Did you know that you can travel to El Nido on a budget? Yes! When Hali and I visited here in 2017, we only spent P7000 each for 5 days (excluding airfare). Here’s our budget guide to El Nido so you can enjoy this tropical paradise too without breaking the bank.
El Nido, Palawan
El Nido is the premier tourist attraction in Palawan. It’s perfect for families on a vacation, couples on a romantic trip or honeymoon, and friends out for a good time together.
A few years ago, traveling to El Nido is very expensive. You’ll need to shell out P10,000+ for a few days’ stay. Fortunately, today there is now rate standardization for island hopping tours and budget accommodations available. El Nido is also a backpacker’s paradise.
How to get here
Take a local flight to Puerto Princesa City.
One at the airport, there are vans directly headed to El Nido (P500 per person). Travel time is 5 hours.
A cheaper alternative is to walk outside the airport and ride a tricycle or jeep to San Jose Terminal where there are buses to El Nido. Travel time is 6-7 hours. The buses leaves every 2 hours. Here are the bus lines bound to El Nido:
Fare: Ordinary – P290 / Airconditioned – P380
Operating hours: 5AM – 9PM
Fare: Ordinary – P385 / Airconditioned – P480
Operating hours: 4AM – 10PM
Get off at El Nido terminal. From there, you can ride a tricycle to your selected accommodation (P50).
When is the best time to visit
El Nido is open all-year round. However, the best times to visit would be January to April, which is the sunniest months. March and April are the summer months and coincide with the high-peak season.
- High-peak season: March and April
- Off-peak season: June to November
Tours in El Nido
There are different island hopping tours in El Nido. The most recommended ones are Tour A and Tour C. Take note that combination tours are no longer allowed (i.e., it is no longer possible to see Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon in one day).
The tours normally start at 9AM and end at 3-4PM. Inclusions are boat tour, entrance fees to islands, buffet lunch, and life vest. Depending on the tour you avail, hotel pickup may also be included.
There are standard rates for the tours in El Nido. However, it’s possible to get discount in different ways: you can book via travel agency during off-peak season, book a group package, or you can simply book via Klook which offers cheaper rates.
Tour A takes you to the iconic Big Lagoon, which is a popular kayaking spot. This is the one featured in most social media posts. Lunch is held at Simizu Island or Payong Payong Beach.
- Stops: Big Lagoon and Hidden Lagoon on Miniloc Island, Simizu Island or Payong Payong and 7 Commando Beach
- Rate: P1200 per person | Book discounted tour here
- Big Lagoon fee – P200
- Kayak rental (optional) – P200-250
Tour B takes you to various caves and the famous Snake Island, which is a narrow sandbar.
- Stops: Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave, Entalula Island, Cathedral Cave and Popolkan Island
- Rate: P1300 per person | Book discounted tour here
- Cudugnon Cave entrance fee – P100
Tour C takes you to a few nice beaches in El Nido. Highlights include the Secret Beach, a small beach enclosed by karst rocks and can only be accessed via a narrow opening, and Matinloc Island, which is a great snorkeling area.
Visit to the Matinloc Shrine is optional. This is another favorite IG-worthy spot in El Nido.
- Stops: Matinloc Shrine, Matinloc Island, Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Tapuitan Island and Helicopter Island
- Rate: P1400 per person | Book discounted tour here
- Matinloc Shrine entrance fee – P100
Tour D takes you to the beaches in Cadlao Island and mainland. It also includes the Small Lagoon, which was formerly in Tour A.
- Stops: Small Lagoon (Miniloc Island), Nat Nat Beach, Pasandigan Cove, Paradise Beach, Ubugon Cave, Bukal Island and Cadlao Lagoon
- Rate: P1200 per person
- Small Lagoon fee – P200
- Kayak rental (optional) – P200-250
Tour E takes you to the famous Twin Beach, Nagkalit-kalit Falls and several low-key beaches in El Nido. Travel agencies offer this tour, but you can also do it DIY by hiring a tricycle on your own (P1000-1500, good for 4 pax) or renting a motorcycle (P400, good for 2 pax).
- Stops: Nacpan and Calitang Twin Beach, Nagkalit-kalit Falls, Las Cabanas or Marimegmeg Beach
- Rates: P1500 per tricycle, good for 4 pax
Aside from island hopping and inland tours, here are other activities you can do in El Nido:
Climb Taraw Cliff
Taraw Cliff offers a panoramic view of El Nido. The path involves climbing steep and pointy rock, but recently the local government has installed Ferrata Nature’s Canopy Walk which is a relatively easy trail. Tourists need to get a guide and helmet to get here.
Rate: P500 per person | Get discounted ticket here
Operating hours: Daily, 8AM – 5PM
Other things you need to know
Tourists in El Nido are required to pay an El Nido Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF) of P200 each before going to any destinations in the area. This is valid for 10 days.
Where to stay in El Nido
There are different places where you can stay at in El Nido, from hostels to luxury resorts. Most tourists stay at the town proper, which is close to major establishments such as hotels & inns, restaurants, and travel agencies. If you want a luxurious experience, you definitely want to stay in one of the many private islands in El Nido.
Here are the places you can stay at:
- Buena Suerte (town proper)
- Calaan Beach (Masagana)
- The Islands
El Nido offers a lot of budget inns and resorts, ranging from P500 to P1000 for 1-2 people.
Here are some of the most recommended ones:
- OMP (Our Melting Pot) Hostel. Pros: Good location, WIFI in all rooms, free breakfast. Book discounted rooms here.
- Spin Designer Hostel. Pros: Good location, artsy designs, ideal for solo travelers and backpackers. Book discounted rooms here.
- Dormitels.ph. Pros: Located near Corong-Corong Beach, 1km away only from town proper. Book discounted rooms here.
- Outpost Beach Hostel. Pros: Good amenities, with private beach. Book discounted rooms here.
Did not find what you were looking for? Check out other accommodations in El Nido here.
Where to eat in El Nido
Whether you’re looking for local or foreign cuisine, there’s a lot of options in El Nido. Here we’ve compiled the most popular ones:
- Republica Sunset Bar. Offers alcohol and different pulutan. It has a great view of sunset in El Nido.
- Tratorria Altove. Offers the best pizza in El Nido.
- Taste El Nido – The Vegan Cafe PH. Offers various vegan food and delicious smoothie bowls.
- Nacpan Beach Sunmai Sunset Restaurant. Offers good food and a beautiful beach view in Nacpan.
- Boodle Fight Restaurant Bar. Offers boodle fight options including seafood.
Aside from proper restaurants, you can also find ordinary eateries. This is a good option if you’re on a budget or would like to taste local food.
As for us, we personally liked Republica Sunsest Bar. It’s one of the best places to view the sunset in El Nido. Food is good and affordable. Just make sure to get a seat before 5PM. Another restaurant that we liked is Prince Restaurant in Nacpan Beach. Their garlic-sauced crab dish is a must-try and costs only P200 for 2 people.
5 Days itinerary to El Nido
Here’s a sample 5 days itinerary to El Nido, Palawan. This is the one we followed during our trip. We spent 2 days island hopping (Tour A and Tour C) and 1 day bumming in Nacpan Beach.
– Arrival in Puerto Princesa Airport
– Travel to El Nido
– Check in at accommodation
– Island hopping tour A
– Island hopping tour C
– Inland tour E (Nacpan Beach, etc.)
– Travel back to Puerto Princesa
I traveled with my boyfriend and we spent about P7000 each for 5 days. Not bad, huh?
Any other tips to add to this budget-friendly travel guide to El Nido? Post them below!
What to read next:
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- Top things to do in Palawan
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