Palawan is the place to be if you are looking to experience a slice of heaven. With its stunning beaches, quaint fishing villages, exotic wildlife, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Palawan is definitely a destination you must add to your travel list. From the breathtaking Marimegmeg Beach to the quaint Corong Corong Beach, you will never run out of beautiful sites to satiate your wanderlust. Learn the cost-effective way to enjoy Palawan even if you are traveling with family.
Get there quickly and cheaply
The best way to reach Palawan is through a plane ride via Puerto Princesa. A plane ride from Manila usually takes one and a half hour. Upon arrival, you may take a two-minute walk from the airport out to the street and flag down a tricycle that will take you to the bus terminal for Php50.
Roro and Cherry buses leave the terminal for El Nido every hour. The ride usually runs six hours. You may take an air-conditioned bus (Php380) or a regular bus (Php280). You also have the option of taking a van shuttle (Php400), which will save you an hour of travel.
Pro tip: At the bus terminal, you may haggle for a lower fare as buses and van shuttles are in stiff competition to fill up seats and leave sooner.
Choose from a roster of accommodations
Once you arrive in El Nido, walk towards the street where you can take a Php10-per-person tricycle ride to the town area. You may choose from the following options:
Hostels. You will find a variety of hostels in El Nido. Two options you can choose from are OMP Hostel and El Taraw Inn. The former charges Php350 per person, and includes breakfast. You can check in at the latter for only Php400 to Php500 for two people, although you will not be getting free breakfast. Both these accommodations are located in the El Nido town, which can be a little congested and noisy.
Hotel. You will find hotel rooms within the price range of Php1,000 to Php2,000, and may be able to squeeze in as many as four people on double beds. You may want to consider Birdhouse, if you’re into glamping (glamorous camping). Located 100 meters from the beach, this hotel is the idyllic getaway from the noise of El Nido’s congested town. They offer accommodations for four people at Php2,000.
Resort: If beachfront rooms are what you have in mind, then the likes of Orange Pearl Resort may be your best option. If you are on a budget, you can go for the tents they offer. You get to sleep under the stars with the sound of the ocean to lull you to sleep! This is definitely a great way to experience the island life.
Pro tip: You may want to go directly to the hotel/provider’s Facebook pages or websites to contact them. Most online booking services and agents take 10% to 25% commission for every transaction.
Have a blast with the island-hopping tours
The standard price for a tour runs between Php1,200 and Php1,400, with an additional Php200 for the environmental fee (this will cover you for ten days). You may also negotiate for a private banca, which accommodates 6 to 8 people and costs Php2,500 to Php4,000.You will be spending approximately Php315 to Php500 per person if you have eight passengers on your boat. This will not include food, so make sure you prepare beforehand. You can have each of the passengers pitch in Php100, and buy some fresh seafood either from the local fishermen or at the public market situated just across the bus terminal.
You may choose from the following tour options:
Tour A: 7 Commandos Beach, Secret Lagoon, Simizu Island, Small Lagoon, and Big Lagoon
Tour B: Cathedral Cave, Cudugnon Cave, Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, and Entalula Island
Tour C: Star Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Helicopter Island, and Hidden Beach
Tour D: Paradise Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Nat-Nat Beach, Ipil Beach, and Bukal Island
Enjoy breathtaking sites with the land tours
If you want to explore the inland beaches, you may hire a tricycle for as low as Php1,000 to Php1,500 for the entire day. This can accommodate four people. A recommended itinerary is to drive to Nacpan Beach in the morning, and hike up a hill located at the end of the beach to enjoy stunning views of the coastline. You can then drive back to town for an affordable lunch, and head over to Marimegmeg Beach (Las Cabanas). You can spend the rest of your day there, and lounge at the beach for a wonderful view of the sunset.
Pro tip: Choose Marimegmeg Beach for swimming, as the rip tide or current can be strong at Nacpan Beach.
Don’t miss out on the unforgettable kayak tours
Kayak rental fees range from Php300 for half day to Php500 for the entire day. You can reach the Cadlao Island (Pasandigan Beach or Bukal Beach) or Ipil Beach from the town proper in about an hour.
You can also visit Papaya Beach and 7 Commandos Beach from Corong Corong. If you leave early, you may even get the chance to have some of the beaches to yourself.
Pro tip: Request for a snorkel gear to be included in your fees, or at least ask for a discount.
Make sure you have local currency
If you are traveling from abroad, make sure you have local currency ready. This is especially important if you intend to go the more affordable route, as you will be dealing with people running smaller operations and would not be able to accommodate foreign currencies.
You can have your foreign currency exchanged at the airport money changer kiosks. Rates in these establishments can be costly though, so make sure you only choose this option for emergency purposes. Credit unions and banks like Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Philippine National Bank (PNB) are also great options, as they provide a secure and reliable service at relatively good rates. If you want to get more value for your buck, you may choose to deal with money changers. These currency exchange dealers offer the best rates. These better rates can come with greater risks though, so make sure you only deal with the trusted ones. Some of these currency exchange dealers are already so well-established, they’ve become household names. One such trusted brand is the Palawan Pawnshop Money Changer. They have become so popular, you would find a branch in practically every town or city in the Philippines.
In the not so distant past, El Nido was perceived as a vacation destination for the wealthy. But things have changed, and this piece of paradise has grown to be accessible to more and more people. Enjoying Palawan does not have to break the bank, even if you are traveling with the whole crew!