Contrary to the common perception that El Nido is a pretty expensive place to visit is the fact that this quaint little town has a lot to offer even to a traveler on a shoestring. Gone are the days when we shy away from this paradise, only salivating about its grandeur through our dreams as the hefty amount this beaut requires is yet to be saved. Gone are the thoughts that only the upper class members of the society can savor at its unrivaled charm and get to taste heaven. Now, just about anyone can venture into this once unknown secret.
El Nido is located in the Northern end of main island Palawan. It is 5 hours away from the province capital Puerto Prinsesa by van and 8-10 hours from Coron by ferryboat.
HOW TO GET THERE
- From Puerto Prinsesa – ride a van or a local bus for P500 to El Nido. Travel takes 5-6 hours.
- From Coron (Busuanga Island) – take an 8-10 hours ferryboat ride to El Nido. Fare is P1400.
- From Manila – Fly to Puerto Prinsesa and follow step no. 1. Alternatively, you can fly to Coron and follow step no. 2
- From Iloilo – Fly to Puerto Prinsesa via Cebu Pacific Air and follow step no. 1.
- From Cebu – Fly to Puerto Prinsesa and Coron then follow steps 1 and 2 respectively.
- From Boracay – From Caticlan airport, fly to Puerto Prinsesa and Coron then follow setps 1 and 2 respectively. Alternatively, you can ride ferryboats to either Puerto Prinsesa or Coron.
***From other parts of the country, see if Cebupacific or PAL has direct flights to either Puerto Prinsesa or Coron. If none, check if there are ferryboats bound to either one. If none, check the locations above and see what’s near you then take it from there.
WHERE TO STAY
- El Nido Sands Inn – This budget inn is devoid of anything fancy unlike other hotels in the entire town but it is cheap for the price of P600/night and you get yourself a fan room good for 3 people. Shared toilet and bath is not something to be upset about as it is clean and well maintained. Staffs are very friendly and helpful too.
- Marina Garden Hotel – Offers a breathtaking view of the beach. You can have a fan-cooled room with 2 single beds and breakfast for a price of P1150/night. They also have other types of rooms available which you can choose from according to your liking.
- Garnet Hotel – Those looking for a bit of luxury and comfort at just the right price will love this hotel. At a price of P1600, you get to have a queen size bed with hot and cold shower, wifi and flatscreen tv. Check out their website for more options.
- Lally & Abet Beach Cottages – This is one of the established resorts in El Nido and was even accredited by the Philippines Department Of Tourism. It has a total of 34 rooms and cottages which you can choose from. Their newly built rooms are priced at P2740 good for 2-3 people.
- The Resort Bayview Hotel – If you want to experience 5-star accommodation without the 5-star price then this is the place for you. Ideally a family room good for 5 people which also offers the view of the lush vegetation of El Nido is priced at only P4500/night.
THINGS TO DO
- Island Hopping – This is El Nido’s major tourist activity since surrounding Bacuit Bay is 48 pristine islands with white sand beaches and diverse marine life. Check out my post EL NIDO, PALAWAN: ISLAND HOPPING TOURS to see which tour would you prefer to take during your visit.
- Explore the town on a bike – El Nido has plenty of other things to offer aside from its breathtaking islands and beaches. There’s the hotspring, waterfalls and beautiful forest trails for those who seek a more exciting kind of adventure.
- Go on a motorbike tour – If riding a bike is not your thing then you can always opt for the motorized one. This will take you far and even in the outskirts and undiscovered gems of El Nido
- Visit Nacpan Beach – Away from the crowded town is the quiet beach, Nacpan – a stretch of 4km creamy white sand with turquoise water so cool you won’t get enough of. And if you are not so lazy to go for a little walk, a hill at the far end of the beach offers a stunning view of Nacpan as she dances with her equally charming twin, Calitang beach. Read: Nacpan Beach On A Bike: A Ride To Paradise.
