But, how I said, El Nido belongs to the best travel destinations in the philippines, and if you not yet been there, you should hurry up to visit the place and the Bacuit Archipelago, if you like to enjoy the journey still at the present level! Also the mix of the tourists is in my opinion - just in time (and for my personel favour) - very interesting and international. To El Nido coming also many italian and frenchman, which you not find so much on other philippine destinations. Meanwhile are coming also the first russians and after a long period to get the permit, opened now a bigger hotel of a corean. From the german speaking community you find a lot of people from switzerland and austria, maybe becauce of the mountains and rocks in El Nido and on the islands. And you can find here also more younger people then on other places in the philippines, one reason could be, that some of the island- and survivor-TVshows made in the area.
El Nido is from its landscape perhaps the most beautiful region of the philippines. When I arrived first time in 1995, the place been visited mainly from backpackers, which aren`t afraid of the long and arduously travel trip at that time. The rich japanese tourist came with small charter airplanes and they stayed all the time in the luxury resort of Miniloc island. In December 95 ones I been for around 10 days the only tourist in the village, because of a longer rainy season, which made the roads from Taytay impassable (and I was coming also with the expensive flight, because of a only short holiday)! Still in 2002, ones I need 8 hours in a travelexpierence like a "Camel-Trophy" from El Nido to Taytay, and the further way down to Roxas I could only made with a motorbike-taxi, if we finally arrived - I been coverd with mud until my neck.
But the times are changing! In February and March 2010, El Nido was booked out to 90 %. Nowadays you will find on the beach 7 restaurants and in the main season it can happen that there is no free seat for you. The boat trips are always fully loaded, at my last visit at the lagune of Miniloc island, 16 boats waited for entering. And at the rockgate to the secret beach, the guides try to install a traffic light system for the swimmers to regulate the large numbers of tourists!
Okay: How to get there: Without stress, take one of the expensive small airplanes, 6750 Peso oneway, Island Transvoyager. From December til May, Seair flies also 3times the week from Manila to El Nido (Mo, We + Su) at the same price, but in the past they cancelt already flights without prior notice.
To Sandoval (2 hours north of Taytay) Seair flies daily, specially for the guest of Apulit Island Resort.
Cheaper: Take a flight to Busuanga or Puerto Princesa. From Coron by boat (8 hours, 2200 Peso oneway, it is an adventure across a world of sea and islands, but if a strong wind is blowing, maybe it extends your limits!) ... and I almost forget, 2 bigger boats serving also the route, Atienza Shipping Line, 950 Peso, from El Nido they leaving unfortunately only in the evening!
From Puerto Princesa you can take a bus, more pleasure serves an aircon-van, in 5 (bus - 8) hours. Nowadays the trip is almost easy going. Until Roxas you have an excellent road, further to Taytay the road is now also finished, only the last part to El Nido will need some years. Because it is very dusty between Taytay and El Nido it will be better to take the van.
Favorable accommodations are: Cliffside Cottage, simple, but proper cottages in a garden, it`s more in the backside - downside the big cliffs. Advantage: From 12 o`clock in the shade! The owner allows using their kitchen, or if you are planning to stay longtime, an own cooking installation at the cottage, 600 + 700 Peso.
Lualhati, around 50 meters further north on the way to Corong Corong, the rooms are ok, maybe the bathrooms need some renovation, cooking occassion, 600 Peso.
The cheapest place direct on the beach could be Og`s Pension House, room with bath for 800 Peso, free WiFi, nice view, restaurant.
Restaurants: (there will be plenty, I tell you only:)
Artcafe, nice and pleasureful ambience, sometimes live music, good swiss quality, I like the seafood pizza and it`s also a good place for free WiFi. Not very cheap.
El Nido Corner Restaurant, danish owner, good quality, mostly full, not cheap.
Marbers Restaurant, nice place in the middle of the beach, phil. and international food, middlepriced.
Balay Tubay, in the street backside the Artcafe. Live music, food also available.
Aplaya, direct on the beach, good food, reasonable prices.
Simple philippino restaurants you can find in the Rizal Street, f.e. Sky Grill. If you like cooking yourself, the market is in Corong Corong.
Rental of boats: The girl from switzerland, "Judith" (Artcafe), established 15 years ago the common boattrips with lunch, the business-model been covered many times. Today there will be 15 - 20 tour-operators. Judith serves always a good quality (and the higher price level) the other boats going a little cheaper, but in 2011 they are not really favorable, ... and at the latest, here you have also to pay the environmental fee.
