World famous for its azure, clear waters, diverse coral reefs, majestic limestone cliffs, and palm-fringed beaches, this island has bewitched many a soul who willingly endured the hassle of a long transit. Nobody can escape its charms, nobody went away without wishing they never had to. This summer, there is only one place to be and that is on one of the most beautiful islands in the world, El Nido, Palawan. How to explore this beautiful destination? Here's a travel guide.
Where is El Nido?
El Nido can be found in the province of Palawan, about 420 kilometres southwest of Manila in the Philippines. It is one of Palawan's mainland municipalities and arguably the most famous. This island is consistently chosen as one of the most beautiful in the world for its outstanding natural splendour and rich ecosystem. Today, it ranks 4th in Conde Nast Traveller's list of 20 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World.
How to get there?
From Manila, there are daily flights to Puerto Princesa, Palawan offered by low-cost airlines. Airline fare can go anywhere between $19 to $60, depending on the season and seat-sale promos. From Puerto Princesa, you have to spend another 5 to 6 hours of land travel to get to El Nido. There are several travel operators that offer transportation services for $13.70.
Tip: Haggle. There are many van tour operators waiting outside the airport and they are all in competition with one another to get the passengers. Hence, they are inclined to give discounts. Do not hesitate to negotiate; you can get a deal for as low as $10.
If you have the budget and you want to get there the best way possible, you may book a flight with AirSwift, a point-to-point carrier that offers direct flight to El Nido. A return trip from Manila will cost you at around $200.
Where to stay?
The town has numerous lodging options to choose from; hotels, guesthouse, inns, and the most popular to backpackers, hostels. Some of these accommodation are even beach-front. Rates vary from $11 to $60 per night.
Tip: It is best to stay in Corong-Corong because it is near the port where all the island-hopping tours begin. Most establishments, such as bars and restaurants, souvenir shops, among others can also be found in this town.
What to do?
Despite its popularity and the steady growth in tourism, El Nido maintains its laid-back vibe. The life is simple and slow paced and fishing remains as the main source of income of the local populace. Tourism comes in second, with several local businesses offering tour packages. Finding a tour operator is not difficult as they are practically everywhere; they are the people outside the airport waiting to greet tourists, they are the tricycle drivers, and they may even be some random stranger who happens to know someone. Palaweños are friendly and do not hesitate to approach tourists to offer their services.
There are 4 island-hopping tours—Tours A, B, C, and D— in El Nido, each one could take you in 4 or 5 islands in a day. Package A and C are the most recommended tours and the ones that will allow you to see some of Palawan's best-kept secrets; the sublime view of a big lagoon, the hidden beach that can only be reached after swimming in deep waters, the abandoned shrine on a heart-shaped island, the beach named after a Japanese diver who died on that island, among others. You will be treated with seascapes so beautiful it's surreal.
The island-hopping activity begins at 8 or 9 in the morning and ends at 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Life jackets and snorkelling gears, as well as the lunch meal, are inclusive in the package. The boat crew allows 2 to 3 hours on each stop, which tourists spend on swimming, snorkeling, free-diving, or beach bumming.
Here's a quick reference of the tours in El Nido. Note that the prices are standard regardless which tour agency you select. Lunch meal is included in the package and rate goes per head.
Seven Commando beach
₱1,200 - $23.49
₱1,300 - $25.45
₱1,400 - $27.40
₱1,200 - $23.49
What else to do?
There are other hidden gems in the El Nido that you may explore and you don't even have to take a boat. You can easily hire a tricycle driver for a land tour for only $29.36 or 1,500 in Philippine peso. It's a one-day trip that would let you visit a small waterfall called, Nagkalit-kalit Falls, an eco-tourism estate called LiO, an impeccable white-sand beach famous to backpackers, the Nacpan beach, and a chillax beach where you can enjoy a drink while watching the sunset, Las Cabañas.
When is the best time to go?
Tourists come in droves in the Philippines' summer season, March to May. The best time to go there, however, is between June and July where prices are considerably lower and the crowd is lesser. But do take note that the Philippines is a tropical country and has a wet season that begins in June and ends in October. Hence, it is advisable to always check the weather prior to travelling there.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marjorie Gavan is a writer by profession and by passion. She has a degree in B.S. Journalism and now has 15 years of writing and editing experience under her belt. She currently works as a knowledge specialist in an IT company in Quezon City, Philippines. She chronicles her travel adventures in her blog, Coffeehan.