Flying to El Nido is the quickest, easiest, most direct, and also the most expensive way of getting to El Nido from Manila and back. Two domestic carriers fly directly to El Nido: Island Transvoyager Inc. (ITI) and South East Asia Airlines (SEAIR). Both normally use 19-seater Dorniers, and charge roughly 5,000 pesos, and that's just one-way. The flight takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
ITI flies an average of TWICE DAILY, as they service guests at the upscale El Nido Resorts (Miniloc and Lagen), sometimes more during peak season. Resort guests are prioritized, but as long as they have available seats, booking should not be a problem. In Manila, call +(632) 8515674 or 8140408; or fax 854 1418. Note that ITI has its own terminal, separate from the domestic airport. (Address is: A.Soriano Aviation Hangar, Andrews Avenue, Pasay City. The hangar is in front the Shell gasoline station at the end of Tramo.)
SEAIR on the other hand flies to El Nido TWICE A WEEK (sometimes thrice when there is sufficient demand). The flight is either direct to El Nido, or is a multi-stop flight as when the point of destination is Puerto Princesa City and El Nido is one of their stops in Northern Palawan, along with Busuanga island. (Hence, an option for travelers doing the El Nido-Coron transfer.) SEAIR's Manila hotline is +(63 2) 884 1521. In Puerto Princesa, call +(63 48) 434 5272. In El Nido, the local agent is Judith Distal at the El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe +(63 906) 255 1020 or +(63 918) 328 7487. She can also be reached at email@example.com
For those with lots of time, another option is to make Puerto Princesa City your gateway. You can: FLY to PPC (airfare would be lots cheaper than a direct flight to El Nido, especially if you can find discounted seats) via any of the major domestic carriers (PAL, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines, Asian Spirit, Seair); or take a PASSENGER FERRY (this will be a 24- hour journey from Manila, either via WG&A SuperFerry or Negros Navigation).
From PPC, there are several options:
1) Take the ROAD TRIP from PPC to El Nido via bus or van-for-hire. This is anywhere from an 8 to a 10 hour road trip --- depends on whether you're using public or private transport (the bus takes longer due to the pick-up and drop-off stops) and the condition of your vehicle (some parts of the road can be rough, especially in between Taytay and El Nido so flat tires are common). Bus fare is affordable at around PhP 500 per head. If you're a large group, a van-for-hire is good, though expensive at about P10 thou (includes the driver, and cost for the trip back to PPC). If you want the van to stay with you in El Nido, there's extra acharge on a per-night basis, maybe 1,500. Try to haggle. Contact any PPC-based tour agency or rent-a-car. The public buses contact nos. (cell phones) are below.
2) Go to SABANG (site of the Underground River), from where there are PUMPBOATS which can take you to El Nido. Not sure how long the trip takes but I'm guessing around 8 hours as well. Preferably only during summer.
3) There are those 1x or 2x-weekly SEAIR FLIGHTS from PPC to El Nido. Great for those who have extra cash and those with business in both PPC and El Nido.
These options are for the more adventurous --- perfect if you prefer the scenic route and would like to explore PPC and the northern half of mainland Palawan. If you take the road trip, you can even make pit stops in the towns of San Vicente, and/or Taytay, which are also worth visiting. Also, I've heard that the entry into Bacuit Bay from the water is quite dramatic.
For most people, this is the very last resort: There is a "batil" which is the local term for large wooden boats that usually carry cargo plus some passengers, that go direct to El Nido from Manila and back. The trip is a whopping 36 hours long! The accommodations for passengers are also extremely "spartan" --- usually just a canvas "bunk" (which isn't even really a bunk, i just don't know what to call them) that is maybe 20 inches across and 5 feet long, placed side by side with the others. Sardines, anyone? (A peace corps volunteer friend of mine who took the boat ride sure had funny stories to tell about sleeping with another passenger's kid's feet literally in her face...)
This is NOT for those who want to travel comfortably, and definitely NOT for those who get seasick. Neither would I recommend this during the rainy season.
