Sleep, Eat, Work, Do – El Nido, Philippines
There is no question as to whether or not El Nido is a touristy town. There are probably just as many tourists in the town as locals, and if you stick to the main drag you may even think they drastically outnumber locals. That said, it is absolutely beautiful here and still feels like a really nice and relaxing place to be. All of the tourists are coming for a reason. There is no atm here – Well, actually there is one but it only accepts a specific type of Filipino account card. – Anyway, no atm and things are more expensive here than other places in the Philippines so you may want to bring more cash then you think you need. Ostensibly there is only power here between 2pm and 6am. Some days the power came on around 2, but it was usually closer to 3 when it kicked on so you certainly can’t set your watch by it.
There are many options of places to stay in El Nido, but most of them do not have websites or other online information. We took a look at quite a few places in town so that we’d know what our options were.
This is the place that we chose and ended up staying at for about a week. We decided that we are princesses and/or are just getting old and that a/c was a “must have” for us. Mostly because that is the only way your clothes ever truly dry in the tropics. The a/c rooms here are 1200 php and have private bathrooms with hot water showers. They said they served breakfast, but never had it the week we were here. They claimed to have wifi but we never got the signal. See below under “work” about how we used Internet in El Nido. They take credit cards but make sure you pay for your stay the night before you leave, when the power is on in town (between 2-3pm and 6am). It seems like it may be new and the rooms seemed the cleanest and nicest of just about any we looked at. They are at the end of the main road leading out of town so it is much quieter than most of the other places we looked at.
This place was by far the best deal. On the beach and 1,000php for a fan room that included breakfast for two people. We typically spent about 400-600php on breakfast, which would have made this place a killer deal. That said- we didn’t stay here so we can’t vouch for the breakfast, though the girl who showed us the room claimed it included eggs. There also was a private bathroom with a bucket flush toilet. Based on location and price we would have chosen this place if we hadn’t picked Inngo.
Rosa’s Cottages The wifi router was in the room that they showed us so it must have had a good signal. There were huge gaps in the floorboards and walls and a mosquito net around the bed, which let us know that the room itself must get pretty buggy. The gardens were pretty and it is right on the beach. They did not have any a/c rooms and the fan rooms were 1,000php/night.
The big fancy hotel that some guidebook called a “great bargain.” We asked at the front desk about rooms and they told us 3,000php for a fan room. We didn’t even ask to see it as it was so different from all of the other prices in town. I am sure the rooms are very nice though and it’s right on the beach. Basically everywhere is right on the beach though.
Just opened, 900php for a fan room and I don’t know how much for a/c. They were fully booked when we asked about a room.
This place was so good for eating, and seemed like it would be so not good for staying. The rooms that have shared bathrooms use the same ones as the restaurant guests and there is not a lot of separation between the restaurant and the rooms. The rooms with a/c were 1400php/night.
1,000 for a room with a/c, but it didn’t feel as nice as the place we went with. They are right across the street from art café and did have a nice looking rooftop over the beach. I actually don’t remember why we said no to this one.
Lally & Abet Beach Resort
No Wifi. Fan room 1,000php/night, A/C room 1500php/night.
Set back from the beach a couple of blocks. The owners seemed really nice. The fan rooms were 700php/night but they said they would discount the room to 600php/night for stays longer than 5 nights. The a/c rooms were 1200php/night.
Marina’s Garden Resort
The a/c rooms looked really nice from the outside. They were completely booked though and I think about 2400php/night. We stayed in a fan room here for 2 nights with another friend. The room was 1220php/night for all 3 of us.
Greenviews Resort in Corong-Corong.
We had some friends who stayed here. It was 1300php/night for an A/C room without a balcony. Corong-corong is a 5 minute trike ride from El Nido town, which is about 50php each way. If you are looking for something quieter and beautiful it’s a great option. If you are going to come to town for restaurants or dive trips every day then take that into consideration.
We ate here a lot. We are typically wary of pizza outside of Italy or New York but it is surprisingly and incredibly legit here. It’s not “good for the Philippines” pizza, it is just unqualified, straight-up, good pizza. Highly recommend. The pizzas are big enough to share, especially if you get a salad to split as well. It is about 350 – 450php for a pizza depending on what type you get. The red wine is 110php a glass and is surprisingly not bad. I would order it again.
