El Nido, Philippine’s best, is a cluster of spectacular limestone islands surrounded by lush forests and dotted with beaches located on the northern tip of beautiful Palawan Island. The island’s main airport is hours away. However, it appears that flocks of tourists are starting to arrive, so it might soon become a copy of Thailand’s Ko Phi Phi, paradise ruined. Luckily, the area around el Nido is covered with extensive jungle, the islands are numerous and the municipality seems to be cleaning around (at the moment).
The hills around El Nido town are not as spectacular as those on the islands. A large limestone cliff separates the town from majestic Corong Corong, but most are small hills interspersed by plains. The islands are a different story. A bunch of mountains rise sharply from the sea, with enough space left for just a few isolated pristine beaches. There are expensive hotels on a couple of them, while others can only be reached by organized excursions.
Where to stay in el Nido?
Happy Frog absolutely recommends Corong Corong beach for 5 reasons:
- It has a gorgeous beach with outstanding views, unlike El Nido town.
- It is much cleaner and quieter than the town.
- There is a great variety of hotels and restaurants.
- You can access most of the area’s attractions on your own, plus walk freely, be totally alone or mingle with tourists and locals.
- Hotels on the islands are isolated and only offer their excursions and restaurants.
There are good dining options in Corong Corong, but if you prefer partying or going out at night the town is reachable by tuc-tucs for around 1USD. So you can visit the town in the evening and go back to relax at peaceful Corong Corong. Of course doing nothing is always an option, just admiring the scenery is enough for some of us.
The ideal visit to Palawan should include a few days in El Nido and a few around Puerto Princesa’s Underground River. We flew directly to El Nido’s small airport, a small treat that saved us a lot of time and gave us spectacular views of the area from above. The whole experience was pretty fancy with a private lounge before we boarded offering drinks, food and live music. To get out, we took a minibus to Puerto Princesa (around 5 hours) to take our plane back to Manila. A couple of regular airlines fly there from several cities, including low cost Cebu Pacific.
Happy Frog is not a huge fan of organized excursions, he prefers soaking up the atmosphere of places directly. Excursions don’t give you enough time to relax, there’s people all around and times and places are fixed. But El Nido’s nicest landscapes are the islands so taking a day trip is a must. Most tour companies offer the same routes, identified as A, B, C or D. We suggest taking the A or C day tours and spending a couple of days on the beach. From Corong Corong it’s possible to walk to Marimegmeg Beach and even to Depeldet Island when the sea is low. This frog got so lost in the beauty of El Nido that walked for hours, forgetting to re-apply sunscreen. Big mistake! Bring loads of it and loads of mosquito repellent, dengue seems to be on the rise.
So hurry up and visit El Nido while it’s still pristine, we guarantee you won’t forget the sunsets!