With a Filipino public holiday falling on a Friday (often they fall midweek), we thought it was too good an opportunity to miss going somewhere like Palawan which needed more than a weekend, mostly because of the long journey. We took the Thursday off work, so had 3 nights away.
We had heard that El Nido is the highlight on Palawan, and one of the highlights of the Philippines, so that’s where we headed.
To get there it is a bit of a trek… an hour’s flight from Manila to Puerto Princessa followed by a 6 hour road journey to El Nido. The last 1.5 hours is on dirt road! We had heard some horror stories about the minivans; mostly to do with them being completely packed and the roads being really bumpy. We were very lucky both ways – on the way North to El Nido we had a row of seats to ourselves and on the way back we booked onto a ‘daytripper’ minibus which has very comfortable seats, and only 9 of them (not 14 or 17 as on the others). And the journey passed quite quickly – lots of lovely rural scenery to look at (including countless carabao, or water buffalo, lounging around in big muddy puddles) and a few comfort stops along the way. The minibus dropped us right at our accommodation too, which was an added bonus.
We stayed at Treetops in Corong Corong, just south of El Nido. It’s a very small B&B, with only 2 rooms. The rooms are more like mini-cottages, built all out of local lumber on a platform so you really felt like you were in the treetops! It’s run by an English gent and his Filipina wife. Fresh fruit and juice when we arrived, a clean comfortable room and very peaceful. The breakfasts were superb, and Dave (the owner) cooked us a Thai meal one night. Delicious.
The weather wasn’t amazing whilst we were there, but it is the rainy season after all. We arranged an island hopping / snorkelling trip (Tour A) for our first full day there. There were only 4 of us on the boat and we visited 5 or 6 sites including a small lagoon, a big lagoon and a secret lagoon (obviously not so secret anymore). The sun came out for our first stop; it really made it feel like paradise with swimming-pool blue water. Stunning. We are so lucky to live in a place where we can escape to gorgeous beaches so easily.
We had a barbecued lunch on the beach – freshly caught white snapper (not caught by us!) and meat kebabs with rice, salad and mango for dessert. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.
The rain really came down at our last stop and by the time we got back to El Nido we were soaked. The only answer was a cup of tea. Well, for the girls anyway. Beer for the boys. A great day.
On our second day we decided just to go for a half day trip, mostly so we could have some chill-out time in the morning. Again the weather wasn’t amazing, but it didn’t rain until we got back so we managed to stay fairly dry. Until we had to get off the boat back at El Nido and the water came up to our waists! Mr H had changed into a dry pair of shorts so he was less than impressed! Oh well. The islands that we visited were gorgeous – Helicopter Island with a long beach and Paradise Island which we had all to ourselves.
El Nido is a small town, but due to the number of tourists there are lots of eateries and shops selling souvenirs. We ate at Altrove, an Italian restaurant run by a Czech guy. It has great promise (a wood-fired stone oven cooking the pizza), but perhaps because it was the low season it didn’t quite deliver. The food was ok, but they didn’t have a lot of the more interesting options on the menu. On the second night we ate at a French restaurant – La Salangane. The service and the food were excellent.
What it does lack though is an ATM. There are 2 establishments which take credit cards, and for the rest you have to pay in cash. Luckily our B&B would accept a PayPal payment otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to afford to eat for half of our trip. I had totally underestimated the amount of cash we would need!
We had a bit of a wait for our flight in Puerto Princessa, so we stopped off at Cafe Itoy. A great place serving many varieties of coffee, cake and food. An unexpected find in a provincial town.
Definitely a recommended trip if you have a few days to spare.