September 07, 2015

Backpacking 101: El Nido Travel Guide (Budget, Accomodation and Tours)

One hour and 20 minutes away from Manila by plane, five to six hours from Puerto Princesa, Palawan by van, El Nido is pain in the butt for its long land travel. But low and behold, El Nido is a paradise with 45 island and islets, limestone and cliffs. It is once tag as a place for the rich because land transportation from Puerto Princesa was relatively unknown. Chartered flights from Manila has a sky rocketing prices and is still being utilized by high end resorts of the Ayala's and some Japanese resort owners.




How To Go There?

Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines flies a number of times to Puerto Princesa from Manila, Ilo-ilo, Cebu and Davao daily. Philippine Airines flies to Taipe once a week.  

There are now two bus company and multitudes of shuttle vans plying Puerto Princesa - El Nido route on a regular basis. Roro Bus for instance has an hourly bus plying EL Nido from Puerto Princesa. As of my last visit in El Nido there is now a bus line called Cherry that also ply Puerto Princesa - El Nido. You can check my friend Josia's review of the bus company as well as its detailed schedule.

Van transport is available at the airport, Robinson's Mall and in San Jose Terminal where Buses are also available. The fare is Php600.00.

Bus or Van?

I always prefer bus over the van. But during our recent trip, Northern Hope Tours included the Van transfer in our package. I like riding bus because it has more leg room and its much comfortable. It is also much cheaper by a hundred pesos. Downside is when you travel by bus in the morning, chances are it will stop whenever there are passengers. Although its the shuttle van also pick up passengers, at least the van has a small capacity thus picking up of passenger is limited as compared to the bus.



Now its up to your budget and time what mode of transportation you will avail to go to your dream destination. The good thing is both will bring you to El Nido.

When To Go?

The Philippines is located in Southeast Asia and its location is a favorite route of the typhoon before it hits it neighboring countries like Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan an even China. From July to October typhoons from the Pacific are on queue thus there will be a low chance that the sun will shine during these months. The best time to go is during the months of November to June. But to tell you, from November to February foreign tourist are flocking in the Philippines to escape the winter season in the west, from March to May that also extend till June is the summer season here in the Philippines. El Nido is very crowded during these months to a point that there are no boats available for island hopping. If you prefer to go during these months I suggest to contact Northern Hope Tours to assure your spot in that boat and also a room to stay.    


Dark Clouds...Tours are all cancelled

Risk...

August of 2013 I went to El Nido in a gloomy weather. I could hear the whistle of the wind bouncing on the cliff of El Nido. I had to extend my vacation hoping that the sun will shine the next day - and it did. Just last month, Aug 2015, I went back to El Nido with my girlfriend and a friend. Again there was no sun but the tours pursued except for the tour C which is very far from the mainland thus it is very risky to pursue it. Nevertheless, there were still tours in a gloomy weather.

What to do?


Photo from Wikipedia

The picture above would tell you that the best thing to do in El Nido is island hopping. In those island there are lagoons - small, big and secret. There are also hidden beaches, cliffs, reefs, sandbars and a lot of limestones. These island is divided into four cluster which are called Tour A, Tour B, Tour C and Tour D. Each tour is done whole day.

Tour A - Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Simizu Island, Secret Lagoon and 7 Commandos Beach

Big Lagoon
Activities: Sight seeing and picture taking. Snorkeling on a specific part. Ask your boatman for this.


Big Lagoon Snorkeling Area

Small Lagoon
Activities: Sight seeing, Kayak (which you can rent on site for Php300), swimming, picture taking



Simizu Island
Activities: Swimming and Snorkeling. (Warning: No fish feeding please!!!)

Photo by Josiah Sicad of lakas.com.ph

7 Commandos Beach
Activities: Swimming and beach bumming.



Standard Rate: Php1,200 per person
Schedule: 9:00AM to 4:00PM
Inclusive: Lunch, mask & snorkel, life vest and guides to assist you.
Note: Its only in Northern Hope that Mask and Snorkel is inclusive in the standard rate. Other tours will charge you extra Php100.00. 

Tour B - Entalula Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave and Cathedral Cave

Entalula Island
Activities: Swimming and beach bumming




Pinagbuyutan Island
Activities: Swimming, beach bumming and picture taking






Snake Island
Activities: Swimming, beach bumming, trekking and picture taking




Cudugnon Cave
Activities: Swimming, beach bumming, spelunking and picture taking




Cathedral Cave
Activities: Sight seeing and picture taking





Standard Rate: Php1,300 per person
Schedule: 9:00AM to 4:00PM
Inclusive: Lunch, mask & snorkel, life vest and guides to assist you.
Note: Its only in Northern Hope that Mask and Snorkeler is inclusive in the standard rate. Other tours will charge you extra Php100.00.

