El Nido

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We had heard some pretty spectacular things about El Nido from our friends Annie and Ronnie, and from other travelers and it definitely did not disappoint.  While on the roof of the Jeepney that brought us there, we met a Finnish guy named Dave, who had just finished spending 21 days there.  He hadn’t planned on staying that long, but he found a pension house called “Katrina’s” whose owner was the sister of the owner of a dive shop called Palawan Divers.  He mentioned that all the divers hung out there in the evening and were a really fun group.  This turned out to be absolutely true.

El Nido town and the surrounding area probably make for the most beautiful scenery that we saw in all of the Philippines.  The town is nestled in between enormous limestone cliffs and a white sand beach.  Looking out into the water, you can see dozens of other gorgeous limestone islands jutting out of the sea.

Anyway, after arriving we took a walk along the beach and we happened to find a restaurant called The Lonely Caribou that has what Amanda describes as the single best crab she has ever eaten in her life.  Since she is not normally one to overuse hyperbole, I tend to believe her.   It was in a coconut creme sauce with pumpkins and long beans.  After the dinner we walked back to the hotel to find the whole crew of divers hanging out in the front area.  They noticed we didn’t have any beer so one of them ran out and bought us a six pack…on the house.  Got to love Filipino hospitality.  We hung out with them for a few hours, sharing stories, and learning about Palawan.

I also learned something from one of the divers that totally blew my mind.  He was Filipino but he had lived on a small island in Thailand called Koh Chang for many years.  This was the same island where in 2006, I (stupidly) tried to ride a motorcycle and crashed it three times in one day.  I told him so and he said three times was nothing!  He himself had crashed a bike there four times in one day!  Apparently the island is notorious for being incredibly difficult to navigate by bike even though that is the only available mode of transport.  Many tourists weren’t so lucky as me and apparently there are fatal crashes there almost weekly.  This left me feeling a bit strange.  On the one hand, I felt relieved, after all these years to learn that wasn’t just my horrible motorcycle skills.  On the other hand, I felt chills knowing I close I had come to getting seriously injured.

Anyway, back to El Nido.  The next morning we set off to do a bit of island hopping and snorkeling.  We took a bangka out to five different islands.  We explored Hidden Beach and went snorkeling off Tapiutan island, and before stopping for lunch at Matinloc shrine.  The captain and guide prepared fish, grilled pork with yummy soy sauce and calamansi juice, a salad of cucumbers, tomato, onions & vinegar, rice, pineapple, bananas and coffee.  Meanwhile we hiked around this historic bishops residence and explored the surrounding cliffs and beaches.

But the highlight had to be Secret Beach.  Our boat pulled up to what looked like a sheer cliff face but as we got closer, we saw a tiny hole, no bigger than a person, appear in the rock wall.  We waited for the sea to calm down, then put on our flippers and darted through the hole, to find a totally secluded beach no more than 50 feet across, totally surrounded by cliffs and foliage.   For about twenty minutes, the six passengers from our boat got to enjoy this slice of paradise by ourselves, before a dozen additional boats showed up each of which was filled with passengers that were wearing bright orange inner tubes because they didn’t know who to swim.  Oh well.   We made one more stop at the beach of Helicopter island before heading back for the evening.

Unfortunately, Amanda was feeling sick the next morning so I headed off myself for a day of scuba diving.  The diving was great, full of schools of colorful fish and coral, but otherwise not really exceptional.  The best part was that I was the sole customer on a boat full of rescue diver trainees so I felt like I was in good hands.  Every so often, one of the trainers would pretend to be in trouble and the other divers would have to rescue them.  Definitely entertaining.

We adored El Nido and Katrina’s but unfortunately it was time to move on.  The next morning we went down to the pair to book a ferry (basically just a bigger bangka) for the 9 hour boat ride to Coron for some shipwreck diving!

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Posted: April 20, 2012

Author: Adam and Amanda

Category: Asia, Blog, Continents, Philippines

  1. Peter says:

    So cool to finally see some pics and write-ups. Thoroughly enjoyable to read.
    Nice job on covering the Philippines in such a short time – Manila, tagaytay, ngayon volcano, Bohol, Palawan.
    I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Coron. I dove there 10 years ago and the wrecks are not an easy dive.
    Also can’t wait to see the Japan reports.
    My family and I are off to Alona Beach next week but I doubt we’ll make it to see the butanding.

  2. Shari says:

    Great pics ans stories! Keep ‘em coming! It is nice to be transported for a little while.

    Love you guys.


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