Day 4 Destination
Finally, the famed El Nido and Island Hopping Tour A (lagoons & beaches). The best day on this trip bar none and one of the most epic days of our travel lives. This is one of those places you see on NatGeo and think “Wow, this place is one the same planet I’m in, I wish I could go”. Click here to skip some of our ramblings and go straight to the island hopping.
El Nido was our splurge part of this trip as we were celebrating our wedding anniversary. We had reached out to The Nest, a hotel in El Nido in its soft opening phase, to book an Ocean View room for 2 nights a month before arrival. Unfortunately, when we contacted them on Day 3 to try to book us into an island hopping tour, they said that our booking request wasn’t completed due to a fault on their side and the hotel was booked out.
We were shocked but they immediately followed up by saying that they’ll search for alternate accommodation and book us on an island hopping tour and pay for it themselves to make up for their mistake. They showed us a booking.com page for Lio Villas, 30 minutes from El Nido town, which we liked so we said yes. This was new territory for us as we generally have all our logistics pinned down beforehand but constant communication from folks running The Nest kept us reassured. We’re going to highlight how often they went out of their way to make our El Nido leg incredible.
If you’ve read our Day 3 writeup, you know that we entered Day 4 making futile attempts to sleep on a night bus. To make things worse, the bus reached El Nido before time at 2 AM instead of the scheduled 3 AM meaning we’d have to spend an extra hour without AC inside the bus. Hence there was no concept of an early start on this day, we were sleep deprived and in a non-AC bus in the wee hours and hence always on for the day. But it was totally worth it. We hopped out of the bus at 5 am and went to a local coffee place near the bus terminal to have instant coffee before making our way into town under the shadow of massive limestone rocks. While walking, we came across a stationary Google Street View car (our second Street View spotting after Oxford) #nerdchills
A gorgeous day for island hopping
Our tour started around 10 am after a fair amount of waiting around but we didn’t care as we had this view.
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The crown jewel of the most romantic island we've visited, El Nido, Palawan. This is a view from its beach, the imposing limestone jutting from the ocean is a great backdrop to the colourful boats. Checkout why we think Palawan is a dream honeymoon destination on our blog (linked in bio). Also this shot is from 1 of our actual camera instead of our potato phone cam. 😜 #travel #philippines #palawan #elnido #romantic #wanderlust #nature
Tip: You begin the tour by wading into waist high water so wear clothes / swimwear that you’ll be getting wet through the day before the tour begins and carry a dry pair to change into at the end.
Our first stop was the Seven Commando Beach (featured image) which was just gorgeous. The white sand was so fine & the colour of the water was nothing like we’d even seen before. There were slight gusts that hit our bodies with the fine sand but it was a small price to pay for 40 minutes at this gem of a beach. We took a dip, posed for many pictures and soaked up the sun.
Our next stop and the best one on the whole tour was the Small Lagoon. If you’re taking the tour, you must get off at this stop either swimming, kayaking or having someone else show you around on a kayak. The entrance to the small lagoon is through a small gap in the stone and inside it just looks incredible. We kayaked around the lagoon to see some alcoves, cool rock formations and the reflection of the sunshine shimmering onto the rocks. Here’s some of what we saw.
Next stop was lunch and here is where our island hopping tour had a hiccup. The original island for lunch was overcrowded with other boats so our tour boat had to find another place. Unfortunately for us, we got off the boat a bit late as we were arranging our stuff to find it moored at considerable depth with a short swim needed to reach the rocky beach. We both can’t swim so we tried paddling with our life jackets on. It was going ok till we both scraped our feet against the rocks.
We finally got our tour guides’ attention and they pulled us to shore. Dalek was also bleeding from his foot and as lunch was late, the tour guides weren’t giving us the time of day. A brief argument later we got some medical attention but this was the end of most of our physical activities for the day. Lunch was an ok affair with one of the two fishes undercooked which was disappointing. This is a part of the tour that could certainly have been managed better & more professionally by the tour company.
The next stop was the Secret Lagoon which we didn’t get off at as this too was a rocky beach. We did use the romantic and picturesque setting to have an intimate time just talking and taking in the views. That’s one of the best parts of this island hopping tour, even if you do not get off at a stop, you still stare at some epic scenery.
Our final stop for the day was the Big Lagoon which is on the same island as the Small Lagoon. We’d decided to stay on the boat but suddenly Yoda realized she needed to poop. Yep, just like that, in the middle of nowhere. Luckily for us, there was a restroom on the floating office of the kayak rental place next to the lagoon so we hired a kayak, Dalek rowed the kayak to the rental store. Yoda says that’s the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for her and has awarded 10,000 brownie points to Dalek, officially proclaiming him as her hero. #anniversarywin Now we can proudly check off “going to the restroom on a floating shed next to a lagoon in the middle of nowhere” off our bucket lists. 😀
Our boat made our way back to El Nido by around 6 PM and we were zombified due to lack of sleep by now. El Nido has a running water problem so our guide took us to a guesthouse to visit a restroom which costed us 50 PHP! We were finally put on a trikey to the superlative Lio Villas Resort where we checked in, eat a bit of food and slept like a log on our super comfy bed in our super comfy room.
How The Nest made our holiday perfect
As mentioned in the prelude, The Nest redefined customer service by
- arranging for a trikey to pick us up from the bus terminal to first a breakfast place and then to the island hopping tour office with our bags
- booked us on the island hopping tour and had people who guided us through the process
- the same guides also got us a trikey to go to the Lio Villas resort
- paid for our excellent room at the resort
Where there was a chance of our holiday getting spoilt, The Nest went out of their way to actually elevate our anniversary holiday. Please check out both The Nest as well as Lio Villas Resorts out if wanting to visit El Nido, some of the best hotel experiences we’ve had.
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