When I went to El Nido, Palawan Island in the Philippines at the beginning of the year 2014 I couldn’t believe it was real. Before that I had been only dreaming about places like this, places that look like paradise, well at least how I have imagined it would look like.
Looking at all those beautiful images with breathtaking, postcard views of tropical islands that are usually posted on Facebook, I was convinced they are unreachable, a luxury that an avarage person can’t afford. Those dreamlike deserted islands with lush green palm trees surrounded by crystal clear, turquoise blue waters just seemed surreal to me.
When I usually think of views like that I think of tropical destinations like Bora Bora or Seychelles. And those places are pretty expensive to say less. Most of the hotels at Bora Bora offered at Booking for this summer have a price $400 and up for one night. And there isn’t even anything to choose from in the low price range. Well, that’s no surprise, since it is exclusive – only 20 hotels are on the plate. But why spend a lot of money for this exclusivity if you can go to a place that is just as beautiful, pristine and still unknown to the masses and pay half as much?
Fortunately there are paradise-like places on earth for a traveler on budget. And El Nido in Palawan Island is definitely one of the most beautiful affordable destinations out there. You won’t believe your eyes when you will see what it has to offer for prices so low.
A simple, but decent hotel in El Nido costs about $50 for a night. You can also stay in a very simple beach cottage with just most basic facilities for $30 or even $15, if you don’t mind having a fan room instead of AC room.
Sure, there are quite a few places where you can find many budget accommodation and tour options between the expensive luxury ones. Islands in Thailand, Fiji or Maldives, for example. However one thing I like the most about Palawan, is that it is still on the unbeaten path. Not many people know about it, it’s far less famous than Phi Phi islands in Thailand (that gained their recognition after Ko Phi Phi Leh was used as a location for shooting the movie Beach) but it’s equally beautiful.
However it probably won’t be too long until El Nido will get discovered by more people and will get crowded like Boracay, other incredibly beautiful place in the Philippines. That’s why if you would like to enjoy the pristine beauty of this tropical wonder and not spend fortune on it, hurry up and plan your trip in the nearest future.
El Nido is a first class municipality and managed resource protected area, located in the northernmost tip of Palawan Island in the Philippines. In this article I will cover the highlights of this affordable paradise. The main part consists of description, insights and my experiences of the most beautiful places – islands, beaches and waterfalls of El Nido or close by. At the end of the article you will find details on how to get there, where to stay, expenses and other travel tips.
So if you want to travel to a dreamlike place that’s less expensive than many similar luxurious tropical destinations keep on reading and I’ll tell you how.
Island Hopping to Dreamlike Islands
El Nido is a place where you can get one of the most incredible island hopping experiences. There are roughly 1,780 islands and islets dotted around the coastline of the Palawan Island. And they are quite different from each other. Some have large stretches of sugar-white sandy beaches along the coast, some have magnificent limestone cliffs, some – gorgeous underwater scenery, some – hidden caves and more. Main and most popular island hopping tours are tour A, B, C, and D. The best way to have a piece of everything is go to all four tours.
However if you don’t have time, energy or finances to do it, I recommend to take tour A to see amazing lagoons – Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon and Secret Lagoon. You will also visit the Seven Commandos Beach, which is a great lounging place with laid back atmosphere and the Shimizu Island with stunning limestone cliffs.
You should take tour B as well if you like coves and small, islands with picturesque sceneries and powdery sand. Snake island has a long stretch of sandbar and amazing views. We had our relaxing lunch break there. The food was simple but delicious. And Pinagbuyutan island had the most beautiful views of all island hopping experiences I have had.
Tour B also includes visiting the Cudungon Cave which is famous for being a Neolithic burial ground and World War II hiding place. If you are interested in exploring caves and learning about their history, you will enjoy visiting this place. You need to crawl in through small hole in order to get inside the cave. Another cave you will see on tour B is the Cathedral Cave. It can be dangerous to swim inside the cave though due to the sharp edges of rocks, that’s why most of the tour companies don’t allow it, however you can still take some great photos there. Some of the companies also include the small and peaceful Entalula island in tour B for a lunch break. Entalula island is another great place for snorkeling.
