Our first big decision on our trip, where to next – Siargao Island or El Nido, Palawan?
We heard so many good things about both places – beautiful beaches, snorkeling, boating, surfing and more. They both sounded fantastic so we knew this wouldn’t be an easy decision than we thought, “let’s do both!” We already knew the answer was no so we decided on El Nido. Sorry Siargao, we will see you one day.
A little about El Nido, Palawan
El Nido is a beautiful place known for its coral reefs, white sand beaches, and limestone cliffs. It’s about 250 miles south west of Manila and 150 north east from the islands capital Puerto Princesa. The Philippine government made the entirety of El Nido a turtle sanctuary in 1984, a marine reserve park in 1991, and finally a managed resource protected area in 1998. The highest peak is on Cadlao Island at 2,100 feet above sea level. If this isn’t enough, Palawan has been listed as one of the top islands in the world and has many top beaches.
Day 1 – Puerto Princesa
We arrived in Puerto Princesa International Airport from Cebu on a scenic and quick flight. What wasn’t quick was the 5 hour van ride from the airport to El Nido. There were benefits of a long ride – the view. As we left the city and drove through the countryside, we noticed everything was very clean. We passed rice paddies, churches, flowers, caribou, and amazing scenery. So much green, it was like driving through a national forest. One thing to note, bring snacks and drinks on the van and try to get a window seat.
We were dropped off at Telesfora Beach Cottage which is a small and very nice place! It was right on the beach and included a very filling breakfast (american or filipino) and coffee throughout the day. We definitely would recommend. It’s also a 10 minute walk to town which should be visited. Lots of fresh food at the market and cool little shops.
There is so much to do El Nido but one popular activity is Island Hoping. They offer multiple tours each going to different areas. One suggestion, if you can get 4-5 people together, it’s cheaper paying for a private day tour than paying per person.
Day 2 – “Tour A”
We chose to try the Island Hoping “Tour A” which included Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon and Seven Commando Beach.
Day 3 – “Tour C”
Today we took Island Hoping “Tour C” which included Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach and Hidden Beach.
Day 4 – On Our Own
We loved the island tours but today we decided to do a little exploring on our own. We rented a kayak and tent and off we went. We paddled toward Cadlao Island thinking we’d visit Cadlao Lagoon again but it was a bit further than expected but we did visit several beaches along the way.
We decided to stop at Papaya Beach and setup camp. This is a cool little beach and shortly after 4p the remaining Island Hoppers left. This means we basically have the beach to ourselves. Time for food and drinks and a little more swimming and exploring.
Day 5 – Kayaking
Our stay on a deserted beach for the night was magical. The night was pitch black and the only sound was from the waves. We couldn’t have asked for a better night. Next up, more snorkeling and kayaking then back to our cottage and ordering a big lunch. What an incredible two days topped off by another sunset.
Day 6 – Nacpan Beach
Next on our list, rent a scooter and head 14 miles north to Nacpan Beach. We were told this was a MUST SEE beach.
It’s not hard to find but somehow we missed this large group of signs for Nacpan and cruised past them about 2 miles up the road. Truthfully we would suggest everyone drive a bit further. There is some great scenery, wide open fields, caribou and egrets everywhere.
Nacpan is a truly perfect long white sand beach. Yes it is a MUST SEE! Perhaps because it isn’t built up with bars, restaurants and spas, but there were very few people on this huge beach. Beautiful scenery and a view of Manny Pacquiao’s private Lalutaya Island.
At the west end of the beach is a small hill the can easily be climbed. It offers fantastic views and gives you a perfect view of Twin Beach.
Day 7 – Puerto Princesa
We scheduled a van the night before and just like clockwork, they arrived exactly when expected and our 5 hour trip back to Puerto Princesa begins.
If you ever visit the Philippines, get to El Nido and explore. It’s such a beautiful place and everyone is very friendly and laid back. If you love the water whether boating, scuba or snorkeling, you will love it here. We saw turtles, starfish, sea urchins, snakes, colorful coral beds, so many fish and the always fun to watch clownfish.
We had a fantastic visit and even with 7 days we didn’t have time to explore the waterfalls, caves, mangroves or go scuba diving. And remember, it’s more fun in the Philippines!
More Area Information
Just a few useful notes
• Bring money as we were told there are no banks in El Nido; we did find exchanges in town that converted our dollars
• El Nido’s power supply is available 24 hours a day but they still have outages; charge when you can
From Puerto Princesa Airport
• Go outside and you will find many people offering transportation to El Nido
• 8-10 Passenger Van to El Nido, approx 5 hours; 500 php each
Telesfora Beach Cottage
• 1800-4000 php nightly depending on room size
Next door to Telesfora
• Kayak 24 Hour Rental – 500 php
• Tent Rental – 300 php
• Scooter Rental – 500 php
Island Hoping Tours
• All tours require a 200 php per person environmental fee – good for 7 days
• Tour A – 1200 php per person
• Tour B – 1300 php per person
• Tour C – 1400 php per person
• Tour D – 1200 php per person