The best things to do in El Nido – Our activities guide

Any trip to El Nido will blow your mind. Impressive scenery, blissful beaches and a chilled beach-town atmosphere will have you eager to return for more. You’ll make your best memories here, and will probably take some of your favourite pictures too! Browse our list of awesome things to do in El Nido and plan an action-packed trip to this captivating corner of Palawan. You could spend 2 weeks there and still not be bored!

1. Join an island-hopping boat tour

At top of our list of things to do in El Nido, island hopping is the main activity and what everyone comes here to experience. Towering limestone cliffs, secluded tropical islands and turquoise coral reefs make up the islands just off the shore of El Nido town. Choose from four different tours; A, B, C and D for different experiences of the islands. As there’s so much to see, we recommend spending two full days island hopping in El Nido. Simply choose your favourite options.

You can book tours online before you go with a website such as Viator or TripAdvisor, reserve a spot via your hotel or hostel, or book with a travel agent booth in El Nido.

Here’s a brief comparison of each tour and a guide on what you’ll see and do.

All tour options generally include the following:

Full day boat trip on a traditional Bangka boat, speed boat or catamaran (depending on which option you choose). Expect anywhere from 10 – 20 people abord. Life jackets and snorkelling equipment included. Visits to various lagoons, beaches, snorkelling spots, sand bars and sometimes waterfalls and caves. Buffet style BBQ lunch and access to drinking water all day.

Tour A – Book on Viator

As El Nido’s original tour and the most popular island-hopping option, tour A is a must-see for any first-time visitor. It has a focus on seeing the main lagoons of El Nido where you can snorkel and enjoy the turquoise waters, but also takes you to some excellent beaches. It’s more touristic than other options but well worth experiencing for big and small lagoon. Combine A and another tour option for 2 days of action-packed island hopping.

  • Small Lagoon
  • Big Lagoon
  • Secret Lagoon
  • Shimizu Island
  • 7 Commando Beach
Shows a couple kayaking in Small Lagoon - Things to do in El Nido
Shows a girl on 7 Commando Beach - El Nido activities

Tour B – Book on Viator

Tour B is one of the best tours for variety. You’ll get to see a sand bar in the middle of the ocean, small and large islands with nice beaches, a cave, and you’ll uncover the local sea-life on your snorkelling stops.

  • Snake Island
  • Pinagbuyutan Island
  • Entalula Beach
  • Cudugnon Cave
  • Snorkelling stops
Shows a sand bar from above
Snorkelling bay in El Nido

Tour C – Book on Viator

Along with tour A, tour C is one of the most popular island hopping options. A and C is a perfect combination for seeing the top sites in El Nido as well as some beautiful beaches. Tour C offers breath-taking scenery (possibly the best in our opinion) and some secluded beaches for relaxation.

  • Helicopter Island
  • Matinloc Shrine
  • Secret Beach
  • Star Beach
  • Hidden Beach
El Nido lagoons from above - Awesome things to do in El Nido
El Nido Island hopping - Shows tour C island stop

Tour D – Book on Viator

A great tour option if you want to explore some of El Nido’s hidden beaches away from the tourist crowds. You’ll have plenty of time for relaxation, a little bit of swimming and snorkelling and will visit more secluded tropical islands.

  • Ipil Beach
  • Cadlao Lagoon
  • Paradise Beach
  • Pasandigan Beach
  • Natnat Beach
  • Bukal Beach
Island hopping in El Nido - Shows a remote beach with cliffs
Shows a secluded snorkelling spot - El Nido Island hopping guide

View all island hopping tours on Viator, including private tours and luxury speedboat and catamaran options.

NOTE: Tour activities and destinations are usually the same based on the option you choose. The itinerary may vary based on the tour company.

The Philippines Experience cultural tour

Tourists walking to the Philippines Experience
Cultural things to do in El Nido - Shows traditional dance

Next on our list of awesome things to do in El Nido is the Philippines Experience. This eye-opening attraction offers a deep, cultural insight into the Filipino people and is a welcome escape from the touristic vibe of other things to do in El Nido. Arrive for a daily group tour and venture through the forest to a small beach shack. You’ll spend your morning climbing bamboo trees, learning some helpful Filipino phrases, meeting the local wildlife, learning a Filipino dance and plenty of other fun but insightful activities. You’ll even get to cook a traditional meal from scratch! A thrilling and cultural activity tour that we can’t rate highly enough. It’s managed by a friendly couple that will go out of their way to ensure you have a great time! Read about our visit in our blog post here.

