Everything You Need To Know About El Nido

El Nido has long been known to be a haven for beach-bound tourists. For many, it’s a top-class destination that’s better suited to celebrities and businessmen. But that’s not true! Despite being tucked away in a little corner of Palawan, El Nido can be — and should be — enjoyed by everyone. This little guide will tell you all you need to know about this bliss-filled place. 

el nido palawan

How to Get There

Palawan can be easily reached from Manila via any of the local airlines. The nearest airport to El Nido is at Puerto Princesa, a travel time of around an hour and 15 minutes from the nation’s capital.

Once in Puerto Princesa airport, you can ride a tricycle or a multicab to Robinson’s Mall. Here, there are shuttle vans you can charter for the trip to El Nido. These vans depart every hour from 5AM to 6PM. Bring a lot of patience, as the ride takes up to 5 hours. Alternatively, you can take the vans that wait from the airport’s arrival area, which will ferry you directly to your destination. The fares cost around Php 550-600.

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It’s More Fun in Palawan: El Nido Island Hopping

We were scheduled for island hopping on our second day in El Nido
Knowing that power will be out by 6:00 am and that we will be picked up by the tour guide and boatman by 7:00 am, I got up early. I inquired with the staff if they were already there to pick us up but apparently the tour will start around 8:00 am – 9:00 am. -_- 
My friend booked the tour for us so it was also only then that I found out we’d be doing Tour C: Secret Beach, Talisay Beach, Matinloc  Island, Hidden Beach, and Helicopter Island. Told you I didn’t bother asking about our itinerary so we were that clueless.
Finally at around 9:30 am, the guide came and together with a couple staying at Og’s Pension House, we started with the tour. 
Good morning El Nido!
Our guide and boatman’s strategy was to go to the farthest island/beach first and work our way back so we could also avoid the influx of tourists. Good call I’d say!
Secret Beach

After around 40 minutes boat ride, we arrived at our first destination.  
 We have arrived! But where’s the beach you ask? Well, it’s on the other side of the karst, and the only way to get there is through that tiny opening. 
One must be very careful entering as there are sharp rocks, and as soon as you get to the other side, you will be welcomed by a huge rock/coral. 

The water inside is actually quite shallow.
 Look at how crystal clear the water is!

On one end is a pocket of very fine white sand, thus the name ‘Secret Beach’. There are also rumors that this place was Alex Garland’s inspiration for the novel “The Beach”. I bet you’re singing ‘Pure Shores’ right now. :p
NOTE: It would be nice if you could bring underwater camera or at least one with waterproof casing to be able to capture the beauty of this place. Otherwise, you’re going to kick yourself for failing to do so. :p And oh, aqua shoes will come handy too.
Other boats were starting to arrive so the guide called our attention. It was time to go to our next destination. 

Talisay Beach
Talisay Beach became our own little paradise for almost two hours! We were frolicking like little kids, taking pictures here and there, and just soaking in the beauty and serenity of the place. At one point I stayed in one spot while the others were snorkeling. I was alone but not in a melancholic way. I was actually at peace. 
My moment was interrupted when the guide said that lunch was ready. haha

Lunch included in the tour: grilled pork and chicken, shrimp, cucumber and tomato salad, pineapple, and rice! 😀

NOTE: Bring your own bottled water. I don’t know why it’s not included with the picnic lunch. We actually didn’t know this beforehand but I just thought of bringing our own before we left the pension house. Whew! 

After lunch came the sad part; we had to leave and head to the next spot. 🙁 As soon as our boat turned, we were surprised to see that a couple of boats had to share a beach on the other side. We felt doubly lucky! 😀
Matinloc Island/Shrine

A few minutes later and we already reached Matinloc Island. This is different from the previous spots we visited in that it has a dock and several structures. It actually has a shrine. I wasn’t really paying much attention to what the guide was saying because my eyes were so busy wandering, but all I could remember was that the island is heart-shaped. Thus the heart in the shrine below.

Breathtaking view!
So worth the tricycle-jeep-bus-car-plane-van-boat rides I took to get to this place. 😀

Now this one…will literally take your breath away so be extra careful!

 You must not also miss the spectacular view from the cliff – if you’re not afraid of heights that is.

Of course I did not pass up the chance to have a photo op before we left the island! :p

Hidden Beach 

Our second to the last stop was Hidden Beach. Now don’t ask me what’s the difference of a ‘secret beach’ from a ‘hidden beach’ because I wouldn’t know either. :p Kidding aside, while we reached Secret Beach through a small opening, this time there was no  crevice to be entered. Rather, this beach was concealed behind limestones. The tide was quite high so it was time to put on our life vests again, but shallow waters soon welcomed us again.  

Just like in Secret Beach, water is shallow. For some reason, other boats were able to get inside while ours waited ‘outside’.

Helicopter Island 

And finally, our last stop for this tour was Helicopter Island. It was already late afternoon so the waves were getting bigger and smashing against our boat giving us a hefty dose of saltwater.   

A funny scene we saw upon arriving at the island: while the Caucasians were sunbathing, the Asians were ‘hiding’ in the shadow cast by the cliffs haha


It was almost 5:00 pm so it was time to head back to Bacuit Bay. 🙁 
I wish we had more time to explore the other islands for another day. Oh well, at least we have a good excuse to come back. 😉


It’s More Fun in Palawan: El Nido Day 1

I’m the type of traveler who’d be at the boarding gate by 7:00 pm for a red-eye flight, but this time I got to the check-in counter 20 minutes before boarding time so you can just imagine how I was hustlin’ my way to the boarding gate *insert Chariots of Fire here*. But as one can expect, we did not board on time and even when we were already on the plane, it still took 25 minutes before it left the runway. 
Anyway, we arrived in Puerto Princesa around 10:30 am and were met up by my friend, Charisse, of La Tiara Tours. We took a trike to Fort Wally’s office where we paid Php700/head for the van ride to El NidoFrom Puerto Princesa City, it took 2.5 hours until we reached Fort Wally’s food stop in Roxas. It took another two hours and lots of vomit-inducing winding roads (which made it impossible to sleep), then another hour traversing the rough road before we got a glimpse of Bacuit Bay. 
It was already around 5:00 pm when we arrived at Fort Wally’s terminal in El Nido town, and took a 2-minute tricycle ride to our accommodation.
NOTE: There is no ATM in El Nido town so bring enough cash for your stay. Power is also out from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm so charge your devices at night.
Rovic’s Pension House is one of several beachfront accommodations in town. A double/twin air conditioned room costs Php1,500 per night. Unfortunately, there’s no television in the room and breakfast is not included.
Come dinner time, we went to Squido’s which seemed to be the popular choice among tourists. The food was good but the service was actually disappointing. It’s understandable that it takes some time for food to be served since they seem undermanned in the kitchen, but prioritizing other tables just because the customers are ‘white’ was just unacceptable.
After dinner, we strolled the beach and had some drinks before calling it a night. 
There’s a couple of bars like Ricson’s and Sea Slugs with live bands but don’t expect any fire dancers or loud music here. :p
Next post: Island hopping