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.
|1Kuya – A Filipino word for “big brother.” In the Philippines you may also use this to address men you hardly know, like the PUV drivers, a random guy you ask for direction on the street, or a street vendor. For example, “Kuya magkano to?” (Kuya, how much is this?)|
We met Kuya Joshua on our first morning in El Nido while Alchris and I were looking for a tricycle that would take us to the town to meet our other friends, Lara and Lou (The Lost Diaries). As I mentioned in my recent post, you will have no trouble finding a tour operator in El Nido because you will meet a lof them on the road, most commonly the tricycle drivers. Their first question would be, “How long will you be staying in El Nido,” followed by, “Are you going on a tour?” Of course you are and if you haven’t arranged an island-hopping tour yet, they are going to convince you to take their services, or of somebody they know. In our case, our island-hopping had been taken care of by Sealand Venture.
What Kuya Joshua is offering however, is land tour to four destinations using his good ol’ tricycle. He showed us a laminated photo of the destinations included in this tour. At first I was just trying to be polite, nodding but not really considering his offer. But when I saw that Nacpan Beach is included in the tour I snapped back in attention. You see, I had already researched about Nacpan beach prior to this trip and I learned that it would cost us 1,500 to get there by hiring a tricycle. That’s 375 pesos for only one destination, then here’s this old man telling us that our 1,500 would take us not only in one but 4 destinations. Now that’s the kind of deal that we’d be crazy to pass up. I saved his number on my phone and informed my friends that we now have a contact person for the land tour.
It was our 3rd day in El Nido, we’ve completed the island-hopping tour and we’re ready to explore other parts of El Nido. The fact that we would be taken to places that not many tourists visit got me real excited. At 8:46 AM, Kuya Joshua picked us up on the side of the road, beside the Outpost Hostel sign. He greeted us with another deal that almost led to the cancellation of this tour. He said that we need to hire another tricycle because it would be difficult to drive all 4 of us in his tricycle.
“You should have told me about it yesterday,” I told him in dismay.
“Sorry ma’am, but I fear that the tricycle won’t be able to carry you all. The road to Nacpan is hard to drive through, the road is in a terrible condition,” he explained.
He offered to give us a rate of PHP 1,000 per tricycle instead of the original 1,500 rate. Note that 1,500 is the going rate of the tricycle tour in El Nido regardless of the headcount.
At first I thought he was trying to rip us off, I mean why did he not tell us before? I don’t really mind paying 500 instead of 375 but the look of disappointment on my friends’ faces told me to impose the first arrangement. I told Kuya Joshua empathically that he should have informed us earlier about the new arrangement and that we don’t have enough budget to pay more. It was either we would go with the original agreement or the trip would be cancelled; realizing this, Kuya Joshua had no choice but to take us on his initial offer.
I thought that it’s important that I tell you this so you know what to expect when you negotiate the arrangement with Kuya Joshua. It turns out that he wasn’t trying to cheat us; the road condition in Nacpan was indeed awful that I felt so sorry for him. But I am getting ahead of myself, more on that later.
It’s an hour ride to get to Pasadena Village. We stopped on the side of the road and walked toward this small house where we’re supposed to pay a registration fee of PHP 200 (USD 3.95) per head. I was shocked by the rate because I’ve scaled a few mountains and paid only 100 bucks for the guide. I didn’t want to think about my friends’ opinion anymore, I was busy dealing with my own shock. I tried to convince myself that maybe the price is worth it. Maybe, this is the only means of living of the residents in the area. What is 200 pesos, I could easily earn it back. This is me psyching myself up to accept it and I think it worked. Pretty soon I was back in good spirits and excited to see this waterfall.
It would take us another one hour to trek the path to Nagkalit-Kalit Falls. We crossed a total of 10 rivers and walked over 4 kilometers of rocky, wet trail. Compared with all the mountain hiking that I did, this trek was a walk in the park. I found the task fairly easy, in a sense that I didn’t have to catch my breath the entire time (I think months of working out prior to this trip has paid off!). It was not the same case with Lou, she was huffing and puffing, kept losing her footing that she almost gave up. At one point she even suggested we go our merry way then she’d wait for us to return. The tour guide would hear none of it, neither did we. There is no way we would leave her there; if we had to stop then we would, but nobody should be left behind.
Our guide took it upon himself to make sure that Lou is okay, guiding her every step of the way. Lou admits that she seldom engages in physical activities hence her struggle, and we understand this perfectly. Whenever it got too tough for her, we would take a short rest. To be honest, I liked the downtime because we had the chance to appreciate our surrounding. When the pace is too fast, you don’t really have time to stop and appreciate nature when your mind is focused on the finish line. That’s what usually happens when I climb mountains; I get a vague recollection on how I reached the summit because I was more busy looking on the ground and feeling the burn in my chest. In this trek, we were even able to stop for a chat, take some photos, and just breathe in the fresh air; it was pretty awesome.
