One week in the Philippines lay behind us and my boyfriend and I could get so many great impressions of the beautiful islands Cebu and Bohol. From whale shark watching and canyoneering in Cebu to a river cruise and the famous Chocolate Hills in Bohol – I can say we were so ready for some beaches. While the first week was fun and adventurous, we decided to spend the second week in Palawan, mostly calm at the beach in hammocks and sipping cocktails. Sounds good, right?!
So how did we get from Bohol to Palawan? In the morning of our leaving we drove to Bohol’s capital Tagbilaran from where we took a ferry (operator: Ocean Jet) to Cebu City. The ride takes usually about 2 hours. When we arrived in Cebu City we took a cab and drove to the airport. With the airline AirSwift we flew directly to El Nido, Palawan. It was easy and we had no problems at all.
Third stop: Palawan
Palawan is the largest province in the country and was chosen the most beautiful island in the world several times. Indeed, Palawan is very beautiful and truly a paradise. Although we arrived in El Nido, one of the bigger cities in Palawan, we didn’t stay there. After the touristic hotspots in Cebu and Bohol we wanted our own little paradise far away from the mass. So we decided to stay in a hotel 45 minutes further north from El Nido. And it was a good decision.
If you have quite a lot time, you should do the same, because El Nido is very crowded and full of tourists. We spent one evening in the small town, walked around a little and had our dinner at the Happiness Beach Bar, which was stylish and great. But during the day the beach it totally packed and the water is dirty and oily from the boats. So you can’t even swim in there and in Palawan you find much nicer beaches than in El Nido.
It was a hard decision where to stay in Palawan. As I said, we didn’t really want to stay in El Nido town, but on the other hand we also didn’t want to be too far away. So finally we ended up in the Villa Verde Safari. The way either from the airport or from El Nido takes about 45 minutes and you can only go there by car. We tried it with a tricycle first which was just not possible, because the road is in a terrible condition. Thus I recommend booking the airport shuttle, although it’s quite expensive and costs 2.500 PHP (39 €/48 $) one way. But it’s the best option to get there and Palawan is just more expensive than the other islands.
The hotel has a bungalow with two double rooms which is perfect for two people each. Besides this, there is a big villa that offers additional space for more than two people. This is also the place where the owner lives. Although the owner is not very talkative, we could talk to the friendly Filipinos who cooked our meals. While in the other hotels, we could decide what we would like for breakfast, in this resort you only get Continental breakfast (toast and scrambled eggs). Because I’m not a big fan of eggs in the morning, I asked for pancakes. And although I got them every day, I had the feeling that my wish hasn’t been well received.
Anyway, we didn’t choose the Villa Verde Safari because of the hosts, but because of the wonderful location. A big plus was the direct entrance to the private beach which was almost always empty. It was so beautiful that we stayed there the whole day swimming, playing with the waves or watching the ocean. Especially by night it was amazing to watch the sky. If it was clear, you could see so many stars that it was almost unusual.
In addition, the hotel offered three hammocks and some beach chairs which were usable for free. So we spent the days playing cards, reading and hanging around. It was amazing to do nothing at all and just come down from the busy everyday life. If you’re still looking for some action, you can rent kayaks. We rented one for some hours and it was super cool and so much fun!
I can only speak of El Nido, but that’s where the most people go anyway. You can book a huge range of tours in the many shops spread all over the town. So it won’t be too difficult to find a spot. Besides a 3 or 5-day adventure tour to Coron, the island hopping tours A, B, C and D are also very popular and common. If you have not much time, you can also do combo tours like A and B or A and C in one day. Actually we loved especially tour A, which was a mix of beautiful nature, beaches and a bit of snorkeling. It was amazing and I can highly recommend it. Anyway, here I listed every tour and what they included, so you can choose for yourself what fits best for you.
Note: When you book a tour, you need to pay an environment fee which is 200 PHP (3 €/4 $) each person and lasts for ten days. So if you want to book more than one tour, you should keep the receipe in your wallet.
The tour costs 1200 PHP (19 €/23 $) and takes about seven hours. It’s wonderful if you love beaches and lagoons, but it’s the most popular tour so it can be quite touristic. You should also bring bathing shoes, because you have to walk over rocks.
