We took a Sitting Pretty team vacay to the Phillipines for a week and explored beautiful El Nido on Palawan Island.
It's a gorgeous little island that feels super untouched compared to touristy Thailand and Bali, not to mention it's very affordable.
El Nido is the perfect place to relax on the beach, explore picturesque lagoons and see some absolutely stunning sunsets.
Plus there's a bunch of activities to do if you like your holidays with a side of adventure.
When we were planning our trip, we couldn't find much information online to help us figure out where to stay, and what to expect.
It's why we made this guide to help you enjoy the highlights of El Nido.
If you're visiting El Nido, be sure to read our recommendations first to make the most of this little piece of paradise...
What to do in El Nido
The island is really small, so you can experience everything the island has to offer in under a week.
We stayed in El Nido for 4 days and it felt like enough time.
Although you might want to stay a week if you want a bit more relaxing time between activities.
Here's our must-do activities:
1. Boat Tour A
There's 4 boat tours that run on the island, Tour A,B,C & D.
Most people recommended us Tour A & C.
We did Tour A on a private boat and it was so beautiful.
You get to visit the Small and Big Lagoon, the Secret Lagoon and Seven Commandos Beach.
There's options to snorkel and kayak through the lagoons, and a delicious traditional Fillipino lunch on the beach.
If you only have time to do one tour, definitely do Tour A.
You won't want to miss it.
Tip: The boat tours go from around 8am - 4pm, so it's a huge day out in the sun and on the water. Top up on sunscreen as much as possible!! The sun is strong there and it's easier to get burnt when the sun is reflecting off the water.
2. Paddle boarding
We rented paddle boards twice at Las Cabanas beach for 200 pesos (about $5 AUD).
It was so much fun.
The water is generally really calm at this beach, so it's great for beginners.
The first time we took the paddle boards out, we went just before sunset and watched the sun go down while we sat in the middle of the water. So serene!
We did snorkelling as part of Tour A, and I've never seen so many amazing, vibrant coloured fish in my life.
The reefs around El Nido are seriously hidden gems!
If you're lucky, you might see turtles during your snorkelling too.
Unfortunately this is as close to a turtle as we got...
Kayaking in the Small Lagoon is a must!
We did it as part of Tour A - it's an extra fee on top of the tour.
There's also clear kayaks you can hire on El Nido - we didn't get a chance to do this but it'd be super cool to do.
5. Zip-lining at Las Cabanas beach
If you like a bit of thrill on your vacay, this is for you.
The zip-line goes from Las Cabanas beach to a little island in the middle of the water, so you get to fly over the water.
We didn't get time to do this as we had a few rainy days, but it looked amazing.
The feeling of zip-lining over the water would be priceless.
Where to stay
We stayed at Lagun Hotel which is an easy 10 minute walk to the main town.
The hotel was lovely, super clean and the staff were so sweet and helpful.
They made it seriously easy for us to organise transport and our boat tour.
If you want to stay on the beach, I'd recommend Panorama Resort in Corong Corong.
While we didn't stay there, we went for dinner there one night and the resort looked beautiful.
The area itself also has quite a few restaurants and bars.
Another great area to stay if you want to be by the beach, is Marimegmeg Beach & Las Cabanas Beach (these two are the same beach but half is called Marimegmeg, and the other half is Las Cabanas).
There's a few beach bars and restaurants here, but it's also a close tuktuk or scooter ride to Corong Corong.
Places to eat
Happiness Beach Bar: - Mediterranean food with delicious falafels and heaps of vegetarian options. Highly recommend the pita falafels and their delicious hand cut french fries!
Trattoria Altrove: It's known to be the best pizza in El Nido. We didn't get a chance to eat here, but so many people have recommended it that it must be worth the hype.
Jarace Grill: There's surprisingly not many restaurants that offer traditional Filipino food in El Nido, but if you want a Filipino feast this is the place to eat. We went here two nights in a row! Their grilled whole fish and beef broth is delish, and there's great vegetarian options too.
The Pub El Nido: The best meal we had on the island! The food is a mixture of international and Mediterranean food, they serve great quality meals and yummy cocktails. There's also a rooftop bar which is perfect for drinks as the sun goes down.
Note: We came home with a new obsession for mango juices while in El Nido.
They were delicious, we would basically inhale them at lunch and dinner. You'll find them everywhere you go.
Beaches to visit in El Nido
You'll see many of the picturesque beautiful beaches when doing the boat tours, as they're only accessible by boat.
However we spent most of our time at Maremegmeg and Las Cabanas beach (photo above).
We visited Nacpan beach one day which was also nice, but be prepared that it's about a 40 minute drive to get there, and the drive itself is rough and bumpy.
Many people rave about Nacpan beach, but after the beaches we saw on our boat tour it was honestly hard to compare!
Where to watch the sunset
- Panorama Resort
- Las Cabanas Beach Resort Restaurant
- Maremegmeg Beach Bar
What to pack
Our Sitting Pretty Travel Guide wouldn't be complete without a few hair and beauty tips.
It's hard to keep a beauty routine on vacay, I get it.
So here are just a few necessities to protect your hair and skin from the hot weather.
- Hydrating cream or serum
- Leave-in conditioner
- Face cleanser
El Nido is such a great holiday destination and I'd highly recommend anyone visiting the Phillipines to add El Nido to their travel list.
Check out what our Sitting Pretty team got up to here:
And some snaps...
If you've got any questions or any more El Nido recommendations to add, comment below.
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