Once you’ve found your perfect spot to settle in El Nido it’s time to start discovering all this town and its surroundings have to offer. Here’s our how-to guide to make the best of your stay
Escape the crowds:
One of the biggest turnoffs of vacationing in a gorgeous place is certainly vacationing there with tons of other people. Suddenly, the photos of pristine beaches and crystal clear waters you’ve imagined taking and making everyone home jealous with turn into frustration that you can’t get a free spot on the beach because everyone else is there at the same time you are. Most experienced travelers will tell you to avoid the prepackaged tours in any place – and El Nido is no different. You’ll see every single agency offering tours A, B C and D and you can be certain that each one of these tours you take you’ll be competing with dozens of other boats packed with people docking at the same beach at the same time of the day.
A great way to escape this is to hire your own boat – for a mere 2000 PHP you can arrange a beach drop-off, meaning that a boat will take you to a beach of your choice and leave you there the entire day to enjoy, without being rushed from point A to point B by the tour itinerary. If you’re a bigger group or if you’ve made friends while drinking in Marbers, hire a boat for a private tour of your choice! Pick two-three top spots you’d like to visit and tell the guides to take you there in reverse order, when everyone else has already left or before they’ve arrived. For the same price as you’d pay a standard your you’ll get VIP service with the banca at your disposal to move wherever and whenever you want to. Now THAT’S what I call enjoying paradise properly.
Finally, if you want to splurge, you can go island hopping on a speedboat or hire a banca for a romantic excursion for two. Trust me, even if you can’t find another 8 people to split the bill of hiring an entire boat for a private tour, paying a little bit more to enjoy the archipelago on your own is so worth it.
Another great way of doing it all on your own and saving money while staying in shape is to rent a kayak. Sure, it is more labor-intensive and you don’t get the amazing food served to you on a paradise beach but it sure is cheap and convenient. Most of the spots worth visiting are just a short kayak ride away and considering the weather is calm, it’s a pretty easy ride. A great choice for when you’ve already done a grand tour and just want to enjoy a bit of the beaches.
Rent a motorbike:
If you’re staying in El Nido for a week or more, renting a bike is definitely worth it. You should be able to negotiate a good price for the longer hire and you’ll be able to escape the annoying haggling with the tuk tuk drivers every time you want to just have a sunset drink at Las Cabanas. Not to mention you can explore the entire north of the island easily, from Nacpan beach to the waterfalls or the remote villages up north. Be sure to rent a semi-automatic bike though, not a scooter. The roads at the north end of Palawan are still somewhat challenging, and you’ll want a bigger bike that you’ll be certain can have a good grip of the rocky roads, especially if it starts to rain.
Certainly a place worth the ride, Nacpan beach will leave you breathless with its high waves perfect for bodysurfing and its clean golden sands. Not to mention the yummy and great value food you can get at the beachfront while taking a break from playing in the waves. The Nacpan stretch also hosts a few bungalows for rent so if you get tired of the hustle and bustle of El Nido and want to enjoy the sound of the waves while falling asleep waking up to one of the most gorgeous views. Still not overly touristy since the road to get there JUST got fixed up (and not all the way till the end) so jump to the opportunity of enjoying it while it’s still “intact”.
One thing to note when talking about Nacpan – beware of Nik-Niks! These annoying little sand flies will jump all over you when you don’t even realize it and you’ll only notice you’re covered in bites (if you’re lucky, and with no allergic reaction) the day after. Although they’re not dangerous they are annoying and the reactions to the bites take weeks to disappear (not to mention they’re itchy as hell). So cover yourself in your insect repellent or coconut oil which for some reason they also dislike and don’t lie around in the sand no matter how tempting it might look.
The beach in Corong Corong, popularly known as Las Cabanas, after a resort situated on the beach itself, is the closest beach to El Nido Town that is renowned for its sunset. This swimming friendly stretch of sand lined with beach cottages and beach bars is a welcome refreshment from the busy busy streets of El Nido and the El Nido beach which is not advisable to swim in. With the area of Corong Corong getting more and more built up with every passing day though, I’m afraid that Las Cabanas will experience the same fait that is happening to most of the area – becoming overcrowded, dirty and not enjoyable any longer, but for the moment, it still is spectacular and definitely worth the visit and the sunset cocktail or two.
If you haven’t already discovered the joys of scuba, El Nido could be the perfect place to try! The archipelago boasts many spots suitable for beginners as well as more advanced divers and there are many dive centres to match every budget and style. We went diving with the supercool crew of Sea Dog Divers and can highly recommend them. They may not boast the newest shiniest equipment, but their attitude more than covers the gap and being an experienced crew of local divers, they can take you to the best spots depending on your preferences and diving style. Being a bit tucked away from the main street and not as shiny also means their groups are not crowded so you’ll very likely dive with a small group where the style can be easily adjusted to your needs and wishes.