II. Part: Trip Route (Palawan)
Here you find the detailed description of the island hopping travel route through the Philippines, starting in Manila to Puerto Princessa. You can of course do the trip the other way around as well, TAO Philippines operates a few times per week in both directions.View from the Mantinloc Shrine over El Nido's Bacuit Archipelago.
Additional Information: Rating of the travel experiences in brackets from 1 (horrible) to 5 (awesome) with Highlights in green and No-Go’s in red.
1. Parañaque, Manila, Luzon (4/5)
Type: Megacity, Capital
Date: 16.12. - 17.12.14
Comment: Manila does not have a good reputation, but more than any other metropolis in Southeast Asia it is an exciting melting pot of colonial heritage, business city, shopping malls, slum, Chinatown, American fast food restaurants, seafront, 24/7 nightlife and traffic jam.
Tip: As most travelers will pass by Manila anyway it is worth staying here two to three days to explore the city. We decided to visit Manila at the end of our trip. To get around fast avoid the rush hour from 7 - 9 a.m. and 17 - 20 p.m.
Accommodation: DG Budget Hotel Naia (3/5)
Cost: 25 € per night for AC room with double bed and shared bath
Comment: We chose this accomodation as it is very close to the Airport as we had another flight the next day;
Shopping: Duty Free Philippines Fiestamall (2/5)
Type: Shopping Mall
Comment: Next door is a Duty Free Mall, where you find literally all kind of western goods, but you will have to struggle your way out again. It might be a nice alternative to the small and pricy airport duty frees, but some articles like alcohol are definately way more expensive then in Europe or even local supermarkets. The only plus is the quite nice food court in there.
Picture: Unfortunately we couldn’t bring our guns…
2. Manila, Luzon - Busuanga, Coron - Coron Town, Coron
Distance: 320 km
Duration: 4 hours
Comment: Off to Palawan!
1. Transportation: Taxi to Manila Airport (1/5)
Distance: 5 km
Cost: 5 €
Comment: Before we could take off we got stuck in the worst traffic jam ever. We would have been faster by walking actually. There are crazy traffic conditions around the airport, especially to Terminal 3, where you can get only by taxi. Plan 1 - 2 hours additionally to get there in time!
2. Transportation: 17.12.14 / 12:15 - 13:20 Manila Ninoy Aquino - Busuanga
Type: National flight (5J531)
Airline: Cebu Pacific (2/5)
Distance: 300 km
Duration: 1 hour
Costs: 60 € + 4 € Terminal Fee
Comment: Luckily the flight was also delayed… Cebu Pacific is a low cost airline, so no snacks or drinks are included, extra fee for overweight baggage, free WIFI at most airports
Picture: Island life we are coming!
3. Transportation: Van from Airport to Coron (4/5)
Distance: 25 km
Duration: 30 min
Cost: 3 €
3. Coron Town, Coron (4/5)
Date: 17.12. - 18.12.14
Comment: Nice little town and starting point to surrounding islands; No beach nearby
Tip: Coron is a good place for wreck diving and island hopping trips. Better stay a few days if you are not in a hurry!
Accomodation: Mount Tapyas Hotel (4/5)
Cost: 27 € per night for AC-room with double bed
Picture: Nice view to the bay from the rooftop
Food: Lolo Nonoy’s Food Station (4/5)
Cheap and authentic Filipino food. Unfortunately the beer boat for Coron sunk at the last taifun a few days ago, thats why they only served apple flavored beer, bah.
4. Coron Town, Coron - El Nido, Palawan (5/5)
Type: Tour (Sailing Paraw Expedition)
Tour Operator: Tao Philippines (5/5)
Date: 18.12. - 22.12.14
Distance: 220 km
Duration: 5 days
Transportation: Sailing boat from Coron to East Tangat Wreck (Snorkeling), Luson Wreck
(Snorkeling), Patsy Island (1. Night), Evergreen (Snorkeling), Galoc Island (Kayaking), Buluang Village on Culion (2. Night), Buko Island (Beach), Sharon Island (Snorkeling), Ginto Island (3. Night), Kala Kala Island (Beach), Tao Farm in north Palawan (4. Night), Cadlao Island (Lagoon), Helicopter Island (Snorkeling), El Nido
Number of Passengers: 26
Picture: The Balatik is really spacious and the largest traditional Paraw Sailboat in the Philippines.
