Archipelago guide to El Nido, Palawan

With its stunning beaches, virgin islands, and limestone cliffs, El Nido is on everyone's bucket list. We asked travel blogger Ferdz Decena for his list of favorite places to stay that won't break the bank

Report and photos by Ferdz Decena

El Nido, Palawan. Illustration by Randy R. Rey

WHERE TO STAY
Marygold Beachfront Inn
, formerly the Marina Garden Beach Resort, at the center of El Nido town right along M. Quezon (formerly Calle Hama) has possibly the best beach in El Nido Bay. It offers country villa rooms with air-conditioning and hot showers from P2,150 ($46) a night. Native cottages with basic facilities for budget travelers are under renovation, but should be available soon. There's a small cafe and restaurant and Wi-Fi.
Marigold Beachfront Inn, tel +63917 624 7722.

For budget travellers, check out Cliffside Cottages on Rizal St., just beside the towering limestone cliffs of El Nido. It's a seven-minute walk to the beach but its basic cottages are clean, decent and are best value for long stays in town.
Visit Cliffside Cottages.

Lualhati Cottage, a few minutes' walk from Cliffside Cottages, has quiet and peaceful garden rooms from P800. The kitchen is free for guests to use if they prefer to cook their own food. Breakfast is also available.
Visit Lualhati Cottage, tel +63999 994 1195.

Calaan

Hadefe Cottages fronting Calaan Beach further north of El Nido town has a tropical setting with spacious native cottages with fans and clean toilet and bath. It's a 15-minute walk to and from town but the views along the way are scenic. Rooms from P1,000.
Visit Hadefe Cottages.

El Nido Garden Beach Resort just before Calaan Beach is quiet and cozy with its own pool and fitness room. Rooms from P4,000 with breakfast.

[Note: Electricity in El Nido is available from 2 p.m. to 6 a.m. of the following day.)

WHERE TO EAT
For freshly-baked goodies, pizza and pasta, head over to Artcafe at the end of Serena Street. They are known for their pancakes, fresh muesli and homemade yoghurt. Wi-Fi available.

Squidos Restaurant on the corner of M. Quezon and Abdulla Streets serves up grilled squid and burgers popular with visitors. 

Stunning Vistas Beach Resort in Corong-corong serves good food. Try their lemon pepper tuna or Cajun maya-maya while enjoying the sunset. Definitely worth the trip.

Stunning Vistas Beach Resort

WHAT TO SEE
There are about 45 limestone islands making up Bacuit Bay, so it can be a daunting task to choose which ones to see first. El Nido tour operators have several island tours on offer. Tour A from P1,200, includes stops at Miniloc Island, its lagoons and the scenic secret lagoon beach; a snorkeling stop on Shimizu Island; and a sunset beach stop on 7 Commandos beach. A nice starter tour. Tour B includes stops at Cudugnon Cave and Cathedral Cave, Snake Island, and a stopoiver at the white-sand Pangulasian Island. Tour costs about P1,300. Tour C covers the islands of Matinloc and Taiputan for P1,400. The adventure of swimming through a crack to find a beach is worth it. The Matinloc Shrine has a grotto with a nice view of the channel between the islands and the scenic Hidden Beach behind picturesque towering limestones which probably inspired Alex Garland to write the bestseller "The Beach".

Secret Lagoon

El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe is the more established tour operator in town with premium rates. Also check out Islanen Tours located at the corner of M. Quezon and Osmena Streets. If you would rather go on individual island hopping trips, it is easy enough to hire a boat and a guide. Whatever you do, stop by the Big and Small Lagoons in Miniloc Island.

7 Commandos

DO. As a break away from the beach, tour operators offer a number of inland activities. Nagkalit-kalit Falls in the town of Pasadena is a 14-kilometer ride from El Nido town proper and an hour's' hike away. Five kilometers further is the undeveloped Makinit Hotspring. Or you can try a two-hour hike to Bulalakaw Falls in Villa Paz, 15 kilometers from El Nido town. Seven kilometers from El Nido town proper is Ille Cave with its archaeological artifacts dating back 10,000 years. The waterfalls are best visited during the rainy season by tricycle. In El Nido town, climb the Taraw Cliff for a magnificent panoramic view of El Nido and Bacuit Bay.

Taraw Cliff

How to get there
Air Swift offers direct flights to El Nido. As an alternative, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines fly to Puerto Princesa daily. Take a taxi from the airport to the San Jose Common Terminal, where buses of Cherry Bus Palawan depart regularly for El Nido.

About our insider
Ferdz Decena is a photographer and contributing writer for Inflight Traveller and Archipelago. Check out his travel blogs on ironwulf.

Originally published in InFlight Traveller June/July 2010. Updated August 2016