An Insider’s Guide to El Nido, the Most Enchanting Destination in Palawan, Philippines

Whether you’re seeking adventure or a serene retreat, El Nido promises an unforgettable journey.

Image: Aerial view of Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.
Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon. Jules Bassoleil

Nestled in the heart of Palawan, Philippines, El Nido is an archipelago filled with towering limestone cliffs, lush flora and pristine beaches. Whether you’re looking to spend your days hiking, diving, island hopping or indulging in leisurely pursuits, there’s something for everyone in El Nido. Wellness-inclined travelers are sure to be particularly drawn to the destination, as the serene locale is an ideal backdrop for yoga sessions, spa treatments and holistic therapies

El Nido comprises a collection of small islands, with several resorts nestled on their own private isles, in addition to a few hotels and beach clubs on the main island, near El Nido Town. Most accommodations arrange airport pickups, complete with boat and car transfers. They also typically offer guided tour packages, often led by locals, which are essential to make the most of your experience, especially since the vast majority of destinations and sites within El Nido are only reachable by boat.

Whether you’re seeking adventure or a serene retreat, El Nido promises an unforgettable journey. Here’s everything you need to know. 

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Image: Traditional Philippine Boat on Sea near Mountain in El Nido, Philippines.
El Nido, Palawan. Victor Guevarra

The Logistics

The best time to visit El Nido (or any Philippine island destination) is from late February to late May, during the country’s summertime. The weather is rather unpredictable the rest of the year, especially during the rainy months from mid-August to early December. 

Although there aren’t direct flights to El Nido from major cities outside the Philippines, there are connecting flights from Manila via AirSwift Airlines. Since it’s a bit of a journey, you might want to tack on a few days to your trip—we recommend a minimum of four days total (and up to six), depending on how relaxed or packed you prefer your travel schedule. 

For accommodations that don’t offer tour packages, local agencies like Kraken El Nido and Go Paradise Travel & Tours provide the option to rent a traditional Philippine boat, known as a bangka, for both private and group tours. 

Where to Stay 

Image: Pool area at Pangulasian Island, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.
Pangulasian Island Resort. El Nido Resorts

Pangulasian Island, an El Nido Resort

Pangulasian Island, Bacuit Bay, El Nido, 5313 Palawan, Philippines 

Pangulasian, a part of El Nido Resorts, is known as the “Island of the Sun” among locals due to its impressive sunrise and sunset views. While all four resorts within the collection are situated on private islands, Pangulasian is the only one exclusively open to hotel guests.

There are 42 luxury accommodations within the resort, but the beachfront and pool villas are personal favorites, as they offer easy access to the approximately 2,460 feet of white sand beaches and pristine ocean waters. This island is perfect for snorkeling, as it boasts vibrant coral reefs that teem with marine life, and you just may encounter native blacktip sharks. For those who want to explore further, all El Nido Resorts inclue feature complimentary island-hopping and diving packages. 

Image: Aerial View of Water Cottages in Lagen Island Resort, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.
Lagen Island Resort. Jasper Iturriaga

Lagen Island, an El Nido Resort

Lagen Island, Bacuit Bay, El Nido, 5313 Palawan, Philippines 

Nestled within a tranquil lagoon, Lagen’s soothing landscape features karst rock formations and calm waters. The distinctive water cottages offer a unique vantage point for guests to immerse themselves in the surrounding scenery, as well as observe local wildlife like the birds and bayawak (monitor lizards) in their natural habitat. Like all El Nido Resorts, Lagen welcomes its guests with a Palawenyo-style harana, a traditional Filipino serenade, setting the tone for the authentic hospitality you’ll experience during your stay. 

Image: Aerial View of Miniloc Island Resort, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.
Miniloc Island Resort. El Nido Resorts

Miniloc Island, an El Nido Resort

Miniloc Island, Bacuit Bay, El Nido, 5313 Palawan, Philippines 

Miniloc is known for its snorkeling experiences. Here, you have the opportunity to swim among jackfishes while enjoying the view of the coral reefs. Plus, must-see spots such as Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon are located on Miniloc Island, just a short boat ride away. The hotel’s food, however, is what sets Miniloc apart, including grilled barbecues and a menu filled Filipino classics like fresh red snapper, lobster and prawns.

