DIY EL NIDO: How to Save Up on Costs + Itinerary
Situated at the northernmost part of Palawan is the little town of El Nido. Beautiful limestones, rock formations and fine beaches surround the area and the place is considered as one of the beautiful destinations in the world.
Frankly, El Nido isn’t for the super tight budget travelers but it is manageable if you plan the itinerary ahead of time, or unless you wanna skip the activities such as island hopping which is definitely not recommended.
Read on for a sample itinerary, important travel tips and how to save up on costs on your DIY El Nido Trip!
There are two ways to get to El Nido from Puerto Princesa Airport:
- Option 1: Van / Php 1,000 RT. Approximately 5-6 hours including stopovers already. If you have not pre-booked, there are lots of vans available once you reach the arrival hall.
- Option 2: Cherry Bus; cheaper but the ride is longer (6-7 hours); Fare is 380 for the Ordinary Fare and 480 for the air-conditioned ones. Check the bus schedules here.
Another way is to book a direct flight from Manila – El Nido, I think the fare is around 7-15k, depending on the season.
Super happy that we saw the couple @doyoutravel and @gypsea_lust. I’m a fan of their photography style!!!
Where to stay:
- Hostels/Budget Hotels – There are hostels that cost around 1k, just ask around but be wary that during peak season, it’s difficult to walk in.
- Mid-range Hotels – We stayed in a mid-range hotel, El Nido Beach Hotel. Our room costed us approximately Php 5,000 a night with buffet breakfast. It is one of the beachfront hotels that have spacious rooms in the area. Our friends stayed at Ipil suites for Php 2,500 a night with buffet breakfast as well. Since our flight got moved, we had to book another hotel which is Joaquinn’s Bed and Breakfast, which costed us Php 2,500.
- Luxury Hotels – Private islands and resorts provide luxury accommodation. Some resorts are: Miniloc Island, Pangulasian, Lagen
Where and what to eat:
- Seafood Paluto – Starts at 200php. I indulged on too much seafood during our trip cause it was super mura compared to Manila prices! My chili garlic buttered shrimps cost 200 pesos +50 for the rice at Sea Jane resto. But if you buy extra rice, it’s just 30 php. I dunno how they price their food! Haha
- Art Cafe- We never got the chance to try it because it was always full. But I saw the menu and the prices are around 300-500php
- Altrove Trattoria – Serves Pizza and Pasta. My friend from the culinary industry said that their dough is good (I dunno how to judge pizza dough lol). The truffle pizza is around 650 php, good for 3 persons already.
- Gusto Gelato – This place serves home made gelato starting at Php 100.
- Falafel – Robby tried the Falafel and he said it was good for the price Php 200.
- Crepes – Lots of stalls are selling crepes and Cecile said that the taste was good! Price starts at 100 php.
- Ukrainian Cuisine – Robby tried the pocket meals and he wasn’t happy with his order.
- For budget eats, there are several places around town than serve rice meals for 100 php up.
- For those who are in the mood to party or have a few drinks, you can try out SAVA.
- If you wanna drink but don’t have the budget, you can just purchase from one of the liquor and convenience stores around town and drink inside your hotel room. There are lots of alcohol choices available at a fair price.
There are 5 tours available but for first timers like us who only had 4 days to spend in El Nido, tours A and C were recommended so we tried both. We booked in the island and sadly, the prices were quite steep already. Tour A costed us 1950 php each since we decided to go on a private boat tour. Breakdown to follow at the costing part of this article.
Check out the photos below:
Tour A (Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, 7 Commando Beach)
Stop 1: After 45 minutes of cruising calm seas, we arrived at Small Lagoon. We rented a Kayak for 300/2 pax. This is optional but I highly recommend this to be able to explore the lagoon.
Stop 2: 15 minutes from the small lagoon is the Big Lagoon. You can swim only at the entrance of the lagoon since the water is already deep once you go inside. This part is more on photo ops only.
Stop 3: Secret Lagoon- The 2 boatmen prepared our lunch while our guide assisted our companions inside the secret lagoon (I was already tired and I didn’t want to go with the wave of people inside so I just stayed at the beachfront lol).
We had BBQ lunch inside the boat! We skipped Shimizu island (the original lunch area)
Last stop: 7 commando Beach. The waves were awful at this time due to the wind. I easily get sea sick and anxious whenever I ride boats and airplanes. At the moment I am inside the plane going back to Manila and I am just writing my article to prevent myself from being scared. Lol I remember during our flight to Canada, I had to drink anti anxiety meds to help me with the 12-hour flight. It worked cause I was asleep most of the time.. HEHE ANYWAYYYY…
We finally arrived at the beach. The water is good for swimming here and there are cottages where you can rest… for FREE!
After tour A, we decided to have our merienda and a few drinks at the Beach Shack, a cute bar in Marimegmeg beach.
Tour C (Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, Star Island, Matinloc Shrine & Helicopter Beach)
Important Note: If you’re a scaredy cat like me who dislikes the waves and the thrill, I don’t recommend going on a private tour because tour C is the most “crucial” tour as they say. You will be passing on an open sea route, so be ready for bumps along the way especially when you’re using a small boat. But of course, the journey is definitely worth it when you see the destinations. We spent 1600 each for Tour C.
