The Philippine Islands are the second largest archipelago in the world and is made up of over 7,600 islands located in the South China Sea, Philippine Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, and the Luzon Strait. The Philippines has a combined population of more than 100 million people, which makes it the 12th most populous country in the world. Its annual growth rate of around 2% makes it one of the fastest growing countries in the world.
Manila is the capital of the Philippines and considered the most densely populated city in the world. Its population of 1,660,714 is compacted into an area of approximately 24 square miles. It has a population density of 55,446 people per square mile. English and Filipino are the country’s two officially recognized languages. November to February are the coolest months and a good time to visit the Philippines as far as weather is concerned. The average temperature is 86 degrees with the humidity levels hovering around 77 percent.
The hardest part of visiting the Philippines is deciding where to visit – as shown in the map to the right!
The Philippine Islands are considered to have a tropical climate with beautiful beaches. How could we go wrong selecting them as a destination? After much research about the country, it was decided we would visit the recently popular El Nido, Palawan. Our plane left Hong Kong with a direct flight to Manila. We had a couple hour lay-over in Manila, but soon we were off to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Flying into Puerto Princesa was beautiful. Below us are scattered islands shimmering in the bluest of ocean waters with a dusk settling sky that looks like Neapolitan ice cream.
Puerto Princesa is a coastal city on Palawan Island in the western Philippines. It’s a base port for boat trips through the massive limestone caves and the underground river of the biodiversity Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Dive sites are dotted all around Puerto Princesa Bay, which is also home to long-nosed dolphins, turtles and rays.
It was evening when we arrived and purposely chose accommodations close to the airport. We were only going to be here overnight as we had reservations for a 5 hour van ride to El Nido the next morning. The cheapest, fastest and most unique way to get from point A to point B is by Tuk Tuk. A fabricated likeness to a motorcycle with a “sidecar attachment” is the best way I can describe them. It only took us about 15 minutes to arrive at our overnight destination. We would soon find out that the Tuk Tuk would become the mode of transportation during our stay in El Nido. The ride is bumpy, loud and dusty, but they serve their purpose! It’s a must experience when visiting! We arrived at the Hibiscus Garden Inn, which my daughter-in-law found on Trip Advisor.
The following morning we were enchanted by the rustic charm of the Inn. It’s clean, very affordable and offers very simple accommodations. However, the rooms did include an air conditioner and a fan which made it very comfortable. The landscape and gardens were beautiful and provided a relaxing atmosphere. The staff was very friendly and provided us with good customer service. We chose to have our breakfast outside of our room where table and chairs were available. The choices for breakfast included basic American and European cuisine. The food was good, but it did take longer to prepare than expected. I had to quickly eat as our van arrived to take us to El Nido.
We knew going in that a 5 hour van ride wouldn’t be the most comfortable mode of transportation, but it would grant us the opportunity to experience the countryside. The good news is that we found out that there is a plane that flies from El Nido to Manila for a reasonable rate. So we booked a flight for the trip back! The van was full and made several stops along the way to pick up and drop off locals and tourists. We were stopped several times by the Philippine National Police to apparently check the credentials of our driver. It never took long for the PNP to confirm his paperwork and we were quickly on our way. The landscape on Palawan is very tropical with dense jungle foliage, summer temperatures and above average humidity. The geography is mountainous with open areas for farming, raising livestock and small communities. A significant part of the ride included following the magnificent coastline. We couldn’t wait to arrive in El Nido to enjoy it. Halfway to our destination we stopped for a break and to get something to eat. Since we were a little apprehensive of the many different selections, we mostly choose vegetable items to just be on the safe side.
We arrived in El Nido’s transportation depot around midafternoon and secured 2 Tuk Tuks for under 1 USD. We piled luggage in one and ourselves in another for the 15 minute jaunt to our lodging – Lally & Abet beach Resort. Since we had made our reservations during the Chinese New Year, our choices for accommodations were limited. We did manage to get a room overlooking the ocean and the El Nido beach. The rooms were pretty basic with a king size and a twin size bed, a small flat screen TV with cable and an air conditioner. The shower was adequate at best with intermittent burst of hot water. The linens and towels were clean and refreshed daily. For 65 USD a night we have a gorgeous view of the water and complimentary breakfast included. We figured we got a pretty good deal considering it’s a holiday week! How much time do you really spend in your room anyway? The property is located in a quieter area of town and away from all the night life. A 5 minute walk or a quick Tuk Tuk ride will take you anywhere in town you want to go! The front desk staff needs a lot of training on customer service. They hardly make eye contact, no smiles and one word answers for questions asked. Depending on your budget and comfort level, there are many great accommodations in the area. Just make sure that over a busy time of year you book your reservations early. El Nido is quickly becoming a very popular destination spot!
El Nido is very remote and considered one of quietist of the inhabited islands in the Philippines. Its pristine beauty was hidden from the world until 1979 when a mishap occurred in Bacuit Bay. As the story is told; a tuna line disabled a dive boat’s propeller in the middle of the night forcing it to drop anchor in an inlet. The following morning, the divers woke up to an amazing scenery of skyscraping cliffs covered with thick green lush forest, white sand beaches and sparkling water that floats a series of magnificently sculpted jade islands.
El Nido showcases the Philippines’ geological and biological diversity. In recognition of the importance of its unique ecosystem, the Philippine Government made the entire area of El Nido a turtle sanctuary in 1984. Then in 1991 it was sanction as a marine reserve park, and finally in 1998 a managed resource protected area.
Our son booked an island hopping tour through a contracted tour company associated with the Resort. There are dozens of tour groups throughout the town that are more than happy to schedule island tours regardless of the level of activity. Whether it’s just sight-seeing, dinner or lunch cruises and/or snorkeling or diving it’s all there! Most outfitters have daily tours that include different islands – one day you can do tour A, next day B and so on. Our schedule tour included island hopping to 4 or 5 different islands, lunch and snorkeling on a boat with 10-12 other people. I would advise you to shop around when booking tours, because you can find a variety of rates and packages to fit your agenda. Speaking firsthand, “Do not drink the water”. It spoiled a couple of our days where we could not be on a boat. We took some time to explore the town, shop and spend time relaxing on the beach! You can see women washing clothes out in the open areas, children going to school with their uniforms and backpacks on, men working on projects, fishing boats bringing in seafood and Tuk Tuks delivering goods.
One afternoon we hopped on a Tuk Tuk for a 15 minute ride to Marimegmeg Beach where Orange Pearl Resort is located. We wanted to take in as many different views of paradise as possible. Everywhere in El Nido the views are absolutely amazing. We enjoyed a very well deserved relaxing afternoon. We got a kick watching people fly overhead on the zip line!
The day is starting to wind down, and this part of our adventure is coming to a close. There is so much more to do and see that we will have continue on at a later date. See you soon!