El Nido, Palawan: How to visit stunning beaches without a tour

Before arriving in El Nido, we were aware of the boat trips and the surrounding islands nearby. However, what we didn’t realise is that you could get to some beautiful beaches all by yourself.

You can even see some of the places the tours go to on a kayak!

So if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars doing multiple tours alongside hundreds of others, why not check out the beautiful beaches you can visit without needing to take a pricey boat tour.

Beaches in El Nido you can visit by Kayak

Getting to the best beaches will require a bit of an arm work out but we promise it will be worth it!

The beauty of having a kayak is that you can strategically avoid the tour groups and even go to famous beaches like Seven Commandos and Papaya with hardly anyone else there by avoiding the popular times for tour groups.

To see these beaches, we recommend hiring a kayak from one of the places in Corong Corong Bay (about 10 minutes south of El Nido). We were able to rent one from the accommodation we stayed in, but there are a few places who will hire kayaks to non-guests. You can get to these beaches from El Nido town, but you’ll have to paddle a lot further (and potentially through a lot of tour boats and choppy water to get there).

As the sea can be quite wavey once you get past Lapus Lapus Beach (and the winds really pick up in the late afternoon) we recommend paddling as close to the shoreline as possible to shelter from the conditions and not have to try to paddle around big boats.

That said we found the kayaking pretty easy and we are far from experts.

Read next: Cambugahay Falls - Paradise on Siquijor and How to see paradise beaches and lagoons whilst island hopping in El Nido


Corong Corong Beach

The closest (and smallest) beach to get to by kayak is Corong Corong Beach. This beautiful little inlet is surrounded by cliffs and only accessible by water.

Virtually no one goes here as anyone with a boat has eyes for the star attractions, but Corong Corong is a pretty little spot to go to for white sand, blue water and peace and quiet.

It is really small, so all you can do here is chill, lay on the beach and enjoy the beautiful view in your own little slice of paradise. The sea nearby isn’t the best for swimming either. We stopped for around 20 minutes and that was enough for us as there are many more beaches to see.

Getting to Corong Corong Beach

From Ambience Place guesthouse where we rented our kayak it took around 10 minutes to get there. It could be less if you put in a bit more effort : )

 


Lapus Lapus Beach

Next down the coast is the beautiful Lapus Lapus Beach, another white sand beach that no tours go to.

When we turned up there were only two others there. A couple of other people arrived by kayak a little later, but then proceeded to immediately lie down at the furthest end of the beach - they clearly had the same idea as we had!

The beach is fringed with jungle and has the most amazing cliff at the northern end of the beach, giving it a wonderful, wild feeling. If you like your beaches with an epic limestone karst, Lapus Lapus is for you.

The water is also really calm for swimming, so in short it’s a blissful spot.

Getting to Lapus Lapus Beach

To kayak here from Corong Corong will take around 5-10 minutes, it’s literally around the corner!

 

Ipil Beach 2

The furthest away from the area where we hired our kayak in El Nido is Ipil Beach 2 - a really wild beach that no one else seems to go to. To get here requires going the furthest into the open ocean and we found that the waves were pretty big and wild here, although the journey was still a short one.

Ipil Beach 2 rewards you with the feeling of true isolation and a place that has been left to the elements.

The sand is white, but you’ll see palm leaves scattered around here as nature intended. There is also a swing - something that seems to be a requirement for all good El Nido beaches! We are definitely not complaining.

This beach is just around the corner from Seven Commandos beach but we chose to visit it first as we could see there were still a huge amount of tour groups at Seven Commandos.

This was the only beach we sort of got thrown upon rather than gently coming into land due to the waves. We never felt at risk of tipping though and on a calmer day you might not even have so many waves, we’d still say it’s an easy beach to get to.

Getting to Ipil Beach 2

Ipil Beach 2 is a 10 minute journey by kayak from Seven Commandos and a 20 minute paddle from Lapus Lapus Beach.

