Sunbathing and Island Hopping in El Nido (part 1 of 2)

On the 23rd November we got the fast ferry from Coron to El Nido which took around 4 hours. When we got off the ferry in El Nido we were greeted by enormous, tree covered cliffs that framed the coastal town – it was breathtaking. After the beauty of Coron we were looking forward to El Nido as this was famous for its amazing scenery.

We spent our full first day here taking it very slow. We had so many early mornings in Coron that I slept for most of the morning (unfortunately Niall was up earlier so didn’t get as much sleep as me!) and then we headed into town to get our bearings. The town of El Nido is a criss-cross of streets filled with guesthouses, restaurants and tour companies. This all stops at the sea where there is a relatively narrow beach that you can sunbathe on and that also docks a lot of the boats that run island hopping and diving tours.

Annoyingly, we had our first bit of rain since Bohol just as we got to the beach – I guess we should be thankful we haven’t had more rain really! While we waited out the rain, we found a restaurant that served cheap drinks and had wifi as well as there also being a very cute little girl who kept coming over to show me things or look in our bag (she was the daughter of the restaurant owners). Eventually the rain stopped and we got to go lie in the sun. We did this until the sun had nearly finished setting and, despite the lack of activities we had done that day, we were both still quite tired!

On our second full day in El Nido we hired a bike to see a little more of the island and get to Nacpan Beach which is around an hours drive away and meant to be one of the nicest beaches on the island. We headed off on our way to the beach and ended up getting a bit lost and heading too far along the highway as we missed the turn-off. This meant we added quite a bit onto our journey but it was nice weather and we got to see some really nice views over the rice fields and to the turquoise ocean so I didn’t really mind the driving around.

Eventually, after asking a lot of locals to check we were heading in the right direction, we made it to Nacpan Beach. We spent the rest of our day soaking up the sun and enjoying the beach. It was relatively quiet despite there being a few hostels, resorts and guest houses along the beachfront. It was quite windy though so within a matter of minutes we were both covered head to toe in sand. The waves were also really big when we were there so some people were body boarding and we did see some people get taken out by the waves!

On the 26th November we moved from Amos Hostel to Our Melting Pot (OMP) hostel which was more in the centre of town and so would hopefully have more of an atmosphere as well as being nearer to places to get food (although we had been having cheap shakes and burgers at a place by our first hostel). The island was suffering from an extended power cut which I think is pretty common in El Nido so we didn’t bother spending long in the hostel after we moved and spent the rest of our day chilling on the beach doing pretty much nothing.

One of the things I’ve developed an obsession with in the Philippines is something called Ice Candy. Me, Niall and Matt were introduced to them on our Coron island hopping tour and they’re just milky, fruity ice lollies that are 10 pesos (5 pesos in El Nido). Because of how cheap they are we have had them a bunch of times and they are great at cooling you down on a hot day. People sell them out of cool boxes and we even have bought one from a man in a kayak off the boat after visiting deserted islands! It’s the locals ice-cream and if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us!

(It doesn’t look like much but they’re good!)

That evening we went and got food and then headed to a bar called Rooftop for happy hour with a couple we met in our room in the hostel, Matt and Chloe. It was nice to be able to enjoy more of the town of El Nido as, although our old place wasn’t drastically far out of town, it was far enough that made it an effort to go out to bars especially if you wanted to wait until later on after getting food. We had booked an island hopping tour for the next day (tour A is what it’s known as) and so had to be up early meaning we didn’t bother having a late night out drinking – we had plenty of time for that!

Our tour started at 8:30am on the 27th November 2017 and our hostel offered a free breakfast so we were up early to make sure we had enough to time eat it (pancakes are too good to miss after all). We then were picked up by our tour guide with two other people from our hostel, Tam and Mark. The tour company was called Spider Travel and Tours and there ended up being sixteen people on the boat in total (not including the crew).

