In early 2013, I found myself wanting to venture Palawan to feel lit up, energized, and utterly alive. Palawan‘s reputation precedes itself – so many amazing places to go, so many things to do, so little time.
I spent my first time in May of 2013 in its capital city, Puerto Princesa. Aside from the trip, I was also excited to see a good friend who, at that time, just moved back to her hometown. When I left, I made a promise to come back – to my friend and to Palawan. More than two years after, there I was along with more friends at a place that I can’t get off my mind, a destination that attracts and calls you to herself like a magnet does. You just can’t say No!
A trip to El Nido can be a bit expensive. This is the best kind to tag along all your willing friends. It will save you money and increase the likelihood of you getting the tours exclusive to yourselves.
To get to El Nido, a more affordable way is via Puerto Princesa first. We left Manila on a Saturday 3PM and landed at 430PM. We were met by our gracious host, a dear friend I can’t wait to be reunited with after two years. She was the one who helped us negotiate all the deals. You’ll see more of her in a bit.
A van ride to El Nido may take 6-7 hours. Traveling at night may be shorter. A van exclusive to 9 passengers (like us) can cost Php4500 and up. RoRo buses are also available. You might have to check their schedule and make arrangements ahead of time. There are two stopovers – for some grub and bio needs.
Upon arrival, we checked in at One Melting Pot Hostel. For backpackers, budget travelers, and those who don’t mind sharing a room with other backpackers, this is a perfect option.
Staff was friendly. There’s AC, bathroom for sharing, and they offer free light breakfast and coffee. With a good view outside, new friends to have breakfast with, a great adventure ahead, coffee does taste good. Better.
The second time around in Palawan, my goal was to visit El Nido to see Nacpan and Calitang beaches and the Snake Island. Tour operators offer packages that they call A, B, C, D, and Inland Tours. Packages usually start from Php1400/head up, which may already include the Php200 environmental fee. For a first timer in El Nido, Tour A might be a good place to start. It’s the most popular and its route is near to the El Nido town where you will come from. This tour brings you to famous destinations such as the Small Lagoon, the Big Lagoon, the Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and the Seven Commandos. If you wish to squeeze in another destination from another package (like what we did), you’ll have to negotiate with your tour operator about the price and you have to budget your time of stay in each. Your operator will tell you if what you want is possible or if it’s better to schedule another trip. In our case, we added the Snake Island to our Tour A. Imagine my happiness when I was told it was possible!
Our day’s journey (Sunday) started at 830AM. Our first stop –
You can explore the lagoon via kayaking or swimming. It was very calm and gentle that you wouldn’t believe it is connected to the same body of water you came from on your way. A lagoon’s tranquility can truly reassure and calm one’s heart. As our kayak glides through, you get reminded that everything is at its right place. My eyes got wet and it’s not because of water splashes from the lagoon.
One of the most popular spots in El Nido. You will see this a lot in travel magazines and videos. Here’s the already breathtaking entry point.
This is where we had our sumptuous lunch prepared by the tour operator. The boatmen prepare food for you on your way.
It was quite crowded. The small opening where you pass through in order to get to the lagoon was full of tourists. December is peak season for El Nido. That’s when we decided to have lunch and take photos instead.
Shimizu Island is a good spot to snorkel (Ok, every beach here can be a candidate). My first snorkeling was in Batangas years back and it was an awesome experience. It wasn’t easy for me. No water activity is ever easy for me, I struggle but I get by. Ha! And it is always fun. The sparkling clear water of Shimizu made more beautiful by the sun, is a sight to see.
It is exactly as I imagined it to be, stunning!
At first, our tour guide warned us that there are snakes in the island. Nice try to scare us, kuya Raffy! It’s good to know a little bit about a destination ahead of time. The sandbar that appears like a letter S, especially during low tide, is why it was named such. They say you can even walk your way to the next land.
We were lucky to have the island exclusive to us for the first hour. When we arrived, I wasn’t sure what to do first, whether to swim, hike up to see it from above, take photos, or just stare at it. I lost focus. IT. IS. GORGEOUS.
Among all the beaches we visited, this was the most tourist-packed. It has stores, rest spots, volleyball area, cottages, etc. When we asked our tourist guide why it was named as such, he said it goes back to an old story of 7 soldiers who reached the island and carved their names on the stone. Unfortunately, the carved stones are no longer there. But I could understand why people swarm over this beach. Aside from all the conveniences around, it is, also, beautiful.
Our island hopping ended at around 4PM. Needless to say, we were all tired and hungry. After freshening up, we walked the small street of El Nido town proper to get a bite of the most accessible food and get ready for dinner. The town is small. You will not be lost.
We were planning on having our dinner at Sea Slug or Art Cafe, but there were not enough seats when we dropped by. We ended up at Pukka Bar but was too early for the band. Sadly, we did not like the food very much and the wait time was very long. But hey, it’s beside the beach. It’s still fun!
