El Nido has been one of the most popular places for beaches and island hopping experiences and I definitely wanted to see it. Finally, my friend and I decided to go in November (2013) and were able to avail an airfare promo from AirAsia for round-trip tickets for P2,500 going to Puerto Princesa (PPS). Three days before our date of departure, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck the Philippines and left most of the Visayan provinces in devastation. The mainly hit were the provinces of Tacloban and Ormoc, but Palawan was not spared and the small town of Coron was hit like bomb fell on it. The airlines didn’t cancel our flight but the usual feeling of excitement of going on a trip was not there. Our flight was in the early evening and we arrived in PPS around 7pm. There were some restaurants right outside the airport and we decided to have dinner first before the van ride (P700 one way) for the next 5 hours on the way to El Nido. Arrived past midnight in El Nido, freshened up a little then went to sleep to get ready for the next day of island hopping. The following day we went early to the beach for some morning walk and the sea was calm with some slight breeze… perfect weather! Around 8am, the tour operators announced that the Coast Guard has cancelled all island hopping tours since it was raining in the other parts of Palawan. It was so frustrating because right in front of us was a calm sea and perfect sun. We had no choice but to go somewhere else that doesn’t require any boat ride. We hired a tricycle for P1,500 for the whole day so we could see the inland sights instead so that the day won’t be totally wasted. First stop was Nagkalit-kalit Falls, approximately 20 kms away from the town proper, initially a smooth in the parts of the town and then a bumpy ride once you’re in the outskirts. Ideal for the adventure seekers/trekkers. To reach the falls you would need to cross rice fields, go into the forest, cross streams/rivers around nine of them, if my memory serves me well. The depth would vary between ankle to hip deep so you have to be careful with your stuff. Also, if this is your first time (like me) grab hold on to the guide because you can easily slip. It was just a small falls in a small hidden paradise. The water was not too cold and so it was just perfect for dipping after the 45-min trek.
Nacpan Beach is just a few minutes away from the falls. For me, it’s the best beach I’ve seen so far with a wide shore, white sand and turquoise blue water. This is also where we had lunch for P150. It was around 4pm when we left Nacpan Beach. I wanted to see the sunset and so I asked our tricycle driver to a sunset place near town. So off we went back to town on the way to Las Cabanas Beach to see the sunset.
After freshening up at the B&B, we walked to the beach and saw that most restaurants have set up tables on the shore with candlelight. Really a lovely sight. It was pretty much a tiring day and we wanted to fill up our tummies. We decided to eat at Sea Slugs because of the good reviews I’ve ready about it and I was not disappointed. The food was good with the serving size enough for a person with a big appetite. The day has come to an end and I’m just glad it didn’t turn out to be that bad after all. Quick tips when going to El Nido:
- Prepare yourself for the five-hour van ride; the first half is smooth but the next half is bumpy and brain shaking.
- Accommodation: There are a lot of B&Bs to choose from. We stayed at Bulskamp Inn for P1,800/night ($42). It was clean, with water heater, air condition and just 3 minutes walk to the main beach and town proper.
- Where to eat: IBR Fastfood is along Rizal Street. Food here will cost between 30 to 120. This is where we had our daily breakfast. For dinner, Sea Slugs by the beach with reggae band, good food at the average price of P220 and up, and ArtCafe along Sirena St. where its ground floor is a souvenir shop and the restaurant is on the second floor. Nice place with a live band and really good food, average price is P300 ($7) and up.
- Touring inland: Renting a tricycle for a day would cost P1,000 to P1,500 depending on the location. Another alternative is renting a motorcycle for P700/day.