Travel Tales: El Nido, Palawan

Since it’s almost summer, let me share with you my recent trip to El Nido. 🙂

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El Nido (officially the Municipality of El Nido) is a first class municipality and managed resource protected area in the province of Palawan in the Philippines. It is about 420 kilometres (260 mi) southwest of Manila, and about 238 kilometres (148 mi) northeast of Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s capital. According to CNNGo, it is the Best Beach and Island destination in the Philippines for its “extraordinary natural splendor and ecosystem.” (from Wikipedia)

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Last July, Air Asia offered very cheap seats to Puerto Prinsesa, Palawan. The catch is, the flight will be from Clark and not Manila. My travel group didn’t mind since the roundtrip ticket was just a total of php720 per person. Super cheap right!!! The main reason why I wanted to go to Palawan was, to go to the famous Underground River. Back in 2011, I went to Palawan on my birthday because we wanted to see the Underground River. Unfortunately, there was a storm nearby that prevented us from doing so. After booking the ticket, we decided to go to El Nido instead.

The first thing that you have to remember when deciding to go to El Nido is the travel time. In our case, we had to travel from Makati City to Clark airport via bus. It will take about an hour from Clark to Puerto Prinsesa. Once you arrive in Palawan, you have the option to rent a private vehicle, ride a bus, or a van to get you to El Nido. Brace yourself: it will take you around 4 hours or so from Puerto Prinsesa to El Nido. Of course, there won’t be any traffic. But 2 out of those 4 hours will be rough road travel. So your body really needs to be physically prepared for all that sitting, and somewhat roller coaster ride to El Nido.

It’s also important to already have a contact for your van before you actually arrive Palawan. This will ensure that somebody will pick you up from the airport. When we got there at around 12:30pm, our driver told us that we need to leave by 1pm so that we will arrive El Nido by dinner time. We paid a total of php1600 per person for the roundtrip transportation – airport to El Nido and back.  I’m sorry but I have no idea how much it would cost during summer time.

I don’t remember eating dinner, maybe I was just really exhausted with the road trip. Because as soon as we got to El Nido, we still had to look for a place to stay. When you don’t know how to start, ask the tricycle drivers. That’s what we usually do. So we hired a tricycle driver, and I can say that we are always lucky because those that we hire, always know an affordable place. So that’s how we got our place for php 1300 per night, for 4 adults. 😉

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What you have to know about El Nido is that you really have to get on a boat to experience the islands. El Nido’s main island itself has dark, gray sand. It’s not hard to look for boats to rent that will take you to the different islands. You can inquire almost everywhere while walking from your hotel to you local resto or bar.

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You need to make sure that you talk to your boat man the night before the trip so that you can bargain on how much the entire day trip will cost. In our case, Kuya Arman gave the tour to all four of us for php2700. This includes lunch already as well as having the entire boat to just us. There is that option to go private – meaning you don’t have to share it with other tourists, so you can really have control of your time, on how long you want to stay at a specific island. Or if you want to have an early/late lunch.

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This is our lunch on our first day. You can actually request for what kind of food you want, they’ll go to the market early in the morning before the actual trip to buy it. Of course, it would be absurd not to have seafood on the menu! Oh, this food? They knew there were just 4 of us, but look at all this right!!!

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Did you notice the effort in styling the salad? Kuya Arman said that it is his requirement to all his boatmen whenever they go out on island-hopping tours. This is on our second day, we requested for squid, shrimp and chicken. Yes, chicken, don’t judge hehehe.

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You have the option to request if you want to eat early. In our case, since we have very nice boat men, they made sure that we get to eat at an island where there are very few people, for us to enjoy the place and the scenery more.

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This was inside a cave, which is part of tour B. Oh, we actually went for 2 tours, B and C. I never really thought I’d enjoy snorkeling so much, El Nido actually made me LOVE snorkeling!

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This is like the viewing deck to what they call the Snake Island. I think it’s pretty obvious why. To get here, you need to go on a short trek, which by the way will give you pretty amazing view of the different islands surrounding it.  That sand bar? Yes, you can walk through it to get from one island to another. Amazing right!!!!

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You see, I’ve been to Boracay and I really love the beach, and it’s vibe altogether. But now that I’ve been to El Nido, I can say that El Nido is it’s less party-going sister. If Boracay loves to party, El Nido loves going on nature trips.

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Let me go back to snorkeling. I love to swim. Super. I never had any real swimming lessons but I do love it. In El Nido, you will be given lots and lots of opportunities to swim and check out underwater life. I remember being amazed with the fishes I saw back when we went snorkeling in Batangas. I thought was beautiful. But when I went to El Nido? WOW. It was different!! It was the first time in my life that I saw green corals. All my life, I only saw dead, white ones. You know those souvenirs and little pieces you see at the shore? My group was actually making fun of me because they’d just enjoy the water for a good 5-10 minutes top, but I would really take the time to go watch the life under.

Just a suggestion though, if you want to do tour C, be prepared for all the swimming and snorkeling since you need to do that in order to get inside the small lagoon. I don’t have any pictures since we don’t have any waterproof case for our cameras. My suggestion is to go there early in the day so you have the rest of the day to relax and lounge in the beach.

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There are islands that are perfect for beach bumming since they offer beers for around php50 (?). But I suggest going back to the main land around 4 or 5pm. Most resto-bars have happy hour (between 4pm-8pm) and they offer beer for php35-php40. What we did was to order more than what we can finish by 8PM then asked if we they can put it back inside the cooler or something so we can still have it ice-cold. And they are really very nice for allowing us to do that hehehe.

So for 2 full days we swam, snorkeled, drank and lived the island life before going heading back to that dreaded 4-hour journey back to Puerto Prinsesa. Will I go back? Hell yeah! I just hope that the road trip will be more comfortable and more convenient in the future. In case you’re thinking of a place to go to this summer, try El Nido for a change. 🙂

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BTW, here are the calling cards of our shuttle service and island hopping tours. 🙂

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