Some of the best moments you’ll experience when traveling are the things you can’t write or tell other people about.
I knew I was lost when a friend asked me, “Do you want to go to Palawan?” because I have always wanted to go there. Who wouldn’t when photos of its majestic beauty are all over the internet and people I know who have been there are talking about it. I told my friend yes, I want to go there. I actually bought a ticket to Coron but lets talk about it next time because my friend was talking about going to El Nido.
So I took the chance and went there. It happened in the hot Summer month of May. For some of you who don’t know, the Philippines only has two seasons; Dry and Rainy. March until May are considered the Summer because these are the hottest months. My trip was unplanned but it was exciting.
Not knowing what to do after the plane landed, I found myself in one of the rooms of D’ Lucky Garden. It was an air-conditioned room, small but good enough for two people sharing one bed, and somewhat clean. The bed was decorated with something that reminded me of an Indian Princess’ bed, it could be a mosquito net, who knows, but it was unnecessary. I kinda like that they have a big bathroom and that they are located near the airport. Although the guy at the reception gives awkward jokes that didn’t feel genuine (but you might have a different perception or opinion regarding his behavior), it wasn’t bad.
Like other cities and municipalities in the Philippines, tricycles are one of the common modes of transportation in Puerto Princesa. We asked the tricycle driver to take us to the town or “bayan” to have dinner. The driver took us to Ugong Rock Grill and Seafood Bar which was a common place for travelers. I ordered tuna kebab because I haven’t had it in a long time. The restaurant has a typical bar and grill feel, with open air seating and even a few live performances from bands and singers.
The next morning, we rode on a tricycle again to San Jose Terminal. From there we took the van going to El Nido, the fare was Php 500 per person. You have the option to take a bus or a van, the fare for air-conditioned bus and van are relatively the same. Buses depart every two hours starting at 4 am until 6 pm and the final trip is at 10 pm. There are two bus companies that operate there, RoRo and Cherry Bus. Vans leave almost every hour from 5 am to 6 pm. Travel time takes 5-6 hours.
We stayed at BNKY Bed and Breakfast. It is located perfectly near the town’s must see destinations. They serve breakfast from 7 am to 9 am and the food was never disappointing. We asked the owner, who happen to be very friendly and accommodating, what places we could visit and she suggested Las Cabañas and Nacpan Beach. We decided to go to Las Cabañas Beach because it was more accessible. It was a 10-15 minute tricycle ride from our hostel.
Las Cabañas is a long stretch of white powdery sand beach with clear water. From there, you can see other islands not far away. They say that it is a good place to watch the sunset but we were unable to see it because it was raining in the afternoon.
Some of the activities that you can do there are kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. We rented the paddle board for an hour and tried to balance ourselves standing on top of it. It was my first time, and you know, first times are always the most memorable ones.
Travel and Tour Agencies
Travel and tour agencies in El Nido have standard prices when it comes to tour packages. We met a guy who offered a cheaper price for Tour C (you can choose from different tour packages; A, B, C and inland tours. You can also customize a tour package, e.g., combination tour A and C. Just ask your tour agency about it) but he didn’t mention if the Php 200.00 environmental fee was included. So we figured that the price would still be the same if we avail it from one of the Tour Agencies. We chose Discover El Nido because it was located just beside our hostel and was open until late in the evening.
On this Island, cash is everything. There were very few stores and shops that accept credit card and there is only one Bank, RCBC Savings Bank, that you could withdraw money from. For foreigners, there are several money changers that exchange foreign currency to peso.
Our first stop was at the Hidden Beach. I have never been to an island so beautiful that gives me feelings and emotions that weren’t my own. Idyllic would be the perfect word to describe the place.
Second, we went to the Secret Beach. As the name suggests, the beach was hidden behind walls of limestone. It was like entering into a different world. The place was perfect for snorkeling and kayaking.
There were different small sea creatures, coral, snail, and fish. I found dead corals washed ashore that spelled “L-O-V-E”. If only I could go home with “love” in my hand, but I couldn’t. Did I forget to say I also found Nemo there? He was very at home though.
Our next stop was Talisay Beach. While the boatmen were cooking our sumptuous lunch, we were enjoying the beautiful scenery.
I have never been surrounded with all the colors, emotions, and feelings only nature could unfold. The corals in this area were also very impressive, fishes are more colorful, water seemed to be clearer.