 

Seven Commandos Beach

Seven Commandos is one of the most famous beaches in El Nido and is a part of Tour A. This brings the crowds in the middle of the day, but by 3-4pm the place is virtually empty.

It is a stunning beach and a great place to swim with calm water that is a beautiful blue and incredibly clear. There are also a couple of huts selling drinks (a lot sell alcohol!) and hundreds of palm trees at the back of the beach with a hidden basketball court inside.

It is one of the bigger beaches and we can see immediately why it is on the tour itineraries.

Sadly, a property developer has really taken away the shine of Seven Commandos, clearing a huge section of the beach with construction work and fencing it off with barbed wire. It has these huge ugly signs proclaiming it as private property after a lawsuit and that all trepassers will be prosecuted.

Not the kind of vibe you’d like in paradise…..

Hopefully they will get this sorted out soon and it can be returned to its former glory. If you avoid the far north of the beach you will avoid the ugly bits. If you are looking for the swing that you may have seen in picture it has been cut down - or at least it had been on our visit.

Getting to Seven Commandos Beach

Seven Commandos is a 10 minute paddle from Ipil Beach 2 and 10 minutes from Lapus Lapus Beach.

 

Papaya Beach

Our favourite of all the beaches in the whole of El Nido is Papaya, and it is one you can visit on your own - woop!

This stunning beach is next to Seven Commandos, but is cut off by a cliff that divides the two.

Papaya is stunning, with next to no development on it apart from a few tyre swings and a little shack selling drinks and crisps. The beach here is the fine white sand you’ve been dreaming about and felt more like powder than sand.

It is covered in beautiful palm trees that stand before a dominating cliff in the interior. The water is perfect for swimming and it is the kind of untouched paradise that is hard to find, especially without the crowds.

We visited Papaya an hour before sunset and shared the entire beach with two others. It was one of our favourite memories in our entire trip to the Philippines.

It may get busy in the day though if people swim round from Seven Commando. Visiting early or late in the day should ensure you get it to yourself.

Getting to Papaya Beach

Papaya Beach is a 2 minute paddle from Seven Commandos and 10 minutes from Lapus Lapus Beach.

 

A few extra tips for kayaking in El Nido

  • Only a couple of the beaches sell drinks and crisps, on the rest there is nothing at all so bring all of your food and drink for the day with you.

  • You can enjoy staying at any of the beaches apart from Ipil Beach 2 until close to sunset as the paddle back is not far at all. We began watching the sunset at Papaya and still made it back to Ambience Place before the sun was fully down. It took us just under half an hour, and we weren’t rowing with gusto.

  • You can rent a kayak from Ambience Place for 500 pesos (approx US $9.50) for a full day or 300 peso for a half day.

  • You can also rent kayaks from El Nido town, we saw clear kayaks offered for 700 peso per day. It would take you longer to visit the above beaches but you could get to Paradise beach (part of Tour D) easily enough.

  • Sunscreen, hats, water and covering your skin is essential for kayaking in El Nido as the sun is intense and the reflection from the water makes it even more so. If you paddle in the middle of the day, you’ll start burning and dehydrating pretty quickly.


Things to do in El Nido aside from Island Hopping

If you’ve had enough of island hopping (even with your own kayak), there are a few beaches you can visit by motorbike or tricycle in El Nido.

Whilst they are nice, they don’t compare to the white sand paradise you can visit by kayak or on the island tours. The other drawback is that the easy access has meant that most of the beaches we mention are fairly busy, so that photo of paradise will probably have quite a lot of sunbathers in it!

Having said that it is still well worth grabbing a bike and checking them out for yourself.

Beaches in El Nido you can get to by Motorbike or Tricycle

Marimegmeg Beach

The easiest beach to get to (and the closest to El Nido) is Marimegmeg which is a 15 minute ride south of the centre of El Nido on a good paved road. The beach is a few minutes walk down from the main road and is a huge arcing crescent that faces back towards Corong Corong Bay and the iconic headland of El Nido.