Tour C - Hidden Beach, Helicopter Island, Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine and Star Beach

Hidden Beach
Activities: Sight seeing, swimming, beach bumming, picture taking and a little spelunking



Helicopter Island
Activities: Swimming, beach bumming and snorkeling



Matinloc Shrine 
Activities: Sight seeing and trekking


Standard Rate: Php1,300 per person
Schedule: 9:00AM to 4:00PM
Inclusive: Lunch, mask & snorkel, life vest and guides to assist you.
Note: Its only in Northern Hope that Mask and Snorkel is inclusive in the standard rate. Other tours will charge you extra Php100.00.

Tour D - Bukal Island, Ipil Beach, Nat-Nat Beach, Cadlao Lagoon and Paradise Beach

Cadlao Lagoon
Activities: Swimming and Kayaking


Standard Rate: Php1,200 per person
Schedule: 9:00AM to 4:00PM
Inclusive: Lunch, mask & snorkel, life vest and guides to assist you.
Note: Its only in Northern Hope that Mask and Snorkel is inclusive in the standard rate. Other tours will charge you extra Php100.00.

Other Things to do in El Nido

Land tours is also offered by Northern Hope Tours but you can do it your self by hiring a tricycle or a van. They know how to go there so you'll never get lost.



Round trip Tricycle: Php300.00.
Best time to visit: Sunset 

Nacpan Twin Beach

Photo by Pau of ponderingpaosaolei.net
Round trip Tricycle:  Php1,500.
Round trip Van: Php3,000
Best time to visit: Wholeday

Taraw Cliff Climbing



Guide Fee: Php300.00
Best Best time to visit: Morning 

Where to Stay

El Nido has a lot of budget accommodation in and out of the main town. During my first visit  stayed in a home stay that was recommended by the tricycle driver. But since Northern Hope Tours also offers a wide range of accommodation type we decided to stay in one of their property. Northern Hope has three properties in El Nido where you can stay according to your budget and and needs. 

For budget travelers they have Northern Hope Inn located in El Nido Town Proper. Each rooms has its own CR and it has Air Conditioning. 

Room for 4 (Photo from Northern Hope)

Room accommodation prices in Northern Hope Inn ranges from Php800.00 (for two) - Php1,200.00 (for four) without breakfast.

They also have a property in Corong-Corong called Overcomer Lodge. Good thing about this place is that its very quiet and peaceful. They have a roof deck which also serve as the al fresco dinning area. Each rooms has its own CR and it has Air Conditioning. 

We stayed in Overcomer Lodge last August 2015. Room prices ranges from Php1,500.00 (for two) to Php2,000.00 (for 4) with breakfast.




Northern Hope also has a property near the Town Proper called Agape Transient House that can accommodate 10 - 20 people. If you are a big family or a big barkada (group of friends) this place is yours for Php5,000.00 per night. It has an Air Condition room and Non Air Condition room. You can use the kitchen utensils to cook your favorite meals.  
  

How Much?

If you are  young professional like me, chances are, your first question would be how much is the budget going to El Nido. So here let me create a sample budget and itinerary for your much awaited vacation in El Nido.

Day 1 - Arrival in Puerto Princesa
Lets assume you arrive in Puerto Princesa in the morning. You can choose to proceed in El Nido or stroll around and make much of your time. Well instead of traveling with the sun still shining I would recommend that you tour Puerto Princesa City. 
  • 12:00NN - Lunch (Mcdo, Jollibee or you can try local delicacy like Chao Long) - Php100.00
  • 1:00PM - City Tour 
    • Palawan Provincial Capitol
    • Palawan Heritage Center - Php50.00
    • Immaculate Conception Cathedral
    • Plaza Cuartel
    • Bay Walk
    • Bakers Hill - Chances are you will buy hopia that cost Php50.00 - Php65.00 

Bona's Chao Long

Palawan Provincial Capitol

Plaza Cuartel

You can visit my Five Things To Do in Puerto Princesa for the narratives of the above mentioned attractions.

