A Family Adventure in El Nido, Palawan

Guest post and photos Philippa

Discovering El Nido, Palawan with kids. The Philippines with Kids
Discovering El Nido, Palawan with kids

 

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El Nido with kids

El Nido with kids: The dramatic landscape of El Nido conjures images of another world
The dramatic landscape of El Nido conjures images of another world

 

The golden challis of the Philippines is El Nido. Still a relatively wild beauty; the connected white sandy beaches of Coron Coron, Orange Pearl and Dolorog are full of local charm, washed up corals and rustic guest houses. We stayed on Coron Coron beach, a quiet strip of beach where you can explore the archipelago by bangka boat, paddle board, canoe or mini catamaran. Thanks to a small diaspora of French seafaring Bretons who have settled here there is a lovely choice of vessels available.

The wild, secluded and dramatic landscape of El Nido conjures images of another world. It can be likened to the opening scene of Jurassic Park – huge rocks soar above the ocean, hidden coves sparkle with turquoise waters and wildlife is all around.

 

El Nido, The Philippines with kids: El Nido: a relatively wild beauty
El Nido: a relatively wild beauty

 

We ventured to this beautiful little pocket of the globe with my childhood friend, her husband and their six-month old baby. My adventurous father-in-law also joined the party as well as my husband and two children Maya (aged five) and Gillan (aged 1.5 years). Our friends were journeying from the UK to visit us on their way to Australia so we wanted to wow them with the Philippines greatest jewel – its stunning beaches. My father-in-law is a fitness junkie so a mere beach break does not quite suffice. Therefore we chose El Nido for its adventurous streak.

 

Where to stay in El Nido

Where to stay in El Nido with kids
Where to stay in El Nido with kids

 

El Nido is a remote bay and sprinkling of islands on the North Shores of Palawan and has courted a lot of attention due to the five star resorts that keep themselves beautifully hidden on the islands of Lagen, Miniloc, Pangulasian and Pamalican. For a long time I was slightly confused about what was on offer in El Nido since the “El Nido Group” has trademarked the name. We’ve heard very good things about El Nido Resorts Miniloc Island.

If, however, like us your budget is slightly more modest, then your needs will be met on the main land where the bangka boats offer tours to all the same hidden coves, secret beaches, magical caves and snorkelling sites available. We stayed at El Nido Mahogany Beach Resort, which was very comfortable. I would also recommend Dolarog Beach Resort. There is also a handful of lovely private houses which you can rent through Air BnB.

If your family is ready to leave some of their creature comforts at home there are also operators who offer adventure trips hopping around the islands on a sailboat or bangka armed with tents, torches and a BBQ. For more information on these family friendly excursions visit Belarmino Adventures.

There is also the option of staying in El Nido town which has its charm, but for a family vacation the beach wins hands down.

 

Sailing in El Nido

Sailing a catamaran in El Nido. The Philippines with kids
Sailing a catamaran in El Nido

 

Our family enjoyed sailing a mini catamaran in Bacuit Bay, paddling on boards to deserted beaches and chartering a bangka boat to discover the majestic coastal scenery. We were lucky enough to meet French expat and boat enthusiast Osween Foll, who has imported several mini catamarans that are available to hire for a few hours or the whole day. His catamarans are stationed just in front of La Plage restaurant on Coron Coron Beach. You can find him on Facebook here.

 

Charter a bangka boat in El Nido, the philippines
Charter a bangka boat

 

Where to eat in El Nido

Where to eat in El Nido. The Philippines with kids
Where to eat in El Nido

 

It’s easy to scoot in and out of town on a motorised tricycle (tuc tuc). Our kids love the excitement of riding in the side car with the whole family. El Nido town offers a surprisingly good selection of restaurants for a small Pinoy town. This seems to have developed due to the French influence over the last 10 years. Even the Italian Restaurant is French owned!

We took the family into town a few times to eat and it was a real treat on both occasions. El Nido Boutique Art Café has a great range of dishes and relaxed rustic ambiance, as well as the obligatory mango shakes, a luscious range of cocktails and a child-friendly menu.

L’Assiette is the best place to indulge in a good feast. Prices are reasonable and the view is the perfect tropical maritime picture. It definitely soothed everyone into the holiday spirit.

Little Italy is also a great option for a lip-smacking pizza and good glass of vino.

If you get the chance, pick up a fresh crepe or ice cream from one of the roadside vendors for dessert. Our two children loved the surprise of an alfresco sweet whilst whizzing off into the balmy evening air on a local trike.

For more restaurant ideas, take a look at TripAdvisor.

