Taking my summer goals to the next level means setting course to the ultimate paradise destination , PALAWAN.
Took about a month or two to prepare for this trip, once the traveling itch starts, man! for sure there is no cure for such, so now here’s a rundown of our spontaneous adventure.
How to get to El Nido
We had our flight booked earlier and we opted to travel via Iloilo to Palawan. Seat sale always comes handy for travelers like us, we had our round-trip tickets for only 1000php each. Coming from our city which is Bacolod, we took the 1st trip ferry going to Iloilo at 6am, upon arrival at 7:15AM we already booked an advance taxi to pick us up at the port going to Iloilo International Airport with a fix rate of 400php ( Light of Glory Taxi / 09177799080 ) . Local taxi’s will be more expensive so make sure to negotiate whenever you can. With an hour flight from Iloilo we finally arrived at Puerto Princesa Palawan at exactly 10:25AM.
To answer some questions, to get to El Nido, yes you must take the route of going to Puerto Princesa then take a 5 hours land trip going to El nido. Yes, there’s an airport in El Nido, but ITI is the only airline flying into El Nido’s privately run Lio Airport, tickets are probably about 5000php to 6000php and flights origin are only from Manila.
We also booked our Van in advance via WHL liners, that’s 600php one way trip, we were still figuring out our route going back to Puerto Princesa so instead we didn’t booked a van trip going back to the City, which our driver agreed to. You can opt to take the Bus, with only minimal difference when it comes to cost, most familiar Bus liner in Palawan is the Cherry and RORO Bus, 480php for AC Bus, if I were you, better take the Van instead.
You might ask how the trip going to El nido was, I can all assure you that the roads are completely paved, some towns are still fixing some areas but only a few of them, my friend who happened to spend her childhood days in the Island for some time did mention that way back 2009 or so, roads were still bumpy, but say no more, Palawan did some upgrading when it comes to their roads.
Once you reach El Nido you can ask your driver for directions going to your hotel or resort, take a tricycle ride also as it only cost 10php, we had our applications up such as google map and waze when we were looking for our lodging house. Locals are very much proficient in tagalog and english, so don’t be scared to get out of your shell and start a conversation with a complete stranger when asking for direction.
( Refer on the last item on this blog with regards to maximum budget that you can allot for this trip. )
Where to stay
Most hotels would cost 1500php to 3000php ( 2 pax ), you can also consider getting a place at the street side of the beach front, though the beach front hotels would cost more. Fortunate for us, we have our contacts on where to stay, so happy to have extended family and friends in other islands.
We stayed at Bacuit Grill, yes it’s a restaurant, and then the family decided to put a small place with 4 rooms good enough for guest accommodation. The house was new, neat and clean, we rented the place for 1200php per night, good for 3 person, the room has running water, AC and the best part is its situated at the beach front.
Just a few 10 to 15mins walk on the south area from Bacuit Grill you will find the beach front with numerous boats and a line up of restaurants 50 meters from the shore line,
and once you turn left going to the main road you will find yourself at the not so busy streets, no worries of getting lost, its definitely a small place, there are affordable restaurants and karenderia that you can choose from, prices range from 150 to 250 good for 2 person. Small time convenient and sari-sari store are also available whenever you need some personal stuff to purchase.
We were just in time for the sunset when we arrived at El nido, and man the view was nothing like we’ve seen before, we settled our bags at the room, didn’t mind to clean up or wash, we took off and sat at the front beach with some coolers in hand, and yah the 5hours drive was definitely worth it.
**Here’s a link i borrowed for some options that you can consider in picking a place to stay in El Nido.
Dine and Chill
I would of course recommend catching breakfast at Bacuit Grill, they serve the best banana pancake in town which was already good for 2, brewed coffee is also available, they have english and meditterinian breakfast in their menu, breakfast by the front beach is definitely a good way to say “Good Morning!”
If you’re in for a tight budget, then head out to the main street and you will find a line up of affordable restaurants, karenderia and sizzlers just around the corner, prices range from 70php to 150php per meal.
There’s a couple of seafood resto at the beach front, you can request to have your own style of cooking such as grilled, sizzling, tinola etc. price range from 200 to 400php per viand.
I’m a sucker for banana’s so I do consume lots of it, found this crepe stall just along the street, Crepes with nutella and banana is for 130php.
Some early night chill down at the front beach is a must, we dropped by at Coco Bar since they have a live band to entertain us, they play good ol 90’s alternative music, waiters were very quick to respond. After an hour or 2 we moved to Pukka Bar, its one of the most popular place in the island, we felt like we were the only Filipino’s that night, place was crowded with foriegners may have been that the ambiance on that play interest most people, they have their own local reggae band, can’t say that the food is great, but much more than that, seems a pretty good place to meet new people, enjoy music and beach view that you can’t afford to exchange for.