I also advise you to not miss out on the tour C. The Helicopter island which truly has a shape of helicopter is simply beautiful. You will also visit Matinloc shrine, an abandoned pilgrimage site on this tour as well as the Secret Beach and Hidden beach which are both hidden by beautiful limestone cliffs. Some of the island stops (especially the ones for a lunch break) can vary depending on which company you take tour with. We chose Caera company and I can say only good things about them. They really take care of everything so you can relax and enjoy your island hopping experience to the fullest. We had our lunch on a beautiful, small island called Talisay. It was a nice, peaceful break with resting on the sand, reading a good book, some snorkeling and delicious lunch.
Explore the Underwater Wonderland of Palawan Island
Since El Nido is a perfect place for island hopping adventures, there’s no surprise it is also a preferred place for divers and snorkeling lovers. It’s a shame I only got to experience the snorkeling part, since I don’t have the diving license. Nevertheless I enjoyed every bit of the underwater wonderland of El Nido, Palawan Island while I was snorkeling. Covering nearly 400 species of corals and 800 fish species El Nido is truly a paradise for underwater exploring. If you are a passionate diver or simply love to snorkel you should consider planning your next trip to El Nido. Other amazing place, perhaps even more exciting destination for divers in the Province of Palawan is Coron. It’s most famous diving site is Coron Bay where you can explore the 11 Japanese shipwrecks that sunk during World War II in 1944 after the bombing performed by US Navy.
Sunset at Marimegmeg Beach
If you are planning to visit El Nido then Sunset at Marimegmeg Beach should be on your must do list. Marimegmeg beach offers breathtaking views to say less even in daytime and therefore is a great place for lounging at the beach. Water is warm and has a beautiful crystal clear color here. A few beach bars offer refreshing drinks and relaxing lounge atmosphere.
Nevertheless the sunset at marimegmeg beach is the highlight of this place. That’s more than amazing view when sun is slowly immersing into the sea between the majestic limestone cliffs.
You can watch the sunset while relaxing at the hammock and sipping a fresh mango shake from the beach bar. However if you want the most of this sunset gazing experience I recommend you to have a regenerating evening swim while watching the sunset. I loved it!
The best way to get to Marimegmeg Beach is to take a tricycle at El Nido Town. It is 10 minute ride and a round trip costs P200 -300 ($4.50-6.70) depending on your negotiating skills.
Rent a Scooter or Motorbike and Discover Unbeaten Paths of El Nido
From my experience one of the best ways to explore an island is renting a scooter or motorbike and taking a day trip around the area. This way you will find great adventures and unbeaten paths on your way. You will probably need two days to explore El Nido completely. Still you can see a lot in one day as well. The best thing is that you can rent a scooter in Palawan for very low prices. We rented a scooter at El Nido Town and it cost us $14 for all day. We went from Marimegmeg Beach to Nacpac Beach and Calitang Beach and visited beautiful sites along the way, including the Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls. The quality of main road varies, some part of it is well paved, some is being repaired. There are some parts with big rocks that can make your driving quite shaky. And if you go off the main road, you have to prepare for dirt roads with pits and rocks. Sometimes near the beaches road can get sandy as well, so you have to think of balance and steerage with more caution. But hey, if I did it with no advanced driving skills, you can do it too!
However I wouldn’t recommend to ride a scooter and go off the beaten path during rainy season (from June to October), since the road gets quite muddy and slippery. In this season it’s better to take a tricycle if you’re not an experienced driver. But if you feel confident about your skills and want to go on an adventure by yourself at least rent a motorbike with gears, that is more suitable for rainy weather and muddy road conditions.
