All the pictures you saw online about secret and hidden lagoons and amazing beaches really do exist. You can find them on Palawan.
Palawan is an island in the southwest of the Philippines with two main points of interest Puerto Princesa and El Nido in the north.
The easiest way is to fly. Domestic flights are quite frequent and reasonably priced, we chose Cebu Pacific. Flights will get you to Puerto Princesa, the only option to fly directly to El Nido is with ITI from Manilla.
The main attraction in Puerto Princesa is the Underground river and the whole offer is based on that. There are many tour operators offering this, or you can do it in stages. Coming from Slovenia, the land of caves, we decided not to go and spend an extra day in El Nido, because the Underground river experience takes an entire day.
Getting to El Nido
We took the minivan option which takes around 6 hours and felt quite OK. There is no way around this drive which is not pleasant and some even describe it as quite dangerous. We can suggest a good company where we felt safe and the price was also OK. (600 pesos (12€) going north and 500 pesos (10€) return). Just contact us. 😉
The place to be on Palawan. It is quite different to let say Thailand. You can´t really get cheap bungalows on the beach, everything is cramped up in a small city. The prices vary (so does the quality), but you can still get cheap accommodation. There is no real upscale option in El Nido. But on the surrounding islands you have some upscale resorts.
The reason everyone flocks here:
- combination of landscape and the sea
The best and easiest way to experience all of that is going on one of the tours A, B, C or D. A, B and C cover the areas that take longer to get to and D concetrates on areas nearby. On the first day we rented a kayak in El Nido and you can go to some spots from tour D. After some serious haggling we rented the kayak for 500 pesos (10€) and paddled towards Cadlao Island to Paradise beach. It is not the easiest kayaking trip and you definitely need a dry bag for your camera and things that shouldn´t get wet.
It takes about an hour to get to Paradise beach and from there you can just kayak from bay to bay. The beaches are empty and beautiful. Bring snorkelling gear and you can snorkel directly offshore. In one bay they even sell drinks and have shade so you can cool off. We returned before sunset, because we didn´t want to paddle in pitch darkness. 🙂
Back to the tours: we did a combination of A and C (all the highlights) with an overnight stay on a beach (camping). Highly recommended. The cost of this castaway experience was 2500 pesos (50€) per person. Some paid less, some more. Shop around for the best offer.
On the first day we did tour C. It takes you to: Helicopter island, Matinloc island with Secret beach, Hidden beach and Star beach. Opportunities for seeing amazing landscape combined with excellent snorkelling. Our favourite tour. Operators modify their schedules to avoid big crowds. We will not bother you with too much text here and let pictures do all the explaining. 😉
This is the area that inspired the author of the novel THE BEACH. He set the book in Thailand because it was more popular. And people could relate to that area a lot more.
After the tour we were dropped of near Pasandingan Cove on Cadlao island. We had the beach to ourselves for the sunset, slept in tents and had the beach again to ourselves until a boat for tour A picked us up the next day. (Bring snorkelling gear).
On tour A you visit the area around Miniloc island with the Big Lagoon, Small lagoons, Secret lagoon, Shimizu island and also 7 commando beach near El Nido. Pictures do this place more justice. 😉
After this we still had a full day to spend in El Nido, so we rented a motorbike and drove to Nacpan beach. It is a long stretch of white sand with palm trees. You can rent loungers with umbrellas for 200 pesos (4€) and just enjoy a nice beach day. If you want to get pictures from higher ground, there is a viewpoint at the southern end of the beach.
We mentioned sunsets. El Nido being on the west side and its amazing scenery make it a top location for watching sunsets. There are many bars with sunset viewing. We tried Republica bar with good food and drinks, but it gets quite crowded. The other option is to go to Las Cabanas beach and just enjoy on the beach or have a cocktail in one of the bars.
Even though we didn´t really planned the Philippines a lot, but Palawan was always on our must see list. And it was worth it, with its stunning beaches it was perfect for the beach bum Simona, with amazing scenery it was perfect for the geographer in Jure. 😀
AND we finally met some Slovenians – thanks to our blog, Andreja knew we were here and got together for a beer. See you back home 😉