As you might have seen on other blogs or read in guides and magazines, El Nido is one of the most beautiful places on this planet. This bold statement makes your imagination run wild because your senses can’t possibly handle so much beauty.
After a 5-hour bus ride from Puerto Princesa you arrive at an any small touristy Asian city. Except some beautiful sceneries there is not much to check out. You’ll just make a comment to your friend that it’s more expensive than the rest of the Philippines.
El Nido is probably one of the most beautiful places you will ever travel to. However, any place will lose its charm when there is a ridiculous amount of selfie sticks blocking your view.
Moreover, it’s hard to enjoy all the beauty surrounding you when you’re busy trying to figure out your schedule. No worries, there are lots of options and I’ve got you covered.
Possibilities for the real El Nido experience
Now that your expectations are lowered, I will share with you my tips and advice on how to get an as authentic experience as possible.
One way to completely dodge other tourists is to do a expedition to a little island off the coast of Palawan, called Coron. Tao is the most famous and expensive operator, but there are plenty of others. You can go with El Nido Paradise for example. They offer the expedition to Coron, but also plenty of other overnight tours. If you don’t schedule your trip properly you might miss out on the expeditions as they only leave on certain days. You can do an overnight tour, which is much cheaper. The trip includes two days of island hopping, food and an overnight camping on a deserted beach.
Camping overnight at El Nido
If you are on a budget, but you want the real experience, the overnight is by far the best option. First of all there will be fewer people on your boat because most tourists are day-trippers, or you can collect a fun bunch and take a complete boat for yourselves. Secondly, you don’t have a strict time schedule. This allows you to take more time at each site. You might be lucky enough to arrive at a site after the current of tourist boats just passed.
The idea of being on a remote beach, seeing the sun set behind the beautiful rocks, creates the dreamy image you see on the flyers and banners displayed by the numerous tour operators. That’s the real reason why you should so an overnight tour.
Around nine you will sail off to the first beach with twenty other boats. You’ll witness the tourist version of D-day. An army dressed in Orange life jackets jumps on shore with selfie sticks above their head ready to shoot hundreds of pictures. This is worse than you expected. What you will do is ask your guide kindly to leave this battlefield and to come up with a plan to avoid the masses. He will try his utmost. He will succeed as you will soon find out.
What follows is a breathtaking boat ride along pointy rock formations that must have been an inspiration for castles of evil fantasy kingdoms. You float through a narrow lagoon surrounded by high rocks. After splashing around, climbing and jumping of pointy rocks, the boat brings you to a snorkel spot which is, depending on your previous snorkel experiences, pretty interesting. And while you are spotting fish the guys from the El Nido paradise team prepare the fish that a couple of minutes ago were still in you eye sight. You continue to more beautiful sceneries and stop at a lagoon to drink some beers in the scarce sun, feeling as if you were the only one in the entire bay. As the sun starts to set you take off to a deserted beach. The guides will pitch your tent, cook fresh fish and other foods, build a big fire and supply you with nearly unlimited rum and coke, that alone is almost worth your money.
Later, when the number of bottles are shrinking, you can go skinny dipping, make love under the full moon or dance naked around the fire. You can even play Nickelback nonstop. It’s your beach for the night. Nobody will stop you.
On the second day, you might feel the residue of the abundance of Rum and Coke still pumping to your head. This will make you a little indifferent to another day of island hopping.
If you go off season, the monsoon disables the most interesting tours so they will take you on a different, more weather appropriate, outing instead.
This is a bit more of the same: you hop off at a beautiful beach, you wait in line to make a selfie with a rock, you wait in line to make a picture in a cave, you wait in line to make a picture of a lagoon, then you snorkel five minutes and hop back onto the next beautiful deserted beach.
Nevertheless, it is very much worth doing this second day. You can relax on the deck and you don’t feel the urge to constantly make pictures, which allows you to finally experience the real beauty of El Nido.