A Hike to Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls
In El Nido there is a great 40 minute hike for nature lovers leading to Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls. We found that the best way to visit waterfalls is by scooter or motorbike. Waterfalls are located 14 km from El Nido town. After about 20 minutes of riding the road, that was half way paved and half way covered in gravel we found a small sign leading to waterfalls. Some locals offered us to take a guide. At the beginning we hesitated since we thought we could find a way by ourselves. Later I was convinced that we have chosen wisely by hiring the guide! Otherwise we would be lost after a few minutes. The path is quite long and there are some parts where you could get lost without a guide (especially at the beginning) since it’s not marked.
You will have to pay something between P100-300 (about $2.20-6.70) for a guided tour. The payment is not fixed, it can vary depending on the number of persons and other factors. As most places in the Philippines you can negotiate.
Just don’t expect for a history lesson on the way. At least for us a guided tour meant simply being lead to the waterfalls. A guide was a local girl, about ten years old. She seemed quite shy and didn’t talk with us much, but we didn’t mind since we were enjoying the sounds of nature and observing big, beautiful butterflies of El Nido along the jungle path.
The path crosses creeks and rivers several times and since there are no bridges prepare for jumping over the stones or walking through water. That means the best shoes for this hike would be water shoes not regular sandals what I was wearing. I had to take them off and on again every time we crossed the river, because they were too slippery in the water.
After 40 minutes of walking and sweating (since it was noon and about 35°C) we finally reached our destination. And even though a waterfall didn’t have much water (the monsoon season hasn’t been started yet) we still enjoyed a refreshing swim in the cold water that restored our energy for the way back afterwards. Since the small pool at the bottom of the waterfall was deep enough we jumped in and had some fun in the middle of the jungle of Palawan.
Beautiful Views at Nacpac and Calitang Beach
After our afternoon hike to waterfalls followed by the cold and refreshing swim we continued our trip to Nacpan and Calitang twin beaches.
Twin beaches are located around 20 km from El Nido town. Be aware that the road is smooth and concrete only half way to the beaches. After that it drastically changes to pebbled dirt road. When you get to the side road leading to Nacpan beach it literally gets a real pain in the ass. You have to wind between rocks and pits and in some parts the road gets very sandy as well. That’s the reason the best time to go there is dry season (from November to May) as we did.
According to reviews in the travel forums the road can get very muddy and slippery during the rainy season, so it can be a real challenge to balance on your vehicle and not to fall off it while getting through the mud and rocks. That’s why if you are not an experienced driver and go there on rainy season better take a tricycle. It will cost you about P1,200 ($26.60). If you are good at negotiating, you can lower price even until P800-900 ($17.80-20).
If you still do want to go there on your own during the rainy season (which is the cheapest option), rent a motorbike, not a scooter. It will cost you about P600-800 ($13.30-17.80). A motorbike is more suitable for those muddy and slippery conditions as I’ve mentioned above. Just make sure that the vehicle you’re renting is in a good condition.
When after a little bit of struggle (well, more than little bit) you will finally get to the beautiful and pristine Nacpan Beach, you will immediately feel that it was worth it. It is a gorgeous beach with long stretch of powdery sand, clean, turquoise water and picturesque views. With just a few people besides yourself you will almost feel like you’re are on your own private beach. This is definitely a place to go if you want total peace and relaxation.
As for eating options, there are few local eateries, where you can buy some snacks and soft drinks and even have a cooked meal of seafood, some vegetables and fruits. Just don’t expect much, these are very basic, local places, so the variety of meals is quite poor. We didn’t eat there since it was late afternoon and we wanted to get back before dark. You can eat at one of the local places or bring your own food, it’s up to you.
If you go to Nacpac beach, don’t miss out on visiting its twin neighbor – Calitang beach which is less known than its brother. When we went to Calitang Beach we met only a few fishermen there. It’s very peaceful, perfect for an afternoon walk along the beach, during which you can enjoy the fresh air and calming sea.
There are many boats at the background, that’s why tourists usually choose Nacpan Beach instead for lounging in the sand. You can admire a huge variety of beautiful seashells along the Calitang beach and superfast tiny ghost crabs quickly digging into the sand.