Secret Beach – My favorite among all islands we’ve been to.
Matinloc Shrine – The waves are big on the way to this place. You will be having lunch here. Climb up the stairs to see a beautiful view of the surrounding islands.
Snorkeling at Star Beach – Did not go down to go snorkeling anymore, I was tired lol
Hidden beach – You will have to pass through a cave to be able to enter the small beach.
After the tour we went to Marimegmeg beach again and this time, we tried to watch the sunset at Las Cabanas.
Stargazing at Marimegmeg
El Nido town at night
This is included in “Inland Tours” but it also may be accessed by renting a motorcycle for 500/day (you can haggle for 350). If you don’t know how to, ask a trike driver to bring you to the island for 1000/roundtrip good for 4 persons. They will initially offer you 1,500 but try to haggle for a lower price. Upon arriving, walk towards your left to see the twin beach. Entrance fee to Nacpan is 150 pesos.
That’s basically the places we went to! I really loved El Nido. I am not the beach type of girl so swimming for a few minutes is already a miracle lol.
* Day 1:
1000 ETD PPS – 500php
1600 ETA El Nido Town, check in
1700 Explore El Nido Town / Zipline; Dinner 150php
Total: 650 php
* Day 2:
0700 Wake up & Breakfast 100php
0800 Tour A: 900 php
– Small, Big and Secret Lagoons, 7
Commando Beach, Shimizu
– Lunch Included
– Kayak at 300 php each
– One time environmental fee 200 php
1700 Back to Town
1730 Sunset at Marimegmeg Beach – 300/trike RT; Dinner 150php
Super tipid: No kayak, 4/trike: 1,425
* Day 3:
0700 Wake up and Breakfast-100php
0800 Tour C – 1,100 php
– Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Star Beach, Helicopter Island
– Lunch Included
1700 Back to Town, Free time, dinner 150php
– Total: 1,350 php
0400 Wake up
0500 Taraw Hiking (1hr/way) – 500 php
0900 Check out; Nacpan Beach ETD (1000/trike)
– Entrance Fee 50 php
– Lunch 150
1500 ETD to El Nido Town
1700 Van to PPS -500 php
– Total (assuming 4/trike) – 1,450 php
– Total Super tipid (no Taraw) – 950 php
Pension house: 500/day: 1500php
– Overall Budget: 6,900php
– Super tipid: 5,875 php
El Nido is not really a “super budget” place because of the amount of foreigners in the area. Be prepared to spend a few thousands for a great experience in the island.
Our Actual Breakdown of Expenses for 2 pax:
- Airfare via AirAsia 2000 x 2 = 4,000
- Van RT: 1000 x 2 = 2000
- Hotel (El Nido Beach 5000 x 3 & Joaquinns for 1 night 2,500) = 17,500
- Tour A: 1750 x 2 = 3,500
- Envi Fee 200 x 2 = 400
- Tour C: 1600 x 2 = 3,200
- Matinloc Entrace: 100 x 2 = 200
- Nacpan Beach 400 x 2 = 800
- Marimegmeg Trike 150 x 2 = 300
- Terminal Fee to Manila= 200 x 2 = 400
Food & Other Expenses for Two (as far as I can remember)
- Dinner @ Sea Jane Day 1: 800
- Dinner @ Altrove Day 2: 800
- Falafel: 200
- Drinks for Tour: 300
- Gelato: 200
- Ukranian Pocket: 200
- Pinacolada: 180
- Sea Jane Dinner Day 3: 600
- Sea Jane Dinner Day 4: 600
- Marimegmeg Drinks: 700
- Lunch at Nacpan: 700
- Cottage Rental: 120
*Note: The hotels we booked have free breakfast*
Total Estimated Expense for our El Nido trip: 37,800/2 = 18,900 each
- Shopping- Everything is expensive here. If you’re buying pearl jewelry, just buy in Puerto Princesa.
- Internet- Signal is bad here but you can get LTE access at the Paluto restaurant area and the altrove pizza area.
- Haggling – They tend to overprice everything here so just haggle and haggle til they give the price to you.
- Boat rides – Like what I’ve said, if you’re scared of boat rides just take the joiner tour (boats with 25pax capacity)
- To bring – Dry bag! since there will be a lot of water activities involved. Lol and plenty of sunblock of course.
- Beer- Price ranges from 50 to 80 pesos (in Las Cabanas).
- Transportation- The town is walkable (about 500m) but Marimegmeg is about 4km away from town. Standard trike rates are at 150 but if you can haggle well, you can get a one way trip for 100 pesos.
- Electricity- El Nido has a rotating brownout schedule and some hostels do not have electricity from 2pm-6pm so better make sure to book a hotel with a generator if you do not want any hassle.
- Locals- The locals are generally friendly but they are really hard sellers!
- Guide – To get the most out of your travel experience, you can hire a professional private guide at SunnyTrip.ph. The guide can also act as your photographer.
Well that’s about it. Enjoy! 🙂