El Nido

island hopping el nido palawan philippines
Island hopping in El Nido

              El Nido is one of the most visited towns in Palawan and possibly the Philippinesas a whole.  It’s located on the northern end of Palawan Island in western Philippines. Palawan Island has been rated the most beautiful island in the world and El Nido is its defining city. 

island hopping el nido palawan philippines
Island hopping in El Nido

              You can get to El Nido by plane or ferry.  If you are going straight there from Manila it is worth looking into taking a flight there.  The flight is not much more than the ferry and it is much faster.  If you decide to take a ferry there you have two options.  You can either take the boat from manila which is long and over open waters or you can island hope like we did and take the ferry from Coron.  

street food el nido palawan philippines
Street food in El Nido (squid balls and dynamites)

              There are plenty of price options for both accommodation and food throughout the city so whether you are wanting to go a little bogey or looking to go backpackers route like we are you won’t have a problem finding a place for you.  For food there are many places that serve cheap local food, but for street food I suggest the market where you can find an array of different snacks and a coconut shake which is delicious.  

lunch buffet island hopping el nido palawan philippines
Lunch buffet while island hopping

              Once in El Nido you must go on one of the four tours offered for island hopping.  All of the tour offices offer the same tours at the same price so it is no use shopping around.  We used Skyline Tours, located in the middle of town, and they were lot of fun and an awesome group.  The tour we took, and I highly recommend, was Tour C for 1400 pesos ($28).  The tour took us to five locations; Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, and Star Beach.

helicopter island el nido palawan philippines
Helicopter Island

              Helicopter Island, named for the helicopter shape of the rock formations, was not the greatest stop off.  The beach is not large so many of the boats have to stop further off the beach, meaning you must swim to shore.  Once on the beach there is only a small section roped of for snorkeling.  In this area the coral starts right as you enter the water and with the waves breaking in the same area it makes for a precarious venture just to get into the water.  This coupled with the fact that the waves throw you around while you are out there and most of the coral being dead makes it mostly a beach stop.

hidden beach el nido palawan philippines
Hidden Beach

              Hidden Beach was my favorite stop off on the tour.  It is a grotto beach hidden away from the ocean by high craggy limestone walls.  It can be entered three ways, by two entrances from the ocean and a cave through the limestone wall.  Once inside the walls the water is very shallow and as clear as crystal and is a great place to hangout, though you don’t get a lot of time to enjoy it.  This stop is also one you must jump off the boat and swim to.

matinloc shrine el nido palawan philippines
Matinloc Shrine from the boat

              Matinloc Shrine is an abandoned shrine to Mother Mary and is nearby is where you will have lunch.  Lunch is served on the boat and is buffet of amazing seafood, pork chops, chicken, rice, vegetables, and fruit.  Our tour guides gave us the choice to either visit the shrine (which cost a small fee) or go snorkeling nearby and buy rhum.  Needless to say, we all chose snorkeling and rhum. 
secret beach el nido palawan philippines
Secret Beach

Secret Beach was also one of my favorite stop offs of the tour.  Again, this is another stop where you must jump off the boat and swim in.  The difference on this one is the timing.  This beach is surrounded on all sides by a high craggy limestone wall and the only entrance is a small cave opening up to the ocean.  So, swimming up to the cave you must wait to be hailed in by the guides and then swim as fast as possible to get in before the waves crash against the rocks.  At high tide the cave fills up and the beach once again becomes secret.
star island el nido palawan philippines
Snorkeling at Star Beach

              Star Beach was easily the best snorkeling on the tour.  Setting anchor off shore and jumping into the open water, it’s a short swim to the coral reef.  Here the reef drops off into the deep so you are able to see all sorts of fish swimming along its edge and amongst the coral as well.  It’s a great place to get some good snorkeling time in!

coral snorkeling el nido palawan philippines
Coral while snorkeling at Star Beach

El Nido, the “most beautiful place on earth,” truly lives up to its name.  What do you think?

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