 

The Highs and Lows of El Nido

The highlights of El Nido
The highlights of El Nido

 

The Highs

The absolute highlight of our trip was an afternoon paddle boarding to the quiet beaches a stone’s throw from the shore. With our daughter Maya perched on the top of the board we were able to explore the tremendous scenery and encounter a wonderful array of wildlife both under the water and on the shore. It was very special to be able to share this moment with three generations of family – my daughter, her father and grandfather. It was also pretty funny to watch Grandad fall off his paddleboard! There are a few places to hire boards on Coron Coron and Orange Pearl Beaches. El Nido Boutique & Art cafe also have information on SUP as well as La Plage restaurant.

 

El Nido with kids
El Nido with kids

 

The Lows

I love diving but diving in El Nido was one of my worst experiences ever! My husband and I took it in turns to stay home with the kids while one of us headed off for a dive. Beware! El Nido has a jellyfish season, which I was not told about by the dive shop! It is also one of the coldest places I have dived in the Philippines. Apparently the jellyfish are there one day and not the next. This random behaviour means that you can’t predict whether you will be diving into a swarm of jellyfish that day or not and they were everywhere on all three dives that I did. I was stung on every part of exposed skin including around my neck and on my lips. Not pleasant!

If you are a keen diver I would venture further south to Bohol or Dumaguete instead.

 

Three things you can’t miss in El Nido

El Nido with kids: Book as many bangka boat island hopping tours as possible!
Book as many bangka boat island hopping tours as possible!

 

1. Hire a paddleboard or kayak and explore the islands. You can hire one- or two-people kayak or if you have small children they can sit on the front of your paddleboard. Don’t forget life vests for small kids. If you fancy your hand at sailing then it’s well worth getting in touch with Oswenn Foll (see Sailing above). The catamarans are good for two people and one child.

2. Book as many bangka boat island hopping tours as possible. Don’t forget your snorkel and mask. The tours are universally rather unimaginatively named A, B, C and D. But despite the unimaginative names, they will take you to stunning sandbars, huge caves, deserted beaches and hidden lagoons. The best time to go is early in the morning so you have the place to yourselves.

3. Take a tricycle into town and spend the evening mooching around the boutique shops and dinning at one of El Nido’s tasty restaurants. Don’t forget to take cash though as there is no bank in town and the ATM often is out of cash!

 

El Nido with kids: Discover hidden lagoons
Discover hidden lagoons

 

When is the best time to visit El Nido?

Best time to visit El Nido
Best time to visit El Nido

 

The best time to visit the Philippines is between December and February in the cooler months. However, if you are prepared to take a bet on the weather and can sneak in a week at the end of November you avoid the peak prices. The wet season is from June onwards. Be aware that the typhoon season is from September to December. Temperatures range from 27 – 40+. Avoid travelling in the busy holy weeks of Easter and Christmas. Jellyfish season in El Nido is roughly March to May.

 

How to get to El Nido

El Nido how to get there
How to get to El Nido

 

There are two ways of getting to El Nido, via air and by road. You can also take a ferry but this is a much longer route. Travel by plane is quick, easy and family-friendly. Travel by car is for the more seasoned travelling family who enjoy a road trip and want to stop off in Puerto Princessa and other places on route.

For flights there are a couple of options. You can book a direct flight from Manila to El Nido through the El Nido Boutique & Art cafe. It doesn’t feel like a very professional operation but it does in fact offer a wonderful service. Flights are expensive at approximately 12,000php ($260) for a return trip. The flight takes off from a private terminal next to the international airport in Manila. There’s a charming lounge for passengers to relax in, which includes a kids play area complete with toys, books and games.

Alternatively fly from Manila to Puerto Princessa, on the island of Palawan and from there book a six-hour transfer by car to El Nido. Domestic airline carriers Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific fly here.

 

El Nido Airport longe
The flight takes off from a private terminal next to the international airport in Manila, which even has a kids play area!

 

[Tweet “Sailing, kayaking and jellyfish in El Nido! #Palawan #ThePhilippines #FamilyTravel”]

 

What to pack for El Nido

El Nido what to pack: Rubber shoes for wearing in the sea are a must!
Rubber shoes for wearing in the sea are a must!

