El Nido, Palawan: Guide to Backpacking on a Budget

Nacpan Beach in El Nido, Palawan | budget-friendly El Nido travel guide
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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:

RoRo bus
Fare: Ordinary – P290 / Airconditioned – P380
Operating hours: 5AM – 9PM

Cherry Bus
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

El Nido, Palawan

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

El Nido couple shot

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

Additional fees:

  • Big Lagoon fee – P200
  • Kayak rental (optional) – P200-250

Tour B

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

Additional fees:

  • Cudugnon Cave entrance fee – P100

Tour C

Hidden beach in El Nido, Palawan
Hidden beach in El Nido, Palawan. (Photo by Hali)
Snorkeling in El Nido
Snorkeling spots in El Nido features various corals and hundreds of fishes. (Photo by Hali)

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

Additional fees:

  • Matinloc Shrine entrance fee – P100

Tour D

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

Additional fees:

  • Small Lagoon fee – P200
  • Kayak rental (optional) – P200-250

Tour E

Nacpan Beach in El Nido, Palawan | budget-friendly El Nido travel guide
Nacpan beach with this lovely dog. (Photo by Hali)

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

Other activities

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)
  • Corong-Corong
  • Calaan Beach (Masagana)
  • The Islands

Budget accommodations

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:

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.

Prince restaurant in Nacpan Beach
Affordable seafood lunch in Prince restaurant, Nacpan Beach. (Photo by Hali)

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.

Day 1
– Arrival in Puerto Princesa Airport
– Travel to El Nido
– Check in at accommodation

Day 2
– Island hopping tour A

Day 3
– Island hopping tour C

Day 4
– Inland tour E (Nacpan Beach, etc.)

Day 5
– 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!

 

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Budget-friendly El Nido travel guide | El Nido Palawan

 

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15 Comments

  1. Yeah in high season plan on this budget being doubled. (Also, pre-planning is a must, as all the reasonably priced accommodation is booked out weeks/months in advance). Food is about 300pesos a person/meal. Then you calculate in all the extra costs of things (drinking, transport, other activities) and it is very easy to spend 20.000pesos in a week.

  2. hi sir thanks for posting just to ask if mas cheaper ba yung accomodtion during off peak season. .kasi where planing next august po. hope you can healp. .thanks

  3. An invaluable guide for a budget traveller! Thanks a lot for the insight. Message understood: the off-season between June and November is the best time. But what month would you recommend as the most convenient to plan a visit? Does it matter?

    1. It’s not necessarily the best time as it’s within the rainy season, but the rates are cheaper during that period.

      Depends on what you mean by convenient?

    1. Yeah, it depends. Any regular local flight is expensive IMO so we always wait for promos. The cheapest we’ve booked is 200-300 RT iirc. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Hi planning to go to el nido ๐Ÿ™‚ mas ok pala ganito kesa mag travel agency thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ this nov sana kaso mahal ticket haha

  5. Hi! just a question, where did you booked that tour A and C that only cost you 900.00 pesos each? Btw I’ll be going to el nido next week and I’ll be going there solo. Thanks.

    1. Hi Marc, I’d forgotten already. If it’s off-peak season you can just walk around, there are literally dozens of travel agencies in El Nido offering discounted tour rates. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Awesome post! My partner and I are planning to go to El Nido some time next year for 5 days and 4 nights as well. Exactly a guide I’ve been looking for. ๐Ÿ™‚

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