Accommodation: Single Beach huts or shared cottages on remote islands; The crew is setting up everything for the guests, including beddings, water and mosquito net
Food: Fresh fish on the way from fisherman villages, which will be cooked with vegetables and fruits coming from their own organic farms and on the boat. We had 4 days in a row of fresh seafood, which was very delicious, but we were really happy to enjoy an organic Lechon (roasted pork) at our last night at the Tao Farm.
Picture: Organic Lechon roasted for hours over open fire.
Entertainment: You have to buy your drinks (beer and rum) in advance at the Tao
office. There is ice on board, so your beer is always cold. At night you will get served a sundowner (rum with pineapple juice) and the rest is up to you. On one night we stayed in a fisherman village with karaoke bar, which was a lot o fun.
Activities: Snorkeling at reefs and wrecks, relaxing, swimming, get-together, kayaking to lonely islands, massage
Picture: Lonely beaches at the Linapacan Group between Coron and Palawan with crystal clear water and wonderful nature over…
Costs: 500 € including food, snorkel equipment & accommodation
Comment: One of the best experiences we had in the Philippines. It is not cheap and not always comfortable, but it is totally worth it. You will visit empty islands, snorkel in untouched reefs and get in contact with local people. The paraw sailboat “Balatik” offers plenty of space and the crew is a cool bunch of locals. The founders of Tao have a really good concept to integrate local people in their business and operate an organic farm in one of their basecamps.
Tip: Even when your favorite trip dates are full, write them anyway, often there are still places available. Bring seasickness pills, wetbag, extra sunscreen and additional batteries, because there is mostly no electricity.
5. El Nido, Palawan (4/5)
Date: 22.12. - 28.12.14
Comment: Backpackers hot-spot with laid-back atmosphere; The local beach itself is not very pleasant as it is completely filled with concrete buildings, but the surrounding limestone islands of the Bacuit Archipelago with wonderful beaches are breathtaking; Better book in advance during high season. There is also an airport in El Nido itself, heading from and to Manila. You can only book flights via emailing the airlines (Island Transvoyager and SeAir ) or the _El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe_.
Tip: There is no ATM in El Nido, so bring enough pesos with you. Alternatively you can get cash advance at the El Nido Boutique & Artcafe or try to get cash at the local petrol station with your credit card.
Picture: The nice town El Nido impresses more with its surrounding limestone cliffs then with its concrete beach.
Accommodation: Inngo Tourist Inn (4/5)
Cost: 33 € per night for AC-room with double bed and private bath
Comment: Nice rooms with terrace and good breakfast; Free Wi-Fi, but connection is limited; Friendly staff & owner
Trattoria Atrove (4/5)
Great stone baked pizza for European prices; Often queue at the evening
La Salangane (4/5)
Good Burgers (5€), fresh tuna sandwiches (5€) and French Menues (starting with 10€) served on a terrace above the sea come together with rum arrange (1€) and fast WIFI (free)
**Tip:**La Salange is also a hotel with nice rooms.
Pukka Bar (4/5)
Type: Restaurant, Bar & Disco
So called Reggae Bar, although the music is totally mixed. The best bar of El Nido is in the middle of the beach and packed at night
The Playground (3/5)
Bar in the back of El Nido with fireplace, table tennis, dramatic view on one of the big limestones, unfortunately with many mosquitos and without toilets
Island Hopping Tour A (3/5)
Type: Day tour
Tour Operator: Spider Booking
Distance: 24 km
Duration: 6 hours
Transportation: Boat (Outtrigger boat to Miniloc Island with big and small lagoon, Shimizu Island and Seven Commandos Beach)
Number of passengers: 15
Food: Water, fresh grilled fish, chicken and pork rice, vegetable and fruits included
Comment: The tour is nice, but not as good as Tour C i would say. The biggest disadvantage is that all boats go to the same places at the same time so the lagoons and beaches are very crowded.
