I was going to write a lengthy day-by-day account of my trip to El Nido, Palawan, but realized details can bore people, so instead here’s a summary of what I thought of our four-day, three-night trip.
El Nido Resorts can be reached by taking a 19-seater non-pressurized plane (be sure to pop your ears, and don’t mind the scary-looking smoke that gathers at your feet, that’s just the air-conditioning) to the small El Nido Airport. The trip only takes 1.5 hours (like driving from Alabang to Quezon City, LOL). Then you take a 40ish-minute boat ride to the island of choice. You’ll be transferred from big boat to speedboat, so wear shorts and slippers.
We stayed at Miniloc Island, in a cliff cottage that looked like a nipa hut but with air-conditioning. You can take a seaview or beach cottage too, but cliff cottage residents get more exercise by climbing up flights of stairs, and also you wake up to monkeys sitting on your front porch (seriously). Everything is provided – house slippers, toiletries and towels, unlimited bottled water – so you don’t need to bring anything.
The hotel package includes buffet meals (except snacks and drinks), and their menu is different from island to island. Food’s a hit or miss – the dishes are always varied and interesting (sushi, salad, pasta, grilled, hot pot, halo-halo, cake, etc) and sometimes it’s delicious and other times there’s no taste at all. But it’s still better than most hotels, and besides, it’s buffet 😉 There are vegetarian options for those so inclined.
Since you can go from island to island for free meals, I recommend eating at a different island each time, because some views are nicer than others.
Now to the good part – the package also includes free activities that are scheduled by your very own activity coordinator. It’s not a ‘lie down on the beach the whole day’ kind of place, though you could do that if you wanted. Truth was, I had no idea El Nido would be so physical 😉
Some of the activities I did were:
- Intro scuba dive – 15 minutes one-on-one with a divemaster. Scuba diving frightens me to death, which is exactly why I signed up for it. The divemaster took me down through schools of colorful fish, strange-looking coral, down to the deepest point where I was asked to touch some clownfish playing with a sea anemone (sticky!). The divemaster takes care of you pretty well so there’s no reason to fear, really.
- Lagoons tour – This is one of El Nido’s highlights. First we kayaked to the Small Lagoon (this involves kayaking through a very small crevice, so be prepared to lie down in your kayak and scrunch up like a sardine – not for the unadventurous). Then we explored the Big Lagoon, this time by boat. Both lagoons are quiet, beautiful corners of the world. (Floating weddings are done in the Big Lagoon as well. Hmm…)
- Pangulasian hike – We hiked up for an hour 300 feet above sea level, to the top of a mountain on Pangulasian Island. The hike is pretty easy, but be sure to wear non-slip shoes as some parts of the trail are unstable (especially after rain). A guide will take you up and down and you can ask to stop if you get tired. On the top is a 360 degree view of El Nido (though you have to climb up a steep tower to view it), and it’s beautiful. Wear dri-fit clothes and cross-trainers or hiking shoes and bring lots of water, as you’re going to sweat it out 😉
- Island hopping – I thought “island hopping” meant beach hopping, but this included cave exploring (you need to wade through water and then be agile enough to crawl through a hole to do this) and snorkeling in a shallow sandbar at Snake Island.
Sights and sounds
All of this is set against an amazing backdrop – clear blue water and majestic mountains as far as your eyes can see. El Nido has kept the resort as peaceful as possible. There are no noisy watersports allowed, and there are no TVs or videoke, and hardly any nightlife. This means that your stay in El Nido will be a quiet and restful one. It’s definitely not a ‘bring your barkada‘ kind of place – you can go to Boracay or Puerto Galera for that. El Nido is for couples, whether old or newlywed. Many couples bring their children and that’s fine, though I think it’s still better as a honeymoon place.
And you can’t talk about El Nido without mentioning their excellent service. Every staff member on the island is friendly, attentive, and most of all, efficient. In other words, you’re spoiled 😛 It’s comparable only to the service onboard the Grand Princess when we took our Mediterranean cruise, and that was world-class.
And a side note:
Though this trip went perfectly already, it became extra-special when, on my first night there, the staff presented me with chocolate cake and a bottle of dessert wine, courtesy of NinjaGeek. The cake was so huge that we had to store it at the resort’s kitchen and we shared it with three other families. Thanks, love 🙂
(More pictures of El Nido can be found at my Flickr.)