How to Travel From Manila to El Nido by Plane and Ferry

El Nido at Sunset

TripSavvy / Angelina Pilarnos

Two popular tourist areas in the Philippines are the capital of Manila and the archipelago El Nido 384 miles (618 kilometers) away. To get from Manila to El Nido, located on the northern end of the elongated Palawan Island, visitors can use various forms of transportation. You can take a direct turboprop plane to El Nido, which is probably the easiest choice. Travelers on a tighter budget can go by flight and van via Puerto Princesa, or take a slower journey on two ferries, with a transfer in Coron.

  Time Cost  Best For
Turboprop plane 1.5 hours From $84 Quick arrival
Flight/Van 10 hours From $39 Traveling on a budget
Ferries 16 hours From $48 Adventurous journey

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Manila to El Nido?

Flights to Puerto Princesa are usually cheaper than direct turboprop planes to El Nido. The least expensive method of getting from Manila to El Nido is by taking a flight to the coastal city of Puerto Princesa, then riding in a van to El Nido (from $39 for the two transportation methods combined). Lasting approximately 10 hours, the journey includes a one hour, 30-minute flight to Puerto Princesa, a transfer, and a roughly six-hour drive north by van. Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and Philippines AirAsia each offer various daily flights from Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Puerto Princesa International Airport. Lexxus Shuttle vans leave hourly from the airport to El Nido.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Manila to El Nido?

If you’re traveling from Manila, taking a plane to El Nido is the fastest and easiest choice. Visitors with a roomy budget can spring for a direct flight from Manila to the privately-owned El Nido Airport, also known as Lio Airport. One-way fares start at $84. AirSWIFT operates regular flights from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila—with usually at least three departures daily—using a small fleet of ATR 42-500 turboprop planes. The flight arrives at Lio Airport one hour, 30 minutes later. Be prepared for a tight squeeze on a tiny plane, and it is a good idea to check with the airline for baggage size restrictions. You can book directly online; prices vary depending on the season and promotions.

Is There a Ferry From Manila to El Nido?

Taking two ferries is a slow but economical way—prices start at $48—to travel between Manila and El Nido. The journey takes about 16 hours. For the first leg, you will usually need an overnight boat to Coron, an island north of Palawan. You can take an 11-hour 2GO Travel ferry leaving on Fridays at 7 p.m. Alternatively, you can catch a 16-hour Atienza Shipping Lines boat at midnight on a Tuesday, or at 6 p.m. on a Thursday or Saturday. Cars are allowed on these ferries, but it is important to check all details with the ferry companies directly.

In Coron, travelers will transfer to a second ferry on the way to El Nido. Jomalia Shipping Lines, which departs at 7:30 a.m. daily, is the quickest option at three hours, 30 minutes. Travelers can also take a four-hour boat with Montenegro Lines at noon or Phimal Fast Ferry at 1:20 p.m. each day. For all three of these passenger boats, cars will need to be left behind. Reserve online in advance and note schedules may change without notice, so confirm all details before heading out on a ferry. The Philippines’ unpredictable weather can also affect itineraries.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to El Nido?

The nicest time to visit El Nido is during the high season from November to May. Northeast winds keep the area cool until the weather gets hotter between March and May. In mid-March, the El Nido Town Fiesta (Kulambo Festival) features street dancing, singing contests, local cuisine, and costumes made of kulambo (mosquito net). If you prefer not to explore during the rainy season, avoid the southwest monsoon from June to November, though resorts and facilities are cheaper.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

Lio Airport is located about 3 miles (5 kilometers) north of El Nido town. Visitors can ask at the airport about local tricycle motorcycle taxis, starting at $2 for a roughly seven-minute ride. There are also Rems Katar Transport minivans, which take around 20 minutes and leave every four hours for the town. Inquire with the company about prices and schedules. A few major rental car companies can be found at the airport as well.

What Is There to Do in El Nido?

Nature-loving tourists enjoy El Nido's hiking, which presents great views of bays, waterfalls, limestone cliffs, and more. Water sports like kayaking and diving are also popular activities. Divers will have a chance to spot numerous types of tropical fish, sea turtles, and colorful coral. Every month, El Nido has a Full Moon Party with live entertainment and a bonfire. Some people love to explore beyond El Nido by hiring a boat to some of the approximately 40 nearby islands, which feature caves, beautiful white sand beaches, lush forests, wildlife, and beyond.

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