- Sunset Viewing in Corong Corong – This is the epitome of the saying, “All the best things in life are FREE!!” The sunset in EL Nido is something that would remind you why you keep breathing even after the dark as this will certainly make you look forward to see it once again. Read: El Nido, Palawan: Capping Off the Day Gazing At a Spectacular Sunset in Corong-Corong.
- Kayaking – If you prefer to move at your own pace exploring an island after an island without the loud boat engine disrupting you from your reverie, then go kayaking. Honestly, if I was to visit El Nido once again I’d go for this with no second thought.
- Stand Up Paddling – The beach waters in El Nido isn’t angry most of the time which makes it ideal to stand up paddle. Explore a nearby islands with only your paddle in tow and I’m sure you will love every minute of it.
- Ziplining – Corong Corong is not only known to be the side of town where you can witness beautiful sunsets. It also is home to El Nido’s two way zipline. Feel the rush of adrenaline while entertaining yourself with the stunning view of the sea for only P500.
- Cliff Climbing – Taraw Cliff does not only serve as a formidable fortress in town but it also is the gateway to El Nido’s most picturesque view. Couple hundred meters above ground is the 360 view of the entire town giving those brave soul who managed to survive the steep climb up a breathtaking reward. Read: My Once Upon A Tough Taraw Cliff Experience.
- Scuba Diving and Snorkeling – El Nido boasts of a rich marine biodiversity so it’s no longer a surprise why there are several spots within Bacuit Bay that are considered marine sanctuary which is best for scuba diving and snorkeling.
PLANNING TO GO ABOUT THE TOWN? HERE ARE THE PRICES YOU OUGHT TO KNOW
- Fare from downtown El Nido to Corong Corong – P50. Going back is P150.
- Fare from El Nido Bus Terminal to downtown El Nido and vice versa – P50
- Motorcyle rental – Starts at P500. You still need to fill it with gas before or after usage.
- Bike rental – Starts at P400
- Kayak and Paddle Boards Rental – P300
- Tricycle for hire – P750
- Taraw climb – P500/guide
IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER
- Tap water is salty and not potable. Not even suitable for bathing or brushing your teeth but it is the only option so far. Better to always have a bottle of purified water in tow.
- Electricity is now available 24/7.
- Restaurants all around town are a bit expensive. Meals good for one person are usually priced at P200 the lowest. There are cheap options but expect them to be not as good as the expensive ones.
- If you plan to have some beer or cocktails, along the beach of Bacuit Bay are a series of bars and restaurants. The most talk about is Seaslug. Haven’t tried there yet but I’m betting it’s good given how it’s flooded with tourists night after night.
- El Nido is a pretty small town so if you plan to see more of it, I suggest you walk. Tricycle drivers there although they are in general friendly, not everyone of them has your best interest at heart and some of them can be a real rip off. Just be keen with your judgement all the time.
- There are no ATM’s available in town so bag some cash before traveling to El Nido. Update November 2015: There are ATMs now in El Nido for banks like RCBC and soon BDO & BPI.
HOW CAN YOU SURVIVE WITH ONLY P5000 IN EL NIDO FOR 5D4N
Traveling on a shoestring is never easy. You have to make sacrifices in order to make way for more important matters. You need to know what to prioritize with regard to your budget – whether a large portion of your pocket money will be spent on accommodation, for food or for touring around. In a place like El Nido, it is easy to lose yourself. Even harder to keep track of what’s coming out of your pocket and to what was it spent for. It takes discipline to stay within your means. So how are you going to make P5000 work? Allow me to share you some tips.
I am no biggie in accommodation. I would rather sleep on a tent or a hammock if there is an oppotunity rather than to pay for a room that I would barely use in the whole 24 hours. You see when you travel, you are more likely to be awake most of the time than asleep so why bother spend most of your money on a fancy hotel room when all you need is just a comfortable place to sleep in. And why would you book a night or two on a 1,2,5-star hotel when a backpacker’s dormitory or a fan room in a nice little inn would suffice for that matter.
