El Nido is the top tourist destination on the island of Palawan. Even though the locals will tell you to spend less time here and more time in Port Barton, I’m going to tell you otherwise. If you read my Cebu blog I mentioned that having a car was essential to be able to fit in the amount of things we were able to do in one day, but on Palawan I’d say skip it. Unlike Cebu, on Palawan there’s less places that you would actually need a car to get to so if your are flying into Puerto Princesa just take up one of the offers you will get in the baggage claim area to get to your first destination. Most of the people will be saying, “El Nido” to you if you look like a tourist, or if you are willing to pay the extra money you can actually fly directly into El Nido which can save you about five hours of driving.
The National Park
My friend Konstantin and I had 8 days on island so we were in no rush to get to El Nido right away. We didn’t know any better so we actually did pay for a rental to get around which looking back there was no need. Either way we first drove to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. It was only about an hour and forty-five minute drive from the airport. I’d say it’s a must see stop, but don’t expect to get any good pictures. This is more just to take it in, and learn about this natural wonder. Also the whole process was very confusing. You essentially have to make friends fast in order to ride in the same boat to get there. First your are required to pay a conservation tax around $15 USD as well as pay for the boat to get to the actual cave. If you can fill the boat full with people you’ll pay less individually because the boat is the same price regardless of how many people are being taken in it. The experience in the cave is actually really mind blowing! You get to listen to an audio recording the whole time to learn about what you’re seeing as your guide paddles your through the cave.
After checking out the national park we decided to drive to El Nido. During our stay we knew there would be a lot of rain so we wanted to get to El Nido right after the national park to get the best chance for a good day on a tour. The main thing to on Palawan is the island tours. If you are unfamiliar with how it works, all the beautiful limestone sea cliffs, turquoise blue water, and secluded beaches are nothing you can drive to. Somewhere in El Nido you’ll need to book a tour to be able to see all the of these things. We waited out 3 days in the pouring rain when all the streets in El Nido were flooded with a foot of water until we finally got a good day. The tour company kept saying, “Wait until Monday! Wait until Monday,” because they thought that Monday would give us the best chance for good weather. They were right! When Monday finally came the rain cleared and it was a beautiful sunny day for us to get our chance on a tour! The best tours to get on are A & C, and the locals will tell you the same. The number one thing I can recommend to you is GET A PRIVATE TOUR! I cannot stress this enough because it will make your experience that much better. Yes, it is a little more money I think around $140 USD to do a combination tour for A & C at once, but it is absolutely worth it! On a combination tour you will be out all day from the early morning until sunset to fit in both tours, and I can almost guarantee this will be the best thing you do on Palawan. On the normal tours you are packed with at least 15 people on the same boat, and are restricted to the boat captain’s time. When you book a private tour you can spend as much time as you want in any location, and you will be able to get all the photos you want as other tours come and go. If your captain is smart he may even do your tour in reverse to be able to visit certain islands at non-peak times around the main tours. I couldn’t say if it’s true or not for the regular tours, but we ate a delicious fresh feast that they made for us on the boat with fish that one of the workers caught while we were free diving. This meal in paradise was one of the best thing about the Philippines for me. The last thing on our tour was when Konstantin and I spent about an hour and a half in the Small Lagoon on kayaks. Spending this much time here would never be possible on a regular tour. For the small lagoon don’t forget to BRING CASH to be able to rent kayaks. It’s sort of how they get the tourists into spending more money, but entering the small lagoon on a kayak is a must do, and another one of the best things we did in the Philippines!
Other than El Nido we didn’t have much else we wanted to see. On that first day we drove to El Nido we actually did drive to Nacpan Beach to spend the night. Pictures do make this place look better than it is because I was expecting more of a private beach, but it was packed with a resort and small beach houses lining the sand. If you do need to do laundry on Palawan you can actually do it yourself in Spin Hostel with their little machine. It really isn’t much and takes some figuring out to get it done but better than nothing. Going back the one thing I would love to do is hike Taraw Peak. I wanted to go up when we were there, but it was closed because of all the rain so there was no guide that would take us. I’m not sure if a guide is necessary or not, but everything I read online suggested a guide so you don’t get lost. If the weather had been better during our stay we would have loved to catch a ferry to Coron. I kept hearing it’s just as amazing if not better than Palawan, but we wasted so much time waiting out the bad weather so we skipped it. We also weren’t sure if we’d get good weather if we did decide to go.
After the tour we didn’t really have much more we wanted to do in El Nido so we decided to drive to Port Barton for our last couple days to see what the locals were talking about. After spending most of our time in El Nido where there is a really fun scene of people and beautiful islands, Port Barton didn’t even compare in my mind. It’s absolutely more quiet and laid back which could be perfect for just taking it easy, but there really isn’t a whole lot to do. They also do island tours there and try to make them look as good as El Nido, but the islands aren’t as pretty and I think there’s really no comparison. Instead of paying for a tour Konstantin and I rented a kayak to go see what we could on our own. While not as all as good as El Nido and a very far paddle, I think it was the best way to see Port Barton. Not to hate on Port Barton too much because I did hear there is some beautiful beaches nearby, but everything from the things to do, the town, the food, and scenery just all weren’t as good as El Nido in my opinion.
Obviously, if you are going to spend all day out on the water with a tour wear lots of sunscreen, and although I never had the chance to hike Taraw Peak, everything I read said wear good shoes for the sharp limestone rocks. A very important thing to remember about El Nido is DON’T DRINK THE WATER! Even our local friends from Cebu refused to drink it because it’s known to get people sick. Lastly, wear shoes on the beaches around El Nido. Their beaches are disgusting, and I got a pretty nasty cut on my foot from a rusted can when I was dragging our kayak out of the water on one of the rainy days. If the cut had been any worse it could have ruined the rest of our trip so don’t take the chance. Overall Palawan is a very safe place to vacation.
This blog is for information purposes only and I ACCEPT NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INJURY, LOST INDIVIDUALS, OR LEGAL TROUBLE ENCOUNTERED WHILE FOLLOWING THE INFORMATION POSTED HERE.