June 10, 2019 El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Finding Paradise in El Nido, Palawan + DIY Itinerary


When I hear El Nido, I always thought that it will be luxurious and extravagant like Boracay. I've seen it in magazines and it is also famous among foreign people. El Nido is known for its white-sand beaches, towering limestone cliffs, scenic mountains, enchanting lagoons, and rich coral garden.

To be honest, I never thought I'd visit this place this year. Our original plan was only to go to Puerto Princesa but my family said that we should include El Nido in our itinerary. We arrived at Puerto Princesa last June 3, 2019, past 7pm. We stayed at Tita Edith residence during our stay in Puerto Princesa.


ITINERARY

Day 0

5:45 PM - Flight to Puerto Princesa, Palawan
7:30 PM - Arrived at Puerto Princesa Airport

I booked our flight via Cebu Pacific a month before our travel date. We paid a total of 14,800.52 pesos for roundtrip tickets for 5 persons (2 senior). That would be 2,960.10 pesos per person. It's not the cheapest but we still took it since summer is ending soon and I felt like I need to make it happen or else we'll wait for summer next year. It's still a great deal.

Day 1

9:00 AM - Get Permit for Underground River at the Booking Office
11:10 AM - Arrived at Sabang Boat Terminal
11:30 AM - Start of Tour (From boat to Underground River)
1:15 PM - End of Tour, Late Lunch
4:30 PM - Pasalubong Center

I made a separate blog post for our Underground River DIY tour.

Day 2

4:20 AM - Travel to El Nido


9:45 AM - Arrival at Lio Beach


The travel from Puerto Princesa to El Nido takes about 5 to 6 hrs. Tita Edith lives in Puerto Princesa and we used two family cars. We really saved a lot, especially in transportation and accommodation (PP).

Since we arrived early and the hotel isn't for check in yet, we first went to Lio Beach which is 15 minutes away from the hotel. It rained earlier so the road was muddy. Yep, surprisingly, the area is still not that developed yet.


The entrance is free. We just took photos but there are restaurants open near the beach. The weather was gloomy on that morning which makes the place more surreal.




12:00 NN - Lunch at Nacpan Beach


From Lio Beach, we went to Nacpan Beach. Travel time is 30 minutes. Yeah, it is a bit far from our first stop. It was still gloomy when we arrived there. There are a few huts that you could rent if you want to dine. In our case, we have a packed lunch. The hut rental costs 300.00 pesos. We were already eating there but we got disappointed because there are a lot of dogs who joined us in the hut and it makes it hard for us to enjoy our lunch. We saw that they climb up on the tables which makes it nakakawalang gana. We finished our lunch asap and some of us swam on the beach.


The weather became a bit sunny in the afternoon. I did not swim on the beach because I was not on the mood, the same with the three seniors. We found this restaurant near the hut rentals. We ordered fruit shakes, nachos, and Mango Nutella Crepe. It is pricey but I do understand that their target market must be the foreigners just like in Boracay. One fruit shake costs 180.00 pesos.

2:00 PM - Check in at Aleston Secret Hotel

Photos from Booking.com
I booked three rooms for 11 pax at Aleston Secret Hotel via Booking.com for one night. Parking space is one of El Nido's concerns. Their city doesn't have proper planning, unlike Puerto Princesa, but I hope they are working on it now. Aleston Secret Hotel is near a public parking space. It is also just a few minutes away from the port. It also includes a free breakfast. This is really a great deal.

Superior Quadruple Room (4pax) - 2,096.18 pesos
Superior Quadruple Room (4pax) - 2,096.18 pesos
Family Room (3pax) - 1,874.36 pesos
Total: 6,066.72 pesos (551.52 pesos per person)
* 12 % VAT is included. 10 % City tax is included

There are a lot of budget hotels and hostels in El Nido but you really just have to book ahead of time. There is no network signal for Globe inside the hotel but they have free wifi and has a pretty decent speed. Smart has a much stable signal here.

5:00 PM - Stroll around the city proper, buy souvenirs.

5:45 PM - Watch the sunset at Cafe Athena


It is a Greek-themed cafe, well, you can also tell from the restaurant's name. Aside from the view, I really like the interior. The best time to go here is during sunset.



I ordered Mango Daiquiri and fries. We got two since it's happy hour.




Day 3

I booked our tour from Clark Kent Affordable Tours for El Nido Tour A. We availed a private boat because we are already 11 and we have senior citizens with us. Another advantage of private tours is you can start early if you wish.

14,200 pesos Private Boat (Hotel Pick Up, Mask and Snorkel, Licensed Tour Guide, Boat, Lunch)
4,000 Environmental Fee and User Fee (11 pax, 4 senior)
Total: 18,200 pesos / 1,654.55 pesos per person

8:30 AM - Hotel Pick Up

9:15 AM - Start of Tour


1st Stop
Seven Comando Beach

I was so excited about this tour that I forgot to take photos actually. Haha! Seven Comando Beach is so beautiful. It has clear waters and rich corals. I regret I didn't take a single photo :(



2nd Stop
Small Lagoon


One of the highlights of Tour A is the Big and Small Lagoon. In our tour, the Big Lagoon is already full since we booked just a week before our travel date, so we got the Small Lagoon instead. Ms. Kath of Clark Kent Travel and Tours said that if you wish to choose the Big Lagoon, you should book at least a month prior to the tour date so they could arrange it for you. DENR limits the boat tours per area so each island won't be too crowded.


The water in El Nido is unbelievably clear!


The kayak rental is not included on the boat tour. You will pay for it separately. They have a new rate for the kayak: 300 pesos for two persons and 400 pesos for three persons.


