Wednesday, April 24

The Enchanting Enchantment of El Nido

I have been eyeing Palawan ever since I have I learned about Tabon Caves in my elementary years. Constant tuning in to TV Patrol back then made me remember the name Hagedorn synonymous to this sparsely-populated province.  Now that I am constantly traveling, one of the newly-crowned seven wonders of nature, the Puerto Princesa Underground River, always reminds me of the Philippines' last frontier.

It was supposed to be a nine-day trip with friend Marx.  However, due to unexpected changes it was narrowed down to four days last Holy Week.  I was not complaining since I thought nine days is actually very long to be spending in one place.  But then after researching on the places we were supposed to be traveling to, I had wished our nine-day vacation had happened.  

We departed from Manila to Puerto Princesa and arrived at around 8 AM on a hot Thursday morning.  Our van (Lexus Shuttle Service) reservation going to El Nido was at 9:30 AM.  We planned to have our breakfast at Bona's Chao Long but it was closed for the holidays (bummer!). Our trike driver dropped us off instead at Thanh-Tam.  We ordered Beef and Chicken noodles for P 55 each and French Bread with cheese at P55 which we split between ourselves.

P 55

P 35 

Our van contact person called to check on us while we were just starting to savor our breakfast.  We cannot afford to miss our reservation since it is a five to six hour ride from Puerto Princesa City to El Nido, Palawan.  Only finishing half of our meal, we went ahead to San Jose Terminal.  We arrived just in time. The van was already full and after about five minutes, we were on our way to El Nido.  

Lexus Shuttle Van

Fare is at P500 per head.  For reservations you may contact them at:

63917-585-9613 | 63920-957-1025

Other means of transport to Puerto Princesa-El Nido and vice versa:

(1) Van Services to El Nido from Puerto Princesa*
Lexus Van - (0917) 585-9602
Eulen Joy Van - (0949) 449-8858
Fort Wally - (0917) 276-2875
Pilandok Transport (from Robinson's Place) - (0917) 590-5043

(2) Bus Lines to El Nido from Puerto Princesa*

RoRo Bus - (0917) 597-1186; (0908) 920-2568; (0922) 889-7013
Daily bus schedule: 6:00 AM, 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 2:00 PM, 6:00 PM and 10:00 PM
Eulen Joy Bus - (0919) 716-2210
Daily bus schedule: 5:00 AM, 8:00 AM, and 10:00 AM

*Please contact them directly as trip schedules may vary

As if on cue, friend Josiah surprised by calling and asked what time we were leaving. I said to him that the moment he called, our van just left the terminal.  He laughed at this and said it must have been him calling the shots. After some pleasantries, I was convincing Josiah to come follow us since it would be nicer to have him as company.  It was already beyond cool to be talking to him over the phone (He is the man behind the legendary Lakas ng Trip) so meeting him was a great idea.  

We said our goodbyes and he promised to send an SMS on when he can actually accompany us. Well, just after a few hours, I received his advise he will be coming later.  I guess he was intrigued by the same time of our departure and his time of call, lol!.  El Nido's charm has worked again!

Halfway through the trip, we had several stop-overs where we were given time to have our lunch and relieve ourselves. Half of it consist of some rough roads with sharp curves and turns.  I was glad I am immune to motion sickness.  I was able to enjoy the scenery before gravity has taken its toll on me.

I came from work the previous night and even though we had sleeping quarters in my office, it was not a factor from getting a good night's sleep before our departure.  Perhaps it was because of excitement and amazement and nervousness.  As I stared at my plane ticket, I said to myself yes, this is real. Finally I was on my way to Palawan for the first time.

At around three in the afternoon, we arrived at El Nido terminal beside the public market.  I expected a cozy little town but I was more surprised how homey the atmosphere there is.  We hired a trike to take us to Northern Hope Inn.  While on our way to our pension house, I was smiling as I caught a glimpse of our very own cherry blossoms!

Why go to Japan? 
Featuring our very own version of sakura or cherry blossoms

After checking in at 3 PM, Marx and I decided to take a short break.  However, the long trip made us very tired and sleepy.  We were able to catch a few Zzzzs before pulling ourselves from our beds at five in the afternoon.  

