El Nido was one nice little surprise! We booked an extended weekend get away on the famous Philippines island of Palawan without much research I must admit. For those who came across my previous posts 5 days in paradise & 2 potential cyclones this comes with no surprise as I’m quite the last minute traveler, and planning is definitely not my forte! I did hear from friends that Palawan was beautiful, but let’s say that I did not expect just how breath taking the undisturbed lagoons and private beaches would be. No wonder it was voted #3 in Condé Nast Traveler out of 25 best island beaches for swimming and snorkeling!
We stayed 4 nights and roughly 4 days (minus the travel time), which was just enough time for me! We booked 2 almost full day tours and spend our free time exploring nearby beaches.
For the tours there are 4 main ones: A, B, C & D! Easy to remember right! A was the most popular one (and probably the most instagrammed one too :P) so we opted for this tour on our first day. The big and small lagoons were beautiful, and we did some snorkeling in between, which was nice. However, what really took us by surprise was the tour C. (We decided on the tour C, because it was the one recommended from Lonely Planet, and friends.) The scenery was as breath taking as in tour A, but it was a lot quieter.The water was so clear and the islands close to virgin! We had the chance to see from pretty close coral, fish and starfish of all shapes and colors. We were lucky and came across a family of Nemo (clown fish) and bumped into a couple sea turtles. Simply amazing. Note that a lot of snorkeling spots were in pretty shallow water, so for the ones who don’t feel comfortable hanging out too long in deep water, it’s perfect too!
In the area of El Nido
There are a few beautiful beaches accessible 10-15 mins in tricycle (cost around 100-150 pesos, depending on your luck or negotiation skill :P)! We went to Las Cabañas. There are a number of really nice beach bars and restaurants with swings instead of stools, and there are a number of relax beach activities like kayaking and paddle. You can walk all the way to the Las Cabañas beach resort on the far end, end from there you have access by foot to Depeldet Island, where you can do zip lining.
Private beach dining
Although there are a number of cute restaurants, and cute restaurants on the beach, if you feel in the mood for some memorable romance, you can book a private beach dinner. A private boat will come pick you up right before sunset and take you to an island with a private beach, where you and your love one can enjoy a romantic dinner surrounded by candles on the beach. You won’t find those in travel tours or online bookings, but your resort will know. What you need to do: contact your hotel or resort and they will help you organise a nice evening. You will be able to pay either online or either cash when you get there!
A few other things you need to know
Before you go on ad plan your next beach escape, snorkeling tours and the private romantic dinners, here are a few things you need to know before going to El Nido!
1. El Nido is not cheap. Compared to Cebu and other areas in the Philippines, El Nido is a mainly touristic place. You would roughly need to prepare extra budget. The ride from the airport cost 350 pesos, any main course will cost around 300 pesos (a full meal – starter, wine desserts would cost around 1000 per person). Lunch is inclueded in the tours, but there are a number of extras for the activities, 400 if you want to kayak and 80 for a beer 50 – 70 for a coconut.
2. The other thing is there is about 1 ATM in the whole area, and most places only accept cash, so make you come prepared. If you do run out of cash, and the ATM is empty (which happens fairly often apparently), here’s a work around: a lot of the spas and tours will accept car payment with a 7% charge, and you can negotiate to get cash back when you pay for your tour/or massage. You can get 2000-5000 (which would last you 1-2 days comfortable) depending on their available cash on hand.
3. People live on island time, which means be patient. A tour starting at 9am might very well start at 10am and a private boat coming to pick you up at your resort at 6pm might just mean whenever the captain can, which is 7:15pm. But hey when this happens just remember you’re on holidays and in one of the most paradisiac place on earth! Lucky you!
4. Ecological tax is a 200 peso tax you need to pay if you want to do island hoping, and will last for 10 days. The only thing is you need to make sure to get the receipt or the number the first time (we didn’t know for our first tour.. don’t make the same mistakes as us!)
5. Medical, there are no pharmacies and not hospitals close, nothing will probably happen, but it’s worth bringing some ointment and over the counter painkillers.
6. Buy a waterproof bag before going on a tour, it’s necessary and you can find it pretty much everywhere in every size!
– xoxo –