Tip: Bring proper water shoes!
Private Island Hopping Tour C (5/5)
Tour Operator: Midnight Sun El Nido
Distance: 44 km
Duration: 6 hours
Transportation: Boat (Small outtrigger boat to Mantiloc Island with hidden beach & secret beach, Tapiutan Island and Helicopter Island)
Number of passengers: 4
Food: Water, fresh grilled fish, chicken and pork, rice, vegetable and fruits included
Cost: 24 € (95€ for 4 passengers)
Comment: We booked a private boat trip with Midnight Sun to choose the tour itinerary by our own. We had to walk 10 min to the Ca-alan Beach in the North of El Nido, where we started already at 8:00. This way we could enjoy the Hidden Beach all by our own and spend lunch at our private beach :)
Tip: Bring proper water shoes and be aware that you can badly scratch yourself at Hidden and Secret Beach. We could recongize from peoples injuries, who did Tour C!
Picture: Waiting for the lunch at our private beach, which we only had to share with our adopted dog Herbert.
- Submariner Diving Center (4/5)
Transportation: Boat (Big outtrigger boat)
Food: Curry, rice, water, tea and coffee included
Cost: 64 € for 3 dives
Dive sites: West Entulala (2/5) Paglugaban Island (3/5) South Miniloc (5/5)
Comment: West Entulala is just a wall dive, the rest reef dives. South Miniloc is full of fish schools and beautiful corals. Don’t expect sharks or anything bigger then turtles in El Nido.
Las Cabanas (3/5)
Transportation: Tricycle for 3 €
Comment: Much nicer beach then in El Nido town. Unfortunately not much space and shadow.
Tip: You can go via zip line to the offshore island nearby.
Nacpan Beach (5/5)
Transportation: Tricycle or rented motorbike.
Cost: 10 € for a scooter rental
Comment: It takes 45 min - 1 hour to get there. Drive north and after around 30 min you should find a tree with sign to Nacpan beach pointing to the left. Follow the bumpy sandtrack until the end.
Tip: Rent a dirt motorbike, not a scooter as some parts are off-road and make sure the light is working and you have the number of the rental company in case of a flat tire, which happened to us.
Picture: Nacpan Beach is a four km long stretch of white sand beach with a few food stall surrounded by palm trees.
6. El Nido, Palawan - Puerto Princessa, Palawan (2/5)
Transportation: Van with AC
Distance: 270 km
Duration: 6 hours
Cost: 9 €
Comment: Drive during the day to see the landscape and passing by villages, otherwise the trip can become quite boring.
Tip: Ask the driver if he can drop you somewhere in Puerto Princessa and take a tricycle from there, otherwise he will drive every passenger to their hotel, which took us another hour. Better take the Bus anyway, because the van will become very full. Make sure that you don’t have to sit on one of the small emergency seats.
7. Puerto Princessa, Palawan
Date: 28.12. - 29.12.14
Comment: Not a very special city, but the only place to fly from Palawan directly to the Visayas (middle part of the Philippines).
Tip: You can make a guided firefly tour to the mangroves (1 hour, 20 €), a trip to the underground river (1 day, 30€) or a dive safari (7 days, 1500 €) to the Tubbataha Reef, one of the top dive spots in the world.sw
Accommodation: Puerto Pension (4/5)
Cost: 22€ per night AC-room with double bed and shared bath
Comment: Nice wooden hotel with rooftop restaurant and courtyard with bar, who are dedicated to local nature conservation. Only the shared bathroom was a bit annoying, but they also offer rooms with private bath.
Tip: You can book a tour to the Underground River.