At the northern tip of Palawan Island is the city of El Nido. While in years past it was a very remote place, it’s now a highly accessible place. Either fly in directly or drive up from Puerto Princessa.
Once you’re there you’ll love the small city that resembles that of a fishing village with the narrow streets and the endless skyline of wooden boats that line the shore. Those same boats will take you from island to island exploring coral reef, marine life, and peaceful beaches.
Before you start your island hopping you’ll need to know how to get there. Below are all of the details whether you’re coming internationally or if you’re flying in locally.
How to get into the Philippines?
First things first – if you’re not already in the Philippines you’ll need to know where to fly into. El Nido doesn’t have international flights (yet) so when you fly into the Philippines the most common entry points are either Manila or Cebu City. Manila is the most likely destination that you’ll fly into and the biggest city in the Philippines.
While you could just fly directly from Manila to El Nido non-stop, you may want to drop in for a quick stop-over. Manila is a terribly busy city, but it has so much to offer in terms of shopping, food, and entertainment!
You can check my guide below on everything you’ll need to know when you visit the Philippines including the culture, language, airport information, transportation, safety, and some things to do.
How to get to El Nido?
Now that you’re in the Philippines, there are quite a few different ways of getting to El Nido. I’ll go through the most common 3 below.
Flight from Manila/Cebu to Puerto Princessa
The first way of getting to El Nido will be through the biggest city in Palawan – Puerto Princessa. You can find flights from Manila and Cebu that will land in Puerto Princessa City which is 5 hours south of El Nido.
Flights going to Puerto Princessa will typically be much cheaper than flying directly to El Nido.
How to get from Puerto Princessa to El Nido? Once you land in Puerto Princessa there will be people holding signs for transportation to El Nido. Simply approach any of these people and they will get you on a van that will take you up to El Nido. It typically costs P600 per head in a van. You can also choose to ride the bus which is around P400 per head.
Travel Time From Puerto Princessa to El Nido: The travel time in a van is about 5 hours from Puerto Princess to El Nido city and typically only has one stop in between to rest. The Bus, however, can take anywhere from 7-8 hours as it will have many stops along the way as well.
Flight from Manila/Cebu to El Nido
El Nido also has it’s own (very small) airport which you can get flights going directly from Manila to here. These flights are typically much smaller planes (propeller type) and it will only take an hour and a half to arrive in El Nido.
Going this route will save you a whole day of travel as you will be able to skip the land transfer from Puerto Princessa. You can, however, expect that the flights going to El Nido will be more expensive than those going to Puerto Princessa.
Boat from Manila to El Nido
The last option (and the least efficient) is to travel by sea. From Manila you can book tickets on 2Go Travel from Manila to Coron. Coron is another city in Palawan just a bit north of El Nido.
Once you’re in Coron you’ll then be ale to book a fast-track boat from Coron to El Nido. While you can travel by sea all the way from Manila to El Nido, this will take you over 24 hours to complete as the travel time is quite long. If you’re planning to do both Coron and El Nido, it is suggested to take the boat between Coron and El Nido as it only takes 3-4 hours. But I’d still suggest that you fly in first 🙂
Tips before going to El Nido
Before you head to El Nido, there’s a few things you should know:
- Come prepared with money before flying in. The ATMs are often out of cash or have very long lines. It’s best to come prepared before getting to the city.
- Expect brownouts. El Nido is remote and it’s a long way from any large cities. There are often power interruptions so be sure to charge up your phones at all times.
- Cell signal. If you’re new to the Philippines you can either go through Smart or Glob as the two primary cell carriers. But, in El Nido the signal is very very poor so dont expect much in terms of internet.
- Get up early. You have to get up around 6am as the boats leave by 8am for island hopping.
- Make sure you have a waterproof bag. You’ll be out on the water all day and your things WILL get wet no matter how hard you try. Especially if it rains – there’s no escape.
- Always get goggles and flippers. When you go island hopping if you dont have goggles you’ll totally regret it. It’s so beautiful underwater.
El Nido Travel Guide
You can find our full guide on El Nido here.