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  • Writer's pictureJo Bino

Explore El Nido Palawan secret spots & hidden islands


AirSwift Window View: Landing at Lio Airport Overlooking Bacuit Bay

It’s almost easy to forget. Beneath the glossy touch of travel brochures, now rendered quaint by the advent of the Net – where faux Ursula Andress and James Dr No still frolic – El Nido (nest in Spanish) continues to shine with that wild sparkle that inspired the producers of Survivor.


The quaint fishing village may have transformed into a hub for Bancas boats, but its extravagant beauty remains tethered to the stunning Bacuit Archipelago. From the Big Lagoon on Miniloc Island – one of the planet’s most iconic lagoons – to the the limestone cliffs set against an stunning jade-coloured sea, and the beach bars run by expats who’ve fallen for the locale, El Nido has no shortage of charms to captivate travelers of all stripes.


Recently, a cool breeze has begun to blow through the town, countering the bling and riding the wave of tasteful ‘Adventure Plus’ with the introduction of Banca expeditions connecting El Nido to Coron, and road trips that stretch beyond the outskirts. A glance at Google Maps confirms the obvious: the peninsula is expansive, bordered by the Linapacan archipelago to the north, Taytay to the south, and the stunning Bacuit Bay to the west. Visitors typically traverse only a short distance inland, up to Nacpan Beach. Yet the north, less traversed by rental scooter streams, conceals gorgeous islands, pristine beaches, and a sprinkling of rice paddies.


For this guide, I’ve decided to delve a bit deeper into the iceberg’s submerged part, the northern side of the peninsula. First, to set a course for one of the coolest regions and sprinkle my guides with some of the best hidden gems. Lastly, follow link for handy tips (how to get there, etc.) and have a great trip.


Picture: three young women hopping into a tricycle at Barangay Corong Corong

⎚ Instead of enduring a clichéd view of El Nido, hop on a tricycle and explore the hidden streets of this beach resort town.


Things that make the El Nido & Corong Corong duo a delight to experience


There are two parts to explore in these two large villages (or rather, two small towns) side by side, which hosted the adventurers of Survivor reality. On one side, Corong Corong, at its southern tip, the most bucolic district: charming little beach bars and cozy resorts ready to make a splash and chill by the sea up to the legendary Las Cabanas. On the other, El Nido, itself split into two: the southern part, where you can admire Cadlao, the town’s emblematic island, the trendy scene of the tourist center, stay in hotels that play the urban resort card, and the northern part, with Lio, its airport, and a sexy stretch of beach.


Playing the night owl at Sava Beach Bar


Sleek and sophisticated, Sava has been THE playground for El Nido’s seasoned night owls for over a decade! Its secret to staying on the cool radar year after year: A prime central location enhanced by breathtaking views of the bay and Cadlao Island.


Hiking in El Nido, Taraw Cliff the extreme VS Canopy Walk the soft hiking


The beautiful view of the peaks of Taraw Cliff against the turquoise blue backdrop of El Nido Bay

⎚ The Stunning View from Taraw Cliff Against the Turquoise Backdrop of El Nido Bay


Taraw Cliff, the netless Point Break VS Canopy Walk, the ascent on the path designed by Via Ferrata. That’s the summary of the two ways to approach the most iconic viewpoints of El Nido…


Canopy Walk by El Nido Via Ferrata - Hanging Bridge + Viewdeck - 400 ₱, and for those who wish to reach the Dreamcatcher - 400 ₱. Open from 8 am to 5 pm.


Taraw Cliff - To snap that iconic sunrise selfie from Taraw Cliff, you’ll need to be quick and early. Guides with pairs of gloves (you’ll understand why after just 5 minutes of climbing) are available from 4:30 am (advance arrangement is a must). Not to be dramatic, but let’s remember we’re not all Pokémon hunters, ready to do anything to catch a Snorlax, and a simple slip on the razor-sharp rocks from 270 meters up Taraw Cliff can have dire consequences.


Chill at La Plage Corong Corong

If you’re on the hunt for cool, you might just find it at La Plage, the nerve center of El Nido’s French-speaking community. With sunsets almost every night over Corong Corong Bay, La Plage is perfect for any occasion, from a poolside date to a Spritz on the terrace. And while everyone seems to know each other and it’s easy to become a “regular,” it’s also known for its attractive menu.


Taas Restaurant, fine and creative cuisine


A new spot blending creative cooking with local ingredients has popped up just steps from La Plage towards the lovely Mahogany Resort & Spa. I haven’t tried it yet, but word on the street is they serve up delicious 6-course gourmet menus for 1,900 .


