El NIdo is every Filipino’s bragging rights and there is definitely a compelling reason why in recent years, it always tops the list of the world’s number one island. Why is it so, you ask?
While any wonderful island can claim white sands, turquoise waters, and sunny tropical weather, El Nido gives you more reasons than that and let me tell you:
- The majestic limestone formations make it like a “walled” island, rendering it to be astounding and unique.The mighty “walls” surrounding the Big Lagoon
- The islands are not the typical ones, you need to “work” for it to get a glimpse of their beauty. One must paddle up to see both small and big lagoons, you need to peak into a small hole that’s only suitable for one person to be engulfed in the beauty of secret lagoon and secret beach, and you have to swim in deep waters to land in hidden beach and Cadlao lagoon.Kayaking though the Small Lagoon
- While flocked by tourists, El Nido offers raw and spontaneous feel of an island lifeOne of the many raw sights in El Nido
- Just as you thought the last island that you visited was the best, the next one will leave you, once again, in chief wonderment! Each island has its own character that you can clearly place them side by side in your memory lane.
A common notion with El Nido is that it is an expensive getaway probably because it has been popularized by El Nido Resorts, a chain of luxury resorts owned by the Ayalas. However, while it is indeed relatively expensive than other Philippine destination, it is not one that will put a hole on your pockets. To give you a perspective, we spent about Php 9000, exclusive of plane ride, and inclusive of our 3 day stay at Port Barton (more of this another captivating destination on my next post).
Hitting El Nido is a must, and here are some of the tips that I can share based on our experience:
- Ride the van at the terminal, not at the airport as fare is generally cheaper there
You can do this by hiring a tricycle (usually costs Php 120 good for 3-4 persons) and head to the terminal.
- Always ask for Filipino rate
We did not know of this until we rode a van going to El Nido. Our driver from Recaro bus voluntarily said we are getting a hundred bucks off our trip. We also got a discount with our accommodation. Note though that not all establishments may have this but it pays to ask. Also, please be discreet especially when there are foreigners nearby so as to avoid an awkward situation among you, the vendor, and the foreigner.
- Beach front is not a necessity in El Nido town proper
It may be a perfect idea of waking up to a beach front view but we feel that this is unnecessary in El Nido. For one, the beach front is not as astounding as the islands, there are trashes in the shores, and it is just relatively busy that it takes away the calmness that you are looking for in a beach front.
- Corong corong town is a better option for accommodation
Corong corong is a stone throw’s away from town proper and it is way more peaceful. Accommodations are relatively cheaper here. Arguably, the beach front is also better here than in the town proper. If you you’ll die without a beachfront view, then this is a good alternative to search for an inn or resort that’s facing the beach.
- Go for a night of beach camping!
Want an unobstructed view of the mighty limestones, crystal clear waters, and purest sands in the morning but do not have the means to stay in Miniloc or Lagen? Then beach camp is the answer! In Papaya island, there is a fresh water source that makes your stay “bearable”. Also, you can ask your tour guide to lend you with cooking and eating utensils. Just brign your own tents, though. There is a tour as well but it will cost you much higher than doing it DIY.
Where we spent our night by the beach
- Tours A and C are the best options when you have limited time
The bests of El Nido are on this tour. You got to kayak to see small and big lagoons, make your way through a small hole to get to secret lagoon and beach, and you have to swim to reach hidden beach and cadlao lagoon! On the other side, if you want a more chill vibe, then you may opt for tour B as it is more of a beach bumming (as what you usually do in other island hopping.
It can be overwhelming to arrange your tours but let me give you an idea and some suggestions on how to plan for it.
- Have at least a 4 days, 3 nights trip in which the first and last day is dedicated to travel time. El Nido is 5 hours away from Puerto Princesa so you need to take it into account. If you have spare time, make it 3 full days of tours with Tour A first, followed by Tour C, then finally Tour B. Tour B as mentioned is more of chill in the islands with not much physical activities so make it as your last stop.
- For transportation, we rode via Recaro Transport It is generally okay and as expected in a sharing set up, the van is packed with tourists. If you want to splurge in a private van, it can cost you around Php 5,000.
- I recommend Novies Tourist Inn in Corong Corong for accomodation – Php 3,500 for 6 pax with a spacious room and private toilet. It has verandas too! Again, they can give it for Php 2,500 depending on the season so don’t forget to ask! However, if you really insist on getting an accommodatin in El Nido town proper, you may want to check out Rico’s Inn, Rossana’s Pension, or El Nido Garden Resort. By far, they have the best looking resorts that we’ve seen while walking through the stretch of El Nido beachfront.
- For the tours, we got Lagoon Tours which relatively offers the lowest rate (Php 1,000 per day). However, do not fret too much on looking for the cheapest ones as all the tours are regularized, hence, it does not come in too far fetch in terms of pricing.
- If you plan to spend a night camping by the beach, I strongly recommend Papaya island. Hands down to the view, the water, and the sand!
So there you go! i hope I tickled your fancies and gets you packing your bags to hit this paradise! Happy Travel!
P.S. For more photos and stories of our El Nido travel, please follow my personal account in IG @dahlgrenjoy and search for hashtag #cozyexplorersxelnido.
*All photos are owned by Levy Bajamundi (@tapsiturbi).