If you’re looking for the best El Nido restaurants that this tropical corner of paradise has to offer, we have all of the inspiration you need right here! After hearing many rumours about people getting food poisoning in El Nido, we were very cautious where we ate and only sought out the best of the best restaurants. Luckily, we didn’t get sick and sampled some amazing local and international cuisine! Read on for the full lo-down on eating out in El Nido, Philippines.
What’s the food like in El Nido?
Being a touristic town with visitor levels on the increase, El Nido is a clash of local Filipino foods with a mix of western cuisine. Unless visiting a themed restaurant such as Italian or Thai, many El Nido restaurants have an assortment of western and local dishes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It gives you good choice. Unlike elsewhere in Asia, we found menus to be more concise and they didn’t offer every dish under the sun (a big positive in our opinion!). Top local dishes to try include Abodo, fresh seafood with and a taste-bud tantalising selection of egg-plant and mango salad dishes.
The Best El Nido restaurants
We’ve hand selected the following 8 restaurants as the best that El Nido has to offer based on our own experience and user reviews. Check them out for yourself to see how great they are!
Big Bad Thai
Our absolute favourite restaurant in El Nido and one that’ll probably be recommended to you by friends that have been to El Nido. Big Bad Thai is 2nd and 3rd story balcony restaurant in the heart of town that serves up delicious curries, Pad Thai’s and other Thai dishes for very affordable prices. The surroundings of the restaurant are completely wooden and lowly lit, creating a nice ambience as you enjoy dinner.
We personally recommend trying the assortment of Thai curries (which aren’t overly spicy), combining it with a cocktail and sharing a mango sticky rice for dessert. The Pad Thai is also excellent and all portions are plentiful. Big Bad Thai can get busy on an evening so we recommend reserving a table in advance and sitting on the upper level for the best view of town.
Art Café is one of the hippest and trendiest places to eat in El Nido and we love its colourful décor. Ascend up a flight of stairs to be greeted by a first-floor restaurant with a balcony overlooking the main streets. Bamboo tables and chairs clash with colourful walls of art and decorations and a live band sometimes play in the corner of the room whilst you feast on dinner.
It offers quite a varied menu of fish, local rice dishes and plenty of western favourites, including Paella, pastas and stone baked pizza. As they do western food so well, you may wish to come here for an Italian style meal one evening and then return for something local another night. After visiting with a large group and everyone enjoying their meal, we’re confident that you can have free reign of the menu. The atmosphere is lively and it paves the way for a fun night out.
Bella Vita is a no-frills but trendy beach bar on Corong Corong Beach that does three things very well – pizza, pasta and cocktails! For a low-key dinner in a cool wooden beach bar setting, it’s one of the best places to eat in the area. Bring along some newly made friends from your hostel or boat tour and says cheers at sunrise as you gaze out at the beach whilst the sun goes down. The drink selection is excellent and we recommend Bella Vita as the perfect start to a fun night out in Corong Corong. The restaurant is small so arrive early or reserve a table in advance.
Happiness Beach Bar
Happiness is a small and cosy restaurant that’s lit up with fairy lights and has sleek bamboo furnishings. It has a very Asian-rustic vibe and you’ll enjoy being tucked up on a small table taking in the atmosphere of the restaurant and adjacent street. The cuisine here is almost entirely Middle Eastern and Turkish, featuring falafel flatbreads, hummus meze and a variety of tasty dips, wraps and salads. Visit Happiness Beach Bar if you fancy a spicy and healthy lunch or dinner and are a fan of Middle Eastern/Turkish mezze.
Taste El Nido – The Vegan Café
One thing you’ll notice in El Nido is that it has really embraced the culture of sustainability, vegetarianism and veganism. Most El Nido restaurants you’ll visit have a selection of specialist dishes on the menu so you won’t be limited for choice, but The Vegan Café is the best place to go if you fancy a full selection of vegan and veggie food. Located in the centre of town, this compact and colourful café is a great spot for nutritious breakfast bowls, fruit shakes and a plethora of plant-based dishes for lunch and dinner.
It’s a restaurant than anyone will enjoy, whether a vegan or not and is well worth checking out as a mix of pace to your dining in El Nido. Due to the casual, airy setting, we recommend The Vegan Café for breakfast or lunch.
