El Nido: A Vacation in Paradise

July 20, 2014 Travel

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

To make up for my lost days of summer spent recuperating, I decided to book a trip for my mom and me 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

In the weeks before the vacation, I was either traveling for work or busy at the office. Fortunately, El Nido vacationers shared helpful tips online, and my friend Alain referred me to his friend Ryan, who organizes El Nido tours (contact: Ryan 09175991666).

Planning was easy. Ryan arranged our transportation to and from El Nido, as well as our tours. Based on online recommendations, 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 finally deciding on La Salangane. I wanted beachfront accommodation that had a local feel. I was pleased with our choice because this was the view from our room that welcomed my mom and me 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 in bed all day, but we didn't travel that far just for that. We had to witness the majestic karst limestone cliffs, the clear water, and, of course, the 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 we went for our tours.

Tour A

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

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

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

To the Small Lagoon

Big Lagoon

Seven Commando Beach

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

The hidden lagoon was breathtaking and truly awesome. Our tour guide mentioned that 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, the one I was looking forward to the most.

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

Both beaches were fantastic, but for its level of difficulty, Secret Beach is the most memorable. I was proud of myself for being among the only four in our group, aside from the guides, who braved the waves crashing into 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 included 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 also felt lucky 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, by the way, 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 to my bucket list and for inspiration:

Leaving El Nido

We love El Nido but we had to leave. We took the 9 AM 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 TripAdvisor.

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