There’s a reason why Palawan was named the Best Island in the World by Conde Nast Traveler for 2 straight years. It truly is a paradise. Having just been to Coron the past month, my family has been blessed to experience gratefully the very best of Palawan in 2 straight months. Grateful for birthday travel months and cheap airfares!
When I travel, I always experience the best feelings when I step onto these two:
- NEW PLACES
- BEAUTIFUL PLACES
When I travel to a NEW place, the feeling is exhilarating, it’s a mystery, it’s thrilling. It’s like being born again. The overwhelming feeling of seeing things for the first time, asking questions like Where am I? Where will I be next? What will I see? What can I expect? What will surprise me? will really get my mind and heart going.
When I travel to a BEAUTIFUL place, I feel awe and great amazement. Opportunities of being lucky and blessed give me reason to be more grateful and positive in life. Travelling to El Nido gave me the opportunity to step onto a new AND beautiful place.
EL NIDO TRAVEL & BUDGET GUIDE + TIPS
TRAVEL DATE: Nov 2015
Since all of us were going to El Nido for the first time (no experience, no contact whatsoever), we had an all in one contact recommended by my mom’s friend. She fixed everything from accommodation to transportation to tours. Copying our Coron experience, we wanted everything to be private, so it would be just the 4 of us. Here are the rates that we got (amount is for 4 persons):
- Accommodation (4 nights): ₱16,000
- Private Van (PPS-El Nido Round Trip): ₱10,500
- Tours (A&C): ₱12,100
- For inquiries, contact Miss Lanie 0921-598-1221
From PPS to El Nido, my mom & I decided to rent a private van. It is a little more expensive, but given that almost all of us had motion sickness problems and the route would take 6 hours per way, we deemed it best to rent one and have the much needed space.
Researching the net on average rates of private vans, a ₱10,500 price was a pretty good deal. Private vans average from ₱10,000 PER ONE WAY at the most or ₱14,000 ROUNDTRIP at the least, so we were grateful for the price. Route to El Nido takes around 6 hours, our driver made 3-4 stops to rest and for bathroom breaks. The roads are I think at best, 80% paved and there are a lot of zigzag roads.
In El Nido town, main transportation is a tricycle. Since our accommodation was already close to popular restaurants we didn’t ride one that much. When we did, it cost us P50 (one-away) to get to our destination.
MARINA GARDEN RESORT
Marina Garden Resort is one of the popular beach front resorts in El Nido. Our family (prone to being critiques) rated it as JUST OKAY. The room was clean but there were a lot of ants. Just placing food on the furniture for a time already attracted so many ants in a short period. The design was good as it gives you a homey feel. All rooms though only offer 1 single bed and 1 twin bed at the most, so if you’re more than 3 people, the others will be sleeping on the floor (extra bedding will be provided).
The beach front view is beautiful and very grateful to wake up to in the morning. Free breakfast is good, these are plated and you get to choose what type of breakfast you like (Filipino, American, etc).
EXPERIENCING THE BEST OF EL NIDO
Before travelling to El Nido, I’m sure you’ll see so many travel articles on WHAT TO DO IN EL NIDO. And almost all of them have the popular island hopping experiences: TOUR A, TOUR B, TOUR C, & TOUR D. Our family chose Tour A & C which was credited (through websites and referrals from family & friends) for having the BEST and POPULAR sites in EL NIDO.
Our tour package rate included the boat, guide, boatman, fees/permits, snorkel, and Kayak (for tour A). My mom didn’t want to avail a package with lunch as she wanted to go to the Palengke herself and choose what should be served. The boatman accompanied my mom at the Palengke by picking her up at Marina Garden Resort around 6:30 AM to 7:00 AM every tour day.
EL NIDO ISLAND HOPPING TRAVEL TIPS:
- Leave for your (private) tour EARLY. We were advised that almost all group tours start at 9:00AM. So we decided to leave at 7:30 AM to 8:00 AM every tour day so that we can enjoy the tourist spots all to ourselves. It was really funny because our routine was that when the tourists flock the place, we immediately go to the next one!
- Rent a Kayak for Tour A. This is really nice for photo ops at the lagoons. If you didn’t rent a kayak from your package, there are kayak rentals when you get to small lagoon.
- Be careful of big rocks at the entrance of Hidden Beach. Since the waves were so strong when we were going back to the boat from the beach, I accidentally hit my knee on a big rock. I got a big bump and scratches. It bled and really hurt! NAMAGA siya for a while.
- Drink anti-motion sickness pills! Check Tour C write up as to why!
- No bathrooms on boats and islands (i think). So do your business before the tour.
- Be prepared as there are a lot of foreign tourists! Being one of the best islands in the world has its down sides, everyone will want to go there! Follow TIP # 1 for better pictures of the places and less crowded enjoyment.
- Be grateful! El Nido will really overwhelm you. Given the tour process, just when you’re starting to love a place, you need to leave, go to the next one, and start to fall in love all over again. El Nido has a lot of surprises. Be prepared to be amazed.
