Last year, I got the chance to see the beauty of Palawan when I visited Puerto Princesa City, the second largest city in the Philippines by land area; Davao City being the first. I get to know three (3) locals there and became my friends. I met them again when I visited the island this year.
I am aware that backpacking three major destinations in Palawan would be very challenging because of its geographical locations. Coron is separated by sea from El Nido and Puerto Princesa City. It takes about 6-9 hours travel time depending on the route and the weather. On the other hand, Puerto Princesa City is about 4 hour drive from El Nido.
My Coron, El Nido and Puerto Princesa City is a 7 days 6 nights travel adventure from 7th day of July 2016 to 13th day of July 2016. I booked my flight on 16th of October 2015 and it only costs me Php1,183.00 (US$25.39) only. I bought the airfare ticket when Cebu Pacific Air had their seat sale. I planned the trip from north to south of Palawan, starting from Coron, then El Nido and finally in Puerto Princesa City.
Every time I travel, I am very cautious of any untoward incident that may happen, which I can control. So before undergoing the initial security check at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 4, I checked my bag again for any prohibited items that I might have or someone might have put in my baggage. Another lady was also arranging and securing her baggage. Because I was looking for possible travel buddies (solo or group travelers), I initiated the conversation. I joked that with the proliferation of laglag bala (planted bullets) incidents, it is difficult to take chances– she laughed and smiled back to me. When I learned that she and her friends are going to Coron, I asked her if I can join them with their island hopping tour. She told me that they already arranged for a tour and see if they can ask the travel agency to accommodate me. We ended our conversation wishing each other well with “see you in Coron”.
When I reached Busuanga Airport, the only airport I know in Coron, I asked a local where I could take a passenger van that will bring me to Coron. The local pointed me to a passenger van parked just right outside the airport. When I get in the van, I was surprised to meet the lady I have met in NAIA Terminal 4 with her friends. On our way to Coron, we planned our itinerary. I invited them to go for an inland tour– hiking Mt. Tapyas and visiting Maquinit Hot Spring.
I stayed at Patrik & Tezz Guest House for two (2) nights. It was just a walking distance from the town proper. I met the group at around 03:00 PM for the inland tour. We chartered a motorcycle for Php350.00 but later decided to give Php400.00 to the driver. Except for one of her friends, all of us are not into hiking. But since we are already in Coron and there is a staircase on the way up, we push ourselves to reach the summit. From the top, you can see the whole town of Coron. The view is amazing and it is perfect to spend an hour or two just by enjoying the beauty of Coron. Do not forget to bring bottled water or something to drink on your way up the summit. There are vendors at the foot of the mountain selling snacks and drinks at reasonable prices.
We headed to Maquinit Hot Spring. The road to Maquinit Hot Spring is a dirt road. Our travel made difficult because of the rain. The tricycle and the driver struggled on our to the hot spring and back to town proper. I was disappointed that you have to pay for Php200.00 for the entrance. Though it is a private resort, it is still part of nature and its maintenance is relatively low. Asking for Php200.00 for the entrance, I think, is too much. The local government should regulate the pricing of the services being offered in Coron for local tourist at least.
Before we head back to our own accommodation, we grabbed something to eat at a nearby eatery. They offer roasted chicken, barbecue and drinks. We took chicken and pork barbecue and grilled fish. This is the perk of traveling in group, you get to taste local dishes at a fraction of a cost.
The next day, I met them at their accommodation in Sea Coral Lodge. It is located along the main road before you reach the junction. I was monitoring the weather as there was a typhoon in northern Luzon, I was hoping that the island hopping tour will not be cancelled by the coast guard. I was at their accommodation as early as 07:00 AM. Few minutes later, we got a message from their travel agency that the coast guard has suspended all island hopping tours. I stayed for about half an hour and decided that I will just check town around to look for affordable accommodations that I can include in my blog.
