Words and photo by Anna Cleal, July 2012
Not only is El Nido the gateway to the stunning Bacuit archipelago it is also quite possibly, I think we’ve finally found it, the backpacker hub of the Philippines! If you trying to find a place with a distinct backpacker vibe, tour booking shops on every corner, and banana pancakes on every menu, then look no further than El Nido.
The setting – a quaint bay dotted with banca boats overlooking almighty limestone islands. The vibe – beach bars, chilled sunsets, daytrips to lagoons and an array of white sand beaches. This area will suit a full range of travelers, from the adventurous, must get off the beaten path at all costs, to those who want tour options handed to them on a plate.
Where to stay
Try La Banane backpacker for dorm rooms at 350P. Otherwise there is a multitude of options along the beachfront and in the town area. The town is small and a short walk around will find you a room in no time.
The outer islands – although there are some options on the islands in the Bacuit archipelago they are typically aimed at those with bulging wallets. We will not go through options here.
What to do
- If you’re of the adventurous variety then all you’ll need is a waterproof bag, a tent and a kayak. There are many isolated beaches discover and a 3-4 day adventure will see some amazing sites. Try to pick your days, and don’t contemplate this in the rainy season! It just won’t have the same appeal.
- As above but as part of a tour. There are many outfits offering overnight camping on one of the islands in the Bacuit archipelago.
- Day trippers – day tripping will allow you to get back to the comfort of your hostel/resort for the evening but during the day you’ll be out swimming in lagoons and checking out the islands of the Bacuit archipelago. Whoop whoop!
- Wine and dine – El Nido has a big range of restaurants and bars, live music and plenty of atmosphere.
- Climbing, trekking, waterfalls – there are many operations that will take you inland. If you’ve had enough of exploring the water there are plenty of options, and some amazing views looking out over the Bacuit bay.
- Motorbike hire – hire your own dirt bike and explore the area at your own pace.
How to get there
From Coron – Boats go every second day(ish) between El Nido and Coron and take around 8 hours. They leave in the morning and arrive in the afternoon. At the time of writing the cost was 1200 Pesos.
From Puerto Princessa – vans leave PP in the morning or late night and take around 5 hours to get to El Nido.
From Manila – there are flights into El Nido but they are expensive. If you have time on your side try flying into Coron or Puerto and making your way to El Nido from there.
Where to next
Coron – it’s just one days boat ride away and will complete your trip to Palawan. Wreck diving and more island hopping awaits.
Port Barton – an idyllic spot located a half hour from the highway along an incredible jungle road. The extra travel time is worth it – this is an extremely laid back, relaxed and beautiful spot.
Puerto Princesa – even though Puerto is small by city standards after a few days in the remote Palawan you might be happy for a bit of hustle and bustle. Banwa guest house is perhaps the best spot for backpackers to chill out in Puerto! Reggae bars, and shopping for cool local artifacts will make your stay complete.