Philippines Travel

How to Explore El Nido’s Off the Beaten Path Destinations in under 500 Pesos

Right off the bat, let me answer the question the title posed, “Hire a tricycle driver.” I am even going to be more specific and recommend that you call the very kind tricycle driver that we hired, Kuya1 Joshua. Because of him, we were able to discover 4 destinations in El Nido, Palawan not frequented by tourists for only PHP 375 (USD 7.40) per person or PHP 1,500 (USD 2.96) in total. That’s right, you can explore El Nido’s off the beaten path destinations in under 500 pesos, and I promise you that it is awesome. Read on to know more about this awesome adventure.  


(more…)

Travel

What Everyone Must Know About Tour C in El Nido

The moment you’ve been starving yourself for to get that beach body has finally arrived. Finally, you’re on one of the most beautiful islands in the world, El Nido and you are so ready to go all Moana to see how far you’ll go. The question is, where are you going to go? There are four tours in El Nido after all. If you have all the budget (and time) in the world then no problem, you can take all four, but what if you don’t, which tour should you pick then? I have an answer for you, take Tour C and I will try my best to tell you what you must know about it.

I haven’t taken Tours B and D, but I did A (twice) and C and I do recommend them. On which one is better of the two, kind of hard to say. Tour A would show you the most beautiful lagoons, Tour C would show you the hidden beaches. The fun meter is slightly better for Tour C at least for me because it offered a little bit of adventure. I will expound on it further in the post.

Choosing a Tour Operator

There are many tour operators in El Nido and they are practically everywhere; they’re the people outside the Puerto Princesa airport, the tricycle drivers, the people you see in the port, the persons you meet randomly. You will have no problem finding a tour operator, your only concern is who to pick. If you want to know my recommendation, it would be Sealand Venture El Nido (check the bottom of this article for their contact information). It is a local tour operator that offers island-hopping, inland tours, transport assistance, among others. I learned about them through my friend, Jerny (The Jerny – Travel and Inspirations).

Since I’ve already written about Tour A before, let us focus on Tour C today shall we? To know more about Tour A, you may read my old article on this link → [Read: What to expect on Tour A in El Nido Palawan]

Tour C Inclusion

The islands on El Nido’s A-D tours are pretty standard as well as the rates. For Tour C, the rate is PHP 1,400 (USD 27.71) per head. This is the most expensive tour out of the 4 and arguably the most popular to tourists. Tour C would take you to the following islands:

  • Helicopter Island
  • Hidden beach
  • Matinloc shrine
  • Secret beach
  • Star Beach 

To give you an idea, here’s the map that I created of the tour that shows the islands covered and the routes taken.

One of the staff of SLV picked us up from our hostel at 8:30 in the morning. We rode a tricycle to get us to the port, about 5 minutes away from where we’re staying.  [Read: Outpost Beach Hostel – The Most Popular Backpacker Hostel in El Nido]

Eat your breakfast before you do your island-hopping activity. Although lunch is included in the tour, it won’t be served until around 11 AM and preparation may take a while. You don’t want to be hangry now, do you?

Helicopter Island

Our first stop is an island named after how it’s shaped; a helicopter. I heard someone say that it looked more like a chicken leg; well it does in another angle. But from where we came from, it looked just like how it is named, a humongous chopper.

What do you think? Helicopter or chicken leg?
This island has rich and shallow reefs making it an ideal snorkeling and diving spot even for beginners. According to a website, you even have a good chance of seeing sea turtles here. My friends wasted no time and immediately jumped into the water with their snorkeling gears (provided free of charge by SLV). I, on the other hand, wasted no time taking selfies, lol.

The beach itself is not as gorgeous as those that we found on other islands. The sand here is more yellow than white, covered with with twigs, rocks, and leaves. But Helicopter Island’s appeal is not the beach but what you can see underwater.

Hidden beach

The next three spots we were taken to are all located on Matinloc Island, the first of which is the Hidden Beach. The captain killed the boat’s engine in front of a long stretch of towering cliffs. True to its name, the beach is hidden and couldn’t be reached by the boat, thus, we had to swim our way there. Not exactly the best swimmer of the lot, I had a bit of a hard time treading the water, while Lara and Lou being the legit swimmers in the group expended little effort.