The best view of the twin beaches reveals from the top of the small hill. If you want to see a truly wonderful view don’t miss out on climbing it. It takes only about 5 minutes to to climb up (like I said it is a small hill!) but the view you will get is breathtaking!
When it comes to swimming according to reviews I read in Tripadvisor most of the travelers have had a very great swimming experience in Nacpan Beach. That’s mostly due to it’s warm and clean water. Unfortunately it wasn’t that nice for us. After a long and difficult ride in the hot afternoon sun, we were dying to dip into a refreshing water. And we did! But after about 20 seconds we run outside the water due to several painful stings that made the swimming not very enjoyable. We thought that it should be coming from jellyfish, but just couldn’t find them anywhere near. When I got home and did some online research I found out that it came from sea lice – a microscopic larvae of jellyfish. As I read you won’t find them in one place permanently, simply some periods of time. So I guess we just made it there at the wrong time for a peaceful and refreshing swim. But that was a drop in the sea compared to whole adventure and we still enjoyed the beautiful views of the twin beaches! Besides now we have a good reason to come back for that refreshing swim in Nacpan beach.
One more thing you should remember if you are going to Nacpan beach is to take an insect repellent if you want to avoid bites from sand flies.
Delicious Seafood Dinner at The Beach Front of El Nido Town
El Nido town has it all – a variety of small local shops, eateries and accommodation places as well as transportation – both public and rentable. Everything is accessible from here.
Yet unfortunately the beach at El Nido Town is not suited for swimming and sunbathing due to the unclean water and many boats that have been docked at the shore. Nevertheless it is still a great place for dining.
There is a beautiful view of limestone cliffs that you can enjoy while having a breakfast or lunch. Besides in the evening the beachfront takes a more romantic mood provided by the lights of torches and candles. One of our favorite dining places was Sea Slugs. They have very delicious seafood, as well as pizza and onion rings. Breakfast is delicious there and has a decent size as well.
We also had delicious meal at the El Nido Corner, a small restaurant with a friendly Danish owner. There is a wide selection of the freshest seafood in this restaurant. The steak of kingfish with lemon butter sauce is excellent. Only downside is that it is a bit pricey compared to other restaurants and the service is quite slow (you have to wait about 40 minutes for the food), but, hey, you’re on vacation, so relax and enjoy the beautiful views while you are waiting!
Other dining places at the beachfront recommended by travelers are Mezzanine; Cadlao Resort & Restaurant (it is locateda little bit further from the town center) and Habibi Restaurant & Shicha Cafe (great place for breakfast).
Lounging at 7 Commandos Beach
Seven Commandos Beach is another incredibly beautiful beach of El Nido, Palawan Island. The most common legend about the origin of it’s name is that there were seven soldiers who lived there once and their names can be found on the rocks of this beach.
What’s special about 7 Commandos Beach is it’s laid back atmosphere. It’s the best place to spend a sunny day with a bunch of friends. The beach bar offers a variety of delicious refreshing drinks and shakes. Cozy loungers and nice music coming from the bar makes a perfect lounge atmosphere.
Seven Commandos Beach is also suited for active people since there is a volleyball net there. I can’t imagine a better way to spend an afternoon after a long day of water activities than playing beach volley with your friends and having a refreshing buko juice (coconut water) or a mango shake after the game. The only downside is that drinks are a bit more expensive compared to other places in El Nido. You can get a mango shake for P200 ($4.45) and a buko juice (coconut water) for P50 ($1.10) there.
From El Nido town Seven Commandos Beach is best accessible by boat. You can find a local boatman for a private tour who will take you directly there if you want or take island hopping tour A, since 7 Commandos Beach is one of the stops of this tour.
Those were just the highlights of the beautiful paradise-like place – El Nido, Palawan Island. There are hundreds of more islands and other places to see around El Nido.
I am happy that there are still places like El Nido – pristine and incredibly beautiful places it seems like we could only dream about. And yet they are real and they are so little known that we can still afford them.
