Before we moved to El Nido, we brought our kids to visit every summer from the time my daughter was 9 months old and my son was 2 1/2 years old. There really isn’t much for a 9 month old to do, so I mostly stayed on the resort with her while my husband took our older son island hopping. But the following year when my daughter was 1 1/2 and walking, she had the time of her life. I firmly believe in the benefits of travel with young children, even when they’re too young to remember the trip!
So what is there to do in El Nido for kids?
1) Island Hopping
Tour D is definitely the most family friendly, as it is the closest tour. My kids have gotten seasick on Tour C, which is much farther out (I always have children’s Dramamine with me and give it to them before car and boat rides). Tour D’s stops are all beaches without coral, so they are ideal for young children. We still go island hopping at least once or twice a month, and it is almost always Tour D.
Tour B is a good option as well, although the caves are not the most young kid friendly, but Snake Island is loved by children and adults alike. It has a stunning view and shallow crystal clear waters for swimming.
I definitely would not recommend Tour C as swimming and walking through choppy waters are required for some of the stops. And Tour A is not ideal because you need to kayak to properly explore Small and Big Lagoon.
The best way to get the most out of the island hopping experience with young kids would be to do a private tour so you can pick the best destinations. I would probably go to Snake Island (Tour B), and then some of the closer beaches like Simizu (Tour A), Helicopter Island (Tour C), and Cadlao Lagoon (Tour D). Definitely a maximum of 5 stops — any more and you’ll feel rushed.
2) Nacpan Beach
Nacpan Beach is just a beach, but it has such great water and powder soft sand that we always spend the entire day there when we visit. The 1 hour tricycle ride can be quite uncomfortable for young children, so I would recommend hiring a private van for 3000 pesos for the entire day (a tricycle costs 1500 pesos). This is our favorite beach in El Nido.
3) Caalan Beach
Caalan Beach isn’t great for swimming because there is a lot of coral, but it is great for exploring! My kids could explore the coral during low tide for hours. The best times of day are early in the morning or before sunset when the strong sun isn’t overhead. We’ve seen everything from sting rays to starfish, and a sea turtle (that unfortunately had died) even washed ashore last month. Hermit crabs are everywhere, and fun to catch, watch, and release. Locals are also incredible at catching small fish and octopus, and you can always find them fishing at low tide.
4) Corong Corong
Grab dinner, drinks, and enjoy the beautiful sunset at La Plage in Corong Corong, which is best from November-March. Kids can play in the water while you sit right on the beach, and there’s even a pool. The gentle Great Dane the size of a small horse that lives there is sure to delight kids.
5) Las Cabanas Beach
Las Cabanas has a wonderful, long beach for swimming, and it’s one of the best places to catch a sunset. Older kids (8+ or so) can also zipline!
6) Taraw Cliff
You can walk up bridges and stairs to get a platform halfway up Taraw Cliff. My 4 and 6 year old were able to do it with a lot of help from the 2 awesome guides that accompanied us. It’s only 20 minutes to the top, so even young children can manage it.
This all day tour includes shopping, hiking, fishing, cooking, weaving, crafting, climbing, dancing, playing games, all in an idyllic oceanfront setting. Please note that it does require a 30 minute walk each way, so you must either carry your young child or your child must be old enough to walk. It was tiring for our 4 and 6 year old, but they were able to do it and had a great time!
8) Eat at Altrove
All kids love pizza like my New Yorker kids, and this is the best pizza in town cooked in a wood burning oven.
9) Get Dessert at L’Assiette
Ice cream, waffles, crepes, shakes, cheesecake, and much more. The best desserts in town!
10) Makulay Beach Bar and Restaurant
From May-October the sun sets at Caalan Beach, and Makulay is a great place to catch it. Since it’s located right by the shore, kids can play in the water while adults enjoy a meal and a refreshing glass of sangria!
11) Sava Beach Bar
Enjoy a virgin strawberry, raspberry, mango, banana, or passionfruit daiquiri at El Nido’s newest beachfront bar. Adults can enjoy the best happy hour drinks in town from 4-6pm daily, while kids can play in the sand. Pick up a deck of cards at Artcafe or Inggo and your kids will be entertained for hours!
12) The Bazaar
This is our other favorite local bar that has two kittens that our kids love to play with. You can get a foot spa here while you’re enjoying a delicious mojito!