While our quick stop in Sabang and the Underground River was lovely, it was really El Nido that resulted in our jaw-dropping, heart racing, ‘I can’t believe somewhere this beautiful actually exists’ ramblings. A harrowing six-hour van ride away from Sabang or Puerto Princesa, El Nido comprises 45 islands at the very northernmost part of Palawan. I can easily say it’s the most beautiful place I have ever seen, and our entire time there was spectacular.
Here’s a few notes on why:
- Enjoying our own private island
This was hands-down the coolest thing we did. Through our hostel we stayed at, The Alternative, we were able to book a night of ‘camping’ on a private island. Only it wasn’t camping in the traditional sense of the word. We had an actual bed in a sort of open-air Nipa hut that gazed out to the ocean, complete with personal island dwelling staff that cooked incredible meals with no electricity. Nothing like waking up to a beautiful sunrise over the ocean while laying in bed, only to have coffee and frittata waiting for you a few steps away at your mini dining table, on your own private island. Absolutely heavenly.
- Island Hopping
No trip to paradise is complete without a day spent island hopping. The tours around the town are all the same, and essentially you can choose from Tour A, B, C, or D. I know, pretty creative. We choose tour A (for AWESOME), which is one of the more popular choices, and brings you to the Secret Lagoon, the Small Lagoon, the Big Lagoon, and 7 Commando Beach. The sites are breathtaking, and the snorkeling is quite good as well.
- SCUBA Diving
We went on a night dive, and while we didn’t see anything crazy—except for a lionfish and a crab carrying coral on it’s back like a shield—it was still an easy and enjoyable dive. We met a Spanish diver who seemed to think that while the diving here is fine, Abo Island is the place to go if you are interested in world-renowned diving. Still, we’re glad we did it, especially because it was Casey’s first night dive. (We’ll be headed to Abo Island in May, so we’ll give our own opinions on the diving then!)
The sun in El Nido gets really powerful. Even with layer upon layer of sunscreen, we were fighting off UV’s like King Leonidas battling the Persians. Dan ultimately lost against the raging sun when his feet turned neon red our last day, reluctantly becoming one of those tourists. So when you need a break from the sun, there’s a little bit of trekking to be had. There is one path in particular that meanders through lush jungle, eventually leading to a nice, quiet waterfall. Hiring a point person is advisable as the path isn’t clearly marked and crosses through creeks about 8 or 9 times. Guides are easily obtained at the trailhead.
The island tours are nice, but we decided to spend our last day on our own schedule. We rented a kayak and arranged a personal little island tour, going about an hour and a half out to Helicopter Island and then making stops on our way back. Every turn was spectacular, so this was quite a nice option for a relaxing day full of picnicking on the freshest mangos you could imagine, napping, and photo snapping without being tied down to a tour.
- Eating Mangos
Speaking of mangos, I think El Nido has the most incredible mangos in the world. Just writing about their rich juiciness is making me salivate a bit.
- Vibrant Sunsets
The pictures speak for themselves. The best place to watch the sunsets are at Corong-Corong, an easy tricycle ride away from the town of El Nido.
We don’t normally go to the same place twice. It’s not that we don’t value learning new things about a place the second time around, but simply there are just WAY to many things on our bucket list for that. However, we will 100% make our way back to El Nido someday. We hope you’ll be convinced to visit it too!