First Timer’s Ultimate Guide in Palawan, Philippines – guest post by Boom Rizal
El Nido is a coastal town located in northern Palawan, and is home to stunning islands, lagoons, and white sand beaches. With sea views rivaling the best of Asia, this vacation destination should be on everyone’s bucket list. The following tips and information will help first timers make their dream Palawan trip a reality.
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How to go
Travelers often arrive in El Nido via a flight to Puerto Princesa Airport (PPS) that lasts for one and a half hour. The airport serves direct flights from Manila, Davao, Clark, Iloilo and Cebu. If you would rather avoid the long land journey, opt for a direct flight to El Nido from Manila, Boracay-Caticlan or Cebu. This is the fastest, although more expensive route. If you are an adventurous traveler who would want to maximize the trip, choose the route via Coron-Busuanga Airport (USU) and take the sea journey to El Nido by ferry.
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What to prepare
Take all the cash you need. Do not rely on the ATMs in El Nido, as you will find only two of them in town. You would have more luck withdrawing your money in Puerto Princesa. Feel free to carry foreign currency as you could easily find a reliable Palawan money changer around the corner.
Make sure you book your hotel or hostel early. This way, you get to bring less cash and enjoy cheaper rates and instant confirmation. As soon as you have decided on your travel dates, book your accommodations online as prices rarely get better the closer you get to your trip. Palawan accommodations also tend to get fully booked during holidays and peak seasons, so it’s best to reserve a spot for yourself.
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What you must experience
You cannot miss out on island hopping in El Nido. Boat tours around Bacuit Bay islands are the town’s top highlights. You will find the best spots in Tour A and Tour C. For your first trip, it is best to book combination tours, particularly Combo Tour A + C.
Make sure you alot at least three days for your vacation in Palawan. The island hopping tours usually run the whole day, starting early in the morning. You need to take into account the long journey from Puerto Princesa. You will have to add one day each for your arrival in and departure from Palawan. While three days should be your minimum, it is best that you spend four days in Palawan so you can enjoy two full days of inland and island hopping tours.
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What you should know
Many people tend to think of posh resorts when El Nido is mentioned. The truth is, the place does not have to be expensive. There are several options for budget travelers. Mainland El Nido has several budget-friendly hostels and hotels.
Those who like to travel solo should feel free to visit El Nido. The town is one of the locations in the Philippines that are considered easy and cheap to visit for solo travelers. The island hopping tours welcome joiners, and there are several of them organized daily. They are also readily available during off-peak tourist seasons.
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Top things to do in El Nido
- See amazing “over water” and underwater views of El Nido. Take island hopping tours around Barcuit Islands, which are located just off the coast of the town proper.
- See Calitang and Nacpan, the twin beaches of El Nido.
- Enjoy a sunset stroll along Marimegmeg and Corong-Corong Beaches. Enjoy the late afternoon views as you take a break from the crowded main beach of El Nido. The sandy shores are easily accessible via a short tricycle ride from the town proper.
- Enjoy breathtaking views that overlook El Nido after hiking to the top of Taraw Peak. You will find this steep stark hill right within the town proper.
- Have a taste of the Bird’s Nest soup, a rare and expensive Chinese delicacy made from the nest of Balinsasayaw or swiftlets that are harvested in El Nido. A kilo of the nest can cost you up to USD1,000 in the US and Hong kong. It is best to try the dish in El Nido, where you can have it at a much lower price.
- Treat yourself to fresh seafood. The El Nido beachfront is teeming with great seafood restaurants.
- Take the time to explore inland El Nido. More than just the twin beaches of Calitang and Nacpan, you will find many interesting places in El Nido mainland, including the Sibaltan Beach, Kuyawayaw Waterfalls, Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls, and Makinit Hot Springs.
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Beyond El Nido
- Discover Coron, Linapacan, and Taytay. Bacuit Bay in El Nido is just one of the island groups worth exploring in Northern Palawan. Avid travelers can take a ferry ride to nearby islands.
- Explore mainland Palawan. Simply take a land trip south and enjoy stunning spots inland. Extend your trip to Puerto Princesa, San Vicente / Port Barton, Taytay, and Tabon Caves in Balabac and Quezon.
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How to book island hopping tours
You may book your island hopping trips upon arrival in El Nido. With several tours running everyday, it is easy to book one even during off-season periods. Make sure you make your arrangements at least a day before, as tours start early in the morning.
You will find several offices in the town’s main tourist area that sell these tours. Make sure you shop around before booking so you can get the best deal. Tour packages usually include snorkeling gear, picnic lunch, and drinking water. You may also book the tours online. This will let you avoid the hassle of carrying too much cash on the actual trip.
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Where to stay
The most popular place to stay in El Nido is the town proper. The beachfront and nearby streets have several resorts that cater to mid-range and budget conscious travelers. The area is ideal for those who would like to be within walking distance to various bars, restaurants, shopping hubs, and tourist offices.
If you want to experience the best of El Nido, choose one of the island resorts located in Bacuit Bay. You get to enjoy amazing private beach views and short boat rides to the island hopping highlights in town. If you prefer to stay away from the crowds, opt for the peaceful resorts located along beaches near the town proper, including the Sibaltan Beach, Marimegmeg Beach, and Corong-Corong Beach.
You only need minimal planning and preparations to make your dream Palawan trip happen. Go ahead and take the leap!