Image: Aerial View of Cauayan Island Resort, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.
Cauayan Island Resort. Cauayan Island Resort

Cauayan Island Resort 

Cauayan Island, Bacuit Bay, El Nido, 5313 Palawan, Philippines  

Cauayan is a private sanctuary with an array of beachfront, pool and lagoon villas. The hiking trails are what really stand out on the island; whether you choose the sunset or sunrise trail, you’ll find panoramic views of the landscape and ocean.

Aside from the usual activities, Cauayan also offers guided diving experiences, in addition to private and group island-hopping tours. Cap off your day with a sunset cruise, taking in the vistas while sipping on tropical cocktails.

Image: Exterior of Maremegmeg Beach Club, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.
Maremegmeg Beach Club. Maremegmeg Beach Club

Maremegmeg Beach Club

Sitio Maremegmeg, El Nido, 5313 Palawan, Philippines 

Maremegmeg Beach Club is a 15-minute car ride from El Nido Town, on the main island. Its tree-top suites provide guests with a panoramic view of El Nido’s distinctive rock formations. The beach club here, which is open to the public, is known for its lively bar and restaurant, where guests can indulge in an array of Filipino and international dishes, accompanied by tropical cocktails that complement the coastal atmosphere. Come after sunset to experience the nightlife.

What to See 

Image: Big Lagoon, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.
Big Lagoon. Rommel Paras

Big Lagoon

You’ll arrive at the Big Lagoon entrance via a bangka or speed boat, and then embark on a kayaking adventure, where you might even spot monkeys playfully frolicking about the forest. It’s best to visit between 10 am and 12 pm, when the lagoon’s beauty is at its peak, with sunlight enhancing the vivid blue of the water and intensifying the green hues of the surrounding forests. However, do keep in mind that this period tends to draw larger crowds. 

Entalula Island

Entalula is an underrated island with coral-free white sand beaches. The beach area is open to the public, and the namesake bed and breakfast resort close to the shore provides a taste of local life with wooden beach-beds and a simple menu featuring grilled dishes. Entalula is more remote than surrounding islands, but exudes a tranquil ambiance, where the only sounds you’ll hear are the chirping birds and ocean waves crashing. 

Image: Aerial View of Snake Island, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.
Snake Island. Carla Francisco

Snake Island 

Don’t worry, there are no actual snakes to be found on Snake Island. Also known as Vigan Island, its claim to fame lies in a remarkable natural wonder: a long sandbar that mimics the shape of a snake. It is best to visit during low tide, typically between 8 am and 2 pm, although it remains partially visible during other times. Snake Island is less than two miles long, so take the opportunity to leisurely stroll along the sandbar or dive in for a swim. 

Secret Lagoon

Initially, Secret Lagoon presents a facade of white sand shores and the characteristic rock formations that define El Nido. As you get closer, your guide will unveil the well-concealed entrance tucked beneath one of these imposing formations. Beyond lies a lagoon surrounded by towering cliffs. Accessible solely during low tide, we recommend bringing aqua shoes to navigate the rocky entrance safely.

Cudugnon Cave

Hidden discreetly beside a serene beach on Lagen Island, Cudugnon Cave is best accessed by kayak, given its limited entry space. The cave is softly illuminated by natural light filtering through its narrow entrances and small openings, allowing visitors to appreciate the unique rock formation within this hidden coastal gem up close. 

Image: Aerial View of El Nido Town.
El Nido Town. Eibner Saliba

El Nido Town

Immersing yourself in local life is a must. Take some time to check out El Nido Town, where you can explore markets and boutiques, as well as local restaurants serving Filipino food and fusion dishes. Whether you crave local nightlife or simply want to grab a quick bite with a view, Scape El Nido is definitely one of the must-tries in El Nido town.

An Insider’s Guide to El Nido, the Most Enchanting Destination in Palawan, Philippines