DIY Adventures: Travel Guide to El Nido – Getting There and Around, and Where to Stay

 

El Nido, known for the spellbinding Bacuit Archipelago, has always held a special spot in my heart. More than the fabulous white sand beaches, dazzling karst formations and water of aquamarine shades, you can’t help but fall in love with the relaxed atmosphere of this seemingly sleepy beach town.

Yes, there events like full moon parties and fluorescent raves, and more than a few awesome bars along the shore, but these aren’t what makes El Nido such mindboggling treat for the senses. You find your way to this wonderland for the rare slices of epic natural beauty, witnessing it all with a chilling-in-the-tropics vibe.

 

Getting There

 

There are many options for you to choose from, the most popular of which is via Puerto Princesa. Transportation choices will vary depending on the level of comfort you want and of course how much you’re willing to cough up to get to the promised land. 😉

 

Drive Along the Highway

From Puerto Princesa – Ride a van, bus or private car. If you’ve flown to Puerto Princesa, go to the San Jose Terminal. There, you can find vans and buses that will take you to El Nido and other stops in Northern Palawan (e.g. Taytay, Roxas, etc.).

  • Bus:

    • From/to San Jose Bus Terminal, Puerto Princesa (with s
      tops in Taytay & Roxas)
    • Travel Time: 6-7 hours
    • Cherry Bus:
      • Php 350-480
      • 5AM – 9PM, leaves every 2 hours
    • Roro Bus:
      • Php 320-450
      • Php 4AM – 10PM, leaves every 2 hours
      • +63-998-184-6761, +63-917-597-1182
  • Van:

    • From/to Puerto Princesa
    • Travel Time: 4.5-5 hours
    • Rates: Php 500+ or 600 with pickup
    • Eulen Joy:  +63-999-709-3766, email:  eulenjoyexpress@yahoo.com
    • Camarih:  +63-917-8497646, email: camarihtransport@gmail.com

 

From Other Points in Palawan – In Roxas and Taytay, you can hop on/off the vans or buses above. You can also ride a van to/from Sabang (Php 800) and Port Barton (Php 500 with Recaro Van @ +63-930-568-3429 or +63-915-262-6298).

 

Sail the Seas

If you’re planning to do Coron as well as El Nido, there are boats that sail between the two destinations. Fast ferries, cargo ships and outrigger pump boats  go to El Nido from Coron and vice versa.

  • Montenegro Lines fast craft
    • Daily, Php 1500-1760 for 3.5 hours
    • Contact: +63+917-496-2009, +63-998-985-1428
  • Outrigger boats
    • Daily, Php 1400+ for 5-9 hours
    • Jessabel: :+63-918-967-6837 to 38 / +63- 915-850-1391
    • Bunso: +63-910-720-8443 / +63-906-637-4258
  • MV May Lillies
    • Weekly, Php 1000-1150 for 8 hours

Tao Philippines also offers adventurous travelers a chance to go on a 5-day island safari, stopping at various islets and island communities.

 

Fly In

Flying is the most expensive option, but it’s also the quickest and the most hassle free. One-way tickets range from around 4,000 to 7,500. As of May 2017, you can fly in from Manila, Mactan (Cebu), Clark and Caticlan (Boracay) on Air Swift. Flights can be booked through the airline’s website (www.air-swift.com), an authorized travel agent or their call center hotline at +63-02-318-5941 and +63-02-318-5943.

 

In & Around El Nido

 

El Nido’s Poblacion (town proper) is quite small, so all you need to do is walk. From end to end, I’d say it’s a 15-minute walk across. Just be sure to keep swimsuits covered when traipsing about; roaming the streets in bikinis and teeny tiny Speedos are no-nos. Respect the local culture please, like the legit and savvy traveler you are.

To get to other picturesque barangays/beaches of mainland El Nido, you can rent a motorbike or jump on a trike. Bikes range from Php 450 (fully automatic scooters) to Php 800 (manual transmission dirt bike).Newbies are advised to take a scooter.

A tricycle ride to Corong-corong is Php 20-25/person (or about 15-20 minutes’s walk if you fancy). To Marimegmeg & Las Cabanas, you’ll pay Php 35-50, depending on your haggling skills. A Nacpan trip will cost you about Php 900-1300. Again, you gotta flex those negotiation muscles to get a lower price.

And how about reaching the islands and the seemingly infinite coves and beaches waiting to be explored for the day?

For roaming the islands of Bacuit Archipelago, sailing around the bay and getting up close to those awe-inspiring karst cliffs, join a tour group or get a private tour on outrigger boats or speed boats.

We joined Spider Travel and Tours for our last trip. The team of boatmen were funny and enthusiastic. They made sure we got our money’s worth in experiences, beautiful views, amazing snorkeling and good photos. They also went out of their way to find better lunch spots if areas got too crowded, and assisted all the weak swimmers in exploring sites so they wouldn’t miss out. I especially like that last part, because a couple foreigners on our tour couldn’t swim, but never once were they asked to remain on the boat. El Nido’s a place everyone can enjoy, and the boatmen helped those with swimming worries realize that.

 

Accommodation

 

In the past five years, Terry and I have seen so many hotels, inns, resorts and hostels pop up in El Nido. And that’s just in the Poblacion. While it can be a bit worrying for nature lovers like myself, it’s good for tourism & the town’s progress in general. You have variety in accommodation type, amenities and price. Below is a list of places for the everyday traveler, arranged according to location.

