Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls is a part of an Inland Tour offered in El Nido that includes the waterfalls, a hot spring and a secluded beach.
We took a tricycle onto the start of a jungle trek before reaching the falls. From the highway, it's a long 30 to 45 minutes trek depending speed. The ride from the town to the start of the trek took about half an hour or less. We talked to one of the houses just at the start of the trail and a small boy age 9 came to us who lead the way.
Since the waterfall is located deep in the jungle, we have to go through the wilderness along some pathways. Before we got our kid guide, I was hesitant actually, thinking that we can manage on our own, I told our driver that we don’t need a guide, I was wrong. There are lots of forked paths and it's gonna be a huge task navigating through the jungle.
The forest is beautiful though, butterflies flying around, many species of plants, shrubs and trees, vines entangled above along the pathways, not an easy walk on some muddy paths, it’s good it wasn’t raining, it could have been slippery. There’s an ascending path when we got nearer to the waterfalls, so physically challenged tourists would find it a bit of a grueling task. My guests were a bit exhausted that we have to take a couple of minutes rest before ascending. No people around yet and we reached the waterfalls in 45 minutes or a little more. It was beautiful and rewarding though. It’s not really that tall but it’s gorgeous with a small rocky pool below it where we had a cold swim after the tiring jungle trek. The rocks on the pool is slippery so visitors should be warned to be careful here. A portion of the pool near the waterfall is also deep that we did not dare getting there until a group of youngsters who arrived later started to swim. There’s another waterfalls in the mountain above it with a pathway although a bit steep and there’s no pool like this one.
Good thing is, the waterfalls is still in its natural state, no developments made yet, so no entry fees to be paid. We’ve spent an hour or so soaking and swimming on the cold waters that cascades from the pool gushing onto a stream down below.
All in all, it was a good trip, just that we have to take the same trek again back to the main road where our tricycles were waiting for us.
For several days of continuous rain, only tours A & B of island hopping tours are operating, although the sun isn't shining, the weather is fine and I found out, one boat is going for the Tour C, and so I joined. Tour C normally isn't sailing when there's heavy rain or typhoon as the itinerary on this tour is near the open seas which means, unsafe. 15 of us on the boat, full to the til.
We sailed on our first destination – Helicopter Island – named after its shape, not those new helicopters, but the bigger ones used by military, I mean the shape. The waves are really big but we went there so might as well enjoy snorkeling, or not.
Secret Beach – if they’ve found the beach, then it’s no longer secret, isn't it? It may have been that way because before you can get into the beach, you have to swim across between two big rocks of mountains and chances are, you'll get bruised or cuts from sharp rocks that you can't see on the water, some people on the boat came back bleeding with cuts on their legs. Now, that secret beach is a sadistic beach after all. That’s probably the reason why they named it secret, because the secret is – you’ll bleed.
Star Beach – It’s not star-shaped, maybe it’s popular, like a star? We had our picnic lunch here, nicely prepared by our boat staff – large fishes, pork chops, small red crabs, eggplant salad, boiled rice, and lotsa fruits, red watermelons, pineapple slices, bananas, cucumbers.
Matinloc Shrine - our fourth stop. It has a small concrete platform for boats, like a mini port. Our guide said that the shrine used to be a Dominican seminary or convent. There’s a dilapidated building structure and a dome with glass mosaic of Jesus Christ on the center of the ceiling. Lots of crosses and some statues of angels and Mary Mother of Jesus on the small bay side and a small cemetery. There’s a stairs leading up to the top of the rock with a fantastic view of the bay.
We're supposed to head to Hidden Beach – because of the strong current, we headed instead to a small cove planted with several coconut trees which I forgot the name, we snorkeled here for half an hour before heading back to the town.
The boat staff normally changes destinations as the weather, the waves and the time permit.
Island Hopping Tour C cost = 900
There's too much to say that words aren't enough to describe the beauty that is El Nido.
El Nido is the “Best Beach and Island destination in the Philippines” (CNN Go), whereas, in one of its 2007 issue of the National Geographic Traveler’s magazine, Palawan (where El Nido is one of its municipality) was chosen as one of the best travel destinations in the world.
White stretches of sands and beaches, marble cliffs - similar to Vietnam’s Halong Bay – lush forest, waterfalls, clear blue water lagoons, rich marine life and lots of activities awaits the most discerning beach-loving visitor.
El Nido is about 240 kilometres northeast of Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan.
