El Nido in northern Palawan, 646km southwest of Manila, is more than just Bacuit Bay and its nearby five-star resorts, white sand beaches, lagoons and karst formations. Travel blogger and backpacker Ferdz Decena recommends going off the tourist track to explore the Nacpan-Calintang area on the northwestern side, about an hour’s ride from the main town of El Nido. The area is home to the unique Twin Beach, two white-sand beaches separated by a hill. Nacpan has a roughly 5km stretch of white sand beach with gin clear waters. The water’s calm but there’s an undercurrent to be mindful of. It’s ideal for surfing. Most people who visit are day trippers, who come in rented motorbikes or van from the main town. Electricity is only available from 6pm to 10pm. Calintang is smaller, like a little cove, with gentler waves. Lots of boats dock on this side because it’s close to a fishing village.
Another spot in El Nido not known to many is the eastern side. Tapik Beach, about one-and-a-half hour’s ride from Sibaltan, is not developed but is a good spot for swimming. The beach has lots of seagrass, and is a good jump off point for island hopping and snorkeling. Go to Imorigue Island, the only karst island in this side of El Nido, surrounded by snorkeling sites. Further out to the east is Maosonoan Island, a small fishing island with pristine white sand beaches. There are three empty huts on the beach where you can take shelter from the sun.
Stay at Tapik Beach Park, a rustic resort in Sibaltan, a village in eastern El Nido. It has standalone cottages perched on a hill and by the beach that costs P500 (about US$12) per night. Tapik is the only island hopping operator in eastern El Nido.
Book a flight from Air Swift, formerly Island Transvoyager (+632 851 5664). Roundtrip Manila to El Nido airfare is about P13,000. Another alternative is to book a Cebu Pacific Air flight to Puerto Princesa, Palawan (roundtrip airfare from Manila is about P3,000), and take a five-hour El Nido bound shuttle van (P700 per person). Lexxus Shuttle Services’ vans can pick you up at Puerto Princesa Airport.
To get to Nacpan-Calintang, take a jeep (P50) from the El Nido town terminal. Jeeps ply once daily at arout 10am. To get to the eastern side of El Nido, hop on a bus from the terminal in the main town of El Nido at around 11am and get off in Sibaltan. Travel time is about one-and-a-half to two hours, but can take up to four hours depending on the frequency and length of stops. It’s best to rent a bike if you can ride one. Rental in El Nido town is P800 for a whole day’s use.
Originally published in InFlight Traveller December 2015 to January to February 2016. Updated December 2015