El Nido Town Vs Lio Beach + Dangers And Warnings
My family and I recently spent 10 days in El Nido Palawan in the Philippines. Here we stayed in 2 areas for 5 days at at time, five days at Lio Beach and the other 5 in El Nido town.
We found massive differences in our experience between these two areas, some of them dangerous. Travelling with children in the Philippines can be an amazing experience if you stay in the right places and try to make it easier on yourself and your children. From Experience and through a series of articles we are creating, I will help you get the most out of you El Nido and Philippine experience so that you can choose the experience you want to have based on fact.
Should I stay at Lio Beach Or El Nido Town?
The internet is full of advertising for these locations and it makes everything seem like it is great, when you get there you will find out the reality of the situation is very different than what you expect. This country spends massive amounts of money drawing tourist to their destinations and when you get here, you really have to be well educated to get what you were promised.
Most of the VLOGS you find on YouTube only show the highlights and beauty, because that is what sells! Follow us for a dose of reality on every country we visit. We are travel bloggers a husband, wife and 2 kids ages 5 and 2. I will include links to our social channels below. I will also include a link to our YouTube page with a realistic view of these locations.
16 Things we love about Lio Beach
Lio beach is super clean, the hotels here are carefully cleaned daily and the beach area is also maintained to very high standards. Everything is clean including the rooms, the beach and the restaurants. They even clean the sand!
2. Well manicured
The grounds, trees and beach are all maintained by the excessive amount of staff they have in this area.
3. Amazing Wifi
The wifi in El Nido sucks, other than Lio beach where there is Wifi everywhere including the restaurants and hotel rooms. It is the best Wifi on El Nido and you can even stream movies here.
4. One of the best beaches in El Nido
I would rate this beach as the second best beach on El Nido. Even if you are not staying here, you should do a day trip to see this beach.
5. Close to the Airport
The airport is right beside Lio beach, it is so close that you can see the planes coming in really low to the water. It takes 5 mins to get to your hotel.
6. Free Shuttle into Town
The free shuttle is amazing and leaves hourly into town in a air conditioned bus. Even the bus is really clean!
7. Free Breakfast
The free breakfast is amazing here and includes western and Filippino foods
8. Awesome restaurants
There is a variety of restaurants including a BBQ place, pizza shop, coffee shops, Ice cream, local foods, seafood spot and bar foods.
9. High Security
There is so much security here that you will undoubtedly feel very safe, they prevent locals from coming in and soliciting their products and services. They also make sure the gangs do not enter the property.
10. Non Party Scene
If you want to relax without the party crowd then this is your place. There are no nightclubs here or excessively loud music.
11. Easy Stroller Accessibility
In my opinion this area is made for families and couples. They make it easy to get around with a stroller. The only problem is if your stroller is one of the small tire units, most of the paths are sand and you may have to pull it.
12. All of the Amenities
They have a massage place, restaurants, beach bars, ice cream shops, small clothing shops and a tour shop. The only problem is it is more expensive than in town. You pay for the convenience, safety and cleanliness they have created here.
13. Bathrooms right off the beach
Clean bathrooms off the beach are a dream in locations like this as most beaches will not have these types of amenities.
14. Free beach chairs
Any other beach charges $300 pesos or more for a single beach chair.
15. Not busy at all
This area is slow, you will not find crowds here, making it perfect if you want to escape the riff raff.
16. Amazing Views/Instagram Heaven
The company that owns Lio Beach made the are great for memories and pictures. there is a huge doc in the ocean with mountains as a backdrop. Large signs, swings, trees and chill spots like bean bags that you can relax on.
Dislikes About Lio Beach
Price of food and Drink
It is easily 15-20% more expensive than being in town.
2. No real Night-life
Things close early and the only live entertainment is only open until 11.
3. Drones are not allowed
Due to its location to the airport, you cannot fly your drone here. I spoke to a security guard and he said the last flight was at 5 and you could after that. We walked further down the beach where it was not Lio property and flew my drone in the morning. I was able to film local fisherman and kids fishing. It was amazing.
4. There is no reef to snorkel
There is no reef right on Lio beach. If you do go snorkelling, look for rock formations. There is still some coral but not a lot.
5. No fishing allowed
This is a marine conservation, so there is no fishing. I fished for an hour off the doc before anyone said anything.
6. No Wifi right on the beach
There is no Wifi on the beach, but why would you want that anyways.
7. Not as great for people watching/Eye candy
There are not a lot of single men and women here. There are some but it is slim compared to in town, where there a lot of weirdos to watch and good looking men and women.
8. No real store available to buy diapers and other essentials
This was annoying, I did see that they started building a pharmacy. I had to go into town for certain things like diapers, milk etc.
9. You have to pay 250 pesos for the gym
You should not have to pay to use a hotel gym.
10. Massages 650 pesos
More expensive than in town, but it is in a clean environment with minimum standards.
11. Beer 90 pesos
Not too crazy, it works out to around 2 USD.
12. Tricycle ride to town $300 Pesos
Round trip is $600 pesos.