 

Poblacion / El Nido Town Proper

  • Biolina Guesthouse (Inn) – Calle Lisang or Lisang St., Brgy. Maligaya near Villa del Vincejos
    • Private rooms for 2-3 pax and dorm-style rooms for 4-6 pax all have private bathrooms; free Wi-Fi, coffee and towels/linens
    • Php 1200-1500 for rooms good for 2-3 pax
    • Contact: +63-907-527-8584, +63-916-217-6130, @BiolinaGuesthouse on Facebook
    • We’ve stayed at Biolina for all 3 of our trips to El Nido. Every time, the super nice owners (Ate Maribel and Kuya Ronnie) have gone above and beyond with their hospitality. Our last trip, we decided to show up a day early, arriving at 3AM. With only a few hours’ notice by text,  they had prepared an empty dorm for us to crash in until our reserved rooms were ready the next day (our original day of arrival). They didn’t even charge us a half day rate even though we used the aircon room from 3AM to noon.
    • We’ve also  pointed friends and family in their direction, and have gotten awesome feedback (a surprise party  when the owners found out it was one guest’s birthday; a complimentary Christmas noche buena meal for all the guests). They do special and thoughtful things for the guests like that, making your stay an unforgettable one.
    • Just a FYI: If you need any tips on what sights to see beyond the tours, the owners and their daughter, Kim, have some good info for day trips outside the town proper – beaches, resorts and mangrove areas up north.
  • Edleah’s Inn – Serena St., Brgy. Buena Suerte
    • Private rooms with bathrooms; free Wi-Fi, coffee and linens/towels
    • Contact: +63-930-320-1875, @EdleahsInnElnido29 on Facebook
  • El Nido Viewdeck Cottages – Balinsasayaw Road, Brgy. Maligaya
    • Fan and A/C native cottages with views from terrace; free breakfast, linens/towels and Wi-Fi
    • Php 1000-2500 for 2 pax
    • Contact: +63-927-723-4067, inquiry@elnidoviewdeck.com, http://elnidoviewdeck.com, @elnido.viewdeckinn on Facebook
  • Balay Paragua (B&B) – Lisang St., Brgy. Maligaya
    • Private rooms with bathrooms; free Wi-Fi, coffee and linens/towels
    • Contact: +63-925-886-0414, +63-915-745-2553, paragua_23@yahoo.com
  • Bulskamp Inn (Inn) – Osmena St., Brgy. Masagana
    • Private rooms for 2 pax (twin or double)
  • Our Melting Pot (Hostel) – Calle Real, Brgy. Buena Suerte (beside the municipal hall)
    • Dorm beds; free Wi-Fi, breakfast and linens
    • Php 500-700 for a dorm bed
    • Contact: +63-906-412-7861, omphostel.elnido@gmail.com, @ourmeltingpotelnido on Facebook
  • Spin Designer Hostel (Hostel) – Balinsasayaw Road cor. Calle Real
    • Private rooms and dorm beds all with ensuite bathrooms; Free Wi-Fi
    • Php 3000 for a private room (1-2 pax), Php 1000 for a dorm bed
    • Contact: +63-917-566-7746, spinhostelph@gmail.com

 

Corong-corong

  • Outpost Beach Hostel (Hostel) – beachfront, Sitio Lugadia, Brgy. Corong-Corong
    • Private rooms and dorm beds; free Wi-Fi and towels/linens
    • Php 500-700 for a dorm bed, Php 2300+ for a private room for 2 pax
    • Contact: +63-945-128-1729, outposthostels@gmail.com, @outpostbeachhostel on Facebook
  • The Birdhouse (Glamping) – above Maremegmeg Beach, Brgy. Corong-corong
    • Glamping tents on platforms overlooking the bay, with private bathrooms
    • Php 5500 per tent good for 1-4 pax
    • Contact: +63-995-766-7346, +63-998-318-8918, thebirdhouseelnido@gmail.com, www.thebirdhouseelnido.com

 

Duli Beach

  • Duli Beach Resort – beachfront on Duli Beach, Brgy. Bucana
    • Bungalows on the beach with porches and private bathroom; free breakfast
    • Php 2500 per bungalow for 2 pax

 

Nacpan Beach

  • Jack’s Place (Inn, campsite) – beachfront on Nacpan Beach
    • Bungalows, tents for rent, camping area (for those with own tents)
    • Php 500 for 2-person tent (w/ mattress, pillows, blanket); Php 150 per person if you have your own tent
    • Contact: +63-995-237-4811, jacksplacenacpanbeach@gmail.com
  • Hammock Homestay – about 500m from Nacpan Beach
    • Bamboo/nipa huts for 2, dorms for groups
    • Php 300-450 per person
    • Contact: +63-917-665-6614, hammockhomestay@gmail.com
  • Mad Monkey

At the time of writing this blog post, I found out that Mad Monkeys is planning to open hostels in El Nido proper and Nacpan. The hostel chain is pretty well known in Cambodia, where I came across it. It was pretty cheap. I don’t know if their affordability translates to the Philippines though.

 

Caalan

  • Caalan GK (Homestay) – Gawad Kalinga Sunset Village, Caalan, El Nido
    • Cooperative-run homestays and restaurant
    • Contact: +63-946-217-7310, +63-905-460-4723, caalangk@gmail.com
  • Cadlao Resort – Cadlao Resort
    • Private rooms and bungalows (seaside, poolside, garden, family)

 

The majority of inns and guesthouses in El Nido are owned by local residents and run by them and their families. I highly encourage you to support the local community by patronizing these establishments. The same goes for homestays and food.

Happy planning! 😀

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Marian Ledesma works full-time at Greenpeace SEA - Philippines, an environmental non-profit. She started R2R with Terry, her partner in crime. Marian has a love affair with good books, movies, music and photography. She also thinks writing about herself in the third person is somewhat disturbing.

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