Top 5 Things to Do in El Nido Philippines

If you have any interest exploring southeast Asia, then put the Philippines, on your list! Taylor and I visited the Philippines during our honeymoon and absolutely loved it. We explored the island of Cebu and the northwest side of Palawan during our visit. We often get asked by friends and family members about the Philippines so here are our top 5 things to do in El Nido Palawan and the surrounding area.

The shortlist of the top 5 things to do in El Nido:

  1. Island Hopping Tour A & C
  2. Watch the sunset at Lio Beach
  3. Dinner at the Birdhouse near Las Cabanas Beach
  4. Visit Nacpan Beach
  5. Happy Hour at Happiness Beach Bar

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The Top 5 Things To Do in El Nido Palawan

1. Island Hopping Tour

Island Hopping Tour Combined A and C El Nido Palawan Philippines - top things to do

If you’re visiting El Nido, you should do an island hopping tour. There are several tours to choose from including the following:

  • Tour A – Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu, 7 Commando Beach
  • Tour B – Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Beach, Cudugnon Cave, Snorkeling Site
  • Tour C – Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach, Hidden Beach
  • Tour D – Ipil Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach, Bukal Beach
  • You can also do a combination tour which brings you to the best locations of each tour.
Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon drone shots top things to do in El Nido Palawan Philippines Island Hopping Tour
Drone view of Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon on the combined A and C island hopping tour.

We chose to do the combination Tour A and C which included Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu, 7 Commando Beach Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach, Hidden Beach.

Lunch during island hopping tour, El Nido Palawan Philippines.
Hanging out in the small lagoon during the island hopping tour. Notice the smoke coming off the boat, many boats grill while visiting the different locations during the tour.

The tour is an all-day event leaving around 8:00 am and arriving around 4:00-5:00 pm, stopping at all of the locations listed above. Lunch is provided which includes chicken, fish, rice, fruit, and vegetables, which is served family-style for the tour group. Don’t forget to bring your own water! Although water is provided, it’s not that much so we advise bringing your own.

What To Bring On Your Island Tour

2. Vist Lio Beach for the Day and Watch the Sunset

Sunset at Lio Beach, Palawan, Philippines overlooking the limestone cliffs
Amazing sunset overlooking the limestone cliffs

Lio Beach is a quick shuttle ride from El Nido and is starting to build into a nice resort area. There are 3 main hotels near Lio Beach, which is where Taylor and I stayed. We stayed at the Balai Adlao, Lio Estate Resort, a 3-star resort and we highly recommend it.

Booking.com

Lio Beach has plenty of restaurants and bars. It’s a great place for a beach day, eat some lunch and dinner and then watch the sunset. Since it’s right next to the El Nido airport and you can watch the planes coming in and taking off. We advise watching the sunset from the beach overlooking the pier and limestone cliffs.

3. Dinner at the Birdhouse near Las Cabanas Beach

Cabanas beach is a few miles south of El Nido and has a lot of neat hotels and bars along the beach. If you have time you should consider getting dinner at the Birdhouse restaurant. It’s a perfect place for happy hour and sunset with views that overlook the ocean.

Birdhouse Restaurant El Nido Palawan Philippines top things to do
The view from inside the Birdhouse Restaurant

How to get to the Birdhouse Restaurant?

Getting to the restaurant is a bit tricky. We rented a scooter and drove ourself since we knew were going to be out late. You could probably hire a tricycle to and from the Birdhouse to your hotel.

However, the easiest route to the Birdhouse is along the beach. From the road towards Las Cabanas Beach from El Nido, park on the side of the road and head towards the beach. Walk almost the entire length of the beach then when you start to see signs for the restaurant on the trees, turn left up the hill to the Birdhouse.

How to get to the birdhouse restaurant in el nido in las cabanas beach.  Top 5 things to do in el nido palawan philippines.

There are a lot of bars along the way that you may want to consider after dinner! We made an adventure out of it and definitely recommend it!

4. Visit Nacpan Beach

Visit Nacpan beach north of el nido palawan philippines - top things to do in el nido palawan philippines

Nacpan beach is north of the town of El Nido and is a must-visit. It’s a large beach that stretches roughly 2 miles and isn’t as crowded as El Nido and Lio Beach. Nacpan has restaurants, hotels, and snack huts to keep you fueled throughout your beach day.

If you’re curious where to eat in Nacpan, consider Sunmai bar and restaurant. We ate at Sunmai, which is right on the beach and we definitely recommend it! They have great food and drinks with plenty of shade to beat the heat and cool off.

Sunmai Bar and Restaurant on Nacpan Beach.  Top things to do in El Nido Palawan Philippines
We say along at the swing seat bar facing the ocean and had a frozen cocktail to cool off!

How to get to Nacpan Beach?

You can hire a van, tricycle, or rent your own scooter. Be aware if you rent your own scooter expect some gnarly terrain! The road to Nacpan is a dirt road so if it recently rained, it’s going to be muddy and slippery!

Top things to do in El Nido Palawan Philippines - head to Nacpan beach on a scooter, but be aware the roads are slippery!
Wet dirt roads on the way to Nacpan Beach

5. Happy Hour at Happiness Beach Bar’s Swinging Bar Seats

Happiness bar el nido - top things to do in El Nido
Image courtesy of Happiness Beach Bar

Happiness Bar has a buy one get one free drink specials during happy hour and instead of barstools, they have bar seat swings! These swings create a great atmosphere in the bar and it is really inviting. The bartenders are very friendly and everyone at the bar is full of happiness (nice dad joke for ya, haha)!

Embracing the swinging bar seats at Happiness Bar in El Nido - best happy hour in El Nido Palawan Philippines.  Top 5 things to do in El Nido Palawan Philippines.
Wish we had a better picture (we got here right when they opened for happy hour, it gets busy fast!)

