El Nido: A Vacation in Paradise

July 20, 2014 Travel

Book author Alex Garland spent six months here and much of his experience were incorporated in his book "The Beach."  Hollywood celebrities were reportedly charmed by this paradise.  CNN included this on its list of the best 100 beaches in the world.

So, to make up for my lost days of summer spent recuperating, I decided to book a trip for me and my mom to El Nido.  Never mind that the land travel from the airport to the town takes more than five hours.  We just had to be there.

Planning the vacation

Weeks before the vacation, I have either been traveling for work or busy at the office.  Good thing El Nido vacationers left out good tips online and my friend Alain referred me to his friend who organizes El Nido tours (Ryan 09175991666).  

Planning was easy.  Ryan arranged for our transpo to and from EL Nido, plus our tours.  Based on recommendations online, we pre-arranged Tours A and C.  More about these tours later.  I booked our hotel through agoda.com.  

La Salangane

I must have browsed agoda.com more than twenty times before I finally decided on La Salangane.  I wanted beachfront accommodation that looks local.  I was happy with our choice because this was the view from our room that welcomed me and my mom after traveling and waiting the whole day.

What greeted us in the morning was even more spectacular.  This was worth the trip.

Plus, we also had a relaxing night in our clean and very spacious room.

We could stay here all day, but we didn't go that far just to stay in bed.  We had to see its majestic karst limestone cliffs, it's clear water, and of course, it's fine sand beaches. Besides, I kept our third day free and there is no electricity in the whole town of El Nido from 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

So, off with our tours.

Tour A

Most travel sites and blogs I read recommended two tours - A and C.  

A, I think is the most popular.  The tour is mostly centered around Miniloc Island.  We visited the small lagoon; then the big lagoon; then squeezed ourselves in a hole in a rock to get to the hidden lagoon; had lunch at the beach beside it; then snorkeled at Shimizu Island; and finally capped the day at the Seven Commando Beach. 

Tour A costs P 1,200.00 plus the P 200.00 environmental fee, which was valid during the whole duration of our stay in El Nido.

To the Small Lagoon

Big Lagoon

Seven Commando Beach

Best Beach Moment was at the Seven Commandos Beach.  It was a beer moment, minus the beer because I was still lying low on the alcohol.  But it was still perfect -- fine sand beach, crystal clear water, and the drizzle.  

Of course the hidden lagoon was breathtaking.  It was actually awesome.  Our tour guide said we were lucky because it was the first time in two months they were able to bring a group inside.

Tour C

Day 3 was Tour C.  This was actually the tour I was looking forward to.  

Bourne Legacy was shot with Dilumacad and Matinloc as its backdrop.  The Hidden Beach is the one they say that inspired Alex Garland.  The Secret Beach was named fourth best beach in Asia by Trip Advisor and was described as "like a computer screen-saver, but real."

Both beaches were fantastic but for its level of difficulty, Secret Beach is my most memorable.  I was actually proud of myself for being among the only four in our group, aside from the guides, who were able to brave the waves crashing the little hole that leads to this piece of paradise.  Months of using crutches improved my upper body strength a lot so it was easy to pull myself inside using the guide ropes.

Aside from the Hidden Beach and the Secret Beach, part of the itinerary were also the Tapiutan Beach, the Matinloc Shrine, and Helicopter Island.

Hidden Beach

Secret Beach

Lunch at Tapiutan Beach

Lunch is something to look forward to during the tours.  The guides have already honed their skills in presentation.  Plus, of course, nothing beats grilled seafood and meat when on the beach.

I felt lucky also that we had the chance to visit the Matinloc Shrine. When I was a kid, I heard about this heart-shaped island in Palawan.  It was like a dream actually stepping on it.

Tour C costs P 1,400 per person.  

La Salangane, btw, offers combination tours.  They are the only ones who have a speedboat in town, so they can insert more stops in the itinerary.

Day 4

As mentioned, our last day was spent doing nothing.  We decided to forego the other tours available to be able to relax the whole day and see the town.

So, the reasons to come back to El Nido are:

1)  Tour B Entalula Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Pangulasian Island, Snake Island and Cathedral C;
2)  Tour D Bukal Island, Ipil Beach, Nat-Nat Beach, Cadlao Lagoon and Paradise Beach;
3)  Tao Expedition

Oh yes, adding number 3 on my bucket list and for inspiration:

Leaving El Nido

We love El Nido but we had to leave.  We took the 9AM van back to Puerto Princesa.   Our last night in Palawan was spent in this beautiful resort.  Too bad it rained so we weren't able to enjoy the garden much but we promised we would come back.

My mom loved this place. It is called Hibiscus Garden Inn and is number one on Travel Advisor.

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