You can reach El Nido by land. Get to San Jose bus terminal (beside the New Market, multicabs with the “San Jose” sign will drop you there) and you can either take a van or the more comfortable RORO bus, or Cherry Bus airconditioned or non. Travel from the terminal to El Nido will take about 5 hours.
Island hopping tour A is the most popular boat tour in El Nido, no one misses this one. It's the best intro to the beautiful island of El Nido.
The boat sails starting with the Small Lagoon where we had to swim, the turquoise water is quite deep, probably 10 meters.
Entalula Island comes second on the itinerary, just cuz the wind blows hard and the waves are big, it's raining that day, it's beside the Miniloc Island Resort. We had our sumptuous lunch at this island. The boat staff grilled for us I think 6 huge fish, some pork chops, barbecued shrimps, slice pineapple, bananas, cucumber salad, and rice. They brought plates and utensils and we had a nice picnic in the sands with the carved limestone mountain as our shades from the dripping water, I’ve mentioned it was raining, right?
Shimizu island - we snorkelled here a bit to a deep water with fishes tickling your legs with their small bites.
Big Lagoon. I like this stop very much, the very light blue water is shallow, waist deep, in between a gorge-ish black limestone mountain laced up with natural plants and trees that looked like the hanging garden of Babylon – in my imagination. It’s beautiful, believe me, further when the sky blue water becomes a darker shade that’s deep. T
7 Commando Beach. The waves here are big, it’s good for surfing and I saw one guy windsurfing. We could only stay at the strip of fine sand beyond the barbed wire as the inner part of the island is privately owned. They sell fresh coconut and further at the end of the strip is a nice bar.
Cost of this tour per head = PHP700
Bring – sunblock, swimwear, hat, snacks and lots of drinking water.
Before heading to the wharf where our boat iss, we took some breakfast in a local eatery, and then alas, the rain started to pour – heavy! And canceling the tour from our side incurs penalty of 50%, so off we went and I was prompted to buy a water-resistant bag at the souvenir shop beside the Art Cafe that cost me 1,200 pesos! Which was a good investment after all because we all got wet at the boat from both the rain and the splashing of waves onto our faces, the bag saved my new digicam.
We reached our first stop – the Pangalusian Island - after less than half an hour, it’s a small secluded beach, no other boats there, to the left of the small island is the Miniloc beach resort, owned by the Ayala Corp.
Snake Island - our second stop, there’s a viewdeck on top of the mountain and a long shallow strip of sand submerged in water leg-deep, it’s high tide. The rain stopped and the sun start flickering. There are 3 dogs on the island called Snake Island, not that they have snakes there, just got its name on the long strip of sands in between two rock mountains, mangroves on the sides of the water. We went up the mountain for the view deck, it’s easy going up as there are some sort of a stairs, not very well concrete but provide an easy hike up. The view on top is breath-taking. A pity though, as we did not have some minutes to swim on the clear waters.
Cudognon Cave - third stop, a bigger cove with few nice accommodation huts and tables, coconut trees. We had our sumptuous meal of rice, huge fish, grilled pork, shrimps, squid salad and fresh fruits. After our meal, we swam a little, then we headed onto the cave just on the side of the cliff. We walked on the knee-deep water to the cave where we climbed a small opening to get into a huge cave, very dark inside, our boat staff have their flashlights with them. Inside the cave is another entrance to another huge cave with crack opening over the tall ceiling.
Cathedral Cave. This one is on the water on the side of the black cliff. We can’t get in the cave nor the boat so our boat we just get near it, took some photos and headed to our last stop.
Pinagbuyutan Island. Upon mooring at the island, the rain poured really hard that the passengers of the two boats moored on the island have to seek refuge on the small thatched hut. Two groups (2 boats) squeezing ourselves on the small hut, we got all wet and nfelt cold.
Cost of this tour per head = PHP800
Bring – sunblock, swimwear, hat, snacks and drinking water.
Who doesn't want to stay beside the beach, right? In El Nido, a lot of hotels and cottages are situated beside the Bacuit Bay.
The bay is the main attraction of El Nido town and where most activities take place. This is where all those boats going for the island hopping tours in the morning are moored and if you're staying on a beach-front property, this is your amazing view. Blue ocean, green limestone mountains on the background. You'll be put to peaceful slumber by the sounds of the waves whispering on quiet nights, and during the mornings you could just jump onto the beach literally – priceless!
