My First two weeks in the Philippines: El Nido & Coron.

Hello lovelies,

Hope you’re all well.

Thought I’d start by sharing my Philippines adventures with you all. We are spending our last two months together here exploring some of the many islands and we can’t wait to take you along with us! So for our first two weeks in the Philippines, we went to Coron and El Nido, so this blog post is dedicated to them and all the things we got up too! 

If you want the short version to our recommended places to stay then scroll down to the bottom for my recommendations. 

So to start our trip we landed in Manila on the 1st of July to start our adventure, and booked a one night stay at the Mini Suites Hotel. Such a central, beautiful hotel with good WiFi, a pool and gym which was ideal! 

We stayed here as a small stop over, to get some money before our flight to Coron in the 2nd. However, we wish we had spent another day in Manila to sort money before the islands as having half a day to sort money was a little challenging. 

In the Philippines, you can take out 10,000 pesos per day and then are capped at this price. (10,000 (£162.00))  we needed 20,000 for our upcoming boat trip and then money to last us two weeks on Coron and El Nido (we were told there was limited to ATMs on the island, however we now know they do have ATMs and they are pretty central on Coron and El Nido). 

Anyway we ended up in a bit of a pickle regarding getting enough money before our flight out on the 2nd, but after much confusion  we ended up sending the company we did the boat trip with (Big Dream Boat Man) money via PayPal so it all worked out and we just both got out 10,000 pesos each in Manila (the max allowed every 24 hours) to last us on the islands. 

Because of this, I’ve left some tips regarding money whilst your here down below, including all the things we wished we had know before visiting. 

Things to know about money: 

  • In the Philippines you are charged  250.00 pesos (£3) every time you take any money out, using an international card. So if you have the option to get a smart travel card from Barclays or another company, then do it! Or just make sure you have a MasterCard or Visa card to take money out (these are accepted on most ATMs out here). We’ve been using our Monzo Card and it’s been fine out here, but only working in BPI ATM’s. 
  • If we were to do it again, I would have made sure I brought cash with me from the UK or just exchanged it in the UK before hand, so when you land you have some on you without the hassle after travelling all day. In general though, it’s okay getting money out, as you can just get 10,000 pesos every 24 hours and 10,000 is around £164.00, so lasts a while out here!! 
  • Getting money out on arrival: this can either be done at the airport as soon as you arrive at an ATM, however I’d double check the charges of the ATMs and we came across some that charged (250 pesos £3) per 1,000 pesos: which is a huge rip off! However, if you have cash currency whenever you are from then there are extra booths that take cash only and can do the exchange. Or ask someone who works at the airport the charges from the machines or there is the option to take money out in Manila, there are a lot of ATMs around that are easy to find! We used a BPI ATM in Manila and found this had a good exchange rate for us, whilst using our Monzo’s cards.
Big Dream Boat Tour to Kayangan Lake.

CORON: 

After arriving in Coron, we had half a day to get settled at Charm hostel. A cute little hostel situated just outside of town about a 10 minute drive away (30 pascos per person: 50p). Charms was a cute little stay, with friendly staff and a clean air con room with a pool! They also did breakfast and dinner which was ideal for us! In terms of Wifi and sim service it was limited here, but the town centre was a 7 minute drive away so easy to get to and find a cafe to sit in.

On the 3rd of July, we then packed up and headed to Port to meet the Big Dream Boat Man crew to start our 4 day adventure with them: I’ve left an more in-depth blog post on our time with BDBM here, if you fancied reading in more depth about our three night, four day boat expedition with them from Coron to Coron the my post is- LINKED HERE. We explored some of the most beautiful islands, camped on stunning small islands, swam for hours each day, ate yummy food and saw shooting stars every-night. If you get the chance to come to the Philippines, I couldn’t recommend this tour enough!! Best four days ever.

BDBM, on the boat exploring the islands.
Kayangan lake: Most beautiful place I’ve ever been.

Anyway, on the 6th of July we arrived back in Coron and headed to a new stay for one night at Coron Village Lodge.(click here)

This was an ideal little spot near the ferry port as on the 7th we booked a four-five hour ferry to El Nido.  It was a clean decent room, but the WiFi was awful so we headed to a place called Epic Cafe for super yummy banana bread, iced latte and WiFi access, which worked well (you are limited to one hour WiFi codes but we just asked for more). 

Then on the 7th, we jumped on our ferry to El Nido. This was a lot better than expected. We were told to be prepared for feeling  sick, and me and Kirsty aren’t great travellers when it comes to travel sickness so we prepared for the worst (lots of snacks, sick bags and sea sickness tablets at the ready). However, it was fine! We were seated at the front of the ferry, rows 1-8, which we later realised was the only area with air con (so try ask for seats near the front). It ended up being five hours in total but we just edited, slept and ate and then arrived in El Nido! 

El Nido 

Straight away El Nido came across a lot more buzzing than Coron. There’s a lot more going on in El Nido than Coron, and I’m glad our time in Coron was spent on the boat because other than the day tours, expedition tour or visiting the Hot springs there, there isn’t much else going on in Coron centre. 

So we felt excited by El Nido and being able to explore here for the week.

We also had a lot of people tell us prior to our visit about mosquitos here and the food being awful. However, again we haven’t found the mosquitos bad.  We wear deet in the day and night and it’s been absolutely fine for us so far! 