Lime for a legendary dip in Corong Corong


Expect color, warmth, and a legendary view from the rooftop pool of Lime Resort El Nido, at the end of Corong Corong Beach. The entry fee to this elevated oasis is 300 ₱, which includes a consumption credit for snacking and sipping with your feet in the water. Foodies will drool with delight: they’ll savor the cuisine of Bella Vita restaurant, which brilliantly installed a pizza oven in a stunningly decorated setting. And since one must seek shade in the tropics, a shaded bar allows you to lounge until the magical moment of sunset.


Admire the sunset at Las Cabanas & Marimegmeg Beach


Here’s the perfect combo that tourists seeking white sand, palm trees, umbrellas, loungers, and brazen exoticism ask for. A laid-back beach, but also a variety of refreshments, snacks hidden among the trees, and sunsets that pack a punch. Just hop in a tricycle to the junction with El Nido’s McDo.


We all have a good reason


I would have been unforgivable if I hadn’t headed to Gusto Gelato, tucked under the neon lights of The Pangolin, taken in the views from the Piece of Sky table, and indulged in the local flavor at Inasal Eats Co. In short, during or after sunset, we all have a good reason to seek out the trendiest restaurants in El Nido.




Why are we drawn to El Nido? The boat tours in Bacuit Bay!


Infographic of boat tours A, B, C, D in Bacuit Bay at El Nido.

⎚ With spots like Big Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach, and 7 Commando, it’s the elite of Island-Hopping.


Sailing with tangled hair in the wind while gazing at a constellation of paradises scattered across the South China Sea, diving into crystal-clear waters before lunch, savoring fresh pineapples amidst a myriad of limestone cliffs, putting on the mask (the snorkeling kind, of course!) and dozing off blissfully to the rhythm of the waves—that’s the delightful mix waiting for you on an Island Hopping adventure in El Nido.


How much does it cost?


An employee of a travel agency in El Nido presents the price list flyer for boat tours

Sure, prices have soared, but so has the traveler turnout! It’s no secret, but just so you know, AirSwift flights to El Nido are fully booked for the Christmas season.


The flip side? You won’t be the only one wanting to sail through Bacuit Bay.

So, to channel your inner Corto Maltese, group tours start at 1,200  ₱/person, and during my visit, private boats were haggling around 9,500 ₱! Yes, the bill for going private can sting (especially in a small group) for just a day at sea, but that’s the price for not cramming 16 people onto a Banca.


Here’s a tip that might pique your interest: you can dive into the joys of island-hopping from Corong Corong. The dock is right across from the bus station (just zoom in on the Google Map below). Corong Corong is also the ideal spot to rent a kayak and paddle along the coast to 7 Commandos, splashing in waters where boats dare not go.


Online booking for your boat adventure?


If these boat tours make you yearn to sail privately or mingle with others, check out the offers on this online booking platform! Getyourguide has got it all covered, even the return trips!



El Nido Road Trip: A 104 km Journey to five exceptional beaches


Pump up your tires and hold tight, I’ve just kicked off the “El Nido Road Trip Challenge”. It’s a 104 km trip in three stages through the far northwest of El Nido. Five stops at five stretches of sand ranked among the best in the north of Palawan Island. Among the seven spots scouted by Mr. Ouiphilippines, there are no surprises in some well-trodden corners like Nacpan Beach, but also the crème de la crème of offbeat tips, including hidden restaurants and Airbnbs, stunning landscapes, and gem-like isles.




View from the deck of a boat of Darocotan, an off-the-beaten-path island in Teneguiban Bay.

Bice Camp Darocotan or Darocotan island experience: Why settle for a few nights in a well-air-conditioned but tame hotel in El Nido City when you could use your stay to discover unique places? ⇲ Starting from 2,500 ₱.


How is the itinerary broken down?


The two-day route loops through the northern part of El Nido. On the first day, you’ll connect El Nido to Teneguiban. First, count 38 kilometers from El Nido to Nacpan, one of the most beautiful beaches in Palawan. Sure, starting with the Nacpan & Duli Beach combo is a slight detour on the new Ibajay road, but the white sand, coconut trees, and ocean waves are likely to please you. From the junction on the Ibajay road to Teneguiban, the route includes 3 kilometers of track. It dives into the valley and crosses vast expanses of greenery. In a word: it’s better to know a few terms from the biker’s glossary to complete this first stage and arrive happy and exhausted before sunset.


