Location: Province of Palawan, MIMAROPA1 Region, Philippines
My husband and I visited Puerto Princesa2, Palawan3 years ago. The former is a first class, highly urbanized city located in the western province of Palawan, the westernmost city in the Philippines, with 66 barangays, and the capital of Palawan. The airport is located in this city and it is also known for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, named one of the New7Wonders of the Nature. Palawan is a province in the Philippines located in the MIMAROPA Region of the Philippines, founded in 1818, and is now called the Philippines’ Last Frontier.
We were invited by my high school buddies and their families to El Nido (a first-class municipality in the northernmost tip of mainland Palawan), from February 19 to 22, 2017. It was our first time to visit this wonderful destination known for its awesome coral reefs, white-sand beaches, unique lagoons and limestone cliffs.
We were likewise curious how tourism can thrive amidst the so-called El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA)4, the largest marine sanctuary in the Philippines, covering 18 barangays in El Nido and 3 barangays of its neighboring town, Taytay, involving more than 900 sq. km, using various forest and marine conservation and protection programs, to protect and develop the livelihoods of the seaside local population, amidst the development of tourist in the area. A very small (50 US cents) daily conservation fee is required per visitor.
We heard so much about El Nido’s beauty so we did not hesitate to join the group to discover this new destination which was part of our bucket list.
Everything was pre-arranged by my very dependable and travel-savvy friend from the US so my husband and I just paid for our share. Here is the first part of our unforgettable adventure!
Our group arrived at the Puerto Princesa Airport and two vans were waiting for us provided by Daytripper Palawan. The mini-packs of banana chips, bottled water and, of course, the professional driving skills of our drivers were very much appreciated. It was about a 6-hour trip from the airport to El Nido, and we stopped a couple of times for the “call of nature”, to stretch a bit, as well as have our lunch. Some of us appreciated the view while some slept along the way.
We finally arrived at Sea Cocoon, our hotel, and we all checked-in. We used the remaining time to explore the town, its market and retail stalls, the beach, and savored its local and fresh seafood for dinner along a seaside restaurant. We slept early the previous night because this will be the first of our 3 day-tour that will take us around this awesome destination.
We had a good night’s rest after a hot shower and slept soundly on a comfortable bed in our air-conditioned room. We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and the hotel’s sumptuous buffet breakfast was so good!
I am also lucky to have a well-organized friend who even provided durable hard-plastic beach bags where I could place all my (and my husband’s) needs for the day: sun block, bottles of mineral water for hydration, comb, towels, sunglasses, well-protected cell phone and power bank, snacks, cash, etc. Photos were taken after breakfast, all met at the lobby, trooped to the beach (which was just about 3 minute-walk from our hotel) and before we knew it, we were all aboard our big banca (boat) for the day.
My friend contracted Hello El Nido for the 3 packaged tours and may I say that my husband and I were very satisfied with the services of the management and all the boatmen/crew. Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com
It also seemed that the local government has standardized the packaged tours of El Nido which is beneficial for us, first-time tourists. Our tour that day is marketed as TOUR C – SECRET ISLANDS AND BEACHES, costing 1,400 pesos each person.
We wore our safety vests and enjoyed the natural beauty – 360 degrees! Worried that you cannot swim? Don’t be! You can stay in the banca but I do not recommend that and I am so sure you will not because of the beauty of all the stops. All destinations are safe for all ages and all stops are worth the trip! So, listen up, it’s our first packaged tour of El Nido and I know you will be excited with me as I recall our tour.
The first stop was SECRET BEACH which can only be accessed by swimming and going through a small crevice in a rock wall. No worries, dearest seniors, I gained weight and still fitted LOL! Besides, the kind boatmen will always be ready to assist you: seniors, kids, and whoever else needs assistance. Once inside, you will be awed by this pristine beach and its beauty and thus, a secret no more!
Next was HIDDEN BEACH, surrounded by fantastic limestone rock formations. You can just float with your life vest or swim, just be careful not to be near sharp corals.
The STAR OF TALISAY BEACH was the next stop. It is a snorkeling site and was also our lunch stop. Now, I am sure you are curious to know about the buffet lunch. Let me tell you that all such meals for our 3 package tours were soooo good, thanks to Hello El Nido! The freshly cooked “inihaw” (grilled) pork and seafood (shrimps/fish/squids), along with fresh vegetables/seaweed salad, hot steamed rice, and fresh fruits were always a welcome feast for our group! Burp! Drinking water was also provided. Happy tummies always! My best advice is for you to bring cash for fresh buko (young coconut) or cold softdrinks sold in island stops.
The MATINLOC SHRINE or the SHRINE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, is located in an island maintained by the descendants of the original owner. Be prepared for a 100 peso-entrance fee. The shrine is serene and satisfies the religious among us seniors. The big old house seemed abandoned but you can imagine its splendor when it was new and operational. Our group went up a cemented area with steps leading to the peak where we had an unforgettable view for miles and miles!
Last was HELICOPTER ISLAND, a helicopter-shaped island when viewed from afar, ideal for snorkeling and diving.
This first packaged tour was indeed wonderful! Thanks, Gani Ricarte of http://www.helloelnido.com! Your kind boatmen returned us to our shores early so we can enjoy the majestic sunset in this picturesque island! We felt so lucky to have another dinner along the shore for us to breathe in all the good vibes while we savored the fresh seafood treats we ordered!
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Watch out for my next post and discover the other beautiful islands of El Nido!
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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy or lazy to Google such terms:
1MIMAROPA, according to the Wikipedia page, “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, is an administrative region of the Philippines which is an acronym for its constituent provinces: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. SOURCE: “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.
2“Puerto Princesa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto Princesa.
3“Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.
4“El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El Nido,_Palawan.