With all the numerous accolades that Palawan had won in the past years, and with all the thousands of articles and blogs written about it, it’s now only a cliche whenever some people tell how magnificent this island truly is.
Well, Palawan’s enchanting island is worth a million stories to be told over and over again. It is not only the scenic view or the beautiful beaches that will captivate you but also the environment of joy and pleasure and the warmth of the people that is undoubtedly remarkable!
Our trip in Palawan last July 2015 was one of the best travels I’ve ever had in my life. This is not an exaggeration rather it is only a fitting compliment to the wonderful experience we had in our stay at this island.
HOW TO GET THERE
Palawan is a province in the Philippines that consists of a main big island with several other smaller islands surrounding the main island. It is located at the southwestern part off the coast of Luzon island, the biggest island in the Philippines. The city of Puerto Princesa is the capital of the province and from the airport, you will have to take a 4-5 hour ride to get to the town of El Nido, where the pristine beach and world-renowned limestone islands are located.
Since we did not have any tour package from a travel agency, we did our own do-it- yourself vacation trip package by looking for the cheapest airfare, accommodation and island tour there is. We got our airline tickets from Air Asia which offered “piso” (i.e. .022 USD) fare sale for their Manila to Palawan and vv. flights. Note that this amount is just a rate and not the actual fee you’ll have to pay, nevertheless, it is really cheap! The next thing we did was to book for a nice but affordable hotel or resort to stay for three days. Fortunately, Marina Garden Beach Resort offered an off-peak sale for our accommodation and we also bought on sale our four-day island tour from Northern Hope Tours (www.northernhopetours.com) All in all our total expenses for our 4-day trip cost us about 8,000 pesos or 177 USD for each person.
It’s no wonder why Palawan was named by Travel + Leisure magazine as the world’s best island for three times in a row as it is not only a good place to relax your body, but also an affordable place that would suit anyone on a tight budget. The basic goods are relatively cheap in the Philippines, and in Palawan, we did not find our pockets drained since we were able to afford everything that we needed in our stay.
We arrived at the airport a little bit late in the afternoon. Puerto Pricesa City’s airport is a small international airport that serves as the main entry hub of the tourist-bound island. From the airport, we were greeted and picked up by representatives of Northern Hope Tours. Since the trip going to El Nido will last for about five hours, we had an early dinner at the White Fence Country Café located at Manalo Extension, Bancao-Bancao, Puerto Princesa – the restaurant serves American, Filipino, Asian and Italian cuisine.
The way going to El Nido was so dark at nighttime and I think some parts of the road were under construction as I felt that we were travelling in an uncemented hi-way. Finally, after a long drive, we arrived at our resort at about pass 9 in the evening.
WHERE TO STAY
Marina Garden Beach Resort’s typical tourist accommodation includes a nipa hut-like two bedroom cottage with one restroom attached. A nipa hut is a traditional type of house made up from cogon grass and bamboo that is still visible in the rural parts of the provinces in the Philippines. Based from the present condition of our rooms, I concluded that the cottages must have been built a few years back as some of the fixtures, espceially in the restroom, seemed old.
WHAT TO DO
Our island hopping activities were set by Northern Hope which consisted of free boat transfers, snorkeling and swimming gears and lunch (seafood and grilled food buffet). The best places we visited were the three famous lagoons in El Nido, the big, small and secret lagoons. We were mesmerized on how the clear waters of Palawan’s beaches are and the breathtaking view of its limestone islands that looked like big mushrooms sprouting out of the deep blue sea. We swam in the three lagoons and snorkeled in some good spots wherein we found an abundance of aquatic fauna.
Almost everyday in our stay, we were brought to different islands and beaches and each of them offered a different scenic and picturesque view. We went to 7 Commandos Beach, Hidden Beach and Secret Beach all of which had the trademark white and fine sands of Palawan. In the last day of our island tour, we went to Matinloc Shrine where the local folks believed that it might have been the site of a hidden gold treasure that was excavated years ago. There was an elevated spot in the shrine where we climbed and positioned ourselves overlooking the sprawling white sand beaches and picture-perfect islands scattered across the vast waters of El Nido.
EL NIDO’S NIGHTLIFE
Aside from the beautiful beaches of El Nido, the nightlife and food scene are also very well alive in this part of the country. Fresh catch from the fisher folks are always available in the nearby restaurants. Tourists can choose the fresh big lobsters, crabs and fishes and ask the chefs in the restaurants to cook them in whatever dish they prefer. Our last night in El Nido was well spent on great food and great music as we dined our hearts out with delicious seafood and fresh coconut juice.
Leaving El Nido was like separating yourself in a place of comfort and bliss. We left the town early for our flight back to Manila and we did not even manage to buy souvenirs in the town itself that’s we just bought ours when we arrived again in the city of Puerto Princesa.
It was truly a wonderful feeling having to witness the beauty of El Nido, Palawan with its white sand beach, limestone islands, clear waters teeming with corals and fishes, and its vibrant nightlife. Truly, it was a great treasure to have experienced the beauty of the world’s best island.