Altrove & Altrove Express
Altrove is an Italian restaurant that’s currently rated the best restaurant in El Nido on TripAdvisor and has been for some time. It has a restaurant both in El Nido town and down the road near the beach Corong Corong area, showing how popular it has become! It serves up speciality stone-baked pizza from the clay oven and an assortment of simple but delicious pastas. Simply choose your type of pasta and the toppings to go with it.
If you fancy Italian (the food here is solely pasta, pizza and salads), this is the definite place to go and you’ll be guaranteed a tasty meal. We recommend visiting here at least once during your trip! Evenings are usually busy and atmospheric, whilst lunchtime is a much quieter place to escape the main street for a nice bite to eat. Altrove also offers a takeaway service and it’s just as good! If you can’t be bothered to venture out one evening, simply give them a call and get food delivered for low cost.
Vellago Restaurant & Beachbar
If you’re visiting El Nido with your partner and want a romantic evening by the beach, look no further than Vellago. As the sun goes down, the candles come out and the sand is lit up to form a beautifully romantic setting overlooking the ocean. Choose to sit on the deck or on a secluded spot on the sand and share an intimate meal as a couple. The menu is varied and features both local curries and meat dishes, fresh seafood, pasta and steaks.
It’s the ideal El Nido restaurant for a proposal or spending your last evening in nice surroundings. For the experience that Vellago provides, it’s very affordable too! If you prefer a more casual setting and aren’t looking for romance, visit during the day for lunch or grab a seat on the ocean deck for some sunset cocktails. The restaurant is located within the Vellago Hotel on the secluded Seven Commandoes Beach outside of El Nido town, so you’ll need a Trike or cab to get there.
Scape Skydeck is a nice place to eat for a special occasion or on your last night in El Nido. It’s located on the rooftop of the Cuna Hotel and offers a simple menu of seafood, steaks, pastas, pizzas and local rice dishes. Although a higher cost than nearby El Nido restaurants, it’s a classier environment to enjoy dinner and the service is excellent. We recommend arriving half an hour before sunset (check times online before you visit) and grabbing a table by the balcony edge. You’ll see the orange glare of the sun set on the rooftops whilst enjoying a happy hour cocktail!
A special shoutout to Gusto Gelato
Not a restaurant but a brilliant café and ice cream parlour, Gusto Gelato is the place to go for delicious treats and coffee. Unlike many of the cafes in El Nido that only serve brewed coffee, Gusto has a barista machine that has all the Italian specialities you’d find at Starbucks. Ice cream is more expensive that other ice cream stalls, however it’s a much higher quality and deliciously creamy. Well worth paying extra! Head here for some snacks to take to the beach or for post-dinner dessert.
Top tips for not getting food poisoning in El Nido
As becoming a little ill is a fairly common occurrence in El Nido, we thought we’d assemble the following tips to help prevent an upset stomach whilst in town. Take extra care and you’ll be completely fine! Sometimes it’s just the foreign bacteria that can make you ill for a day or two.
- Take probiotics tablets for a couple of weeks before arriving in the Philippines. It’ll help line your stomach with good bacteria and lower the chances of getting an upset stomach.
- Only drink filtered water and try to avoid ice cubes. Ask the restaurant server if you’re unsure.
- Always check the reviews of a restaurant before sitting down. We recommend searching Google Maps or TripAdvisor for the restaurant name and only eating in 4/5+ rated El Nido restaurants.
- Avoid raw fish/meat foods and shellfish
- Wash your hands with anti-bacterial hand gel before and after every meal. Avoid touching food or your mouth with your hands.
- Eat where the locals eat. If it’s a busy restaurant, food will likely be fresh and well-cooked.
- Avoid all street food in El Nido. In our experience and based on the stories we’ve heard, there aren’t many good quality street food stands and they’re best avoided altogether. Slices of street pizza and takeaway food are one of the biggest culprits for making people sick!
That brings us to an end of our list of the best restaurants in El Nido. Don’t let the last part on food poisoning scare you off! All of the restaurants we’ve mentioned have excellent reviews and as long as you stick to those or other popular eateries, you’ll be fine. El Nido has some delicious meals worth trying and you’ll be spoilt for choice at the selection every breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try to book El Nido restaurants in advance if travelling with a group of 5+, on weekends and during peak hours of 7:30 – 9:30pm.