The waterfall itself is not as tall as the ones I’d seen before. It’s only 10 kilometers high and the basin on its foot is also small. But the best thing about it is, there are no other tourists to deal with. There are only 3 other people enjoying the falls when we got there and when they left we had Nagkalit-kalit Falls all to ourselves. Only Lara swam to get to the falls itself for a photo op. I didn’t want to be wet this early in the tour so I skipped the swimming part.
Our next stop was the hardest to reach because the road posed a challenge so difficult, I almost thought we’d have to go on foot. The road to Nacpan has got to be the worst thing I have ever seen; only a small strip of it was paved, the rest I could only describe as a combination of rocky and horror. Kuya Joshua was sure not lying when he said that it was hard to drive on that long dirt road. We would go over deep potholes filled with thick muddy water that would get inside the tricycle. Our feet were a bloody I mean muddy mess by the time we reached the beach.
It dampened my spirit just a wee bit because the drive felt like I got shook by 10 demons. I was merely a passenger yet I felt that way, what more Kuya Joshua who exerted so much effort driving his vehicle over that terrible road. It was only then that I finally understood what he was trying to explain to us before. I honestly felt guilty that we didn’t hire another tricycle driver.
By the way, there is a 25-peso fee to pass through and Kuya Joshua has no idea where the fees are being used. He thinks that whatever it is, it is certainly not for road repair. Given the road’s current state, I would have to agree.
Whatever ill feelings I had getting there dissipated the moment I saw the beach. It’s gorgeous! Never have I seen a beach with water this clear in my life, and this is coming from a person who has seen some of the best beaches the Philippines has to offer. Not only is the water clear, there is also no seaweed in sight. The sand is not as white as that in Boracay, but it’s clean and powdery. Amazing!
How does it feel to swim in a beach with no seaweed? Like how it should be, free from worries and icky feeling. No rocky sand, no seaweed clinging to your body, what a joy! My first recollection of swimming in a beach and actually enjoyed it was when I was a kid. It almost felt weird to be in the same state again when I haven’t been like this in such a long time.
Alchris, Lara, and I were the only ones who had fun this time. Lou decided to skip the beach for fear of getting dark. She is the only legit fair skinned person in the group yet nobody is more scared of getting dark than her. For the record, she didn’t get a tan even when she thought otherwise.
There were other tourists enjoying the day in Nacpan, but it is not something I would call a crowd; most of them are foreigners. Nacpan is one of the most recommended destinations in El Nido and it is slowly making its way into people’s consciousness that I am worried for its future. We’ve seen a few establishments in the place already as well as some businesses being built in the nearby area. I just hope that it would remain as pristine as it is for a very long time.
LiO beach can be found in the Eco-tourism estate of Ayala Land. It has its own airport terminal, jetty and lounge, road networks and pathwalks, resort, residential community, and commercial establishments. Tourists are free to visit this place to swim in the beach or eat in the restaurants even if they do not check in in the resort. At least now it is free, the place is fairly new and I am not sure what the developers want to do with it in the future.
The beach is not as beautiful as Nacpan but there were less people, at least during our time of visit. Kuya Joshua recommended that we eat our lunch at Kalaw restaurant. There is a burger place by the beach and I almost asked my friends that we eat there instead, good thing I changed my mind and just went with Kuya Joshua’s advice. Why? Because the best meal we have ever had in El Nido was served at Kalaw. Every dish served to us was so delicious I think I’ve died and gone to heaven.
For food recommendation, I highly suggest you order the bagnet kare-kare and for dessert the leche flan. I find the price reasonable than those at Outpost Beach Hostel. Do make time to visit LiO for Kalaw restaurant if you want to taste the best food in El Nido.
Las Cabañas Beach
Capping this wonderful day is a few hours of lounging by the Las Cabañas beach. This beach has a little bit of Boracay vibe into it. You can go there and enjoy some quiet time sunbathing, enjoying a cocktail drink or fruit shake, or swimming. This beach is close to our hostel, and it is also where Outpost guests usually go for some drinks. It is the same beach where the Full Moon Party is being held as I mentioned in my last post.
The beach itself is not as beautiful as LiO or Nacpan, but we still enjoyed our time there. It was fun to just lie down on the hammock, sip my coconut shake, take in the beautiful view, and forget about the rest of the world. Everything felt so wonderful and I couldn’t think of a better way to end our El Nido vacation than this.
If you want to take the similar tour, you may contact Kuya Joshua in this number, +63 948-921-5072. Let him know that I recommended him to you. I want him to know that we appreciate his kindness and that he gave us an unforgettable El Nido experience.