I lied – to myself and everyone else. It happened more than four months ago, but I have not fully healed.
“I’m okay,” I said. Despite how much I was trying to convince myself, in reality, my heart was aching. This trip was to help me recalibrate and focus on myself. I needed it.
In 2016, I went on my first trip to the Philippines (it was also my second solo trip). Everyone I met told me to check out Palawan. “You’ll never find somewhere better than it!” they shared.
Over the next three years, I’ve tried making it happen but the flights and commute was always in the way.
This time round, I made it happen. And boy, no regrets!
Since my trip, I’ve received a ton of questions on Palawan so I thought I’d compile it here.
Q: How do you get to Palawan?
A: Do you know how near Singapore is to the Philippines? But this entire journey to El Nido took a good 15 hours. I took off from Singapore on a 12:50am flight, and only arrived at my hostel at 4pm.
Here’s how you get to El Nido:
- Flight from SG to Cebu – 4 hours
- Flight from Cebu to Puerto Princessa – 1 hour, 55 mins
- Shuttle bus from Puerto Princessa to El Nido – 5 to 6 hours
Q: What’s the recommended duration for Palawan?
A: Personally, I’d always say to set aside a week if you’re visiting the Philippines, regardless of where you’re going. The place is huge, and getting from one place to another may take a couple of hours.
For me, I dislike rushing when I travel. My friends have managed to pack a whole lot of activities in their itinerary but I don’t recommend it.
There are lots of things to do in Palawan, you can consider:
- Las Cabanas beach (150-200 peso for one-way; best beach in my opinion! Not to forget, a stunning sunset as seen above)
- Twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang (600 peso for a round trip on a van; I feel this place is rather overrated though)
- Island hopping tours (There’s a total of four tours available, from A to D. Some offer a special tour E but it’s just a combination of islands from the four. I did Tour A (1000 to 1200 peso inclusive of lunch), and C (1400 peso including lunch).
For tour A, you’ll choose from Big or Small lagoon (used to be a trip to both islands but they have changed it recently), and visit Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and the 7 Commando Beach. For tour C, you’ll explore Dilumacad Island (also known as Helicopter Island), Matinloc Shrine, Star Beach, Secret Beach, and Hidden Beach.
If you have time, you should also check out Coron which is a 4-5-hour ferry ride away. It’s a quieter town, but offers as much, if not better tours!
With a twist of fate, I was upgraded from my 4-island tour to the ultimate tour (1500 peso inclusive of lunch). Way too tiring (we started at 10am and ended at 6pm!), but it was amazing! Clearest waters I’ve seen despite the rainy weather and an extremely bad hangover.
The tour consists of Siete Picados, Barracuda Lake, Skeleton Wreck (Japanese ships were struck by air strikes during WWII and sank here), Twin Lagoon, Coral island and CYC beach.
You should also go on a 700-steps hike on Mt Tapyas and check out the Maquinit Hot Spring.
Q: How do you get from El Nido to Coron?
A: You can purchase a fast ferry ticket in El Nido or vice versa if you’re travelling the other way round. It costs approximately 1800 peso and takes around 4-5 hours. A word of caution though, it’s not exactly a comfortable ride as the ferry is packed with people and you’d have to sit in rows of three’s or four’s.
Q: How much money should I set aside for El Nido?
A: El Nido is pretty far away from everything so things tend to be higher priced. Different people also have different travel styles. But here’s a quick base for your consideration (in Singapore Dollar):
- Accommodation: $20-$40/night/bed for hostels; $25 and above/night for hotels (price differs based on season)
- Meals: $5-$15/meal
- Alcohol: $4-$10/drink
- Tours $30-$50/tour
- Transfers: $2-$3/tuktuk ride within town
As compared to Boracay where I was only spending $30-$50 a day, I was spending slightly more in El Nido and would set my budget around $60-$70.
Q: Where did you stay in?
A: Note: I am a solo traveller and my preference is to stay in a couple of places. For this trip, I stayed in the following places:
- Spin Hostel (Highly recommended, close to everything and super convenient. It also offers great amenities that are well kept, and there’s an egg station for breakfast!)
- Blessed Inn (For non-fussy travellers who want to keep their budget low yet have some privacy. Great location, but you might be taken aback with the toilet bowl – no flushing system, so you’ll need to fill a bucket with water and use the power of gravity to get rid of waste…)
- The Cavern Pod Hotel & Specialty Cafe (Love the bosses of the hostel – two Americans who came to El Nido for a honeymoon and loved the place so much they sold everything and settled here. The location is not exactly the best, approximately 10-mins to town but easily accessible with a tuk tuk.)
Q: How do you settle your bookings?
A: It depends.
- Land transfers: Klook (Used it for the first time but I found that prices are typically cheaper than when you book onsite.)
- Tours: You can basically get anything from the local tour agencies, from tours to bike rentals and land/ ferry transfers.
- Accommodation: Agoda.com (Best option if you’re travelling around Asia Pacific) However, when I travel around in the Philippines, I would usually book only the first one or two nights, and check out the hotels/ hostels in the area. I find that there is very limited choices for some strange reason for PH.
Q: Is Palawan worth the trip?
A: Yes, yes, and yes – despite being hit by viral hepatitis (a story for another day), the answer is yes and I would do it all over again.