Zipline across the bay to Las Cabanas Beach

Shows the Las Cabanas zipline - El Nido activities

One of the coolest things to do in El Nido is no doubt the Las Cabanas Beach Zipline. Choose whether to sit up or go head-first lying down in the superman pose and glide across the sea to an island just across from Las Cabanas Beach. You’ll feel like a bird and will capture amazing views of the sand bar below. The Las Cabanas Zipline costs 500PHP if you choose to sit down or 700PHP for the ‘superman’ position and you can pay extra for a drone video of your zipline. We absolutely loved this activity and would recommend paying the small amount extra for the superman pose!

Scuba dive beneath turquoise lagoons

Snorkelling in a tropical lagoon

The lagoons of El Nido and neighbouring Coron are a scuba divers paradise. Although you can explore the underwater sea life with a snorkel on a standard boat tour, to dive deep and really uncover what lies beneath you’ll need to join a scuba day-trip. Hop between the islands and lagoons on a small boat and let the crew show you the best spots for giant sea turtles, tropical fish and colourful coral. You can even go cave diving in some areas! You’ll find plenty of different diving companies around El Nido Town that you can book online in advance. Alternatively, book on arrival the day before you want to dive. We personally recommend Submariner Diving Center. They have excellent reviews, a good safety record and offer dive courses for different levels of experience.

Relax on Nacpan Beach

Best things to do in El Nido - Shows the beautiful Nacpan Beach

Not only is Nacpan Beach the most beautiful beach in El Nido, it has been voted as one of the best beaches in the world by various travel magazines. You can stay in Nacpan itself in a selection of hostels, hotels and beach apartments, however many travellers visit for a day-trip. It takes around 50 minutes to drive to Nacpan from El Nido Town by taxi or trike. You’ll also want to arrive early to make the most of the day. Walk the huge stretch of beach for stunning tropical views or pull up a chair in a beach bar. The waves are powerful here too, making it a good place to surf! Stay overnight in Nacpan if you have time in your itinerary or arrive for a relaxing day-trip in the sun…Nacpan is one of the best beaches we visited in the Philippines and is well worth visiting.

El Nido Via Ferrata Canopy Walk

El Nido Via Ferrata Canopy Walk from above
Adventurers hiking up the side of a cliff

El Nido is surrounded by tall cliffs and the best way to see the town below and islands in the distance is to climb to a sky-high viewpoint. The El Nido Via Ferrata Canopy Walk is a cheap adventure attraction in the heart of town that welcomes you to suit up in safety equipment and climb steps and wooden bridges to a viewpoint. From here you can capture amazing views of El Nido Town below. See below for the type of scenery you’ll experience… The mini hike is short and easy enough for anyone to complete. It only takes an hour but is worth checking out for the scenery that awaits you at the top!

Soak in the sun and enjoy happy hour on Marimegmeg Beach

Shows Marimegmeg Beach at sunset

Marimegmeg Beach is a popular beach area south of El Nido town, positioned between the just as beautiful Corong Corong and Las Cabanas beaches. As El Nido town’s main beach is full of boats and isn’t as beautiful, you’ll spend most of your beach-time on this trio of white sands. It’s a great place to wind-down during the day and it doesn’t get too crowded. You have a chilled vibe with beach bars and restaurants and the atmosphere gradually gets a little livelier as sunset arrives. Sunbathe and swim until 6pm and then watch sunset with a happy hour cocktail. It’s a place where we spend most of our evenings in El Nido.

Explore inland and north El Nido on a moped

Top things to do in El Nido - Shows rice fields inland

When people visit El Nido they usually stay in one main area near El Nido town or on Corong Corong Beach. The region is so much bigger than you’d expect and most travellers miss some beautiful scenery that they didn’t know existed. Rent a moped and head inland to find rice fields, completely empty beaches and some excellent viewpoints. El Nido covers the entire north of Palawan island and once you venture out of town, you’ll find that you’re the only tourists in site. Head north towards the secluded Base Bay and Darocotan Bay and check out the countryside on the way.

