Getting to El Nido in the Philippines depends on your budget and on your appetite for punishment. Flying in is relatively effortless, but can be expensive. Going overland from the capital of Puerto Princesa is the cheapest way, but requires a tolerance for hours of travel over rough roads. Riding a boat depends entirely on the whims of the weather.
- El Nido for noobs: Find out more about this remote Philippines island group in our el Nido travel guide.
By Plane - Direct to El Nido
Getting to El Nido by plane is the fastest and least troublesome option. Visitors with a roomy budget and a horror of dusty roads can spring for a flight to the privately-owned El Nido Airport (IATA: ENI; also known as Lio Airport, location on Google Maps) about two miles north of El Nido town.
Air Swift (formerly Island Transvoyager) operates regular flights from Manila, Cebu and Boracay with a small fleet of ATR 42-500 turboprop planes. For the Manila route, the flight departs from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 4, and arrives at Lio Airport an hour and a half later.
Passengers on Air Swift's flights are limited to a 22 pounds (10kg) baggage weight restriction. Fares vary depending on the season and availability of promo seats; you can book directly on Air Swift's official site, or via their call center at +63 (0) 2 85156-64 or -74.
Lio Airport is also the official jumping-off point to the swank El Nido Resorts on the islands of Miniloc and Lagen; upon deplaning, passengers board boats at the nearby marina heading to the outer islands.
For non-El Nido Resorts guests, take a ride to El Nido town from the airport via motorized tricycle; the ride takes 15 minutes.
Air passengers to El Nido are charged PHP 100 (about two dollars) environment fee; proceeds go to the El Nido Foundation, an NGO overseeing environmental issues within El Nido and the islands in Bacuit Bay.
By Plane - to Puerto Princesa
The Philippines' major airlines fly daily to the provincial capital of Puerto Princesa (Puerto Princesa Airport – PPS). Passengers heading to El Nido can then board a bus or rented van for the bumpy, dusty eight-hour ride. (See "Overland from Puerto Princesa")
- AirAsia Zest flies to Puerto Princesa from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. See AirAsia Philippines home page (offsite).
- Philippine Airlines flies to Puerto Princesa Airport from Manila and Taipei. See Philippine Airlines official website (offsite).
- Cebu Pacific flies to Puerto Princesa from Manila, Cebu or Iloilo. See Cebu Pacific official website (offsite).
Overland from Puerto Princesa
Travelers willing to endure the 140-mile bus ride from Palawan’s capital Puerto Princesa should set aside about five to eight hours travel time to complete the journey. The highways are mostly paved, but obstructions are not uncommon.
Overland trips to El Nido depart from the San Jose Terminal in Puerto Princesa (location on Google Maps). The terminal is located next to a public market, and can be reached straight from the airport via motorized tricycle (fares from PHP50-PHP80, or about $1.25-$2 per person; about 10 minutes).
Upon arriving, just ask where the bus or van to El Nido is parked.
El Nido by bus: Cherry Bus leaves Puerto Princesa for El Nido about nine times a day; return trips to Puerto Princesa from El Nido also available. Trips take up to eight hours each way. Cherry offers a choice between air-conditioned and ordinary buses, with the latter costing about PHP 100 (about $2.10) less. Buses are cheaper but more comfortable than taking the van.
Fares: P380 (about $8) for ordinary; PHP 480 (about $10) for air-conditioned
Contact Details: +63 (0) 48 434-0752; cherrybuspalawan.com
El Nido by van: Shuttle van companies use executive vans that offer more comfort than open-air buses but less leg-room. Passengers also arrive earlier, taking six hours instead of eight to get to El Nido.
Vans offer pickup services from most points in Puerto Princesa, including hotels and the airport.
They then proceed to El Nido directly.
Fares: between PHP 700 (about $14.70) to PHP 950 (about $20) per way. You can also rent the whole van, for larger groups; prices available upon request.
The El Nido port at Buena Suerte services a number of ferry lines from Manila, Coron, and Sabang near Puerto Princesa.
Atienza Shipping Lines services a slow-moving Manila-Coron-El Nido route. The trip is often delayed.
- Fares: PHP1700 (about $35) one way
- Restrictions: Book a day in advance
- Contact Details: +632-242 8845, atienzashippinglines.net
Montenegro Lines provides a daily ferry line between El Nido and the island of Coron north of Palawan, a favorite for divers, nature lovers and beach bums. Each trip takes three and a half hours to complete. The boat depart El Nido at 6am, and makes the return trip from Coron at 12 noon. (Source)
- Fares: PHP 1,760 for regular customers, and PHP 880 for children between 3-7 years of age
- Contact Details: +63 48 244 1175 / +63 999 998 3421 / +63 917 710 9287 / +63 939 923 0175 / +63 917 858 1799