 

  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B000NV9J08″ locale=”US” tag=”globetotting-20″]Life vests[/easyazon_link] for small kids
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B00GD24XWU” locale=”US” tag=”globetotting-20″]U.V long sleeve kids swimwear[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B00ZB7SDAG” locale=”US” tag=”globetotting-20″]Sun cream 50+[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B000RNEQIM” locale=”US” tag=”globetotting-20″]Insect repellent[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B074J91QT1″ locale=”US” tag=”globetotting-20″]Snorkel and mask[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B07D31RJCJ” locale=”US” tag=”globetotting-20″]Bucket and spade[/easyazon_link]
  • Money – there is no bank and the ATM is usually out of cash
  • Sarong – great for covering up, drying yourself, using as a pillow etc.
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B06XQ432DX” locale=”US” tag=”globetotting-20″]Medical kit[/easyazon_link]– the nearest hospital is a six-hour drive away!
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B074HCP9KM” locale=”US” tag=”globetotting-20″]Rubber shoes[/easyazon_link] for wearing in the sea – beware Palawan is known for Stone Fish which can be deadly if you step on their spines
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B01FT7GK0M” locale=”US” tag=”globetotting-20″]Sun hat[/easyazon_link] and sunglasses

 

El Nido, Palawan, The Philippines
El Nido, Palawan, The Philippines

 

You May Also Enjoy the Following Posts: 

Family Hotel Review: Club Paradise, Dimakya Island, Palawan

10 Things to do with Kids on the island of Boracay

My Family Adventure: Brilliant Bohol

Family Hotel Review: The Funny Lion Inn, Coron, Palawan

10 Fantastic Things to do with Kids in Dumaguete

 

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The Philippines with Kids: We tell you all you need to know about visiting El Nido, Palawan with the family. How to get there, where to stay, where to eat and what to do in this beautiful corner of The Philippines.

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27 thoughts on “A Family Adventure in El Nido, Palawan”

  1. Our nanny is from there and always telling us we need to plan a trip! If we go I will be sure to remember about the jellyfish!! Ouch!

  2. mariska wimmers

    Thanks for your post, its very informative. We are now in Puerto and heading up to Port Barton and El Nido with our two sons of 2 and 4…

  3. What a dream this island is. We had some magical moments and beautiful memories from Palawan generally. Our favourite was Flower Island – an hour’s speed boat away from Taytay, in the heart of a pearl farm.

  4. Sounds like you’ve had an amazing time despite the lows. Great guide, love how complete it was. Philippines is on my wishlist and I think I’ve read a couple of posts on it every week. I think it’s a siren song!

  5. Wyld Family Travel

    The Phillipeans is high on our list especially since we live so close in Australia. The beaches, the water and the fun to be had looks amazing. The boat hopping tour looked amazing.

    1. Thanks for your comments. The Philippines is such a diverse archipelago with so much to see and do. If you need any more tips when planning a trip here let me I will be happy to help

  6. Girl Out-of-Bounds

    Wow, hope you weren’t too badly injured with all those jellyfish stings. I’m not a diver myself but that would have really freaked me out. El Nido looks like an incredible place.

  7. The Philippines seem like a great place to go as a family. So much to do and see, and of course it is beautiful. The food from El Nido Boutique Art Café looks incredible!

  8. Two Can Travel

    El Nido looks incredibly beautiful! Amazing that you made the trip with three generations of family-so special. That’s awful about the jellyfish! Yikes!!

  9. You’ve made a fine post about El Nido! It’s true, the French influence must have laid rest in the small town there and what’s not to love. There’s a lot of great views there and you covered almost all of them. Your picture of the child playing with a toy boat is so cute by the way!

  10. Lucky Sta Rosa

    Id like to ask how did your friend find the trip with her 6month old baby? Was it difficult to go island hopping with a 6month old? Thanks

  11. FUNMI OYELAYO

    Hello would you recommend the tours for a 2.5 year old? I am worried it may not be safe. Thanks

    1. Dear Funmi,

      Thanks for your message. Yes the tours are very safe. So long as you pack a fitting life vest, sea shoes and sun screen. The ocean here is calm because it is protected by many islands. If the weather looks like it is going to turn the boatmen will change their plans accordingly.
      I took my two year old and he loved riding the boat and exploring the beaches. We requested never to go too far from the hotel so we could motor the boat back if necessary. Most of the hot spots are less than an hour boat ride away.
      Do pack sea shoes for everyone to avoid stepping on any venemous sea creatures.
      Please also be aware that a government warning is currently in place so check with your government advisory service before booking any travel.

  12. Glad I found this blog!!
    We’re planning a trip for May next year. Traveling with 3 children ( 11, 7 and 1.5). Did you stay just at El Nido or did you visit other bigger islands as well?
    And for how long did you stay? We’re thinking of a Bali road trip and then afterward Philippines, all up 4 weeks. Not enough time?

    Cheers,
    Nadine

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