Before we did our research, I always equated El Nido with luxury–5 star resorts, chartered planes, yachts…  That’s really not the case. While the 5-star resorts do exist in El Nido, El Nido is actually very backpacker friendly. Travel time can be a bit long, but I’ve found that some of the most beautiful destinations are worth it.

Since there are no commercial flights that go from Manila to El Nido, my friends and I took a flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa. You will have your pick of local airlines here. My suggestion, take an early morning flight if you can. Prior to our trip, I had contacted one of the local van operators in Puerto Princesa and had made arrangements for them to pick us up at the airport at 1:30PM. That was the last trip for the public utility vans (PHP500), from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, that we knew of. However, our flight was delayed because we got stuck at the runway due to airport traffic. The moment we landed in Puerto Princesa, I tried calling our contact for the van. They had left. We were late and the other passengers did not want to wait. We were a little upset, but we understood. We just have to find another way to get to El Nido.

We talked to the Tourist information desk at the Puerto Princesa airport. If I’m not mistaken this is where one of my friends got the number to the San Jose Terminal. She called the number and found out that there is a bus leaving for El Nido later that day. This was good news. There are tricycles waiting outside the airport. We hired two tricycles to get to San Jose terminal (PHP100/tricycle).  The trip from the airport to the terminal took about 30-40 minutes.

The view from inside the tricycle

When we got to the terminal we found out that the next bus does not leave until around 4PM. It was only 2:30PM. We still had time to burn, so we decided to get something to eat at the carinderias found across the terminal.

Random Coca-Cola picture… I swear you can find this drink everywhere

Finally at around 4:30PM, we were on the bus and on our way. We took the non-air-conditioned bus from Puerto Princesa to El Nido (PHP350). There was an air-conditioned bus leaving Puerto Princesa later that night, but we really did not want to wait a couple more hours for that.

The bus ride from Puerto Princesa to El Nido was not the best. We were in Palawan at the heat of summer, so temperatures ranged from 32°C to 34°C. A big portion of the roads getting to El Nido are still unpaved. So set your expectations if you ever take this route. There will be dust. The ride will be bumpy. The ride will be long (6 hours!). But don’t let this ever discourage you to take the trip because I assure you that what is waiting for you at the end of this long trip will more than make up for it.

At the beginning of our 6-hour bus trip from Puerto Princesa to El Nido

We arrived at El Nido at 10:40PM, tired but excited. Tomorrow we will be exploring El Nido’s islands and we could not wait to start. But first, a bit of sleep.

(This is another retro post. This trip took place April 13-16, 2012.)


This is a 3-parter. Check out the other parts at the links below:

3 thoughts on “Breathtaking El Nido – Part I: Getting There

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