Friday, January 1, 2016

Visiting El Nido, Miniloc Island

At the last minute our family decided to fly to Puerto Princesa for the holidays. Our original plan was to head to Japan, Bali, or Vietnam but decided to fly local just for kicks. I wouldn't say I wasn't thrilled (I've flown to PPS three times in the last month), but a part of me was also wishing I could go visit Bali again (which we postponed to the first quarter of 2016).

Anyway, I did all the itinerary building and booking which stressed me out immensely as almost everything was full due to the long holiday weekend -- and I only started to make some calls on the 23rd! But, persistence pays off as we got to spend 5 amazing days by the beach. This won't be a full-on documentary on PPS and El Nido, rather a photodiary of what went down. My only wish? More photos sana to document the whole trip because Palawan is so beautiful, I'll definitely be back again soon.

El Nido is 5 hours away via van from the city proper of Puerto Princesa. I would liken it to a roadtrip to Baler. Trips cost Php 600/pax and start as early as 630am. 

We took the 9am van to El Nido and arrived at 3pm. We were too late for any tours so we just nested in Marina Garden Beachfront Inn. I made good use of my time by swimming and trying SUP (no photo because Tish had the GoPro) with some kids and it was fun -- definitely a tad more challenging than surfing.

The next day, we woke up at 7am to have breakfast by the beach and wait for our tour scheduled for 9am. We chose Tour A which offers a visit to the following spots:

  • Small & Big Lagoon
  • Simizu Island
  • Secret lagoon
  • Seven Commandos Beach

There are several tours available which involve more snorkeling and even overnight camping, but since we were with seniors (our parents who aren't beach people), then Tour A is the "safest" or most common tour they'd appreciate. 

with tour coordinator Gemma
with tour guide Richard
we are ready to snorkel!

Miniloc Island is famous for its many beaches and lagoons (both deep and shallow), waters are a perfect turquoise color with fine white sand. And here's a tidbit: "The Bourne Legacy" ending shot was filmed in El Nido.

Small Lagoon

Guests are required to snorkel 200 meters to get to the small lagoon, life vest optional. The water was so cold and for a moment I hesitated, until I saw the schools of fishes circling us. I called out to Tish, pointed at the fishes and signaled her to take videos, swam onwards and never looked back.

the parents cheated and rented a kayak :P

Meeting people at the beach is part and parcel of travelling. We met Theo while snorkeling and he asked about starfishes in PPS, and how Boracay fares compared to Palawan. 

Simizu Island

We docked at the next destination and prepared for lunch. Simizu Island was named after the Japanese diver who died in an underwater tunnel in the island many years ago. Simizu Island is usually where guests stop for lunch, though you can also swim and snorkel here. A separate boat arrived bearing mineral water, colas, and beer. 

bili na kayo!

Always have some fresh squid when in Palawan, or any kind of seafood for that matter. Everything is always sweet and delicious, even just grilled squid plus a warm plate of rice is enough to satisfy the hungriest of tourists.  

Big Lagoon

This spot is the best place for snorkeling and kayaking, waters here are deep and crystal clear -- we even saw a lone jellyfish floating about!

beaches and lagoons are only 10 minutes away from each other
limestone cliffs everywhere

You can rent a paddleboard and kayak here for Php 300 each, or snorkel the entire way.

Seven Commandos Beach

Probably the only beach with a bar, dance music, and a beach volleyball court, this is the liveliest island we've seen so far. This being our last stop, we chose to skip swimming and get to know everyone in the group.

Cool down with fresh buco juice, or spike it up with some liquor :)

and we bumped into Theo again!
of course, my family stays protected with VMV Armada Sport 70
With the sun setting it was the perfect way to cap off our El Nido adventures: sprawled on the white sand basking in the sun with coconut rhum in hand. 

fellow beach bums :)
Where to Eat in El Nido

While El Nido is now decidedly more crowded that it was 2 years ago (and this was confirmed to me by top travel blogger Edgar), there are more cafes, more restaurants, bars, and establishments on the island. They all still close pretty early though, the famous Art Cafe closes at 11pm!

medium rare steak and mashed potatoes from Sea Slugs
If you prefer bars by the beach, try Sea Slugs, Pukka Bar, and Coco Bar. On the other side you can check out Squido's, Altrove (Italian cuisine), Art Cafe. There are a lot of smaller (and cheaper) eateries but be warned that generally service is slow especially during peak season. I waited one hour for my steak with mushroom cream sauce -- it was totally worth it though!

We met Jason and Erin (they're siblings) at our Iwahig Christmas dinner and then bumped into them again in El Nido. 

After some coconut milkshakes and mango daiquiris, we had crepe (bananas + nutella) before retiring for the night.

So how did I find El Nido? It's as beautiful as everyone says it is, and you should definitely include it in your itinerary for 2016. I hope to be able to explore more of El Nido and Puerto Princesa this year, stay tuned!

Additional info: 

Harbour Bay Travel 

(inclusive of van transfers and island hopping) - Php9,600/4 pax

Contact person: Babette


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