There are plenty of budget hotels/inns in El Nido with rates ranging from P500 to P1000. If you are not picky, El Nido Sands Inn would be one of your best choices. P600 and you get yourself a fan room with double size bed. If this doesn’t appeal to your liking, there are plenty of other budget hotels along Serena Street and Calle Real. Walk for a little while and I’m pretty sure you’ll find one.
Island hopping is quentissential to your visit in EL Nido. You’ve never gone to El Nido unless you have snorkeled or bathed in one of Bacuit Bays 48 Islands. Since you are on a budget, taking TOUR A wouldn’t hurt. For only P1200 a tour, you get to experience the wonders of Small and Big Lagoons, unravel the secrets of the Secret Lagoon, enjoy a sumptuous meal in Shimizu Island and relax in 7 Commando Beach. Squeezing TOUR C in is also something doable which you can haggle to as low a P1100 a person. It is one of the must do things for a well spent time in El Nido.
Tip no. 1: Don’t forget to haggle for at least a couple hundred bucks to be taken off the original price. Bear in mind that each of the island hopping tour prices e.g. Tour C P1300 includes the P200 1x Environmental Fee which is valid for 14 days so if you had already paid for that on Tour A, take P200 off the other tours and start haggling from there e.g. P1300-P200=P1100. Always have your receipts handy in case the agency would ask for it.
Another must try activity is biking to Nacpan Beach. For a price of P400, you already got yourself one of the best adventures in your lifetime. If you are too lazy to bike but still want to visit Nacpan Beach, you can look for other tourists who are headed that way and ask them to share the tranportation cost with you. Your cheapest option, go on a tricycle ride. It costs P750 good for 3-4 people. But of course, you can always resort to tip no. 1 for bigger savings.
Now, if you are the type who appreciate beauty in an even bigger perspective then an hour or two of trekking to the top of Taraw Cliff would give you all there is to El Nido. The picturesque view of the entire town is a treasure you would only get to behold from up there. A licensed guide is required to take you there for a price of P500 good for 3 people. As always, you can ask another interested sole to take the other half of the cost.
Tip no. 2: Always drink water. Spare at least P200 for 5 1L bottles of water. You’ll need lots of it.
Out of the many things to do in El Nido, the one that is free and won’t require you a single penny is the best. Walk to Corong Corong from downtown El Nido a little bit past 4:30 in the afternoon and reward yourself with the breathtaking view of the sunset when you get there.
Tip no. 3: Don’t eat in restaurants most of the time. It will eat up all your budget before you even know it. When I was there, I only dined once in one of the many restaurants along the beach. If you have bigger funds, FINE. But you only have P5000 so stick with it.
- A cup of coffee and 3 pieces bread – P20
- Instant cup noodles, water and bread – P50
- A cup of rice, hotdogs and boiled egg. Water. P60
Tip no. 4: If you crave for caffeine more than you care to eat a descent meal, pack yourself sachets of instant coffee mix before you fly to El Nido. Same goes with sandwich spreads to make your bread more tasteful. If you are more of a tea person then take with you lots of your favorite tea cause having a cup of 2 in one of the cafes there can really cost you a fortune.
Lunch – If you are on an island hopping tour for the day, your lunch is all covered. Otherwise:
- Grilled chicken and a cup of rice. P120
Tip no. 5: You can buy 1/2 grilled chicken in one of the local grilling stations in town for P100. You can keep a portion of it for later-in-the-day consumption.
Dinner – Resort to tip no.5, otherwise:
- A glass of milk and 2 pieces bread P20
- A cup of rice, a can of tuna and water – P50
WHAT WE ACTUALLY DID
We (Boyfie and Myself) pretty much followed everything I’ve written above. When we flew in to Palawan, we headed straight away to El Nido. We arrived later in the afternoon and got nothing much to do so we instead just explored the beach and watched tourists coming back from island hopping, fascinated with their fully satisfied faces. We spent the first night over a few beers at the beach jamming along an accoustic session. In the morning, we went on an Island Hopping Tour A. We got it for only P900/person. We only had coffee and bread for breakfast but the sumptuous buffet made up for that come lunch. We rented a kayak for P300 to explore the waters within Small Lagoon. After the island hopping, we roamed around town in search of inexpensive meal for dinner. We bought a 1L bottle of Red Horse beer and talked our time out until midnight.
