Exploring El Nido
After half a year post this trip, I finally had the time to publish my review!
My college friends and I go to trips yearly, and in 2013 we chose to go to El Nido Palawan, after hearing so many good things about the place. They always say that you need to save up some money for a trip to this haven, but I beg to disagree and wanted to prove them wrong. It will definitely depend on how you’ll go about your trip, and what you want to see or do. I think I’ve already earned a degree with tipid trips for a while now haha!
Out of the 3 places popular in the Islands of Palawan (with Coron & Puerto Princesa), El Nido was my last stop. The entry point to this beautiful island was through Puerto Princesa, followed by a van ride that takes about 5-6 hours. You may opt to fly via a chartered plane of course, at premium costs. 🙂
For me, there are 2 ways on how to enjoy your El Nido trip. 1. Book an expensive hotel (there are really good ones at the Lagen and Miniloc Islands) and experience a high-end type of pampering, or 2. Walk around town for a cheap but clean hotel with easy access to local restaurants and local livelihood. Our group chose the 2nd, as we were in some sort of a “budget” too hehe!
We arrived at the town of El Nido and went to the beach front hotels to look for a place to stay. We all agreed to book Hotel Garnet, which was right across the road from the beach. It only costs 2400 php per night for 4 people. Such a steal right? It comes with unlimited supply of coffee, 24×7. Not bad for a coffee drinker like me.
The town proper is relatively small. When I say small, you can walk your way around it, as it’s only in one street. There you’ll see all the hotels, bars and restos. Try Squidos, Sea Slugs, and the Hilltop resto for a live band. They all serve good seafood. While we were having lunch at Squidos, an in house lady named “Jessica” (who turned out to be the sister-in-law of the owner), came up to us and offered tour packages. There were several to choose from. Either you want to see lagoons and beaches; caves and coves; or hidden islands and secret beaches. Our group chose the combination tour which was a little expensive, but had a good mix of all, and would only highlight the best ones. Tour packages ranged from 800-900 php per head but the combo tour cost 1,500 php.
All tours start early, and usually take the whole day. Here’s a photo of us early in the morning, habang mapuputi pa kami hehe!
First stop, the Helicopter Island . It was called “Helicopter” because it was shaped liked one at a distance. It was also where we stopped by and took time to snorkel. Wish I could take photos but I don’t have an underwater camera. It was lovely, but I think Coron’s underwater view was much nicer.
Second destination, the Secret Beach. As the word “secret” implies, it means that the beach is hidden in between rock formations. We had to walk our way inside where you’ll be surprised to see a beach surrounded with deep waters.
Third stop, the Matinloc Shrine. Our tour guides said that it’s owner built it just to show gratitude to the people of Matinloc Island. There lies an abandoned mansion, and a shrine with limestone walls. But what’s most breath-taking for this stop was the 180 degrees view of the islands from the top. You have to climb steep rock formations to reach it, be careful as the rocks were really sharp — to think we were in our bikinis! haha!
At half way through we then headed to the Talisayen Beach for lunch! This was already inclusive in the tour package. You just had to tell your guides a day before on what your food preferences are, and they will cook for you. They allowed us to rest and relax at the beach while they cooked our food on the spot.
After a little siesta, we headed to the second half of our tour, the lagoons. This part is where I got my cuts from the corals. I’m not scaring you, but it’s quite inevitable. Wear aqua shoes if you have them. They’re worth it though. Six months after and I still have the scars in my legs, but it’s fine. They’re my battle scars!
Lagoon – a stretch of salt water separated from the sea by a low sandbank or coral reef. -definition from Google.com
First lagoon in the list, the “Secret Lagoon” as you had to go into a hole to see what’s inside.
Next stop, and probably the nicest lagoon for me, was the Big Lagoon. It had this view where it seemed like 2 huge rock formations separated as you enter/exit the deep sea.
Third and final lagoon for the tour, is the Small Lagoon. Why? No one knows, my guess was that if there’s a Big Lagoon, there also had to me a small version of it. LOL.
Last but not the least, the highlight of the whole tour for me, the Seven Commandos Beach. Why? I just loved how fine the sand was, very much comparable to the white sands of Boracay’s Boat Station 1. We didn’t bother to ask why it was named that way, but Google tells us that in the old times there were seven soldiers who lived in the island and carved their names in stones. We never saw those stones. 🙂 Anyhoo, the guide allowed us to rest at the beautiful beach after all the walking and hopping that we did from the lagoons. I actually fell asleep while the gang took a dip. It was the perfect way to end the tour.
We headed back to the town before dark, all tired and most of us bruised, but I’m sure that we all had a great time. What we saw were priceless. It was different than what you expect in Puerto Princesa’s islands or Coron, where it’s so beautiful underneath. El Nido has it’s own set of natural wonders that you won’t find elsewhere. I enjoyed all the secret places that I discovered on that tour.
And this is how we were at the end of the day – sunog! haha!
Be sure to bring your sunblock for both the body and face as you’ll have to reapply every so often. If you have rash guards and aqua shoes, they will be your best buds. But if you want tan lines (like us! haha) then you can also pull it off by just wearing your swimwear all day.
Our group had dinner at the Hilltop Restaurant (in photo above) where we listened to a local band, and had some drinks before we headed back to Puerto Princesa and Manila the next day.
Trip costs (in PH pesos):
Round Trip Airfare – 1,874.40
4D/3N Hotel Accommodation – 1,800
Round Trip Van & Tricycle fares – 1,200
Whole Day Tour with Food – 1,500
Total – PHP 6,374.00
Not bad right?
I didn’t include my pocket money for food and drinks as this will vary depending on your appetite. The food is cheap anyway so meals would only range from 150-200 php, busog meals.
So who says you need to spend a lot for El Nido? 🙂