Destinations Magazine

A Backpacker’s Guide to El Nido

By Davedtc @davedtc

El Nido is a municipality that lies in the northwest part of the Philippine island Palawan. The name comes from the Spanish word "nido", which means a nest. Indeed, lots of tiny swiftlets live in the area and build edible nests in the limestone cliffs - hence the name.

A Backpacker’s Guide to El Nido

El Nido attracts travelers from all over the globe. If you are looking for a place with tourist shops on every corner, a distinct backpacker vibe, and tasty banana pancakes in every cafe - look no more. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your backpacking mission in El Nido to the fullest.

How to Get There

From Coron

There are daily ferries that can take you from Coron to El Nido, for around 1,800 PHP. The travel time is around 3-4 hours.

From Puerto Princesa

El Nido is located around 6-7 hours away from Puerto Princesa Airport, which is the nearest in the area.

There are a few travel options:

Take a van from the airport to El Nido (the price is around 500 PHP per seat). Travel time is around 5 hours.

You can combine a few transport types and take a tricycle or jeep from the airport to the San Jose Terminal. Then, you should take a local bus to El Nido (average price is 300 PHP per seat). The travel time is around 6-7 hours.

Where to Stay

Since El Nido is a small village, not all the houses are available on Booking or Agoda. There can never be a problem finding a place to stay the night, even in the high season. However, it can be tricky to find a quality place, since many houses are located above the road, where you can constantly hear the bikes signaling. Please be aware that rosters start yelling early in the morning, and there are many of them here.

A Backpacker’s Guide to El Nido

Generally speaking, you can find a decent room from 500 PHP to 1,000 PHP per night.

Most travelers prefer staying near the Buena Suerte (town proper) since it's close to the restaurants, tourist agencies, and shops. You might also choose to stay at Corong Corong, Caalan Beach (Masagana), or at The Islands. Each area has something exciting to offer.

Things to See and Places to Go in El Nido

Big Lagoon

One of the best places I've visited! Rocks and nature here are simply mesmerizing. In the middle of the lagoon there is a rock from which you can jump into the water. You can also rent a canoe from the locals, it costs about 350 PHP.

Small Lagoon

You can swim here, but for us it was quite tricky because there were a lot of small jellyfish in the stagnant waters of the lagoon. Therefore, it might be better to rent a kayak and swim along the island's internal lagoons between the rocky shores and enter the Small lagoon through an arch.

Snake Island

The island got its name because of the beach that connects 2 islands in the shape of a snake. I haven't found any snakes here but saw a few monkeys instead.


It is not recommended to swim on the main El Nido city beach in Buena Suerte because of the dirty water, caused by the growing infrastructure on the coast, including hotels, restaurants and boats in the bay.

The best beaches are located in the picturesque bays south and west of the city and are surrounded by the marvelous stone cliffs. A good idea would be to rent a kayak, a motorbike, or get a guided tour which goes to the beaches. I would recommend visiting these: Las Cabanas, Seven Commandos, Nacpan, Papaya, Corong Corong, Caalan and Marimegmeg.


Another popular activity in El Nido is kayaking. Sea kayaks can be rented in many places in the town. There are single, double and triple kayaks. Prices per day vary from 300 to 600 PHP.

El Nido is a great place in the middle of nowhere, but despite its such remoteness, it's worth all the difficulties of the journey.

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