El Nido - adventure time
Is it still worth to go to El Nido?
A complicated question.
Words just can not do justice to the north of Palawan in the Philippines. I will try it anyway. You have to experience this part of the earth; otherwise, you will not believe the pictures.
Lagoons created by the hand of God, palm forests that do not want to end, and countless small islands are waiting to be explored. The black limestone cliffs rise like huge walls from the turquoise water and throne around the islands as if to protect this against the rest of the world. The north of Palawan looks a bit surreal, and you feel like in another world. If you want to explore El Nido and this extraordinary area on Palawan, know what you like and. Provided the weather is right, and you researched what you're getting into, you can be happy in El Nido for days. The place scores above all by its offshore islands and beautiful surroundings.
Due to all the travel hypes, El Nido has changed its overall picture. There is an ongoing bustling in building from new streets, lot of houses, lodgings, restaurants, tour operators, massage parlors down to, it seems, thousands of sellers of "dry bags." Many tourists have found this former backwater heaven and turned it into ?? Not sure in what but not into a paradise.
This hype is since El Nido is time and again in most of the hit lists of popular holiday destinations. That does not help the place. It is overrun and can not take it all. To avoid the example of Boracay, the officials have imposed some rules to improve the overall feeling. No drinking on the beach, no smoking, no plastic bottles on tours. The rules are not as strictly adhered to as would be advised. But it’s a start.
El Nido itself does not have a really reasonable beach. You do not want to swim here because of the boats. A few restaurants have tables in the sand. Mainly it is populated, however, when the tourists climb the tour boats and leave them in the late afternoon. After this frenzy in the morning, it gets calmer until everyone is coming back.
Arriving in El Nido, I headed directly to Corong Corong. El Nido Town is a hectic little village that can be reached in just five minutes from Corong Corong. It’s no sweat to go to town if you want to escape the quietness of Corong-Corong and like it a bit more turbulent.
Apart from staying in El Nido just look for accommodation around, the prices are clearly lower, the beaches are beautiful and the people more relaxed. You will find small bungalows and hotels along the beaches. There is something for every price range.
If you are looking for overwater bungalows and luxury: El Nido has hotels such as the Matinloc Resort, Lagen Island or Pangulasian Island Resort on offshore islands. Otherwise, you have to be basically satisfied with more down to earth equipment, but the people are all the more cordial and nature is all the more beautiful.
If you are tired of the boat tour and like to have a swimming day head to Lio Beach in the morning. There is a free shuttle which travels every hour (except lunch break) from the Central Office of El Nido Resort / White House (Elementary School Sports Ground). Free of charge most probably because they want to lure you into the hotels of the Lio Estate Resort, such as the Hotel Casa Kalaw (from 9,000 PHP) and also into the handful of restaurants and beach bars. Beautiful, wide beach and fun for a swimming day.
Or you can travel to Nacpan Beach. A nearly paradisiacal beach not too far away. The tricycle riders offer the tour there for 1,500 pesos. Proud price to negotiate for sure. The driver waits there, which one can expect at the princely reward. Better to get away, if you rent a scooter for 500 pesos and go there yourself.
Duli Beach is another beautiful beach, further north. For the adventurous with their own motorcycle. Very lonely, because the road is even worse here.
Here some thoughts and information about the EL Nido Island Tours.
From El Nido, there are usually four standard tours (A, B, C, and D) to the offshore islands. Tour A and C are the most sought after. This is primarily because the Small and Big Lagoon are the most famous lagoons in El Nido. I recommend you not to book a tour directly in the city of El Nido, but better to ask in your hotel as I did in Corong Corong or schedule a trip in a neighboring hotel.
When booking the first tour, you pay an Environment Fee which is valid for 10 days. Booking another trip in this time frame, you don’t have to pay it again. Most tours are inclusive snorkeling equipment and include lunch. The included food with the trips can be very different. It’s advisable to ask some who already took the trip. Some organizers also offer combined tours, e.g., A + C for 1,700 pesos incl. Environment Fee. You have to be aware that on the beaches and lagoons you always anchor with really many boats at the same time and it is mostly a crowd of visitors.
TIP: try to get onto a small boat, this can be very good for the Great Lagoon because you can not get in there with the big ships.
Highly recommended is, therefore, a widely offered private tour: you can choose the destinations and above all go earlier and independent of the crowd. Prices are, of course, much more expensive. Your negotiating skills are crucial here. I urge you to do any tour, as each island is in itself a little gem that you should not miss.
