Paradise is El Nido
If you are seeking to find paradise, you will find it in El Nido. Lagoons shine in the brightest blue when the sun touches the water. You can cover your toes in the whitest sand. Simply just sitting there in the shade of palm trees while you watch nature’s beauty is amazing. This sight will forever become a memory etched in your mind for eternity.
Do not expect big luxury there (unless you bring lots of money) but enjoy what mother nature has created. This tropical paradise is absolutely unparalleled and cannot be compared to any other places I have seen in my many travels so far. El Nido is a small town at the northern island of Palawan, the most western island of the Philippines. It is about 230 km from Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan. The most convenient way to get to El Nido is definitely by plane, but it is also the most expensive option. You can catch flights from Manila or Puerto Princesa, but expect high fares and small planes. Furthermore, you can only take 10kg of luggage on the plane so you should consider this before booking.
Budget conscious travellers can take a shared van to El Nido, which takes around 7 hours. Expect a long bumpy ride through the jungle, including gravel roads. You can book your van either in advance online or right at the airport when you arrive in Palawan. However, the cheapest way to get there is to hop on a public bus, which will cost around 10€, but also takes a bit longer.
There are a few options where to stay in and around El Nido. El Nido Town is quite busy for its size; full of small hotels and little markets, but it is not super clean. I suggest you sleep a bit further away, as the beach is nicer and you will enjoy more privacy. Corong Corong beach is only a few minutes ‘tuk-tuk-ride’ away and has some really cheap, nice accommodations. I highly recommend Greenviews Resort. It is right on the beach, very affordable and has the most amazing beautiful view. They also offer island hopping tours. Otherwise, there are some more accommodations up north to have a look at if you seek some privacy.
If you are one of the lucky travellers with a more generous budget, you should definitely check out the over-water bungalows and resorts. While a little out of my reach, they seemed amazing – even from the distance! If you can’t stay there, just hop in a canoe and paddle pass them – you will be amazed. Prices in El Nido are a little bit higher than in Corong Corong but still affordable. Depending on where you sleep, if you want AC or fan (cheaper), you can get some really nice bungalows for around 20€ a night.
The island hopping tours will only set you back around 15 – 25€ depending on which one you take (I highly recommend to do all of them). I recommend you book the tours outside El Nido town, because the boats in town are usually pretty full. I booked mine directly at Greenviews Resort and it only had four people on it. So even if you stay in El Nido town, it is worth the effort to drive somewhere else to book your tour.
Private tours are also offered, which are basically not necessary, because as soon as you arrive on the islands, you will share the beach with all the others who are doing the same trip. So booking a private tour only offers privacy on the boat, which is not worth the money.
El Nido and surrounding towns offer four different tours. I highly recommend to not miss one of them. They are all remarkable and quite unique in their own way. You will discover secret beaches, abandoned islands, incredible snorkeling locations, hidden caves, blue lagoons and so much more. However, if there is only one island you have the time to visit, make it Pinagbuyutan Island. This island was definitely my favourite. It looked exactly like a Robinson Crusoe island – full of palm trees and white sandy beaches exactly like you imagine it in your dreams.
All the islands around El Nido are incredibly stunning and it is the most beautiful scenery you will see in your entire life – big promise. There are five different tours and I wouldn’t miss any, as all the islands are different. Then if you have more time, you can either rent a kayak and discover some more places around El Nido. After you complete the tours, you can hire a private boat to take you to your favourite beach again, so you can spend the entire day there. There is also a twin beach in the north (Nacpan Beach), which I unfortunately did not visit, but put it on your list. Only a few people go there. Just inform yourself that it might be better to book a tour or decide if you can make the trip on your own with a scooter.
Another important thing to know is the electricity only works for a few hours a day. Some bigger hotels do have a generator, but do check in advance if you need to work or if it is important to charge any electrical gadgets such as your camera, phone or iPad. There is also no hospital in El Nido, so make sure you take medicine with you and have all your vaccinations. There are some dangerous mosquitoes, so be sure to see a doctor before visiting. An important tip would be to bring enough repellent with you and book a room with AC which keeps the mosquitoes away as well. Additionally, the area has stone fish, so it’s a good idea to wear some water shoes while walking on the reef-y parts of the beach. The water shoes will be also quite useful during the tours because you will sometimes have to climb over sharp rocks.
I have already visited many places well known for their beautiful beaches, including Seychelles, Thailand and Brazil for instance. However, El Nido is definitely the most exceptional. This place is magical – it is heaven on earth and so much more stunning that you can ever imagine. With its bright blue lagoons, green palm trees and white beaches, it is the tropical dream come true. El Nido had the brightest and clearest blue water I have ever seen in my entire life. The sharp black walls of limestone rocks protruding up out of the water, as if they want to protect the beauty, will absolutely blow your mind.
Until I visited El Nido, I was not really into the underwater world. However, I thoroughly recommend taking a deep breath and opening your eyes to the underneath beauty that will remain with you for the rest of your life. My personal tip: Starfish Beach. It does not look very spectacular – I almost stayed in the boat and wanted to skip the snorkeling – but thank God I did not. As soon as you dive in, the whole reef is full, and I mean really full, of giant bright blue starfish – a moment that should not be missed.