The highest spending (of course depending from your location) you will make is the price of the ticket. But you would spend the same or even more for a trip to Bora Bora or some other luxurious tropical vacation place. It is definitely worth to go to El Nido instead of those pricey places especially if you can save on accommodation, restaurants, bars, activities and other expenses.
Have you ever been to El Nido, Palawan Island in the Philippines? I would like to hear your insights. Please, share them on the comment section below. I’ll be happy to answer your questions as well.
How to Get There:
No matter where you are, you should first take international flight to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila, the Philippines. In order to get to El Nido from Manila, there are two options:
1. The cheapest option is to take a domestic flight at NAIA in Manila to Puerto Princesa in Central Palawan. Most popular airlines for these flights are Cebu Pacific Air, Philippines Airlines and Air Asia Zest. After landing in Puerto Princesa you have several options how to get to El Nido, which is about 230 km away:
a) Take a tricycle to San Jose Terminal, a bus terminal of Puerto Princesa. In bus terminal take a bus to El Nido. This is the cheapest way but also the longest, since it takes about 6-8 hours of driving to get to El Nido from Puerto Princesa. There are two main bus companies going to El Nido: RoRo buses and Cherry buses.
RoRo buses were suspended from operation of services a while ago due to a car accident one of the buses was involved but now they are back in business. RoRo go to El Nido every 2 hours during day until 6 PM. First trip is at 4 AM and last at 10 PM. Travel time is about 6-7 hours.
Cherry bus, the competitor of RoRo bus, also travels about 6-7 hours to El Nido and has the same frequency of trips going there, their schedule is different though. You can find the bus schedule here.
b) Other option is to take a van. This is usually the fastest option, since most of the vans take 5 to 6 hours to go to El Nido. However, they are slightly more expensive than buses and according to the reviews I found online many of the vans offer quite small leg room and are not as comfortable as buses.
Ask somebody at the airport, where you can find a companies operating vans to El Nido. Some companies have their desks at the airport. Vans depart regularly with one to two hour intervals. One of the most recommended companies is Daytripper Palawan.
2. The second option is the fastest and most comfortable, but also more expensive than the first. Island Transvoyager Inc. (ITI) offers direct daily flights from Manila to El Nido. From The Ninoy Aquino International Airport take taxi and go to ITI Terminal(address: Andrews Avenue Domestic Airport, Pasay, Philippines). It is a small, private hangar, in front of Shell gas station, so not all taxi drivers know it by name. Make sure you write down the address. When traveling with ITI you will feel like your vacation has already started from the time you have arrived at the airport. They take care of everything and there is no hustle like in those big airports. You just hand your luggage to them and after that relax in the cozy waiting room with just a few travelers while drinking coffee or tea and eating pastries. You can have a free WiFi access there as well.
Travel time to El Nido with ITI is around 50 minutes on a 50-seater TR aircraft. It’s a small airplane. As it was our first time on a plane so small, we really enjoyed the flight.
Flights depart from Manila at 7:00 AM, 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM daily. Flights from El Nido back to Manila leave at 9:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 5 PM daily.
As everything is different with a company so small as ITI they also don’t have their own homepage with flight reservation service available. Instead you have to make your reservations via Artcafe (a multifunctional company – restaurant/travel center in El Nido, that is also offering flight and bus reservations) using this e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send them required details: complete names of passengers, gender, birth dates, contact info and passport details: number, issuing country, expiration date and nationality. After receiving your e-mail they will send you an online third party payment link. After paying you will get an e-mail with confirmed reservation.
One way fare is P6,750 ($150), but you can also find promo deals on Artcafe’s Facebook page. We booked a promo flight for P5,000 ($112) but sometimes they also offer flights for only P3,500 ($78.50).
Note that there is a 10 kg baggage weight restriction, including hand luggage. Excess baggage is charged: P100 for 1 kg. When going from Manila to El Nido there is a P200 terminal fee.
When you arrive at Lio airport in El Nido you can take a tricycle to your hotel. It is about 20 minute drive to El Nido town and costs about P200-250 for two people and luggage.
