Palawan will always be one of those places I wouldn’t have second thoughts visiting again. I first set foot on it when I went to Puerto Princesa a few years ago to see the Underground River, snorkel at Honda Bay, and impulse-scuba dived at Dos Palmas. The experience was so awesome that when Justine said that she wanted to book a flight to anywhere and suggested Palawan (Justine: Let’s go to El Nido!), I immediately said yes. The subsequent events just came as pleasant surprises and miracles, I would say. :)
We took the first flight of AirAsia out of Manila (7:25 AM) and last flight out of Puerto Princesa (8:35 PM) because we wanted to maximize our stay in Palawan. From the airport, we were picked up by the van we previously booked with our hotel (Php 1,100.00 per person, round trip), Nido Bay Inn, and arrived in El Nido at around 3:00 PM. From the terminal in El Nido, we were fetched by the tricycle driver sent by the hotel, Kuya Jerry, and it took us about 5 minutes to get to Nido Bay Inn (Php 50.00 for the whole tricycle, or Php 25.00 since there were two of us).
If you would like to find out how we arrived at the decision of flying to Puerto Princesa and booking a van with the hotel vs taking the bus to El Nido, please click here.
There are definitely a lot of accommodation options in El Nido and choosing one was not an easy feat. We spent weeks of looking for the perfect one for us. We wanted clean bathroom with a good supply of running water, beach front so we could hear the calming sounds of the waves, internet connection and air-conditioned room because we would be working during the earlier part of the trip and so would mostly stay indoors, and a balcony where we could hang out and feel and breathe fresh air. Plus, of course, somewhere affordable and would fit our budget of Php 750.00 per head. After all, we would be staying there for a few days.
But, in the end, we opted for Nido Bay Inn, our accommodation of choice in El Nido, Palawan. What set it apart was its topnotch customer service. It became apparent from when we first made contact with them (and after reading a not-so-pleasant review on Tripadvisor). Click here for the account of our experience.
Well, we worked. Haha! But, aside from that, we also did tours A and C of El Nido as well as a Nacpan Beach tour, both booked with Kuya Jerry of GEA Tours.
And, what can I say? El Nido is indeed a paradise. I cannot find words that would give justice to how beautiful the place is. Visual feast everywhere! But, below are some pictures (barely edited because, uhm, I do not know how to edit, oops) to speak for the beauty of this lovely spot in Palawan. :)
Helicopter Island – Called us such because of its shape. :) The sand here is fine but, in order to go snorkeling, you need to pass through some rougher spots, so wear your slippers/water sandals! The snorkeling, though, is highly recommended. So, after doing a couple of minutes of snapping pictures, dive in and get a glimpse of the beautiful underwater life of El Nido.
Hidden Beach – Because the beach part cannot be easily seen from the boat. You need to walk (or, request your guide to “drag” you while you float) through some stony/rough path. But, the “hassle” will be worth it! The sand is fine in the beach and you can enjoy the still waters of this hidden gem.
Shimizu Island – We were supposed to stop by the Secret Beach but we made a request to skip it all together because the place seemed crowded, as could be seen from the boats who were having difficulty finding a spot to dock. Our guide just brought us to this island instead and we spent extended time here. The sand is fine and we had the beach to ourselves!
Matinloc Shrine – This is one of my favorites. Apart from the shrine, you can also go up to where the photo below was taken and get a good view of the surrounding water of the island. As this spot is a bit small, guests would have to take turns getting their photos shot. It was also a bit difficult going down because the steps were a bit narrow. I apologized to the couple who were waiting for us to finish our turn and he said, “Take your time and just be careful.” I heard his genuine concern. I love these moments with strangers. It gets me to restore my faith in the innate goodness of people.
Secret Lagoon – You have to pass through a hole to get to this secret spot. :) The sand inside the Secret Lagoon is fine and you can enjoy your stay there just by taking a dip and marveling at the lovely limestone surrounding it.
Big Lagoon – One of the most popular spots in El Nido, I am guessing this is the most-photoed, too! It really is beautiful. :) The downside for me is that you cannot take a dip while enjoying the view. The rule is made in good taste, though. Such move protects the corals in the Big Lagoon.
7th Commando Beach – This is another one of my favorite spots. We got to dip and enjoy the beach longer as this was our last stop before our tour ended. We requested Kuya Jerry if we could wait for a few minutes because we wanted to watch the sun set on this part of the island. It was a sight to behold. This is one of the bonuses we got from booking a private tour with them. If we were not given the extra time to stay in this island, we wouldn’t have had the chance to watch a sunset in El Nido because of the storm in the following days of our stay.
