In El Nido, Palawan, there are four main island tour packages which are heavily advertised. However, once you do one or two, there's really no reason to do the others. Not only is there a lot of overlap between the tours, but they tend to add up pretty quickly price-wise.
If you have some decent time in El Nido though, I wouldn't worry about getting bored. During our stay there, my friend Yuting and I took day-trip planning into our own hands, and explored the surrounding area by scooter. Below is a list of our favorite discoveries and recommendations:
Surf at Duli Beach
Finding a place to go surfing near El Nido was not easy. While we were visiting, Yuting and I asked countless people until finally hearing about the 'secretive' Duli Beach. It's there we found hammocks, board games, a little restaurant, and a local named Mike renting out surfboards.
While not the biggest waves you'll find in the Philippines, Duli Beach is a great day-trip for beginner to amateur surfers. The area is quiet, tourist-free, and a relaxing escape from El Nido. The only problem you may run into is actually finding the beach. For detailed instructions on how to get there, check out my post on surfing at Duli Beach.
where is it
Duli Beach is about a 60 minute scooter ride from El Nido. By scooter, follow the TayTay - El Nido National Highway in the direction of Nacpan Beach. Turn left when you see a green sign for "Bgy. Bucana." The road here turns into a rocky, pothole-filled mess. Follow it until you come across for a sign labeled 'Duli Beach.' Turn left here as well, and continue until you reach the ocean.
Address: Duli Beach, El Nido, MIMAROPA, Philippines
Watch the sun go down from Republica Sunset Bar
The beaches in and around El Nido make for beautiful sunset watching. However, what can make the experience even more enjoyable, is a fresh fruit smoothie, light music, and a comfortable bar stool on the hill. At Republica Sunset Bar, you can sit back comfortably with a front row seat to the show.
Food wise, the bar serves a small collection of drinks and tapas. While Yuting and I can vouch for the ceviche and fruit smoothies here, everything was pretty expensive compared to most local restaurants.
where is it
Similar to Las Cabanas Beach, head straight out of El Nido on Rizal Street (which eventually turns into the Taytay - El Nido National Highway). Republica Sunset Bar will be on the right side of the road, about 10 minute outside of the city.
Address: Republica Sunset Bar, Barangay Buena Suerte, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Hike to the base of Nagkalit-Kalit Falls
As you may be able to tell from my blog's name, I'm a sucker for waterfalls. No matter where I am, I always on the search for a new one. In El Nido, a popular one to visit is Nagkalit-Kalit Falls. While fairly small, there's a nice pool to swim in below it, as well as few tourists. What's also nice, is the hike out to Nagkalit-Kalit Falls is pretty short and easy. When Yuting and I visited, we stopped on our way back from Nacpan Beach and did the walk in our flip-flops. The adventure made for a relaxing little extension of our day.
Where is it
On your way to and from Nacpan Beach, watch carefully and you'll see a sign on the side of the road advertising the hike. This is where the hike begins, however, the trail is poorly marked. While I normally don't recommend getting a tour guide, this was one situation where it seemed necessary. To get a guide, kindly ask one of the locals if they'll show you the way, and they'll suggest a small fee you can pay them.
Address: Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Relax at Las Cabanas Beach
Of all the beaches in El Nido, this one has a little something for everyone. You'll find massage huts, tide pools, a zip-line, and of course - hammocks! For Yuting and I, Las Cabanas was the perfect place to relax and take a nap under the palm trees. However, one thing I'd recommend is to either bring your own lunch along, or eat at a restaurant on the way back to El Nido. The food down at the beach was incredibly limited, and over-priced.
Where is it
Las Cabanas Beach is about a 15 minute car ride south of El Nido in an area called TayTay. On a scooter, take Rizal St. out of town. Eventually, it turns into the TayTay - El Nido National Highway, and takes you straight to the cliff side above the beach. You can leave your scooter here, and walk down to the beach via a path leading downwards.
Address: Las Cabanas Beach, Taytay - El Nido National Hwy, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Ride a scooter out to Nacpan Beach
Renting scooters for the day can be one of the best ways to see the local countryside in the Philippines. Not only do they let you be your own tour guide, they're also extremely affordable. Yuting and I spent only 150 pesos each time we rented one for the day. (Cost of Backpacking the Philippines)
As for Nacpan beach, while you won't find surfing, you will find fresh fruit smoothies, a wide-open beach, and puppies if you're lucky!
Where is it
Nacpan Beach is about a 45 minute ride from central El Nido. To get there, follow the Taytay - El Nido National Highway in the direction of Nagkalit-Kalit Falls, eventually turning left off of the main road, and following a dirt path till you see signs for the beach. On your way, don't be afraid to ask locals for directions if you're unsure of where you're going.
Address: Nacpan Beach El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Grab a big breakfast at the Art Cafe
I can't tell you how many times I ate here...while a definite tourist trap, the Art Cafe makes large, fresh breakfasts you can count on when heading out for a long day. In particular, I recommend trying the Swedish pancakes, or the French toast. The bread at the Art Cafe is homemade, and you'll definitely taste the difference.
where is it
The Art Cafe is right in heart of El Nido, and only a street away from the beach. To get there, head in the direction of the beach down Rizal St., and turn left down Serena St. The cafe's will be on the left, and is well marked by their sign.
Address: Artcafe, Barangay Buena Suerte, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Head to Port Barton
If you begin to feel like you've had enough of the crowds in El Nido, a nearby escape is Port Barton. Not only are there fewer tourists, but food, accommodation, and island tours are much cheaper.
For Port Barton, I recommend spending at least two nights there and giving yourself time to relax. You'll notice the vibe is a lot more laid-back than El Nido, so there's no shame in simply spending a day doing laundry, writing in your journal, and laying on the beach.
where is it
Port Barton is positioned between El Nido and Puerto Princessa, and can be reached by van leaving from either of those cities. To arrange a ride, ask around at various shops who offer transportation. Once you get a couple of quoted prices, negotiate until you're satisfied with offer.
Address: Port Barton, San Vicente, Palawan, Philippines
Have a great time exploring Palawan!
Please leave a comment if you have any questions