The stunning island of Palawan is one of the most popular places to visit in the Philippines, and it is beautiful El Nido that is Palawan’s real jewel in the crown. Offering some of the twinkliest blue seas to be found, and hundreds of tiny uninhabited islands dotting the unbelievable Bacuit Bay, this paradise is unmissable on any trip to the Philippines. In this blog post, I’ve put together all the best things to do and see in El Nido, from days spent island hopping to camping under a blanket of stars on your own slice of paradise, to sampling the best delicious smoothies and wandering in the jungle interior.
Having visited a couple of times now, I feel I know the town pretty well so I hope this guide is helpful. If you’re planning a trip to El Nido, read on to discover all of the must see attractions in El Nido and start planning your own Palawan trip!
The 20 Top Things to Do and See
Explore Big Lagoon by kayak
Without a doubt, kayaking in the Big Lagoon is one of the most popular activities in El Nido, and it is completely unmissable. You can rent kayaks from the floating pontoon at the entrance whilst on one of the local day trips (nearly every one of them will visit Big Lagoon).
It’s magical, although getting busier as the crowds grow year by year.
Have a beer on one of remote islands dotted in the archipelago
Tucked away amongst some mangroves and near to Snake Island is a secret bar. It’s as rustic as you get, with a small bamboo hut offering up cold beers and the most chilled environment.
Head off the beaten track and get to know the locals
I say this about every destination I visit, but it’s nearly always my favourite thing to do anywhere on my travels. On my most recent visit to El Nido, our hostel was located to the edge of the main beach, where we had to navigate our way through giant rocks, small wooden homes and hundreds of kids to get there. We loved it!
Enjoy a smoothie at V&V
In my opinion, it’s the best breakfast cafe in El Nido! The queue could be fairly long it seemed when I returned in 2017 – but totally worth it! On a hangover, it’s like heaven in a glass. Just look at my happy exhaustion below!
Play with all the cute puppies and kitties that are everywhere!
Explore small lagoon by paddle board
The Small Lagoon is another of the most iconic places in El Nido. Look for a company along the beach in El Nido offering paddle boarding out on the lagoons and you won’t regret it.
We spent amazing days out on the water paddle boarding and often could explore even more remote and quieter areas.
Dive deep underwater to marvel at the marine life
Visit Seven Commandos Beach
And go early before the crowds do! It’s a very popular beach these days but still very much worth a visit.
Stay at the amazing Las Cabanas Beach Resort in El Nido
One of my favourite places in all the Philippines. Las Cabanas Beach is great for a sunset drink but it’s even better when you wake up there!
Have dinner by candlelight on the beach
A peaceful dinner under the stars is definitely one of my top romantic things to do in El Nido. This is at Las Cabanas and the team made it very special!
Charter a boat or join a local tour
The town is brimming with tour operators. Head to any stall in town – you don’t need to shop around as they all sell day boat trip excursions A,B,C and D at a price set by the local tourism authority. A boat tour is the very best way to see El Nido, and gliding through the arcipelago’s turquoise waters is an incredible way to spend a day.
Find a hammock and stay there all day
‘Cos you can!
Catch the sunset
They’re famous for a reason. Find a beach bar, grab a drink and enjoy the view.
Explore the amazing Snake Island
This sandbar is not to be missed. Included on several of the boat trips, this sandbar is incredible and you can walk at waist height water for hundreds of meters.
Enjoy cocktails and smoothies all day long
This dreamy spot below is at Las Cabanas Beach, which is lined with small beach bars serving up fresh fruit smoothies.
Marvel at the twinkly waters
Honestly, the water around El Nido and the archipelago has got to be some of the clearest in the world!
Sail past empty and deserted beaches
Most the islands are uninhabited, and totally untouched by humans. Some of the islands near to El Nido and Coron were some of the most pristine scenery I had ever seen in my life.
Head into the jungle interior
Ask the locals or other tourists where to find the jungle paths and go exploring. The jungle interior is leafy and wonderful to wander in, but few do, making it one of the more unusual things to do in El Nido.
But most of all, RELAX
You are in paradise after all!
Want to organise your day boat trip before you go? Do it with GetYourGuide!
Essential information to know
A real backpackers’ haven, the town of El Nido is still very basic in many ways and its location means improving infrastructure is quite the challenge. There are several factors to take into consideration before arriving in El Nido, for example the lack of ATMs or they fact that they regularly run out of cash! I’ve written a much longer detailed post on this everything you need to know before visiting El Nido here.
Where to stay in El Nido
There’s a huge range of accommodation in El Nido. There are definitely less luxury hotels, but that’s sure to change over time as this town grows in popularity.
These are some of the best hostels to pick in the area:
As I said, there aren’t too many ultra luxurious hotels yet, but these three below are some of the very best luxury hotels in El Nido. All are operated by the same group, offering idyllic and serene island experiences:
I hope you’ve found my guide to the top things to do and see in El Nido useful and that maybe I’ve inspired you to visit this gorgeous place on your travels!
Have you been here before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
As I mentioned, I have been to the Philippines twice already and loved it both times. It’s one of the most beautiful corners of the world, despite its rising popularity as a must-see destination in the Philippines. In this post I tried to list the all of the best things to do in El Nido, in the hope you will find them useful in planning your own trip to El Nido!
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Disclaimer: This visit was entirely paid for by myself and there was no involvement from the tourism board or a hotel. This is an independent guide.
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