Aside from the hotels and cottages along the beach line, there are also restaurants, bars, restobars, tour operators and a shisha bar, all facing the bay.
The Maquinit hot spring is part of a tour that includes the Mt. Tapyas, taking a tricycle. Right after descending from the 700+ steps of the mountain, we found our tricycle waiting for us down the start of the climb and we drive through the dark street to the hot spring. It got bumpy as we’re nearing the place and pitch black, a bit creepy intensified by the cold rain. It's a long drive to there.
Entry to the Maquinit Hot Spring costs PHP150 per head, pools of warm waters cascading to a larger pool below. We took a dip, so half of our body was in warm water while the upper portion gets the cold of the rain. The dip at the pool was relaxing to our tired muscles from the Mt. Tapyas climb.
Visiting the hot spring is done usually in the evening unless you wanted to get burnt during a hot summer plus the hot water, yay! Not a good combination.
No food at the Maquinit hot spring, there's a small store that sells just biscuits and drinks, so bring some food if you feel like you're going to starve after swimming.
We left the place after about an hour and we took the bumpy ride again back to our accommodation. Tiring and at the same time relaxing, if that makes sense at all.
Personally, I felt that this is the most boring tour among the 3 tours I did, everyone else recommend this tour, they say this could be the highlight of a stay in Coron. For me it just didn’t quite beat the mark. The sceneries are great, the beaches are fabulous, the sights are amazing, perhaps the people in the tour are just so tired and … boring?
Tour C is a lot more expensive than the previous boat tours, cost PHP1,200. Advertised at PHP950, that is for the Malcapuya Beach alone but they normally add Banana Island and Bulog Island. It’s far compared to other boat tours, took us an hour or so to reach Malcapuya Beach and when we reach the place, it rained! The sands are good, powdery, white, yes, and secluded.
Banana Island which I like better than Malcapuya (are you kidding me?), it’s a beautiful garden-sculpted island named for its shape - if you're on air. The water is crystal clear, I could see my feet under the water even on chest-deep. Lots of fishes swarming around you. There’s a tall hut serves like a viewdeck of sort. Grass lawn, trees, bathroom. Our picnic lunch was served here.
Bulog Island is the last stop and everyone else is either sleeping on the way there or simply tired. A small strip of rocky island with a really small rock mountain with steps going up to get a view of the expensive and perhaps most exclusive, and stunning resort in Coron.
Summing it up, I think we’ve just spent about 3 hours total in 3 islands, 3 hours for the sail time. I like the beautiful islands but the tour itself lacks the energy. For people who came all the way from distant places to Coron it might work, unless you only have time for 2 island hopping tours, then skip C, in my opinion, it's a lot more fun taking Tours A and B, more islands, lagoons, lakes, better itinerary.
This is our second island hopping boat tour in Coron, it's called Tour B. We booked the island hopping Tour B with our accommodation in Coron. There were only 3 of us on the boat, but that did not last long, 3 more joined in the last minute, 2 guys from France, a Chinese, and 3 of us locals.
The itinerary of Tour B is as follows:
Barracuda Lake – named after the large barracuda fish, resident of the lake. Baracuda lake is nice, a bit mysterious, using the snorkeling gadget we rented from the boatsmen, I could see the deep cave-in down below me while I’m floating with the life vest also provided on the boat. I don’t know but I’m always afraid of deep waters, or even shallow ones.
Skeleton Wreck – named after the fishing boat which sank under the belly of the ocean. We moored exactly on top of the spot. We enjoyed snorkeling here because of too many colourful fishes and then the scuba divers are below us under the waters surveying the remain of the sunken ship.
Bulungan Beach – the boats people grilled our food here that consist of huge fish, pork chops, some seaweed and eggplant salad, rice, and fresh bananas. .
Sunset Lake. There are portions of the lake that were shallow and further down near the mountains it gets really deep.
That was the last stop and it’s still early, we demanded for an additional stop the nearest one that our guide could think of is the Twin Lake. That was allowed for an additional fee to be paid at the spot that cost 150 pesos. As the name suggests, the twin lake are two lakes divided by cave in between. The water at the lake where we parked somehow smelt of crude oil, it doesn’t look really crystal clear compared to where we’ve been but the scenery here is breath-taking.
Island Hopping Tour B – cost PHP 750.
Snorkeling Gadget rental (optional) – cost PHP 150. Don’t lose it if you don’t want to pay PHP 1,500!
