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72 Hours in El Nido

by Marionne Mancol

El Nido’s breathtaking beauty isn’t exactly a secret, with incredible photos of its majestic lagoons and pristine beaches constantly popping up on everyone’s feed.

INSTAGRAM: zandrones

But social media saturation shouldn’t stop you from making your dream 3-day getaway happen in this Palawan paradise. Here’s a step-by-step how-to, packed with both famous and low-key spots and activities that’ll make your vacation one to remember.

DAY 1

Beachfront Breakfast at El Nido Boutique & Art Café

INSTAGRAM: elnidoboutiqueartcafe

After an early meal at this popular cafe’s terrace, officially switch your vacation mode on by getting everything in order. If you feel like dedicating a day to an organized tour, they offer island-hopping tours, private boat rentals, and activities such as diving and kayaking. They even have the serious stuff: airplane tickets, information desk, and money exchange. Before heading out, you can also start shopping for souvenirs or stock up on trip necessities.

El Nido Boutique & Art Café
Serena St., Buena Suerte, El Nido
0920 902 6317; 0917 560 4020
elnidoboutique@yahoo.com
info@elnidoboutiqueandartcafe.com

Morning Activity: Discover “El Nido’s Most Beautiful Beach”

INSTAGRAM: maptheworld.de

Four kilometers of cream sand meet beautifully blue waters at Nacpan Beach, the better half of El Nido’s Twin Beaches. If you find yourself tired from the hour-long journey from El Nido town, relaxing isn’t a problem since it’s usually not crowded. Otherwise, swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding are on the table. Take it easy, though—the waves too far from the shore are off-limits (they can be pretty extra).

Have a Hearty Lunch

INSTAGRAM: keishrex and laurenfitz80

Before heading off, fuel up at Nacpan Sunmai Sunset Restaurant, which serves pasta, seafood, and meat entrees. You may also consider a good old picnic: pack your own lunch or order to-go before making your way to the beach.

Nacpan Sunmai Sunset Restaurant
Nacpan Beach Pier, El Nido
0945 413 0306

Afternoon Activity: Chase Waterfalls at Nagkalit-Kalit

INSTAGRAM: harryca

On the way back to El Nido town lies a gem waiting to be discovered at the end of half an hour’s walk and over an hour’s hike. Flip-flops or water-resistant shoes are advised because you’ll cross the forest and rivers, so don’t forget your mosquito repellents! Once you reach Nagkalit-Kalit Falls, you’ll see two waterfalls—the cold pool from the bigger one is a refreshing experience you won’t want to miss.

Dinner and Late-Night Activity: Feast Till Happy Hour at Bacuit Grill Bar and Restaurant

INSTAGRAM: stomachrumbling

Back at Bacuit Bay, relax and bask in the memories of the day at this open-air, native-inpsired restobar where you can eat generous servings of good, affordable food. Western to Asian food options, beers and cocktails, good music, sunset view, and the sound of waves? The chill vibes are strong with this one.

Bacuit Grill Bar and Restaurant
El Nido Beach, El Nido
0920 238 5160; 0939 582 4564

DAY 2

But First, Coffee...at Botanica

INSTAGRAM: piauyy

The hot and cold drinks, pastries, and dessert options in Botanica have made significant noise in the cafe lovers grapevine. With free WiFi, outlets, and board games, the tranquility of their patio is ideal for breaking bread and trying their organic and specialty coffee. The ube latte is a must-try!

Botanica
Amboy Street corner Pecado, El Nido
0905 552 3346

Morning Activity: Historical Adventure at Ille Cave

INSTAGRAM: dolphindaph

Palawan is more than just majestic waters and scenic beaches. The darkness of Ille Cave sheds light on the lives of inhabitants from 12,000 years ago; archaeologists discovered several artifacts such as pottery, stone tools, burials, faura, and fauna (even ancient tiger remains!).

DG Traveler Tip: Hire a tour guide for a safe and informative exploration of this rocky historical site all the way to the top for a stunning view of El Nido.