Big & Small Lagoon: Beautiful scenery and not reachable by boats. But you can rent kayaks for an additional fee, which I recommend, because it’s awesome to see the lagoons from the inside.
Simizu Beach: We had lunch here and it’s a beautiful small and lovely beach where you can also have the chance for some snorkeling (although most of the corals are dead by now)
Secret Lagoon: There is a little hole which you have to enter to get to the Secret Lagoon. The water in there consists of 70% sweet water and 30% salt water.
Seven Commando Beach: This beach is awesome and offers fine white sand and turquoise water. It’s also great for snorkeling, because you can do it a little better than at Simizu Beach.
This tour offers beautiful caves and divine islands that are just waiting to be discovered. It costs 1300 PHP (20 €/25 $) and takes round about six hours.
Popolcan Island: This island is a good snorkeling spot and the water is so clear and blue that you just want to jump in. But be careful, there could be some jellies.
Snake Island: Here you can hike up a hill to see the snake-looking island from the top and have a beautiful view over the landscape.
Cudugnon & Cathedral Caves: These caves are beautiful and worth seeing if you’re into caves. The Cathedral Cave is not accessible though, but you can still take pictures.
Pinagbuyutan Island: This beautiful island is the perfect spot to enjoy some time at the beach or to go snorkeling. But also here can be some jellies.
Wonderful beaches, snorkeling and a beautiful landscape – that’s what you can expect of tour C which offers a similar landscape to tour A. It costs 1400 PHP (21 €/27$) and takes about 7 hours. You should also bring bathing shoes here, because you have to walk over sharp rocks.
Hidden Beach: Hidden behind rocks you can find the Hidden Beach. You need to swim there, but it’s very beautiful and if you have luck, you can have the whole beach for yourself.
Colasa Beach: The Colasa Beach is not just the place for having lunch, at the left rock formation you can also snorkle and see lots of fishes and even corals that are still alive.
Secret Beach: You need to swim through a little opening to get to this little paradise, but it’s worth it, because you find there a wonderful lagoon with the Secret Beach.
Matinloc Shrine: It’s an abandoned site and just open for tourists. But the site is secondary. The tour boats stop here just for the incredible view.
Helicopter Island: It’s a beautiful island that looks like a helicopter from far away and offers a fine sand beach. It’s also nice for some snorkeling.
If you want a tour off the beaten track, tour D might be a good choice. It costs 1200 PHP (19 €/23 $) and also takes about 6 hours. But due to the fact that not many tourists want to do this tour, it can happen that you might need to book a private tour.
Cadlao Lagoon: This little lagoon is less crowded than the Small, Big and Secret Lagoon and a wonderful alternative. You can expect turquoise water and quiet.
Paradise Beach: It’s a true paradise that offers a wonderful fine sand beach. Behind the rocks at the left side of the beach, you can also go snorkeling very well.
Pasandigan Beach: That’s a beach where you can enjoy the view of the sea in a great atmosphere. But snorkeling is not really possible, though.
Natnat Beach: This private beach is a wonderful stop for a little rest – and to enjoy some lunch.
Bukal Beach: It’s a nice beach and although there is a lot of seagrass, you can still go snorkeling and see many fishes.
People say tour A is the best, followed by tour C, B and at last tour D. But I think it’s a personal interest in what you want to see and we wanted to visit the lagoons and do some snorkeling so as I mentioned above tour A was the best tour for us. But you should be aware that at the beaches there are lots of boats string together, so these tours are very touristic and the beaches mostly crowded. Nevertheless, I hope this list will help you if you decide to visit El Nido and also want to do island hopping.
So that was our last stop in the Philippines before we headed back to Germany. All in all, I can say that the three islands – Cebu, Bohol and Palawan – were a great decision and each of them was beautiful in its way. While Cebu and Bohol are adventurous and more for the fun factor, Palawan has fabulous beaches and a fantastic scenery.
If you haven’t checked out part I and II, you can do it now to learn more about Cebu and Bohol. Have you ever been to Palawan and did you do one of these tours? Would love to hear what you guys think!