El Nido is the star attraction of Palawan and has received much attention because of its magnificent beauty.
Taking a 7 hour ferry or expensive and lengthy flight from Coron via Manila, you will see why. Instead of isolated pointy rock formations in the sea like in Coron, here islands are dotted artistically in swirls and waves around the coast of El Nido forming the Bacuit archipelago, which can only be compared in stunning beauty to Halong Bay, in Vietnam.
Coron is famous for its snorkelling, diving and beautiful snapshots, but here the stunning landscapes are an influential part of the life and psyche of El Nido, not a distant sight but are close enough to reach out and swim to. Tours are split into 4 different options: Tour A, B, C and D. Each explore different areas of the archipelago, different islands and different sights: whether it be, secret beaches, caves, coves, lagoons and shrines. Each vary in price but range from 1,300-1,500 Pesos. If this is out of your price range, simply hire a kayak and paddle over the rising blue waves and shallow waters to a nearby island, allowing yourself to explore an island on your own personal schedule and adhere to your own individual flexibility.
I also recommend hiring a moped for the day and driving around El Nido to some of its many beaches; such as the stunning Napcan Beach, the popular Las Cabanas beach, or head to its many waterfalls or hot springs. Routes around El Nido are easy to follow, however the roads are treacherously bumpy and if the weather is not in your favour, then they could easily cause accidents. The weather when we were there was temperamental, blue sky and sun shining in the morning would quickly switch to thunderstorms and torrential rain in the afternoon. Do your research before organising anything, be prepared for whatever the weather, and keep in mind mornings are normally much warmer than afternoons. El Nido has many places to explore and if daring enough, one can ride a motorbike from here to Puerta Princesa or Port Barton- or anywhere else in Palawan easily. Taking a Tawah hike is also a fun activity whilst in El Nido. After a 1/2 hour hike uphill, it is worth the journey to see the entire view of El Nido, town, port and vast ocean: beautifully breathtaking.
El Nido being larger than Coron, means the town is a much more happening place with many unique restaurants that serve tasty food. In the day, every other building is open and selling essential items for tourists, whilst at night most are boarded up and a few restaurants and bars are scattered around for those to visit. Squidos restaurant, although having a good reputation, did not have tasty food and the quality of it is poor and a disappointment. I recommend eating at a local place rather than here, its not worth the time or money. Arts Cafe, which we also tried, has a funky feel and ambience, as well as interesting décor with attentive staff and a wide selection of food. However, the best restaurant we tried, hands down, is Mezzanine, an Italian restaurant hid away from the main street with views of the harbour and the starry nights sky. White comfortable chairs and stylish décor makes this restaurant seem to be more fitting in St.Tropez rather than El Nido, although I am incredibly happy it is there anyhow. The pizzas are cooked by a wood fire oven and the pasta is as tasty as my experiences in Naples and Rome. The staff are really helpful (even putting a candle and birthday wishes on my boyfriend’s desert last minute) and accommodating, which makes the experience much nicer. Try the Mango Daiquiri and Don Papa rum- both too good to say no to.
The best and only bar you should head to in El Nido is Angle Bar. Situated in between Corong Corong Beach and on the edge of town, this bar is a perfect meeting point for a night cap- or three. It is owned by two genuine and interesting guys who have only opened the place 3 months ago. The theme of “reuse and recycle” is thoroughly fitting for environmental conscious El Nido. Seats are made out of tyres, bar stalls out of beer crates, the bar top out of a ship and even drink stirrers from pieces of wood. The place has a great location, ambience, staff and drinks- a number of flavoured beers are on offer. I couldn’t recommend this place any more.
We stayed in Stunning Vistas beach Resort which does not deserve the high remarks and ratings it has on Trip Advisor or other booking websites. Not wanting to stay in the noisy centre of El Nido Town, Corong Corong Beach offers an ample place to stay with a quiet beach and breathtaking sunsets. Options are limited with expensive resorts, beach shacks or hit and miss middle range places. Stunning Vistas Beach Resort, although a good location and tasty food, the room is dirty and of a poor quality, showers weak and ineffective (not what you expect from the amount you have paid and more of a similar standard to that of a hostel), and the staff forgetful and rude. I was disappointed we had to stay here, and being unable to receive any amount if I were to refund from the amount I paid whilst booking, meant there was no escape.
Please note, there are no ATM’s in El Nido, only places that charge you a high surcharge to withdraw money through them. Some restaurants take card, but once again charge a high amount. Plan ahead and take out as much money as you think you will need.