I tried to get around as much as possible since the start of this year. My wanderlust started on New Year’s eve when I went on a 9 hour drive down south of Luzon. That ignited my desire to travel and from then on, I travel on weekends (and maintain a regular job on weekdays) chasing adventures and documenting every location I tick off my bucket-list. Hence, I named this blog THE WEEKEND CHASER.

There’s a looong list of places I wish to visit and write about as I launch this blog. And I desire for the best destinations to go down in the first few pages of my book. Though there’s an overwhelming number destinations to choose from, it wasn’t a difficult descision which ones to prioritize as Philippines is itself home to several world-class destinations and there’s no need for me to go far just to feature the best ones. The top tourist spots in the country are definitely worth writing about. And this renowned paradise island in the west tops my list- El Nido, Palawan.

El Nido, Palawan is an amazing jump-off point to explore the Philippines. If you want to see the best beaches and islands, it is the all-in-one travel destination. This tropical paradise is home to breathtaking waterfronts, crystalline waters, limestone cliffs, lush mountains, hidden lagoons and lovely beaches. No wonder why it was declared as the best island in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine for the third in 2017.

How to Get to El Nido

There’s already a direct flight from Manila to Lio Airport in El Nido. Accessing the island was made much easier by AirSWIFT being the only airline with direct flight to the island.

Another way to get to El Nido is via Puerto Princesa. This is the route we took as we wanted to see the Underground River first that won a spot in the new 7 Wonders of the World. This is a cheaper option to Airswift’s high-priced seats.

We took an air-conditioned van in Puerto Princesa that departed at 4PM. Our land transfer was arranged by the same travel agency that booked our Underground River tour. But if you want to DIY, there are vans in San Jose Terminal that travels as early as 7Am to as late as 9PM for a fare of Php500. We travelled for approximately 5 hours.

Where to Stay in El Nido

The best area to stay in El Nido is in the Town Proper. This is a settlement in brgy. Buena Suerte that’s parallel to the beach and where most of the actions are happening. We booked a room in Silverise Pension via AirBnb for Php1,200 per night. What I like about this hotel is its accessibility since it is located along Balinsasayaw road where cheap hotels and restaurants are concentrated and it’s less than 5 minutes walk to the Bacuit bay where chains of drinkeries and seafood by the bay restos can be found.

They offer a relaxing view of the mountain in your window with unlimited coffee or tea that you can avail any time of the day. They have a simple and clean airconditioned room with private bathroom. Their frontdesk personnel is available 24/7 to assist. Other amenities includes a free parking on their premises, WIFI, water heater and essensials like towels, soap, shampoo, and toilet paper.

The only downside of the hotel is their slow WIFI. But it’s more of a widespread problem in El Nido because you can only find few places with a good internet connection. This is definitely a good value for your money.

El Nido Island Hopping

There are plenty of things to do in El Nido but the most sought-after activity is the island hopping with a lunch buffet in one of the islands. It’s quite easy to arrange a package for this as there are several travel agencies that organize island tours. You just have to be good in haggling for rates to find the cheapest you can get. The local government has set a price ceiling so that the operators would not sell the tour on a higher rate. The price ranges from Php1,200 to as high Php1,400 per person depending on which tour package you would avail.

Tours for island hopping normally starts at 9AM and ends at around 5PM. The attractions are grouped into four packages:

Tour A: This is the most popular tour package and is recommended for first timers in the island. This tour will take you to Small, Big and Hidden Lagoons of Miniloc Island that’s popular for its limestone formations.

Other attractions included are the Payong-Payong Beach, Shimizu Island where lunch buffet is being served and Seven Commandos which is a long stretch of white sand with lots of coconut trees. This tour package costs  P1,200/person

Tour B: This package is known for the sand bar found in the Vigan island that’s also called the “Snake Island”. This is recommended if you wanted to visit a historic place as this package includes a stop at the Cudugnon Cave which is an important archeoligical site because of potteries discovered dating from the Sung Dynasty (960-1279). Other stops includes Pangulasian Island, Cathedral Cave and Pinagbuyutan Island. This tour package costs P1,300/person

Tour C: This is one of the most popular among the tours. If you are a person who loves loafing on a beach, this is the tour package for you. Its attractions includes the white beaches of Matinloc and the Helicopter island. But the higlight is the Hidden Beach that’s enclosed by towering cliffs. It is accessible through a small opening that requires visitors to swim just to get to the hidden beach. But if the current is too strong, it may be difficult for a person to enter the passage. Other stops includes the Secret Beach and the Star Beach. This tour package costs P1,400/person

Tour D: This includes a visit at Cadlao Lagoon found in the biggest island of the Bacuit archipelago, Pasandigan Beach, Bukal Beach, Paradise Beach and Natnat Beach. This tour package costs  P1,200/person

Tour E: This is an inland tour where you don’t have to hop on a boat. The van will take you toNacpan and Calitang Beaches, Makinit Hotspring, and Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls. This tour package costsP1,200/person