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El Nido

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Amazing Beaches off El Nido Took the commercial route and island-hopped with many other tourists.

[stag_dropcap font_size=”88px” style=”squared”]W[/stag_dropcap]e began the second day at El Nido with a simple breakfast at our hotel, Greenviews. We booked an island hopping Tour A with them (it’s 1 type of tour a day, so you don’t really have much of a choice) for USD26, and breakfast and lunch is provided. The tide was low that morning, and the beach stretched far out into the horizon. So satisfying to begin a day with a view like that.

El Nido Philippines Greenviews
View from Greenviews’ breakfast bar.

El Nido Philippines Greenviews breakfast

El Nido Philippines beach

El Nido Philippines beach
So nice to see carefree pups mucking around the shallow waters.

Turns out that we were taking a slightly larger boat for the day, and this meant that it couldn’t come as close to the beach as the smaller boats, and we had to wade out quite a distance to reach it. The walk out into sea was stunning though, so we didn’t mind at all. Little did we know that this walking great distances to the boat thing was going to be a recurring and inconvenient routine throughout the day.

El Nido Philippines beach
Heading out to the boat.

I should also point out how useful it is to have a dry bag for beach holidays. We had to wade out to almost chest-high waters before hopping onto the boat, and those without waterproof bags had to hold their belongings above their heads while trying to balance in the water. It’s not very elegant, if you ask me. You can easily save yourself from embarrassment by getting a waterproof sling bag that most sport shops in Singapore stock. They only cost around SGD20+ for a 10L pack.

El Nido Philippines beach
The big outrigger boat skimmed across the choppy waters effortlessly, and the ride was surprisingly smooth.
El Nido Philippines beach
Palawan offers such rugged landscapes and dramatic colours!
El Nido Philippines beach
A diligent boatman preparing our lunch.
El Nido Philippines beach
Approaching our lunch spot.
El Nido Philippines beach
We’re going to have lunch on this pristine beach!
El Nido Philippines beach
But we’re one of the many tourists at this gorgeous spot 🙁
El Nido Philippines beach
The boatmen skillfully waded through strong waves to deliver freshly BBQ-ed meats and tropical fruits from the boat to us.

I didn’t get a shot of the generous lunch spread because I was too hungry and went straight into wolfing down the food. It was fairly good! It’s always lovely to have a picnic on a nice beach; it’s just a pity that this beautiful place is overcrowded with boats and people. Too hectic to really appreciate the gorgeous surroundings.

El Nido Philippines beach
Next stop, Big Lagoon!

The way in is flanked by soaring cliffs, which conceal the Big Lagoon and create a nice build up to the big unveil. Unfortunately, it was a painful build up. Cursed by the big boat, we had to dock much, much farther away than all the small boats, and had to walk the rest of the way on the rocky sea bed. At that point I sorely regretted leaving my Crocs at the hotel. It would’ve made things so, so, so much more pleasant. So, another must-bring for future island hopping tours: water shoes.

El Nido Philippines beach
Other casualties include fellow tourists from our boat.
El Nido Philippines beach
Finally arrived at the Big Lagoon. In my opinion, the journey in was more memorable.
El Nido Philippines beach
Deceiving shot without the 50 tourists, whom, for a few seconds, didn’t get in this shot.

We skipped the Small Lagoon, which is one of the standard stops for Tour A because the beach was just jam packed with boats, and we had to swim dangerously between anchored and moving boats if we were to get to the beach. We took a vote and everyone on the boat agreed that we should just skip it and spend more time on the next destination instead. Island hopping is a very touch-and-go affair, so more time at one spot is always a good choice.

El Nido Philippines 7 Commandos beach
Approaching the 7 Commandos beach.
El Nido Philippines beach
Still can’t get over the colour of the waters.
El Nido Philippines 7 Commandos beach
Very proud of this Conde Nast Traveller cover I shot of Priya.
El Nido Philippines 7 Commandos beach
We arrived at 7 Commandos ahead of schedule and avoided the convoy of tourist boats.

The snorkeling wasn’t great as there wasn’t much to see and we kept getting tiny stings, probably from small jellyfish. So we just rolled around in the fine sand under the shade, made friends with puppies, and drank fresh coconut juice from the fruit. Absolute bliss. The older I get the more I’m willing to settle for not-so-hyped places as long as they’re quiet. Done with all the wrestling with others to get the “perfect shot” of must-see attractions.

El Nido Philippines beach
When we got back to our resort, the sun has set and another day in paradise has passed.

We deserved a massage after all that tiresome and grueling beach hopping, and there was a shack right next to our resort perfect for that. It had an open-air terrace that allowed us to look out into the sea and hear the waves crashing as we got our muscles kneaded.

After that, we headed back into town for dinner by the beach. Chose the slightly upmarket Atmosphere, where I had their signature stir-fried Udon with chicken, prawn, and carrots for USD8. I was taken aback by the generous portions, but surprised myself even more by wiping out the entire plate.

Diving in El Nido Gorgeous above water, slightly murky underwater.

[stag_dropcap font_size=”88px” style=”squared”]M[/stag_dropcap]anila and Mt Pinatubo turned out to be so much more than we expected, and so was the crazy traffic, so we were more than happy to leave it all behind and head to El Nido to really begin our beach holiday! Even right up to the end, Manila had to remind us of how relentless its bad traffic is. Our flight to El Nido was at the private ITI hanger, and we had the misfortune of getting a taxi driver that had no clue where it was. So he just made circles around the international airport terminals which were already experiencing bad jams due to the major construction going on. It was a hair-pulling 1.5 hour taxi ride.

