El Nido is truly one of the most beautiful places I have been in my life. Kayaking to secluded beaches, snorkelling in the middle of nowhere, all while surrounded by massive limestone mountains and cliffs while sitting in turquoise and clear water. It was paradise. There are so many opportunities to just get away everyone else and really feel like you are in your own tropical paradise, or in an episode of survivor.
What didn’t impress me however was El Nido town itself. The town has many guest houses, hostels, higher end hotels, and beach front restaurants. It also has tacky T-shirts for sale, pushy tour sales men, way too many trikes, and little to eat on a budget.
Most mornings I began my day with a short walk to the market and then ate the worlds best mangos (and I don’t say that lightly) on our roadside patio. The Philippines is actually one of the few countries that harvests mangos year round (unlike Thailand or other south east asian countries that have a dominant mango season).
I ordered steamed veggies, or vegetable curry at quite a few restaurants and each time we were more disappointed than the time before. The portions were unusually small, overpriced, and made with low quality ingredients. Most nights we ended up finding a local restaurant which served rice for 10php and bringing home a few portions to munch on.
One restaurant stands out completely as a winner in my eyes. When on El Nido beach continue along the beach following the dirt path which connects you to a more local patch of beach. You will pass a cemetery and then you will find Caalan GK Restaurant and Bed and Breakfast. Easily the most beautiful view in all of El Nido this B&B offers amazing food at a fair price. The B&B was built by the Gawad Kalinga Foundation. We ordered the vegetable stir-fry and the vegetable curry and split both. The curry was spectacular, thick coconut sauce nicely spiced full of tender pumpkin, eggplant, and green beans. Along with a fresh Buko (young coconut) juice, it was perfect.
Ignore the overpriced, low quality beach front restaurants in El Nido proper and walk for 5 minutes down the beach, you will not be sorry you did.
If you are looking for something cheaper and faster we often also ate lunch at Tocilog. which offers the whole menu for 65php. Rice dishes, sizzlers, noodles, cheap prices, and questionable sanitation kept this place busy with budget travellers late into the night.