I do know some people who have done this and say "actually, it's not THAT bad." But be warned that these are friends of mine who were either on a tight budget and had not much of a choice... or really adventurous people who took the batil precisely because they were looking for this type of experience... The upsides to this alternative (besides the savings on transpo costs) would be the scenery along the way...
Contact either Atienza Shipping Lines (vessel is called Joselle) or San Nicolas Lines (vessel is Catalyn C) for rates and schedules.
Another point of entry is Coron/Busuanga from where Seair has those once- or twice- a week flights. I'm afraid however that between El Nido and Coron flying is the only option. (There are supposedly "batils" plying the route but I have no information about this. I heard too that this takes almost as long as the "batil" trip from Manila.)
This would be perfect for those who want to see both El Nido and Coron.
To get to Coron, you can take the affordable and convenient WG&A Superferry passenger boat. It's a 12-hour boat ride, that leaves Manila late Friday afternoon and stops over at Coron early Saturday morning to let off/ pick up passengers before heading for Puerto Princesa. (You can also fly to Coron/Busuanga via Seair or Asian Spirit).
This is really a small plane. A 19-seater one that has a stop over in Busuanga for about 10-15 mins. It takes about an hour to get to Busuanga from Manila. And then another hour to El Nido. The pilots are really good because both take off and landing are smooth. It just gets really hot in the plane before take off and before landing. Nothing bigger flies in in El Nido because of the really short and unpaved runway.
Rate is P12,560.80 per person for a round trip ticket to El Nido.
The airport in El Nido is pretty cool. It's just a small open hut with benches around trees at the back. And hammocks for waiting passengers :)
There are three airlines that fly to el nido from manila. Seair, cebu pacific and iti.
Seair is the cheapest, but only flys three times a week, and some of them are via busuanga. Cebu costs more but I think flys daily. ITI is owned by lagan and miniloc and is primarily for the resort customers. You can fly with them even if you are not staying at the resort, but you can only book the ticket a couple of days in advance. Great views from the plane.
El Nido airport is the smallest I've ever seen. The runway is not sealed and the departure lounge has hammocks! Nice really, very laid back. You get to town on a motor tricycle, cost is 150 peso. Be warned though, the bikes cannot come into the airport when a plane is landing (cos they drive up the runway!), so you may have to wait a bit if another flight is coming in. We were stuck there for an hour and a half. Guess thats why they have hammocks :)
There are also scheduled flights to porta princessa, may be others too, not sure. Judith is the font of all knoweldge and is very helpful, ask her!
Montenegro shipping line runs a fast craft between El Nido and Coron. Trip takes 5 hrs. and the boat is air-conditioned. Only their booking office near the pier sells these tickets.
Other OUTRIGGER BOATS do regular trips between El Nido and Coron several days a week. These boats take min. 8 hrs. and are only advisable in good weather and calm sea.
If you're a big group (5 or more), you can rent a van from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. Travel time is between 6-8 hours depending on road conditions. There are still large stretches that are unpaved and rocky.
We originally planned to do this and got in touch with Joseph Hidalgo of Hidalgo Rent a Car. Package was P15k roundtrip for the 5d/4n trip. You can rent his van to any point of Palawan. He is also a licensed tourist guide so he can give you a running commentary of Palawan while you are on the road :)
There are only 2 airlines flying to El Nido,one is Seair,they fly twice or thrice daily with a short stop over Busuanga.The other airline is ITI, I don't know exactly how often they fly to El Nido.Reminder;the flight fares to El Nido are really expensive,paid 12,000++ pesos for a return ticket.Another option is,fly to Puerto Princesa then take the public bus to El Nido but it's very long journey.
We didn't try this one but the trip is supposed to be about 6-8 hours. But since the buses are old, there's a tendency for them to break down along the way. This is what happened to the couple we met who also stayed in Marina. The bus broke down and they had to wait for 4 hours to get a ride or for it to be repaired. But this is the cheapest option of getting to El Nido. I think the fare is just P300 one-way.
