El Nido is the major destination of Palawan. There’s an airport, so it’s possible to fly straight there. I started in Puerto Princesa so I could visit the Underground River in Sabang. It was a long bus ride from Sabang. It was extremely scenic and beautiful, but the bus did not stop for photos.
The town of El Nido is small, and rather charming. Nestled among karst peaks, it’s almost entirely given over to tourism. But there are still are a few remaining patches of Filipino houses. The town is on the beach, but the beach is very narrow.
My first order of business was to find a place to stay. When visiting popular resort areas, it’s often smart to book ahead. But this proved difficult. I could not access the internet in Sabang, where the power is only on for a few hours a day. I was limited to the few places in my Lonely Planet. Those were all full except one.
That place was only available for two nights. So I had to go out and pound the pavement looking for a place for my remaining two nights. It took several hours. There is much accommodation available in El Nido, but most of it is above the budge range. The less expensive places were booked.
There are a few cheap Filipino-style places that do not take reservations. I eventually found a place that wasn’t too expensive that I could reserve.
With a place to sleep sorted, I could organize my activities for tomorrow. The popular thing to do in El Nido is island hopping tours. The tours are standardized with fixed prices. All around town there are little tour shops advertising tours A, B, C, and D, all for the same price. No haggling necessary.
A few places offered tours that let you camp on an island. I wanted to do that, but it’s more complicated traveling alone. The tour is expensive, so I’d either have to get lucky and join somebody else’s tour, or try to find people to join me.
I opted for the easier option. I read somewhere that tour C was good, so I booked that one. So many people do these four tours every day, it’s easy to join. I just pay, and the agency puts me on a boat.
The tour was nice enough. We visited several islands and beaches, and stopped for snorkeling. Unfortunately, they didn’t give me snorkel gear.
I was sort of in a funk on the tour. Maybe it was the missing snorkel gear. Or the gray skies. Or being trapped on a boat with a bunch of (very nice) people I didn’t know. Or that the scenery was similar to Southern Thailand and Vietnam’s Hailong Bay.
The islands of El Nido are beautiful, and you should absolutely visit them. But I didn’t really enjoy the tour. Tomorrow I would have to do something different. On my own.