Mornings at El Nido
El Nido. The name itself projects an image of lunch on a remote white sand beach, or of a kayak making its way in a wide turquoise lagoon with limestone cliffs towering in the background.

My wife and I had previously planned for an El Nido getaway in December 2011. Unfortunately, we had to cancel the trip due to work and personal reasons. Luckily, our plane tickets were bought during a fare promotion and canceling the trip wasn’t too painful on the pocket. So, our El Nido dream remained a dream.

Fast forward to 2013. Election fever was on, but we still didn’t have a local trip for the year; so for the first time since being able to vote, we boycotted the elections and booked a trip to El Nido instead. 

Puerto Princesa to El Nido

I’ve heard of cramped leg room in van services plying the Puerto Princesa – El Nido route. Since I wanted us to arrive in El Nido relaxed and without deep vein thrombosis, I booked with Daytripper for the Puerto Princesa – El Nido van transfer. Daytripper only has two 10 or 12-seater coaches that alternate between PP and EN during the day, taking 5 to 6 hours each way. Unfortunately, the van we were supposed to take had to be taken to the repair shop for urgent repairs. Daytripper instead arranged for a regular van to ferry us to El Nido that day. Leg room was smaller than Daytripper’s vans, but in hindsight was definitely more tolerable than the regular van we took on the return trip.

Last 60 kilometers to El Nido

Last 60 kilometers to El Nido

Arrival in El Nido

Arrival in El Nido

Arrival in El Nido

We arrived in El Nido town proper after less than 6 hours on the road. The van dropped us at Lally and Abet Beach Resort at the eastern end of town. After settling down, we hired a tricycle to take us to the beach at the border of Nacpan and Calitang. The road to Nacpan is slowly being upgraded to concrete much like the highway from Puerto Princesa. Our tricycle driver said progress with road concreting in El Nido usually increases in the run-up to elections. The ride takes 45 minutes each way on rough road, but the bumpy sacrifice is well worth it.

Nacpan Beach

Nacpan Beach

A short trek up the hill at the end of the beach provides a best view of the twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang.

Nacpan and Calitang Twin Beach

Nacpan and Calitang Twin Beach

With rain clouds fast approaching, we hurried back to our rented trike. As a parting shot, mother nature showed off not just one, but two rainbows.

Double Rainbow

Double Rainbow

Island Hopping Tours

Island hopping spots in the Bacuit Archipelago are grouped based on their proximity to each other. Island hopping tours are offered at almost every shop and resort in town, but prices are standard and stops of each tour don’t vary much. We just signed up for the tours at our resort’s front desk one day before the tour.
 

On day 2 we joined tour C, which took us to Matinloc Island’s Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine, and Helicopter Island. Before leaving town, an officer collects a P200 tourism fee from every tourist. This fee is good for ten days in El Nido.

"Head" Island

“Head” Island

Entrance to Hidden Beach

Entrance to Hidden Beach

Hidden Beach

Hidden Beach

Passageway to Secret Beach

Passageway to Secret Beach

Helicopter Island

Helicopter Island (more like Chickenjoy island)

El Nido marine life

Watch out for these in shallow water

El Nido marine life

Snorkeling near Helicopter Island

El Nido marine life

Marine life near Helicopter Island

El Nemo

Poor clownfish. Even locals now call him “Nemo”.

Too bad we were not able to stop at Matinloc Shrine because a lot of boats were docked at the area at that time. We just made an extra stop at another remote beach.
 

We reserved tour A for our final day in El Nido as this was undoubtedly the highlight of any El Nido trip. Tour A itinerary includes the stuff of travel brochures: Miniloc Island’s Big and Small Lagoon, lumped with snorkeling at Shimizu Island, lunch on Entalula Island and bumming around on Seven Commandos beach.

Entrance to small lagoon

Entrance to Small Lagoon

Entrance to Big Lagoon

Entrance to Big Lagoon

Shimizu Island

Shimizu Island

After island hopping, we still had a couple of hours to spare to walk around town.

Lazy Trio at the town beach

Lazy trio at the town beach

Captions

Funny captions

Had we arrived in El Nido a few weeks earlier, weather would have been perfect. However, short bursts of rain frequently drenched us as it was already mid-May. But it didn’t matter. El Nido was still beautiful in the rain.

Trip Tips:

  1. When transiting from Puerto Princesa to El Nido and back, take the most comfortable transport option you can afford. You wouldn’t want to spend your vacation with sore legs or back pain. For those with the money to spare, reviews of Daytripper have been good. If you have the luxury of time, take the airconditioned Roro Bus which makes the trip in 6-7 hours depending on the bus driver’s temperament.
  2. For those taking regular vans, try to get the front or 2nd row seats which have relatively better leg room.
  3. Stay in El Nido town proper for better access to beachfront restaurants and other commercial establishments. For those who prefer a bit of solitude and better sunset views, choose from resorts in Corong-Corong outside the town proper.
  4. Electricity in El Nido is available from 2pm to 6am only. Luckily we were there on Election Day, and electricity was available all day. Hooray for automated elections!

Itinerary:

Day 1:

  • Early morning flight, Manila to Puerto Princesa (1h)
  • Van ride, Puerto Princesa to El Nido (5-6h)
  • Tricycle tour to Nacpan-Calitang Twin Beach (2.5-3h)

Day 2:

  • El Nido Island Hopping Tour C:
  • Hidden Beach
  • Secret Beach
  • Talisay Beach lunch (actually just lunch under a Talisay tree)
  • Helicopter Island

Day 3:

  • El Nido Island Hopping Tour A:
  • Small Lagoon
  • Big Lagoon
  • Shimizu Island
  • Entalula Island lunch
  • Seven Commandos Beach

Day 4:

  • Van ride, El Nido to Puerto Princesa
  • Late lunch at Puerto Princesa
  • Late afternoon flight, Puerto Princesa to Manila