Lunch: Pizza Time at Mezzanine

INSTAGRAM: katjade.h

After having your fill of grilled food the day before, it’s time for some classic pizza and shakes at this modern Italian restobar. They also serve pasta and homemade ice cream, which you can savor with a waterfront view on the second floor. You’ll have to take your footwear off before entering though, but it just makes the relaxing experience even better.

Mezzanine El Nido
Serena St., Buena Suerte, El Nido
0926 706 3263

Afternoon Activity: Explore the Lagoons at Miniloc Island

INSTAGRAM: mailabhel

If you’re tired of crashing waves and steep hikes, there’s no better island to be stuck in for a few hours than Miniloc Island. Big, Small, and Secret—one can’t help but marvel at the tranquility of the island’s lagoons. The towering limestone rocks and corals, plus the calm, cold, and crystal-clear waters, are truly a sight for sore eyes.

Dinner: Filipino Food at Beef Stew Hauz

INSTAGRAM: mosensa

Loved by locals and tourists alike, this small restaurant offers classic Pinoy dishes, such as sisig, bulalo, sinigang, and adobo that will make your taste buds and wallets happy. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, their famous sizzling crocodile is a culinary thrill!

Beef Stew Hauz
Zone 3 Brgy. Masagana, El Nido
0907 737 4105

Evening Activity: Bar-Hop at El Nido Town

INSTAGRAM: happinessbeachbar

Check out the popular Happiness Beach Bar for your pick of various alcoholic drinks and food, including vegan and vegetarian options. You can also dance the night away at New Zone Disco Bar—they close at 12:30 AM.

DG Traveler Tip: Some hostels organize pub crawls, so you can ask yours if they have one you can join!

Happiness Beach Bar
Serena St., Buena Suerte, El Nido
0915 766 1479

New Zone Disco Bar
Calle Hama St., El Nido

DAY 3

Breakfast: Fuel Up at the Beach Shack

INSTAGRAM: monicamanifests

Jumpstart your day with fresh fruit shakes and sandwiches from this cute cafe at Marimegmeg Beach. They have cottages with private terraces you can call dibs on early before the crowd starts to thicken at brunch.

The Beach Shack
Marimegmeg Beach, El Nido
0917 577 7513
Opens at 8 AM

Morning Activity: Lounge at Marimegmeg Beach

INSTAGRAM: trojanmn17

Also known as Las Cabanas Beach, this spot provides the perfect opportunity to walk along the shore, appreciate the landscape from a deck chair, dip into clean and clear waters, then end the lazy morning by riding the zipline near the cafe.

Lunch and Afternoon Activity: Hop on the El Nido Party Boat

INSTAGRAM: justglobetrotting

Feel like exploring El Nido and making new friends from all over the world at the same time? Starting at 11 AM, the Filipino crew aboard this cruise will take you through the highlights of the usual tours and some hidden gems. Throw in a barbecue buffet and unlimited liquor and it’s a fountain of youthful experience—all done responsibly since you’ll have your hands full snorkeling, dancing, singing, swimming, and island hopping.

El Nido Party Boat
Deli Nido Cafe, Osmeña St., Buena Suerte
0905 460 4723
info@elnidopartyboat.com

Dinner: Wine and Dine at Trattoria Altrov'é

INSTAGRAM: jamesmikecoby

Some of the drinks and ingredients used in this Italian restaurant are imported from different parts of the world, such as their Sauvignon from Chile and their pasta from Italy. The place gets pretty crowded, so patience is key to getting your fill of pizza and vino for your last meal in the island.

Trattoria Altrov'é
Calle Hama, Buena Suerte, El Nido
0926 054 2323

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About Marionne
Marionne Dominique Uy Mancol is a filmmaker and freelance writer from Samar. She graduated cum laude from Ateneo de Manila where she studied AB Communication on full scholarship and won Best Thesis for their campaign on women’s empowerment against sexual harassment. Her heart smiles for Jesus, her family and friends, chicken wings, dancing, traveling, and coming home.

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