Everyone seems to go here. It a kind of the central tourist hub. You can book tours and ongoing tickets from here and get western style meals. We found the food here to be pretty underwhelming. The internet here seemed to be better in the morning when the rest of the town did not have power.
We ate here a lot as well. The banana heart curry was incredible. So is the fish kinilaw. Also they have these great nest seats set over the ocean. Lots of vegetarian/vegan options. Highly recommended.
El Nido Corner
Great brewed coffee in the morning. Also it was right across from our hotel so we went here for breakfast every day.
They infuse rum here with different flavors and we had a fun evening here rum tasting and guessing which flavor was which. You can get a flight of all of the different flavors they have. We also came here for breakfast one morning and it seemed pretty expensive and when it came we realized why. It was HUGE. It came with 3 fried eggs and a pile of bacon as well as a bunch of fruit and toast. Truthfully we would have preferred a smaller, less expensive breakfast. We also came here once for dinner and it also seemed kind of pricey but not crazy spectacular.
The Mexican place. We tend to avoid Mexican restaurants outside of Mexico and California because we are always disappointed. We had read a blog post saying that it wasn’t bad so we checked it out one night. Definitely bad. Definitely would not go there again. In all fairness I am from San Diego and am probably a harsher critic than most. But still, there is so much great Filipino food – why bother eating terrible Mexican food?
El Nido is not the type of place to hunker down and get work done unless you have quite a bit that you can do offline. Most of the places that offer wifi only do so when the power is on in the afternoon and evening. Art Café does have wifi in the mornings, and it is ok for e-mails and the like but it is unreliable and usually very slow. There will be 10 or so minutes where it is just cruising, followed by an hour of it not working at all and then going in fits and starts. We used a dongle with a SIM card for internet while we were here. We bought the “tattoo” dongle somewhere else in the Philippines and just load money onto our Globe SIM card when we need it. It is 200php for 5 days of 3g connection with Globe SIM cards.
It is more reliable than anything else but it is still not very fast, or totally reliable. Also if Globe thinks you are using too much data they reduce your data speeds to maintain quality for all other users. We got this message daily. It feels like dial-up but is better then anything else we found here and is better than nothing if you are trying to get some work done.
Day Boat Trips
There are 4 main day trips here that everybody sells and you don’t need to book anything in advance. They have the original names of A, B, C and D. They all cost about 1200-1600php per person. They include lunch and your snorkel but they do not include the 200php eco-pass that you must buy to go on one. The pass is good for 10 days so you don’t have to buy it every time you go on a tour. Everyone seems to think that A and C are the best. We saw a lot in the area with the Tao boat so we just went on one tour. I think it was A. It went to good places and the lunch was great. Be prepared for 6 other fully loaded day trip boats at every place you go and just be prepared to still enjoy how beautiful El Nido bay is, even if you have to share it with a throng of other people. If you can do Tao expeditions 5 day trip between El Nido and Coron- Do it!
Day Trips From Town
There are also a few places you can go to on your own from El Nido Town Proper. We rented motorbikes from Pura Vida a few times and they had the best helmets we have ever seen in SE Asia. The bikes are 400php for half day and 700php for full day.
If you don’t drive a motorbike then you can take a trike to any of these places. Long Beach is absolutely stunning and is about a 45-minute motorbike ride away. The roads go between paved and gravel with most of it being pretty rough. The beach is absolutely beautiful and there are places out there that serve food and drinks. On the way to long beach there are also some waterfalls that you can walk to. Any of the people living by there will act as your guide and take you there for a fee. I wouldn’t try going without a guide, as it seems pretty easy to get lost. It’s about a 30-45 minute walk to the falls and then a nice freshwater swim. We went after the beach and it was a good way to wash off the salt.
The closest nice beach to town is Las Cabanas beach. We took a trike there and back and it was 100php each way. We bartered a bit as we heard that 100 was the going rate but all the trike guys said 150. They all immediately said yes when we offered 100php so it may even be less. It’s a short 10-minute drive away, just past Corong-Corong. Once you get to where the trikes drop you off it is a short and easy path down to the beach. There are resorts along the coast that sell drinks and food. The best swimming seemed to be right at the end of the path. We got a sandwich there and it was pretty mediocre. I’d stick to beers and coconuts if I went there again.