My newly found friends decided to call it a day and change clothes. As I was waiting them at the terrace, I heard a loud noise coming from their room. I knew that it was a good news as I can see that the weather is improving. They came out from their room and told me the good news. Their travel agency will send someone to pick us up for the island hopping tour. The way the island hopping tour works in Coron is that, you will be joined to other tourists who have the same tour package that you have. That said, even if you are a solo traveler, you do not need to hire the whole motor boat to enjoy island hopping in Coron.
We were so glad that our trip to Coron was not wasted by missing the island hopping tour. It was the highlight of our adventure in the town. After the island hopping tour, we decided to meet by 07:00 PM for a dinner. We dine at a local restaurant, which I learned online. We then headed back to our respective accommodation and call it a night. They will be back to Manila while I will travel by ferry to El Nido the next day.
Before I head back to my accommodation, I passed by a local ticketing office where I booked a ferry for El Nido. This is to make sure that I got a reserved seat as I cannot afford to miss a ferry–it will definitely ruin my plans. It is recommended to purchase a ticket ahead of time during peak season. You do not want to get stuck in when you get a time restricted travel plan. Also, make sure to book a ticket that will go directly to El Nido (vice versa) because there are ferries that will pass the island of Linapacan. By doing so, it will save you 2-3 hours of trip.
The ferry that I took passed the island of Linapacan and the passengers were dropped at San Fernando, which is a barangay in El Nido that is about an hour drive away from the town proper. We were not told about this ahead of time. All of us thought that we will dropped at El Nido Ferry Terminal. I am not okay with this and other passengers were furious about it. I was asked by ferry conductor to help him explain the situation to the passengers, which I did. I told them that if they want to file a complaint, we can do it at the Department of Tourism in the town proper. We decided not to do it and just asked the ferry conductor to give us snacks in exchange of the inconvenience.
With the provided van by the ferry owner, we reached El Nido town proper just before 06:00 PM. I get the chance to meet Connor Abraham, a tourist from England, as well as other tourists from USA, India, Spain and Japan. My smartphone was acting up and I could not get my Google Maps app to work. I decided to take a tricycle to bring me to Bamboo Billabong Hostel. I was asked to pay for Php20.00 but the it should only be Php10.00 considering the short distance. You can reach most of the accommodation in the town by just walking. Make sure to download offline areas with your Google Map app before traveling.
After arranging my stuff in my assigned bed, I decided to stroll around and took my dinner at a local eatery. I visited the Municipal Hall and check local shops for any possible pasalubong or presents back home. I made an arrangement with Bamboo Billabong Hostel for my island hopping tour. I chose Tour A and B. The recommended tour packages are Tour A and C but due to the weather condition, Tour C was not available.
Just like in Coron, tourists are joined with other tourists with the same tour package. I was joined with my room mates from the USA and France. We were then joined with couple from Israel. We need to squeezed our schedule to accommodate the two (2) tour packages. I suggest, if you have plenty of time to spare in town, book a tour each day to maximize and enjoy your stay.
The next day, I and a lady tourist from Belgium headed to the new bus & van terminal. My destination is Puerto Princesa City and hers is Port Barton. She learned online that there is this nice beach in area and she would like to visit it. By the way, back in El Nido, I asked her how was her island hopping tour, she said that it was ok. She took Tour A and according to her, corals are somehow dead. I am not sure which area they had their snorkeling but I told her that with Tour A and B, corals are great.
We have reached Puerto Princesa City proper at around 12:00 PM. When I visited Puerto Princesa City, I got the chance to taste the halo-halo in Noki Nocs and promised that I will go back there to have it again, which I did. I took my lunch in Noki Nocs, a restaurant located at the intersection near the provincial capitol. I headed to Duchess Pension for my two (2) nights accommodation in the city. Since I have been to mostly well-known destinations in the city, I spend much of my time meeting a new found friend, who owns a resort in Sibaltan, El Nido; and spending time with my three (3) friends in the city whom I have met last year.
On the day of my departure from Puerto Princesa City, I dropped by at the old public market to buy cashew nuts. It is way way cheaper compared to Manila prices. Due to limited budget, I just bought myself 1 kilo and repacked it as my pasalubong (present) to my colleagues and friends back at work.
Here is a quick look of one of the islands that we have visited as part of the island hopping tour package.