We got to visit these places because of the private tour we booked with Kuya Jerry of GEA Tours. And, no, we didn’t have a lot to spend but still opted for a private tour with them. Believe me, it was not an easy decision (it took us more than 24 hours to decide haha), mainly because of the money consideration. What made us go for this option?
We wanted to experience Tours A and C (for a description of each, please click here). If you are a joiner in the tour, Tour A costs Php 1,200 per person and Tour C costs Php 1,400.00 per person. In total, that would cost Php 2,600.00 per person. And, if it is a private tour, Tour A costs Php 4,800.00 and Tour C costs Php 5,600.00. Kuya Jerry offered us a generous discount and we only had to pay Php 6,000.00 in total or Php 3,000.00 per person. Not bad, eh? If you need more convincing, please click on this link to see how we arrived at the decision.
I would definitely say that we made the right choice. The difference in the amount between joining a tour and a private tour was well worth it. And, if you want to experience El Nido the way we did, you can contact Kuya Jerry of GEA Tours at +63.909.237.2609.
The following day, we also booked with him a trip to Nacpan Beach (Php 600.00 per person). We spent the entire day there and the beach was all ours! Almost. :)
Where we ate in El Nido
There are a lot of restaurants in El Nido. But, we got to try El Nido Art Cafe and they are highly recommended! Not only because they serve good food (a bit pricey though), they also play good music, the interiors are pretty, and the people provide good customer service. :)
Oh, and one cool thing about them is that you may choose to take off your footwear before entering the cafe. It makes it a bit more homey, yes? :)
If you wish to enjoy your food by the beach, you can also check out Sea Slugs Beach Bar & Restaurant. They serve good seafood and they play some reggae. :)
Other useful tips
- Book the earliest flight to Puerto Princesa so you would be able to maximize your stay in El Nido. It takes about 5-7 hours on the road from Puerto Princesa to El Nido and the usual check-in time is at 2:00 PM. We landed in Puerto Princesa at around 8:00 AM and started the ride to El Nido at around 9:00 AM. We arrived at our hotel at around 3:00 PM, just an hour after our check-in time – not too early, not too late.
- Book the latest flight back to Manila. It would give you ample time to enjoy your last day in El Nido and you may get to purchase pasalubongs for your family and friends in Puerto Princesa, if you are into that. I bought small pearl earrings at Php 20.00 per piece and they are pretty!
- If you are taking the van, request the driver that you be seated on either the front seat or on the 1st row behind him for more leg room. The front seat would of course provide you with a better view of the road (it has some beautiful sceneries) but would be quite uncomfortable if you will be seated with another person.
- Again, if you are taking a van, book with your hotel! It’s more convenient and will come out a little cheaper.
- Book a beach-front room. You would only be staying in El Nido for a few days and it would really be an experience hearing the sound of the waves even if you are in an air-conditioned room.
- Find a hotel that provides good customer service, like Nido Bay Inn. They would go out of their way to make your stay fun and memorable. :)
- Bring your camera! Or, you might regret not having anything to capture the beauty of the places you’ll be visiting. :) An underwater camera is definitely a plus. El Nido’s underwater life is so vibrant that it would be a pity not having a picture/video for you to be reminded of them.
- Make sure to pack an insect/mosquito repellent. There are a lot of mosquitoes in El Nido. And, I mean a lot. So, spare yourself from getting irritated by the mosquito bites and just include this in your packing.
- If you are bringing your DSLR and your phone, I would definitely recommend bringing your dry pack. There would be times when you have to do a bit of walking in the water and high chances of getting your camera wet. I bought mine from Overboard last year and it was definitely useful in this trip,
- If your weapon of choice in taking photos or videos is your phone, bring a waterproof phone protector. You wouldn’t want your valuable phone to get drenched in water. My friend, Angge, gave me her Overboard and we used it in capturing videos in El Nido.
- Bring proper footwear. There are some spots where you have to step on some pointy things and getting to the beaches that you would be visiting wouldn’t be all too comfortable for you if you are just wearing plain slippers.
- Book a private tour with Kuya Jerry of GEA Tours. They provide great service, value for your money and so much more. While you’re at it, please mention that you found out about him through this blog. He provided us superb service that I would want to make good on my promise that we would help him promote his tour company. Thank you!
- Go there during off-peak season! Less tourists. Less photobombers. And, less competition in getting great seats and great shots!
- Enjoy, have fun, and be in the moment! El Nido is beautiful, indeed. And, be grateful that you are blessed with the opportunity to experience what it has to offer. :)
Here’s a video, created by Justine, of our awesome El Nido trip. We do hope you visit this beautiful part of the Philippines and get to enjoy it as much as we did!
- Nido Bay Inn, El Nido, Palawan
- How to get to El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
- Where to book your tours in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
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Thank you! And, in whatever space you’re in now, I hope that you get something from reading my articles.