El Nido, Palawan with kids
This article helped me to get a better feel for what El Nido town is like (particularly in comparison to Coron). In a nutshell, El Nido is more a backpackers’ place versus a family destination just as far as what kind of visitors the town caters better to. But, a family vacation in El Nido can still be very nicely done (we were a family group of 23 people, 15 of which were kids).
Two ways to get to El Nido:
Fly direct to El Nido airport on Air Swift (for comparison purposes, about USD250 per person)
Fly to Puerto Princessa airport on Cebu Pacific Air (and probably other airlines) and then rent a van with driver to take you the 5 hours to El Nido. Flight is generally around USD150 per person, and then the van ride is PHP600 per person (this is the price that all van rentals quote). The road to El Nido is beautiful, which makes the 5 hours doable. Van drivers tend to drive fast, just tell them if you are more comfortable slowing down. When you reserve a van be sure to tell them how many seat belts you need to ensure that you have the right amount. We used, and were happy with, Rems Katar Van, owner Randy Madsam. Can be reached at 0905 432 5019. Or 0921 649 4111 (look for Che Madsam). We reserved before arriving so they picked us up at the airport. They also brought us back from El Nido to Puerto Princessa when we left.
Where to stay:
El Nido town and surroundings does not have any large, high-volume hotels/resorts yet.
There is El Nido resorts, composed of 3 different resorts owned by Ayala, which are scattered amongst the islands around El Nido (so boat ride needed to get to them). These are high-end, luxury resorts, see
We stayed at
, which is a small hotel with 3 villas each with 2 rooms (there is also 1 extra stand-along hotel room). If you rent both rooms of the villa, you have access to the lounge and kitchen and dining area at the top of the villa- this came in very useful. The resort has a small pool but we barely used it as we were out at the beach so much of the time. Villa Dali is located in Corong Corong, about an 8 min trike ride from El Nido town. It is quiet there and away from the busy-ness and noise of El Nido town, which is a small relatively quiet town, but it’s still where the concentration of the population and tourists are. Villa Dali is relatively new so the hotel rooms are in great condition and are kept clean. The staff were really nice and warm, and helped us to feel safe. They were also helpful with helping us with where to go. They also gave us our space, so the villas we stayed in felt more like rental villas. There is no restaurant at Villa Dali, but they do make breakfasts if you order the night before. We enjoyed Villa Dali very much and felt the price was right.
Closest beach to Villa Dali in Corong Corong is Maramegmeg beach about 5 min trike ride away.
At Maramegmeg Beach Bar, you can rent kayaks PHP100/hour and stand up paddle boards for PHP300/hour.The other desirable beaches are further away. Lio Beach is 30 min away by trike, and Nacpan beach is 45 min away by trike (also look for Duli Beach which is in the same area and apparently even more amazing than Nacpan beach). El Nido town itself has a beach which is more of a port for boats and is lined with restaurants and businesses. Trike rides were 50 pesos to El Nido town and to Maramegmeg beach. But 150 pesos to come back from Maramegmeg. To Lio Beach, we paid 300 pesos one way (note that there’s a shuttle from El Nido town that takes you to Lio Beach free of charge). For Nacpan beach, it was 1500 pesos for the whole day (to go to and from Nacpan).
El Nido island tours are all the same: there are 4 that you can choose from. Tour A, B, C and D. Tour A is the most popular and includes the Big and Small Lagoon. Tour C is the second most popular. Tour B and D are the least common. In general the tours are 1100 or 1200 per person, there are a number of tour companies around in El Nido town where you can book at. All include a grilled lunch prepared by the boat staff at one of the beaches. The tour prices can also be negotiated. When you make a reservation, we found that the managers wanted to come visit at the hotel to meet and go over the details together, and get a deposit. It seems like this is just what they do, both tour companies we inquired at did this (so just be prepared). We used a company called Sea Crown Tours, which is run by a friendly Filipino wife (Che) and American husband couple. We were very happy with the service they gave us. They helped us choose which tours we wanted to do and gave us tips for what time we should leave etc, and accommodated our meal preferences by going over the meal options with us- this was helpful bc of all the kids we had with us. They also gave us a great group discount, so be sure to ask about that (we got as low as 600 per person the second tour we took with them). We were happy with the staff (they were all friendly and helpful with all the kids). They picked us up at the shore near Villa Dali, we just had to wade out to the boat. Definitely recommend Tour A, and after that, you really can’t go wrong with which other tours you choose, they are all gorgeous! Beautiful island after beautiful island.
Where to eat:
Restaurants in El Nido town are not the best for big groups and families, but here’s what we found:
In town, we ate at La Salangane French Restaurant, they were able to accommodate our group and the tables were big enough for the kids to have plenty of room (you’ll see that other restaurants hardly have any sitting area!). The French food here is good quality and the grilled fish of the day dishes are very good. The view of El Nido beach is also very nice (watch the sunset from here).
In Corong Corong, La Plage is also owned by a French lady, Astrid, whose dishes are Provence, France-inspired. The food was very tasty and there was a wide selection to choose from. The atmosphere here is great. Low tables in the sand, plenty of space for the kids to be comfortable. It is on a beach. See below for one more restaurant in Corong Corong.
At Maramegmeg, we had the best luck with the first restaurant you walk past, Maramegmeg Beach Bar. Great selection of food (Salads, pastas, sandwiches. Our group loved the chicken wings, the French fries, beef salpicao, the salads and their delicious mango and buko shakes). This was also a good place to park and have the kids swim at (the staff were extremely helpful with getting us situated).
If you walk down to the end of Maramegmeg beach, you will hit Las Cabanas resort, which is at the corner, you go around the corner and there is a gorgeous view of Inabuyatan Island, part of the Bacuit Archipelago (the beautiful islands that you island hop to). Be sure to see this! We didn’t have good luck with food at Las Cabanas, the majority of us got food poisoning after eating dinner here- which is a real shame bc the view at the restaurant is amazing.
At Lio Beach, which is owned by Ayala, there are various Filipino restaurants, one of them being the restaurant of the Casa Kalaw hotel. There are more restaurants close to the water, and also a pizza place, crepe place, and gelato place. Lio Beach is another beautiful beach to watch the sunset at. On the way to Lio Beach is Tambok's, a Filipino restaurant which my friend Monica of www.mylittleglobtrotters.com says is the best Filipino restaurant in El Nido. Shame we didn't get to eat here!
Monica also says there's a new Italian restaurant in Corong Corong that is family-friendly, called Trattoria Al Trove.
- There’s a bigger market at the El Nido Market center every Wednesday and Saturday
- The El Nido Bakery in town is delicious and has different breads available at different times of the day. Check out these doughnuts and cinnamon breads they made in the late afternoon:
- It’s fun to walk around El Nido town, by the water, and also on the small street where a lot of the souvenir shops and restaurants are, particularly in the evening.
-Be prepared for having to be super conservative about the water you drink there. When we all got sick, locals told us to not even drink out of the blue slim/filtered bottles, but only to drink bottled water, and to even brush your teeth with it. We’ve traveled to many parts of the Philippines and this is where I have had to be the most conscientious about the water we drink.
-El Nido also has a lot of mosquitoes and sand mites, be prepared with your mosquito repellent.