Booked a barkada trip to Palawan? That’s great! Let me share with you our El Nido DIY Itinerary last December. Palawan is a beautiful place to go with friends for it has everything – beautiful islands, extreme activities, chill beaches, a gorgeous sunset, and wild nightlife. I’ve always wanted to go with friends than family to experience it all, but you know what? I found a hack on that! There’s this family that you called cousins.
We were 10 in the group. I took charge of the itinerary and everything. Again, this is not a budget backpacker travel itinerary. It will mostly cater to my co-travelers who are into comfortable travel at a reasonable price.
El Nido, Palawan
Palawan is a big archipelagic province shaped like a closed umbrella in the Western side of the Philippines. But on this itinerary, we will be focusing more on El Nido, which is almost 5 hours away from Puerto Princesa, the capital of the province. El Nido, along with Coron, is one of the famous tourist destinations of Palawan and not just to us, Filipinos, but especially to the foreigners as well.
Since flights to Puerto Princesa are the ones usually on sale (and regularly cheaper), we booked a flight to the capital and drove for 5 hours to El Nido town.
AirSWIFT offers a direct flight to Lio Dometic Airport in El Nido, Palawan. Ayala Corporation Inc. owns this airline and flies from different parts of the country like Manila, Clark, Cebu, Boracay, Coron, and Bohol. If you have a budget of around 10,000+ PHP for an airfare, then, of course, this is the most convenient but luxurious way to fly to El Nido.
But for us, we got our roundtrip Puerto Princesa (PPS) – Clark airfare ticket for 3,000 PHP/person with Cebu Pacific. We got it three months before our travel dates and booked ten seats at this price, so I think it’s a reasonable price for us already. You can get an airfare ticket to PPS for as low as 1,000 PHP. You just need to be patient and lucky during seat sales. Most of my cousins are from Bulacan, so I agree to fly in Clark because Manila during December is a hellhole you’ll want to skip.
EXPENSES: 3,500 PHP
Airfare (no baggage): 3,000 PHP
Trinoma – Clark P2P (RT): 500 PHP
El Nido DIY Itinerary (w/ budget)
10:00 AM – Flight to Puerto Princesa via Clark
Luckily, our flight was on time!!
11:30 AM – Arrival to Puerto Princesa Airport
Before our travel dates, I already booked El Nido island tours with Northern Hope Tours, and they offered me a roundtrip PPS – El Nido van transfer. They gave it to me for 9,000 PHP, so each person only has to pay 450 PHP per way. It is cheaper than the 550 – 600 PHP that I read on the blogs. Plus, the van is already private to us—one of the perks of traveling in a large group.
Since we wanted to arrive in El Nido before sunset, we asked our driver to drop us by Jollibee and take out our lunch.
4:15 PM – Check-in in Amakan Bed and Breakfast
We booked three nights to Amakan Bed and Breakfast, which is beside the Northern Hope Tours Office. Amakan is a middle ranged gorgeous hostel in the center of El Nido town. We availed the dorm room, and each bed costs 900 PHP (1,050 PHP with taxes) per night. The place and rooms are clean, do not look cheap and have fantastic service and ambiance, so it’s worth spending.
There’s another hostel at the same price range that is also worth checking out. I didn’t get the chance to book here since it’s already fully booked. Search for Spin Hostel.
06:30 PM – Sunset at Las Cabañas
And of course, first things first, El Nido sunset!!! We rode a tricycle for 150 PHP/one way (good for three people) to bring us to Las Cabañas, which was famous for as a sunset beach. There are a lot of foreigners around, but the sunset is gorgeous. I’m still confused, but they have different names for this long stretch of beach – Marimegmeg Beach, Vanilla Beach, and Las Cabañas Beach.
7:30 PM – Dinner at Trattoria Altrove
It was a famous pizza place in El Nido, so we tried it first and foremost. There was a line when we got there, but we only waited for around 20 minutes. We ordered their famous brick oven pizza and some pasta. Their foods were delicious and had generous servings.
DAY 1 EXPENSES: 4,750 PHP
Clark Terminal Fee – 150 PHP
Van transfer roundtrip – 900 PHP
Jollibee lunch – 150 PHP
Amakan (for 3 nights) – 3,150 PHP
Tricycle to Las Cabañas (RT) – 100 PHP
Dinner – 300 PHP
07:00 AM – Island Hopping Tour A Call time
We had a call time of 7 AM for our Tour A in the Northern Hope Tour office, which was beside our hotel. We paid 1,200 PHP per person for this tour, but since we were 10 in the group, we also got the boat private for us.
Please also note these new changes in El Nido’s island hopping rules. We availed the El Nido Tour A, but we CAN’T GO to both big and small lagoon. We had to choose one due to this new rule. Northern Hopes suggested Small Lagoon for it was less crowded than Big Lagoon.
