Ok, so we finally made the trip. I am talking about our best vacation destination yet to date.
Labelled as “The Last Frontier,” El Nido serves as the gateway to Bacuit Bay’s immaculately pristine white sand beaches, crystal clear blue waters, and majestic limestone cliffs. It is that breathtaking, that National Geographic Traveler’s magazine has named El Nido as one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Now that we think about it, it was because of foreigners knowing more about the beautiful spots of our country which prompted us to take active steps to rectify this.
Now too much has been written of El Nido and its beauty, and as such, we will try and make this post as informative as possible, from the vantage point of the traveler who has learned the lessons the hard way.
Boracay vs El Nido
Equally famous for its long stretch of white sand beach, Boracay is a destination I would choose for someone out to enjoy the nightlife and party scene. Don’t get me wrong, El Nido also has its share of night life, albeit with a more relaxed and laid back tempo to it.
Arriving during our first night in El Nido, even after the long 6 hour van trip, we still had enough energy to check out the night scene along the beach front. Nothing like the feeling of ice-cold beer on your hands, lounging about in the beachfront on giant bean bags, while marvelling at the clear blue sky.
Having also gone on island hopping trips when we were in Boracay, the island destinations in El Nido are just a different class in themselves. The beaches are more pristine, the corals more preserved, and you just get an overwhelming overdose of nature, if that is your trip.
Not taking away from Boracay, as it has its own allure, but you have to see El Nido for yourself to be able to appreciate it better. Just saying that if I were travelling on a tight budget and were to choose between the two destinations, between Boracay and El Nido, it will be the latter, hands down. But hey, that’s just me. If you have the funds and the time, go check those two destinations out, and I’d be pretty confident that you’d agree with me.
Travel and Accommodation
Our El Nido journey started off with a plane trip via Cebu Pacific from Cebu to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. At the moment, theres is only one trip on the said airline serving that route. I do know that Philippine Airlines (PAL) also serves the same route, but as to how many trips they have, I don’t know.
After having lunch in Puerto, we then headed for El Nido on a van. Airport tricycles can take you to the van terminals for PhP40. We paid PhP700 for the van trip, which later we learned from students, is the tourist rate, as the common vans only charge PhP500 for the same trip. Therefore, Lesson Learned #1, ask the tricycle driver to take you to the “regular” van terminals, and not to the “tourist” terminals, and save yourself the 200 bucks.
For accommodations, there are a lot of affordable accommodations to choose from. However, I suggest that you book your accommodations beforehand prior to making the trip. We booked ours through Agoda.com, and got an airconditioned room at Lolo Oyong’s Pension House, a 5-minute walk away from the beach, for around PhP1400. The room was worth the price, and came with free breakfast, which was actually quite good. However, we made a tour around the place, and discovered that airconditioned rooms are available on inns right along the main Rizal Street, for as low as PhP1000 per day, and non-airconditioned rooms (electric fan) for PhP700. Those inn rooms are just as bare as they come, with basic amenities of a queen sized bed, private toilet and bath, and not much else. But hey, you did not come all the way out here for the room, right?
Activities in El Nido
Now this I consider to be really good insider information: electricity in El Nido only runs from 2PM to 6AM. This shouldn’t matter too much if you spent your days on island hopping tours. However, for those planning to take things a bit easy and take time off in between tours, be prepared to deal with the daytime heat. You can choose from 4 island hopping tours, with tours A and C being recommended as those not to be missed. As for us, we were only able to go on tours A, B, and C, all of which assaulted our senses and made us literally go “WoW.” We actually felt really proud to have been able to experience this unique Philippine vacation destination.
Another observation we made, was the detail with which the tour guide and boat captain on the tours to prepare our lunch. For our combined A and C tour on Day 1, we had lunch on the amazing Matinloc Island, where the Matinloc Shrine was built in 1982, in honor of Our Lady of Matinloc.
Lesson Learned #2: In retrospect, now that we have been already all the wiser from our escapade, if we were to do it all over again, we would skip island hopping in Puerto Princesa, and only go for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park tour, or better known as the Underground River. The reason being, there won’t be anything you will be missing if you skip the island hopping tour in Puerto Princesa, that you won’t be experiencing in El Nido, raised to the nth level. So for those of you planning to just go to Puerto Princesa, heck you are already there, might as well go to El Nido, it only takes an additional 10 hours land travel back and forth with not much difference in accommodation prices (if you do your assignment and book ahead), but the rewards will be so worth it. Trust us!
Lesson Learned #3: If you are into snorkelling and intend to maximize your El Nido experience getting acquainted with the marine scenery (which we strongly recommend), we suggest you bring along your own mask/snorkel set and fins as those cost PhP100 each, and therefore save yourself the PhP200/day for each day you go on tour. And bring lots, and I mean lots, of sunscreen.
Lesson Learned #4: If you intend to get a diving license when you go on your El Nido trip, if you can spare the time, we suggest you make a short sidetrip somewhere else like Dumaguete City in Negros Island and nearby APO Island, where the cost of the same license is cheaper by half, and your diving experience won’t be shortchanged with the reduced price. Open Water diving license in El Nido costs around PhP25k for the whole 3-4 day package, while the same can be had in Dumaguete/APO Island for as low as PhP10-12k per pax for a minimum of 4 persons per course. If any of you are interested, get in touch with us through comments and we will hook you up. That being said, we are seriously planning on getting our own open water license before the year ends (fingers crossed).
Below are some of the photos we took of our El Nido experience.
Don’t take our word for it, go out and experience it for yourself. We know we will definitily be coming back here, hopefully already with our diving license and get to know El Nido on a deeper level.
We hope this has been informative and entertaining for you. For anything else, feel free to get in touch by dropping us a comment.