I'm Portuguese, live in Lisbon and I'm a travel addict!
I've been traveling since I was a teenager and I've been around the World a few times already.
This is my attempt to share with you my experiences and the knowledge I've collected after more than 20 years of non-stop traveling. Hope you like it!
You can read more about me here.
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“Welcome to paradise!”
This is what they tell you when you arrive at El Nido, and boy, are they right!
Words can’t describe and even photos can’t do justice to this amazing place, but I’m going to try it just because I think everyone needs to know about this corner of the World.
El Nido, my friends, is the true definition of the perfect getaway destination! Crystal clear waters and pure white endless beaches will take your breath away and make you gain a whole new level of respect for Mother Nature.
There are no international flights to El Nido so you have to go via Manila or Cebu. I flew from Manila, the capital of the Philippines, in a ITI (Island Transvoyager) plane. ITI was rebranded AirSWIFT in November 2015.
When I booked my flight I had to do it thru the El Nido resort’s website but as of November last year you can book directly with AirSwift (air-swift.com). This may not be the cheapest way to get to El Nido but it’s definitely the quickest and more relaxed way to start your holidays.
The flight takes only 55 minutes from Manila to El Nido. AirSwift (former ITI) has a private hangar in Andrews Avenue with an air-conditioned lounge. So you can enjoy fresh pastry and coffee before and after your flight. It’s really nice!
The flight itself was fun. The planes are very small and you feel like you are flying in a private jet! The view of the island when you are approaching for landing is beautiful!
At the airport, because I was staying at an El Nido resort, I had a jeepney (modified jeep, typical of the Philippines) waiting for me. I’ve noticed the airport staff calls tricycle taxis (motorcycles with modified side car) for people staying in other places though.
After a short ride in the jeepney I took a 25 min boat ride to the Pangalusian Island Resort. This might get a bit repetitive but there is no other way of saying it, Pangalusian Island is beautiful! You have no idea of how beautiful it is until you get there!
You are greeted on arrival by a manager and some staff that take time to explain to you some important things about the Island, the marine and the wildlife in the region.
They also present you with a few gifts like straw hats, a bag with custom designed water bottles to take on your daily activities and a map for you to check off the wildlife species that you’ll see while you are there. When you leave you can take all the gifts with you.
Island Hopping Tours
In El Nido you can do various kinds of island hopping tours and visit different places on each one of them. Pangalusian Resort included the tours in the stay so I didn’t have to pay anything extra.
If you only have time for one of them, my advice is to choose the Big and Small Lagoon Tour. All the sights are amazing, but that was my favorite. If you go in a low season like I did (early June) there’s hardly anyone for the tours and you can get the banka boat (traditional Philippine boat) all to yourself!
The Small Lagoon is this magical place were in a low tide you can kayak cross a narrow opening in the rocks and… Wow! All of a sudden you are in a different enchanting and peaceful World of crystal clear waters were you can forget all about the problems you have in the real World.
I went in the afternoon and there was nobody there at the time. I admit that if my visit had coincided with the arrival of a tour boat full of tourists my experience might not have been so good and serene.
Pangalusian Island Resort: A True Five Star Hotel
I have to tell you about the accommodation in the resort. The Villas there were… (by now you know what I’m going to say right!)… beautiful! Stylish, modern, clean and comfortable.
I stayed in a Canopy Villa but they also had Beach and Pool Villas. With such beautiful beaches a pool would be unnecessary but the truth is everyone loves to be by the pool relaxing and drinking cocktails right? I know I do!
One small note about the not so good things. Unfortunately not everything can be perfect and even a paradise has it’s little problems. In this case the problem was sandflies, the beach has a lot of them.
The resort offered free insect repellent and I have to confess that I didn’t take it seriously and often forgot to use it. The result was an awful skin rush – the consequence of the sandflies bites. It took weeks to clear up. So if you are going there, don’t forget to apply it all the time!!
El Nido Basics:
- AIR SWIFT has direct flights from Cebu and Manila to El Nido.
- Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, airphilexpress, Seair and Zest Air fly from Manila, Davao, Busuanga, Cebu and Clark to Puerto Princesa, (Palawan’s main city).
- From Puerto Princesa you can catch a bus, private or a public van to El Nido. The vans and buses depart from San Jose bus terminal and travel time is around 5 hours (by a private van) or 7 hours (by bus).
- The best time to visit Palawan island and El Nido is in the mid to late dry season from March to June.
- In June or November, bring some light weather clothing because one hour downpours are common in those months. Any other time you’ll be ok with just shorts, summer dresses, swimwear and t-shirts.
- Bring insect repellant for the mosquitoes and sandflies especially around the wetter months, and a sunscreen.
- If the hotel you are staying in charges for the snorkeling gear – bring your own, that way you won’t have to rent it.