We reached a long path flanked by a row of massive limestone cliffs. There, the water level only goes waist-deep that people can take the rest of the way by walking. On our way, Lara gestured for me to take a look at what she found on the sea bed. The water is so clear I had no trouble seeing this dark colored elongated creature that was barely moving. I thought it was a snake, because it sure looked like a snake, but Lara said it’s a sea slug. Turns out that what we saw was neither a snake nor a sea slug but a type of a sea cucumber.

The Hidden Beach itself is a small strip of white-sand beach with towering rock formation for a background. It’s rugged and beautiful. It took more time reaching the beach than the time we spent staying there.

Matinloc Shrine

There is only one island in which we had to pay an entrance fee of 100 pesos (USD 1.98) and that’s on Matinloc Shrine. We were saved the shock of this charge because the boatmen had the mind to inform us about it before steering our boat to the island. I appreciate that they asked our permission because nothing is more annoying than hidden charges. The boatman said that the place is worth the extra bucks as it offers an amazing view of the islands. Plus, they intend to prepare our lunch there so I thought, it’s just a hundred bucks not a hundred thousand, no big deal. So I took it upon myself to speak for the rest of the passengers and said that it’s okay. The other passengers seemed to be on board too so we pushed on.

Matinloc Shrine is unlike any of the other islands; it has its own dock, an abandoned building, and a shrine. The building, which appeared to be an unfinished hotel now lay deserted on the middle of the island.

According to our boatmen, this place was built to become a retreat island but the owners had to shut it down due to the lack of funds. I haven’t seen a verified account of this story anywhere in the Internet and I even found different versions, one of them is that the owners weren’t able to secure the necessary permits, hence they were forced to stop the construction.

As to why it was built to begin with, here’s what I found; in 1982, a religious visionary named, Guadalupe Yabes allegedly had a vision of the Virgin Mary who told her to build a shrine on a heart-shaped island. She then set out on a mission to find such an island in Palawan and found Matinloc. And so, a dome made of marbles supported by 12 pillars was built to become the Shrine of Our Lady of Matinloc.

matinloc-shrine-el-nido-coffeehan (9)
matinloc-shrine-el-nido-coffeehan (6)
matinloc-shrine-el-nido-coffeehan (4)
matinloc-shrine-el-nido-coffeehan (2)

On the left side of the dome you will see a stone stairway that leads to the viewpoint area. The stairway is narrow and steep flanked by jagged karts. I found it fairly easy to climb and it only takes a few minutes to reach the top. Up there, behold this surreal view of the ocean.

Secret Beach

Secret Beach, which is said to be the inspiration of author Alex Garland for his novel, The Beach can only be accessed by braving the deep waters and the waves. Our boatmen ensured that if they find the waves to be too strong then they would abort the plan of leading us there. I was very curious to see the beach that inspired a novel so I hoped that the waves would just be alright. You’d think Alchris and I would be the ones who would hesitate about going since we’re not exactly stellar swimmers, but nope, it was Lou. I couldn’t blame her though, if the waves are bad we may run the risk of meeting an accident and nobody wants that. Fortunately for us, the waves were not as intense as we were expecting so off we went.

It doesn’t mean though that the journey was a walk in the park. Without a life vest there is no way I would do this; the water is deep and the waves a little strong that swimming is a bit challenging. To make my life easier, I did a backstroke. I floated on my back and started to flutter kick my way to the destination, notwithstanding the fact that I couldn’t see where I was going. Surprisingly, my pace was a lot faster than the other people that I felt so proud of myself. I went past my friends and the other tourists, then I turned my head back to see how much I’d been progressing and found one of the boatmen pulling me as he swam through the water.

Turns out I was proud for nothing. I was going fast not from my own effort but from somebody else’s. I had to laugh in spite of myself for allowing myself to believe for one moment that I was doing it on my own hahaha…

We reached a small opening that leads to the Secret Beach. The waves in that area is stronger and the hole is so small we could only enter one at a time. The boatman pushed me into that hole like I weigh nothing and I would have minded if it weren’t for the fact that the view inside stole my breath away.