Because we were travelling from Manila to El Nido on a one way route, we went for the expensive USD130 ride with Island Transvoyager directly to El Nido, which Priya booked online via El Nido Boutique & Artcafe. A one-way ticket from Manila to Puerto Princesa would cost about the same. So why not save ourselves the 6-hour van ride? The more popular (and much more affordable) option would be a return flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa. But as we were hopping from El Nido to Coron, we didn’t have much of a choice.

So we got the first class treatment, with a table reserved for us at the exclusive air-conditioned waiting lounge, which had a free flow of food and drinks. But the best part was when they rolled out the red carpet leading to and from the plane!!! It was way too amusing.

el nido philippines
Already surrounded by lush landscapes.

el nido philippines

The airport transfer to Greenviews Resort was painless, and we were greeted by the many many doggies living within the estate!

Greenviews resort el nido philippines
I especially like this crazy-eyed one.

Although this place isn’t located in El Nido’s main town, we kinda like that it’s quiet and away from the crowds. It’s only a 10 minute, USD1 rickshaw ride away from town anyway. Our room cost us USD33/night, and it was clean, air-conditioned, and came with a large bathroom.

Greenviews resort el nido philippines
Managed to catch our first El Nido sunset from the resort’s reception area cum restaurant.

With just a few hours left, we ended our first day with a mandatory seafood dinner. We just picked a random one by the beach, called Aplaya Restobar.

I chose the squid, which turned out to be not so fantastic. Priya made the wiser choice with a grilled grouper, which was fresh, sweet, and super yummy. Along with drinks, the bill came up to USD17 in total. We kinda expected that it wouldn’t be cheap here.

cocobar el nido philippines
Coco Bar won us over with a fun live band that played a mix of raggae, Filipino, and pop songs.

Having a drink with our toes in the sand, and having puppies weave in and out of our chairs and legs, really put us in the mood for a quintessential beach holiday.


[stag_dropcap font_size=”88px” style=”squared”]D[/stag_dropcap]oing 3 fun dives with Tabanka Divers for our first day in El Nido. Their package is reasonably priced, at USD85 for 3 dives, but it was their good Trip Advisor rating that convinced us. Corresponded with Oliver over email, and he was helpful, informative, and quick to reply.

el nido beach philippines

El Nido’s main beach, like most major beach destinations, isn’t fantastic. But its dramatic landscape made up for it.

Accompanied by dogs as we have our breakfast, before setting out at 9am.

el nido diving philippines
And, surprise, surprise! We have one on our dive boat too!

Our canine captain is Bronson, Oliver’s pup. Oliver runs Tabanka, and was one of the dive masters on this trip, so Bronson tagged along. He was so at home on board, and kept everyone entertained with his attention seeking antics. He would push and nudge his way in between people to demand attention, and plonk himself in the middle of all our diving gear when he’s feeling drowsy from the sun.

el nido philippines

It was a beautiful day out at sea, with the sun beating down on the deep blue waters. The funny thing was, the winds were slightly chilly. I never thought I’d feel cold on a Southeast Asian beach holiday, so it was quite surprising. The waters were also nippy at some parts, at 26°C during the first 2 dives, and 28°C on the last dive. It was a new experience for us, having only previously dived at Tioman and Perhentian, where we were submerged in 30°C waters.

As it’s only the very start of the dive season, the visibility wasn’t fantastic. We didn’t know how spoilt we were in Perhentian either. It was wonderful to be underwater again, but we didn’t see as much marine life.

el nido diving philippines
There were only 4 of us including the Dive Master. And here’s Priya and another Aussie diver.
el nido diving philippines
So thrilled to see a turtle stoning out under a rock at the Helicoptor Island dive site! The last turtle we saw in Perhentian was swarmed by tourists. To see one alone in its own world was amazing.
el nido diving philippines
The adorably ugly stone fish spotted at Palugan, our 2nd dive site . Our dive master had to fan off some sand for its entire form to be revealed. It was entirely camouflaged before, and it takes some sharp eyes and diving experience to spot them!
el nido diving philippines
Pufferfish
el nido diving philippines
Clownfish families were a common site at all the dive sites.
el nido philippines
El Nido’s rugged island clusters set it apart from its Thai counterparts.

The best dive was at Twin Rocks, but it was also when Priya’s GoPro ran out of battery. Haha! If you use your imagination, you’d be very impressed that we saw tuna, mackerel, lionfish, barracuda, sea cucumber, stingray, and the highlight… poisonous jellyfish! They may sound scary, but are actually more mesmerising than terrifying. They were really large and slow, so you could spot them from afar and stay clear. As they were just drifting along, there was no fear of being targeted or attacked.

el nido diving philippines
So glad I finally took up diving. [Photo: Priya]
We were famished by the time we returned at around 5pm. Partly because the provided lunch was quite sad. They didn’t cook it on the boat itself, so the pre-packed fish and rice that I ordered was cold. So we had to have a feast for dinner. Oliver suggested that we have pizza at “this Italian place with a brick oven”. We didn’t catch the name of the restaurant at first, but found it easily enough.

el nido philippines
Altrove‘s huge oven is conveniently obstructed by the booth in this lousy shot of mine.
el nido philippines
Come way before dinner time to get a seat. This small space fills up very quickly, and there’ll be a long queue by 7pm.
el nido philippines
The pizzas were fantastic, and our 2 pizzas, salad, and drinks only cost USD25.7.

El Nido doesn’t have much of a nightlife other than a few bars by the beach, so we were sounds asleep by 9:30pm.

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