You can hire a tricycle for your City Tour for Php600.00. The Tricycle can accommodate up to four passengers. But it will be more comfortable if you fit three people in the tricycle. So for this lets assume you are three in the group. You can split the cost among yourselves. 
  • 5:00PM - Dinner -  Php100.00
  • 6:00PM - ETD for El Nido via Van - Php600.00

Day 1 Cost - Php1,115.00

Day 2 - El Nido
  • 1:00AM - ETA El Nido
    • Check-In at Overcomer Lodge - Pay for 4D/3N Php5,400.00 (Php1,800.00 each)
    • Pay for Eco-Tourism Development Fee* (ETDF) - Php200.00 per person
  • 7:00AM - Breakfast in Overcomer Lodge is included.
  • 9:00AM - Start of Tour A (Php1,200.00 inclusive of sumptuous food, snorkel and life vest)
    • Big Lagoon, 
    • Small Lagoon - Rent Kayak for Php300.00 good for 3 (Php100.00 each) 
    • Simizu Island,
    • Secret Lagoon and 
    • 7 Commandos Beach - Buy a buko for Php50.00
Lunch by the Beach Prepared by Northern Hope Tours Guide and boatmen.
  • 4:00PM - End of Tour. Back to Overcomer Lodge Php10.00
  • 5:00PM - Suppose you want to see the sunset in Maremegmeg Beach.
    • Tricycle Php300 Round Trip (Php100 Each)
  • 7:00PM - Dinner
    • You can have a dinner in a small eatery or in a posh restaurant in El Nido Town. I'll leave it to you but suppose you have a budget of Php300.00 for a nice good time meal.
  • 9:00PM - Back to Overcomer Lodge Php10.00

Day 2 Cost - Php3,770.00

*The Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF) will be used by the local government for the maintaining the cleanliness and help prevent destruction of El Nido’s natural resources, especially the ones that are visited by our visitors. This is good for up to 10 days of your stay here in El Nido.

Day 3 - El Nido
  • 7:00AM - Breakfast in Overcomer Lodge is included
  • 9:00AM - Start of Tour A (Php1,300.00 inclusive of sumptous food, snorkle and life vest)
    • Hidden Beach, 
    • Helicopter Island, 
    • Secret Beach,
    • Matinloc Shrine
    • Star Beach
Mares Snorkeling Gear
  • 4:00PM - End of Tour. You and your friends decided to be generous and gave a tip to your two tour guides. Why not your tour guides were prompt and an expert in selfie post. You gave Php200.00 each 
    • Back to Overcomer Lodge Php10.00
  • 6:00PM - Dinner - Php300.00
  • 8:00PM - Suppose its your last night and you want to pamper yourself after two days of island hopping. You decided to have a massage - Php300.00 (plus tip)
  • 9:00PM - Back to Overcomer Lodge Php10.00

Day 3 Cost - Php2,120.00

Day 4 - Back to Puerto Princesa
  • 6:00AM - Breakfast in Overcomer Lodge is included
  • 7:00AM - ETD for Puerto Princesa - Php600.00
  • 12:00NN - Stopover for lunch - Php100.00
  • 1:00PM - ETD in Puerto Pricesa
    • You still have some time and some cash to spare. You decided to buy a t-shirt and some present back home. You spend around, lets say, Php1,000.00.
  • 4:00PM - Flight back to Manila
    • Check-In (Use the self-check in Kiosk if you will fly via Cebu Pacific to void the lines. You can also use this if you don't have a check-in baggage and you feel that your backpack is over 7kilos. hehehe)
    • Terminal Fee Php200.00
Day 4 Cost - Php1,900.00

TOTAL COST: Php8,905.00 - This do not include the RT Airfare.


Essential Things to Bring
  • Cash - there are no ATM's in El Nido although there are money transfer facilities. 
  • Sun Screen Protection
  • Swim wear
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Waterproof/Underwater Camera
If you do not have an underwater camera, you can rent one in Northern Hope Tours for Php700.00 per day. They even have a GoPro for Php1,000.00 per day. They also have an auqa shoes for Php100.oo per day. 

Essential Things to Remember
  • Always wear your smile. Avoid negative vibe that could affect other people in the tour.
  • In case of miscommunication with your contact in El Nido, try to listen and avoid confrontational situation. They are there to service you and not to get your money.
  • In case of bad weather, tour are regulated and decided uponby the Philippine Coast Guard not the tour comany. Tours may be cancelled.
  • Be prepared for the so called "tourist price" especially in the posh restaurant. 
  • Do not haggle too much if there is a chance. Think of the value of the good or service you are availing.
  • Think of the environment. You are just a visitor of the island avoid littering and activities that could harm the corals, the beach, the cliffs and the islands.
  • Fish feeding to have a good selfie with a school of fish is harmful and it has an imact to the ecosystem. Kindly refrain from doing this. 
  • Lastly, if you are satisfied with your boatmen and tour guide, be generous and give them a tip. Your tip will motivate them to deliver a better service and strive more to protect the environment.  

Our trip in El Nido last August 2015 was sponsored by Northen Hope Tours.
For reservation and other inquiries you may contact them using the details below:
Email: northernhopetours@gmail.com
Mobile Numbers: (+63) 939-902-2216, (+63) 927-735-3221 and (+63) 942-375-2441
Like their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/northernhopetours