We walked over the slippery rocks that were submerged in the water. We encountered some tourists leaving the beach who provided some tips that we walk where the water is shallower and sure enough it was a lot easier to walk on. Out of all the hidden gems that we found in El Nido (Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, Secret Lagoon), the Secret Lagoon takes the cake for being the most beautiful. Imagine swimming inside a natural pool, concealed by the towering karsts. I’m telling you it was an experience like no other.

Star Beach (Dalisay Beach)  

Saving the best for last is the Star Beach, a small stretch of pristine white beach on Tapiutan Island. It is known locally as Dalisay Beach and this is where we spent the remaining hours of our island-hopping tour doing snorkeling and free diving.

This is where I had the most fun just because I did something that I consider to be brave. You see, I know how to swim, but I never dared to do it on deep waters without a life vest. Then I saw Lara and the boat crew having the time of their lives doing free diving that I got envious. So I told myself, “Marge, you can do it. Take off your vest and swim.”

I asked Lara if I would stay afloat if I remove my vest; “Give it a try, it’s saltwater, you’re bound to float,” she answered. She advised that I keep my vest close by if I’m not too confident.

I thought about it for a sec and remembered that I’ve done scuba diving. I’ve been to the depths of the sea and I’m still alive. I am also surrounded by good swimmers so how bad could it be. “I’m gonna do it,” I whispered. Before I could second guess myself, I slowly took off my life jacket, let it go, and watched it float right in front of me. To my utter delight, I stayed afloat! Surprisingly, I was completely calm and when I found myself sinking, I just kicked my legs, flailed my arms and that seemed to do the trick. I kept the vest floating nearby just for safety measure and whenever I found myself too tired, I just grab on the vest to rest for a moment.

The view underneath the water was just as magnificent as the view on the surface. The massive corals, the colorful fishes, everything looked like a dream. The boat crew, young men with dark skin and lean frames swam in the sea like it was their playground. They dove into the deep without effort, and moved in the water like they belonged in it. They were fascinating to watch that I was inspired to take free diving lesson when I get the chance.

 


The rain has started to pour when we traveled our way back to El Nido port. I sat on the boat and felt the mist of rain and sea water on my face. We were fortunate to have gone through the entire island-hopping tour under what I consider to be the best weather. It was a little bit of sunshine and gloomy skies, and the rain only came when it was all over. I saw the boat crew huddled together on the bow of the boat, talking animatedly with each other. How lucky they are to be living in this paradise that many of us could only visit whenever time permits. Nevertheless, I am grateful; to see so much beauty in a day, to swim in clear blue waters, to visit El Nido even only for a few days is a blessing.

Author’s Note:

Special thanks to Mr. Philip Morales, owner and operator of Sealand Venture El Nido for agreeing to arrange our tour. 

The island-hopping tours were sponsored by Sealand Venture El Nido. Review and opinions are my own.

 

Pin this!

 


Sealand Venture El Nido
Brgy. Buena Suerte, Serena St.,
Poblacion, El Nido, Palawan
Contact no: +63 919 608 8077

Accommodation

Outpost Beach Hostel – The Most Popular Backpacker Hostel in El Nido

Hey,” a tall blonde guy in our room greets me as I walk inside the mixed-dorm room.

“Hi,” I reply, feeling a bit unsure if he’s addressing me even when I’m the only person who just entered the room.

He walks past me, out the door with his companion, “See you later,” I hear him say.

This same guy would always enter our room greeting everyone as a ritual. He and his friend checked in on our second day in the hostel. They didn’t bother putting their things inside the lockers under the double-deck beds; their backpacks, gadgets, clothing, a dingy mess on the floor. I gazed at their belongings, wondering if they didn’t have anything of real value that could explain their sloppy behavior. My OC tendency was triggered, but I just looked on and tried my damnedest to hide how much I cared. I told myself that it’s a price I have to pay for choosing to stay in a social accommodation called, Outpost Beach Hostel.

