TABLE OF CONTENTS
Scuba diving El Nido is high on every scuba divers bucket list, and this guide is meant to help you make it happen.
We will show you what to expect while diving El Nino, how to get there, who to dive with, what you will see and more. With this guide you can plan a perfect dive trip, and not waste precious dive time when you’re there.
Five or six years ago, Palawan was the last frontier in Philippines, and pretty rough traveling to visit. But each year the roads get better, and it gets easier and easier to get there. El Nido being the most popular destination in Palawan, is no exception.
There are other legendary scuba diving locations around Palawan, such as Coron and Tubbataha, but El Nido scuba diving is the focus of this guide, and we highly recommend a visit in the near future!
Before writing this guide to El Nido scuba diving, we had to go there and check it out for ourselves, to see if it lived up to all the hype. it certainly did just that.
We were impressed on every dive, each one having something completely new. Each dive had something in common, such as lots of turtles or reef, but they also each had their own unique aspects.
What really blew our minds, were how many dive sites there are, located within 30 minutes or less by boat from the main beach. On a 5 day trip we did 3 dives per day, never returning to the same one (although we would of liked to).
Also read: 62 Awesome Places to Visit in Philippines.
Great scuba diving in El Nido
Dilumacad Tunnel – A 40m long tunnel filled with electric clams, nudibranchs and other cool stuff. Experienced divers only.
North Rock – Here you have a chance to see an enormous school of jack that blot out the sun, chances for black tip sharks, and in season, the occasional whale shark or manta.
South Entalula – An awesome coral garden, and most of the time a drift dive, where you are going to see tons of fish, and even more turtles.
West Entalula – A wall dive that gets up to 32m deep, with chances to see all kinds of critters, big and small.
Tagbao Island, El Nido El Nido stands out as one of the premier diving spots in El Nino, and even all of Philippines. The two tiny islands called Tabago are in the north west off Miniloc. This place is perfect for beginner level divers as the water can be comfortably shallow.
The Wall, Roxas The Wall, a twenty-minute boat ride off the main island, provides scuba divers of all levels excellent marine biology. While the site is excellent for beginning divers, more experienced scuba divers are always surprised by new things they find each time they dive at this site. Underwater photographers favorite this for its beauty and diversity of marine life.
Bulawit Bay, Linapacan Bulawit Bay has shallow waters up to 150 meters off the pier coast. The sea floor is covered with sea grass and is a great place to spot starfish. Keep moving until you reach the drop-off point. There you are rewarded with spectacular marine life, from moray eels, barracudas, pipe fish, bat fish, ribbon eels and other tropical fish species.
South Miniloc Reef This site is the most popular for El Nino scuba diving, with a wide variety of marine life here including Giant Barrel Sponge, Tree Corals, Yellow tail Barracudas. Don’t miss the big patches of cabbage corals and the school of yellow snappers.
Also read: Guide to Scuba Diving Philippines
El Nido Travel Information
How to get to El Nido, Palawan
In almost all situations, you will first need to get into Manila, and catch a flight from there. There are slow boats from Coron to El Nido, but having personal taken one, I wouldn’t recommend it. Mine took over 12 hours, and everyone was seasick.
When searching for flights, you will want to look for Puerto Princessa in Palawan. Booked far enough in advance, flights to Puerto Princessa or Cebu City can be extremely cheap. Flights from either are around 1 hour.
El Nido does now have its own tiny airport, but not many flights are going there yet as of now.
From Puerto Princessa, you will need to head overland to El Nido in the north of Palawan. It is most common for tourists to share a minivan for the ride, but there are cheaper buses as well.
The minivan will probably take you a little ways into town, just tell them where you are staying and they will drop you near. If not, they will drop you at the terminal, and you can take a tricycle to your hotel.
Other things to do and see in El Nido
Besides diving in El Nido, people come here for nice beaches, lively nightlife, and amazing island hopping. Similar to the island hopping in Coron, the tours take you on a day trip to some of the most beautiful and iconic islands in Palawan.
There are 3 island hopping tour options, and any one of them will work. Our recommendation though, if you are diving, is to wait until you are finished. The reason is that during surface intervals, your dive boat will be visiting a lot of these islands already, for free.
There are plenty of other day trips from El Nido, such as Port Barton, but too many things to list here. Stay tuned, and we will soon be posting our guide to things to do in El Nido soon.
Best times to visit El Nido
The coolest and most pleasant months are December to February. After February the weather in El Nido starts to get very hot and humid with no rain at all.
This is also the start of plankton season. Visibility might be affected by plankton bloom and the water is a bit colder than usual (25-26C°), but the plankton means more chances to run into the big boys, like mantas and whale sharks.
January to May is the best time to spot macro life. You will have a good chance to see ghost pipefish, frogfish, nudies and many more.
But in reality, El Nido scuba diving can be a year-round activity.
Philippines visa info for Americans:
In Philipines you will get a 30 entry on arrival, no visa needed ahead of time. if you want to stay longer that the 30 days, Philippines has the easiest (by FAR) extension in all of Southeast Asia.
You can extend by one month at a time for a few months, without leaving the country, and after a few months the give you a Philippines Id, and offer 6-12 month visas. The one month extensions usually cost around $60 or less.
To get the extension find a immigration office in either Manila or Cebu City, and other cities around the country. They will hold your passport for a few business days, and thats it. Very easy process for divers that can’t get enough of scuba diving Philippines.
Critter highlights in El Nido:
There are over 100 million people living in Philippines, and only a tiny percent of them are aware of how unique and rare and incredible the critters are that they have living just off shore.The Puerto Galera diving is NO exception.
Scuba Diving Puerto Galera offers opportunities to check off many many bucket list items that all divers wish to see, so here is a list of just a small fraction of those.
A few critters you’ll see while scuba diving El Nido:
– A HUGE plethora of nudibranch species. Just like most of Philippines, which is world renowned for the number of nudi species, El Nino diving offers it’s share.
– Plenty of octopus and cuttlefish
– HUGE schools. Not just the big jack school either, there are a few sites with big schools of different species that are fun to dive with.
– 10+ species of anemone fish. Not just Nemos
– Ornate ghost pipefish, as well as robust ghost pipes.
– A huge variety of frogfish species. Cutest critters, or ugliest?
– Fire urchins, with crabs or shrimp on their backs.
– Ribbon and moray eels.
– Giant batfish
-White and black tip sharks
-Some of the best and most abundant cabbage corals we’ve seen
Where to stay in El Nido & who to dive with:
If you are mainly scuba diving El Nido, there are plenty of places to stay and dive with, many right on the main beach. Not all dive centers have their own accommodation, but we will list some dive resorts that offer both, for more convenience.
There are a number of great dive centers in El Nido, with good gear and boats and crew, and we will give our top favorite pick below. You can also search through more hotels and dive resorts in El Nido HERE. Let us know if you stayed at our top pick, and what you thought!
If you stay at one of the budget backpackers or hotels that don’t offer diving, we highly recommend Tabanka Divers, right on the beach.
Our top pick of who to dive with in El Nido:
Tabanka Divers! We dove with Tabanka, and they are located in the best spot in El Nido. They also took us on countless awesome dives, as well as remote islands. Find a hotel near Tabanka Dive Center HERE.