At the very tippy top of an island in The Philippines called Palawan, is the town of El Nido. El Nido is a popular destination for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is because of its gorgeous pristine beaches. You might have even seen El Nido featured on lists like “Top Ten Most Beautiful Beaches in the World.”
But Trust Me When I Say It Should Be Number One!
Ron and I had been thinking about trying to make it to The Philippines for quite awhile, and when a flight from South Korea to Palawan popped up for $50 we couldn't say no! We had been teaching in Changwon, South Korea for a year with only the weekends and a heaping 6 vacation days, and so we were beyond excited to be on our way to see these legendary beaches I kept reading about on all of these “Best Beaches” lists.
After arriving in The Philippines we found that getting around was a little easier said than done, but don't worry we put together a little information on Transportation in The Philippines to help you out!
For now, let me give you some screen saver worthy eye candy along with some information about the tours.
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Which Tour Should You Choose?
Once you've made your way to El Nido, it’s time for you to choose an island hopping tour. You can choose between tour A, B, C, or D.
A and C are consistently rated as the most popular, and so we ended up going with tour A, which includes Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7 Commando Beach. Any of the tours can be booked a few different ways. You can book through your guest house/hotel, a booking agency which you can just find on the street throughout the town, or in advance through a company like Klook.com
We didn't book in advance, but we asked a couple of different guesthouses and travel agencies about their prices once we arrived. The guest house we were staying at ended up having the best price, and so we went with them. It's worth noting that the guest houses and travel agencies are selling tickets for the same one or two boating companies- so it doesn't really matter all that much who you buy a ticket from.
How Much Does It Cost?
Prices start at about 1,200 PHP ($23) and you are required to pay a 200 PHP Eco-tourism development fee before boarding the boat, which is good for up to 10 days. Your ticket will also typically include lunch for while you are on the boat. We were served a massive spread of everything from fresh grilled fish to a whole variety of sliced fruits I had never even seen before! *If you are vegan/vegetarian, let the company know in advance and they will be sure to have something delicious for you!*
7 Commandos Beach
We started the tour by visiting 7 Commandos Beach. It was a pristine beach that had little huts selling fresh coconuts and refreshments. We relaxed in the shallow surf while soaking in the beauty of where we were and what we accomplished to get there.
The Big Lagoon
We splashed around in the water and went on a nice walk. Later we headed back to the boat and were chartered off to the Big Lagoon.
Pro Voyager Tip - Make Sure to Wear Water Shoes!
Don't make the same mistake we did, and be sure to pay attention before you get on the boat when they are giving out the gear you will need for the day. We somehow managed to grab a snorkel and mask but no water shoes.
We were already out to sea when our guide informed everyone that we had to wear water shoes while swimming to shore. He went on to tell us that someone had recently just died from stepping on a stone fish! We made it to the beach this time but we weren't quite so lucky a few days later...check out our unfortunate story of How The Sea Urchin Killed My Buzz.
Fortunately, we survived the swim/walk into the Big Lagoon without water shoes. We spent the rest of our time taking pictures and checking out what was beneath the picturesque blue-green water.
The Small Lagoon
Nex,t we headed to the Small Lagoon. This was by far my favorite stop on our tour. The coral and marine life we saw on our way into the lagoon was absolutely breathtaking! I decided to take a kayak while Ron snorkeled his way over from the boat.
Food for thought
Scientists believe the big and small lagoons used to be caves millions of years ago. Eventually, the roofs collapsed -leaving the lagoons you see today.
The Secret Lagoon and Shimizu Island
Nex,t we were taken to the Secret Lagoon and Shimizu Island. I felt like Richard from “The Beach” climbing through the small hole leading into the secret lagoon. I won't tell you too much about it because, duh, it's a secret.
Shimizu Island has massive cliffs and boulders you can maneuver your way around. I kept asking myself, "Is this real life?!" Over and over again.
Birds Nest Soup?
All around Shimizu Island you'll find swiftlets (a type of bird). They're famous because their nests are used to make birds nest soup. Some Chinese cultures believe that this soup has special healing powers. One kilogram of swiftlet nest material can be worth up to $2,500! No wonder we saw boats cautiously guarding the nests.
Ron and I decided to spend a few more days in El Nido before catching a van over to the other side of Palawan to Tapik Beach.
We enjoyed the next 4 days at the Tapik Beach Guest House. We quickly noticed were the only people at the whole resort! The staff was amazing, and they treated us like kings!
We had the chance to go on one more island hopping tour just the two of us and had every beach to ourselves.
Before you go to El Nido, you will most likely fly into Puerto Princesa- and it's definitely a destination in itself. Check out what there is to do there before you head up to El Nido!