My personal insider tip is Pinagbuyutan Island, you just have to go there. And in the Cadlao Lagoon is the most transparent water you'll ever see. Star Beach seems inconspicuous, but let me tell you: you have to go snorkeling here! If you see the blue starfish submerged, you will not believe your eyes, believe me. Here an overview of the island hopping tours from El Nido.
Tour A: Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Simizu Beach, Secret Lagoon, 7 Commandos Beach
Tour B: Pangulasian Island, Snake Island, Cudognon Cave, Cathedral Cave, Pinagbuyutan Island
Tour C: Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Star Beach, Secret Beach
Tour D: Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan Beach, Paradise Beach, Natnat Beach, Bukal Beach
I liked the stop at " 7 Commando Beach" best. Gorgeous beach. Located just around the corner from El Nido, but only accessible by boat. There is apparently also a small, cute hotel with open-air restaurant. I stayed at Corong-Corong beach and rented a kayak. From here to 7 Commando beach was just a 20 min. Paddling with the advantage that I had the beach for me alone for several hours.
El Nido restaurants, bars, cafes
Sava Beach Bar & Restaurant, Hama St. Here I tried my first reconnaissance El Nido happy hour during the Happy Hour. You sit on the beach on comfortable lounge furniture. Happy Hour from 4 pm to 6 pm, Cocktails 200 pesos, you get the same thing twice, e.g., Mai Tai, Tequila Sunrise, Cosmopolitan or similar.
Halika an open, rustic music bar with DJ. Optimal location. Hip, trendy, fashionable just now.
El Nido Art Café, Serena St. An institution. Exists for over 20 years. Belongs to the Swiss Judith Distal with her husband. Excellent breakfast. She values sustainability. The main house with airy cafe/restaurant, boutique and tour operator.
Even though we've arrived in the age of the GoPro cameras, maybe not all of you own this little piece. I advise you to buy a waterproof pouch for your camera, as you will swim into many small lagoons and hidden beaches. So you can take these almost surreal scenes home with you, so you should definitely have a camera with you.
Beware of stonefish! These usually stay between stones and corals. At low tide, either avoid the water or put on shoes.
Anyway, I advise you to bring your own shoes, as you often have to climb over stones and corals during the boat tours and you do not cut open the soles of your feet.
You can rent a kayak almost anywhere if the tours are too touristy for you and even explore the islands - but make sure you get back home - the islands and beaches all look very similar from afar.
Take enough time to explore all of North Palawan. For example, you should have seen Nacpan Beach (Twin Beach), which is about an hour north of El Nido. You probably do not meet any human soul there. Be aware of sand flies they can be there in mass.
Who wants to do some legwork, should climb the Taraw Peak. High above you will be rewarded with a spectacular view over the archipelago. But take a guide, so you do not get lost and come back safe. I’m not sure that it will be allowed for long as some accidents gave it a bad reputation.
Taraw peak is the giant limestone karst overlooking the town of El Nido in Palawan and resembles a fortress when seen from the water. It looks magnificent, especially how it seems to engulf the entire city within its reach. To some, this is just another landscape to watch and marvel over, but to the more adventurous kinds, this is another opportunity for a thrilling experience. After all, that awaits atop the cliff is absolutely rewarding which makes it totally worth all the pain.
I was unable to resist the itch of taking up the difficult challenge to climb the karst. This was the shortest hike I’ve done lately, but undeniably one of the toughest. Taraw cliff is no joke. Unlike other walks where you mostly start along grass or woodlands, this is relentless bouldering. The entrance reminds me of a hidden passage and has a cavelike entrance with boulders you have to tackle as first obstacles. Then you continue walking along rock-strewn terrain.
Then comes the first 90 degree of climbing along limestone rock. The sharp edges of the stones made the climb extra challenging good for the ones who have gloves.
Passing the first, you will not be amused to find out that there are two more coming. Apparently more difficult as well. But you forget these challenges when you experience the exquisite view of the town halfway to the top. At least you’ll have the magnificence view standing on the highest point of El Nido.
Standing high above the town on the fortresses of limestone which is engulfing the city, you’ll see the houses and buildings lined along the shoreline, the deep blue waters and several islands in the Bay. They seemed to have been placed to form something that is nearly perfect. A really surreal scenery and worth the effort of climbing.