Coron just like El Nido is an island hopping town in Palawan. Similarly, the town offer 4 to 5 sets of island hopping boat tours. Tour A, as it is called, is the most popular one and I don’t really want to contradict that, not sure though if it’s really that good. My senses got partially numbed seeing beautiful sights for the past 2 weeks, in with El Nido. You know that feeling when you spray and sniff different perfumes on your arm, after the fourth spray onwards, your sense of smell somehow deteriorate and hard to recognize which ones pleasantly appeal to your nose.
The boat tour started with the seven limestone rock mountains called Siete Pecados, snorkeling is the main activity here, lots of fishes and nice corals. Then proceeded with the other stops.
Kayangan Lake - the second and most popular stop, when you take this boat tour, more often than not, you’ll be asked by tourists in Coron if you’ve been to Kayangan Lake. This could be the highlight of this boat tour – for most – it’s beautiful, yes, but too many people that day for my liking, loud, kids that look like adults – yeah, they’re adults, screaming, ok, they’re happy.
Perhaps Kayangan Lake is popular owing to the postcard –perfect view up there beside the cave right before descending to the lake. I heard it’s the most photographed scene in Coron. You have to climb and go down several steps here that is a bit slippery, it’s narrow that when someone’s going up and you’re on the way down, somebody has got to give way. And then someone in our boat got heart attack! I did not see her though, the lady staff in our boat told us when we arrived at the lunch table beside the lake where we moored our boat. The boat captain and all his staff (except for the lady) took the woman to the town while we’re having our picnic beside the waters. So, before we even finish our lunch, the boat came back.
Green Lagoon – named for obvious reason (do I really have to elaborate?), not for the green mountains but for the green color of the waters of the lagoon. It’s shallow and good for swimming, crystal clear water, no corals though, and then it rained, again!
Twin Peak Reef – amazing coral formations down the water, bursting with colors, white, blue, violet, pink, all the colours of the rainbow perhaps, that was even enhanced by the swarm of fish swimming with you on the waters. We all swam, we all enjoyed dunking our heads on the water. I enjoyed snorkeling here a lot, spectacular underwater scenery! This is also a favorite scuba diving spot.
Last stop – CYC Beach – couple of minute sail from Twin Peak. Nothing but a small sandy island with lots of cats and dogs resident of this island dedicated to the youths of Coron. Some mangroves on the water but it’s just a sight to see, not to swim as the water is so shallow – knee-deep.
The Island hopping tours in EL Nido is much more structured and standard, in Coron, tours differs with different tour operators. Tour B may not be the same tour when you ask two different operator. And expect a sudden change of island destination, a substitution or a deletion resulting sometimes from a bad weather.
Island Hopping Tour A – cost PHP 650
Snorkeling Gadget rental optional – PHP 150. Don’t lose it, otherwise, you’ll be paying PHP 1,500 which is the cost of a new one.
All the island hopping tours in Coron usually end late in the afternoon, just the right time to spend a calm, somewhat poetic late afternoon at the bay watching the sunset.
I thought the sunset won’t show that afternoon as it rained in the morning and huge clouds have accumulated right there on the horizon that appeared to me like it’s forcing its prowess over the sun, twisting, rolling angst of whites and grays, yet in the end the sun emerged as the victor.
It was glorious! With the cold wind blowing, boats sailing, serenity surround, it’s melancholic.
So there we were on our first day in Coron, tired from the one hour flight from Puerto Pricnesa, we were steered through the streets of Coron to the start of the climb by the tricycle driver. This maybe the first tour everyone has been offered upon arrival in Coron. The tricycle ride costs PHP200 which includes 2 destinations, Mount Tapyas and Maquinit Hot Spring.
The driver waited for us below while we take the climb to the many steps of the mountain. They constructed those steps leading to the top which makes going up a little convenient although we were gasping for air as we reached the mid, stopping, taking a minute of rest each plight of stairs constantly asking people coming down if we’re near the top. We’ve reached the top, then the rain started to pour, alas! These typhoons are trailing me? From El Nido to Coron. It’s crazy I know.
So we were there on top trying to find a shelter, but no one thought of constructing a shade on the huge viewdeck, save for the trees that really cannot shelter us from getting wet and my non-waterproof camera is with me which I put inside its bag and covered it with my shirt and shortpants which I’m suppose to use when we get to the hot spring. We of course just took advantage of the tree shading us a bit saving my camera bag getting thoroughly wet. Few minutes the rain stopped and we descended down a couple of plights where there’s a big green shed, some foreign tourists and locals with us waiting for the sun to shine, oh wait, it’s already late in the afternoon, so no sun. We descended down again and the rain poured hard, we’ve waited on the next shade for maybe 15 minutes until the rain receded a bit, we found our tricycle waiting for us down the start of the climb and we traverse the dark street to the hot spring.