As you can probably tell there is not much bad about Lio Beach, it is definitely not for everyone and not in the budget for many types of travellers such as backpackers and budget travellers. The room prices are reasonable and it works out to a similar price to similar in town hotels considering there is a free breakfast.
Things we love about El Nido Town
You can get spaghetti for as little as $120 pesos
2. Massages 400 pesos
That is the cheapest we found for a decent massage.
3. Nightclubs and Bars
There are awesome nightclubs here, filled with free spirit vacationers. It is safe and the people are more friendly than they would normally be because they are on vacation.
They have everything you need in El Nido town, this is a major plus.
6. Cheap Laundry Service
Laundry is $60 pesos per kilo, they will wash and iron your clothes within 24 hours.
7. Tour Bookings everywhere
The island tours are the big thing in El Nido and it is important to price shop. We found significant differences in price and being in town makes this much more convenient.
8. Street Food!
Oh it’s so good, try the pork skewers for $10 pesos each.
9. A Local Experience
You will meet more locals in town. Your kids will make friends everywhere they go!
10. Local Foods
The local food is a lot cheaper in town due to the competition. I would be careful with this, and try to eat at well established places only as they do not have any minimum food standards/ inspections here.
11. Dramatic Mountain Views
This part of El Nido is surrounded by dramatic mountain views and blue/green ocean.
There are more hostels than you can count here and this makes it super cheap.
13. Rooftop pools and Restaurants
We stayed in this are at a hotel with a rooftop pool called Cuna. Being above the town was serene and beautiful.
14. Beer 60 pesos
Cheap, Cheap, Cheap works out to less than $2 US per beer in a restaurant.
15. Dive shops
If you dive, every shop offers something different.
16. Close to the island hopping tours
This is the reason a lot of people travel here. The island hopping tours start at 8am and you would be right at the port if you stay here.
17. Tricycle ride to Lio beach as low as 200 pesos if you negotiate.
18. Everything is negotiable
You can negotiate on almost everything here. I will include a tutorial in another article on how much you should be spending on things here.
What I hate about El Nido Town
This is a busy place and they allow vehicles to shoot down the smallest roads. One of the main jobs here is taxi service. They will not yield to you so be warned.
2. Too many Tourists
This is the main tourist are and it is jam packed with people from all over the world. In the evenings there are large lineups to get into the restaurants.
I have a good eye for this and there are large gangs in El Nido. This is not a place where you would want to get into it with a local. El Nido is a small village town and the influx of tourist has created a profitable drug market. The locals are often in large groups that they call fraternities. We know these as gangs. Look for trouble here and it will find you.
El Nido town is totally filthy, there is garbage everywhere and the smell of sewage.
5. Drunk People
Bring the party crew and the bars and you will get the drunks and druggies. If you don’t want to see this then don’t stay in El Nido Town
6. Bad walking areas
The government does not take care of the streets or anything else in this popular area. It is really sad because they are making mad money here.
7. No sidewalks
There are no proper sidewalks here and if you are travelling with a stroller or wheelchair, it will be a pain in the ass for you.
8. Frustrated Locals
Although tourism is the main job here, the local are jaded and short with the tourists. I stayed at the Cuna hotel where the check in clerk was very rude and short for no reason.
9. Bad internet
The internet is really bad here and cuts in and out. To get around this, buy a sim card.
10. The smell of sewage mixed with food
It will make you want to puke at times.
11. Agressive vendors
There are a lot of poor people here and they need to hustle to survive. This area is becoming more expensive for locals to live by the day and they do not have the education or opportunity to do this in some cases.
12. Too much construction
I was eating breakfast at a restaurant and they started construction on it while I was eating. They have no regard for their patrons. El Nido is an up and coming place so they are building new hotels all over the place.
Overall our experience as a family in El Nido was fantastic, in my opinion if you can afford $90 US/night and you are a family you should absolutely stay on Lio Beach. Your kids will not be smelling sewage and smoke all day and the beach is much nicer. The restaurants are also safe and offer a variety of western foods and Philipino foods. It is easy to get around with a stroller and there is a massive amount of security. The free breakfast is half Philipino and half western allowing you to eat as you please and experience the local food in a safe manner. Kids are allowed everywhere and there is even a BBQ restaurant with live entertainment every night. Smoking is designated in areas away from buildings.
So Where should I stay In El Nido?
As a couple I would still recommend Lio Beach, it is safer than being in town where you will have drunk men creeping on your significant other. It is clean, the beach is way better and the restaurants are chill. Going into town there is a free shuttle that goes until midnight round trip. If you want to go to a bar or club you can catch a ride back pretty cheap and it is only a 20 minute ride away.
If you are a backpacker or budget traveller, then you should stay in El Nido town where there are a lot of hostels and inexpensive hotels. The food and drink are also way cheaper, everything is negotiable and you can get the gist of the area in as little as 2-3 nights.
Solo travellers have a choice, if you like to relax then stay at Lio. If you want to party and meet your future wife or husband lol then stay downtown El Nido.
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