This is the entrance of the Small Lagoon. It is small and you'll think you won't fit there at first. You really have to maneuver the kayak so you could get inside. Our tour guide went with us and he was the one to paddle our kayak. He was also the one who went down and took this photo (below).


I super love this photo. I was with my Aunt here who is now 84 years old. I am really happy that I got to travel with her and I am really proud that she can still YOLO. Haha! She's super happy about this trip.

3rd Stop
Simizu Beach


Our boatmen prepared this lunch for us. I've already seen some reviews on Klook that is why I am not that surprised but I am still amazed. Haha! They told us that they didn't have the proper training for this. They just learned everything especially the plating all by themselves. They are not just hard working but also creative.



This is the view from our table. Livin' the island life to the fullest!


4th Stop
Secret Beach

http://oceanislandtravel.com/pictures/IMG_8335.JPG
Again, I didn't take any photos from the Secret Beach. It rained when we were traveling from Simizu Beach to Secret Beach so I had to keep my camera back in my aqua bag. Our boat parked a few meters away from the entrance so we had to swim going there and the water was really deep that time. Our tour guide helped me again. Haha! I am not a good swimmer. Going inside the small entrance was the thrill here, tbh. It was kinda exhausting though. Haha!

5th Stop
Payong Payong Beach


Our last stop was the Payong Payong Beach which is just a few minutes away from the Secret Beach. You can use the comfort room here, take photos, and snorkel here. I was hesitant to try snorkeling before because of my eyes. I am nearsighted. But hey, this is El Nido, I have to try it so I did for the first time. I was amazed again on how the underwater looks like. It was crystal clear and there were corals and fishes. From our last stop, we traveled back to the port for 45 minutes. We really had fun during our tour. Our tour guide was friendly and attentive.

3:30 PM - End of Tour

4:45 PM - Travel back to Puerto Princesa

10:45 PM - Arrived at Puerto Princesa

I know we should've included the Tour A on our Day 2. Every trip is not perfect, right? Haha! Lesson learned. :p


We were not able to go to Baker's Hill in Puerto Princesa but Tita Edith's son bought us hopia for pasalubong. I like the hopiang baboy the most and I prefer the one with pork oil. It's 55 pesos per box. They sell this at the airport but double or triple the price.


Day 4

9:20 AM - Flight to Manila

10:30 AM - Arrived at Manila

11:00 AM - Travel to Tagaytay via PITX

2:30 PM - Arrived at Tagaytay

Sobrang bitin! I'll definitely go back to El Nido and I will try the other tours for sure. I bought cupcakes and mamon from Baker's Hill at the airport for us to eat. It is good with hot chocolate. Perfect combination!


WHAT TO EXPECT

  • You can go to El Nido via Puerto Princesa or Coron (Busuanga). Travel time from Puerto Princesa to El Nido is 5 to 6 hours. No traffic. It was a really long ride. We had two stopovers per way. There are sharp curves along the way. If you are going to commute, you might wanna check Klook's city transfer from Puerto Princesa to El Nido for only 500 pesos per person/way. They have an airconditioned bus going there but I am not sure about the schedule. All throughout our 5 hours travel, we seldom saw commuter buses along the way. You should check their schedule first if you want to try the bus. The travel time will be much longer for sure.
  • If you are going to travel with a large number of groups, I advise that you choose a private boat so you could really use time and enjoy the tour. If you are traveling alone or with just a few friends, you may avail the joiners tour and it is really much cheaper. Klook offers 900 pesos for Tour A and 1,250 pesos for Tour CClark Kent Affordable Tours offers 800 pesos for Tour A and 1,000 pesos for Tour C.
  • Wear aqua shoes. If you don't own one, you can rent there for just 100.00 pesos. I think it is really a must because there are rock formations, corals and sea creatures and you might get hurt with just your slippers on. It is also very convenient.
  • The network signal in Palawan is not stable. There are a lot of places that don't have a signal (both Smart and Globe). So if you're going to contact Clark Kent Affordable Tours, please be patient. They mostly reply during the night.
  • The souvenirs and food are much cheaper in Puerto Princesa than in El Nido. Just like in Boracay, I think their target market is foreign people. There are no fast food and malls here but there are budget restaurants around. I saw a soon to rise Mcdonalds though.
  • It rained when we got there and there are still a lot of roads that are not developed so it can really be muddy and bumpy. I did not anticipate that because I thought El Nido is luxurious and extravagant but it is actually still not. Yes, the islands and beaches are no doubt breathtaking and are world class but the city itself needs improvement. It is still more of a province than a city so do not expect too much. There is also a lot of construction going there which are soon to rise hotels. 
  • You might need a good budget for El Nido. There are budget hotels and restaurants but it is the tours and transfers that will make the trip expensive especially if you are going to have two to three tours during your stay. We saved a lot during our stay because of Tita Edith. We were able to cut our expenses by half. 
  • Plastic is inevitable but they are really strict on reducing plastic wastes especially during tours and by the sea. They won't allow you to bring any plastic. Use tumblers instead.

https://howdoigo.asia/puerto-princesa-to-el-nido-bus-or-van/
El Nido is by far the most beautiful place I've seen. Photos and videos don't really give justice on how amazing this place is. It is really different when you are really there. This is definitely another pride of the Philippines. If you haven't visited Palawan, I recommend that you add this on your bucket list. A lot of people are asking me if we spent too much on our trip. To be honest, it actually depends on how you make your itinerary. There are a lot of budget hotels and restaurants around El Nido and Palawan.

I shared our DIY itinerary so others could use it as reference. I hope this could help you plan your trip if you're going to El Nido :)



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