On the second day, you’ll connect Teneguiban to El Nido via Sibaltan. Count 50 kilometers this time. The highlight of the day? You can visit the Robinson Crusoe-like island of Darocotan in Island-Hopping mode. Enough to give courage to those who fear sore muscles and the monotony of braking.


Panorama, nap in the shade, and homemade quiche: What stops does Ouiphilippines recommend?


For those who love pee breaks, coconut milk breaks, and beautiful beach breaks, rest assured: Ouiphilippines has tested everything on the stretch and can now delight you with its most beautiful stops


Let’s start with the first day and the Nacpan → Teneguiban part. In Nacpan, walk the 4km of beach from north to south up to Twin Beach. Even if the secret passage is well divulged, we continue with pleasure on the sand strip up to Calitang Beach. For a well-deserved refreshment, then head straight to Angkla, a resort on the north part of the beach, to treat yourself, for the time of a drink, to a spoiled moment by emptying a fresh coconut for 120 ₱ by the pool or pecking under the big trees while enjoying the sun rays and the superb view. And for a cheap night on the spot, I add my favorite youth hostel, Mad Monkey, a new generation accommodation where even the stiffest but most relaxed travelers will be more than welcome.


Further on, in Teneguiban, the pleasant options are not legion, but you can dine at Amihan café and enjoy a quiche with local spinach, mozzarella, and bon appétit! As for accommodation, Amihan Windsurf Camp has many assets, but its modest size requires booking in advance via El Nido’s Boutique & Artcafe d'El Nido.


And on the second day, from Teneguiban to El Nido, what do we do?


Sore but happy, you’ll wake up at WindsurfCamp, ready to face your Island-Hopping in Darocotan Bay. Before all that, you’ll first need to stop to find a boat at Barangay Teneguiban, a small building where a swarm of locals and Steven (✆ +63 905 951 7229), a friendly local fisherman, coexist in delightful cacophony.


Once your Banca is booked, extricate yourself from the port and the friendly atmosphere of the place to finally participate in the highlight of the show: Darocotan. In just a few propeller turns, you’ll see the island, draped in its white sand setting, a delicious mirage from which coconut scents escape. Now, head back across the bay towards Brother Island, where you’ll weave through the isles.


Full throttle, you’re already rolling towards El Nido. After a stop in Sibaltan, the Ursula Beach Club option delights the eyes, its chill restaurant pleases the taste buds, and for those left speechless by so much beauty, they’ll have the opportunity to spend a night or two.


In the bay, off the village of Sibaltan, a cleaning station for reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) known as Saan Ka could be the ideal setting for your underwater escapade… This unique spot wouldn’t exist without Dive Sibaltan, the pioneer of scuba diving in Imorigue Bay.


If aiming for the moon for a day or two doesn’t scare your wallet too much? An old pearl farm resurrected into a very secret address, far from the eyes of the common man and the noise typical of El Nido to the west, Flower Island could well consecrate this corner of Palawan (transfer from Sibaltan in 45 minutes in a Banca that can accommodate up to 6 people @ 3,000 ₱). It must be said that the island perfectly extends the idea we have of trips where one can find rare pearls (the visit to the pearl farm is the unusual activity of the area) and have a good time, you’re there!


In the meantime, our return to earth will be by scooter, tricycle, or Toyota via New Ibajay and the Taytay → El Nido Hwy.


The best ways to get around El Nido?


On paper, renting a scooter seems simple and available at every street corner: less than 500 ₱ per day for a scooter and in terms of safety, a helmet is provided, but don’t count too much on insurance to help you out in case of a problem. To rent a car and hit the road with a driver and gas included, hooray! A good number of small agencies offer Vans and cars for rent for about 4,000 ₱ per day.


If the area makes you want to rent a car with peace of mind and the possibility of dropping it off in Puerto Princesa, pick from this list ⇲  Locaction d'un véhicule à El Nido (ou/et Puerto Princesa)


Very well served by tricycles, a means that will be favored by the non-motorized according to feedback.



How to get to El Nido ?


So, you wanna know how to get to El Nido? Fly, baby, fly!


The quickest way to dive into El Nido’s charm is to land at Lio Airport, the town’s very own airstrip. Despite El Nido’s booming popularity, AirSwift is the lone ranger operating in this petite port of the skies. The airline’s got a growing network of ATRs jetting off from Clark, Cebu, Coron, Boracay, Bohol, and Siargao.


You can now take 4 ferrys from Coron to El Nido


Ready for a maritime classic? The 140 km sea route from Coron to El Nido is a Philippine tourism staple. With over 4 hours of ocean vibes, four ferry operators—Montenegro, Atienza, Jomalia, and Island Water—are vying for your attention, all at a neck-and-neck price tag (just under 3,000 ₱) for their daily services.