10:30 AM – Secret Lagoon
Our first stop was the Secret Lagoon, where you need to enter a hole to get inside. There was a line going inside, but I’m impressed by how all the tour guides practiced sustainable travel. I’ve observed that only let three groups inside the lagoon and a group must finish first before another group can enter.
11:30 NN – Shimizu Island
We were supposed to have our lunch in Shimizu Island, but the water is shallow for our boat, so Northern Hope asked us if it’s okay to have our lunch in our boat instead. While the “kuyas” prepare our lunch, we had free time to snorkel, swim, or visit Shimizu.
1:00 PM – Small Lagoon
Small Lagoon was gorgeous!!! It was here that I realized how Palawan was different from other provinces. Northern Hopes was right when they told us that it was less crowded since people prefer the big Lagoon. Maybe someday, I’ll go back for that.
Our boats can’t enter inside, so we had to rent paddle boats. We availed the boat for three people for P500 and paddled our way to this paradise. Nakakapagod, if you’re not athletic enough like me.
3:00 PM – 7 Commando Beach
We ended our island hopping tour by chilling on 7 Commando Beach. The boys played basketball with the locals and other tourists while we, the girls, settled on the hammocks on the beach to rest and take photos.
5:00 PM – Back to El Nido town
We went back to the hotel to shower and rest for a bit.
7:00 PM – Dinner at Cafe Athena
We tried this Mediterranean Cafe Athena just along the beachfront. The food was quite expensive, but it was good and had a huge serving.
DAY 2 EXPENSES: 1667 PHP
Island Hopping Tour A (w/ lunch) – 1200 PHP
Small Lagoon paddleboat – 167 PHP
Dinner – 300 PHP
10:30 AM – Van Rental Pick-up for Beach Hopping
We decided to chill around El Nido to regain strength again for another island hopping the next day. We rented a van again with Northern Hope Tours for 2,000 PHP.
11:00 AM – Lio Beach
Ayala Corporation owns Lio Beach, and it was the first beach that we decided to visit. It was a sophisticated and very Instagrammable beach with lots of pretty food places as well.
1:00 PM – Nacpan Beach
Nacpan Beach was my favorite among all despite being crowded with foreigners. We had our seafood lunch in a local eatery here, which was cheaper than the artsy restaurants in Lio. We also decided to stay here to enjoy the beach.
04:00 PM – Duli Beach
Duli Beach was 10 minutes away from Nacpan Beach, and we checked it out because it was known as the surfing spot in El Nido. It was a deserted beach by the time we got there due to the big inconsistent waves.
07:00 PM – Dinner at Bar 147 by Spin
We had our dinner in Bar 147 by Spin Hostel and transferred to Pukka Bar for some late night out.
DAY 3 EXPENSES: 950 PHP
Van rental – (P2000/10) = 200 PHP
Lunch at Nacpan – 200 PHP
Dinner – 250 PHP
Nightlife drinks – 300 PHP
8:00 AM – Start of Tour C
Our supposedly Tour C got canceled due to the big waves brought by the Amihan winds, so I don’t have photos to show you. Tour C was said to be the best tour in El Nido, so I advised prioritizing this first on good days, especially during December – February. Don’t worry, Northern Hope refunded our payments, but I’ll still include it in the expenses for your reference.
We just roamed and chilled around El Nido town instead.
5:00 PM – Ride back to Puerto Princesa
Our tour was supposed to end at 5 PM and have our van ride back to Puerto Princesa after.
9:00 PM – Check-in in Blue Lagoon Inn & Suites
We booked two nights in a dorm room in Blue Lagoon Inn & Suites. The dorm rooms were cheaper but were not clean. I prefer their deluxe rooms instead. It was an affordable accommodation, especially if, like us, you went a little overboard in your expenses in El Nido.
We were so tired to go out, so we just had McDelivery for dinner.
DAY 4 EXPENSES: 2,550 PHP
Island Hopping Tour C (w/ lunch) – 1400 PHP
PPS Hotel (2 nights) – 1000 PHP
Dinner – 150 PHP
06:00 AM – Pick-up in the hotel for Underground River tour
Again, we availed an underground river tour with Northern Hope Tours. It was only 1800 PHP inclusive of lunch and was a lot cheaper than the ones offered in our hotel and other tour agency on Facebook.
09:00 AM – Arrival at Underground River Dispatching Area
Underground River was a 2-hours drive away from Puerto Princesa; that’s why we had to leave early. Our guides took care of our registrations and reservations, and let us eat our breakfast first in the eateries around. We arrived a little before 9 AM, but we were already number 22 to be dispatched.
Again due to the big waves brought by Amihan waves, we almost got canceled AGAIN. The coast guards had canceled the tours from number 25 above. I recommend going here in summer (March-May) where the sea is calmer.
