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Palawan has been on my radar of places to visit! I finally made my way to El Nido in January 2017 with the husband and it was simply breath taking even though we got rained on a few times!
El Nido is in Palawan, Philippines. It’s been in many articles as one of the worlds top beaches and you can see why from the pictures. The Philippines is composed of 7,000+ islands and Palawan is an archipelagic province of the Philippines located on the west.
This trip was scheduled in the middle of our Philippines trip so we were only able to do four days for El Nido. Our flight from LAX to Cebu was $636 each (pretty cheap for a flight to the Philippines!) with Asiana Airlines. When you go to the Philippines, you will mostly fly into Manila or Cebu, then get a connecting flight if you are going to another island.
I booked our flight too late for El Nido so all the direct flights from Cebu to Palawan were booked. I had to get one that went from Cebu to Manila, Manila to Puerto Princessa (Palawan airport location). Our flight was through Cebu Pacific Air and it left at 6:50 am from Cebu and arrive in Puerto Princessa at 11:35 am. This flight costed $183 each.
The ride from Puerto Princessa ranges from 4 hours to 8 hours depending on the type of transportation. I didn’t book our van ride because I wanted to be spontaneous on this trip. Big mistake! Cebu Pacific Air announced van shuttles for El Nido on the flight so we went ahead and booked that. The van service was called Lexxus and this was by far the worst experience on this trip. Do not book this shuttle service! It took 7 and a half hours to finally reach El Nido because the driver made so many pick ups and personal deliveries out of the way. We could have taken the bus instead for half the cost of what we paid and gotten there earlier probably. You do take a break from the drive and stop at a restaurant to eat in case you are hungry (or want a beer to survive the trip). The van ride was 600 PHP (peso) per person roughly $12.25 USD. Any other van service will cost only 500 PHP per person.
After the long ride, we took a tricycle to Spin Designer Hostel. The ride costed 50 PHP, a little over $1. We had a private room at Spin Designer Hostel which was 9,450.03 PHP, about $194. Spin Designer is a beautiful hostel with amazing hot breakfast. They have a chef making eggs and pancakes between 7 am – 10 am and we took full advantage of this during our stay. They also have activities and events for the guests. You’d never know it’s a hostel if you saw it. The staff also cleaned our room daily like a hotel, booked our island hopping tour, and shuttle for the airport. The location of this place is at the end of the El Nido strip, not really part of the party strip, but it is not far at all. We walked the whole time.
El Nido is known for its island hopping tour. The island tours are 1200 PHP per person, with a 200 PHP eco fee. This is roughly about $29. There are four main island hopping tours, and from what I read around, Tour A is the best one so that is the tour we booked. The tour starts at 9am and ends at around 4pm. Fresh lunch is included with the price. We were on the boat with other people from our hostel which was great. There are plenty of different companies to book the tour with and I really enjoyed our tour guide. People on kayaks will come up next to the boat selling fresh coconuts, beer, and soda. Beer is 80 PHP about $1.65. Get the Red Horse rather than the San Miguel! It will get you buzzed quicker. Speaking of kayaks, kayak rental was 300 PHP in the small lagoon, about $6. Small lagoon was my favorite stop!
Dinners each night were spent on the strip along the beach and we paid about $15 per night for 2 meals, and 2 beers. There are a lot of restaurants that cost double that there. Expect to pay 250-350 PHP for an average meal in El Nido about $5-$7. And coffee starting at $3, the same in the States.
We rock climbed Taraw Cliff with a guide for 700 PHP, about $14.29. You need a guide for this! It is a must do in El Nido to see the view! This “hike” starts at 6 am and you will need hiking boots for sure! The locals wear flip flops and I don’t know how they do it. Deet can’t save you from mosquitos if you are like me and get attacked. No one else on the climb got attacked of course!
We picked up our motorbike rental for 600 PHP, $12.25. If you walk the strip, there are a lot of tour spots where they can book everything for you and they are very accommodating. We filled up the tank and took the bike for an adventure to Nacpan Beach. I don’t remember how much it costed to fill up, but gas in the Philippines is a lot more than the States.
The ride to Nacpan is beautiful. We passed a lot of small towns and rice fields in pouring rain! Saw a carabao along the way too. Nacpan had a 100 PHP fee, a little over $2. Once again our meals and beers costed about $15.
The next day it was time to go home. We hopped on a tricycle to the terminal. We then hopped on a van which was already scheduled by our hostel. The ride only took 4 1/2 hours – way better company than the one we took to get to El Nido! The Puerto Princessa has a terminal fee so make sure to have cash still! I can’t remember the price, but I think it was around 500-700 PHP for the both of us.
Money exchange rate is low in El Nido compared to the rest of the Philippines so do an exchange before you get to Palawan. There is also only one place to exchange money.
So here is our breakdown for two:
Food & Beverage: $80
Terminal Fee: $12
That comes out to less than $55 a day if you exclude flights!