This is just a short list of the islands, beaches and attractions of El Nido. There are plenty more that you can explore.
Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair) is only one of two commercial airlines that fly to El Nido. The unpaved runway of El Nido Airport limits the types of aircraft that can land there. Currently only Seair’s 19-seater Let-410, Island Transvoyager Inc’s (ITI) 19-seater Dornier 228 and the service helicopter of the Malampaya crew land and take off from their airport.
Two weeks ago, if someone told me that traveling to El Nido can be done on a budget, I wouldn’t believe it. Now that I’ve been there, I can say that it *is* possible. Not counting the travel expenses to and from El Nido, staying in El Nido town can be quite cheap, given the range of budget accommodations available, as well as affordable canteens and restaurants scattered throughout the small town. It’s not surprising that a lot of backpackers from all over the world flock every year to this gorgeous place, as well as a growing number of Filipino budget travelers.
Just Wandering’s overly simplified and obviously not-to-scale map of El Nido Town
(click to view or download larger version)
During our off time (one day spent resting in between island hopping adventures), I decided to walk around town and check out some of the affordable places to stay in El Nido. This is a short list compared to several available online, but these are places that I have looked at and doesn’t look too dodgy. I wasn’t able to check the rooms on offer on most of them, but I have chatted with the owners or caretakers about their rooms and facilities. I they were kind enough to answer the questions of this pesky traveler who wasn’t even planning on staying at their place, they’re automatically included in the list.
I’m trying to think back why we chose to stay in Marina Garden Beach Resort, but all I can think about is how glad I was that we agreed to stay here. The resort has the best stretch of beach for lounging and swimming. Though most of the resorts in town have beach fronts or have access to the beach, Marina’s beachfront is the widest and cleanest, and hardly any boat dock on its shore, which makes it the best for swimming. That’s why guests of other resorts flock to Marina’s beachfront.
I’m back in Manila and I’m sorely missing the beach in El Nido. I’ve prepared a series of blog posts about this trip, and I hope you guys find it useful for planning your own El Nido vacation. First up is of course, the travel budget.
The perception of many is that El Nido is a very expensive place to travel to. It actually is, considering that direct flights to El Nido from Manila can cost as much as Php 13,000 per person. The cheaper alternative is to go via Puerto Princessa, but you’d have to deal with rough roads and cramped spaces inside vans or buses (or if you’re hardcore, saddled on an off-road motorcycle). The best place to stay for budget travelers is El Nido Town. There are several resorts and lodges that offer cheap accommodation to fit every budget. The same go for restaurants and shops.
El Nido’s main attraction, of course, are the spectacular limestone formations and sparkling white sand beaches of the islands in the Bacuit Archipelago. To visit these islands, you can either hire your own boat or go with a group tour. The group tour aren’t so bad, and they’re usually limited to about 8 to 10 passengers. If you’re a fairly large group (5 and up), you can try sweet talking the tour operator to let your group have the entire boat to yourselves. Tour of the islands usually start at Php 500 per person and already includes lunch.
This is certainly not my cheapest domestic trip, but considering that it’s a 5 day, 4 nights trip in one of the most amazing places in the Philippines, it’s worth every peso.