It will be not able to get cheap boats in El Nido. For that, you would have to go to other place, ... Liminangcong maybe.
If you like that somebody brings you only to a close beach, go to the fisherman at Corong Corong (500 Peso for the roundtrip to 7commandobeach)
A nice possiblity to discover the close beaches and the island of Cadlao is renting an oceankayak (2012 - cheapest rate for 1/2 day, 3 - 400 Peso offers the El Nido Corner Restaurant).
The time for budget-travel is already over. The offers target more and more for tourists on good income and the price level is far about the average in the philippines!
But the tourism brought also some good developments to El Nido. In 1995 the coral reefs have been destroyed up to 95 %. In my impression it becomes better at all areas, and today you can find already some good snorkeling!
Meanwhile you have also to pay for an environment fee, I am not big friend of that surprise - specially, that it is only valid for 10 days, then you will be charged again! 200 Peso per tourist - until now, they control only if you join a boat tour!
The remote backside of El Nido, the beaches at the more northern coastline and the eastside of northern palawan you can discover with an offroad bike. There are 2 bike rentals, they give you also information for tours and interesting destinations. The roads are not easy for riding, plenty of stones and soft gravel. A good adventure is the road to New Ibajay to the other side of Palawan. Even more exciting would be the street from Catarban to Liminangcong, but before it starts, you have to pass 1 hour the dusty mainroad, including some soft gravel traps. The road to Liminangcong is going through some parts of rainforest, you can make a stop, sometime there will be monkeys for watching. But after a strong rain some parts of the road are going to be a creek with holes, and the driving will be very difficult! Meanwhile you can rent motorbikes on plenty of places, I had good experience with the bikes from Pitstop.
Judith offers also some hiking, the climbing of the El Nido-rock, a trek for crossing Cadlao island and tours
to waterfalls and caves.
Livemusic and "fire-arts" (like in thailand) is during the main season on the beach. Livemusic offers also the "Balay Tubay". 2 discos, but not much business there.
Fiesta is in march, 14 days program and a novum for the philippines: They not playing only the regulary basket- and volleyball-tournier - no - they have also a football competition!
It is still very unpleasant, that there is now ATM-machine in this future tourist-topdestination. You can get money with your credit card at the Artcafe (+ 8% fees), the next ATMs you find in Puerto Princesa or Coron!
Another disadvantage is, that they have energy only from 2 o`clock in the afternoon (many times later) til 6 o`clock in the morning.
A very nice tour is the orbiting of Tuluran Island. At the westcoast you can find an absolutely dream beach, with rainforest in the backside! Or start a tour inside the Malampaya Sound or to some of the villages more in the south, enjoy the panorama of the Mount Capoas in the background. Go to: From Puerto Princesa daily in the morning goes a van to Limingangcong, from and to Taytay they have a daily bus. The boats of the Atienza Shipping Line going regulary twice from and to El Nido.
Liminangcong is situated between El Nido and Taytay and it`s known as a important place for fishery. In earlier times it was a transit destination for tourists, when the road was impassable and the alternative occasion was going by boat from Embarcadero (near Taytay) through the Malampaya Sound to El Nido.
Meanwhile Liminangcong could be a favorable alternative for El Nido.
There is going on only simple provincal life, tourists are not in the mind of the people!
You can find 2 simple accommodations: Paraiso Inn, direct at the sea,simple small rooms with bath, 350 Peso, nice view over bay and village.
The other place is with a common bathroom and close to the school, more in the backside.
For eating, you will find 3 simple pinoy restaurants, they offer already cooked food in big calderas (for looking), cheap. Come early in the evening!!
For boattours you will find fishermen, you can bargain with them for a reasonable price. Close places for visits are the 2 islands Camago and Saddle, where you will find quite good beaches. But one can travel also for favorable prices to islands further away, the Guntao Islands for example, if there would be wind and waves look for a closed boat and lifejackets!
At Miniloc and Lagen island you find highend resorts, at Malapacao island there is a middle-expensive esoterically resort with healthy offers (nonsmoking and children not allowed ? !), dreambeaches you can find at Entalula and on Dilumacat (helicopter island), ... I think you will find one almost on every island, nice lagoons and rocky mountains are at Miniloc and Inabuyatan, good snorkeling - south of Pangulasian, around Simisu, at 7commandobeach.
