When one hit rock bottom, feel that pain, make it your drive to rise up and be whole again. I found myself in that state again. I said to myself…I do need you, El Nido.
Travel. Make new friends. Enjoy.
Thanks to social media, it has now been really easy to spot on cheap af flights. When I saw promo flights from Air Asia almost a year ago, I immediately booked my entire famliy (we’re just three, maka-entire) bound for Puerto Princesa (PPS). They’ve been bugging me about my travels for the longest time – why am I the only one who traveled to nice places, rode a plane, you know the drill. So I figured for my mom’s 62nd birthday, I’ll take them to the place where I discovered my passion and love for traveling, Couchsurfing and travel blogging – El Nido.
Tip#1: If you’re planning to go to El Nido, allot at least 4 days in Palawan. Breakdown: 5-6 hours land travel from PPS to El Nido town. That’s 10-12 hours for round trip alone (combined with R&R that’s 1 day already). 3 days in El Nido is painstakingly enough to cover two island hopping tours then an inland tour on your last day. Remember to plan your travels ahead. It will definitely, definitely save you a lot of money and worry. Also for travelers on a budget, I suggest booking cheap inns in El Nido – island hopping will consume most of your energy, then what’s left off it for beach parties. Probably 2-4 hours will be allocated for sleeping, so. I always say why sleep in paradise when you can sleep at work? Well, this is just me.
Scratch that, forget everything I said. There won’t be enough days to digest these majestic slices of heaven.
How much did I spend on the airfare? Roughly 700 pesos per pax. Yep, roundtrip. Here comes the hard part, I am a DIY traveler slash backpacker slash I can sleep on the beach if I have to – but my mom isn’t. This is our first ever trip together and I wanted them to have the best time. I am pretty sure El Nido won’t disappoint but the little things must be detailed and planned. Good thing, I have a wonderful friend. She hooked me up with an awesome, cheap quote from Kalipayan tours (below). Thanks, Lisa! Next up, Balesin? 😂
Note though, island hopping tours aren’t included in the quote. Pretty understandable, hence, I used another outlet – the DIY Travel Philippines facebook group. This group is amazing. I have never been active to any page or group til I came across this one on my feed. I highly encourage my traveler friends to add this group. Members and admins here were very helpful. So I was following a PPSxEl Nido thread on this group when I saw Michael Yao’s of Tripidito Travel comment. He mentioned 1900php per pax for Tours A&C – I immediately pm-ed him. Normally, Tour A cost 1200php per pax and Tour C for 1400php so it’s actually quite a nice deal. Yep, there are still way cheaper tours on the group but mostly are DIY on the island itself. I wanted to avail those but then again, I have a senior citizen in the midst – I opted for pre-booked tours for a smooth sailing trip. Thanks again Mike for making our lives easier on the island. Before I forget, you need to pay 200php as environmental fee once you start the tours. This is just a one time payment. So if you have multiple tours (say A,B,C), you’ll pay 200php that covers all those aforementioned.
Shall we start?
We landed in Puerto Princesa on a one fine, humid night of June 8th. We checked in to Circon Business Inn and after settling down, went straight to Kinabuch’s for dinner. Kinda pricey but you’ll get your money’s worth. They even have this humongous TV screen – playing the NBA finals. Service was moderate to slow but the food made up for it. Es muy delicioso!
Our van picked us up at around 7:30am the morning of June 9th then made our way to Sabang. We arrived at around 10:30am cos we had numerous stops (picking up other people included in the tour and finalizing our permits) Even the Balikatan forces were there waiting for their cue to ride the boat that would take them to the infamous underground river. Good thing our fellow tour mates already had a reserved boat, we didn’t wait that much longer. This was my second time underground and I must say, the tour has improved a lot. Now we have this audio device where a synchronized voice over talked to us over our earphones as we pass through this magnificent creation. I found it very relaxing not to focus on what your boat guide had to say when you are seated in front of the boat. You just have to sit back and enjoy the view as you have a personalized voice guide muttering the underground wonders. The tour is about 45 min long and concluded in a sumptuous buffet lunch. I had a pleasure of talking to Fabi, my new found German friend. He introduced me to a place called Port Barton. Yes, that’s in Palawan. And I had no idea – shame on me.
The city tour is not my cup of tea. I wouldn’t take it if I was with my friends. But I wasn’t- so. Our half day city tour started at 9am of June 10. We visited Binuatan Creations, Mitra’s mansion and ranch, Baker’s Hill, Crocodile farm, bay walk, Plaza Cuartel, Puerto Princesa Cathedral and my favorite and last stop – Pasalubong center (souvenir shops). At the end of the day, I pondered and realized, oh yeah, I did enjoy the city and discovered things on a more personal level than just reading them online. So hurry book a city tour if you have ample time in PPS- plus it’s one of the safest cities in the Philippines so why the hell not, right?
The Last Frontier
Right after we had lunch, the van picked us up for our 5hr journey to the highlight of our weeklong trip – El Nido. We safely arrived at our lodge – El Nido (Bacuit) Sands Inn at around 8pm night of June 10. Note that this inn is for backpackers, solo travelers, travelers on a tight budget- they have public toilets and showers. Since it’s our first night in paradise, we decided to splurge a bit and ate at the beach front. Food’s bordering on the average – guess we’re just paying for the ambiance and this view:
What a sight to behold – picturesque view from our balcony.
Tour A – Day 1
7 Commando Beach (yes, senyora was commanding me 7 times at the back, magsaing na daw ako)
Paglugaban Beach (Shimizu at the time was so crowded; this was where we had lunch )
Secret Lagoon (pardon my orgasm face)
Big Lagoon (candid moment as we head out of this lagoon hashtag priceless)
Small Lagoon (our first kayak!)