We were drinking buy one get one margarita’s for cheap at Happiness Bar and met friendly folks from Alaska!

buy one get one margaritas at happiness bar in el nido palawan - top things to do in El Nido Palawan

If you’re a foodie and looking for other places to eat in El Nido, consider Trattoria Altrove. It is an Italian restaurant with great food and pizza!

Common Questions About El Nido Found on Google

1. How Many Days Do You Need In El Nido?

Taylor and I spent 4 days in El Nido and thought it was just enough time. Anything shorter than 4 days really limits your ability to enjoy the area and explore, especially if it rains some of the days you’re there. Looking back we wish we had an extra day to explore the waterfalls or do the limestone cliff hike/climb overlooking the town.

2. How do I get from Manila to El Nido Palawan?

There are multiple options on how to get from Manila to El Nido Palawan. You can fly or take a ferry but we recommend flying since it’s faster.

By plane, you can fly to two different airports.

  • Palawan, Puerto Princesa International Airport
  • El Nido Airport.

Flying into Puerto Princesa is definitely the cheaper option but it is very far from El Nido, well over 6+ hours (assuming your stopping for gas and bathroom breaks). The island of Palawan is long and skinny, and El Nido is on the northwestern side of the island while Puerto Princesa is in the middle.

How far is Puerto Princessa Airport from El Nido Palawan - 5 hours if you drive fast
It is very far from Puerto Princesa Airport to El Nido, well over 6+ hours driving or taking a bus or van

We flew into El Nido Airport on AirSwift Airlines which was a great experience since you don’t have to worry about crazy airport traffic or busy terminals. When you land at El Nido airport, you don’t have to travel far since the airport is only 5 minutes to Lio Beach and 10-15 minutes to El Nido.

El Nido Airport Palawan Philippines Air Swift - Top Things to Do In El Nido

You may be wondering, “why would anyone fly into Puerto Princesa compared to El Nido?” Well, it is much cheaper to fly into Puerto Princesa than El Nido and if you plan on exploring other parts of the island then this makes sense.

However, if you’re just visiting El Nido than it makes sense to spend the money and fly Air Swift directly into El Nido Airport. Remember, you save time and money not having to worry about getting from the Peurto Princesa Airport to El Nido.

3. Is El Nido Safe For Tourists?

Yes! Taylor and I felt extremely safe in El Nido and the surrounding area. We never felt threatened or unsafe at any moment during our time there. In fact, we felt very safe in all of the places we visited in the Philippines, including Cebu, Oslob, El Nido, and NacPan.

4. What Should I Wear In El Nido?

El Nido is notoriously hot and humid as well as many of the islands in the Philippines. You should definitely wear shorts and breathable shirts or tank tops, sunglasses, and a hat. Be aware it also rains a good amount in El Nido, so bring a rain jacket.


5. Is El Nido or Coron Better?

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to visit Coron so we can’t really speak to this question. However, we did hear great things from a couple we met from Alaska exploring the Philippines for an entire month and they stayed at Coron for a week prior to getting to El Nido. They really like both locations but explained that they both have their pros and cons.

They recommend staying at Coron if you want a quieter stay exploring the lagoons and beautiful scenery and want to avoid tourists. If you’re looking for more of a tourist location with more things to do at night that has similar beautiful scenery then head to El Nido.

6. How do you get to El Nido from Puerto Princesa Palawan?

The best way to get to El Nido from Palawan’s Main Airport (Puerto Princesa International Airport) is by Van. You can schedule a van to take you to El Nido but expect a pretty long drive. If you opt to save money and go the bus option be aware some of the buses may not have AC and they take longer due to more stops. The quickest way to El Nido other than flying is renting your own car, but obviously the most expensive.

 Mean of Transportation  Travel Time  Price 
Van5 to 6 hours 500 to 700PHP
Bus6 to 9 hours 380 to 480PHP
Rental CarAround 5 hours2000 to 3500PHP/day

7. Is El Nido an island?

El Nido is not an individual island, however, it is part of the Palawan Island in the Philippines. El Nido is on the northwestern side of Palawan.

8. What is there to do in El Nido Aside from island hopping?

This post answers this question well, but in short, there’s plenty to do. You can enjoy a day at the beach, visit Lio Beach or Nacpan Beach. Go hiking, scuba dive, snorkel, relax by the pool at a resort, see waterfalls, eat at the restaurants in town, go shopping, and more.

the 5 best things to do in El nido Palawan Phillipines - how to get to el nido what to do and where to eat in el nido
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Summary

Overall we absolutely loved El Nido Philippines and believe every traveler will enjoy our top 5 things to do in El Nido (assuming you’re of legal age to drink alcohol, otherwise skip Happiness Bar)! Remember, you should really consider an island hopping tour, maybe two different ones if you have enough time to see as many neighboring islands as possible, they are absolutely incredible.

If you’re looking for a quieter or more romantic place to stay near El Nido, consider Lio Beach. Lio Beach is up and coming but has a lot more room than El Nido so you can spread out and relax.

If you think traveling to the Philippines is too expensive, consider learning how to accumulate thousands of frequent flier points and miles without having to fly or stay at hotels!  We created an online course that teaches you exactly how to redeem flights for as little as $5.60.

Using the strategies taught in the course, we paid less than $45 to get to New York from the Philippines, in business class!

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If you have any questions about El Nido or the Philippines in general, leave a comment below!

About The Author

Kevin Mathers

A washed-up hockey player, surfer, and husband currently working towards financial freedom and showing you how we do it as a couple. I started this blog initially as a personal finance blog but after getting married, Taylor (my wife and best friend) and I decided to switch gears into the travel world sharing our experiences with you along the way.

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