That Place Called El Nido


El Nido is probably in the travel bucket list of every Filipino, if not at least on the list of hardcore travelers. And it is for a variety of reasons: it’s the Philippine’s last frontier, it’s gorgeous, it’s untouched by urbanity, etc. etc. Despite these, El Nido remains an elusive destination for most us due to rumors that it’s an expensive destination, it’s very hard to reach and so on. Is El Nido too good to be true then?

El Nido: too good to be true?
El Nido: too good to be true?

I had the chance to test how true these rumors are when  my friends and I booked a ticket to Palawan during the Cebu Pacific Independence seat sale last year. With sufficient time to save and plan, I realized El Nido is a very manageable destination for a budget traveler like me. Two weeks ago, the dream travel finally came true, and my friends and I saw ourselves in the fine white sands of El Nido.

Never say no!
Never say no!

About three two months before our trip, I started researching  about accommodations in El Nido. Options boiled down to these: beachfront/non-beach front rooms or air-conditioned/fan rooms. Upon consultation with my friends, we agreed to look for a budget to mid-range air-conditioned beachfront room. After checking online reviews and quotes from various hotels, I trimmed our options to Ogie’s Pension House, Casa Buenavista and Nido Bay Inn. I eventually decided on Nido Bay Inn because of the beautiful view from its roof deck (see above). Ha! Petty reason, I know. I booked a room for four for four nights and the owner gave it to us for PhP 2,500/night. Three days before the trip, a friend cancelled and I haggled with the owner to give us the room at the rate for two persons + 1 extra or Php PhP 2,150. Thankfully, she agreed! 🙂

Room at Nido Bay Inn (courtesy of elnidoinn.com)
Room at Nido Bay Inn (courtesy of elnidoinn.com)

After securing a room, I researched next about transportation options from Puerto Prinsesa (PPS) and El Nido and vice versa. There are actually direct private flights to El Nido but c’mon, why would I pay for PhP 6k+ one way for a local trip? I learned we can reach El Nido via bus or van. Bus are more comfortable but vans are faster so I opted for the van. I contacted Fort Wally, and the owner offered  to pick us up at the airport and drop us off there again from El Nido at a rate of Php 1,000/head round trip. Not bad, huh?

Next on my list was island hopping tour bookings. I originally planned to book our tours via Nido Bay Inn but thankfully before confirming anything, the owner of Fort Wally mentioned they also offer island hopping tours and their rates were cheaper by Php 200 per tour than Nido Bay’s! So, I decided to book our island hopping tours with Fort Wally and was able to save Php 400! Yay!

We availed tours A (Php 900/head) and C (Php 1,100/head). We did Tour A on our second day in El Nido. Our first day was entirely devoted for the 1.5 hours plane trip from Manila and the 6 hours van ride from PPS to El Nido. The islands/sites we visited for tour A were: Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Simizu Island, Secret Lagoon and 7 Commandos Beach.

For Day 3, we were supposed to do tour C but unfortunately it got cancelled because the water currents were too strong. We then settled for Tour B which turned out to be still a great choice simply for the reason there’s no ugly place in El Nido. We visited the flowing sites for Tour B: Entalula Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave and Cathedral Cave.

We still had another day to do an island tour (there’s still Tour C and D) but we decided to do the inland tour which consisted  of Nagkalit-kalit Falls and Nacpan Beach. The tour usually costs Php 500/head if booked through a hotel or travel agent. Instead of doing that, we arranged directly with a a tricycle driver and he agreed to tour us for PhP 500/head inclusive of a “sunset trip” to Corong-Corong beach. Another better deal scored! 🙂

Nagkalit-kalit Falls is a 30-40 minute drive from the El Nido town proper, then another 30-40 minute trek from the main road. The trail was quite easy. We encountered coconut plantations, wild chickens and pigs on the way. It reminded me so much of my hometown!

Such a view!
Such a view!
The falls and I.
The falls and I.

Our next stop was Nacpan beach which was a 30 minute bumpy and dusty ride from the falls! But Nacpan beach is the reason I wanted to go to El Nido so badly. It was not the island hopping.  I remember season a picture of it on a blog and I remember telling myself, ” I have to see Nacpan in person”. I have to see this:

Crazy right?
Crazy right?

Marvelous, right? It’s a twin beach!  This picture was taken atop hill. And the view from other side of this was also so rustic and beautiful!

View from the hill.
View from the hill.

The stretch of white sand in Nacpan beach is endless, unspoiled, and oh so fine! Perfect for swimming! I simply can’t stop blabbering about it!

Endless white beach!
Endless white beach!

We ended our D4 in El Nido with a visit to Corong-Corong Beach, touted as having the best t view of  sunset in town. Corong-Corong Beach has a shorter shore line than Nacpan but the sand was as equally white and fine. This beach though has more people, mostly foreigners, because there are several resorts already around the area.

Corong-corong beach.
Corong-corong beach.

My friends and I lazed by the the shore while waiting for the sun to set. When it was time, we positioned ourselves on the area of the beach where we thought we would get the best view of the sun. And I got this:

:)
🙂

For all that beauty and adventure, how much did it cost me? Not including the food, Php 6,900! This may still be pricey for some but for 5 days and an air conditioned accommodation, I think it’s not bad. Here’s the breakdown of my expenses:

Hotel (4N, w/ breakfast) 3000
Tour A (w/ lunch, snorkeling gears) 900
Tour B ( (w/ lunch, snorkeling gears) 1100
Inland Tour 500
Environmental fee 200
Van (roundtrip) 1000
T. fee @ PPS 200
TOTAL 6900

I won’t mention how much I spent for food (mostly dinner) because my friends and I have a tendency to splurge on food. But our money was worth it as we got to try some of the best restaurants in El Nido. The servings were also very generous!

Pizza in Little Italy.
Pizza in Little Italy.
Proud crab at Kyla's, Nacpan
Proud crab at Kyla’s, Nacpan

SUMMARY

So, how was El Nido overall? One the best places I’ve been to in the Philippines. Hands down. There’s something about its isolation, beauty, and being so laid black that will make you fall love in love with it, then crave for more. No wonder foreigners love it. No wonder every soul I met who have been there say they would love to go back. I would love to as well, not for just 5 days, but for a week or even a month perhaps. I would complete Tour C and D, go back to Nacpan, then go back again. And again.

I now know the reason why it’s called a paradise: it can be quite difficult to reach. But difficult does not mean it’s impossible, right? 🙂

Until my next travel post! 🙂

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