Just to clarify, I didn’t hate Outpost Beach Hostel, in fact, I could verify their claim for being one if not the best hostel in El Nido. It is so jampacked that my friend, Alchris and I arrived at 3:00 in the morning and we were not able to do an early check-in. All rooms were booked and during our stay, there was never an empty bed in our dorm room. As soon as somebody checks out, another guest checks in. To me, it only means that the place is very popular and well recommended by the people who’ve stayed there. 

Outpost Beach Hostel is owned by four foreigners. It has only been opened for 5 months but already, it is considered the top hostel choice among foreign backpackers.

How did I discover Outpost Beach Hostel?

Through an online search. I took it upon myself to arrange this trip for me and my friends, finding our accommodation being part of the task. I browsed through the listings in Hostelworld. I always have 3 considerations when looking for accommodation: 1) It should be accessible (not too far from the commercial area), 2) it should be affordable, and 3) it should have good reviews. The only thing that OBH checked on this list is number 3. It has a high rank in Hostelworld and garnered rave reviews from its previous guests.

The review that stuck to me the most is the one left by an American traveler,

If you don’t stay here, you’re a fool. This hostel has all the positive vibes you could ever hope for. I met some of my best friends and had a great time on their tours! I would live at Outpost if I could.

If it only met one of my requirements then why did I choose it? Well, the reason is a bit complicated. Nah, it’s ridiculous. You see, being the only single in the group, my friends are always on my case about finding someone for me. Every time they learn that I have an upcoming trip, they would pull out a to-do list so I could get a boyfriend. One of the things that they like to advise me is to stay in hostels because it’s the easiest way to meet people. They tell me to stay in mixed dorms, not in an all-female room. So when I found out that OBH is a social hostel, I thought, this is it, maybe this would help me get my friends off my back and finally meet prince charming (or a frog).

How to get to Outpost Beach Hostel?

Going to El Nido, inform the driver that you are going to Outpost. You will be dropped off along Sitio Lugadia National Highway, there is a big sign of Outpost on the side of the road so it’s easy to spot. It is located in the sunset beach of Corong-Corong, about 5 minutes away by tricycle from El Nido town. You need to climb down the wooden stairs, walk along the seashore for about 2 minutes to reach the hostel. Don’t worry, it’s not hard to find.

Room accommodation & amenities

OBH has private rooms, the lowest rate is about PHP 2,400 (USD 47.48) per night. If you’re on a budget go for the dorm rooms but don’t expect an all-female or an all-male room; there is none. They only offer mixed dorms; 4-bed, 6-bed, 8-bed, and 12-bed. We stayed in a 12-bedroom as it is the cheapest option, PHP 650 (USD 12.86) per night. They provide a towel and blanket but you have to pay a deposit of PHP 1,000 (USD 19.78), which they will return to you during check-out.

It has an in-house bar and restaurant downstairs where the guests like to hang out for a drink. As with the food, it’s a bit pricey and leaves much to be desired. There are nearby restaurants in the areas so I suggest that you just head outside for food.

The shower areas and toilets are shared, but it’s fine because apparently, foreigners are not big on showering. Imagine, the hostel is filled with guests yet never did we find a hard time using the bathroom or the restrooms. These areas are also well maintained by the staff; they never run out of toilet tissue and liquid hand wash. Moreover, the showers have heaters and the toilets have bidets.

outpost-beach-hostel-el-nido (10)
outpost-beach-hostel-el-nido (9)
outpost-beach-hostel-el-nido (8)
outpost-beach-hostel-el-nido (7)
outpost-beach-hostel-el-nido (6)

The rooms are equipped with both air-condition units and ceiling fans. Each bed is equipped with its own bed light, electrical outlet, and locker. Ok, let’s talk about the locker; in the previous hostels that I’d been too, I’ve always had an issue with the lockers as they are always too small for my backpack. Whoever thought about building the lockers at Outpost ostensibly considered that backpackers usually carry huge backpacks. The lockers are so big and spacious you could fit an entire backpack in it. They don’t provide a padlock though so remember to carry one if you’re staying here. They sell padlocks, but PHP 150 (USD 2.97) for a padlock is a tad too much don’t you think? 