The stops on the tour were to:

Little Lagoon;

Umbrella Beach for lunch;

Secret Lagoon;

Big Lagoon; and

7 Comando Beach

Little Lagoon could be reached by swimming (or kayaking if you wanted to rent one for 400 pesos (£5.90) through an opening which then took you into a sheltered lagoon which you could paddle or swim around in. The route to get to the lagoon could get quite shallow and there were rocks and coral so you had to be really careful not to cut your feet (I had a few scratches and cuts on my feet by the end of the day). My favourite bit about this lagoon and all of the other lagoons we visited on the tour was the tower cliffs that surrounded them. The iconic rock structures are what makes El Nido so beautiful and it was great to float in the water and be surrounded by such jagged, sharp rocks.

As we were swimming back to the boat (the tour had cunningly got us doing a lot of exercise) me and Tam (from our hostel) got picked up by the tour guide in a kayak as we were the last to get on the boat. I wasn’t complaining as it meant we didn’t have to swim against the tide! We had been warned about some territorial fish that are living in the coral that we have to swim through to the get to the boat and as I was getting into the kayak a fish started hitting my leg, an obvious sign to tell me to get away from his home! It didn’t hurt although we heard someone say they got bitten by one (we aren’t sure if she was just being dramatic) but it did give me a shock!

It was now time for lunch. We headed to a place called Umbrella Beach which isn’t the normal itinerary lunch stop but is a lot quieter so that was fine with us! There are so many boat tours out in El Nido that we didn’t mind getting away from the crowds for a bit. The beach was really pretty and we got to enjoy it all to ourselves for a while before a couple of other tour companies had the same idea as ours and joined us.

(Can you see the rock in the shape of a face on the left?)

Our boat chef obviously took pride in the appearance of the food he made as they brought out – by carrying plates over their heads through the sea – a really great spread of food. We particularly liked the pineapple as he’d cut hearts out of it! The food was all great and we were nice and full ready for our next destination.

Secret Lagoon wasn’t too far away from our lunch spot and gets it’s name as it can only be reached through a hole in the rock face meaning it’s concealed from the outside. You have to scramble across coral to get to it which is a slight hazard due to how sharp the rocks can get and then you clamber through the hole into a small lagoon that has a mix of fresh and salt water inside. In my opinion, apart from this being hidden away, I didn’t think it was anything spectacular. The rocks surrounding the lagoon were, again, very nice and that always makes these places look nicer but the water wasn’t a particular nice colour (if you compare it to the turquoise we have seen) and there wasn’t much greenery which I quite liked from other lagoons. It was still good to see it and as the tour guide said to us, it can now be called ‘known lagoon’ to us as we have found it!

Secret lagoon also has a little beach next to the entrance which we got to relax at for a while. This was a nice little beach with really white sands and the water in the bay was shallow enough to make the water quite warm which was nice to paddle in. It reminded me of a proper desert island because of the mass of palm trees and then the towering rock faces cutting it off from the outside world except by the sea.

The last lagoon of the day was Big Lagoon. We had to swim quite a distance to reach a shallow channel that took you to the mouth of the lagoon. The lagoon really was massive and we didn’t get to swim around all of it. Me and Niall used our life jackets again to keep afloat so we could relax and not have to constantly tread water. We really liked it here and it was incredible the size of the place – I think if we had hired kayak during the trip it would have been for this one as it would have made it easier to get around it all!

Our final stop for the day was the 7 Commandos Beach which was a long stretch of beach that had a couple of bars on, music playing and lots of tour boats all parked up with people having drinks and sunbathing. It was the last stop of the day for all the tours and allowed everyone to relax and have a drink. We didn’t drink anything as we hadn’t taken much money on the tour with us but it was still nice to sit in the sun and people watch for a while.

The tour had been great; we had eaten good food with lovely company and got to see some really nice places. El Nido is known for its beautiful scenery and it’s actually somewhere a lot of people will go to and then miss out Coron as they believe it offers more beautiful things to see. I agree that El Nido definitely is a beautiful place and we saw some lovely places on that tour. Saying that though, the island hopping tours we did in Coron, to us, were even more stunning and so I think it’s a shame that people miss it out of their itineraries completely.

Part two to follow…

Sending Love x

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