Getting there and back:
Flight to Manila:
differs regarding where you come from, which company you fly etc. Average round trip flight expenses from Los Angeles, US to Manila are $900-1000. Round trip, if you are flying from London (Heathrow) costs about $700-800.
After arriving at Manila you have two options:
1) Flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa: about P5,000 ($110) for a round trip. You can also find promo fares (usually hand baggage only is required for these deals) for about P1360 (little bit more than $30) If you choose this option, you will also have to pay about P800-1000 ($18-22) for bus to El Nido and back or about P1200-1700 ($27-38) for a shuttle van round trip depending on the company you will choose. A tricycle fee from Puerto Princesa airport to Bus terminal is about P50 ($1.10).
2) If you chose to fly directly from Manila to El Nido, first you should take taxi to go to ITI Terminal. Taxi fare from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Manila airport) to ITI Terminal is about P150-200 ($3.30-4.45). Flight from Manila (ITI Terminal) to El Nido and back costs about P13,500 ($300). You will also have to pay P200 ($4.45) terminal fee when flying from Manila to El Nido. If you will look for promo deals on Artcafe’s facebook page (and they are offered quite often), you could get a round trip ticket even for P7,000 ($155).
A 5 km tricycle ride from Lio airport (El Nido) to El Nido town proper costs about P200-500 ($4.50-11.20) for two people and luggage.
Accommodation: fees differ depending on the type of the place you are staying in – a hostel, beach cottage, descent hotel with basic facilities or a luxury hotel. Budget option for backpackers (multi bed dormitories or simple beach cottages with shared bathrooms) is about P300-800 ($7-17.80) for night. A decent hotel with all basic necessities and private rooms is about P1,500-2,900 ($33 -65) for night.
Dinner for two: P800-1400 ($17.80-31) in a good restaurant at beach front. There also many cheaper options in town, where one person can eat for P100 – 150 ($2.20-3.30).
A island hopping tour: about P1,200 – 1,400 ($.27-31) for person. Note that you can negotiate. We got our tours for P900 ($20) each and we aren’t the best at negotiating to say less.
Environmental fee for island hopping: P200 ($4.45), valid for 10 days.
Motorbike or scooter rental: P600-800 ($13.30-17.80) for whole day, usually you have to return the vehicle by 6 PM.
Tricycle fare: El Nido town proper to Nacpan Beach – about P1,200 ($26.60) to go there and back. Again – negotiate, you can lower price even until P800-900 ($17.80-20).
Tricycle fare: El Nido town proper to Marimegmeg Beach costs P200-300 ($4.45-6.70) for both ways.
Beverage at 7 Commandos Beach: mango shake – P200 ($4.45), buko juice (coconut water) – P50 ($1.10), beer – P75 ($1.70).
Tip for a guide at the waterfalls: about P100-300 ($2.20-6.70).
Where to Stay:
I recommend to stay somewhere near El Nido town proper, since it is cheaper than staying in remote islands or near other beaches. Also everything is accessible from here. If you will stay for example near Marimegmeg beach, you will still have to take tricycle to go to El Nido town proper in order to go island hopping etc. But, hey, if you just want to hang out on the beach all day long, you can choose an accommodation near one of the most beautiful beaches as well.