Josiah sent a message he is nearing.  I told him to go to Corong Corong beach since we might miss the sunset if we will wait for him at the inn.  Turns out this Palawe├▒o has not yet been here which made our first meeting more exciting.

Corong-Corong beach was our first stop in El Nido.  I have heard that the sunset here was simply magnificent.  I was not wrong.

Corong Corong Beach at dusk

It was beautiful!  The colors were bursting from everywhere.  Different hues were playing before my eyes.  The dancing colors made me wonder if  what I was seeing was real.  The passionate poet in me has been awaken once again.  

It seemed that the Earth below has swallowed the sun whole. It was so quick that just after a few minutes, dusk enveloped us as we headed back to the town.  We were they for only a few hours but I felt like I have been in El Nido for several days.  Pondering Paodaolei has fallen in love once again. 

The night was still young.  We had our dinner at Squidoo's.  Marx was teasing me for ordering Chicken Tinola with Rice when the weather was unforgiving.  I was craving for ulam na may sabaw so even though it was sweltering hot, I really enjoyed my meal.  

Squidoo's is open from mornings till 10 PM
Electricity in El Nido is not 24 hours
It is only available from 2 PM to 6 am

We had a long day. Marx had not slept at all for almost two days and he was the first one to hit the pillows.  At eleven that night, I was still fully awake.  Well, blame it on Josiah for feeding me wonderful travel stories over dinner.  I was imagining I was exploring Tabon Caves.  I was lying down on my bed but my thoughts were wandering.  I think I kept Josiah from his slumber since I kept asking questions.  Finally, I decided that I had to get out for a while and relax by the beach.  I didn't have the heart to wake up Marx and ask him to tag along.  He looked like an angel in his sleep.

Josiah was a cool company late that night.  He was a sport and kept me entertained and tagged along in my short beach-trek.  We were exchanging travel tales non-stop when he suddenly had this crazy idea to let me see the local cemetery at the other side of the beach. Take note, at almost 12 MN!  I glanced at the full moon above.  The skies were clear but the sea was very quiet.  Then the moon suddenly was hidden from view, thanks to the tall trees.  Even though a tall guy armed with a mini flashlight accompanied me, somehow adding to my confidence, I wanted to tell him, 'Uhm, can we go back now?' #laughing.

Well, I did so after two days.  He said he thought so because when we started our way back he observed I was walking pretty fast.  

Back in our hostel at Northern Hope Inn*, I said goodnight to my two buddies because we were due early the next day for our island hopping tour.   In no time, I was on my way back to Tabon Caves.
Marx, me and Josiah before boarding our boat

L-R: Mastermind, Ponderer and Mr. Strong
Getting ready to leave for a whole day of island-hopping!
Nothing but the sea sand and water!

We were scheduled to have our Island hopping tour (Tour A and C) at exactly 8 AM.   Our boat left promptly and the islands of El Nido were much more beautiful up close and personal, proving to me why it is one of the top beach destinations in the Philippines.

Helicopter Island
You can also call it Chicken Joy Island :-P

Hidden Beach

me at the Hidden Beach 

Matinloc Shrine

Panoramic view of Talisayen Beach
This is where our group had our stop for lunch

Then off we went to Secret Beach, Secret Lagoon, Simizu Island, Big and Small Lagoon.

Big Lagoon
Me relaxing inside
This was my most favorite part of the trip

Small Lagoon 
Our last stop was supposed to be at the 7 Commandos island for sunset-viewing.  However, we were already late and our tour ended early in the evening.  Though exhausted, we all had a blast.  Thoughts were already forming in my head and I wanted to write them down before they disappear into the vast sea.   Halfway through the night, we met Brenna with the Project Dora team and had our dinner at OG's restaurant.  They were real cool guys but I was really burned out all I wanted was to hit the sack.  

I was looking forward to our last day in El Nido.  We visited the twin beaches: Calitang and Nacpan.  About an hour ride from the town proper, going here is a must-see for every El Nido visitor.  These twin beaches is El Nido's hidden gem. The view on top of the hill was absolutely breathtaking.  Getting here is fairly easy. You can hire and ride a motorbike. Hire a banca or a private van.  For group explorers, van tour will be cheaper since you can split the bill.  

