El Nido: Paradise on a Budget
The Philippines has 7,107 islands, and many of these are cradling several of the most beautiful beaches in the world. In the southwest part of the Luzon archipelago, you will find the island just recently named as the most beautiful—El Nido.
El Nido, Palawan
Backtrack to a few years ago, El Nido was known only to cater to the wealthy who can pay thousands of pesos to stay a night in some of the world’s most luxurious resorts. Only those who are bountiful in cash could experience one of the richest spots in Philippine’s last frontier, Palawan—an island with 50% of its natural biodiversity untouched.
Luckily, with the changing of times, El Nido has paved its way to turning itself from being a pricey far-off dream into a reachable million-dollar paradise that fits your budget. With just PHP 10,000 in your wallet, you can make El Nido happen.
Here is how.
Step 1: Fly to Puerto Princesa, Palawan = PHP 4,000.00
Cebu Pacific and Air Asia offer flights that range from PHP 4,000–6,000 during peak season and PHP 2,500–4,000 during off-peak season. Safe to say that, on average, you get to fly to Palawan at PHP 4,000
PHILIHAPPY PRO TIP: It helps to window shop for airfares on your spare time. Your 4,000-peso budget can be cut down to PHP 1,500 when you chance upon a golden seat sale!
Step 2: Ride a public van or bus from Puerto Princesa to El Nido = PHP 550
Right when you get to Puerto Princesa, you can find van conductors wailing for passengers right outside the airport that will offer you the 6-hour trip to El Nido. You may take those or take a tricycle to the bus station. Take note that these modes of transportation are not available 24/7. You may, however, check online sites for bus and van schedules so you can schedule your trip properly.
PHILIHAPPY PRO TIP: Nevermind the bus. Take the van. It’s a lot more comfortable and gets you to paradise faster!
Step 3: Book a budget hotel = ~PHP 1,000/night x 2 nights = ~PHP 2,000
Book your place in advance. Remember, the internet is your friend. All possible choices for accommodations in El Nido can be found online. Look for the accommodation that best fits your needs. Also, remember that you are most likely to spend much of your time outdoors, so there is no need to splurge on this one. El Nido offers accommodations from cheap pension houses to beach-side villas that can run from PHP 800 to PHP 6,000/night.
PHILIHAPPY PRO TIP: Stay in the town proper because everything is a few minutes of walk from each other. It will save you tricycle money that usually costs PHP 100 a trip.
Step 4: Fit in 2 Island Tours in your *3-day trip = ~PHP 2,500.00
Island tours take up a whole day and come with free lunch buffets. There are four tours to choose from, and two of those would usually cost you PHP 2,500. This will be the best part of your stay in El Nido. Splurge! Have fun! Go crazy!
PHILIHAPPY PRO TIP: Tours are from 7 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily; schedule your flights and trips to accommodate these tours. Bring your own aqua shoes and snorkeling gear if you have. And Tour A is a crowd favorite.
Step 5: Enjoy the local restaurants and bars = ~PHP 900
Wherever you go in El Nido, you will find rich choices in food that are cheap. You can enjoy a good meal for PHP 60–150. The higher end of your budget can get you a platter full of fresh seafood.
PHILIHAPPY PRO TIP: Splurge on food during dinner because that’s when the seaside restaurants at the town proper layout their best produce. You can enjoy a candlelit dinner by the shore. Save on the other meals if you may.
Experience will always be one of the best things you can invest in. And experience in paradise for a minimum budget is something worth taking the shot for. Now go plan that trip, you deserve to feed your soul with sunshine and wonder!
Roundtrip airfare: PHP 4,000
Roundtrip van/bus transfers: PHP 1100 (PHP 550 each way)
Accommodation for two nights: PHP 2,000
Two sets of tours for two days with lunch buffets: PHP 2,500
Food and drinks: PHP 1,000
TOTAL: PHP 10,500
*Budget is set for a 2-day stay in El Nido. Prices are set on average and may vary, but the budget is highly doable.
If you have extra time in Puerto Princesa, before your flight back to Manila, you may do a side trip to the Underground River for half the day before heading back home.