Travel Guide to El Nido, Palawan for Malaysians

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Located at the northern tip of the Philippine island of Palawan, El Nido is a breathtaking tropical paradise. Getting there, however, is not the easiest affair.

For international travelers, they should take a separate domestic flight upon arrival in the Philippines. Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is the busiest airport in the country, and chances are most foreign visitors will land here first.

In my case, I spent one night in Manila before flying out the next day. It could be a good idea if you want the chance to shop or explore the Filipino food scene.

ALSO READ: What can Malaysians see, do and eat in El Nido, Palawan?

El Nido is not as commercialized as Boracay Island. And if you’re staying at an exclusive resort (located on one of the 45 islands and islets), your excursions will be limited to the gift shop and restaurants near your accommodation.

Of course, the reverse also applies if you spend a day in Manila after returning from El Nido. This might be the smartest choice as most airlines operate smaller planes to El Nido. Thus, your baggage allowance may also be limited.

The bangka is a Filipino-only boat with two planks on both sides. — CHESTER CHIN/The Star

After a night in Manila, I went to NAIA Terminal 3 to catch a direct flight to Lio Airport. I flew on AirSWIFT, which operates regular ATR 42-500 turboprop aircraft (those are the ones with the propellers on each side) to the archipelago. The flight time from Manila to El Nido was around 1.5 hours.

From the airport, I traveled to my accommodation on Lagen Island via a modern “bangka”. The bangka is a Filipino-only boat with two planks on both sides.

The above is the most convenient and fastest way to get to El Nido from Manila. Those on a budget might want to consider flying to Palawan’s capital, Puerto Princesa, before traveling by road to your final destination. The trip would take around 10 hours, however.

There is also another option of taking two ferries from Manila, with a transfer in Coron. Some adventurous travelers have reported that the travel time for this method is around 20 hours. It’s definitely an experience if you like slow travel.

Accommodation in El Nido ranges from hostels to luxury resorts. The town proper of El Nido, according to my local guide, is the best place for budget stays. There is also a good selection of shops and restaurants.

For eco-conscious travelers, you might want to consider El Nido Resorts, which operates a group of sustainable island resorts. Some of them include Lagen Island, Miniloc Island and Apulit Island. These places offer higher rates, but you will have a quieter stay on a private island.

As far as activities go, El Nido’s island-hopping scene is its main highlight. Most operators offer four different packages (simply named Tour A, B, C and D), each with varying routes that cover different interests. Depending on the circuit chosen, you will go to different places in the archipelago.

My island-hopping itinerary was organized by the resort, covering places such as the popular Big Lagoon and scenic Entalula Island. But whichever tour you choose, chances are you’ll be amazed by the natural beauty of El Nido.

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