Tips for organising a great trip Coron - El Nido & vice versa ?


TAO Philippines reigns as the grand artist of northern Palawan cruises, pioneering the Banca crossings. But the quaint towns of Coron and El Nido are brimming with agencies, like the half travel agency, half cruise line El Nido Paradise, and the French-flavored operator Nativ’Exploration.


Choosing Your Path: Why stick to a beaten path when you can drift through the islands at random? It’s way more charming. Limited camping site options mean most operators end up following nearly identical overnight stops. But TAO? They craft their own sleeping spots for the triumph of exclusivity or sanitization—take your pick.  


Colored pencil map of the itinerary for a TAO Philippines expedition from Coron to El Nido.

The Vibe: If the idea of combining transfer with a dip sounds good, and you’re up for adventure, chatting, and sipping aperitifs on a deserted island, then the Coron-El Nido cruise is calling your name. No crowded beaches or overrun waters here. In secluded coves, you’ll relish being in a small group, enjoying the water at your own pace. Mix it up with snorkeling sessions, sea urchin foraging, and diving off the Banca’s bow.


Who’s It For? On a Banca, personal space is non-existent. If you need your bubble, this isn’t for you. For a few days, you’ll be packed in like sardines, sharing every sound, snore, and conversation with the tribe. But it’s all in good fun—promise. It’ll probably remind you of those high school ski trips, cramming twelve into a studio to save on cash. Price-wise, you’re looking at around 19,000 ₱ for an all-inclusive 3-day/2-night trip.


Good to Know! Watch out for the weather; it’s a fickle beast. Storms can brew up, and cruises can get outright canceled. But from March to June, sea conditions are generally good—no need for waterproof pants.


Traveling from Puerto Princesa & Port Barton to El Nido:


The Van, shared or private, is the tourist’s go-to for reaching El Nido, so don’t skimp on travel time. After landing in Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s main city, you’re in for over 5 hours and 270 km of road to El Nido. From Port Barton, it’s a 4-hour, 190 km journey.


Exiting Puerto Princesa Airport, you’ll be greeted by a swarm of drivers eager to fill their Vans. While convenient, remember the Toyota Commuter only hits its stride once all 12 seats are filled… and these on-demand rides stop running after 5 pm.


Booking online for a van or ferry to/from El Nido


If you’re going digital, check out the widget below powered by 12go.asia. It lets you book all kinds of transport tickets to/from El Nido about 30 days in advance. It’s a breeze to use: select your starting point, pick your journey, and voilà—options from transport providers, with corresponding prices, as well as buses, Vans, or ferries, will pop up. Just choose, pay with a card, and then pick up your ticket near the departure station. Easy peasy!



Where to stay in El Nido ?


In El Nido, the hotel game is strong, and yeah, it’s got a price tag to match. The town’s success story isn’t just about the views—it’s about the booming economy too. With nearly 500 hotels of all shapes and sizes, the options are as vast as the ocean. But don’t let the numbers chill your tropical vibe. It’s not just about the cost; it’s about scoring the perfect spot. Below, you’ll find a curated widget of the best budget-friendly hotels in El Nido and Corong Corong that won’t break the bank.



El Nido’s cozy central stays on a budget


One El Nido Suite: Tucked behind a facade that’s got more supermarket vibes than swank, One El Nido Suite ticks all the right boxes for the explorer over the lounger. We’re talking wallet-friendly rates, a medium buffet breakfast included, spacious and comfy rooms (think fridge, gentle AC, WiFi, and TV), all just a stone’s throw from the market and, crucially, the bus station. Double rooms kick off from 2'700 ₱/nuit


Balay Paragua: A wallet-friendly wonder

In the sea of budget stays in El Nido, Balay Paragua is a unanimous favorite. It’s smack-dab in the heart of El Nido but nestled on a peaceful street. And if the backpacker buzz is anything to go by, it’s a traveler’s dream.


 Recent Raves & Faves


“I’m shouting it from the rooftops—this resort is a MUST! A mere 10-minute walk or a zippy 5-minute scooter ride from El Nido’s bustling center. Run by an Italian, so expect killer cocktails and pasta that’ll make you swoon. Sea views mean sunset spectacles and breakfasts with a vista. They’ve nailed the care factor here, making it a top pick if you’re keen to dodge the crowds.”. Angel Nido Resort Caalan Beach

✎ Loved this El Nido travel log? Got a tale to tell or a top tip to share? Hit me up! 😉



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