We first set foot in the Philippines in late January. After about 10 busy days of touring the islands, we were finally headed to the beaches of El Nido for our last stop in the country. El Nido sits at the northern part of Palawan Island and hosts some of the most beautiful beaches in the country and some incredible sunsets with its western sea views. We made our usual travel arrangements which of course began with standing at the bus stop just as the sun was coming up in Oslob. This long drawn out local bus ride eventually got us to the Cebu City bus station where we caught a taxi to the airport and boarded our flight to Puerto Princessa International Airport in Palawan.
Everything seemed to go smoothly until about midway along our 7hour van ride northward from Puerto Princessa Airport to El Nido when Whitney started feeling rather nauseous. With a little medical experience under my belt, I felt it was just a bit of motion sickness considering we were crammed in a van speeding up the windy island roads. As such, we shrugged off the symptoms as best we could and finally made it to our accommodations a little south of Corong Corong Beach late that evening. We expected an easy check in when the driver dropped us off at the Jm Pensionne guesthouse that we had booked online. Unfortunately, there was no one around when we arrived. We knocked on a few doors, spoke with some other travelers staying there and even got a local gentleman to try to make some calls until someone was finally able to get us into our room.
All hopes of a restful night were put on hold as Whitney’s nausea persisted and some severe body aches began to set in. To top it off, we were greeted by our host the next morning and told that our Airbnb reservation was “accepted by mistake” and we would have to leave that morning to go to a neighboring guesthouse. Long story short, our well planned booking became a daily shuffle of guesthouses. As annoying as that was, it was only $25 a night for the two of us, so I guess we couldn’t complain.
Even so, we tried to make the most of our first morning and enjoyed breakfast at our guesthouse, then gathered our things together to move to the new place. This second unit happened to be a private tropical bungalow only a short walk north. We checked in, then set off on foot to get our feet in the sand. We made our way down the beach wading in the water here and there peering out at the cluster of islands nearby. Lunchtime came quickly and we stopped momentarily for a couple smoothies and a tasty burger.
Soon after lunch, a bit of rain rolled in and we hurried back to our bungalow.
By this time Whitney’s condition had gotten even worse and she had zero energy and an increasing fever. I got her into the bungalow to hopefully rest for the rest of the day. Then, with a quick stop at a small pharmacy I stocked up on a couple items to help with the fever and body aches and hoped this would run its course quickly.
I will admit, I was quite worried as to the severity of symptoms when I walked back into bungalow to find her standing propped up along the wall saying everything hurt too much to even lay down. I comforted her with words while silently checking her pulse and doing my best but obviously limited physical exam. I prayed we wouldn’t need to make the 7 hour trip to a hospital as she willingly took some medicine and sipped Gatorade for the rest of the afternoon. I of course found the limited internet signal and slowly Googled through every possible ailment that she could have from food poisoning, to influenza, to Chikungynya. That first full day ended with a cup of noodles and an early bedtime.
Day 2 was more of the same. Whitney was out for the count. She spent most of the day resting while I hung out at the guest house common area blogging a little and slowly making some plans for what to do as our world trip was winding down. Thankfully though Whitney was able to rise a little later that afternoon and with a burst of life we headed to the best sunset bar in the area, Republica Sunset Bar. Consistent with our old NYC habits we got there about 2 hours before sunset hoping for the best seat in the house. Forgetting that we are in a remote part of the world, we ended up being the only people in the restaurant for the first 1.5hrs. Anyway, we found the best seats on the railing looking out from the high overlook and enjoyed a small dinner and our first gorgeous sunset in El Nido.
The next morning was a little slow again, but improving. Whitney was still gradually recovering but was up to heading into the main town of El Nido. We wandered through a few shops and made sure to book an island hopping boat tour for the following day.
Whitney was finally beginning to feel better and we opted to make the following day the biggest adventure of El Nido. We were told to take one of the many island hopping boat tours from El Nido and had to select the right one.
Choice A: Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizo Island, Commando Beach
Choice B: Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Beach, Cudugnon Cave, Snorkeling Site
Choice C: Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach, Hidden Beach
Choice D: Ipil Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach, Bukal Beach
After reading a handful of reviews over the slow intermittent internet and asking a handful of people while enjoying some delicious Greek food at Taverna Agape, we chose to take Island Hopping Choice A. We signed up with a local company and headed back south to Marimegmeg Beach for the rest of the afternoon.
This particular beach has a variety of small bars and restaurants spilling onto the narrow shore providing the shade of a few trees and awnings here and there to keep the patrons comfortable. The soft sand absent of most of the rocks and coral that we’ve encountered at many of the beaches certainly made for a great place to splash in the ocean. We stayed just long enough to see sunset from a few of the beach chairs that were just out of reach of the rising tides.
We strolled out of our guest house early the following morning and flagged a tricycle to bring us to town. Through the same organized chaos we’ve become accustomed to in Southeast Asia, we were gradually ushered/herded toward our boat for the day and off we went. I’ll let the photos tell the story from here:
Our boat trip finished late in the afternoon, but well before sunset. We got a ride back down to Marimegmeg Beach then wandered along the shoreline all the way to the Las Cabanas Beach where the nightly bonfire was getting set up. With a couple drinks in hand we watched as the sun dipped beyond the islands and sea of the horizon, snapping way too many pictures as usual.
Our final day in El Nido was absolutely my favorite looking back. We got up early, arranged our driver for the day, then took off for Nacpan Beach just about an hour north of El Nido town. We did make one stop along the road…a tourist trap of sorts…to hike to a small waterfall. I think is was about a 40min hike to a tiny waterfall hidden in the jungle. I wouldn’t waste the time unless you really need to stretch your legs, save it for the beach!!
Anyway, we eventually arrived at Nacpan Beach. This gorgeous 3km stretch of sand is hardly developed at all. There’s only a few small bungalow type accommodations so crowds are limited to those willing to hire a driver or take the shuttle there from El Nido. I would have to say this was the “perfect beach” with soft sand absent any rocks or coral, decent sized waves to splash through and easily body surf. I spent hours in the water here while Whitney lounged in the sand soaking in our last day. We had lunch at one of the guesthouse restaurants along the beach then it was back in the ocean for me.
We wrapped up out time at Nacpan then rode back to our guesthouse in Corong Corong. Knowing this would be our final night, we made sure to get to Republica Sunset Bar once again, well before anyone else. We ordered up a few snacks, sipped our drinks and settled in for the perfect final sunset.
El Nido was so beautiful and certainly a must for anyone traveling to the Philippines. Nacpan beach cannot be missed if you’ve made it here and obviously you can’t go without embarking on a full day boat trip! I will say getting a direct flight from Manila to El Nido (rather than the cramped 7 hour van ride from Puerto Princesaa) would be the way to go if you have the budget, but either way El Nido is a must. The next morning it was back on the road with a 7hr shuttle to Puerto Princessa Airport, then a short flight back to Manila, a local taxi to our hotel for the night, then an early morning taxi back to the airport for our last international stop of this round-the-world trip in Hong Kong!