Looking for a blog post about a 5-day travel guide of exploring both Puerto Princesa City and El Nido in Palawan? Hello there, my name is Marron and you’re in the right place.
Low in budget? Not a problem. Let me share how did my first DIY Palawan trip went. But before I begin, can I just say, that this island is the real destination? Of course I do. Palawan is the largest island province in the Philipines and also known as the last frontier of the country. And I can’t remember when did I first started dreaming of going there.
So it all started sometime about four months before this trip. I was so bored at home that the next thing I know, I already booked myself a plane ticket going to the best island in the world, Palawan. I thought I was going alone but two months before the flight, four friends joined in. Let the adventures begin!
With no sleep from last night’s shift, it was me and my friend, Mark, were the first to land at Puerto Princesa City by 10 in the morning. From there, we literally had no plans not until I saw my name written at the pile of people outside the airport. Hahaha I was amazed! Turns out that our friend, Myka, already organized our not so planned Palawan trip (I think it was still planned maybe I was just not paying attention again) I felt I’m something special (even though I am not) seeing “Marron Santillan” on the poster haha!
It was Kuya Ferdz (I will put his phone number at the end of this blogpost) who welcomed us in Palawan. And as I hopped in his tricycle, I wasn’t aware that it was the start of our city tour as we wait for our friends that will arrive by 6pm on the same day.
It was all fun!
We finished the tour at 3:00pm and since there was plenty of time left to kill, we went to a coffee shop to cool down. 2 hours later, we were back to the van terminal outside the airport where we spent the remaining time waiting for our friends.
We left Puerto Princesa City at around 7pm after we met our friends by 6pm. The trip to El Nido (the van fare going from PPC to El Nido is P500) was roughly around 5 to 6 hours ride from the city. I have not slept yet since the day before our Palawan trip like always so I decided to sleep on the ride. But I cannot.
The drive going to El Nido was nice. Driving along the darkness of the best island in the world, I remember it was just 9:30 in the evening when I looked at my watch but it already felt like 3 in the morning. It was peaceful as I look to my window and it was the kind of peace that I was looking for.
And then when we reached El Nido at 12mn, the night became young again in just a snap of a finger. We went to the beach front as soon as we put our things inside our hostel rooms (i forgot the name of the hostel but it was recommended by kuya Ferdz, P300/pax per night!) to drink beers. And even though it was dark and all, I was looking around and I already saw how crystal clear the water was, with the silhouette of limestone at a distance. Imagine my excitement as I imagined its beauty with the morning sunlight?
So by 3 in the morning before we hit the sack, me and my friends were told to get up by 8am because island tour is what’s about to happen. Seriously, welcome to team no sleep.
You will never ever truly see the real beauty of this place if not for the island hopping tours. There are 4 main island hopping tours in El Nido: Tour A,B,C and D (Each tour is worth P1,200 per pax, that also includes the boat, gears and lunch and the strangers you’ll meet on the boat that will eventually be your drinking buddies at night) We took the most popular one and that’s Tour A. This tour includes Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island and 7 Commando Beach.
Basically, I think it is very easy to book a tour in El Nido. You’ll find tour organizers on the streets and inside the hostels. Just be sure to settle your reservations before midnight so no worries by the morning.
That day was nothing but breathtaking. I remember sun-kissed happy faces on a bright day. The lagoons on this tour were incredible. And on some of them, you’ll need to rent a kayak (P300-P500) for you to paddle your way to the most dazzling lagoons of El Nido. Do it! If you are ever startled that rowing might won’t work for you, trust me, you’ll work it and you’ll be proud you did it.
Shimizu Island was where we had our lunch. There was literally nothing like a seafood and vegetable combo that day! My tummy were saying no but my mouth was still on the go. I can’t help it, the food prepared freshly is one of my life’s greatest pleasure.
Our last stop was the 7 Commando Beach. I love that fine island. White sand, turquoise waters, majestic palm trees and cheery people. There was nothing like ending your day with a great finale: extra cold beers.
After the tour, me and my friends went straight to Las Cabanas Beach to watch the sunset. I will never regret following the advice of kuya bangkero when we asked him where to go before evening (We payed P100 for the tricycle going there) So arriving at the good-looking beach, its vibe was infectious. Bob Marley playing from the bar, people on the beach having beers, and the sunset again, being charming like always.
If you were wondering, yes, we did drink that evening. I was like half-drunk the whole evening!
And then again, with no decent sleep at all, forcing our bodies to wake up 7 in the morning because another adventure in the islands of El Nido is waiting. The plan was picking Tour C (because it’s the 2nd most popular tour next to tour A) but we ended up taking the Tour B (P1,200) because the coast guard wouldn’t let any boat to take this trip during our time.
The Tour B includes Pangalusian Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Vigan and Snake Island, Cadugnon Point Cave, Pinasil Island and Cathedral Cave.
It was entertaining. But with all those moving around, walking and swimming will get you exhausted and hungry. So with no breakfast at all (because we can’t wake up any earlier) we took that day’s lunch on the boat. And after another day of great Palawan adventure, we had to go back to our hostel to fix our things and prepare ourselves to go back to Puerto Princesa City. Which, I know! It was so sad to leave El Nido.. but it was time to go.
