In the Philippines town of El Nido, local limestone outcroppings hide many spots of interest criss-crossed by hiking trails. These trails are rough and dusty (muddy in rainy season) - however, half the fun in El Nido hiking is the wildlife and magnificent views you'll encounter along the way.
Hike guides can be arranged through your hotel or pension house - most El Nido accommodations have arrangements with outside providers, or have guest coordinators who know these trails themselves.
You can also arrange for hiking guides through the El Nido Tour Guide Association, which holds office at the El Nido Boutique & Artcafe in El Nido Town. The Association's guides are trained and licensed by the Philippine Department of Tourism. Their fees depend on the destination desired; consult the site for the definitive rates.
Most of these hikes are inclusive of a packed lunch and tricycle ride to the jump-off point. (Read about transportation in the Philippines.)
El Nido Hiking Spots
Hike to the top of Taraw Cliff to get a great view of the surrounding countryside and Bacuit Bay. (See image.) The target spot overlooking the town can be reached in about three hours; you'll also need gloves (provided by your guide), good calves and great shoes to make it all the way up the limestone cliff. The trek should not be undertaken without a hired guide. (Note: climbs to the top have been suspended indefinitely for the moment.)
Nagkalit-kalit Falls is located about 14km north of El Nido Town. The falls collect into a natural pool that you can swim in at the end of your trek.
To get there, you'll need to make a 25-minute tricycle ride from El Nido Poblacion, then walk an unmarked path to the waterfalls. The hike passes through rice fields and jungle, with some river crossings along the way. Wear beach shoes, sandals, or any footwear that can take a soaking.
Makinit Hot spring is a hot pool of water about 20km north of El Nido town. To get there, you'll need to take a thirty-minute tricycle ride from El Nido town to Barangay Bucana, after which you hike 15 minutes to the spot.
Elli Caves features the remains of a prehistoric settlement, with the ruins of a stone wall and human bones to show for it. Getting there takes about 45 minutes by tricycle to Barangay New Ibajay, then an hour and a half hike from the barangay center.
Reaching Bulalacao Falls requires taking on a grueling, two-part trek that first requires you to ride up to 45 minutes on a tricycle to Barangay Pasadeña. Once you arrive, you'll hike for almost two hours down a trail that courses through rice paddies and a thicket of trees before you reach the spot.
The trip to Bulalacao Falls cannot be undertaken without a guide, and must not be attempted during the rainy season between August and October. (Read about monsoon season travel tips.)
El Nido Hiking Tips
Bring as much water as you can; convenience stores are few and far between along the trails. Read our tips on preparing for your hiking trip in Southeast Asia.
Use sun block. During the summer season, the sunlight in El Nido is intense at high noon. Don't hike between the hours of 10am-3pm, if you want to avoid the worst of the heat. Bring sunscreen, and follow these other sun protection tips.
Use insect repellent. DEET will keep away the mosquitoes and other biting bugs may swarm you on the trails.
Don't light any fires. The trails around El Nido are still part of the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area, a government-mandated zone that restricts environmentally-damaging activity within Bacuit Bay and its related terrestrial ecosystems. Heavy fines await campers who set up unauthorized fires!