Summer Goal: El Nido Getaway (Budget Travel Guide 2017)

          Hello summer! We’ve been waiting for you to arrive and this is it.  It is officially summer for the year 2017. My friends and I are so excited to start our bucket list for this year. One of the first travel destinations in our list is El Nido, Palawan. It is currently ranked #4 in Condé Nast Traveler‘s list of “20 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World.” It is also called the Best Beach and Island destination in the Philippines by a Lifestyle Travel Magazine for its extraordinary, natural, splendor, and ecosystem. El Nido is situated in Bacuit Bay covering a land area of 465.1 square kilometres (179.6 sq mi) in the northernmost tip of mainland Palawan. It is composed of 45 islands and islets, each has its own unique geological formations.

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The stunning Secret Lagoon

MAKE IT HAPPEN!

       The fastest way to get to El Nido, Palawan is to book a direct flight via Air Swift, the only boutique airline offering daily roundtrip flights from Manila to El Nido. Travel time takes one (1) hour. But as for our trip, I’ve been always looking for a seat sale promo via Philippine Airline (PAL) or Cebu Pacific.  Fortunately, I’ve seen a seat sale promo last July 2016 via Cebu Pacific  to and fro Puerto Princesa with travel period from October 2016 to March 2017.  Airfare ticket only costs Php1,500.00 roundtrip per person.  Yes you read it right! Not bad for a round trip airfare huh! I hurriedly made an advanced booking for March, 2017 via online and paid the cost within 24 hours from booking. From Manila to Puerto Princesa, it took us one (1) hour and thirty (30) minutes travel time. Then, we booked a van transfer from Puerto Princesa Airport to El Nido via Lexxus Shuttle Services with contact no. 09175859613. Fare costs Php600.00/pax for one way with 5 to 6 hours travel time.  Lexxus’ staff picked us up at the Puerto Princesa airport going to El Nido. Another van transfer option is Daytripper. Just click the blue link for schedules, bookings and reservations. Thereafter, we took a tricycle from El Nido van terminal to the hotel for Php50.00 per ride. I opted to book a flight to Puerto Princesa then via land transportation to El Nido route. Why? Because it was the most popular and cheapest way to get to El Nido, Palawan. 

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ACCOMMODATION:

     Before our trip to El Nido Palawan, we had an advanced hotel booking via TravelBook.ph. It is the fastest growing online hotel booking services that aims to promote Philippine tourism and currently has over 2,000 hotels all over the Philippines. Book and reserve a room at TravelBook.ph website for cheaper and discounted rates. Click the Book Now button below.

     We opted to book our accommodation at P. Gomez Pension house via  TravelBook.ph  for two nights and had a good stay! We just wanted a clean room with comfy beds, air conditioned, veranda, and a clean private bathroom with complimentary breakfast and that’s exactly what we got. The staff was very friendly and it was very centrally located. This place is located at the town proper of El Nido. It is a 2-3 minutes walk going to the shore, St. Francis of Assisi Church and Canopy Trail. I recommend this hotel for budget-friendly accommodation. Just click the blue link to book and reserve.

ISLAND HOPPING TOUR:

        Finally, we were already in El Nido after a long winding roadtrip from Puerto Princesa Airport. When we got there, we were mesmerized by the beauty of El Nido. It was worth it! We arrived in our hotel at 2:30P.M. Since it was our first day, we just stroll around the shoreline where restaurants and bars are located. My friends and I decided to schedule our whole day island hopping tour the next day. We booked our Island Hopping Tour via Lexxus Shuttle Services. Lexxus is not just a land transport provider but also an island tour services in Palawan.  There are four (4) main island hopping tours in El Nido which consist of Tour A, B, C, & D. We opted to avail island hopping tour A which costs Php1,200.00 per person.  

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Restaurants and bar along the shoreline

All El Nido Island Hopping Tours are inclusive of:

  • Licensed big boat
  • Buffet lunch with water
  • Mask & snorkel
  • Life vest with safety equipments
  • Licensed tour guides 
  • Hotel pick-up

         Here we go! Our second day in El Nido was a blast! We were able to do the Island Hopping Tour A which was the most popular among the tours. We were picked-up by their staff in our hotel at 8:30A.M. The island hopping tour started at 9:00A.M until 5:00P.M. Since the big boat was for sharing, we met different tourists and travelers. Most of them were friendly foreigners. The dynamic of the trip was fantastic and the way the two (2) guides interacted with us was brilliant. They actually made the experience what it was plus we liked their sense of humor. Oh! What we loved most in our island hopping tour A was the stunning and breathtaking scenery of El Nido, Palawan. Moreover, we had explored the beautiful and preserved islands, clear water lagoons, white sand beaches, snorkeling sites and their hundred of fishes and coral species.

