If you’re heading to Palawan, recently voted one of the most beautiful places in the world, chances are you’ll find yourself in El Nido at some stage. This township is the gateway to some of the most spectacular islands in Palawan where you’ll find sand the texture of icing sugar and water of such an iridescent blue that it’ll take your breath away.
You probably won’t think too much of El Nido town- it’s a bit scruffy, the incessant roar of tricycles can get annoying and the bay is packed to the gills with boats making it an uninviting place to swim. But what lies beyond its bay makes staying in this touristy hub easy to swallow and when you return from your days of island hopping there are some inviting restaurants and bars to while away your evenings in.
Here are our top picks for what to do and where to eat when in El Nido, Palawan…
Note: all addresses & directions for restaurants, activities and sights are listed at the bottom of this post.
Day 1 Morning
Island hopping will be at the top of your list of things to do in El Nido. Head to Artcafé on Serena Street (address below) to book an island hopping tour for Day 2 plus to grab breakfast.
When you walk around El Nido township you’ll see posters on every corner advertising the 4 island tours available, named A, B, C and D for easy recall. If you only have limited time, Tour A or Tour C are the ones to book.
Tour C is for the snorkelling enthusiasts- the boat will take you to around four sites where you’ll see rainbow coloured fish, coral and if you’re lucky, sea turtles. Tour A is for those who wish to see Palawan’s famed lagoons. You can rent kayaks at the lagoon spots (300PHP/$7USD) and explore that way or you can choose to swim. You’ll get to visit a couple of snorkelling spots along the way but they definitely aren’t as impressive as the ones on Tour C.
All tours, no matter where you book cost between 1200-1400PHP/$25-30USD and include lunch. We think Artcafé run especially good tours- lunch is delicious and plentiful and the boat captains always manage to get you to snorkelling spots at least 30 minutes before other boats start arriving. The only downside is that you have to rent a snorkel and mask for 100PHP/$2USD where other tour operators include them as part of the package.
Now that you’re all booked for an island hopping tour it’s time for a bite to eat! Grab a table in Artcafé’s dining area over the sand for breakfast. The cafe does delicious sandwiches and Western breakfasts but we reckon the Filipino breakfast of pork tocino is a stand out- tender pieces of candied pork, rice and a fried egg- it should set you up for the day!
After breakfast it’s time to explore a couple of the spectacular beaches outside of town. Hire a scooter from one of the rental places you see along the main streets of town for around 500PHP/$12USD per day. You only require a valid drivers licence in order to legally hire a scooter here in the Philippines. If you’re not keen on riding a scooter, hire a tricycle to take you out to Nacpan Beach.
The drive out to Nacpan Beach is stunning. You pass through small villages, lush green rice paddies and find yourself on a dirt road for the last 20 minutes or so. Once you arrive we guarantee you’ll find it hard to leave. Nacpan has surf, golden sand and a small beach bar selling buko (coconuts), beer and snacks- what more could you want?!
If you can bear to tear yourself away from Nacpan Beach, 15km north lies Duli Beach, an even more remote beach paradise. Duli Beach sees only a smattering of people, mostly surfers and it rivals Nacpan in the beauty stakes. Spend the afternoon swimming and soaking up more sun before heading back to El Nido.
By now you’re probably more than ready for Happy Hour! Most places along the beach offer two for one cocktails or cheap beers between 4:00pm and 6:00pm. Make your way along the beach to Bacuit Grill (address below), the second to last restaurant before you round the corner to Callan Beach. Happy Hour here starts at 5pm, beers are 40PHP/$1USD and you can have your feet planted in the sand as you watch the day’s light fading.
All that salty sea air means you’ll have worked up an appetite right?! So make your way back to the road that runs parallel to the beach for a bowl of El Nido’s best beef stew at Beef Stew Hauz (address below). Tender beef shin, rice noodles and fragrant basil languish in a sweet, flavoursome broth. Be sure to add a dash of chilli oil and lime for an extra kick. It’s addictive and one of the best things you’ll eat in El Nido!
Day 2 Morning/Afternoon
Island Hopping tours start at 8:30am so whip to El Nido Midtown bakery (address below) for a couple of their sugary donuts (10PHP/$0.20USD each!!!) and a fruit shake from a stall on your way to the Art Café.
All you need to take with you island hopping is a bit of money in case you want to buy drinks (water is provided), sunscreen and your camera. If you’re worried about your gear getting wet, there are lots of local stores selling dry bags of various sizes (a 5 litre bag will set you back around 350PHP/$7USD). Spend the day marvelling at the stunning islands of Palawan before returning to El Nido around 4:00pm.
After your tour, race back to your hotel for a quick turnaround so you have time for pina coladas at Sava Beach Bar (address below)- nab a beanbag in the sand for a prime sunset spot. You’ll find that 2 for 1 cocktails (200PHP/$4USD) usually means you get two of the same cocktail served at once. We usually order one cocktail at a time (because they’ll bring you two of the same) to avoid having warm drinks stacked up!
You’re probably ravenous by now so head to Mezzanine (address below), opposite the Art Café for the best pizza in town. We prefer Mezzanine over Trattoria Altrove (the Italian restaurant which you’ll see scores of people lining up for) because the pizza bases are thinner, crispier and the view over El Nido beach is second to none. If you are visiting during high season, it’s best to make a reservation the day before so you don’t miss out on a table.
Sip on Mezzanine’s house-made mango infused rum and watch the coming and goings of El Nido bay as you savour your last evening in this island paradise.
48 hours in El Nido, Palawan, done!
We hope this El Nido, Palawan travel guide has helped you eat and explore like a local, not a tourist.
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El Nido town is tiny so you can walk everywhere. If you want to head out of town just jump into a tricycle- it will cost you around 50PHP to get as far as Corong Corong (Las Cabanas beach).
Chasing a Plate’s Pricing Guide
$ under 150PHP/$3.50USD per person
$$ around 300PHP/$7USD per person
$$$ around 600PHP/$15USD per person
Eat like a traveller:
Bacuit Grill $
Barangay Buena Suerte, El Nido
Beef Stew Hauz $
Zone 3 Brgy. Masagana, El Nido
El Nido Midtown Bakery $
Rizal Street, El Nido
Sava Beach Bar $$-$$$
Barangay Masagana, Calle Hama, El Nido
Open daily 4:00pm to 2:00am
Serena Street, El Nido
Open daily 7:00am to 11:00pm
Explore like a traveller:
Nacpan Beach $
50PHP entrance fee per pax
Duli Beach $
50PHP entrance fee per pax