10:00 AM – Sabang Beach
The motorboat ride to Sabang Beach took 20 minutes, but the waves were so big, so if you’re prone to seasick, then this will be a hard 20 minutes for you. The beach was gorgeous and well-maintained. Hats off to the tourism office in charge because they have a well-implemented system and process in handling tourists and local boatmen.
From the beach, we walked along a forest to reach the mouth of the cave. We were given helmets, audio guides, and assigned us to our paddle boatman.
BEWARE OF THE MONKEYS. Do not feed them, please.
10:15 AM – Start of Underground Tour
I’m not really into caves, but this one was gorgeous! The amazing stalagmites formations were unbelievable to believe at and made me realize that God was indeed an amazing Creator. I RECOMMEND THIS!!! May the local government continue to preserve the beauty of this.
The tour lasted for almost 45 minutes, and may you give your local boatman some tip.
12:00 NN – Buffet Lunch
Our tour was inclusive of lunch, which is near the dispatching area. It was a buffet lunch, and most of the tours are in partnership with this restaurant. The food is okay. There are more vegetables than meat. We also tried the famous “timalok” (raw woodworm) of Palawan.
3:00 PM – Back at the hotel
Since it’s still early, we decided to make most of our stay in Puerto Princesa. We hired a tricycle to bring us to the Crocodile farm and Baker Hill. He asked for 600 PHP for five people. We agreed, but another tricycle driver that we met that evening told us that it should be just 400 PHP for these two places.
04:00 PM – Puerto Princesa Crocodile Farm
The Crocodile farm was one of the famous city tour places in Puerto Princesa. We were curious how big the crocodile here can be, so we decided to visit. We paid 40 PHP entrance fee and waited for the next tour schedule. A tourism student guided us through the cages while sharing different facts. It was an interesting visit! I also got the chance to hold a baby crocodile!
5:00 PM – Baker’s Hills
Baker’s Hill was an Instagram heaven place that I never expected it to be. I thought it was just a famous bakery that sells delicious hopia in Puerto Princesa. It was a huge place with bakery, restaurants, stores, and lots of photogenic areas. We spent the afternoon taking photos and buying some pasalubongs.
06:30 PM – Puerto Princesa Boardwalk
The city boardwalk was our last stop for our city tour. It was where locals gather to talk and get together. The smell of the fish is intense, but I love walking along the Philippines provinces’ boardwalks. There are also a lot of seafood restaurants (dampa-style) around.
07:30 PM – Dinner at Kinabuch Grill & Bar
Almost everyone I know online (and even a friend from Puerto Princesa) told us to eat at Kinabuch so we decided to eat here than in the boardwalk. IT WAS GOOD AND AFFORDABLE TOO. We tried the crocodile sisig here and rented their billiard table for an hour. It was a nice place to end your trip.
DAY 5 EXPENSES: 2,445 PHP
Underground River Tour (w/ lunch) – 1800 PHP
Sandwich breakfast + water – 50 PHP
Tips – 20 PHP (200 PHP for the group)
Tricycle rent – 120 PHP
Crocodile Farm – 40 PHP
Baker’s Hill pasalubong – 200 PHP
Tricycle to Kinabuch from boardwalk – 15 PHP
Kinabuch Dinner – 200 PHP
9:30 AM – Check-out
We checked out from our hotel and availed our free airport transfer. You can asked to drop by a pasalubong center if you want.
10:00 AM – Puerto Princesa International Airport
Just want to share how gorgeous the new Puerto Princesa International Airport is.
11:15 AM – Flight back to Clark
Back to reality.
DAY 6 EXPENSES: 850 PHP
Breakfast in hotel – 150 PHP
Pasalubongs – 500 PHP
PPS Airport terminal fee – 200 PHP
TOTAL EXPENSES: 16,751 PHP
Airfare (+ P2P to Clark) – 3500 PHP
Day 1 (El Nido Arrival + Hotel) – 4750 PHP
Day 2 (El Nido Tour A) – 1667 PHP
Day 3 (El Nido Beach Hopping) – 997 PHP
Day 4 (El Nido Tour C)- 2550 PHP
Day 5 (Underground River + PPS Tour) – 2445 PHP
Day 6 (Going Home) – 850 PHP
El Nido is not a cheap place to travel to, maybe unless you compromise comfort. Commercialism is evident, and the prices seem based on foreign tourists, which are 80% of the tourists here. The tours and rentals, as well, are regulated by the LGU, so haggling is hard. Even El Nido restaurants have the same price ranges in Manila restaurants, but local eateries are a cheaper alternative, though. I was surprised that I spent more than my 15k budget for an El Nido DIY. But it was a good trip, so I’ll charge it to experience.