It was time to leave the northern Philippines and be brought back to western reality on the island of Palawan. We hadn’t seen so many westerners in two weeks and it was a shock to the system.
Getting to and from Puerto Princesa / El Nido / Coron
Where you fly into will determine how much baggage you can take. We had thought we could fly into Puerto Princesa work out way up Palawan, ferry to Coron and fly back to Manila from Basuagua airport. Nope. Computer says no. It’s a turbo prop plane you see and on turbo prop planes they limit your baggage to 10kg. Dare I say we were travelling with 22kg and the kitchen sink! It didn’t show anywhere online where we could buy additional weight.
We went through all the possibilities. From Coron. Going back to El Nido to fly back. Anything to avoid another 6 hours in a van. But with visa time constraints (only a 30 day visa) this wasn’t going to be possible. So, we weren’t going to make it to Coron. We would have to stick with the main Palawan island and hang out on Long Beach instead for a few days.
However, with regard to the above, talking to various people they spoke about getting to the airport and just paying the for excess baggage. So, I would suggest, if you are going to give this a try, to get to the airport early.
Palawan is a pretty large island. It’s 120km between PP and EN add in the winding roads around the hills and it take 5-6 hours to get around. From EN to San Vicente it’s 2.5 hours in a van. Add another hour for Port Barton. Travelling between places just takes time and then you need to ensure that there are buses or van going.
Book your hotels / hostels in advance. I’m talking weeks if not months to get the place that you want. Don’t leave it to the last minute. It’s the Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday this week so there a lot of people flying in from China and HK to get some sun. Who knew that there were very cheap flights from Manila to Shenzeng, like £30 one way.
Trying to find last minute accommodation has been tough. On Wednesday we didn’t have a bed for Friday. We even considered the expensive places, like the Sheridan Beach Resort on Sabang beach or the Daluyon Villas next door, near the underground river, but there was no room at the inn. So we decided that we would suck it up for El Nido at the Balay Paraguay which was still pretty pricey at £50 a night and no breakfast, hope for the best and then book somewhere nice afterwards. 15m2 rooms are really not big enough for two grown adults with big bags. The aim was to go on the island hoping tours so not much time would be spent in rooms.
Choosing the right place / beach to stay in El Nido
You hear people talking about choosing the right beach to stay on and not to stay in El Nido Proper (aka the town) so where should you stay? Well if you want to be in Proper then go for it just beware it can be noisy. Plus there is construction works happening everywhere. Ideally you want a side street where the Tricycles are not revving up and down. Down near the cliff wall it is pretty quiet by night and you’re still in walking distance to all the restaurants and boat tours.
If you want somewhere a little quieter then there is Corong Corong Beach which is just over 1km outside of Proper and you can continue going further south out to Las Cabanas beach and you can take tricycles in and out. There are restaurants and bars along the sea front and it’s not as built up as Proper. It all depends on what you are looking for.
We came across Lio Beach, a public beach that has a whole new resort being built along it. An array of restaurants and bars have opened up and the beach is stunning. One resort has opened up and there are more to follow. The airport is next door though the planes are small you don’t hear them too much. There is a free shuttle bus every hour to bring you to Proper but you need to be early to get it.
Underground river tour at Sabang
If you’re going to do a tour to the underground river from PP then your day could look like this…
- Bus at 630am.
- Stop along the way for a view (?) and breakfast about 745. Stock up here for food if you haven’t brought any with you. It’s will be gone 1pm by the time you see lunch and starvin marvin.
- Guide gets on. Tells you off all the waiting that there is going to be so you have the option of the Little amazon tour on the river for 360 or to go zip lining whilst waiting and kill some time. He doesn’t give you the option of staying near the pier where you can go for a wander and grab a coffee at one of the many beach restos or a massage by the beach away from the pier hustle and bustle.
- Eventually you get on an 8 seater boat which brings you on a 20 min ride around the bay to a beach where you jump off to walk towards the entrance to the river. More waiting.
- It’s then time for highlight of the day, the river tour through the caves. A natural living museum they called it. You are advised to keep your mouth shut – wouldn’t want to swallow any bay droppings!
Another way is to go and stay in Sabang. We saw the Sheridan and Danulan villas located on the beach and I’m sure there are others. Get your accommodation to advise you of how to get from your location to them. They can then organise your trip to the underground river without all the waiting around. Last boat leaves at 3pm with the aim of everything being closed up by 6pm and sunset.
Travel from PP to EN
It’s 500 peso for a van from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. Book it at your accommodation and then you will get pick up from there as your actual van leaves from the bus station. We were told 10-1030 pick up. 1045 pick up ensued and that was to pick up others and drive to the bus station we then transferred to another van eventually leaving PP at 1145. At least this van had AC that worked and to boot there was only 10 of us in the van. Make that lots of pick ups along the way. Our driver was out to make money from picking up extras and I suspect the stories about 17 being crammed into the vans was true. We were much luckier on the leg from EN to St Vicente staying at Club Agutaya
Oh and a word of warning, if you decide to stay in El Nido Proper; on sunday morning the local catholics get their microphones out and start preaching at 6am. Not a relaxing, melodic preaching rather the shouting whaling kind. Not the best after a fitful nights sleep due to the heat and lack of air in our 15m2 room…
Sunset at La Plage on Corong Corong beach