Don't forget to bring a bottle of water and perhaps some snacks, you wouldn't know if you'll get stuck on top of the mountain when it rain. Also, it's not Amazing Race, so take your time, stop, take a rest on every flight of stairs.
BTW, the huge steel cross on top of Mr. Tapyas got destructed by the recent typhoon Yolanda which also devastated the city of Tacloban. (prayers go to the victims of this tragedy).
Update 2013: After more than a decade, I visited the Puerto Princesa Underground River or PPUR. Lots of improvement, there's a concrete platform quay now and lunch is at Sabang, no longer at the underground river park where the monkeys are grabbing your food. I did not see much monitor lizards like before when they're roaming around the park in group, I saw one this time although the monkeys are still plenty. The boatsmen are funny with their comic antics with their description and tales of what's inside the cave while paddling their boat.
Indeed, the whole island of Palawan is an attraction by itself. I would not leave out any square kilometer as a non-attraction area. It is hard to enumerate the things to do or the places to visit in this paradise-on-earth kind of place.
The underground river is the main attraction of this place but the surrounding area or the whole park, including the boat ride to get to the island where the cave is, is simply spectacular!
That was 4 years ago, and if I remember it right, the whole package cost us Phil. Pesos 1,000 or US$25 (during that time) per person. The duration would last for the whole day, inclusive of transport from your hotel for the 2 hours or so ride going to boat quay, the boat ride is also included that will take you for an hour sail to the island/forest park, pack lunch and an english-speaking tourist guide, and of course the way back to your hotel. Isn't that a huge deal?
So it goes, we woke up early morning to be fetched by a Toyota Lite Ace that was sent by the travel agency we have contacted. Took the boat ride... the sail itself is just exhilirating, crystal clear bluish-green water, you could see the corals, fish and it's like looking at an aquarium without the glasses. It's a 360 degree-full of postcards scenes - the water, the cliffs, the vegetation, the wind. Perrrfect!
Upon reaching the island, we sat on table, took the lunch with monkeys in their natural habitat, and friendly monitor lizards - those huge ones that looked like komoto dragons, looks freightening but harmless though. There are scout rangers around to keep the place safe for tourists, and there is also the monkey trail if you want to do that tour first or directly go to the underground directly which we did.
You will be stunned by the water in the mouth of the cave, so clear. You'll wear the orange safety vest and ride the boat that will navigate the more than 8 kilometer long cave.
Nagtabon Beach is a bit out of the way of the tourist trail. The road to there is bumpy and most are under construction, a bit concrete on some parts, mostly gravel on others.
We drove through the highway of Puerto Princesa North from the centre and turned left on the Bacungan Elementary School, passing by local villages who for sure will stare at a passing vehicle somehow thinking – another tourist who got lost. But you’re on the right track, don’t worry. Roads here are being paved into concrete convenient pass, a little river here and there, don’t hesitate to ask the local villagers, they’re friendly. When you reach the forked road up, you have to take the left road going down, about 3 kilometers more before you reach the beach.
But before you take the left road, try going up or walk up a little on your right just to marvel at the breath-taking view of the beach cove, which is the Nagtabon Beach, spend a couple of minutes, soak in the serenity of the spectacular view down below. It took my breath away, literally speaking. Then head down for the beach fun. It’s unspoilt, chances are, you’ll be the only people there.
Salvacion Viewdeck is situated on a hillside cliff just along the main highway of Puerto Princesa North Road.
Quiet place commanding a nice view of the small islets on the bay. It’s Sunday when we went there, so no one is manning the small souvenir shop and coffee corner, no entry fee, this is one of those freebies in the city.
There’s a family of about 5 people already on the viewdeck when we arrived, enjoying the serenity of the place and the nice view of the bay. There are other viewdecks in the area, one is shaped like an ark, perhaps it used to be a huge boat, got retired and converted into a beautiful deck. I’m not sure though if entry on those are free, probably some restaurants.
But the viewdeck we climbed is a project of the former city mayor, the Hon. Edward Hagedorn, so it’s free. There’s a treehouse, nice trees around, quiet place just to hand around and relax.
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