So you’ve finally decided to head over one of the world’s finest island destinations, El Nido. Well, you’ve come to the right place! Sink your teeth in and explore our playground! Lastly, don’t forget to bookmark and share this page with your friends.
20 Things to do In El Nido
Like any unbelievably beautiful place in the world, El Nido’s fame spread across the globe by word of mouth. It was first discovered by scuba divers in the 1980s, and later attracted the novelist Alex Garland in the 1990s. Surrounded by towering cliffs and palm trees, this writer finished his novel The Beach while he was living in El Nido for six months.
By the year 2000, the shirtless heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio sent shots of awe across the globe with the release of a film based on Garland’s novel. After the film screening, millions of tourists started pouring into where the film was set, in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. Little did people know that the real inspiration for the film and its novel was not set in Thailand. It was set in no other than El Nido, Palawan.
And while it may be unfair that Garland didn’t do justice to El Nido’s rise to fame, he intentionally changed the setting to protect this place from the public’s prying eyes. Regardless, El Nido has been consistently ranked as one of the world’s most incredible tropical escapes. Located in northern Palawan, its prominent feature is the 50-island Bacuit Bay, which is part of a tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines.
In this bay view of glassy turquoise water, numerous skyscraper limestones stand on beds of virgin white sand and thick forests. These limestone walls form secret passages, enchanting lagoons, and cathedral-sized caves, all surrounded by lovely coves, long white beaches, and colorful diving sites. When you boat along these beautiful jade islands, it’s like traveling to a lost world where dinosaurs used to live. El Nido truly is pristine and breathtaking!
In the west coast of El Nido, the island-speckled Bacuit Bay can be explored through four different tours (Island Hopping Tour A, B, C, and D), each featuring about five islands. These will be further expanded into seven tours in 2019 with around three islands each, according to El Nido’s local government. The best island tour in town is a little pricier but a lot more memorable for you’ll be exploring Bacuit Bay on a yacht! How awesome is that?
Island hopping activities here take-off from a light gray cove in the Town Proper, where you can also find matchbox hostels and pension houses wedged in between specialty diners, souvenir shops, and tour agency offices. It’s a tight, busy hub with little if no sidewalks and most places are within walking distance to each other. But if you hate walking, you can hop on and off a tricycle, the Filipino version of tuk-tuk.
Other than Bacuit Bay, two highly commendable areas for travelers are Corong-Corong and Lio, both offering a more relaxed island vibe than the crowded Town Proper. Corong-Corong is about 10 minutes south from the town proper, while Lio is 20 minutes north by motorcycle.
Offering the best sunset views, Corong-Corong Beach and Marimegmeg Beach (also called Las Cabañas Beach) in Corong-Corong is a great area to chill out on a late afternoon. Dotted with a few resorts, meanwhile, the more exclusive Lio features a secluded, long white cove facing a different group of islands. If you can drive, it’s best to rent a motorcycle and explore El Nido yourself!
Both areas have great panoramic views of the gorgeous Bacuit Bay, which turns into a breathtaking scene at sunset and twilight hours. So, if you don’t like the cramped and touristy Town Proper that much, do swing by these two beach destinations and melt your worries away with a cold drink for a perfect lazy afternoon.
What first-time visitors do not know is that El Nido is huge and covers almost 1,000 square kilometers, or about the size of Berlin or Bangkok. In short, El Nido isn’t just about beaches, islands, and island parties. In fact, only a quarter of El Nido is touristy. Further up north and on the eastside of El Nido are more cool activities only the curious ones dare to trace!
For example, there are ten epic, long white beaches just waiting for you in the mainland. Other than those in Corong-Corong and Lio, the more accessible ones are in Nacpan and Duli. The latter also serves as the only surfing destination in El Nido (November to April). The east coast of El Nido, on the other hand, features two interesting destinations, the rustic villages of Sibaltan and New Ibajay.
The windy Sibaltan is the hotspot of culture—as well as the adrenaline sport kitesurfing—in El Nido. Apart from learning how to kitesurf in the open waters (November to April), you can go see the Balay Cuyonon Museum, a typical seafarer’s house, and the Pangko Maritime Museum, a huge sailboat museum. Both exhibit the way of life of El Nido’s old inhabitants. If you dig local culture, you should definitely include El Nido’s Cultural Tour in your itinerary.
Island hopping can be done in Sibaltan too, with three to four uncrowded, white-sanded islands to visit in one day. You can also bring some snorkeling or diving gear and catch sightings of baby sharks, manta rays, and, if you’re lucky, the ephemeral dugong or sea cow, one of the rarest marine animals in the world.
Probably the most intriguing historical site in El Nido is New Ibajay. Sitting on a vast plain of rice fields are more limestone towers that keep complex cave systems. One of these is Ille Cave, a significant archaeological site in the Philippines due to the Permian era fossils embedded on its walls and the recently dug 9,000-year-old cremation burial of a woman, the oldest in Southeast Asia. You can learn more about the artifacts dug in the area from the museum next to the cave.
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El Nido is part of a 90,000-hectare protected area in northern Palawan. Being here means having to adjust to rules that aim to preserve this paradise. Please also note that plastic is banned in El Nido. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
DON’T buy or accept plastic-bottled water.
DO bring your own refillable water bottle. You can refill your bottle in restaurants and even during your tours, without cost.
DON’T use plastic bags when shopping.
DO bring your own reusable bag. Or just buy the item without a plastic bag.
DON’T take out food from restaurants. At least try not to.
DO use a lunchbox for take outs or dine in the restaurant instead.
DON’T let the waiter add a plastic straw to your drink.
DO drink without a straw instead.
DON’T throw your trash anywhere or in the sea.
DO keep it in your pocket until you find a trash bin.
DON’T feed animals, pick plants, or step on corals.
DO respect wildlife and watch only from a distance.
DON’T collect shells, rocks, or sand.
DO leave what you find.