Confessions of an EL Nido First timer

First Impressions: El Nido Palawan

My feet were half-buried in the sands of the north when a good friend called, asking if I was interested in going to El Nido. It was a question not waiting for an answer. I was halfway to El Nido sometime ago, but got enchanted by a quiet place called Kabantagan in San Vicente and ditched the plan to go farther north. The limestone-surrounded town can wait, I mused.

View from my Veranda at El Nido Beach Hotel EL Nido First timer
View from my Veranda at El Nido Beach Hotel – EL Nido First timer

A year and some months after, in the advent of my leaving soon, I realized that it was me who couldn’t wait any longer. And so, three days after rounding the provinces of La Union, Ilocos, and Isabela, I found myself in the world’s best island, Palawan, with my friend and new eager acquaintances who have the same thirst for swallowing the sun.

Sunset in El Nido
Sunset in El Nido

To say that the road to El Nido is as tumultuous as a roller coaster is an understatement, my fitbit testifies. In the course of our five-hour van ride, I “walked” 22,589 steps. The trip alone helped me shed off pounds I can never dream of shedding within an hour of running. As soon as we arrived, I heard the limestone walls whisper, “what took you so long.” It was out of shame and awe that I stood there staring for some minutes.

Snake Island
Snake Island

Picking a favorite spot in El Nido is a slap on the higher being’s face, I cannot possibly choose one. It’s like asking parents to pick a favorite child amongst their brood; it’s unfair. However, I can choose my favorite moments where hours lingered like seconds, it pains me to dust my feet and move on.

Golden hour in Ipil beach
Golden hour in Ipil Beach

The sunrise in front of our hotel, El Nido Beach Hotel, was glorious as the miracle of a new morning. A few people jogging along the coast, some villagers taking a dip in the waters in their pajamas, stray dogs stretching their backs on the sand, boatmen revving their bangkas, town volunteers picking up beer bottles left by nightwalkers; and me, sipping a cup of coffee by the balcony was what peaceful moments are made of.

beautiful beach in front of Cadlao Island
Beautiful beach in front of Cadlao Island

I remember every striking photo of El Nido where friends, acquaintances, and total strangers balance themselves on the tip of their boats and have their pictures taken side by side with limestones that sprout from the waters. The Small and Big Lagoon is where it all happens. I reveled at the clear waters and the rock sentinels from above and marveled at the vibrant-colored corals and the richness of life underneath. I was in my element.

Ipil Waterfront Suites in El Nido
Ipil Waterfront Suites in El Nido

Once, the townspeople of El Nido got scared out of their wits. They counted their islands while it was low tide. And instead of having more islands, they had less. It was one of those eureka moments brought about by Snake Island. A stretch of sand bar connects two land masses together when the waters recede, and breaks the island apart during high-tide. It was enough to puzzle the cartographers for some time.

Sunset in Corong Corong Beach
Sunset in Corong Corong Beach

Ipil Beach is not really an island, but is connected to the town of El Nido, albeit unreachable by foot or any land vehicles. It faces the vast Philippine Sea and provides respite after a long day of island hopping. To sit under the umbrella with your eyes cast out to the melting horizon provides for a meditative moment, the world is moving and I was moving with it in perfect waltz.

The Author at Dibuluan Island Beach Club
The Author at Dibuluan Island Beach Club

Sunsets at Corong Corong stuffed a lid on my mouth. You can almost breathe in the trickles of sunlight escaping the shadows of the nearby island. With John Mayer on the background, beer on one hand, cigarette on the other; also, hoping a book was resting on my legs, I wished the day wouldn’t last. I wanted to hold the sun and freeze it in suspended animation so that I can preserve that moment of stillness for a while.

The Gang - Photo by Chuckie Dreyfus
The Gang – Photo by Chuckie Dreyfus

It may be a while before I can go back to El Nido, but it told me something I’m sure it tells everyone who’s about to leave her embrace. That it will wait for me to find my way back like how it waited for me some years before.

How to get there:

AirAsia flies to Puerto Princesa, Palawan four times daily and offers year round fare promos. Lexxus Shuttles ( drives from Puerto Princesa to to El Nido and vice versa eight times daily from 5:30am to 5:30 pm. AirAsia has four daily flights between Manila and Puerto Princesa City. Find out more about AirAsia’s exciting destinations and promo fare announcements for domestic and international destinations via Facebook (facebook/airasiaphilippines) and Twitter (

Where to stay:

El Nido Beach Hotel (check rates) ( is located along the beach of the town and provides for one of the best sunrise vantage point. They also offer Island hopping and land tours, scuba diving, and cliff climbing activities. Their standard room goes for 3,000 PHP for a non sea-view room to 5,500 PHP for a sea-view family room.

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