Lunch was served. We were having fun, the sun was shining so bright… until it wasn’t. It was raining before we knew it. The boatmen told us that we had to cancel our Matinloc Shrine tour because the sea was threatening. I am used to stormy seas, I have seen far worse. We waited for the rain to stop before we head to our last destination, Helicopter Island.
As soon as our boat moved, the rain poured again and our boat was dancing through the waves. It was like riding on a roller coaster. The wind caressing my face was colder but looking at the eyes of the stormy waters gave warmth to my heart. The kind of warmth that made me feel at home.
We could have enjoyed the Helicopter Island more if it wasn’t raining. All four islands share the same clear blue water and powdery white sand.
Where to Eat
It was convenient that our breakfast was included in our hostel booking. There are many restaurants, bar and grills, and small stalls where you can eat and buy food. Every night we would walk along Bacuit Bay for dinner. We enjoyed listening to soft waves crashing on the shore and looking at the anchored boats swaying as the the wind blows. Some of the restaurants had bands playing so you can see a number of people dancing, however, in most nights, you can only hear people chattering while chugging a bottle of beer.
We rented a motorbike for a day going to Nacpan Beach. They told us that it was a forty five minute ride and the roads are bumpy. Included in the rent is a map of Palawan with markings on how we’re supposed to go to Nacpan. I have never been on a motorbike before while traveling on and discovering an unfamiliar place. It was another first. I have always liked riding on it. It makes me feel like I’m flying. Maybe that’s what motorcycles are for.
The ride was bumpy but the rustic view of El Nido was never disappointing. We had to stop every now and then to look at our map or ask some people on the street where Nacpan was located. After a few turns, we realized that we were going the wrong way… it was a dead end. We went back still not knowing which way to go but kept on going. A little detour did not hurt and what was waiting for us on the other side was a welcome surprise.
We’ve discovered a small restaurant sitting by the bay. The name was Shoreline Hut Restaurant. We had the spiciest squid we’ve ever tasted in all of El Nido, probably the spiciest dish yet and it was so good. And their beer? It’s Beer na Beer. This is one of the oldest brand of beers in the Philippines and for some reason, available only in select provinces. It is very rare that you will find a restaurant or a bar in Manila that serves Beer na Beer.
Seventeen kilometers north of El Nido, Nacpan offers blissful solitude to travelers who want to go off the beaten track. The place is secluded and only very few tourists brave the bumpy forty five minute tricycle or motorbike ride from the town of El Nido. Some call it “twin beach” because you’ll find another beach on the other side of the island creating a sand bar, the Calitang Beach.
There are small restaurants in Nacpan. Sometimes there’s a vendor selling very limited items like cold beer and bottled water. There are some hut and loungers for rent, but the best way is to put a towel or a mat on the beach and make the powdery white sand your bed for the day. If you want a better view of “twin beach”, you can climb the hill nearby. It is also a good spot to take pictures.
Adventures. Love. Surprises. Do I need to say more?
Budget/Expenses (1 Person)
Airfare not included.
|Tricycle from Puerto Princesa Airport to D’ Lucky Garden||75|
|Overnight Accommodation at D’ Lucky Garden||500|
|Dinner – Ugong rock||180|
|Brunch – D’ Lucky Garden||200|
|Tricycle from D’ Lucky Garden to Bus Terminal||75|
|Van from Puerto Prinsesa to El Nido||500|
|Tricycle from El Nido Van Terminal to BNKY Bed and Breakfast (RT)||40|
|4 Nights BNKY Bed and Breakfast Accommodation||2800|
|Lunch 4 days||800|
|Dinner 4 nights||1000|
|Tricycle to Las Cabañas Beach (RT)||150|
|Island Hopping Tour C (Lunch and Fees included)||1400|
|Motorcycle Rent to Nacpan (RT)||500|
|Environmental Fee to Nacpan||25|
|Van from El Nido to Puerto Princesa||500|
- Bring aqua shoes
- Bring underwater camera
- Unless you are planning to explore Puerto Prinsesa, schedule your flights going there early in the morning. From Puerto Princesa Airport, ask the tricycle driver to take you to the bus or van terminal going to El Nido. That way you will save time and money by not staying in a hostel in Puerto Prinsesa for 1 night. Remember, travel time from Puerto Prinsesa to El Nido takes 5-6 hours.