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Jump off point for island hopping tour

Our El Nido Island Hopping Tour A includes: (from farthest to nearest)

  • 1st stop: Secret Lagoon 

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     It is indeed a secret pocket place amidst the big rock formations in the island. The boats park very far from the actual lagoon and then we have to swim and get to the opening of the cave. Flexibility is needed to get into the lagoon entrance which is just a hole. Once inside, we were mesmerized by the beauty of the rocks around and the cold water. Outside the secret lagoon is a beach with good back drop and awesome rock formations. It was a secret no more since the place was kinda crowded, but worth a visit. 

  • 2nd stop: Shimizu Island

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           It is a perfect beach for a sumptuous lunch. We stayed here for snorkeling and lunch as part of Tour A. It is one of the best snorkeling sites in El Nido with crystal clear water, blue sky and white sand. The current was quite strong when we went here but we kept pretty close to the banca.  Marine life was very diverse and the corals look really beautiful. Much as we want to stay longer, we were only allowed to snorkel for roughly 30 minutes. Thereafter, we had a sumptuous lunch personally prepared and cooked by our tour guides.  They prepared a buffet lunch which includes rice, grilled pork belly, grilled chicken, buttered shrimp, vegetable salad, watermelon and bananas with mineral water.

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  • 3rd stop: Small Lagoon

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           One of the highlights of the trip and this was actually our favourite. A magical lagoon with limestone cliffs that hide you from the ocean.We were lucky that we had a beautiful sunny day so the water was crystal green because of the trees around the lagoon. It doesn’t look like much from the outside but once we got in, we were amazed by the beauty!  We hired a kayak to go through this lagoon and it was simply breathtaking! It only costs Php300.00 per kayak good for two persons but worth the enjoyment. kayaking is the best way to enjoy this place. Be amazed with the majestic rock formations, crystal clear water, and different species of fish and other sea creatures. 

  • 4th stop: Big Lagoon

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       One of the best landscape of our island hopping! It was awesome to finally experience this place after seeing many beautiful pictures and videos. Big Lagoon is very beautiful with the high rising limestone cliffs surrounding it. The entrance to the Lagoon is very shallow that the water is only waist high. Our boat couldn’t get into the lagoon because it was low tide. We were offered either to swim or to rent a kayak. Swimming sounds interesting but you need to be an Olympic swimmer to experience the whole lagoon in the time frame you get. We rented a kayak at a price of Php300.00 good for two persons and paddled our way in. OMG! What a stunning place to be!

  • 5th stop: Seven Commando Beach

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         It is an amazing white sand beach with friendly locals working in the bars! It also has an amazing tree swing which you must try if you visit here. As others might have said, this beach can often be the first stop on your island hopping tour, but in our trip, it was the last stop. After all the lagoons, it was nice to have a long break at this lovely beach that now actually has a small shop and a bar at one end. We also had the chance to view the beautiful sunset. Clearly many of the boats stop here but still it was big enough to feel the serenity of the place. The beach was good for a photo ops and a quick dip.

 WHERE TO EAT:
There are several restaurants and bars to choose from in the heart of El Nido. Below are the list of restaurants and bars.

        It is a beachfront restaurant which offers variety of raw and ready to serve sea food dishes. The ambiance of the place has sense of El Nido itself–nature, breeze, white sands and seas. We went here for dinner and we luckily got a table as soon as we arrived as the restaurant was very busy.  Service was chaotic but we did not encounter any problem. We ordered grilled pork with rice (Php250.00), grilled chicken with rice (Php250.00)Food was actually good!

Other bars and restaurants:

FEES AND EXPENSES:

  • Php1,500.00 – Cebu Pacific airfare ticket to and fro Puerto Princesa (roundtrip)
  • Php200.00 – Airport terminal fee (per person)
  • Php1,200.00 (600×2) – Lexxus van transfer ticket to and fro El Nido 
  • Php50.00 – tricycle going to El Nido hotel (one way per ride)
  • Php1,000 – Discounted hotel accommodation via Travelbook.ph (total of Php2,000  for two nights divided by 2 persons)
  • Php1,200 – Island hopping Tour A with buffet lunch (per person)
  • Php300.00 – kayak for small and big lagoon (total of Php600.00 divided by 2)
  • Php1,000 – foods (it depends on your budget)
  • Pasalubong – it depends on your budget

Total = Php6,450 per person

   Our memories of the ocean will linger on forever, long after our footprints in the sand are gone. Let the sea set you free! 

 
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