After many months of traveling within the Philippines, I found myself in El Nido, Palawan, the gateway to the Bacuit Archipelago - and the most beautiful place that I've see yet in the Philippines.
The Bacuit Archipelago in Palawan is simply paradise.
The town of El Nido itself is nothing special, let's just get that straight. It's full of overpriced, mediocre accommodation, tourist agencies, and a few bars and restaurants. And take note: Zero ATMs.
But only a short boat ride away, and you'll find yourself immersed in some of the most beautiful scenery that this planet has to offer, with amazing limestone karst cliffs, lagoons, crystal clear water, and countless uninhabited beaches.
The Bacuit Archipelago is reminiscent of southern Thailand and Ha Long Bay, Vietnam - but, in my opinion, the Bacuit Archipelago in the Philippines edges out the two.
I've read that Alex Garland, author of the novel "The Beach," - which was later adapted by Hollywood into a movie and filmed in Thailand, starring Leonardo Dicaprio - is loosely based on the author's travels and experiences spent in the Philippines. This doesn't surprise me, as there are many hidden beaches and lagoons in the Bacuit Archipelago which could have easily sparked the idea for the book.
Like I mentioned, El Nido is the gateway to the Bacuit Archipelago. To reach El Nido:
- Fly to Puerto Princesa, Palawan via Cebu Pacific or Zest Air
- From Puerto Princesa Airport, take a tricycle to San Jose Terminal (P100)
- From San Jose Terminal to El Nido take either a van (six hours, P600) or a local non-aircon bus (eight hours, P300)
- Remember: There are zero ATMs in El Nido, so make sure to withdraw cash in Puerto Princesa
Tour A (P750) includes:
- Secret Lagoon
- Lunch at Simisu Island
- Snorkeling and fish feeding
- Big Lagoon
- Small Lagoon
- Seven Commandos Beach
- Snorkeling with sea turtles
- Lunch at a beach
- Secret Beach
- Matinloc Island Shrine
- Hidden Beach
- Helicopter Island
Here are some pictures from Tour A:
Secret Lagoon and beach.
Lunch at Simisu Island.
Small Lagoon. These two pictures were actually taken just outside of the small lagoon, as it's only accessible via swimming through a small opening in the rocks. I wished I could have gotten a picture of it.
Seven Commandos Beach.
Here are pictures from Tour C:
I don't have a picture of the sea turtle that our guide caught as we were snorkeling. Bummer. It was huge, too.
Here are pictures of the beach where we ate lunch, though:
Secret Beach. It was a bit disconcerting reaching the Secret Beach, as one has to swim through a narrow opening which had to be timed properly in order to avoid the waves that crash into the sharp rocks. And during high tide, one has to swim through the narrow opening under water. Luckily, it wasn't high tide when our boat arrived at the Secret Beach.
Matinloc Island Shrine.
If you are visiting the Philippines and are pressed for time, make sure to fit El Nido into your itinerary and see the Bacuit Archipelago. You won't regret it.
Paradise is very nice.