#Palawander: El Nido Getaway and Itinerary from the POV of a Non-Swimmer

I won’t deny that I’m not fond of beaches. I dislike the waters and I don’t even know how to swim. The only reason I would go to a summer outing that involves the waters were based on company. I love these guys and I want to be with them, but other than that, my fear of the waters is really overwhelming.

And coming from a non-swimmer who fears the waters, El Nido was still a blast.

Read through my full experience below:

Click here for Day 0Click here for Day 1Click here for Day 2Click here for Day 3

First of all, El Nido involves lots of waters. I seriously doubted why I even wanted to go at first. Almost all the tour packages included beaches, if not lagoons. And almost all includes swimming if not kayaking. Or in my case, being dragged by my swimmer tour guide.

True, the idea of everyone enjoying the life underwater is inviting. So if you’re someone who’s not as afraid and overwhelmed as me when it comes to the sea, then you’ll be able to enjoy it almost as much as the others.

Despite the shameful experience I had to go through as I was pulled across waters by my tour guide almost every time, I realized it also made El Nido into something enjoyable for people who aren’t swimmers or aren’t in love with the water.

Our tour guide was nice, probably because it is his job, but I do believe tourists won’t come and go and come back again if they don’t experience firsthand hospitality from the place. Everyone has decent English communication too (I should know because I’m always mistaken to be a foreigner) so if you’re coming from some place else, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Transport

To El Nido

There are several airlines travel to and from Puerto Princesa every single day. If you’re on a tight budget, watch out for promos launched by these airlines, especially during off-peak seasons. You can get really discounted prices. Afterwards, you can take public van transport (P500 / 11USD one way), non-AC buses (P350-P400 ish / 9USD one way), AC buses (P400-P500 ish / 11USD one way) or hire private van rentals (P6,000 / 133USD per van one way).

Van rental service: Fred – 0948-986-8759

If you’re looking into the lesser hassle side of life and budget isn’t an issue, you can go for AirSWIFT airlines that privately runs the El Nido Airport (AKA Lio Airport) which is only 4km away from the town proper (P5500 / 122USD one way).

Around El Nido Proper

El Nido has a lot of tricycles as means of primary transportation. But if you only plan to go around the town itself, you’ll appreciate the place more if you walk.

You can refer to this photo for prices. Snapped from our hotel’s front desk.

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If you know how to ride motorcycles, you can rent them for P500 / 11USD a day. Just not sure how gas fares would go. You only need to leave your passport as assurance you’ll return the motorcycle lol.

Island Hopping

El Nido’s island hopping tours are divided into tour packages that are separated according to their distance to each other.

Tour A includes Secret Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Mimiloc Island (while Simisu Island is on rehab), Small Lagoon, and Seven Commandos Beach.

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Secret Lagoon | photo from tourism.gov.ph

Tour B includes Cathedral Cave, Snake Island, Entalula Island, Codugnon Cave, Lagen Resort, and Pinagbuyutan Island.

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Snake Island | photo by John K Chua/ whenonearth.net

Tour C includes Helicopter Island, Secret Beach, Talisay Island, Hidden Beach, and Matinloc Shrine.

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Matinloc Shrine | photo by me

Tour D includes Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach, Bukal Beach.

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Bukal Beach | photo by explorerboyz.blogspot.com

Getting a tour package is necessary to go around El Nido’s paradises. They have licensed English-speaking tour guides to assist and answer your queries.

Tour Guide service: Milan – 0950-329-9954

A P200 environmental fee is a mandatory payment and expires in 10 days. So if you’re staying longer than 10 days, you need to pay another P200 on your 11th day and so on.

Tour packages costs differently from one another and is at least P1000 per person per tour package. Cheaper if you’re a group. If you’re going with a stricter budget, you may opt to go for a DIY package plan like we did which save us at least a few thousands compared to having an agency fix it up.

Tour packages have simple computations such as the following:

Tour A: 3500 for two people, and additional 700 each for every succeeding person.

Tour B: 4500 for two people, and additional 700 each for every succeeding person.

Tour C: 4500 for two people, and additional 800 each for every succeeding person.

If I’m correct each boat’s capacity is around 12-15 people. So the more you are sharing the expenses equally, the lesser all of you have to pay.

Food

There are tons of restaurants in El Nido that caters to different budgets. I noticed most of the cheaper restaurants are around the beach front. Do allot at least P200 per meal, and if you’re into refreshing drinks and shakes like me, then allot an at least an additional P100 per meal too.)

Some popular restaurants include Trattoria Altrove famous as “the best pizza place in El Nido.” Sad to say we weren’t able to eat in the place since tey were always packed and we were always too hungry to wait for a spot. (Budget is P300+)

Another famous restaurant is the El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe or simply  Art Cafe. Their food is good except their service is pretty slow. I especially love the Puerto Rico vibe of the place. (Budget P200+)

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Art Cafe | photo by Armen / @armenavy

One of the underrated restaurants we ate in is L’Jodec. I don’t exactly know why they aren’t swarmed with people because their food is delicious. It’s really worth it that I actually have a separate food feature for them. (Budget P200+) PS. Do try their super sulit sizzling pork and sizzling squid. They’re awesome.

Squidos was also one of the food establishments I kept reading in other blogs, we were’t able to check them out but obviously their best sellers are squid, sad to say I’ve also heard there wasn’t anything special with it. (Budget P200+)

There are too many to mention, but if you’re in the place the first one you’ll be judging would be the facade and interior. It’s probably why we ended up where we ate as well because it’s in nature.

Must Bring’s

Other than the obvious necessities like change of clothes, I also suggest bringing the following:

  • sunglasses (trust me.)
  • waterproof bag (go for Dry Bags, they’re pretty cheap and they float on water even with things inside)
  • underwater camera or waterproof phone (srsly, i dunno what I’d do if I didn’t get a GoPro beforehand, not much to do above waters since it’s island hopping after all)
  • sunblock, and re-apply it when you can (I can’t emphasize this enough, lest you want to be toast)
  • powerbank (so much help, especially if you plan to go to El Nido through Puerto Princesa)
  • long sleeve rash guards/ cover-ups (if you don’t plan to go home tanned, trust me you’ll get dark even if you don’t go dirctly under the sun a lot, I know I did0
  • snorkeling gears (if you’re a little laway-conscious… it does get into several stranger’s mouths.)

Our expenses

3360 — RT airfare

200 — domestic terminal fee

1300 — 2 nights at SPIN Hostel

58 — reservation Agoda asked us to pay so we don’t need to pay immediately.

1714 — van share (P12,000 divided into 7)

14 — van El Nido entrance fee share (P100 divided into 7)

200 — 10-day mandatory environmental fee

1000 — Tour A for day 1 (P7000 divided into 7)

133 — 2 kayaks shared by 6 people (P800 total, 400/day each kayak)

1214 —  Tour C for day 2 (P8500 divided into 7)

357 — Rovic’s Hotel 6pm-12mn check-in

________

9550 — total excluding food and souvenirs and unnecessary water accessories rentals like flippers (P100/day) or aqua shoes (P100/day)

Do allot at least P200-300 per meal. We ate around 7 meals excluding our meals that are part of our tours and hotel’s packages.

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