The small town of El Nido exudes this quaint, friendly, and charming vibe throughout. El Nido is not as developed as many other popular South East Asian destinations (though it might very well become just that in the near future), which I really liked about it, so don’t expect a street filled with bars and drunken tourists, or any chain restaurants or shops.
There are many simple moments that stick out in my mind when wandering through the town.. Every morning there was a lady across from our place washing clothes in a basin. Small children ran about; some playing with each other, others helping their family members sell ice cream. Surrounding this simple yet engrossing town are towering limestone mountains with lush greenery that just took your breath away (literally for me, as I ended up climbing up one of them on my last day!). El Nido is truly a beautiful place to be.
Exploring El Nido Town Proper can be done in half a day due to its compact size, but don’t let its size fool you into thinking that it has little to offer. In fact, I found the town absolutely fascinating; from the uniquely decorated tricycles that owned the narrow streets to the homey restaurants that you could spend an entire evening in.
Tricycles are everywhere and come in handy if you’re looking to head to a different beach in El Nido for the day or head back to the bus depot. Each tricycle is painted differently in a graffiti-like style. I found this so interesting as it really showed the personality of the driver. There were religious, Rastafarian, and bad-ass inspired drawings, and everything else in between.
In terms of food, there is plenty choice here. Though you don’t go to El Nido for the food, you should check out the Midtown Bakery for their amazing donuts, Altrove for their delicious wood oven pizza (but be prepared to queue if you don’t get their early), and the El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe which also offers live music in the evenings. One restaurant -The Alternative- on the beach even had these leaf-shaped “beds” that jutted out of the side, so at night when the tide came in you were literally eating dinner over the water. Mezzanine also has great views of the water, however the food isn’t quite worth the price tag and the service can be lacking at times. If you want to eat at western restaurants, be prepared to pay around $7 – 15 CDN for a meal. You also must try the crepes (there are a few stands selling them, but the best ones are in a little dingy shop on the street where the police station is and where the ancient police vehicle is stationed on the street) and the amazing sweet bun homemade ice cream sandwiches served at different places on the side of the road throughout the town.
The beach itself isn’t exactly spectacular if you’re looking to park yourself there for the day – the sand is hard and the water isn’t the greatest to swim in. The views, however, are magnificent with toppling limestone mountains and not-so-far-off towering islands. You won’t find many people lounging around on the beach here, as most will spend the day either on an island hopping tour or a dive trip. There are some restaurants on the beach that have a great happy hour – perfect timing for when you arrive back from your daily off-shore adventure.
Like I mentioned earlier, there aren’t really any “get crazy” bars/clubs here in El Nido, but if you’re looking for a local club (and I use this term extremely lightly) experience, then head to Asylum Bar. The music is blaring and it’ll be packed with locals; men and women alike. On the dance floor you’ll find drunken tourists as well as locals busting a move. You should probably be fairly intoxicated before stepping inside this bar, as it’ll make your experience much more enjoyable.
If you haven’t already been to El Nido, you should put it down on your must-visit list ASAP!
My other adventures in Palawan:
Things To Do In Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Puerto Princesa Palawan: Accommodation & Aimless Wanderings
Ugong Rock Caving & Zipline: Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Puerto Princesa Underground River: One Of The New 7 Natural Wonders Of The World
Accommodation In El Nido, Philippines