Travel Blog: El Nido and Puerto Princesa, Palawan
HERE’S THE 6-DAY ITINERARY OF OUR HONEYMOON trip to Palawan, Philippines. I’m writing about the El Nido and Puerto Princesa highlights such as the Underground River, limestone island-hopping tours, and more.
In the last five years, I’ve seen some of the best views of the western side of the planet. So picking a honeymoon destination was too much a high-stress situation we didn’t even touch it for months. In the end, my husband Jovi and I settled on our last pick, Palawan.
“Just go to Palawan,” everyone says, as it is beautiful. There’s a tendency for many of us nowadays that just because we’ve seen a travel destination in pictures we judge it too fast. Palawan turned out to be Jurassic Park kind-of-a-paradise. It’s a dream come true for outdoor enthusiasts like me – limestone islands, aquamarine waters, lush flora and rich fauna, and bursting with adventure side trips. The tour guides are very well trained; even small details on tour systems are smooth.
While I was there, I was disconcerted seeing the views and disbelieving it is part of my own country where I could speak Tagalog with other Filipinos. Of course, I knew that we have El Nido as a backyard (from Cebu, it takes a one-hour flight and 6-hour drive to get there) but I just did not expect to see as much beauty as I did, finally seeing it with my own eyes.
In one of my usual elaborate conversations with Jovi, we compared walking along El Nido Bayan as our Rome, Italy, limestone island-boating day as Table Top Mountain, Capetown, South America, Bulalacao Falls as the cold spring alternative to Japanese onsens, and more. For the first time in my travels, I felt the sincere care locals and the government have in protecting their land. They are so many rules & verbal warnings on any kind of littering or abuse. “It’s also us protecting our livelihood,” our chirpy underground river boatman said.
What a blessing to experience Palawan today. Jovi and I had the stamina to trek, hike, walk, and swim the best highlights the island has to offer. But the better part? Traveling along with the inner joy of a honeymoon!
EL NIDO, PALAWAN
Our Palawan trip was arranged for us by Ethel of Destination Specialist. We left on June 22nd from the Cebu Mactan airport to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Straight from the one-hour flight, my husband and I took the rough 6-hour car ride to El Nido. It’s at the northern tip of the island and driving is the best way to get there. At about 6PM, when we finally reached our destination, I saw this.
|PALAWAN’S LIMESTONE ISLANDS SHARE the same Sunda plate as Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Guilin in China, as well as Krabi in Thailand.|
The next day, the good people of the Dacuit island-hopping tours brought us along Tour A, called the “lagoon tour.” The first stop on our itinerary for the day is the 7 Commando Beach.
|ATTENTION TO DETAIL. Notice the way the pineapple was cut.|
|BRAVED THE WATER because I might never see water this clean again.|
|Some of the scenes of the 4th installment of the Hollywood movie Bourne Legacy were filmed in El Nido.|
We ended up so bone-tired that Jovi and I ate a huge dinner, pizza and handmade noodles and for dessert, a honey, banana and mango crepe.
|AL FRESCO DINNER under the stars|
The next day was supposed to be “Free and Easy.” But one of our boatmen recommended a guide, Kuya Ronnie, for an Inland Tour. We left Bill Hotel the next day at 10AM. After a 40-minute rough tricycle ride, we hiked for 20-minutes to Bulalacao Falls.
|BULALACAO FALLS. Nobody else there but us.|
PUERTO PRINCESA, PALAWAN
Our van left El Nido at 7AM. By noon, we checked-in at the 4-star resort, Microtel Puerto Princesa. After hours of rest, we are ready for another tour, the Puerto Princesa City Tour.
The stops on the itinerary are Plaza Cartel, where the American massacre happened in 1944; Palawan Eco-Park (home of some of the largest crocodiles in the world; Mitra Ranch (home of ex-senator Ramon Mitra. It had vistas of Honda Bay, farms, ocean views; Baker’s Hill, like a garden theme park with quirky décor and a local bakery selling the best ube hopia I’ve ever tasted.
|They sell crocodile meat in the cafeteria|
|MACMAC, ONE OF THE LARGEST crocodiles on earth at over 17 feet long.|
|I’m just pretending to like this|
|High-quality egg pie. Jovi had to eat two!|
|Chomping on Baker Hill’s famous ube hopia cooked in pork oil|
PUERTO PRINCESSA UNDERGROUND RIVER TOUR
For many, this is the highlight of their Palawan trip. The Puerto Princessa Underground River is the longest navigational underground river in the world. According to Wikipedia, “the cave includes major formations of stalactites and stalagmites. It also represents a habitat for biodiversity conservation and a full mountain-to-the-sea ecosystem and has some of the most important forests in Asia.”
|From the town proper, we took an almost 2-hour car ride to Barangay Sabang. There’s a port there, and from that point, the underground river is another 30-minute boat ride.|
|The underground river’s full length is 8.2 kilometers. The tour covers about 1.5 km or a 45-minute boat ride.|
|This little guy kept stealing left and right|
Our last tour in Puerto Princessa was the Firefly Tour. It is located in Barangay Iwahig, a 20-minute drive from the main town. It goes like this: you go around a 1.5-kilometer longs wamp in a small, 3-person boat. When the boatman flashes a red light, you’ll see Christmas lights like flicker on the mangroves. It’s the fireflies – we have not seen them for decades because they are natural indicators of fresh air. Any urbanization, pollution or man-made irritants drive the beautiful insects away. This tour is at night, so its very dark. Best to just soak in the views as taking pictures would be useless.
Notes from our trip
|Our first meal in Puerto Princesa, Palawan is at the Kalui Restaurant. We loved the food but not more than the artsy, detailed decor. Absolute must eat there. Pictured here is their seaweed salad.|
|El Nido is named after the edible nests of swiftlets found in the crevices of its limestone cliffs. This is a picture of Nido soup (very expensive in Chinese restos).|
|Pearls in Palawan are cheap. I bought my first-ever South Sea pearl earrings (omg, so pretty) as a souvenir for this honeymoon trip.|
|“You force me out of my comfort zone,” my husband said. You’re welcome! And I’m so proud of you for being a trooper in all that I force you to do.|
|The view at Microtel. After a big breakfast and a short swim, here I was soaking the Palawan sun on our last day there.|
About the Author
Crystal Neri is a freelance writer who has worked across media platforms in places as diverse as US, Singapore, and Australia. She lives in Cebu City where she covers travel and entrepreneurship at crystalneri.com. Say Hi to her (@nericrystal) on Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to her newsletter: