Think of lush green, abrupt and tall climbing-tempting walls and diverse fauna. Then
place that natural landscape in the middle of an intense deep blue and clear crystal water surroundings where a myriad of soft white and golden sand strips attracts the looks of passing boat passengers. With calm seas and water temperatures of 28-30•C,the coast off El Nido in the Filipino island of Palawan becomes a great natural water park where visitors have plenty of activities to spend a few adventure-rich days without facing crowds of holiday-makers. If what you are looking for isn’t an active vacation but more of a relaxing romantic getaway in a secluded tropical beach in the Philippines, then don’t look further: you also have it here.
What are the most popular activities?
You don’t come to El Nido to sit at a town beach but to experience the almost private beaches and waters of the many islets. So if you dislike boat rides, better to choose a different destination. For those who don’t mind some sea traveling (from 15 minute to up to 1 hour to get to nice islands),the island hopping tours are the best way to experience what El Nido has to offer. There are 4 tours with tour A and C being the most recommended by tour operators. You can book your tour in many shops in the main streets of town or at your accommodation; the itineraries don’t differ from operator to operator, only the boat and food quality. Tour A, the one I did, covers the most representative sites of El Nido: the small and big lagoons and Miniloc island. The tour takes the entire day during which you can swim, snorkel, kayak, rest on the beach or boat. I went with Art Cafe tour and had a fabulous time where I met cool young people!
Apart from island hopping, kayaking is very popular. Kayaks are easily available for rent in almost every tour shop in town. You just need to hop on, wear your life vest on for the “open seas” and starting paddling to the closest few island beaches. Just make sure you have enough energy to kayak back!
Another “activity” is mastering the art of “beach-bumming” on a deserted tropical beach you choose.Just head to the beach or harbour and negotiate with the fishermen a price for the beach you want to go.They will take you there and pick you up when you are tired of paradise.
If learning how to scuba dive and becoming a certified diver is on your bucket list, you have good news as there are so many diving shops offering the open water diving course in 2 or 3 days. Same goes for the advanced diving course for those wanting deeper dives or acquire other diving skills. This a great place to learn as there are plenty of easy dive sites with calm waters with no current and a visibility of around 15meters.Not to mention the diversity of the aquatic life and special encounters you will have in your first couple of dives!!! If you are already certified and looking for some fun dives, there are also plenty of shops offering 2-3 dives per day with boat tour and lunch. We went on a 3-dive boat tour with PADI Deep Blue Seafari and absolutely loved it!!! They allow a maximum to 4 divers per dive master and the boat ambience in between dives is fantastic! We liked it so much the first day, we went a second day for other 3 dives. Both days we were only 3 divers with 2 experienced DMs: a privilege!! This is what I saw in the 6 dive sites in the second week of December: blue-spotted stingrays, green turtles, Great Barracudas, Spanish Mackerel, lobster, trigger fish, yellow box fish, electric clams, plenty of Nemos, Angelfish, large schools of barracudas,Nudi branch ….
How to get here?
Most visitors arrive at El Nido by road after a 4-7hour road trip from Puerto Princesa airport. This might have been the only option together with boat many years back but luckily for us travelers wanting more water time and comfort instead of bumpy road time, there is small airport at El Nido town that will require under 20 minute tricycle ride. Yes! The airport only covers two destinations: Manila and Cebu city. The airline has no website to purchase tickets online and it has to be done through a travel agency or email with the Art Cafe El Nido. This is how I did mine and got tickets in the same day. Here is the e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just watch out for your luggage weight as the tickets only allows for 10kg for check-in luggage and 7kg cabin handbag (they don’t allow standard carry onboard hard cases on. Either this is very small or better to use a small weekender bag or a handbag). You can add extra weight at 200PHP/1kg. The service is immaculate from beginning to end with an excellent airport lounge in Manila offering complimentary food and drinks and the best WIFI I’ve had in the Philippines.
Accommodation in El Nido is plentiful but simple. From hostels to mid-range hotels with A/C and ensuite bathrooms. There are a few beach-front resorts at one end of the beach but just keep in mind the town beach is nothing to write home about. If you are looking for something more luxurious, there are two very high-end resorts in private islands for which a boat transfer is a necessity. Just some heads up, the WIFI service is horrible everywhere in town, specially in the evenings when everyone is trying to connect. Just accept you will be disconnected from social media for the majority of your trip here. Nothing difficult to handle when your playground is such a great fun water-world.
So does el Nido appeal to you? For those who already visited, what was your experience like? please feel free to ask for further information! enjoy your trip!!!