It all started when Airphil Express (PAL Express) celebrated their first anniversary last March and cut the cost of many of their seats to only P100. After a brief consultation with friends, we decided to book flights to Puerto Princesa. My friends had not been to Puerto Princesa but I had been there several times before. So before they could be overly excited about touring Puerto Princesa, I quickly brought up the idea of traveling 6 hours by van/bus to El Nido.
Everyone loved the idea. It was my turn to get overly excited because I had never been to El Nido before and it was my ultimate dream to see what this North Palawan town has to offer.
By the way, we got our roundtrip tickets for only P200 (base fare, P100 one way) plus P153 taxes and other applicable fees. That’s P353, total. Spell CHEAP. I loved it!
Finding Cheap Hotel/Hostel in El Nido
This trip could not come at a better time. Work load had been horrible in the past few weeks that I wasn’t able to plan the trip — not even look for accommodations. Our flight was at 7am and at 1am, I was just starting to look for a cheap hotel or hostel to stay in. I browsed several websites and blogs and texted all the contact numbers I could find. Unfortunately for me, only a few replied and those who did said that they were fully booked.
It didn’t help that we were a group of 7 people. One hotel had a vacant room but could only accommodate up to 3 people.
We were already at the airport at around 5:30 am when I received a call from Cliffside Cottages, telling me that they had rooms for all 7 of us. Thank Heavens! We asked about the rate and we were surprised that it was really cheap — P500 per room per night. Each room could accommodate up to 2 people. That’s only P250 per person. We immediately had 3 rooms reserved and gave our word that we would stay for one night. (By the way, the rate is P600 per room per night if booked for only one night, which was completely fine with us.)
We decided that since we would have ample time to kill on our first night in El Nido, we’d look for other hotels in the area as soon as we got there. In the mean time, we would be spending our first night at Cliffside Cottages.
We would end up staying at the El Nido Waterfront Hotel and the Garnet Hotel on our second and third nights.
The takeaway here is: Book in advance. We were lucky that we were still able to find vacant rooms for all seven of us. We have asked almost all beachfront hotels at Bacuit Bay and they were all fully-booked considering that it wasn’t peak season when we were there.
Planning a Trip to El Nido
For more information on how to plan your El Nido trip including a more detailed itinerary and practical tips, visit this more detailed post.
Day 1: On the Road to El Nido
Once we arrived in Puerto Princesa, we immediately booked tickets to El Nido at the Fortwally Shuttle Services Office. A couple of hours later, the shuttle picked us up at a restaurant in the city proper. It was a full six-hour drive with one stop-over at an eatery in Roxas, Palawan. We left at 11am and hit the El Nido terminal at 5pm. We took a trike to our hostel, watched the sunset at Bacuit Bay, and grabbed dinner and some booze.
- How to Get to El Nido via Puerto Princesa City
- Cliffside Cottages
- Sunset Walk Along Bacuit Bay
- Dinner at Bacuit Grill Bar and Restaurant
Day 2: Tour C – The Beaches of Matinloc Island and Helicopter Island
We were supposed to take Tour A that day but our boatmen noticed that the weather was pleasant and suggested that we prioritize Tour C because it’s farther. After all, we can do Tour A even when the weather isn’t as favorable but not Tour C. Usually, it costs P900 per person but since we were a group of 7, they cut off a good chunk of the cost to only P650 inclusive of lunch. All seven of us had the entire boat for ourselves.
Tour C is all about beaches. Basically, we should have explored three islands — Matinloc Island, Shimizu Island, and Helicopter Island but we had to skip Shimizu because of time constraints. Here are the specific places we visited as part of this tour.
We moved to another hotel, El Nido Waterfront Hotel, after the tour for a change of scenery (and because some of us really wanted beachfront accommodations.) Once everything was settled and upon seeing recommendations online, we had dinner at El Nido Corner Restaurant that evening and went to a bar afterwards for a round of beer.
Day 3: Tour A – The Lagoons of Miniloc Island and the 7 Commando Beach
The gorgeous and rocky Miniloc Island took the spotlight on our third day in El Nido. Miniloc Island is home to several lagoons and some of them are difficult to access.
It was a much easier tour than Tour C primarily because Miniloc is nearer than Matinloc and the waves at the lagoons are hardly there.
After the tour, we chose to spend the night at the lobby of Garnet Hotel, where half of our group were staying, and just watch TV. We were just so exhausted after two days of island-hopping. We also ditched the initial idea of drinking and getting wasted that night since Fortwally would be picking us up at 4:30 am in front of our hotel. That was too early. But we needed to catch the 2pm flight the next day.
Day 4: Back to Puerto Princesa to Manila
Our last day in El Nido started as early as 3am. We had a cup of coffee by the beach after packing and at 4am, we were along the road waiting for Fortwally to pick us up. They arrived on time and in the next 6 hours I was asleep in the van. I woke up past 10:30 and we were already in Puerto Princesa. After a quick brunch at Balinsasayaw Restaurant, we headed over to the airport and checked in early to catch our flight back to Manila.
Budget and Expenses
As mentioned before, this has been one of my cheapest 4-day/3-night getaways. Here’s the breakdown of the expenses.
- P1,200 – Fortwally Shuttle roundtrip fare
- P300 – Cliffside Cottages (P600 per room/2 pax)
- P1,000 – El Nido Waterfront Hotel (2 nights at P2000 per night/4 pax; air-conditioned)
- P600 - Total food expenses
- P200 – Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF)
- P550 – Tour A (El Nido Corner, with group discount)
- P650 – Tour C (El Nido Corner, with group discount)
- P240 – Terminal fees (Manila and PPS)
- P100 - Incidentals (water, trike rides, snacks)
P 4,840 – TOTAL EXPENSES
I brought P7000 in this trip for pocket money (with the airfare being paid way before the trip) and I was pleasantly shocked that I still had so much left. I guess it pays to bring snacks with me, too. And for breakfast, just buy a pack of pandesal from any of the bakeries there and divide the cost among the group.