On our 3rd day, we went on another island hopping tour. This time we took tour C and got it for only P1100 each. Breakfast was again over coffee and bread. Buffet lunch inclusive in the tour. After the island hopping, we walked to Corong-Corong to witness the splendid sunset. We dropped by a roasting station on our way back and bought 1/2 roasted chicken and 3 cups of rice for P120. We didn’t go on drinking as we were headed out early the following morning.
The following day, we went on biking to the outskirts passing by local houses and waterfalls all the way to Nacpan Beach. We spent few hours at the beach coupling the beautiful scenery with chitchats with the locals and other tourists over inexpensive homecooked meals and beers. We were too tired upon getting back to the hotel that we didn’t bother to even have dinner.
On our last day, we planned to climb Taraw Cliff but my travel buddy changed his mind the last minute so we went instead on another island hopping tour. This time we took Tour B and got it for only P800/person. We didn’t want to pay extra for our accommodation so we got all our things packed and left it at our hotel’s luggage storage room free of charge. After the island hopping, we rode a trike to the bus terminal to catch our ride back to Puerto Princesa at 6PM.
HOW MUCH DID WE SPEND FOR 5D4N
|5 Day Spending Per Person|
|TOTAL EXPENSES PER PERSON 5D4N||P5800|
|Food and Beer||P250|
|Breakfast (Coffee P10 and Pandesal P10)|
Island Hopping Tour A
Dinner (4 BBQ and 3 cups of rice shared by 2)
1L Redhorse Beer (P90/2)
TOTAL (Day 2)
|Breakfast (Coffee P10 and Pandesal P10)|
Island Hopping C
Dinner (1/2 chicken P100 and Rice P20 shared by 2)
TOTAL (Day 3)
|Breakfast (1 Pancit Canton P10, Pandesal P10, Coffee P10)|
2 Water 1L (Shared)
Shared Snacks (Chips and Candies)
Lunch (Pork Dish with Rice shared at P220)
Beer (1 SanMig Light)
TOTAL (Day 4)
|Breakfast (Coffee P10 Pandesal P10)|
Island Hopping B
Dinner (Eatery at the Terminal)
Tricycle at P50
TOTAL (Day 5)
|ACCOMMODATION (El Nido Sand's Inn)||P1000|
- We stayed in El Nido Sands Inn for the entire time we were in El Nido. We booked in advance and got the fan room for only P500 a night, paid only a down payment for 1 night and the rest upon arrival. Hence each of us actually shelled out P5550 for everything on our El Nido escapade given that P250 (P500/2) was already paid in advance.
- The island hopping tours were already inclusive of the 1x P200 environmental fee. We got the tours arranged for both El Nido and Puerto Princesa as well as the van transfers with De Loro Travel Agency upon our arrival in PPS, reason for us being able to get huge discounts on island hopping tours A & C. Tour B was arranged with El Nido Sands Inn where they were more than happy to give it to us for P800/person upon showing them our receipts for the environmental fee.
- We flew in May 14, 2015 when the summer season was almost over and tourists were minimal reason maybe why we were able to get the tour prices a few hundred bucks lower than the usual.
- If you do really want to stick to P5000, instead of going on another island hopping like we did on the last day, you can instead head to Las Cabanas and simply spend your time relaxing by the beach with a bottle of beer until it is time for you to head out. Although I really think you would be missing something really amazing, you can always go back, right?. Also you might want to give renting a kayak during your tour to the Small Lagoon a second thought to save another P300. You won’t need it anyway if you are one heck of a good swimmer.
- This trip was part of our 8-Day Palawan Escapade where each of us spent P10,000+ for everything except for our 2-way plane tickets which we got for P600+ each from AirAsia.
P5000 seems a pretty small amount to your name when you travel to a place like El Nido but I assure you it will take you places if you only know how to make the most out of it.
Here you go. If I miss anything, just leave me something to read on the comments box below. See ya! 🙂