The food on the other hand is a challenge; everything here is pretty much carbs, beef or pork. Kirsty and myself don’t eat beef or pork so at first found this challenging, and struggled to find fruit and veg spots. But after some googling we managed to track down “Taste” , an all Vegan cafe, that do lovely smoothie bowls and a good Eggplant Lasagna!! We also found a cafe called CB Cafe that did the biggest pancakes and fruit plates for breakfast, so big me and Kirsty shared the pancake between us! And for dinner we’ve resulted in sticking with a dish most nights called “chopsuey” which is a steamed vegetable dish with carrots, cucumber, peppers and baby corn and you can add Chicken as an extra if you want it. In most places this also comes with rice, so it’s a filling dish. So if your in need of some vegetables that will be your go to dish!!! We are loving it and feel so happy we finally found out about it! 

For our first night in El Nido we stayed at a beautiful island cottage; called Island front cottage resort, we had a room overlooking the beach and it was stunning. However, we were situated 10 minutes from the centre here, which came to 100 pesos, with luggage & two people, from the centre. And 50 pasos (two people no luggage) from the centre. It also, although stating it had WiFi, had no WiFi access and our Globe and Smart sim struggled for connect whilst we stayed there. For our remaining nights we booked at a super cute stay called, Bayal Paragua Anex Link here in El Nido a home stay a 1 minute walk from the main strip or shops and the lovely “Taste” vegan cafe (good WiFi here too). This home stay also had the best WiFi we have found all week, than in any cafes or locations, lovely clean rooms, and a (temperamental) hot shower!! And air con. The staff here were also so lovely and we booked our tours through them and had a great time. 

Whilst staying in El Nido, we decided to venture out on day one and explore some of the beaches. We spoke to a tricycle driver and ended up making a deal with him to be our driver for the day to take us to NACPAN Beach (30 minute drive from El Nido main centre) to wait for us there whilst we explored, and then drive us to Las Cabanas (1 hour from NACPAN Beach) and wait for us there before driving us home. This turned out to be 1,000 pesos for us both for the full day and all round trip (£17 pounds between us both). It allowed us the freedom of the day without having to rent bikes as we were unsure of the roads around this area. However if you prefer to ride a motorbike then it’s absolutely fine to do so, the road is a bit bumpy on the way down to NACPAN Beach but a lot more comfy than a small tricycle that’s for sure!

NACPAN Beach.

Both these beaches were super lovely and we had a lovely lunch on NACPAN beach at Ranchos Cafe and a swim; there’s lots of places to get yummy food also! At Las Cabanas the beach seemed smaller but still stunning. And there was the option to go on a zip line across the ocean to a small island,  which is meant to be amazing!! So I would highly recommend looking into that (it was raining for us so we opted out to doing this there. 

Las Cabanas Beach.

After exploring the beaches we booked in two tour days, we chose Tour A and Tour C in the end, as we were recommended these and told they were the most popular locations to visit. 

Our first tour, Tour A was extremely different compared to the Big Dream Boat Tour (in Coron), we absolutely loved for the 4 days. Which we expected, however we felt the tour guides on the day tours in El Nido were forcing a lot of the talks and situations (making us sing, telling us to be happy and clap etc). It was still an amazing experience though and visiting the beautiful islands was incredible.  And if you prefer a more private, to yourself day, whilst visiting the islands with less busy situations then I’d highly recommend looking into a private boat tour and experiencing them that way! 

Kirsty and myself still had the best time explore these places and on Tour A, we got to visit the beautiful Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, 7 Commandos Beach, Shimizu Island.

Big Lagoon.
7 Commandos Beach.

Felt very lucky to experience these stunning places and would highly recommend going to see them, whether it’s with a tour company or not! (We did ours with Umi tours). 

For Tour C, we visited the further islands from El Nido. Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, and Matinloc Shrine.

It was so fun, and we really enjoyed the snorkelling around these islands, never seen so many colourful fish!!! 

I’ve also uploaded a top tips on what to bring on a Philippines boat tour so if you do end up going and need to know, it’s LINKED HERE! 

Matinloc Shrine.
Food On the Day tours. Either served on the Boat or the Beach.
Matinloc Shrine.

After the day tours we decided to give ourselves a work day in El Nido, filled with lots of smoothie bowls from Taste and a lot of editing before heading to Port Barton (a four hour van drive). 

So that concludes the first two weeks of my trips, up until now and it’s been a blast!!! I can’t wait to share the next few adventures with you all as we are off to Port Barton, Puerto Princesa, Cebu, MoalBoal, Siargao Island, Siquijor island and Boracay!! 

So will see you in the next post!

Love, India Moon.

RECCOMENDATIONS: 

CORON PLACES TO STAY 

  • Charms 
  • Coron Village Lodge

CORON WIFI SPOT

  • EPIC cafe 

EL NIDO PLACES TO STAY

  • Island Village Cottages (no WiFi and barely any service with glove sim) close to las cabanas beach. 
  • Balay Paragua Annex (good WiFi and lovely staff) close to centre.
  • EL NIDO CAFES GOOD WIFI 
  • Taste (vegan amazing smoothie bowls) 
  • CB cafe (good pancake and fruit spot) 

 

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