Van rentals: Kuya Dondon Madsam
Contact No: 0915 709 8017 (Globe)

View of Nacpan and Calitang beaches on top of a small hill

The island in the middle is said to be owned by a top local boxer

The moment I stepped into the vast white-sand shoreline of these twin beaches, I held my breathe and stared in awe.  It was beautiful!   There were only a handful of tourists, most of them foreigners, taking advantage of the long stretch of deserted pristine shoreline perfect for their sunbathing sessions.  Me, Marx and Brenna did not waste time and jumped into the sea like giddy little kids.

We headed back to town proper at around 4:30 PM to catch our 6 PM Roro bus reservation back to Puerto Princesa.  If only buses were on a 24-hour schedule, I am sure we would have stayed longer.  The views were just perfect.  No tall commercial buildings, so many trees lining up the beach and white sand squishing between your toes.  It is paradise for me and I hope it would stay this way for the longest time.

Panoramic shot of Bacuit Bay
Three days in El Nido was short but that time was more than enough for me to yearn for another Palawan adventure sometime in the near future.

***Bonus tip for those on a budget!  You may mention me, Paula, when you contact Northern Hope Inn to take advantage of island-hopping tour discounts!***

Contact Person: Ate Neriza Dado
Mobile Number:  09399022216 - Smart | 09277353221 - Globe

*Updated Nov 2014

More photos here and here

Other Parts In This Series


  1. El Nido's charm ba talaga ang nakapagkumbinsi?

    1. Chikka minute! hahah! balik tayong lahat?

  2. wooh kakainggit natakam ako sa noodles parang same siya sa tawag nming miki sa amin, nice sunset at beach swerte ng palawan ang lugar na yan halos anjan na lahat complete package :)

    1. Hello Manong Unyol! Yep, sarap yung noodles kaso di namin naubos medyo nalate kasi yung flight namin.

      Ganda ng sunset sa Corong-Corong.

      Palawan is the ultimate destination talaga! Blessed ang lugar na ito. :-)

  3. Naalala ko yung phone call nung paalis palang kayo ng Puerto Princesa. Parang biglang realization na ang tagal ko na hindi nagbabakasyon. Kaya umalis agad ng bahay (while happily shouting!). hahahaha

    I was glad to travel with you and Marx at El Nido. Sa sunod ulit na trip. ^_^

    1. Oo nga Josiah di naman halata eh ang bilis mong magtext at makapagdecide na pupunta ka na! hehe,

      I am glad to travel with you guys too! :-)

  4. bat iba ang saya ni pau sa Palawan? haha nung tumawag ako nung andun sya kakaiba ang saya nya parang teenager na inlab ang saya hahaha! para tuloy bigla ko gustong pumunta ng el nido wahaha!

  5. Replies
    1. Yes Ding, this is a really cool place to visit! :-)

  6. Replies
    1. Oh yes Johnny it really is! I'd recommended this for foreign tourists! :-)

  7. Been to El Nido twice pero d ko pa na-try yung combination tour. Will probably try it next time para ma-maximize yung time. El Nido is still one of my top favorite destinations. :)

    1. Hello Gabz yes this is by far one of the top destinations I've been to this year! :-)

      Ganda talaga!

  8. ganito ang gusto kong blog. madaming laman! ayoko masyado ng installment posts. hehe

    nice one! =)

    1. Isang bagsakan lang! In love na in love si Paula... sa El Nido. :D

    2. I agree with you hindi ba ikaw rin. hehehe. :-P

  9. Replies
    1. Waaah me too Elal cute little girl! Loving El Nido so much! :-)

  10. El Nido-- so many beautiful places.. Bring me here next time, hehe.. :)

    1. Super beautiful there Ephraim. At saka maganda yung churches niyo dun :-)

  11. included na po ba sa package ng Northern Hope tours ang mga snorkel paraphernalia?

    1. They'd charge a minimal fee on renting snorkeling gears. Options aren't too many though. So if you can bring your own it would be much better, :-)

  12. Excited to visit El Nido this Feb 24 - 27 :) nice blog :)

    1. Thank you Dennis for the compliments! Enjoy El Nido. You will have a blast. :-D

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