Oh yeah, if you’re booking a dorm room, bring earplugs and eye mask. I cannot emphasize enough how much you will be needing these as it could get noisy at night. I remember my friends complaining that our roommates were talking loudly one night that they had a hard time sleeping. Thanks to my earplugs, my sleep was not disturbed.  

Join the Sunset Shot and Full Moon Party

What’s the best thing about Outpost Beach Hostel? Definitely the view of the sea. This is a beachfront accommodation and waking up to an amazing view each morning and being able to watch the beautiful sunset in the late afternoon made our stay worth it. OBH holds a sunset shot daily, in which everyone is given a free shot of rum coke when the sun begins to set. Everyone is invited to gather in the common area (be sure to sit by the balcony for this), then one of the staff would lead the ceremony. It’s nothing big, he would just ask everyone to let out an awoo, the louder the better, and then people would raise and take a swig from the shot glass. It was rather brief, nevertheless, it was fun. What a clever way to have everyone get together for a single drink.

The bar is open only until 10:30 PM. It closes early because the nearby hotels complained about the noise of the guests who were drinking so late in the night. As soon as the bar closes, the tourists would usually go out in groups to continue their drinking in the town.

We extended our stay in the hostel for the Full Moon Party. Alchris decided to sleep it off while Lara, Lou, and I decided to join the fun. I have always wanted to attend a Full Moon Party so I didn’t let the opportunity past. It was held at the Las Cabañas beach in one of the bars there. There is no entrance fee, and OBH provided a van to transport their guests to the beach.

Lou was having some love dilemma so she was gloomy the entire night. Only Lara was able to meet some people, being the only sociable person in the group. Me? The only part of the party that I loved is watching the fire dancing presentation; it was seriously mind-blowing. But if I have to be honest, I didn’t have fun. It wasn’t like the Summer Siren Festival, which to date is the only party or event I have ever enjoyed.

In the Full Moon Party, I didn’t meet anyone or talk to anyone. I had a little drink but didn’t get drunk. I danced a little with my friends, but the space that we were standing in was so small it all felt so awkward. I do love my friends’ company, but my conclusion is if I want to party, they are the wrong people to be with. Alchris and Lou are reserved, Lara would go off on her own to talk with people. And I, well unless you get me drunk I would be that girl with a perpetual pissed off look on her face. So yeah, for the four of us, partying shouldn’t be on our agenda.   

What to expect with the crowd?

OBH is not so popular with the Filipinos, but it is crazy famous with foreign backpackers. In fact, my friends and I were the only Filipino guests during our stay that we looked like we were foreigners. Expect to meet people of different race who are somewhere between early and late 20s. 

Our trip was sponsored by Sea Land Venture so we didn’t avail of the package tours of OBH. I heard that their tours can get really rowdy and fun, which I do not doubt considering the fact that most of OBH’s guests are young people who are out looking to have a great time.

How to know if Outpost Beach Hostel is for you?

Easy; if you are young, wild, and know how to have a good time, OBH is for you. The hostel has a good vibe, the staff are nice and friendly, the guests are eager to socialize. When you go here don’t be like me. Don’t sit on the sidelines, don’t be lost on your mobile phone, don’t overthink. Wear a smile and talk to people. This is a social hostel after all.  

To my friends, sorry to disappoint, my social hostel experience in El Nido was a failure.


Pin this!

 
Travel

The Best of Coffeehan: The Most Popular Posts Lists

Lately, I’ve grown an obsession on Google Spreadsheets. I have a sheet for my travel itinerary, a sheet that tracks my day to day workout, a trix that monitors the participants in the blog threads of my Facebook blog (Circle of Travel Bloggers), a trix for all the French words and phrases that I am trying to learn, etc. If I could write this blog on a Google Sheets I probably would, that’s how crazy I am with this G Suite tool. And then lately I’ve come up with another way to use it by creating a file that records the page views of all the posts that I’ve published here on Coffeehan. Yes, I can find weird ways to make use of my free time. And it’s because of this latest foray into the G Sheet that I was able to come up with this new topic. I was able to find the most viewed as well as the least popular articles in my blog. This covers the period 2010 to 2017. Yes, my blog is old, it’s turning 7 years old this August. From the results, I have come up with the lists and I thought of sharing the results with you today.

(more…)

css.php