Smiling because we had fun but with unhappy eyes because we knew it was time to say bye for a while, we left El Nido with sad hearts by 6 in the evening and arrived back at Puerto Princesa City by midnight. We checked in to Don Pablo Lodge.
After that, we went outside for a walk to go to the nearest Jollibee, which was like a 20 minutes walk? I’m not sure but it was close to that. But that time was nothing for a hungry tummies, right? So then again, it was our 3rd day sleeping past midnight.
I set the alarm at 6 in the morning because there was only 1 bathroom and there were 5 of us and considering some of my friends that can take hours inside the bathroom (which really pissed me off) I was planning to go first. But of course when the morning came, that didn’t happen. It was just so hard to get up! Not until someone knocked and told us that the van that will take us to Sabang was downstairs already. In the end, I wasn’t able to take a bath! I remember I didn’t even change the shorts that I was wearing haha! But I was totally comfortable with it. And I was excited I was freaking out.
Because we were going to see the Puerto Princesa Underground River!
From Puerto Princesa City, the drive going to Sabang was around 2 hours. (This price for this tour is P1,340) It was a fun drive because you can get a panoramic view of the mountains and the sea. I felt like I was a kid on a field trip, because our tour guide, Kuya Manny, was excessively communicative. I remember the moment we enter the National Park, I was in a state of amazement looking at my window while listening to the enriching history of Palawan, Philippines’ last frontier.
When we reached Sabang Port, Kuya Manny informed us the overview of all the do’s and don’ts when inside the national park. We waited for almost an hour (because there was a queue on the boats that will take the tourists to the Underground River) or more before we get to our boat. So we took time to walk around the beach of Sabang.
Crossing the sea, the waves aren’t calm at all. It was a gloomy day and it felt like I was in a Jurassic Park movie! When you disembark, you’ll get to take a short trek before you get to another boat that go inside the PPUR. And it was nice! Monkeys swinging on top of you, giant lizards walking with you. Also on this trip, we were provided a headset (because you are not allowed to speak, make noise, or even open your mouth when you look up when you are already inside the underground river for a lot of important reasons) so that means, you will be listening to a recorded audio while touring the parts of the river. Marvelous idea, don’t you agree?
Back in 2007, I started supporting Puerto Princesa Underground River until it became the new 7 wonders of nature.. can’t remember how many times I dreamed of going there and just that day, a dream just came true! It was super cool to enter the longest navigable underground river in the world, boasting caves full of natural rock formations made of dissolve limestone. I couldn’t help but thank my lucky stars how fortunate I was to see this with my own eyes. Others were telling me i should skip this in our Palawan trip but I’m glad I went anyway.
Going back to Sabang Port, we ate the buffet lunch and traveled back to the city. But before going back to our room, we went first to buy pasalubongs. I swear you guys, buying something for the people back home was gratifying!
Our last day!
My 3 friends were scheduled to go back to Manila at 10:00 am that day while me and Mark at 7 that evening. So we made reservations with another tour going to Honda Bay.
I was super close about cancelling that tour because I was thinking of my money. At the end, I considered the fact that I can earn it back in Manila. But the experience, not always. But arriving at the port, we were informed by the coast guard that all trips going to Honda Bay was cancelled because of the weather. Which was really sad. I was talking to our tour guide to talk to the coast guards to make sure about it. But then again we ended up back to our room to sleep and wait for the afternoon. Maybe next time, Honda Bay.
It was sunset when we left our lodge to go to the airport and leaving Palawan was heartbreaking. I swear to the gods! I should be excited going back home and I should be missing my bed because hostel beds are rocklike as shag. But the sadness that I felt when I went inside the airport was out of sorts. I’m not even kidding. I remember one afternoon when we got back from visiting the underground river, I went to the veranda for some coffee. And I was thinking of staying there and not going back to Manila hahaha but then again I cannot quit my job yet.
All in all, this trip wasn’t perfect. I mean, we could have done better planning it 6 months before our flight to this island, but it turned out great anyway and it was something we needed. And now, 4 months after my plane landed back in Manila, I don’t know how am I going to end this one. I just can’t hardly express the beauty of this island and I can’t even find the right words for all those scenic views that I saw when I was there with my backpack. I seriously don’t know.
My best advice: just go there. Palawan may seem far and hard to be reached, but you are just one decision away. And even if I happen to find the right words to tell you how incredible it is to experience adventures in Palawan, you have to experience it for yourself. So book a flight! And live the moment.
Because when I slept on my bed that night when I got back from there, I knew I was changed.
Thank you, Palawan!
- Here’s the contact number of Kuya Ferdz (Ferdz Hulguin) 09061930740 and 09478030851. He was our tricycle driver on the city tour, and he pretty much organized the whole trip! Booked us to the vans going to El Nido, booked our hostels in El Nido and in Puerto Princesa City. He was also the one who made our reservations to Puerto Princesa Underground River and Honda Bay.
- Budget: I spent around P8,000 to P9,000 (airfare not included) on this trip.
- Enjoy every second of your trip and safe travels!
- If you have more questions, you may reach me by my facebook and instagram.