Day 1 – Boxing day. We decided to go on a family outing to El Nido with my sister, brother-in-law and my mom as well as my older brother’s family. We were in total 7 adults and 4 children. We hired a van and took the 6-hour drive to the town of El Nido from Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. We left at about 6 in the morning and had a brief stop over for breakfast at Roxas, Palawan after about halfway into the journey. We arrived at the town of El Nido, at around 12 noon and decided to continue driving towards Nacpan beach some 45 more minutes from the El Nido town center. We had grilled seafood lunch at Nacpan beach and spent the whole afternoon at the beach, swimming, enjoying the sea breeze. In the evening, we headed back to the town center and had dinner of grilled seafood along the coastline. And for the kids, gelato afterwards. The strip near the coastline is a walking street lined with restaurants, bars, tour operators, etc. The El Nido town center is booming. My brother and Joel were reminded of the days when they were still working offshore Palawan and they had to take a chopper from the small airport in El Nido to the offshore platform. In those days, there were only a handful of places and small pension houses in the area – they remember Laly’s and Abets for instance. But now they were surprised how the town is bustling with tourists!
Day 2 – We decided to go island hopping. First stop was the Seven Commandos beach, named after illegal loggers who got stranded in the island. In another variation of the story, the island was named after Japanese WWII stragglers who hid in the island. Of the 5 stops on this tour, I think this island has the best swimming beach, especially for kids – sandy and there’s no danger of stepping on sharp stones or corals while swimming. The second stop was the Big Lagoon. According to my sister who’s been to Maya Bay in Thailand (remember Leonardo de Caprio’s movie The Beach? Maya Bay is where it was filmed), El Nido’s Big Lagoon is more beautiful. Our boat couldn’t get any closer because the water at the mouth of the lagoon is shallow and the rocks may damage the boat, but there’s an option to take a kayak and paddle to get inside the lagoon or to swim. It is only about 300 m swim to the lagoon but it can be difficult even for strong swimmers because of the current so kayaking is the easier option and once inside the lagoon the waters are still so swimming is easier. The kayaks are rented out for 300 pesos, so be prepared with some cash. After the Big Lagoon, we went to Shimizu island. It is a small strip of white sand with a rocky shoreline and two large monitor lizards guarding the island. Don’t worry the lizards were shy and only came out when the last of the boats left the island. We had picnic lunch at the island and the lizards cleaned up what’s left of what we had. The lunch which consisted of grilled fish and chicken, eggplant and cucumber salad, were prepared by the boat men and are included in the tour package. After lunch, we headed to the Small Lagoon. The waves were bigger than in the Big Lagoon at the entrance so we had to be careful while kayaking. I did the paddling in front of the kayak and the kids sat in the middle while Joel manned the rear. It was hard work paddling for the whole family but it was fun. Everyone had a dip near our boat to cool down after kayaking around the Small Lagoon. Our last stop was the Secret Lagoon. Only the adults went in as it was a bit of a swim before you get to the small entrance where people queued to go inside the lagoon. We went back to shore by 5 pm and we were wiped out. Luckily, the place where we stayed also serves food so we we didn’t have to go far for dinner. Everyone slept early – it’s true, when you close your eyes, the feeling of still being in the boat, drifted by the waves remains with you long before you are on the ground.
Day 3 – We headed early towards the starting point for the Canopy walk to have an aerial view of El Nido. We were handed helmets and harnesses for safety prior to the walk. It wasn’t suitable for very small children because there were no safety nets in some parts so we had to be careful and hold the little ones. It should be an easy 15-minute walk for adults but with the kids, we had to be extra careful and took our time, so we spent double the time to get to the top. Reaching the top was exhilarating and the views were stunning. After the Canopy walk, we drove for about an hour to visit our friend in Sibaltan. He quit his job to manage his beach resort full time! I can understand why, Tapik beach park is beautiful. The beach front was nice and one can see the small islands near the beach for exploring, snorkeling and camping. It was also easy looking after the kids – there was a ‘games room’ with snooker table, table football, darts, etc. We had delicious home-cooked lunch of adobo, chop suey, chicken curry and cold beer at Tapik before heading back home to Puerto Princesa. It was a fun 3-day for the whole family. Thanks to my mom, Susan, for arranging the tours, the transport and accommodation at El Nido for us. If interested, you can also book thru Puerto Apartments and she can arrange the tours and accommodation at a discount.