"I want to spend NYE shitfaced on a beach.” Those were my literal words for the past two years and I was determined to make it happen for NYE 2017! My year had been amazing- best year ever, and I needed to end it on the highest note possible.
I didn’t end up shitfaced, but did welcome 2018 watching fireworks (under an umbrella) on Boracay’s famous/infamous White Beach!
I chose the Philippines as my scene of the crime, as it had been on my “go as soon as I get the chance” list for a very long time. It took me a while to get there as I was just overwhelmed by the vast number of islands that I could have chosen to visit. The Philippines is made up of 7641 islands and counting! SO! How does one decide on which islands to visit?! I'm not sure I know the answer to that...
I am that girl that screenshots beautiful places that I see on my Instagram feed, and then promise myself to make it there one day. The Puerto Princesa underground river/cave in Palawan was one of those first pictures, and was the main reason why I chose Palawan as one of my two destinations in the Philippines. I also decided to head to Boracay because I wanted a vibesy NYE, and Boracay is synonymous with vibes, crazy parties and known for its dreamy White Beach!
I spent 14 days in the Philippines, and this is how it went down…
I decided to head to the Philippines in December, aka typhoon season. It may sound crazy to book a flight to an island during typhoon season, but I’ve learned that in S.E Asia, the weather is unpredictable, and the forecast should not dictate your travel plans. It could forecast a thunderstorm and not a drop of rain would fall.
So I packed my carry-on and headed to Palawan in hopes of great weather. Unfortunately that was not the case, and actually arrived in the midst of a typhoon. This completely dampened what was supposed to be the highlight of my trip. The cave was flooded and tours were cancelled. I was heartbroken and basically just spent half the day in my villa, trying to decide what to do. In true Shanya fashion, I got my shit together and proceeded with my plans- hopped in a van to El Nido.
For the most part, the 5 hour trip to El Nido was a stormy one, in every way. The rain poured, there were landslides, high winds, thunder, lightning and my mind was also just as flooded- with a storm of emotions as I just felt as though my entire trip to the Philippines was going to be one drenched in rain. I finally got to El Nido, and went to bed that night in a daze. I couldn't believe that my first day of vacation was a literal storm. I woke up next morning however, to blue skies devoid of the existence of future inclement weather. With that, I headed to the beach to take the famous and highly recommended Tour C.
Tour C features visits to Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine and Star Beach- locals encouraged me to do this tour first, just in case it rained the next day. I heeded their advice, but was totally disappointed. The tour guide on the boat, had no vibes, gave no information about the islands we visited, and just rushed everything. To add to this disservice, we also didn’t visit all of the places listed, including the shrine as well as Hidden Beach. We were told that we couldn’t visit Hidden beach Because of the typhoon, but weren’t even taken to an alternative spot. On top of that, the islands visited were extremely crowded, and I just lost any desire to do tour A the next day. Fortunately I met this lady who encouraged me to carry on with Tour A the next day.
The one thing I really enjoyed about Tour C, was the snorkeling. It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. El Nido has one of the best spots for snorkeling, and we were taken to a spot where there was shallow water with beautiful fish and corals, and also a VERY deep drop in which you could still see the fish. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time- and to think that I almost didn’t get out of the boat to have this experience!
Tour A the next day was my favorite experience in El Nido. The tour guides were informative, funny, and brought something special to the trip (maybe it was the free rum and Coke). We visited the Big , Small & Secret Lagoons, Shimizu Island and 7 Commando Beach. I can’t really choose a moment that was my favorite during the tour, as the entire time that day was special, but I really felt as though I was in a deam world when we got to Shimizu Island. It was just beside the Secret Lagoon and looked like it came straight out of a set of Gilligan’s Island. That was a favorite show of mine while growing up, and I often imagined what I’d do if I were in their predicament. It felt really great to be in that spot!
There are actually Tour options A-D, but because I only had two days in El Nido I decided to book the two most popular and recommended ones. You can also opt to combine two tours, but I would strongly suggest that you rent a boat and decide on which islands and lagoons you would like to visit. I almost did that (as it's what I did in Malaysia and loved it), but decided to just stick with a tour. It's a little more expensive, but it's worth a better experience on any given day. I would recommend this option for any boat tour in S.E Asia.
*Note to self: Always book a private boat...
I only spent 2 full days in El Nido, as I wanted to just relax on this vacation, as in relax and stay on a beach all day. El Nido is not the spot for that, at least in my opinion- all of the attractions are really on these islands, which would require taking a tour every day. I didn’t want to spend half of my time on a boat, so I decided to head to Bora-Bora-cay!
Tips for El Nido:
Waterproof bags and phone cases- You will see them being sold all over El Nido town and along the beach. If you plan on taking these tours you will definitely NEED ONE. You WILL GET WET – even getting on the boat will require you to hold all of your belongings over your head, and your entire body would probably be drenched by the time you board.
Water Shoes: Be sure to either bring your own or rent a pair on the beach, you will also NEED these on the island hopping tours.
Sunset: Be sure to visit the beach during sunset, it’s magical and the best attraction in the town.
Island Hopping Tours: Skip the group tours and book a private boat.
El Nido Town: The town is really small, and there really isn’t that much to see, but there are some really nice restaurants close to the beachside, be sure to check them out.
Wifi:The signal is very poor in El Nido and I was told that it's because of the mountains. I was also told that they are currently working on getting proper wifi signal.
STAY LONGER THAN 2 DAYS haha. Coron is close by and it’s beautiful there. Maybe I’ll make it there next time!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my trip to the Philippines!