We all got back to our hostel. Still thought the night was young, so I grabbed a friend to have some drinks. We went to L’jodec. Loved the cocktail I had. Food was amazing, too, according to a friend.
After a few drinks, we were joined by two more and we headed to Coco Bar, where my friend, Mars, got to bring more life to our night by doing what she does best – singing. Thanks to the owner, Doreen, for the very warm accommodation. She would also be our host for the breakfast the day after. Stay tuned! For the meantime, I recommend that you visit when you go to El Nido. They are located at the beach front area and you gotta try their pizza!
Here’s a photo of Doreen and my friend and host for this trip, Mars.
We went back to the hostel past midnight, dozed off to regain more energy for the next day – my most awaited day. Nacpan Beach Day!
A great breakfast by the sea, served by Coco Bar, was what started our day. They served the best daing! I forgot I was planning on eating light that day. I think this breakfast set all the good things that happened that day.
This day wasn’t as warm as the first. In fact, typhoon Nona was already paralyzing some parts of the country during this time. You could feel that the day was different – wind stronger, gloomy sky right after this breakfast, waves bigger. I was really worried that we won’t be able to visit Nacpan. I was so close to switching the plans the day before because I wanted to make sure Nacpan pushes through. Am glad the day went well.
To get to Nacpan, you have two choices – land and sea travel. Land travel will be about two hours and sea travel cuts it short. The sea travel, however, might be more adventurous when there is a threat of a storm. It was for us. In short, we trusted our lives into the capable hands of our tour operators and the boat captain. Whispered a prayer for our safety. Am sure my friends did, too! The ride was for almost an hour and it was bumpy, yeah! It actually felt longer than an hour.
Here’s a short video of our way to Nacpan.
Nacpan and Calitang twin beaches are located in Sitio Calitang. The small community that lives in it has, obviously, taken care of their hidden treasure so well.
I couldn’t even begin to describe how I felt when we finally reached the land. I immediately laid down the creamy sand – happy to be alive, happy to have reached this lifetime. It was an awesome feeling. I mean, how can you not fall for this kind of place?
We went up a hill to capture the most photographed spot of Nacpan and Calitang. We weren’t disappointed. IT. IS. BREATHTAKING.
Oh, I love my country!
Here’s a view of the southwest tip of Nacpan.
It wasn’t just the view that will stun you, the crystal clear water draws you to it.
It’s a perfect place to let go, relax, play, eat, and just live. All these made more special by the people I was with.
Lunch was already included in the package we signed up for. Look at how beautiful they prepared them. It was, indeed, a hearty Palawan meal.
It was difficult to leave this place. It is just wonderful. The boat ride back to the town proper was tougher. The huge waves looked like they were going to eat us. It felt like we were dragging ourselves to glide. We almost flipped just when we were nearer the port. But thanks to the boat captain for his maneuvering skills, we survived it. When we got to the port, one side of the boat was partially damaged. When these things happen, you realize that when you’re sailing the sea, you are always at its mercy. Thank God nothing bad happened.
We had to hurry back to the hostel and freshen up as our van going back to Puerto Princesa was already waiting for us. We weren’t too happy by our driver’s careless moves but we’re glad we made it safe to the city after numerous reminders for him to slow down. Not good.
In Puerto Princesa, we stayed at Sheebang Hostel & Judy’s Resto Bar. This time sharing it with other backpackers. Some of whom we got to travel with on a city tour. Amazing people!
Before our flight, we got to go around some places for a quick visit.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Balsahan Natural Park
At 3PM, we headed to the airport for our flight to Manila.
Whew! I have been to so many places in this country. Each place is a totally different destination from the rest. One thing’s for sure, I have never been this mesmerized by so many things in one place all at the same time in equal measure. I ran out of beautiful adjectives to use. It has set a standard for every beach I was going to see from here on. This is a place I will keep looking for and coming back to.
On our way back to Manila, the air travel wasn’t easy either. When we landed, we got stuck at the airport for a few hours and a few more on the road due to the heavy rains, flooding, and heavy traffic because of the typhoon. They didn’t even matter to me. When I got home, I was just happy to be on my bed, safe and alive, with thousands of memories in my head as I listen to my song of this trip.
Traveling teaches me this every day. I set off, sail, and see what’s out there. Then, come back a different, better (and usually, darker) person. Someone who appreciates every little thing around.
My photos may look like am just a traveling junkie having the best days of my life, but I am (and I become) more than that. Am worshiping my God every experience (speechless, for the most part, teary-eyed in some) and trusting Him in every rough time. El Nido became my church for one weekend.
Let me leave you this sunset we captured before we left El Nido.
Thanks to our gracious host, my friend, Mars Parao. For inquiries on travel packages and itineraries, she can get you to the right people via +6916-615-1856. Mention weparkandride as your source. Thanks!
Here’s a video of the travel. Am no expert in video capture and editing so please forgive the quality.
Related Post: Destination Puerto Princesa 2013