I finally made it to El Nido, Palawan after a 28 hour journey from Sagada. Although cloudy and a little rainy, I could tell I would love El Nido. Nestled around towering marble and limestone cliffs and green hills, El Nido (“the nest”) is a thriving tourist center, and probably the most popular destination in Palawan.
As I arrived and met some people at the hostel, I was convinced to sign up for a boat tour the next day that would take us island hopping. I woke up the next morning to extremely heavy rainfall – seriously like a wall of water coming down from the sky – and was told that this was the first time in several days that the tour was not cancelled due to bad weather (go figure). Some places we saw on the tour included Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach, Star Beach and the Matinloc Shrine. According to legend, the beaches and islands surrounding El Nido inspired Alex Garland’s novel The Beach, which was written while the author was living in El Nido. Incidentally I read the book here before knowing that.
That being said, you don’t need to do any of the tours to fully appreciate El Nido. In the 6 days I spent there, I must have spoken about those tours countless times, and with every single person I met (60% of the time, I was asked what tours I had done every time). Other possible non-tour activities include: renting motor bikes and driving to different non-tour beaches, renting kayaks and visiting different non-tour islands, and snorkeling (best snorkeling in Philippines – shout out to Isolde, pronounced Ees-old-dehh). There are plenty of great local places to eat (including a crepe stand with The. Best. Nutella. Crepe. Ever) and the two bars open at night are crazy fun.
Next stop for about 11 of us from the hostel in El Nido was Coron, famous for its World War II wreck diving. In 1944, a fleet of Japanese ships ships hiding in the harbour were sunk in a raid by the US Navy. As a result, there are about 10 well preserved underwater shipwrecks that have spawned beautiful coral reef (shout out to my diving buddies/kings Edward and Henry).
Apparently still tour crazed from El Nido, we hired a boat for all 11 of us one day and did our own island hopping, where we explored Coron Island and the Twin Lagoon (and plenty of snorkeling in between).
After a quick stop in Puerto Princesa, it was time to head back to Manila.
Next stop: Saigon, Vietnam!
MellowYellow rating: 💛💛💛💛💛
Traveler’s tips: there’s a ferry to/from Manila to/from Coron, but from what I heard it can take up to 24 hours (even though they claim it takes 16 hours) and it isn’t too much cheaper than flying to Puerto Princesa. The ferry to/from El Nido to/from Coron is bearable in good weather but pretty horrid otherwise, its a pretty small boat so 7 hours of choppy waves can be a bit rough. You can always fly to/from Coron but its about triple the price. I stayed at OMP in El Nido and at Kokosnuss Garden Resort in Coron, both highly recommended!