, so not the best area for sunbathing.
Visit Nacpan Beach (transport, £9 each)
To get here we had no choice but to book the return shuttle service, which was being sold everywhere in El Nido. The journey was prompt and involved crossing some dodgy looking single way bridges.
Arriving at Nacpan we were greeted with welcome drinks and a perfectly soft white sand beach that stretched over miles.
With no more than 70 people across the whole 3 miles of beach, it suddenly became my favourite. I loved it that much I chose to walk the whole length and it just got better (more untouched).
The sea was crystal clear, but it was so windy. There are very few restaurants and accommodation options here – we ate and drank at Mad Monkey hostel (we nearly chose this hostel originally), where i enjoyed the local chicken sisig.
After choosing the last shuttle return back, we finished the day with a beautiful pink sunset. Of which was shortly ruined by 3 Filipino kids who were trying there best efforts of the ‘Paquio Punch’ on me. Didn’t go too well with sunburn, but they were smiling and laughing with the simplest of means.
El Nido Tour C (£18 each, Klook)
El Nido is definitely all about the boat tours. We booked our tickets on Klook, which we found were cheaper than anything in the town.
If you are close to the port, then don’t opt for the pickup. We essentially had a guy come and collect us, and walk us to the port, when we thought we were getting collected in a tuk tuk, which was odd.
This then meant we had to wait ages for other passengers, which took 90 minutes before we actually left!
1. Helicopter Island
This helicopter shaped island was our first port of call. The island is visible from a distance and it’s shape distinguishes it well.
It was so busy when we arrived, with several boats lining the shore and tourists filling the beach. That be said, the beach was gorgeous and the water was clear enough for a bit of snorkeling.
It was here when I noticed my snorkel goggles had broke and kept filling with water. This later became the bane of my life throughout the trip.
2. Matinlor Shrine
Our 2nd stop was this shrine in between the jagged rock formations. We were given no choice but to pay extra for this, as we were charged to leave the boat and our lunch was being provided on the island.
There’s an area here which you can climb to get a good view out at sea. I did go that little bit further and started climbing the sharp rock formations, much to Kel’s disappointment. The views and sense of adventure made it worthwhile and there were in fact, lots of people that were so much higher than me.
3. Included Lunch on Matinlor Island
As part of the package, we were provided a buffet that had been prepared on the back of our small boat.
It was really impressive and included fresh fish, chicken, pork, veg, rice and fruit. Considering there were only about 20 of us, it really did go a long way.
4. Secret Beach
This was one of the highlights of the tours, as you have to swim through a small hole in a cave to get to it. The Philippine waters can be very rough, so there was a guy helping in this transition through the rocks to the beach.
Once inside, you are surrounded by large limestone rock formations, clear waters and an untouched beach. It was paradise.
The place was full of tourists, being one of the closest spots back to El Nido.
5. Tapiutan Island
Another beautiful beach with snorkeling opportunity above the coral. Lots of pretty fish to see, plus sea urchins – thank god for water shoes!
6. Hidden Beach
Unlike Secret Beach, this was easier to access through larger gaps in the rock. Again, another area of paradise and we had the beach to ourselves at one point.
Is Tour C worth it?
Absolutely, we had a fantastic time. People suggest both Tours A & C are the best, but I think they each offer up something different and give you a day of activities. For the price you cannot go wrong.
The tour guides are absolutely fantastic and go out of their way to make the day memorable for you. They even take photos for you throughout the trip and don’t ask for tips.
El Nido Tour A (£13 each, Klook)
This time we made our own way to the port (declining the pickup), giving us more time in the morning. Again this was an amazing tour, with fantastic guides who were so energetic and made the trip memorable.
We were joined by others that we met from Tour C, so doing both these tours seems to be the thing to do.
1. Papaya Beach
Our guides took us here as the intended first stop was overloaded with tourists. This was a really nice touch and meant we got to visit this cool beach which had rope swings and hammocks.
This was one of Kelly’s favourite beaches!
2. 7 Commando’s Beach
Now quieter from tourists, this is where we enjoyed our lunch. Again, freshly prepared on the boat and just as delicious as yesterdays.
As the beach and surroundings were delightful, beers became a great accompaniment.
3. Big Lagoon
This was great fun to kayak around, even if it did lead to some disagreements over who’s rowing where. I believe the one at the back should always follow the stroke in front, Kel thinks differently and assumes I can read minds. Kayaking together is probable not healthy for us!
Still, an enjoyable experience had – as we rowed in and out of caves and witnessed jellyfish, sea urchins and lots of jumping fishes. Plus of course the place was stunning – just like most of the Philippines!
4. Shimizu Island
Off of this island is where we snorkelled, and it seemed to be the best spot on both tours we took.
There was plenty of colourful coral and I had never seen this amount of fish in front of my eyes before. But, this is probably the 5 time I’ve ever snorkeled!
I think this may have been the moment I started getting addicted to snorkeling, even if my goggles were failing every time!
5. Hidden Lagoon
Getting here, you enter a cave like entrance.
It’s a small lagoon with very murky waters, making you wander what’s underneath. Unfortunately I found out the hard way, as I started getting bit by a little fish.
Kel didn’t believe me, then all of a sudden everyone was getting bit in a chain like fashion, and people entering the lagoon soon turned back on themselves.
Corong Corong Beach
A 20 minute walk from the main El Nido area, this beach is definitely worth checking out if you have the time. It beats El Nido Beach as the sand and waters are nicer.
It also makes for a good sunset. I had my GoPro timelapse set up, only to witness El Nido Tour Z (the party booze tour) enter the beach right in front of me and the GoPro. Let’s just say that the footage is interesting!
Where to eat in El Nido cheaply
Street stalls (260 peso for nachos/wraps)
On the main strip are stalls selling nacho’s/burritos/potato chips etc, which will save you some pesos. I think we had one of each!
Midtown Bakery (donuts 50 peso)
Best bakery in town with a range of delights on offer. We had donuts and chocolate brownies from here, and they were very cheap. The place is always busy, which is a great sign.
They often sell out of things, so get in quick.
Paradise Bloom Burger (240 peso for two)
The place doesn’t look the most appealing, but the food is cheap and cheerful. We found ourselves eating here on a few occasions and were delighted with the quality and service for the amount we paid. The reviews say it all!
El Nido worth a visit?
No trip to Philippines is complete without a trip to El Nido. It can suit a relaxing holiday with it’s laid back bars and beaches. But more predominantly it is the place to be for some light activity, and there are 5 tours to choose from, so take your pick!
Also for the more adventurous, there are rock climbing and scuba diving activities.
From El Nido we took the most scariest fast ferry over to the island of Coron, which shares similarities with El Nido.