- Swiftlets Inn
(Highly recommended; simple hotel with all basic facilities; new, modern building; good location at the center of El Nido town proper; 7 minute walk to beach front)
Location: Balinsasayaw Road, Maligaya, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/swiftlets.inn
Contact No.: (+63) 919 804 5792, (+63) 926 708 6754
E-mail address: email@example.com
Room rate: starting from P2,000 ($44.90) for night
- Marina Garden Beach Cottages
(Budget option; basic cottage; beach front and close to everything)
Location: The main beach of El Nido town (Hama Street, El Nido 5313, Philippines)
Contact No.: (+63) 917 624 7722; (+63) 908 884 3711 or (+63) 925 722 2777
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Room rate: starting from P800 ($18) for night
- Taiyo Resort Beach Cottages
(Recommended; affordable option; 15 minute walking distance from town center)
Location: Caalan Beach, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Room rate: starting from P2,100 ($47.10) for night
- Our Melting Pot El Nido
(hostel recommended for backpackers; small, simple rooms; good location in the center of the town; great place to meet people)
Location: Real Street, El Nido Town Proper, El Nido 5313, Philippines
Contact No.: +63 906 412 7861
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ourmeltingpotelnido
Rate: starting from P475 ($10.70) for night (for a bed in 10-bed mixed dormitory)
- El Nido Overlooking
(Affordable luxury option; 2 km from El Nido town proper)
Location: Hill in the jungle, near Corong Corong Beach, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Contact No.: (+63) 916 631 7078
E-mail address: email@example.com
Room rate: starting from P3,700 ($83) for night
- Las Cabanas Beach Resort
(Near Marimegmeg Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches of El Nido; more expensive option; 4 km from El Nido town proper)
Location: near Marimegmeg Beach, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Room rate: starting from P5,000 ($112.10) for night
- The best time to visit El Nido is during the dry season from November to May. However, the most pleasant weather (not too hot and not too cool is from December until March. Starting from April the weather gets hotter and harder to bear. Besides it is also the high tourist season in the Philippines and most likely the prices for hotels etc. will be higher during this time.
- Note that electricity in El Nido generally runs from 2 PM to 6 AM. However some hotels and other places have their own generators that cover the period in between.
- Stay in a basic beach cottage, if you like to listen to the sound of waves while you are falling asleep. But definitely chose another type of accommodation if you are sensitive to every sound and can’t quickly fall asleep or wake up easily by the smallest sound. You will hear everything – from people passing by the beach to music coming from the nearest club. Anyway, it is a good idea to take earplugs with you for these cases.
- Find out how to get to your accommodation place before coming by emailing to your hotel. There is a great chance that you will have to rely on your taxi driver’s knowledge about the area by simply giving him the name of the hotel. Other option is to ask locals for help. Many places in El Nido doesn’t have detailed addresses due to the fact that here are no proper streets and roads but only small paths and unmarked dirt roads leading there.
- Sun is very strong in the Philippines so it’s easy to get sunburn. That’s why a sunscreen with high SPF or better a sunblock (the one with titanium oxide or zinc oxide) is essential. We found that sunblock (the one that makes you look superwhite and funny in pictures) was the best option for island hopping. It was the only thing that saved us from sunburn, since it contains ingredients that literally block the sun (both UVA and UVB). We found that sunscreen didn’t gave us the protection needed, since it washed off during all the swimming and snorkeling.
- Get your negotiating skills on the table if you are not satisfied with the price. Filipinos are used to negotiating for everything.
- Take your snorkeling gear with you. Sometimes island hopping companies can have a gear that’s already out worn or broken. Luckily that wasn’t a case for us. Still there were places, where we got on our own and we would be happy if we would have our own gear with us.
- Island hopping tours usually take place from 9 AM to 4 PM. Wake up early and go to the tour operator to make reservation or better – do it in the evening before. Remember as always you can negotiate.
- Read reviews of island hopping companies. The variety is big, but the quality regarding snorkeling gear, food, attitude etc. can differ extremely.
- Bring water shoes for hiking to Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls, there are lot of places where you will need to cross river and the rocks are sharp and slippery. They are useful for swimming as well, since there are a lot of beaches in El Nido with sharp corals and rocks close to the shore.
- Don’t hesitate on bringing your waterproof camera with you. The underwater world is incredibly beautiful here, so you will get a lot of good shots.
- When you rent a scooter or motorbike make sure it’s in a good condition. There are some rocky and sandy parts of the road, that can get very slippery, especially during the rainy season, so a vehicle in good condition and suited for these circumstances is very important.
- Make sure you always bring a little bit of money with you even if you are just going hiking. In some places you will need to pay a small price for entrance or pay for a guide (like when you are hiking to Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls).