FIRST SOLO TRAVEL TO EL NIDO, PALAWAN : DETAILED TRAVEL GUIDE AND BUDGET FOR 5D/4N

Have you ever thought if solo travelling is for you? Have you ever wonder if you have the guts to do it? Have you consider doing it despite people telling you not to? Was solo travelling safe for women? Let me share with you my first solo travel to El Nido Palawan for 5D/4N with my detailed travel guide.

First Travel : February 2017; latest travel : August 2019 || Updated as of January 2020

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SMALL LAGOON TOUR PART OF TOUR A ISLAND HOPPING IN EL NIDO, PALAWAN

Traveling. It leaves you speechless then turns you into storyteller — they say. And no amount of books and videos shown via Youtube and other travel blogs will make you experience any of those not unless you make a dream a PLAN.

This is how my first solo trip came into the picture. Fulfilling and checking one on my bucket list — to go travelling alone.

Scouting for tourist destinations around the Philippines, and perfect for solo travelers, there goes series of options to choose from. But what tops it all? — El Nido, Palawan. 

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first solo trip to Palawan

El Nido, is a Philippine municipality on Palawan island. It’s known for white-sand beaches, clear water, with cliffs and beautiful rock formation,  coral reefs and a perfect getaway for everyone!

In my blog I’ll be sharing my  5D/4N entire itinerary, budgets, place to stay, food to look out, tips and guides as well as my own experiences on how I made this dream a reality. Special thanks to all of my friends and co-travelers for all suggestions as well during my preparation stage. *wink. AS of January 2020, I’ve also updated and edited some of my notes from my recent travel to El Nido as well.

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DAY 1 | MNL TO EL NIDO ( via Puerta Princesa)

Overview : My first day was spent specifically with the travel from Manila all the way to El Nido, it was my chance to go around the city proper. Get along with my room mates, familiarize with the location, near restaurants and the areas where I should be heading for the next couple of days.

HOW TO GO TO EL NIDO FROM MANILA?

  • I booked my ticket in advance via Cebu Pacific from NAIA bound to Puerto Princesa travel time of 1 hour & 20 mins
    • you may fly from Manila to Puerto Princesa
  • From Puerto Princesa International Airport ride a van going to El Nido Terminal,van ride is P600 pesos
    • I booked mine via Northern Hope Tours travel travel time of 5 – 6 hours to El Nido
    • you may also book thru http://www.klook.com and the van transfer cost P500.00 per person, choose the time that would best be convenient for you
  • From El Nido Terminal ride a tricycle going to your hotel (trike ride is P50 for solo since special ride) travel time is 15 – 20 minutes depending on your location.
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PUERTO PRINCESA AIRPORT 2017

This was just right outside the airport, you may stay here while waiting for your booked van service. As of 2020, PPS airport was actually renovated way way better already.

If you haven’t booked any service yet, you may still do so too since there were so many van services available in airport as well offering the same rate similar with the rest of the other services.

GOING BACK TO PUERTO PRINCESA AIPORT FROM EL NIDO :

  • Van Transfer and services is available at El Nido Terminal as early as 5AM – 6PM
  • As for me, since I booked in advance for my van transfer Northern Hope Tours fetched me straight from the hostel going all the way to PPS Airport.

Please see my Itinerary with budget breakdown below : (costing is based from my personal expense)

DAY 1 EL NIDO TRIP

WHERE TO STAY IN EL NIDO? :

An accommodation for a solo female traveler like me shall be one of the things we should consider, there goes safety, comfort and  shall be near in the city proper to avoid hassle and bustle. I booked my hostel 3 weeks in advance prior my trip via http://www.agoda.com which I got a special discount as well.

SPIN DESIGNER HOSTEL

I stayed at Spin Designer Hostel one of the most rated hostel for backpackers. All time favorite by different nationalities as well. Worth the penny and let the photos speak for you.

Read my full review :Β Spin Designer Hostel – Where to stay in El Nido?

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Lounge Area in Spin Designer
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Kitchen Area

Spin Designer Hostel was super relaxing, very comforting and I get to meet so many tourists during my 5 days stay. Breakfast was okay, the amenities and the ambiance was really perfect especially for a solo traveler like me too.

PUKA BEACH HOTEL

The second time I visited El Nido, my bestfriend and I stayed at Puka Beach Hotel, we booked it thru www.agoda.com as well. Each night for 2 pax cost Php 3,400 and it comes with a breakfast already.

The private room for 2 pax, private CR and exceptional view in time for the sunset is my favorite in this hotel. It was pretty far from the city proper of El Nido, but riding the tricycle won’t hurt you as well. Remember that it should only be Php 50.00 per ride, no matter whether you’re solo or couple or 3 pax. This should be the standard fare for this. This hotel is also near the famous Outpost Sunset Bar, also a perfect place and haven for backpackers.

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part of the room package is the daily breakfast where you get to choose from the menu

ISLAND TOURS 

For the island tours in El Nido, the rates were actually the same amongst all travel agencies, it is just a matter of experience and how they treat their guest well.

  • During my solo travel, I booked thru Northern Hope Tours for all my island hopping escapade — it was also a tourists favorite during that time so I booked and tried it.
  • If you are in a budget and would want cheaper island tour offers, you may also message “Michael Yao” thru Facebook, he has a cheaper island tour offers compared to the rest of the agencies, I booked thru him the second time I visited El Nido.
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DAY 2 | ISLAND HOPPING TOUR A

Overview : The Island Hopping Tour A cost P1,200 per person it includes the Island Hopping boat transfer, free use of life vest, snorkeling gear and buffet lunch. The cost is generic for all travel agencies in El Nido so no need to worry just be keen enough which agency to choose for your travel.

Tour A basically includes ( Big and Small Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Secret Lagoon, and 7 Commando Beach). As of my last visit to El Nido — you may no longer visit both Small and Big Lagoon at the same time from Tour A, you actually need to choose 1 first on which package you would be joining in. This is actually the effort of the local govt of El Nido to control it’s tourists.

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Kayaking all the way to Small Lagoon | Php 300 for 2 pax

If you are looking for a more serene and sight seeing tour then this is for you. It also has snorkeling at 7 Commando, to better appreciate the Small Lagoon it would be best to rent and ride a kayak boat Php 300.00 per kayak for an hour (good for 2 pax) to enter the Small Lagoon and enjoy the crystal clear blue water. Since I was solo, I get to meet a new found friend “Yolanda” from Taiwan so we get to share the kayak.

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Small Lagoon
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SMALL LAGOON KAYAK FOR 2 PAX WORTH PHP 300
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SMALL LAGOON KAYAK FOR 2 PAX WORTH PHP 300
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SMALL LAGOON, PART OF TOUR A
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7 COMMANDO BEACH PART OF TOUR A ISLAND HOPPING, EL NIDO PALAWAN
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SECRET LAGOON, EL NIDO PALAWAN

You’d have to figure out why they call it the “Secret Lagoon”

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Seafood Buffet! is part of the package already
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ENTALULA ISLAND PART OF TOUR B ISLAND HOPPING IN EL NIDO, PALAWAN

Entalula Island was not part of the Island Hopping Tour A but since there were influx of tourist anywhere the boatmen decided to let us have our lunch here in Entalula (initially part of Tour B)

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El Nido, Palawan
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BIG LAGOON AS PART OF TOUR A ISLAND HOPPING IN EL NIDO, PALAWAN

Please see my Itinerary with budget breakdown below : (costing is based from my personal  expense)

DAY 2 TOUR A ITI

*Everyday during my El Nido stay, I get my breakfast for free at the hostel then grab my buffet lunch over the Island Hopping. I only get to spend during dinner time, so you’ll see that I did not save much on it hihi!

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DAY 3 | ISLAND HOPPING TOUR C

Overview : Tour C of Island Hopping in El Nido is worth P 1,400 per person it includes the boat transfer, lunch buffet, life jacket and the snorkeling gear as well. It is the most expensive tour but it definitely is something you need to experience as well.

Tour C islands are the following (Hidden Beach, Helicopter Island, Tapiutan Beach, Star Beach, Matincloc Island, and Secret Beach) If you are more into adventure then this Tour is for you! Make sure to bring a courageous mind and body and be ready for tons of snorkeling sites, more swimming haven and picturesque view everywhere.

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MATINLOC SHRINE HIKING FOR 5 MINUTES

This is where I enjoyed doing free diving, swimming at the middle of the ocean, corals seeing everywhere and it was so amazing. Make sure to bring a waterproof camera with you to fully capture every moment of it because it is truly amazing.

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HIDDEN BEACH

If you do not know how to swim going to Hidden Beach might be a little challenging for you. Since you have to swim all the way from the boat to this island, life jacket is a must and never leave your snorkeling gear it is also better if you have a waterproof camera since you’ll definitely be soaking and swimming the entire time.

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HIDDEN BEACH AS PART OF TOUR C ISLAND HOPPING IN EL NIDO, PALAWAN
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HIDDEN BEACH WITH YOLANDA
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Hello Nemo!!!
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TOUR C ISLAND HOPPING VIA NORTHERN HOPE TOURS

Perks of solo travelling is meeting more tourists in various nationalities. I also get to be first on every activity.

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Helicopter Island
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Get to free dive!

You get to free dive and more snorkeling activities from Tour C.

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Rock formations everywhere
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Seafood Buffet in the island
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STAR BEACH
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TOUR C ISLAND HOPPING VIA NORTHERN HOPE TOURS

Other travellers and tourists on board!

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Matinloc Shrine

Additional : Matinloc Shrine used to be a spot where you can just swim around the ocean, during my recent travel we actually stayed at the Shrine and had our lunch. There was a short 5 minute hiking all the way to the top for the view overlooking a beautiful scenery. 

However, there was a separate payment for an entrance which is Php 100.00 (the land owner though isn’t friendly to tourists and is just really eager for the entrance payment from the first place 😦 (*this makes me extra sad though, since the entire ocean was basically for humans to enjoy with, and to appreciate, the monetary payment they say for maintenance doesn’t really seemed like it. 

If you’ll be taking the Tour C, be sure you have all the energy and strength for this activity. Better also if you know how to swim and has the guts to swim all the way to the island. I’ve realized how I loved swimming so much and I appreciate that I get to enjoy better. Most especially without the life vest that hinder you.

Please see my Itinerary with budget breakdown below : (costing is based from my personal  expense)

DAY 3 TOUR C
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DAY 4 | NACPAN BEACH AND MARIMEG BEACH (TOUR E) 

Read my full blog story thru : Nacpan & Marimegmeg Beach Day Tour

Overview : For my 4th day stay in El Nido, I made a spontaneous trip with my rented motorbike and a driver and took me in Nacpan Beach early in the morning. Never miss this two beaches in El Nido as it is one of the best I’ve seen! Truly a paradise! If you are into Beach Bumming,laid back stay at the beach and enjoy a perfect sunset to end the trip, this should be part of your itinerary. This tour was ideally part of what the agencies also offers but it cost around P1,200, and you’ll save more if you do it the DIY style (*see my budgets below) you may contact Kuya Lester – 09502753163 he was my driver and tour guide during this trip plus my photographer hahaha!! (*solo travels feels)

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Touring Nacpan and Maremegmeg in habal habal

If you are two or more and with a certain group, I suggest you hire a tricycle for the land and beach trip, usual cost is P1,500 good for the entire day. You may contact Kuya Erick – 09505022574 as he can offer the trike ride as low as P1,000 pesos. (*I initially booked for him but the motorbike seems more fun for my solo time, so decided on the latter) The motorbike is for hire in Bancuit Bay for P500 if you will be driving it yourself.

Additional : if you only wanted to visit one beach instead e.g Nacpan — you may haggle the tricycle ride to Php 1,000 as a regular rate. You would actually save more if you have a partner to share the cost with. 

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NACPAN BEACH THE SECOND TIME AROUND https://ilovenats.com/2020/01/31/el-nido-the-second-time-around/

The sand in Nacpan is too golden and white as well as the beach. Nothing much to do here but to beach bum, read a book, enjoy the serene moment and enjoy your time alone in the beach, swim and float all you can, eat seafoods and drink coconut all you want!

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Nacpan Beach
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Beach Bumming in Nacpan

In Marimegmeg on the other hand lets you feel the perfect sunset! One of the longest zipline activity is also available in the area, more resto inside, more drinks and party feels (*if you are into it, you’ll get to enjoy it)

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Marimegmeg Beach
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Sunset Watching
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Sunset at Maremegmeg

Additional : at the farthest part of Maremegmeg, you’d see the pizza house where the location was actually extra nice for sunset. But, reminding you however that pizza doesn’t taste that good though (*we ended up eating at Altrove once again for dinner, just to quench our cravings for pizza) 

There is also a rising Vanila Beach  property (this is where you’ll enter going to Maremegmeg) it was like the D’ Mall of Boracay-ish, where series of stores and restaurants is available. Though there weren’t much tenants still.

Please see my Itinerary with budget breakdown below : (costing is based from my personal  expense)

DAY 4 TWIN BEACH

DAY 5 | PPS TO MNL 

Overview : Technically my last day in El Nido was spent with my last minute shopping, I got pearls (*tons of it) shirt, and the usual pasalubongs I could get from Bancuit Bay.  You’ll get to see a lot of it in the area.

After breakfast, my van service fetched me straight from the hostel all the way back to PPS Airport for my flight.

Additional : the second time I visited El Nido, I made sure to tour and drop by Puerto Princesa as well and see the Underground River.

You may check my full review and blog about Underground River thru : *blog post link to follow

DAY 5 MANILA

WHERE TO EAT IN EL NIDO? : 

  • ALTROVE – most popularly known for its Pasta and Pizza special. It is one of the most highly rated resto in El Nido, and it definitely not just a hearsay coz it surely is one of the best I’ve tried. Ask for the best seller types to try! There were so many tourist lining up every night for this resto, the location and interior was also very intimate and relaxing. A date with your friends or loved ones after the long day of activity is a sure hit in this place.

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With our comfort food at Atlrove
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Altrove
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Dinner in Altrove with my fellow solo traveller Yolanda from Taiwan
  • ARTS CAFE – if you are looking for a place to chill with some drinks and still a good dinner then this could be for you too. I also tried Pizza and Pasta here and it was also good. The place gets too crowded at times and lets you sit with the rest of the guests (*But it was cool too, I get to meet more people from various nationalities in one table)
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International Table πŸ™‚ Shared Dinner Table with the rest of the Tourist
  • As mentioned, I usually grab my breakfast at the hostel as it is part of my accommodation, then I tend to have my lunch via Island Hopping Tour as it is also part of the package πŸ™‚
  • I only get to dine in the restos during dinner time and I’m highly suggesting also you try it too!

My summary of full expense for my El Nido Trip :

TOTAL EXPENSE - EL NIDO
  • My technique when traveling is to pay each areas in different time to lessen the cost on the day of the trip
  • I try my best to get discounts as much as I could, and online bookings is also helpful on this
  • My accommodation was a bit expensive compare with the rest of budget traveler, but it was such a great stay and worth every penny hostel.
  • I met so many tourists from various nationalities during my stay in the hostel which was awesome
  • I wasn’t saving on my food expense as well since I wanted to make sure that I get to try all the best from the restos so you may save a lot on that part as well
  • All the travel groups from El Nido offers the same amount per each tour which is good πŸ™‚
  • This is really a perfect place for a solo travel very convenient for all activities
  • Make sure to bring waterproof gear wherever you are — waterproof bag so you won’t worry for your things. Some islands requires you to swim all the way to the shore.
  • Waterproof Cameras — is a must to truly capture the moment.
  • and Aqua Shoes, for you not to hurt yourself during tours, make sure to never step on the corals as well nor touch it for your safety and for the maintenance of the corals as well. (*I got mine at SM Dept Store for only P299.00 and it was okay)

If you wanted to see the actual places I’ve been, check out my IG story highlight – under Palawan @nathaliecsalcedo 

Hope this helps you too.

Follow me on IG @nathaliecsalcedo and send me DM if you have other questions!

I also update my FB Page @ilovenatsblog

xoxo,

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Ciao! @nathaliecsalcedo

Published by NATHALIE SALCEDO

Hola! Nathalie is your typical city girl who loves the island life, beach, travels, food and adventures. She’ll rather jump off cliffs than watch horror movies, go over beaches than hiking mountains, and never travels without a pashmina. An OC traveler keeping her research and spreadsheets every time she travels and would never say NO to new adventures. Follow her daily escapade @nathaliecsalcedo

24 thoughts on “FIRST SOLO TRAVEL TO EL NIDO, PALAWAN : DETAILED TRAVEL GUIDE AND BUDGET FOR 5D/4N

  1. Wow such a detailed itinerary and indeed somewhere near home I should travel to!
    However. Was the place very touristy, like there ain’t much local life ?

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  2. This is a very detailed travel and cost breakdown for a trip to El Nido. It looks like you had a wonderful time and took some great photos. The water looks amazing, I would love to snorkel there!

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  3. Thank you for the very detailed breakdown of costs. I really hope you enjoyed your first solo trip – you look as if you were loving it. I travel mostly by myself and actually prefer it – because I have no constraints on what I do and when!

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  4. You’ve written in such a great detail about what to do here that I am gonna bookmark this post for future reference. I especially loved how you have even written down the expenses on each and every thing, which makes it easier for me to know where to allocate the budget & how. And those azure blue waters, kayaking adventures looks like fun things to do. Thanks for saving half of my time by writing this post already.

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  5. I just bookmarked a post today on Cebu City and now I came across your post on El Nido and I am so happy because I am travelling to both these places early next year and I have a ready list of things to do! Island Hopping tours look amazing, the waters are gorgeous and I can imagine soaking up the sun all day, going from one gorgeous island to another. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Hi Nathalie, you seem to have a talent for planning πŸ™‚ I really love the kitchen area in the spin designer hostel! The Nacpan beach looks absolutely lovely. I like how you didn’t put the pearl shopping in your expences πŸ˜€ I’d totally enjoy this 5d trip

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  7. I visited the Philippines for the first time last year, and was so envious of my friends who went on to visit Palawan. It looks like such a stunning destination. The Spin Designer Hostel sounds great for a solo traveler – will make a note for when I can get there too. The seascapes and islands you got to take in on your island hopping days look incredible – sounds adventurous to have to swim from the boat to Hidden Beach.

    Love that you made so many friends – meeting other travelers is always my favorite part of traveling solo.

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  8. I always recommend Palawan as a solo traveler’s destination. It’s so easy to join tours, right? I love your pic of the Secret Lagoon, and Nacpan Beach is definitely amazing!

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  9. Thats for the detailed budget! We often have to guess whether we paid the fair price or not. Now i have a baseline to compare with. I will definitely save this post and use it on my trip to The Philippines!

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  10. wow such bravery travelling alone . im a girl too but im kinda scared to go alone,. kinda complicated for me to go to el nido .. also how does it work in the kayak , usually its for 2 people?

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    1. Hi Lois, I think you just need that guts and presence of mind deciding to travel alone. It wasn’t also easy but you’ll get the hang out of it πŸ™‚ I met someone from my hostel and we were together when I did the kayaking πŸ˜€

      Like

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