Searching for a place to stay at a travel destination as popular as El Nido can be overwhelming. Sure there are many options, but where do you begin? Should you save money and stay at the nearby Corong Corong; a bit further away in Marimegmeg Beach; or right in the town of El Nido Proper?
One of the best travel tips that I have ever picked up on the internet is to book JUST your first night ahead of time, usually through an online booking service like Agoda, or Kayak. This will take the anxiety out of your first night’s stay. You will have the comfort of a place waiting for you when you arrive, no matter what time of day (or night) and you do not have a commitment to that place, incase it doesn’t suit your needs as you expected. During your first full day at the destination, you can walk the town, take a tour of the city, and work on finding a place that you are comfortable with and best suits your needs and budget.
This is one of my most practiced travel strategies, and El Nido is a place that this method has worked well for me. There are plenty of options on where to stay, but the groupings of accommodations can be a good distance from each other, and it is impossible to know which will work best for you until you get to explore the town a little bit. Do not assume that the most expensive hotels and resorts are high-end. These are quite scattered around and a high price alone does not determine if a place is necessarily a good fit for you either.
Here is a little breakdown of a few tiers accommodations and what you can expect out of them.
Ultra Low Budget/ Backpackers
El Nido Town has got the majority of the hostiles in the area. This is the place you want to start if you don’t mind a shared bathroom or even a dormitory style lodging. This is going to be the least expensive way to go for sure. There are a few places available in Nacpan Beach that offer huts and hammocks for next to nothing, but keep in mind the high cost of transiting back and fourth to El Nido if you plan on doing some tours.
Budget Accommodation/ Pension Houses
I am describing this level of accommodation as the bare minimum, while still having a private room and bathroom all to yourself. The majority of places that you will find in El Nido Town, and Corong Corong Beach fit this description to a tee. You may not always be happy with the water pressure in the shower, and you may need to ‘manually’ flush the toilet, but you’ll get a foam mattress, clean sheets, fresh towels and your choice of a fan room or one with air conditioning for typically around 20-30 USD. It may seem kind of steep, but that is the going rate for El Nido. You can certainly find cheaper places when in other parts of the Philippines, but few, if any will have the sights and activities that compare to what you will be a part of here.
I stayed at the Rock View Lodge for three nights and the location could not have been any better. 3 minute walk from the heart of town, and the LTE service from Globe telecom reaches inside the air conditioned rooms! I would DEFINITELY stay at this place again.
Standard Accommodation/ Hotels
So if everything described above is comparable to a motel, then this next tier includes the hotels. These are typically larger construction, brick and mortar buildings with multiple floors and units, sometimes even balconies. Just about all the options in this grouping will have air conditioning and a bed with a “real” mattress as opposed to just a thick foam pad. While pools are rare in El Nido, this is the tier that you would typically expect a place to have one, perhaps with breakfast included at the lobby restaurant as well. You can expect to pay 40-70 USD a night for a place like this, which is terribly expensive for a solo traveler on a budget, but it is great for a couple that is looking to get away for a few days, or a family with children, as many hotels have larger rooms with multiple beds.
You can find a handful of these types of places in El Nido Town, a few more in Corong Corong, and perhaps the highest concentration of them in Marimegmeg/ Los Cabanas beach. These are often much harder to choose between because the travelers willing to pay these prices want to be picky about the look of the place and the amenities that they offer. If this is your style, Marimegmeg will be the best place to stay. There, you will get direct beach access, something of a rarity in El Nido, and have a bit more seclusion.
Big Budget/ Luxury Resort
If luxury is what you are after, then your choices are fairly limited in El Nido, but the places that ARE available will surely impress. Don’t even consider booking one of these places unless you’re willing to spend at least 200 USD per night for the room and there is no compromise there. These resorts are NOT actually in El Nido at all, but on private plots of land in the islands. These are typically all inclusive packages that will have you flying into the private airport with van and boat transfers included. I wont go into any more detail because as an all-inclusive package, this post’s info is not much help. Just browse your resort options, look for the amenities you want and select one! They are all unique.
Continue to read on because there is MUCH more to finding a place in El Nido than JUST the location.
Not all wifi is created equal.
There is no cable, fibre or DSL provider in el Nido, meaning all internet connection, including wifi relies on a Globe Telecom or Smart Telecom signal, and guess what? You will only find it in El Nido town. You wont have much of a signal in Corong Corong, Marimegmeg or the outlying areas…. and it still sucks in El Nido town.
Actually that is an exaggeration; signal coverage is not the issue in the Philippines, signal penetration is.
You see, building construction in MOST countries outside of the US is concrete; solid concrete. From exterior walls, to interior divisions, you get nothing but solid, poured concrete, which stops a WiFi signal dead in its tracks. The telecommunications companies have done a great job of providing coverage across most of the country. Lets not forget that this is an island nation so that is quite the impressive and expensive feat.
To me, having a solid internet connection is essential to being able to continue to work while traveling, so this greatly limited the amount of places that I would stay. If it is also important to you, for whatever reason, then you must stay in El Nido town and there is only one way to make sure you don’t fall victim to this weak signal issue: walk.
I walked around the town and looked for a strong 4g LTE signal. Not too surprisingly, I found the strongest (a full 5 five our of five bars!) on Rizal st, adjacent to the lot where the temporary Globe Telecom signal tower was housed. Smart Communications has already installed multiple towers in the hills surrounding the city proper, making them the reigning signal champion in the area prior to 2017. I would anticipate Globe to be undergoing similar installations in the coming months and years to catch up to their competitor.
So now that you’ve found a decent signal and a hotel within that range, ask to see the available room! It is a reasonable request, and most places, in any of the tiers above, will be glad to show you a room. Don’t forget to check to see how good the LTE signal is in that room if it is important to you to stay connected. Excessive? Maybe for some, but it was worth the extra trouble for me to be able to continue staying connected. I was able to get 2-3 bars of LTE INSIDE my room at a small hotel along Rizal st.
ASK if they have a generator.
Just about every location in El Nido is prone to rolling brown outs, especially when it rains. These temporary power outages do not disrupt the cellular connection, but it can play hell with trying to charge your devices overnight for the next day’s tour.
I stayed in a big fancy (and pricy) hotel that might as well have been a bamboo hut when the first brown out of the week hit. This place did not have a generator and my windowless interior room was a humid sweatbox within 15 minutes of no air conditioning. I didn’t even notice that this room I was paying (way too much) for didn’t even have a window until there was no light all of a sudden, none at all. Also keep in mind that the hot water for showers is typically supplied by an electric water heater system.
So as you are shopping for places to stay, do not forget to ask if they have backup power. This may never be an issue during your stay, but if it does happen to you, there will be nothing but anger and regret if you didn’t ask. The price of the room is NO direct correlation to whether or not they have a generator. I found budget and even ultra low budget places with power when the rest of the block was dark.
Hopefully this guide will help you make the right choices when finding a place to stay in El Nido. It can be expensive and you want to make sure that you have the most enjoyable stay possible. Just book your first night and spend the next morning or afternoon hunting for a place that fits your needs.
Happy hunting! Enjoy El Nido!