El Nido / Palawan Island - Philippines
With Nac Pan beach being crowned the 'Worlds most beautiful Beach' and Palawan Island crowned 'the worlds best island' three years running in 2017, you can see why millions of people flock here for that dream honey moon or bit of escapism.
My BIGGEST tip for El Nido specifically is to avoid tours. Since this stunning island has been given all this publicity it has attracted masses of tourism, and I found that to experience the real beauty of the place - you had to get out and go alone. The best days we experienced here were when we hired our own kayak, hired our own motorbike, and hired our own personal tour boat - away from all the millions of over excited tourists.
The day we arrived all the hotels were saying they were fully booked, but it seemed like a ghost town so we were some what confused.
In the end a teenage filipino boy came up to us on the street and asked if we were looking for a place to stay - to which we said yes! Anywhere! He thankfully gave us a spare room in his family home for 500 peso a night.
We freshened up explored a bit and walked along the completely empty beach front of El Nido, still confused at where were all the people?! We walked right to the far end and by the time we came back it was dinner time, where all the freshly caught fish was laid out on ice in front of the restaurants with BBQS fired up. All of a sudden masses and masses of people were bustling the streets and restaurants. We couldn't work out where these people all appeared from but got on with our dinner of BBQ'd Mahi Mahi with rice and veggies and went home.
En route home we decided we would book ONE tour just to get our bearings of the archipelago a bit before we hired our own kayak and set out to sea. We turned up in the morning, 9am, ready for our tour of various lagoons, beaches and Islands. I was amazed at what I saw on arrival to the beach where we were meeting our boat. You could not see a patch of sand due to the thousands of people trying to get onto tour bangkas. It honestly was like being at Glastonbury! There were so many Bangkas trying to 'fight for position' in the sea they were three deep all along the sea front trying to load up with tourists. This process took a good hour just to get loaded onto our boat.
So this is where I discovered all the people had been all day, everyday. They are away on various tours from 9am till 3pm, making El Nido look silent and empty.
Please understand I'm not telling this 'story' to put you off, I'm telling you to encourage you to be brave and go explore away from the tour groups, as you then will find you will have a truly magical and special experience of Palawan.
Tip One: Rent a Motorbike or Scooter. They are around 400 - 500 peso per day. You will save heaps doing this rather than paying to get taxi - tricycles everywhere.
Tip Two: Rent a Kayak for a day. You can rent Kayaks or paddle boards at Corong - Corong. Its a super quiet and close by beach to El nido. You can also rent kayaks from various shops along the main beach front in El Nido.
We kayaked across the sea about 2 1/2 hours to a completely remote empty island one day when the weather was right, spent the day there, ate fresh coconuts from the trees, snorkelled and smiled. All day long! Be safe and make sure you understand the currents of the ocean doing this though. Don't do it alone.
Cafes of Choice:
New El Nido Bakery - super cheap and tasty cakes and bakes.
CB Cafe - 50 Peso for a brewed coffee - good coffee too! Ace muffins and cookies and strong wifi.
Spin Hostel - The best breakfast in El Nido in my opinion. 200 peso per person for freshly cooked brekkie, pancakes, eggs, juice, the works.
Beaches! Of Course!
Nac Pan Beach - voted worlds most beautiful beach - and it really is a stunner. You can motorbike here, but be aware it is a bit of a long rough track to it. You have to pay 50 peso conservation permit to go on the beach, but you basically have to do that for every attraction in the Philippines.
Las Cabanas Beach - This was my favourite beach on this Island. Its super quiet, the sunsets are spectacular. Make sure you head here for AT LEAST one sunset - there are little beach bars with bean bags outside, with chilled music, good vibes and all round loveliness!
Asian Massage - A great massage parlour just outside of El Nido town towards Las Cabanas. Their reflexology is spot on and prices are reasonable.
Kaw-Yaw-Yaw Falls - Beautiful waterfalls and natural fresh water lagoons and plunge pools to cool off and chill out in. Worth a little ride out on a bike to see.
Getting to Coron from El Nido - Book your ferry AT LEAST 3 days in advance. The Fast ferry is ideally the one you want to get, and it is called 'The Monte Negra'. The office is near the BPI Bank, buy your tickets direct from here rather than all the travel touts. This way you are reassured you have bought a legit ticket and its for the best price too.
I hope you have an epic time here - its a real stunner - heres some photos to get you excited about what you are yet to see...