Wednesday, January 20, 2016

El Nido Palawan, Philippine’s Last Frontier - WHAT TO DO IN EL NIDO PALAWAN

I finally got the chance to visit the mesmerizing El Nido Palawan last December 2015. This island, which is located in the Philippine’s Last Frontier has been declared to have the most beautiful beaches in the world by some international travel sites and magazines. Everything about El Nido seems surreal; it screams natural beauty, vacation and total relaxation. 

Once you experience its tropical weather, cool breeze, sandy beaches, crystal clear and turquoise waters, mystical lagoons, abundant wildlife, amazing rock cliffs, hospitable locals and unadulterated natural wonders, you’ll surely be captivated by its raw beauty that you might not want to leave the place ever again. 

5-10 years ago, it would take you 12-14 hours by land to arrived in El Nido. Now, with 270 kms cemented road, you’ll be there in less than 6 hours. Puerto Prinsesa is going to be your port of entry if you are flying Philippine Airlines. Prior to your arrival, arrange a shuttle transport with CAMARIH. For only P550 per head, they can bring you to your hotel in El Nido Palawan. Make sure you have a quick lunch at the famous KALUI, a seafood restaurant 5 minutes away from the airport. 

There are few luxurious resorts in El Nido Palawan which I wouldn’t discuss in details since it would cost you around P100,000+ ($2000) for few days stay.

Decent hotels and lodging houses in the city proper would normally cost P2000-P5000 ($50-$100) per night depending on the season. December to June are the peak months. So if you are going there in those months, you better book in advance if you don’t want to end up buying a tent and sleep in covered courts. You can directly book from Agoda or since only few hotels have websites. Some don’t even have internet connections. In the hotel I stayed, I’m lucky they had SMART LTE Pocket Wifi.

Many foreigners have invested already in El Nido either by having a dummy partner, marrying a resident of El Nido or partnering with a local businessman. Real Estate in city proper is now appraised at P30,000 per square while in Corong Corong and 15-20 minutes away from the city locations are valued at P3000-P5000. Emerging businesses are Restaurants, Hotels, Convenience Stores, Spas and Salons and Motor Vehicle Rent. Also, there are only 2 ATMs in El Nido and most of the time, it’s offline. So better bring cash when you are there. 

To make the most of your stay in this paradise island, here are some of the things that you can do in El Nido, Palawan:

1. Island Hopping

To enjoy El Nido at its fullest, get some island hopping tour packages. El Nido is composed of many islands and can be explored through different set tours. 

If you want to experience a tour of El Nido’s sandy beaches, awe-inspiring island scenery and pristine waters, you should check out Tour A or the “Lagoons and Beaches Tour”. Tour A is centered around Miniloc Island, Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Hidden Lagoon and 7 Commandos Beach

If you want a little sense of adventure, then choose Tour B of the “Caves and Coves Tour”. Tour B is centered on snorkeling and exploring different caves. It includes touring around Snake Island, Pinabayutan Island, Cadugnun Cave, Cathedral Cave and Lagen Island. Be sure also to check the sea turtles and black tip sharks when snorkeling around these islands.

If you’re big on snorkeling, swimming and diving, then choose Tour C. Tour C is known as the “Hidden Beaches Tour” and is composed of going around Matinloc, Helicopter and Tapuitan Islands. Once can swim around the famous Secret Beach, snorkel in Star Beach, discover its different rock formations and visit the nostalgic Matinloc Shrine.

I couldn’t suggest any Tour Company since everywhere there is an Island Tour Kiosk with the same prices (P800-P1200) and same services offered. Each boat will usually have 10-20 people on it. It comes with free lunch too. Just don’t forget to bring with you, aquatic shoes (coral really hurts), sunblock, bottled water, shades and some cookies or biscuits. The tour starts from 8am to 5pm. ALSO TAKE YOUR TIME. Don’t get 2 tours in one day. ONE DAY, ONE TOUR. Trust me, you wouldn’t enjoy if you’ll just spend few minutes in each island. 

My favorites were the Hidden Beach, the Helicopter Beach and 7th Commando.

2. Snorkel and Dive in its waters

With more than 50 beaches around it, El Nido boasts of having the world’s most beautiful beaches. Its waters are clean, crystal clear and just have the right amount of temperature perfect for dipping and swimming. Definitely worth visiting among its beaches are the twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang Beach. The view here is absolutely stunning and post-card worthy with two curving beaches that are tangent to each other. This beach is definitely an ideal place for both swimming and relaxing. From the city proper, take a Tricycle for 45 minutes and pay P500-800 per ride (not per person). Pay P50 as entrance fee/eco-tourism fee. 

El Nido is also the home of three major marine habitats, six species of marine mammals endemic in Palawan, four endangered marine turtles, 813 species of fishes and 100 species of corals. With all its marine wonders, snorkeling and diving in its waters is definitely an experience of a lifetime. 

3. Try its different water sports and adventurous activities

For the adventurous and thrill-seekers, El Nido also offers a lot of activities that will surely make your heart go wild. 

Aside from scuba diving, tourists can explore El Nido’s waters by kayaking and windsurfing. Guests can rent on a Kayak or a stand-up paddle board and paddle around its turquoise lagoons and explore its beaches through it. This would cost P200-P400 each. 

4. Climbing

El Nido’s limestone cliffs are not only picturesque but also naturally carved out in thick layers. It is usually likened to the majestic cliffs of Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay. Since cliff climbing is more risky, tourists are highly advised to go on a guided tour with professional rock or cliff climbers. 

If you want to take a break from all the water activities, you can also go motorbiking or mountain biking around El Nido. There have been a lot of accidents though in motorbiking with foreigners becoming too excited and adventurous. 

Another activity that you can do Ziplining from Las Cabanas to Snake Island. 

5. Watch the beautiful sunset

The best way to cap your day in El Nido is to watch the beautiful sunset and have dinner at REPUBLICA SUNSET BAR. Relaxing in a hammock while sipping an ice cold beer or your favorite bottle of wine would be a wonderful idea to help relax and relieve your tired muscles. Republica is 15 minutes away from the city proper offers premium cocktails, exclusive spanish tapas and paellas.

You’ll see the sky bursting with so many colors - from colorless to orange, yellow, red, pink, purple and then black - that it is as if the heavens were being painted by the hands of an invisible artist. 

6. Go on a Foodtrip

'Good food and a wonderful dining experience' is always a plus when traveling. Luckily, El Nido not only has magnificent natural wonders and accommodating locals, it also has delicious food. With Mother Nature all around, one can expect to have fresh and sumptous food served at El Nido. At night, the beachfronts in El Nido become livelier as tourist and locals alike would sit in their balcony to enjoy their meals. Different restaurants and dining places have sprouted in El Nido, and almost all kinds of food are available on the menu like American, Italian, European and other international dishes. 

Art Café at the city proper is a restaurant I could recommend offering Italian Cuisines. Price ranges from P200-P500 ($5-$10) per meal. Or if you want something cheaper, buy the delicious barbeque from the lady selling in front of the city hall and church. 

Indeed, El Nido, Palawan is one spectacular tropical beach paradise. You’ll never run out of things to do, places to explore and things to uncover. 

and Hey! We didn't spend much when I went there with friends. Manila to Puerto Prinsesa via Philippines Airlines is around P2,000 ++ one way. Puerto Prinsesa to El Nido is P550, then tour A at P800, Tour C at P1,200. Plus P2,000 per night in a hotel, and P500 per day for food. So there, do the math. 


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