Clear water and beautiful rock formations. These are just some of the things to expect in Palawan. And yes, they are worth the sunburns and tan lines.
Earlier this month, we were able to cross out El Nido Palawan on our travel list. This has been one of our dream local destinations. We were restricted of the thought that going there might be too expensive as it has been a favourite to local and foreign tourists alike for a very long time now. That is why when the opportunity of an affordable flight came, we instantaneously book it as if hitting gold.
How to get there?
We booked our flight to Puerto Princesa, Palawan via www.foxtravel.com.ph. Since it is lean season, flights costs lower than usual.
From Puerto Princesa, we ride a van going to El Nido. You can choose to ride on a van or a bus. Travel time ranges approximately 5 to 6 hours.
Rate: Van – 700 Php; Bus – 500 Php but, depending on your haggling skills, you can lower van fare to around 500 Php and bus can be availed for as low as 300 Php.
Looking for a ride to El Nido was made easier through the help of Kuya Rowell Francisco. He is a local trike driver, whose been very helpful on our travel to Palawan. You can contact him through 0919-986-3746. He is a member of an organization of tour guides in Puerto Princesa. It is easy to spot him as his trike is decorated with colourful flowers, plus, he might be one of the people who will welcome you upon arrival at the airport.
Tip: There are no ATM’s in El Nido. You might want to load up for your whole stay in Puerto Princesa.
Where to stay?
We did not book a place before going to El Nido. As much as possible, we want to explore the area and see our options and not be restricted by packages offered.
We stayed at Chariz Inn. Standard air-conditioned rooms are priced at 1000 Php with breakfast. Family room with breakfast is at 1500. We booked the standard air-conditioned room and excluded the breakfast for 800 Php.
Going around, we found out that there are still pension house you can opt for that ranges from 400 to 600 Php.
Where to eat?
If you plan to go on a tour for the whole duration of your stay, breakfast and dinner are the times where you need to hunt for the best place to eat. Lunch are usually included on island tours.
You can explore the seaside as there is a line up of restaurants serving grilled seafoods, pork and chicken every night. We had a generous serving of grilled fish and pork with side dish and rice for two for only 300 Php.
Kaptain’s Diner is also a good option. They have silogs, burgers, fries, pasta and different favorite pinoy viands that you can choose from.
Belle Take (me) Away could be your breakfast or merienda place. It’s just a block away from the seashore. They offer fresh bakes everyday. We tried their banana muffins for 80 php each. I think one piece can be good for two already as it is so filling.
If you want to have a little romantic dinner after a long tiring tour, you can choose to eat at The Atmosphere. Their green curry is good. They also have sushi and other Japanese cuisine.
On our last night in El Nido, we decided to get a little cozy and went for a drink at Mezzanine El Nido Inn. They require guests to go barefoot so it adds a little homey feel to it. You can go earlier for their happy hour at 4PM till 6PM where cocktails are cost half the price. I am a non-drinker but I like their pineapple margarita.
What to do?
I can give you a long list of to do’s in Palawan but I think that getting lost in the island is the best thing to do. For the tours, we were assisted by the helpful staff of Clydenike and Guenkean. We were able to avail of the island tours for a discount plus was able to get good tips and advise on where to go in El Nido.
Anyhoo, here is a short list you can use as a guide for your getaway:
1. Island Tours
We did tour A and C. But if I am to choose between the two, it would be tour A. The lagoons and the whole day of snorkeling is a winner for me. Plus we were only a group of 4 so we get to enjoy the trip with a kind of exclusivity.
Tip: Try to get on a small boat if you want to do Tour A. The entrance on the lagoons are too small for the big boats.
You can really appreciate the beauty of El Nido once you hop on the boat. I had the dilemma of where to focus my attention to. The clear water? The rock formation? The clear blue sky? Luckily, tours lasts almost the whole day so I get to do all.
2. Overnight Camp on an island
We were unable to do this but if we are able to go back, this is on my bucket list.
Around 750 meters long stretching from an island to another island, this must be a good taste of how birds fly.
4. Go beach hopping
You can go to Nacpan beach as it was dubbed to be the “Boracay” 20 years ago. You can also get a little romantic and watch the sunset at Corong-corong beach. These places personally remind me of my own hometown, Catanduanes
5. Get a massage
It’s a great day-ender. There is a massage parlor beside Isla. We were able to avail of their Swedish massage for only 350 Php. If you want to schedule a visit, you can contact Ms. Ellen, the shop manager at 0917-514-1807.
6. Rent a motorbike and explore neighboring places
Without an itinerary on hand, have the freedom to get lost in the beauty of Palawan. You can rent one for the whole day at 500 Php.
What to bring?
1. Dry bag. This is to protect your belongings from the seawater and probably the rain. Sometimes weather is unpredictable.
2. Sunblock (a lot of it). As tours last for almost a day, you will be literally under the sun the whole day.
3. Insect repellant. Mosquitoes are almost everywhere. This is also for safety precaution.
4. Cash. There are no ATMs in El Nido. You need to have a rough estimate of how much you want to spend and have it withdrawn in Puerto Princesa.
5. A good underwater camera. There will be a lot of swimming and snorkeling. You need to have something to capture the beauty underwater.
6. Goggles and Snorkel. For hygienic purposes, it would be best to have your own. Should you forgot to bring one, tour packages provide them along with fins and towels.
7. Aqua shoes. There are places to rent this stuff but if you have one, might as well bring it over. This will protect you from stepping on poisonous sea creatures.
8. Water. I would recommend having your own water as a precaution.
Sample Travel Expenses for One Person
- Plane P2,750
- Van P1,000
- Accommodation P800/night
- Food P100/ meal
- (A) P1,200
- (C) P1,400
- Motorbike rent (half day) 250
- Miscellaneous 400
Total Php 10,000
Needless to say, this island won me over even before I was able to visit the place because of its picturesque quality. But what really made an impact on me is the way Palawenos trust people. Without a second thought, they will easily allow you to leave and just go back when you have the amount to pay for your dues. It’s like they trust you without demanding you to reciprocate with honesty.
Let me end this article by the advocacy from the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals that can be seen all over the place,
“Be Honest even if others are not.
Be Honest even if others will not.
Be Honest even if others cannot.”
Tell us about your travel experiences and let us know of places that are kid-friendly by leaving a comment below.