A nice beach where you can go without a boat: Take a trike until the side way to the La Cabanas Resort (pic downside) and talk with the driver for a backtrip at a scheduled time.
Good snorkeling you will find also north of the Ca-alan Beach at the so called "sunsetlover point", in the flat water until 4 meters depth you find a nice coral reef.
But be careful - if there are waves, don`t go inside, they would throw you into the rocks and corals!
Taytay was the capitol of Palawan in the old times. The village is dominated by the spanish Fort, which is in a good condition.
Just in time - they doing a lot of road building and land reclamation, it looks like they have a very active mayor in that kind of business. Benath the Fort you will not find very much to discover in the village.
It`s a place for finding boats to the islands outside and you can buy food and other things for the daily life.
Nice view and good food at the Casa Rosa, here you can also sleep and get information about Flower Island.
Favorable accommodation: Emerson Lodge, on the road to Roxas and El Nido, rooms with bath for 400 Peso, here you get also information for going to Linapacan island and boat-transfers.
Islands in the Taytay Bay:
Apulit, dream island. The "Ten Knots" company bought the island recently and changed the name of the resort to Apulit Island Resort. Now all the "high end"-resorts around El Nido are owned by one company! It was reopened and you can book it now.
10, 12 years ago they had a favorable offer for a dayvisit for 1000 Peso. One traveled in the early morning with the staff to the island, got a regular cottage and in the evening you went back with the staff again. I remember very good snorkeling, some big fish and my only shark (by snorkeling) in the philippines. The outside reef I did not visit at that time, but later I saw an interesting movie on TV about this reef. Maybe you can go there for snorkeling from Taytay, ask the locals. Other islands for a daytrip are: Pabellones, Calabadian und Icadambanuan. At the last island there is also a small resort (not expensive, nice place), but maybe it is closed, because the owner was dying recently, ask the locals again.
The boatride to Flower Island needs 2 - 3 hours oneway. The Island was also sold some years ago from the former frenchman, staying there is not so expensive like at the Apulit Island Resort, but it is not a place for budget traveler! Nice for relaxing and snorkeling.
In Roxas and Port Barton I hadnot so exciting travel adventures like in the other places on Palawan, that`s why I give you no reports. If you like go to Port Barton, here is a link with lots of information!
At the neverending beaches of San Vicente I not yet have been.
If somebody not like travel the trip from Puerto Princesa - El Nido in one day, you can have a stop-over on Coco Loco Island (in front of Roxas - nice small island, snorkeling is quite good). New owner since summer 2011, the new name is Modessa Island Resort, the rates start now at 4400 for 2 people (including food and boat transfer).
If you traveling by boat from Sabang to El Nido (or vice versa), a stop-over could be Cacnipa Island (in front of Port Barton), there is a resort of a swiss-guy, he had a good reputation for his food.
Fanrooms with bath for 790 Peso, cottages with Fan and bath for 880, 1075 Peso und more. But on the beach there can be nikniks (sandflies), so bring some "off"-lotion. Nikniks can be also on other beaches in Palawan!
In the first days of January 2011 one of the big outrigger boats, which are going the way from El Nido to Coron, gots into emergency. The passengers been finally saved by the coast guard. At the Thorn Tree Forum some participants did critizise the security of the boats and the acting of the crew. Because you would be traveling with the boat across the Linapacan Strait, where you can expecting already by regular weather high waves, maybe it is a good idea to check the gale warnings(link) and the weatherforecast for shipping(link). If the weather getting bad (for example by a sea level from "rough to very rough"), I would recommend to cancel the trip!
Ever more frequently you can read "El Nido is fully booked" in travel forums, specially the cheaper accommodations. So booking in advance is advisable around "Christmas", at "Easter holiday" and to the "Chinese New Year"
Also between December and April I recommend you meanwhile to book an accommodation for some days in advance. After arriving you can look locally for maybe cheaper rooms and reservate and pay by the owner for the further time!
By the bookingservice of "agoda" - upside left by the google map - you can find a bright spectrum of accommodations. From the more favorable occasions, I would recommend the El Nido Viewdeck and the Four Seasons!
Since 2012 going also big RoRo-buses the route from Puerto Princesa to El Nido and vice versa, from 4 o' clock in the morning all 2 hours until 6 in the evening, aircon (485 Peso) varying with non-aircon. Good alternative to the vans, if you bring large luggage - and more space!