Take an early morning hike to the summit of Taraw Cliff

Shows the view from Taraw Cliff viewpoint

An early morning hike up the hills surrounding El Nido is an activity that not many tourists know about. Local guides take small groups of willing adventurers on a challenging hike up the side of the mountain at sunrise, climbing to the top for some spectacular views of the horizon. You’ll take some of the best pictures of your trip and will get a good workout at the same time! You can book a place on a guided tour for around 800 PHP per person at most of the travel agent booths in El Nido Town. Just be sure to wear decent footwear as the ascent can be challenging and a little dangerous if you’re unprepared.

Party the night away at PangolIN and PUKKA BAR

El Nido nightlife guide - Shows a DJ turntable

3amIf you like a good nightlife scene when visiting a new destination, you’ll be pleased to know that El Nido is one of the Philippines’ hot spots for beach bars and has a social scene that anyone can get involved in. Choose to chill-out at sunset with cocktails in a beach bar or venture to livelier late-night spots. SAVA Beach Bar, Pangolin and Pukka Bar n El Nido town for dancing until the early hours. Nightlife in El Nido isn’t the wild variety you’ll find in Bali and Thailand, but it does make a great night out and you’ll make lots of new friends. Check out our El Nido nightlife guide here for the best bars for everyone.

Stay overnight in a luxurious island resort

Luxury island resorts - El Nido activities
Image courtesy of geLowfish Wiki CC

The collection of islands off the coast of El Nido aren’t just for island hopping day-trips. Secluded sections of the archipelago are home to exclusive four and five-star resorts with beach bungalows, private beaches and luxurious surroundings in nature. If you can afford the high price tag of £300+ per night, spending a night in one of these resorts is a once in a lifetime experience that you won’t forget! Take a water-taxi to a hidden cove to be greeted by your own villa. Then indulge with a spa, water sports, gourmet dining and unique activities that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. They’re popular for couples on their honeymoon but families will also feel at home. Check out our El Nido accommodation guide for ideas on the best luxury island hotels to visit.

Indulge in the exquisite International foodie scene

Eating out in El Nido - Shows Filipino meal in a restaurant

As El Nido has grown into one of the Philippines’ most popular tourist destinations, so has its restaurant scene. The town and the nearby Corong Corong Beach have plenty of top-rated eateries that range from Italian and Thai to American classics and local dishes. We toured many of the top-rated restaurants in El Nido and enjoyed every meal we had! It’s also one of the best places in Palawan if you’re a vegetarian or vegan. Browse out our El Nido restaurant guide here for tips on the best places to dine. It’s important to check reviews before eating out as some restaurants here have poor hygiene . You don’t want to get sick!

Experience island life with Buhay Isla

Buhay island life - Shows remote beach in El Nido

If you’re the type of explorer that prefers to be away from the main tourist trail and want a more local experience, multi-day packages such as those offered by the top-rated Buhay Isla will be right up your street. Spend two full days exploring islands and snorkelling spots. You’ll be away from the main tourist trail and will camp on a deserted island with the locals. You’ll also wake up to an entire beach for yourself, will learn about the Filipino way of life and are bound to make friends with other travellers on your tour. Visit the Buhay Isla website for more information.

Go gift shopping in El Nido town

Shows El Nido town shopping streets

El Nido Town is reminiscent of developing beach towns throughout South-East Asia. It has no pavements, seemingly pop-up buildings and can be a little rough around the edges. Even then, it has a particular charm and array of colour to its streets. Spend a cloudy morning or afternoon exploring town on foot, tasting treats from the bakeries or ice cream shacks and browsing beach fashion at the boutique gifts shops. Unlike the tacky clothes and gifts that you see in other beach towns, we found the quality to be very good in El Nido. Handmade items and professionally produced clothes will have you filling up your suitcase before heading home.

If you want a more local shopping scene, have a browse around the early morning market. It opens from 4am every day and is ideal for picking up fresh fruits and snacks.

We hope we’ve inspired you with plenty of ideas for things to do in El Nido. It’ll be one of your highlights for any Philippines trip! We recommend staying for at least 4 days to experience all of the great sights, beaches and activities. We personally could stay there for a month and not get bored! It has a good mix of tourists and locals and a really chilled vibe. For tips on the best places to eat, sleep and the best nights out, check out our other articles.


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