What made this beach picturesque for us is the view of all the limestone karsts from the sand.

Although Marimegmeg is a nice beach (and one we’d like anywhere else in the world) it is probably one of our least favourites of the beaches in El Nido. Firstly, there is a lot of construction going on behind the beach, meaning you have a bit of an eyesore behind you and periodic loud drilling.

It’s also quite popular being so close to the town centre. Having said that we met many people who were loving it so it’s worth seeing for yourself.


Getting to Marimegmeg Beach from El Nido town

Marimegmeg is just under 5km from the town centre and it should take you just under 15 minutes to drive there and a few minutes to walk down to the beach itself.

 

Las Cabanas Beach

Just a 10 minute walk along the sand from Marimegmeg beach and you’ll reach another of El Nido’s popular places to visit. Las Cabanas is the famous sunset spot of El Nido, facing west to overlook the sun dropping behind islands on the horizon.

This is a place that is a lot more famous for the view and bar, then the beach itself which has a bit of rubble.

However, the bar has a few hammocks, palm trees and seats to take in the beautiful views. It also has views back to El Nido and the stunning headlands there. If having a drink and swinging in a hammock is your idea of bliss, then this is the place to go.

If you aren’t going to watch the sunset though we’d advise skipping this one in favour of any of the other beaches.

Getting to Las Cabanas Beach from El Nido town

The driving distance is the same as for Marimegmeg but you have to walk a little longer. From the stairs down to Marimegmeg it should take you around 10-15 minutes to walk to Las Cabanas Beach Resort.

It is technically a separate beach but you wouldn’t really notice when walking there.

 

Lio Beach

A beach that goes under the radar is the chilled out Lio Beach, just north of El Nido. Divided by a huge pier, this beach goes for miles in both directions with the majority of people choosing to sunbathe and swim away from the flight path of the planes landing nearby.

There’s a couple of cafes and resorts to stay at if you want to get away from the noise and dust of El Nido.

Lio Beach is in front of El Nido Airport and a 15 minute tricycle ride from the centre of town. The road up to the beach is one of the worst in El Nido with really rough potholes and riding along it is a bone-shaking experience.


Getting to Lio Beach from El Nido town

We reckon it was around 8km and 25 minutes away from El Nido town. Google maps suggests you can reach it by going via the airport which you can’t, keep going a little further along the main road and you will see a large sign on the left directing you to Lio Beach.

 

Nacpan Beach

Whilst Papaya Beach gets our affection, Nacpan has the rest of the world’s! In 2016 it was voted as the 10th best beach in the world by the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards and the 2nd best in Asia (only losing to Ngapali Beach in Myanmar).

It is undeniably beautiful, with a huge stretch of sand fringed by palm trees, blissful water and islands in the distance. It isn’t a dreamy white sand beach, but it is incredibly picturesque.

There are vans that operate regularly from El Nido (at least every hour until 5pm) that charge 600 pesos ($12 USD) per person for a return. The road after turning off the main road on the way into Nacpan isn’t the best if you are thinking of riding your own motorcycle as it is rough in patches and made of slippery sand or mud in others (especially after rain). Having said that we and hundreds of others did it easily enough on a scooter.

You have to pay 60 peso per person (approx US $1.15) to enter Nacpan Beach and the ticket is good for several visits.

There are a couple of bars and places to stay if you don’t fancy El Nido town, but note that you will be 45 minutes from the town centre.


Getting to Nacpan Beach from El Nido town

Nacpan beach is just over 20km and around 45 minutes drive from El Nido. Add on a little more time if it has been raining as when you come off the main road the condition of the side road isn’t great.

 

Duli Beach

Duli Beach is the furthest away from El Nido on our list and one of the least visited of the beaches you can reach by motorbike. It is popular with surfers for the big waves here and the beach has a really wild and expansive feel to it.

