El Nido, Philippines - Ultimate guide
I travelled from Coron by ferry which took about 3 hours and was quite comfortable (although freezing - bring extra layers). If you are coming from Puerta Princessa the bus is around 5 hours or 3 from Port Barton. It is possible to fly straight into El Nido but flights are infrequent and expensive. I think if you are going to travel in Palawan it is best to choose one end to fly into (Coron or Puerta Princessa) and travel from one end to the other to fly out the other side.
Where to stay
I had a really tough time trying to decide whether to stay in El Nido town or Corong Corong beach. After doing a lot of research I ended up staying in the town, but if I went again I would probably choose Corong Corong. El Nido town is close to a bigger choice of bars and restaurants, including the ones that open late and it is also closer to the port where the tours leave from which is handy after a heavy night. Corong Corong has the beaches and a few spread out bars all of which close around 10pm. Either way you will probably end up walking/ getting a trike between the 2 at least once a day so it doesn't really matter where you stay. Saying that, there was a lot of construction going on in Corong Corong (including a McDonalds) and there looks like there will be a lot more to offer in the near future.
Although I didn't stay there, here would be my recommendations for places to stay:
Outpost - Really fun hostel, even if you don't stay there head down for a drink (closes at 10).
The Birdhouse - Luxury tented accommodation with panoramic views of the island, again head there for drinks, food at The Nesting Table or sunset yoga every evening at 5pm.
Things to do - Tour A:
Each destination that I visited in the Philippines had a variety of different island hopping tours, all very originally named Tour a,b,c or d. I did a bit of research into each one and as I didn't have long, I decided to go for the most popular - Tour A which visits the following sites: Big lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Seven Commando Beach, Shimizu Island + a snorkelling spot.
I booked mine with El Nido Paradise and was not disappointed. The guides were so friendly, helpful and absolutely hilarious. With the longer journeys between destinations they arranged entertainment for us on the boat including a karaoke competition between each of the nationalities on the boat (team UK won of course!) When booking the tour I found that haggling was not really the done thing, where in most tourist areas the travel shops are all in competition with each other this was not the case here. We did however find that you can get a discount if you book more than one tour from the same company. Expect to pay around 1200 Pesos (£17) for Tour A. You also need to purchase an environmental pass (200 Pesos/ £3) but this can be used for every boat trip for up to 10 days.
Eating and drinking - We tried a few different places in El Nido and I've managed to narrow it down to my top 4 absolute favourites. El Nido is growing so fast, by the time I finished writing this post another 10 restaurants have probably opened up!
Altrove - Amazing Italian, you can't book a table so expect to queue. There are 3 restaurants so check each one out before deciding where to queue!
Panorama - Really new beachside bar (also a resort), Spanish owners and amazing Mediterranean food and tapas, get there early to get a good spot for sunset.
Sava bar - 1 of 2 bars open late, the fancier of the two. Right on the beach great cocktails and music.
Pukka bar - Another beach bar in El Nido town there is live reggae music until late and then fantastic dj's until even later.
Other things to do in El Nido -
For the adrenaline junkies you can zip line between two islands. You can choose to do it sitting but I would 100% recommend superman as it feels like you are flying across the Ocean! Price is between 500 and 1000 pesos depending on your position and whether you choose a return journey. However it is possible to zipline one way and walk back along the sand bar which is what we did. Don't worry about bags or shoes as they can attach these to you. If you are brave enough, it is also possible to take your phone/ camera with you but I was way too scared!
Don't miss the sunset at Las Cabanas, the sunset looks amazing from anywhere but it is extra special from here!
Close to Las Cabanas but up in the jungle on top of a mountain is a resort called The Birdhouse owned by the friendliest, most welcoming couple. They offer luxury tented accommodation and an amazing plant based restaurant called the nesting table. They also offer sunset yoga in an open air studio at the highest point of the mountain. Yoga starts at 5pm each day and is available on a first come, first served basis so make sure to get there early and bring lots of water! Towels and mats are available and the class is suitable for beginners. Be aware the hotel's dogs sometimes like to get involved in the classes!
Take a trike or minibus up to Nacpan beach which is about an hours drive. It's a huge beach, really spread out so you feel like you have the place to your self. There is also plenty of bars and restaurants and if you have time stay there over night. If you are looking for somewhere lively, the Mad Monkey has never let me down whilst travelling Asia.
Read the rest of my 10 day itinerary for Palawan here