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Where to stay in El Nido

Where to stay in El Nido, Philippines – the land of crystal water

El Nido is a municipality of on the north of the Palawan island, Philippines. It is home to some of the most beautiful, well-preserved white-sand beaches and crystal clear water in the world. It houses a 90 000 hectares large Managed Resource Protected Area of dense jungles, coral reefs, limestone islands, and other natural occurrences. It’s a unique travel destination, in that it allows people to inhabit the area, as long as they promise to do that with maximum sustainability in mind, making this area a nature-lovers paradise.

This article will help you find the ideal area where to stay in El Nido.

Best area for first-timers Caalan Beach
Best area to stay on a budget El Nido Town
Best alternative/bohemian area Sibaltan

But wait, where is the nightlife?

Although whichever place you pick will have things like beach bars, restaurants and then some additional activities, El Nido is not the vacation place for major nightlife events. The entire motto of this area is peace and sustainability.

Transportation, getting around El Nido

Transportation is not highly developed in El Nido. Most tourist resorts are small, beachside areas that are easily covered on foot. In case you need/want to go elsewhere from your resort, there are some buses and private transportation (vans) that make tours around the area. If you need to get somewhere, locals may offer to take you for a fee.

Renting a vehicle: There are options to rent different types of vehicles in El Nido, here’s a quick list of options:

  • Scooters – renting one will cost around 700 Pesos (around $15) per day. This is a good option if you plan to visit a few areas outside your resort.
  • Mountain Bikes – renting one cost the same as a scooter. Lovers of the outdoors can rent a mountain bike and enjoy tracking through the natural landscape of El Nido.
  • Cars – renting one will cost you around 2500 Pesos (around $50) per day. You can choose to drive it yourself or hire a driver for around 1000 Pesos per day (around $20). Most services offer a discount if you rent for a longer period (8 days or more).

Where to stay for first-timers – Caalan Beach

Caalan Beach is the place where first-timers will find everything that’s worth experiencing El Nido, without going overboard on any one thing. Pick this area to be close to some of the best beaches the island has to offer. It’s a known tourist area and it won’t blow your budget.

Pros Cons
  • Popular, but not overcrowded
  • Close to El Nido Town
  • Amazingly clean and clear water
  • Not much to see and do around the area other than the beach

What to see and do in Caalan Beach?

Snorkeling

What better way to make use of the crystal-clear water than gazing at its rich underwater scenery. You can buy regular snorkeling equipment on the many stores along the way to the beach. Those who like to dive without gear will love this area as well. However, for diving lessons and actual diving tips you’ll have to stop by El Nido Town.

Go on island-hopping tours

Island-hopping tours offer unique ways to explore the scenery of Caalan. The tours are government-standardized, so wherever you book your tour you’re going to get the same experience. Caalan Beach Resort’s Island-Hopping Tours offer four, full-package (tour, info, food, snorkeling gear) options and proudly claim that those who go on one, pick at least one more:

  1. Lagoons and Beaches
  2. Caves & Coves
  3. Hidden Beaches & Shrines
  4. Island Beaches

Visit El Nido Town

While in Caalan beach, you’re within walking distance of the main town. Hop over for a taste of El Nidos moderate nightlife, swim and sunbathe at El Nido beach, explore the streets and try some local street food. There’s also a decent amount of other activities in the town.

Source: Flickr Julia Sumangil

Where to stay in Caalan Beach? Our top AirBnB’s

Affordable price range: Aircon Sun Walley small guesthouses, part of a larger complex

Moderate price range: Guesthouse for 2 + Scooter – modest guesthouse with scooter included

Luxury price range: Sampaguita Villa – modern meets sustainable in this gorgeous, nature-inspired guesthouse

Where to stay on a budget – El Nido Town

El Nido Town is a nice beachside town with a decent amount of activities and has the best connection to other parts of the island. It’s the most developed and safest area in the municipality.

Pros Cons
  • Populated, but not overcrowded
  • Lots of beachside activities to choose from
  • Good access to other areas
  • Modest at best nightlife

What to see and do in El Nido Town?

Go Scuba Diving

One of the reasons you go to El Nido is the gorgeous underwater landscape. El Nido has multiple diving schools where you can join in on group diving tours or go individually with a guide. Once you finish one tour, chances are high you’ll want to do it again. Luckily, the tours aren’t just local, and you can join in on diving expeditions to other parts of El Nido as well.

Join Island-hopping tours

Like we already mentioned, El Nido has a couple of government-standardized Island tours. These will include but are not limited to, venturing to surrounding islands, exploring the caves and popular snorkeling areas.

Visit the surrounding beaches

El Nido Town is a good base to start exploring other nearby beaches. Some of the highly recommended ones are Caalan, Marimegmeg, Las Cabanas and more. You can also hop on boat trips to nearby recommended islands and explore their beaches as well.

Where to stay in El Nido Town? Our top AirBnB’s

Affordable price range: Jungle View Room – lovely room with a view of the jungle

Moderate price range: Comfy Room El Nido – centrally located, provides breakfast and discounts at a local cafe

Luxury price range: Big House El Nido Town – huge, sustainable house in a great location

Where to stay, bohemian/alternative edition – Sibaltan

Located on the north-east side of El Nido, the area of Sibaltan is perfect for nature enthusiasts who want to get away from it all. Everything around the tropical village area looks and feels different, and is far from a busy, modern lifestyle. You could even say it looks like it froze in time.

Pros Cons
  • Surrounded by nature
  • Traditional experience
  • Easy-going, disconnected
  • Completely remote from other areas

What to see and do in Sibaltan?

Visit Balay Cuyonon Museum

The museum area is actually a land parcel with a house that’s meant to replicate the kind of simple village life that was lived there in the (not so distant) past. The traditional wooden house is full of everyday items like gardening tools, grooming tools, hunting tools, etc.

Source: Facebook @Sibaltan Heritage

Go Scuba Diving

The beautiful coral reef full of rich marine life is the go-to activity when in Sibaltan. You will encounter and be able to interact with countless species of fish. The experience is worth giving a few goes since there are many places to explore and things to see, as the tour guides will carefully instruct you.

Explore Linapacan

Linapacan is a municipality made out of 52 islands, less popular and crowded since one of the only (good) access points is from Sibaltan. Lucky for you, if you’re staying in Sibaltan, there are many island-hopping tours that will take you around. There are plenty of beaches, caves and diving areas to explore between the islands.

Source: Google Earth

Where to stay in Sibaltan? Out top AirBnBs

Note that Sibaltan (and El Nido in general) is not a place to look for luxury. This area is known for being relaxing and completely disconnected, here are our favorite accommodations, all within an affordable to moderate price range.

Affordable price range: Overlooking Cottages – compact wooden cottages close to the beach

Moderate price range: Dakila Cabins – beach house with ocean view

Affordable price range: Tapik Beach Cottage  – private wooden cottage (verified by Airbnb)

Final thoughts and tips before your trip to El Nido

El Nido is the place to visit if you want a vacation that will completely disconnect you from the modern world and let you relax. It’s also a sanctuary for anyone looking to experience (or live) an environmentally friendly, sustainable lifestyle. Souvenirs are hand-crafted, energy is preserved wherever possible, rainwater is recycled, etc. Make sure to bring cash because ATMs are scarce and will run out of money in peak season, while virtually no place accepts cards. The Internet is not available everywhere, so make sure to note that.