Island Hopping – Tour A
This is my favorite of Tour A! I’m a big fan of the entrance to the Big Lagoon! It was just so breathtaking! The pathway from the big open sea to the big lagoon was incredible, amazing you with its clear blue waters and white sand, WOW JUST WOW! ANG GANDA SOBRA! And we got to experience this all to ourselves! Perks of leaving for the tour early!
The view here is just amazing! The sky blue water and the picturesque Palawan islands around were just beautiful.
The small lagoon was like Kayangan Lake. My sister & I kayaked through it! It looked very deep! Outside the lagoon, you can find kayak rentals and an ice cream seller (who kinda ruined the ambience of the natural lagoon as it kept playing that ice cream truck song we always hear in Manila).
7 COMMANDOS BEACH
Island Hopping – Tour C
THE BOAT RIDE: “RIO GRANDE GRANDE RAPIDS”
You no longer need to fall in those longs line at Rio Grande Rapids in Enchanted Kingdom! Hell, you don’t even need to go to Cagayan De Oro for white water rafting! You can experience the best of both these worlds in El Nido! I didn’t expect this! GRABE! I didn’t read any blog that there would be this kind of experience.
After Helicopter Island, it took us a while to get to the next destination because of the BIG WAVES. Our guide said waves like those usually happen during monsoon seasons or periods. Since the wind was strong during the past few weeks, the waves were BIG! You could see tour boats struggling to get through! We just held on tight! My sisters even teased me to hold on tight because I might fall again just like I did in CDO.
It was really a bumpy ride and made me quite dizzy. Ask your guides if the waves are strong, if they are, be sure to drink motion sickness pills! It was still a grateful experience. A NATURAL RIO GRANDE RAPIDS EXPERIENCE IN OPEN SEA, What an experience!
ONE OF THE BEST EVER! This is where we had lunch. Everything was just so beautiful – from the sand to the view to the beach to the sea! GRABE SOBRANG FAVORITE. ANG GANDA TALAGA SOBRANG NAKAKAIYAK!
This is the 2nd best white sand beach I have ever been to after Australia’s White Haven Beach. GRABE TALAGA. The white sand was super fine! and soft! and super great! If I could buy that piece of beach, I definitely would! It was so beautiful.
I was really excited for this as the best pictures from El Nido are usually taken here. Amazing, amazing view! Just lessen the boats, it would be the perfect view. So grateful to have seen this amazing wonder!
EXPLORING EL NIDO TOWN AND SITES
Our family tried the best El Nido restaurants through the recommendations from Trip Advisor. Be prepared because food and items are pretty expensive in El Nido. Given that El Nido is 6 hours away from PPS city and there are a lot of foreign tourists, local businesses have high prices. Some of them have relatively the same or more expensive prices compared to Manila. Here are the food that we ate and my verdict:
- Happiness Beach Bar = REALLY GOOD MEDITERRANEAN FOOD! A MUST TRY!
- If you’ll be buying your own food at the Palengke or requesting your preferences for your tours, go for squids and liempo. They were really good and fresh!
- Pizza and Pasta at Trattoria Altrove = The Carbonara was good but really heavy. Pizza was big and just okay. Place opens at 5:00 PM, be there early because the restaurant gets packed!
- Nutella Crepe at street stalls = It may look appetizing but it’s not! It tasted like water and was very gummy.
THE SUNSET HERE IS A MUST WATCH.
Photo says everything. Seeing it live will say more.
EL NIDO TOWN
From clothes to food to tours to activities, all you need can be found in the streets of El Nido town. Just be prepared, prices are high. Compare prices and haggle if you need to! We saw an ugly dress that could may as well be worth P200 here in Manila, but in El Nido, it was P1,500!
BREATHTAKING EL NIDO
After Batanes, El Nido is the best place I have been to in the Philippines. The experience was so beautiful and overwhelming. Filipinos are so lucky to have one of the best islands in the world. Let’s be grateful and cherish it!
As I said before, travelling to El Nido gave me the opportunity to step onto a new AND beautiful place. When we travel to a place for the first time, all places are NEW but depending on perspective, not all can be BEAUTIFUL. We can also travel to a BEAUTIFUL place but we may have been to this place before so it is not NEW.
Mixing the best feelings of both a new and a beautiful place rewards me with a grateful feeling when travelling. Cherish every feeling, every moment you experience when you travel. A place will just be a place unless you get more out of it, unless you give more meaning to it. EL NIDO made me realize that. Travel gratefully!
EL NIDO BUDGET GUIDE
I am very grateful for all the money our family paid for these travel blessings (amount is for 1 person):
|Air Asia Flight||₱2,000|
|Terminal Fee (Puerto Prinsesa)||₱200|
|Private Van from Puerto Prinsesa to El Nido (Round Trip)||₱2,625|
|Accommodation – Marina Garden Resort (4 nights Beach Front Room)||₱4,000|
|Private El Nido Island Hopping Tour A (Includes Guide, Snorkel, Fees/Permits, Kayak)||₱1,550|
|Private El Nido Island Hopping Tour C (Includes Guide, Snorkel, Fees/Permits)||₱1,475|
|Food and Other Miscellaneous Fees||₱2,500+|