**Bars have their happy hour at 4PM till 6PM or 9PM the most, better catch some while you can.
Most recommended tours to take are Tour A and C, we only took Tour A though via ElBacuit Travel and Tours, they gave us a reasonable price of 1,200php per person inclusive of all fee’s and lunch, plus staff and crews were really friendly and nice. There were roughly about 20 other passengers in our Big Boat, both foreigners and filipino’s.
Shout out to our awesome Boatman kuya Jojo and Tour Guide Dodong.
7 Commando Beach
Some stories from the locals would say that the island got its name from the huge fishing boat that got stranded in the island, it was called “Seven Commando”. The island has a long stretch of white sand beach, there’s a spot where you can play beach volley and on the other side there’s a ring where you can play basketball.
There was also a small hut in the island , they serve fresh buko juice and banana q at its best. Few strokes as well you can enjoy snorkeling and swimming.
**Our main tour guide will just do the “Tarzan Yell” then we all know that our 30 – 45mins of stay at the island has already ended and it’s now time to for the next island hop.
Located on the cove of Miniloc Island, there are two giant limestone rocks that are about to kiss, through that is the passage to this gorgeous lagoon. We had to kayak our way in, we were still adjusting with our kayak, so I’m pretty sure we were not able to take a descent image of the entrance to the Lagoon.
Everybody found a spot to park their kayak and wanted to jump into the water, I mean who wouldn’t? clear blue cold waters tempting you effortlessly, no one can say no to that.
We explored every nook of the lagoon, noticing the tranquil turquoise-green waters of Small Lagoon of its orchid-lined limestone walls, it was just too beautiful.
They have available kayaks for rent for 300php, but you can still choose to swim to get inside the lagoon though that would be tiresome, we would still want to save our energy for the rest of the tour.
The Island is a home to a variety of marine life, there are a lot of fishes that you can see in this area, though our boatman advised that we can just dive and snorkel around the area as we can’t come near the island due to traffic of boats, i did mention we had the biggest boat right?
Most of us took a dive and some stayed at the boat as the heat was really uncontrollable that day, so there goes a tip, ready with all your sunscreen and SPF100.
So instead taking our lunch at the island we had it in our boat instead, we had plenty of seafood prepared for us, 2 kinds of grilled fish, green shell, grilled squid, though we also had grilled pork and lots of fruits. Even our new found friends from UK finds Filipino food interestingly delicious.
Tasty food and awesome view, one cannot really complain that day how our lunch was.
One sight caught my attention that day in particular, dessert by the beach. Saw one boatman selling ice creams and another boatman selling bottled waters and soda. Kudos for them 2! never thought that this type of business would click at the middle of the sea.
We all have secrets, but this time we were about to uncover one of EL Nido’s secrets. After touring Small lagoon and Shimizu Island we were brought to even more surreal experience when set foot at secret lagoon.
It was drop dead gorgeous, it was like entering another world, scenes that i only see on movies came to real life that time. Cliffs were there openly welcoming us to enter the white sparkling beach with high cliffs that were meant to give you a different perspective.
So the curious me went on and asked our boatman:
Me: Kuya, whats the secret behind the “secret lagoon” ?
Boatman : Edi hindi na po yun secret kapag sinabi ko. (If I tell you, it will not be a secret anymore.)
and we laughed it out, but the reason why it’s called secret lagoon is there’s a small passage entering to another lagoon where the water is either deep or shallow depending on the tides, the area was really crowded that day, most tourist were on that area just to get a glimpse of it, so we didn’t bother to line up and see it. ( if you’ve read my previous blog it may be safe to say that it is somehow the same with the Tangke Salt at Isla De Gigantes in Ilolilo, but you can see it for yourself and send me feedback if i’m somehow right or wrong )
The white beach is sighted with its aesthetic view of palm trees, so we sat about few minutes to pass time, softly caressing with our fingers the limestone rocks surrounding us, funny how my friend found a skeleton shape shell that somehow looks like a ring, seems spooky but may be one of the secrets of the island so i shall say no more of it for now.
We had several minutes circling the place and taking pictures here and there and some loud screams to test the islands acoustics, but in between, we had a short but deep silence to breathe in the majestic sight that was in front of us, we couldn’t help the fact that our country is so blessed with so much beauty and heavenly treasures, let’s not fail to appreciate every blessing that has been given to our country.
