Words just can’t describe the North Palawan in the Philippines. But I will try anyway. You just have to experience this heaven on Earth yourselves, as the photos are too beautiful to be true. I made my way there and explored the paradise just for you and I also managed to bring a part of it back home. Lagoons that seem to be godly creations, endless palm forests and countless little islands that just wait for you to discover them! The black limestone cliffs rise from the turquoise waters like walls and sit enthroned among the islands, as if they were there to protect this paradise. North Palawan looks simply surreal and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world. If you want to explore this extraordinary region, I prepared a few tips for you.
El Nido – we’re in heaven
El Nido and surroundings
There are a few ways of reaching the northerly El Nido. The first one is a direct flight from Manila, there are flights three times a day for this route, which will cost you about €130/one way. But I would not be your Guru if I wasn’t able to find some cheaper options. You can throw your backpack into a shuttle van and take an approx. 6 hour drive for just €12. It departs from Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan. An even cheaper alternative is the Cherry Bus for €9. The serious bargain hunters among you can take a bus without air conditioning for €7. You can spend every saved penny on your next trip! :)
The way to El Nido may seem short, but it’s best to take the next Tuk Tuk to Corong Corong (or asking the driver to let you get off there). El Nido is a small, hectic town which you can reach from Corong Corong in just 5 minutes. Come back if you start feeling lonely and want to experience some hustle and bustle. Apart from that, you should look for accommodation outside of town, as the price will be lower, the beaches more beautiful and the people more relaxed. You’ll find quite a few small bungalows and hotels along the beach. There’s something to suit every budget here. For a smaller purse, I can warmly recommend the Green View Resort. Here you’ll have your own, little house with an opportunity to have your breakfast on the balcony of the main house with a direct view of the numerous, small islands.
Those looking for overwater bungalows and luxury, will get their money’s worth here: El Nido Resorts has hotels such as Miniloc Island, Lagen Island and Pangulasian Island Resort on the offshore islands.
You will also have to do with basic, down-to-earth amenities, but that makes the people here all the more welcoming and the nature much more beautiful. Since October 2015, an ATM has finally appeared in El Nido and electricity is available 24/7. So the town and its surroundings are constantly being updated.
Important note: There is just one ATM in El Nido. In case it’s broken, you’ll have to travel about 6 hours to the south to find another one.
If you’re looking for a totally special experience, you can rent out an entire island in North Palawan. A party of up to ten people can spend a night here for about £270 and once booked, you’ll be the only guests here. You can find more typically Philipine-style accomodation in the area on Airbnb.
Island hopping in the Bacuit Archipelago
There are four standard tours to the offshore islands from El Nido (A, B, C and D). Tours A and C are the most popular, so you’ll meet most people here. That’s mainly because the Small and Big Lagoon are the most famous lagoons in El Nido. I recommend that you don’t book the tour directly in the town of El Nido, but inquire at your hotel in Corong Corong, or book it at a nearby hotel.
It might well happen that there are only four of you in the boat and you can design your tour individually or change the order in which you visit the islands when everyone else is gone. In addition, lunch is included in every tour – fresh fish barbecued right on the beach. I recommend taking every tour, as every island is a little gem that you just can’t miss.
My personal insider’s tip is the Pinagbuyutan Island – you just have to go there. The Cadlao Lagoon has the most vibrant turquoise-blue waters you will ever see. The Star Beach might look inconspicuous – but snorkelling there is obligatory. You won’t believe your eyes when you spot the blue starfish underwater.
Tour A: Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Simizu Beach, Secret Lagoon, 7 Commandos Beach
Tour B: Pangulasian Island, Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave, Cathedral Caves, Pinagbuyutan Island
Tour C: Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Star Beach, Secret Beach
Tour D: Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan Beach, Paradise Beach, Natnat Beach, Bukal Beach
Tips for El Nido
- Even though we’ve entered the GoPro age, not everyone has such a handy camera. I would definitely advise equipping yourself with a waterproof pouch for your camera, so that you can swim in all the little lagoons and hidden beaches without worry. In order to make sure you can take all of these almost surreal settings back home with you, you should definitely have a camera with you at all times.
- Look out for the evil, evil stonefish! These deceitful fish usually hide between stones and corals. So avoid the water during low tide or put on some shoes.
- In any case, I recommend bringing some shoes as you have to climb over rocks and coral reefs from time to time during boat trips and don’t want to cut the soles of your feet.
- You like one of the islands in particular? Then just arrange to settle there for a day and be picked up in the evening (Warning! Look for a reliable boat driver, or you might end up stranded just like Tom Hanks).
- You can also rent a kayak almost everywhere if the tours seem too touristy to you and you want to explore the islands on your own – just make sure you’re able to find your way back home – the islands and beaches all look almost exactly the same from a distance.
- If you fancy a bit of a leg workout, you should climb the Taraw Peak. Up above, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the archipelago. Hire a guide to make sure you don’t get lost in the Palawan jungle.
- Make sure you have enough time to tour the entire North Palawan. You should definitely see the Nacpan Beach (Twin Beach), for example – that’s about an hour away from El Nido. You won’t see a single soul out there. The Cron Island is a real paradise for divers.
As you can see, El Nido has quite a lot to offer. So if you plan your stay carefully and take my tips to heart, you’ll encounter an unspoiled and unique piece of paradise, as this place isn’t nicknamed ‘the last frontier’ without reason.
Find Hotels in the Area! Find Flights Here!
If you’re looking for the cheapest flights on your favourite dates check out the ever reliable Skyscanner. This tool compares all providers to each other and shows you where you can book the cheapest price for your flights.
If you would like to add some activities to your holiday, check out Expedia’s Things to do. Attractiontix is your friend, if you would like to book tickets for a certain theme park or events or if you want to make a tour. You’ll find for example cheap tickets for the Blue Lagoon in Iceland and PortAventura in Salou. If you want to do some research on your travel destination, Lonely Planet always has the best tips for a memorable getaway.
And last but not least, don’t miss out and check TripAdvisor for more inspiration and great things to do during your holiday.
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