We kept saying how it reminded us of the beaches in National Parks near Sydney. Although a big point of difference is definitely the locals motorcycling along it!

The journey to Duli once off the main road is incredibly rough, with a long and nasty dirt road to navigate. The worst part is a very slippery and steep hill which is treacherous with two people on the bike after rain (the brakes didn’t seem to work too well against the gravity of two of us!).

It’s worth noting that the first restaurant you come to on the beach gave Joe food poisoning so maybe eat before you arrive!!

To enter Duli you must pay an entrance fee of 50 pesos per person (just under US $1). They tried to charge us a second time the same amount to park our motorcycle and when questioned said it was an entry fee. We told them we’d paid once and they left it at that.

Getting to Duli Beach from El Nido

Duli Beach is around 25km and one hour from El Nido. As with Nacpan the road is really bad once you come off the main road so it could take you a lot longer depending on conditions.

 


Tips for hiring a motorcycle in El Nido

  • Prices in El Nido are more expensive than many other parts of the Philippines. Standard seemed to be 500 peso a day despite the fact we heard it should be 300. If you can’t get 300 anywhere the place next to Lolobanana shop rented to us for 400 a day. The bike and helmets were great.

    Alternatively in the little alleyway beside the Tea Spot cafe had two places also renting for 400 peso a day. One only had dodgy helmets though so check first.

  • Lio, Nacpan and Duli beaches are all off the same main road and can be visited in one long day trip. Nacpan and Duli are particularly close together and best visited together.


Packing Guide for El Nido

Dry Bag

 

An essential for kayaking around El Nido. You’ll need a dry bag as virtually everything gets soaking wet in the kayak!

Go Pro

 

The best camera for kayaking and hopping between beaches in El Nido. The Hero5 Black shoots 12 megapixels photos and 4k video.

Reef safe sunscreen

 

Reef safe sunscreen will ensure you’re protected from the sun without harming the environment.

Reusable Water Bottle

 

Do your bit for the environment with a reusable water bottle for the trips to all the beaches around El Nido.


Where to stay El Nido

In much the same way as Coron El Nido town is not anything to write home about. In fact at the moment it is like one big construction site and boy is it noisy. Some hotels in town have started offering ear plugs! That’s why we chose and would recommend staying at least a couple of kilometres from the centre. As with Coron the islands are where it’s at but staying on them will depend on your budget.

Budget - Ambiance Place

This is where we stayed and it has its good and bad points. Our biggest gripe is we found it terribly overpriced but it was still one of the cheapest options by the time we got round to making our booking.

Ambiance is out of the main town and tucked away down a path that is 80m from the road and right by the water (you can see if from the breakfast area and is magical at sunset). It is also next door to our favourite Indian restaurant in El Nido : Ghandhi’s Revenge - so good!

The rooms are clean and quiet (something which is very hard to find in the budget range in El Nido) and the view from the communal terrace is sublime. However the bathroom is a small wet room and the room itself is pretty small too.

The wifi was one of the few we had in the Philippines that actually worked (it was really fast most of the time) which was a major plus point for us. They also rented very reasonably priced kayaks.

Booking.com

Midrange - Frangipani El Nido

Anywhere else in the Philippines this would be considered a top end price but this is El Nido, and boy is it expensive.

Still the rooms do look terrific with many having magnificent views. It gets great reviews and is very near to where we stayed so we assume it will also be quiet.

Booking.com

Luxury - El Nido Resorts Lagen Island

This place looks pretty incredible. The bungalows have outstanding views and look really stylish and modern. It is currently getting excellent reviews and for the price looks the best of the lux options.

Note that it is on an island, around 45 minutes boat ride from the town so staying here will likely mean paying more for food and boat tours. Having said that if we were on holiday and not on a long term trip we would have headed here and not El Nido town!

Booking.com
Booking.com

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Are you planning to visit El Nido? Do you know any paradise beaches you can get to without a boat tour? Let us know in the comments below!


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