We had the most friendly and awesome tour guide that day! so much effort from Kuya Jojo as he climbed a short cliff and took live photos of us as we cruise the whole lagoon, he sure have a hawks eye when it comes to this place.
I have always dreamt of Phiphi island in Thailand and Bali in Indonesia, but nothing is quite as the same as the Big Lagoon, it was a pure bliss. We stayed longer in this area compared to other lagoons, the water was so clear and cold, the view was irreplaceable, makes you wanna forget everything and just stay there all day.
( check out our video : Circle of Life at Big Lagoon ( with Tarzan ) )
To think we had too much of island hopping we opted to inquired about any Land Tour from ElBacuit Tours since Ate was very accommodating. She offered 1,000php whole day tour via tricycle drive, taking us to 4 places, Canopy Walk, Nacpan Beach, Hot Spring, Las Cabanas Beach.
One of our goals before we head to El Nido was to reach Taraw Cliff, we were told that the place was put on closed due to some unfortunate events just this February 2016, an accident of a tour guide attempting to save a foreign tourist as told by ate
“The tourist guide was trying to save a foreign tourist from falling from Mount Taraw, who just proposed to his girlfriend. When the woman was trying to accept the ring, the boyfriend almost fell so, the tour guide tried to catch him. But he was the one who fell,”
Due to this accident, the Mayor of El Nido, has ordered the temporary closure of Mount Taraw from tourists.
So we opted for another safe option which is the canopy walk.
We were still able to see the beautiful panoramic view of Bacuit Bay, not as pretty as the view may be in Taraw Cliff but it was still worth the safe hike. Canopy Walk cost 400php, that comes with a tour guide assisting us all the way to the top.
These guys knows safety, we had our harness wrapped tight and secured, a quick 15 to 20 mins took us to the top. Steel bars and guard rails were fully built with a sturdy foundation, for starters their were wood made bridge and another hanging bridge leading to the top.
The top platform was made of steel, and we still had our harness on, it was safe for us to circle the area and sight the front beach of the Bay, though the air was a bit humid and not to mention that the weather was so hot that day, we were all sweating and ran out of breath when we reached the top.
There were specific area’s that you can take pictures from, and there were prohibited areas as well, we tried to tease our tour guide but it didn’t work, so we were only allowed to go as far as the length on the rope of our harness can.
Took us about 30mins tricycle drive from island proper going to Nacpan Beach, right before heading that way we decided to grab a quick bite to the nearest Karenderia and loaded our bags with cold water and some chips as well.
The trip was quick, we were ask to pay 20php each for entrance fee. Nothing could ever spoil this perfect beach day for us, sun was up, wind was cool and we are all set for another beach sesh.
We were greeted by a 4 kilometer stretch of powdery white sand and pristine azure waters.
The unperturbed solace of this paradise will make you lose track of time, which happened to us. There was just something about the place that makes you want to stay for a little bit longer every time there’s an urge to leave, and that is how we felt like, undeniably.
We were still supposed to have another beach hop and drop by a hot spring as part of our package deal for the Land tour, but we opted to stick around the island till the sun drops.
We stayed at one of their local restaurant at the beach front near the hammocks, and just when we wondered why they had kayaks and surfboards for rent, upon stepping foot at the beach you can hear the loud waves greeting you and inviting you to dip in.
And so no matter how hot the weather was, we voluntarily let it get the best of us that day, we chased wave after wave till it quenched our wanderlust. We never knew a beach like this existed in Palawan, we were so enamored by lagoons and hidden rocks and cliff formations, so decidedly this place has left a dent in our hearts, it’s a real gem and a take home beauty as we capped our trip.
Budget Proposal for this trip
I did not include the amount we exactly spent for our food during the trip, we had some “baon packs” that saved us a couple of peso. Here’s an overview of an individual cost during our 4 Days and 3 Nights trip, you can make some adjustment depending on how many days you decide to stay and what activities you’re gonna have.
|Activity||Cost ( Php )|
|Bacolod to Iloilo Ferry Round trip||760.00|
|Port to Iloilo Airport Round Trip||200.00|
|Aiport Terminal Fee Round Trip||400.00|
|Iloilo to Palawan Round Trip ticket||1,000.00|
|Puerto Princesa to El Nido Van Round trip||1,200.00|
|Lodging House ( 1,200 / Night / 3 pax )||1,000.00|
|Tour A ( island hopping, entrance fee, environmental fee, snorkling gear, lunch )||1,200.00|
|Kayak Rent ( 300 good for 3 pax )||100.00|
|Tricycle Rent for Land trip (1,000 / 3 pax )||333.00|
” A real happy person is the one who can enjoy the scenery even when they have to take a detour ” – James Jeans