El Nido in Philippines has been rightfully nicknamed “Heaven On Earth”. It has some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever encountered in my life (and I’ve been to plenty of places so far!)
Situated about 420 kilometres south-west of Manila (Philippines’ Capital), El Nido is the gateway to the other-wordly beautiful Bacuit Archipelago, one of the most awe-inspiring sights in Asia. It is also home to breathtaking white-sand beaches, impressive limestone cliffs, coral reefs, dive sights and unspoilt nature. This cluster of 45 geologically unique islands & islets is full of dramatic rock formations and surrounded by turquoise waters. Naturally, Island hopping is one of the best things to do in El Nido with the azure waters, unseen lagoons and caves!
Recommended stay is for a week. The town itself has enough options for food and has hotels ranging from gorgeous over the water beach huts, beachfront Airbnb homes and budget-friendly rooms.
There are 3 ways to travel to El Nido: Air, Boat, or Land
I took the easiest and fastest way to El Nido which is by air. There are daily direct flights to El Nido from Manila and Cebu.
Alternatively, you can travel by bus or minivans from Puerto Princessa International Airport or San Jose Terminal which takes about five to eight hours of travel time.
Boats from Coron to El Nido are scheduled to run 4-5 times a week and take 7-10 hours. Ferry price to El Nido averages around 1,800P
Top 5 Beaches in El Nido
There’s nothing as pleasant as waking up to the smell of coconut in the morning! Nacpan Beach is just that! Rated as one of the top 10 beaches in the world, Nacpan beach is approximately 1 hour from El Nido town and can be reached via a rented bike, or by joining Tour E (inland tour), or 1500 peso (for 3 people) tricycle ride.
The ride to Nacpan is one in itself and takes you through the countryside of Palawan. For those taking a bike, the last 15 minutes are spent on a dirt track with unpaved roads. Be careful! And, wear a helmet! This beach is wide open, with powdery golden sand, beautiful turquoise water and greenery that makes you admire Mother Nature! Walking along the pristine beaches of Nacpan is one of my favorite memories from the El Nido trip!
Duli Beach is located in the west of the Philippines, in the north of the Palawan Island, 25 km above El Nido town.This secluded 2-km long beach is picture perfect; it has crystal clear blue-tinted water, a vast white sandy beach, a string of palm trees, rocky jungles, and good waves. The isolation is a big part of the attraction and the beach is absolutely gorgeous! Ah! Perfect for a romantic getaway!
There is only one resort on the beach which is owned by a lovely Dutch couple, and there are a few small restaurants offering food and drinks. There is also an open fronted small massage shop about midway along the beach. And boy, that relaxing massage with the sounds of the waves crashing in was heavenly! Other than that, the entire beach is basically deserted. You can hire surfboards at the bar on the southern point of the beach to tackle the waves and get a little adventurous.
Surrounded by bright blue waters, virgin beaches, and breathtaking landscapes, Lio is located in an isolated area in my favorite island in Palawan. It baffles me as to why this paradise hasn’t been featured as much as other travel destinations. But then again, it is a good thing that crazy tourists haven’t wreaked havoc on this beauty.
The beach has quite a few resorts like the “Casa Kalaw” and “Balai Adlao”. I stayed at the 42 guest room Casa Kalaw which is inspired by contemporary Filipino architectural design. It has a private pool surrounded by a lush garden, a recreational area and a sun terrace, to relax and bask in the warmth of El Nido. The resort is just steps away from Lio Beach, a 4-km beach front with activities, restaurants, bars and retail stores. In the evenings, you can have a seafood feast at El Nido Grill and the Pukka Bar. A must-try is the Crabs in Coconut Milk (P590) and Pukka Bar’s Special Halo-Halo in Coconut.
Las Cabanas Beach / Marimegmeg Beach
Las Cabanas is one of the best beaches reachable by land from El Nido town. The beach seems to go on forever, is largely empty and is a stunning location to watch the sunset. There are a few resorts popping up and a few restaurants to have a beer or a meal.
If you want to spend the night I recommend the Las Cabanas Beach Resort. One a clear day, Las Cabanas Beach as Cabanas Beach offers everything you could want in a Philippine island beach: white sands, clear water, and palm trees lining the thing. The beachfront “Beach Shack” offers the most delicious Pina Colada and they do a nice happy hour from 4 to 6 pm with selected cocktails on a two for one. Maremegmeg Beach Bar is recommended for a cute and romantic dinner! Great, big, beach bar and grill. Lovely views over the beach, sea and islands. Overall, Las Cabanas makes for a great day trip from El Nido and one of the best things you can do independently or without a boat.
Shaped like, (you guessed it right), a helicopter this island looks exactly like a giant helicopter sitting in the Bacuit Bay. Dilumacad Island, popularly known as the Helicopter beach is home to a few nice beaches and is part of the El Nido Tour C day trip. The biggest draw to the island is the shape and it’s best seen from a boat. There are also many dive trips that will take you to this part of the bay.
Overall, I would say that you need at least 4 days in El Nido to experience the basics of what it has to offer. Island hopping alone can take up 2-3 days so plan accordingly!
It is no wonder that El Nido has been called the Best Beach and Island destination in the Philippines for its "extraordinary natural splendor and ecosystem”. With pristine white sand beaches with small surf break, turquoise waters and a gorgeous ecosystem, El Nido has everything from the recipe of a perfect vacation!