We caught the earliest flight to Puerto Princesa on Christmas Day. It was an exhaustive day of traveling, but just like the best things in life, it was worth the wait.
El Nido is comprised of 45 islands and islets located in the province of Palawan. It’s rugged, mysterious, and dreamy. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that places like these still exist. In a world of relentless change and chaos, there’s certain parts that remain untouched, and I can only hope that it continues to stay this way until all my hair strands turn gray.
From Manila, you’ll need to take a flight to Puerto Princesa and take a 5-6 hour van ride to El Nido. There are direct flights from Manila to El Nido, but tickets are quite steep, so we settled for the longer yet cheaper alternative.
We stayed at El Nido Mahogany, a beachfront resort located in Corong Corong facing Bacuit Bay. The resort is only 0.9 miles (1.5 km) from the town proper where most restaurants and bars are located, which can be easily reached by riding a tricycle.
The resort is tranquil and only a few steps from the beach. We reserved our Villa 9 months prior to our arrival, and they were nearly booked. Currently, the resort only has 7 cottages and villas, but I’m sure they have plans of expanding.
The rooms are simple, clean, and neatly decorated. There are no television sets, and wifi is only located in the guest lounge. The connection is weak and spotty, but true oasis should be enjoyed without any distraction. Do your mind some good, and go offline from time to time. The villas have a non-heated jaccuzi and the cottages have a canopy. Breakfast isn’t included with the accommodation, but their kitchen prepares meals at a reasonable price. You can place an order the night before and have it delivered to your villa/cottage at your desired time. We enjoyed our stay very much, so I’ll be sure to stay here again during my next visit.
The main activity in El Nido is Island Hopping. The three tours to book are Tour A, Tour B, and Tour C. There are other tours aside from the ones I’ve listed, but these are the most popular ones. All tours start in the morning and end before sunset.
Lunch is freshly prepared and served during these tours, so you don’t have to worry about starving in the middle of the ocean. The spread usually consists of grilled fish, grilled pork or chicken, with vegetables and fruits. We booked our tours prior to arrival with Jacqueline Diago <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Here are the sights inclusive for each tour:
- Tour A – Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon on Miniloc Island, Simizu Island, Entulala Island, Payong Payong Beach, and 7 Commando Beach
- Tour B – Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave, Pinagbuyutan Island, Cathedral Cave
- Tour C – Matinloc Shrine, Matinloc Island, Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Tapuitan Island, Helicopter Island
The more people in your group, the higher chance for a discounted price. We paid 2,700 PHP (approximately $56) per person for all tours including the environmental fee. Try to do your research beforehand, so you can be sure to get the best deal.
I became more amazed with each island we visited. I may have pinched myself a few times to make sure I wasn’t just dreaming. The engine roaring and the clashing waves created such a relaxing trance. My mind was at peace, and there’s an accompanied high with that feeling. I lived in those moments of serenity. I wasn’t thinking about work, spreadsheets, or pleasing anyone for that matter.
On our third day, we braced ourselves and hiked to one of the highest points in all of El Nido, Taraw Cliff. As we ascended the cliff, my expectations made a sharp turn away from reality. There were no dirt paths or harnesses to protect you from a fall. You are literally climbing an enormous limestone monolith made up of jagged rocks for an hour before you reach the top. What I thought would be a simple morning hike turned into extreme rock climbing. None of us were prepared. Some of us even hiked in water shoes, so we felt every sharp rock. Luckily, we all made it out alive with no major injuries.
Let’s go “hiking” they said.
The journey was treacherous. One misstep could lead to a bad fall or worst death. I felt a pang of guilt putting my friends through this hike, but it was worth the journey. The views from the top are stunning. The sunny skies, turquoise waters, and the imperfectly aligned boats painted a perfect picture. We all felt a sense of accomplishment which I think may have even brought us closer.
And just like that, the dream ended too quickly. I had a little surge of panic, or what most people refer to as separation anxiety (SEPANX) on our last day. I can’t believe I was leaving all this. Guilt permeated my system, but reality forcibly pulled me back, and I knew it was time to let go. I took one last glimpse, and promised I’d return. I’ll make sure of it.
We headed back to Manila set off to our final destination: Thailand, so stay tuned…