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NATURE | PHILIPPINES | EL NIDO
The streets of El Nido

What can you expect of the streets of El Nido? Is it hard to find your way? Is it crowded? How do you navigate this small fishing town at the very north of Palawan Island? We spent 5 days in El Nido, having opportunities to walk around the town and try to discover as much as we could, and we are excited to tell you more about our experience! 

If you have never been to South East Asia, El Nido will give you a crash course. It’s everything a small South East Asian town could ever be, minus all the tourists of course. The fame of El Nido’s beaches, islands and diving spots have really made a big impact on this sleepy fishing town in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, it’s quickly turning into the Phuket of the Philippines, with locals and the authorities doing their best to squeeze as much money out of the tourists as possible. You’d not find it hard to find some tourists walking around being drunk, obnoxious and loud too, just like they seem to be in other beach destinations like Phuket and Bali.

Apart from that, El Nido is still a friendly town that is starting to offer more conveniences. Plenty of street food is available, street peddlers, and shops of most kinds can be found in the town.

El Nido Town

During the day the town is almost dead. Most of the locals would be working the tour boats going out to the various islands, or tending the various shops, mostly catering to the large number of tourists coming to this part of the island. These tour boats (or bangka) would obviously take majority of the tourists away from the town as well, dropping the tempo and reducing the crowd significantly. 

Along the roads you will find lots of stray animals, mostly dogs, cats and chickens. We came across a fair number of puppies and kittens as well, which always made Lala break out in the all too familiar ‘Awwwww! SO CUTE!!!’ None was aggressive towards us and they all seemed to take their days in stride, living day to day. 

In the evening, all the kids started to gather about to play a few rounds of basketball, or just standing around talking while people watching. Favorite spots seemed to be on motorbikes or trishaws parked along the street. You’d hear lots of laughter and noise coming from these kids, making the streets feel more homely and lively at the same time.

Every 30-40m there would be street vendors waiting for customers to come and buy whatever they were peddling (balut eggs on display, local street food, liquors aplenty), and we suspect that they were also the ones to keep an eye on the kids while they were playing around on the streets to ensure no one gets lost or injured themselves.

Closer to the beach, you will find all the tourist traps that have started to prosper. You will most likely find this view at some point (right side image). Two seafood restaurants have set up shop down one of the key walkways down to the beach, and manage to catch a surprising amount of customers this way. They have fresh seafood on display from today’s catch, which is grilled to order. We ended up trying one of the restaurants, but were not impressed. The service was bad, and the fish we ordered were overcooked and the restaurant was way too crowded for our comfort. We learned our lesson and now felt the need to share our experience with the world! Proceed to try at your own risk! 

There are plenty of restaurants along the beach. So do check their menu out before you sit down. We didn’t have a chance to try them all, but we know at least 1-2 other places are a lot better than the first 2 that you will encounter on the way down to the beach.

Once you are tired of walking around the town, you can always rent a trishaw that will take you to most of El Nido for between P50-150. Most people will either stay near El Nido bay or near Merimeg-meg Beach. If you stay close to Merimeg-meg Beach, we found a BBQ grill place near Four Seasons Resort that had great food and service. They grill your food as you order, so all come out freshly cooked, tasting delicious. There’s no obvious sign, so we ended up calling it Sticks, and we would recommend for people that are nearby to give it a try! 

Overall, we never had any trouble walking around El Nido. We never felt threatened or in danger. It’s very easy to find trishaws, and everything worked more or less to our expectations. There is only ONE ATM in all of El Nido and it can run out of cash to dispense, so do bring sufficient cash with you to cover your needs. 

Recommendations

When walking around El Nido, you will rarely have problem finding your way around. You can always ask a local for directions, or if you have mobile data and lots of patience (the Internet connection here is slow and unreliable), you can also use your preferred maps for directions. Throughout our stay, we never felt in danger or threatened walking around the streets, regardless if it was day or night. When you feel tired from walking, trishaws offer cheap rides all over town, making it really easy to get to where you want to go. It can get dark at night too, so bring along a good torchlight (your phone’s spotlight works fine too) to light the way, if needed. 

The town itself is cozy and very typical of South East Asia. Don’t expect to be able to buy a lot of things here other than your necessities. While we did see some families travelling with children here, we feel El Nido still have ways to go before it becomes a child-friendly destination for travellers who are looking to spend their vacation with the little ones.

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Exploring the Nagkalit-Kalit Waterfall and Nacpan Beach

The Nagkalit-Kalit waterfall and Nacpan beach is a perfect day activity in El Nido when the weather is unstable enough that you don’t think a tour among the islands will be nice. Perfect mix of activity and relaxing!

Sticks! (Takacha Grill and Eatery)

When you have been out for a nice meal, enjoyed good music and probably a drink or 3 too much, you feel a bit peckish. You feel for a bit more to eat would be great. Sticks (Takacha Grill & Eatery) is just the place you are looking for.

Dinner at KaLui Restaurant

Ka Lui is listed as the highest rated and most reviewed restaurant in Puerto Princesa. Hailed as one of the most popular restaurants in this part of town, our travel to Palawan would not have been complete without having a meal here!

Catching the Sunset at Bella Vita

Where do you go for a delicious pizza, great white beach, and a stunningly beautiful sunset? Bella Vita in El Nido of course!

Streets of El Nido

Do you want to know a bit more what El Nido looks like before going there? Read and see our images from the town and get a sneak peek of what to expect

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Here are our top 5 Palawan beaches that we believe are very well worth a visit if you happen to be nearby and feel an hour or 5 on the beach would be just right

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