Here’s a quick guide to Palawan’s famed El Nido, your next island destination in this Philippine paradise.
El Nido, named after the birds whose highly valued nests are used for bird’s nest soup, has long been known amongst Filipinos for its exclusive luxury resorts. The town of El Nido has since been discovered by backpackers and solo travellers who want to see the same majestic cliffs and beautiful lagoons at a fraction of the price. Its relative remoteness is one of the reasons why it has been spared from droves of tourists, but if you are in no rush to get to the beach, it’s well worth the trip.
1. Get to Puerto Princesa. Most travellers to El Nido fly to Puerto Princesa, the capital city of the Palawan island province, from Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Visit the Underground River, one of the longest subterranean rivers in the world, if you can make the detour after El Nido.
2. Make your way to El Nido. There are vans that go to El Nido from Puerto Princesa Airport. The drive takes six hours (longer for buses), with short stopovers every two hours. TIP: For your convenience, one-way land transfers are available onboard AirAsia Zest flights from PHP700. Ask your friendly flight attendant if you wish to purchase.
3. Find a room. When you arrive in El Nido town, looking for a place to stay is a breeze as most guest houses are centrally located along the main strip, a short walk from Bacuit Bay. There are many inexpensive rooms for budget travellers, especially if you don’t need a beachfront view. Prices for a basic room with fan in a cliffside cottage start from PHP500.
4. Choose your island adventure. Island-hopping tours can easily be arranged in El Nido town. There are four sets of tours, known as Tours A to D, that last seven to eight hours each. This writer went on the popular Tour A (PHP1,200 per person), which brings you to Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Simizu Island, Secret Lagoon and 7 Commandos Beach. Visitors to the eco-tourism spots are required to pay the PHP200 Eco-Tourism Development Fee for non-Palawan residents, valid for 10 days.
5. Relax, chill and explore. El Nido is not for those in a rush. Leave your gadgets behind and let time pass by blissfully under the sunny blue skies. Rent a motorbike and set off on your own, or hire a tricycle from El Nido town to Mangrove Eco Park and Ille Cave, said to be one of the oldest archaeological sites in the Philippines, with artefacts dating back over 10,000 years.
GETTING THERE Fly to Puerto Princesa from Manila via AirAsia. For flight information and the lowest fares, go to www.airasia.com.
Words and Photography: Reena Kumari