Tour C – Day 2
Helicopter Island (the island all to ourselves)
Talisay Beach / Matinloc Shrine (we just passed through since we don’t wanna pay entrance fee – had buffet lunch on the boat instead)
Snorkeling Area (wait for the underwater photos below, it’s so good!)
Inland Tour – Day 3
Nacpan Beach (yup, my Nacpan-Ko-Daw-Nipples-Ko shot)
Calitang Beach (Twin Beach) actually for me, that’s a trio beach – 3rd beach on the left side
It’s a completely different world down under:
Kalipayan Tours – June 8 to 15, 2016 (Island Hopping tours excluded) Contacts: Venus – +63977 711 4332 | Grazel – +63917 526 2008 (Kalipayan Tours & Circon)
Tripidito Travel – Tours A & C
Contact Kuya Wames Niel – (0950) 500 5419
Negotiated 1500php (for 3 pax via his tricycle whole day) for the tour mentioned above. He even volunteered to be our guide for Nagkalit-kalit waterfalls where there’s a 200php charge per head. Trek to the falls took us 30 minutes one way (blame my mom ha! nope, amazing she managed to finish the trek at her age – well folks, age is just a number!) We saved 600 bucks! Started the tour at 9am ended at around 6:00pm.
Kalipayan Tours Php 20,100 (3 pax)
Tripidito Travel: Tours A&C Php 5,700 (1900 per pax)
Night 1 (PPS)
400 Grab Bacoor to Terminal 4, NAIA
200 Toll fee
350 Airport food
30 Tricycle to Kinabuch’s
930 Kinabuch’s (dinner for three)
30 Tricycle back to Circon Inn
105 Beers before bedtime
300 Essentials & groceries
200 Shakes at Sabang
120 Environmental fee (40php per pax)
45 Bottled water
60 Coffee sachets
218 Take out dinner from guess what, McDonalds
97 Essentials & groceries
265 ChowKing dinner
135 Baked goodies from Baker’s Hill
294 Lunch – Jollibee
70 Plastic Bag for pasalubongs and extra baggages
110 Lunch part 2 at Halfway restaurant (roughly 100km to El Nido)
Night 3 (El Nido)
660 dinner by the beach; hence the expense (first night so we splurged)
30 wet wipes
170 water & coffee
320 (8) RH beers at Bacuit Grill #happyhour
140 (2) SML beers
140 (2) SML beers
100 mom’s dinner
320 junk foods
90 groceries water
90 meds for hangover and flu like symptoms
250 dinner at a local carinderia
100 entrance nacpan
1700 inland tour (200 tip)
30 gate pass wfalls
320 food in nacpan
40 water in waterfalls
66 Bottled water
60 Mom’s dinner
100 Beer from somewhere I can’t remember
720 Happy hour RH beers from Las Cabañas
150 Hotdog – recovery food
100 trike back to El Nido town
Day 6 (El Nido – am then PPS – pm)
240 Lunch at local carinderia
122 Essentials & groceries
360 Lunch part 2at resto beside halfway
50 Tricycle to terminal
100 Tip to Bonbon (Sands Inn front desk)
20 Tricycle to Pasalubong center
16 Tricycle back to Circon Inn
340 Lunch again at Jollibee
60 Tricycle to airport
600 Terminal fee (200php per pax)
Air Fare RT Php 2,203.20 (all in for 3 pax)
Grand Total of Php 43,078.20 (for 3 pax)
We definitely saved a lot in terms of the tours I already pre-booked and thanks to my haggling skills on the inland tour I negotiated with Kuya Wames. However, half of the cost of our 1 week itinerary is attributed to the miscellaneous items we bought in the island which can be trimmed down exponentially with careful planning.
Tip#2: Before you start your way to El Nido, make sure to bring your essentials (or buy in the city) with you – water (if you rented a van or taking a public shuttle, bring those 5L gallons with you), toiletries and miscellaneous stuff for your rituals. Trust me, you’ll save a few hundred bucks!
Tip#3: You can definitely spend less compared to what was written here. I, myself, is a poor traveler. This trip is one exemption to the rule cos it’s a first of many – first family travel, their first time in Palawan, let alone El Nido, their first airplane ride, among others. There are many carinderias (local eatery) in the area just 3-5 minute walk from the beach where prices are comparable to carinderias in Metro Manila. Go explore, talk to people.
Tip#4: If you love alcohol like me, utilize the Happy Hour! Bars and restaurants scattered across the beach front had this happy hour from 4-7pm. Beers and cocktails were cheap af!
Tip#5: Take pictures, build memories, mingle with people i.e, below.
Shout out to my new found friends from around the world. See you around beautiful people.
Fabi – I have a contact now in Port Barton, I think she’ll give me discount. Hi Ma’am Josie hehe. I met her the day after we did the underground tour haha!
Linda & Candice – It was so nice meeting you ladies from our first night in El Nido to your last. So happy bumping with you in the streets from time to time 🙂
Jon – Don’t ever slip again haha you got me out of breath for like 2 seconds! See you in Guam or back here? You decide and stay alive! 😛
Pablo, Greta/Carla, Crusti – Thank you for being such an accommodating group. You made our last night in El Nido extra special! I’ll invite you in my “resort”, you tour me in Madrid? Deal?
Kuya Bangkero and Kuya Chefs, thank you for serving a sumptuous feast! Sa uulitin!
It took me 4 years to go back here. I’m surely hoping it won’t take another 4 years for me to experience another slice of heaven here on Earth. *cough* sponsors *cough*
Til my next quick escape, El Nido.
Photos were taken using iPhone 6S+, GoPro Hero 4 and SJCAM 4000. Special thanks to Tinai and RB for lending their awesome gears. Videos and mini vlogs coming soon!