Details from the other site:
Sweety transport offer 2 trips a day from El Nido to Puerto Princesa City passing through Taytay and Roxas. The trips generally takes around 8 hours and departures are between 7am and 9pm. The fare is 300 pesos. There is also a corresponding to trips from Puerto Princesa City back to El Nido each day, leaving between 7am and 9am.
Eulen Joy transport also offer 2 trips a day from El Nido to Puerto Princesa City passing through Taytay and Roxas. The fare is 300 pesos. Similarly they have two corresponding trips from Puerto Princesa City to El Nido. Leaving between 7am and 9am.
if you're getting a package...the airplane ride is part of it...you take a Dornier 19-seater plane from Manila at the Andres Soriano Hanger and land in a private airstrip (El Nido Airport). Then you get welcome drinks in their airport lounge. A huge high top jeepney will take you for the short (about 500 meters away) dusty ride to where the speedboat is...this then will take you to the big outrigger boat which will take you to El Nido Resorts.
We flew in to El Nido town from Manila by SEAIR. The flight takes almost two hours with a fifteen minute stopover in Busuanga, Palawan. The plane is an eighteen seater and flies at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Hence, you get the opportunity to see the beautiful islands and even take some pictures. It's a bit bumpy when we flew over land mass. In fact, my daughter vomited as we were approaching Manila. All in all, however, it's a pleasant flight.
I must warn you that the tickets are expensive as it cost us around PhP 12,000 per adult round trip. Furthermore, do not agree for SEAIR to transfer your luggage to ITI when you return to Manila. It seems that the return flight, when it is full, is overloaded. So they have to transfer portion of the luggages to the other airline. I made the mistake of accepting the request because my co-passengers refused and being the only Filipino, I wanted to help out my countrymen (I mean SEAIR). Besides, they said that the other plane would arrive first and that our luggages would just be in the SEAIR office (located beside the Domestic Airport) when we arrive. This did not happen and we had to wait around thirty minutes (it was only hastened because I kept complaining inside their office).
Once you get to the El Nido Airport, you will have to wait for the plane to leave because the tricycles that fetch you also use the runway to get near to the waiting shed. It will take around fifteen minutes to reach the town itself and it will cost PhP 150 per tricycle. I suggest you make arrangements with the tricycle driver to bring you back to the airport (assuming you were satisfied with his service) on the day of your departure.
WinEulenJoy is another bus company that offers Puerto princesa-el nido route. The fare is PHP 300. If you dont like to take the bus, there are air conditioned vans that can take you to El Nido. I think you have to pay PHP 500 per head for the trip.
Bus is the cheapest way to get to El Nido from Puerto Princesa (around P300) compared to a boat ride from Sabang which costs P6000 per boat and takes 6 hours (with a stop in Port Barton after 3 hours). The earliest trip from Puerto Princesa is at 5am in the morning. My friend and I had to wake up around 4am in order to pack our things and to give time-allowance for the tricycle ride from Rizal Ave. to the San Jose Bus Terminal. Tricycle fare is around P50 and takes around 30 minutes to the terminal. I tried to haggle but it wasn't good enough. If you're looking to buy a quick breakfast, Dunkin Donuts is open 24-hours. Don't forget to order Chocobutternut and Choco-Honeydipped. Be there early to have a good seat. The bus leaves on time surprisingly and takes around 6-8 hours. The road is paved until Roxas and then you have to endure a gruelling travel through dusty roads with occasional reprieve since the roads are slowly being built. Don't forget to take out your jacket to avoid inhaling dust... a lot of dust. They had to fix the bus in Roxas and there were two rest-stops: breakfast in Roxas and lunch in Taytay. Try to walk around the Spanish fort in Taytay since the lunchstop takes about 15-20 minutes. Just make sure to tell the driver and the bus conductor about it so you won't be left behind. If you miss the 5am bus, don't worry since there's another one every hour until 9am.
Direct Access to El Nido from Manila is via chartered flights in a 19-seater Dornier in 1 hour & 15 minutes. Daily flight schedules are as follows:
Manila - El Nido ETD 7:30 AM and 3:00 PM
El Nido - Manila ETD 9:30 AM and 5:00 PM