To everybody out there going to El Nido, and going for a tour: just let you know that there are some scams you would jump into. One I had is the shrine scam. They tell you tours are all included together with taxes and fees for the reserve.
Once you land there they tell it is private and you need to pay 100 pesos cash to land. If you are wondering if you can skip this stop the answer is “no”. Lunch, which is included in what they promise it is going to be “served” in this island.
What we did is when we came back from the tour we asked to pay 100 pesos less since they didn’t mention about this other cost.
Now, I’m not writing just to warn people, but also to express a little thought on this. I very often don’t take tours myself because I like to take time to explore slowly discover things. Unfortunately some places you’re forced to do that, and some are even super fun, useful and enjoyable. But either you like it or not this doesn’t justify operators to make a crazy orribile job.
This is my experience of el Nido, all I did it was beautiful but always with this bitter taste of getting ripped off.
Tour in El Nido was the worse I did in Philippines. I mean, the worse of the ones you are forced into. They give you appointment in the main beach where there are little table around with an operator signign you. Than, it doesn’t matter if your appointment was at 8 am or 9am or 10am, you are all going to leave at around 10:30. And this is the part I found useless: it is already discouraging staying in a crowded beach early at the beginning of the morning with one thousand people around not enjoying a concert in the night but just waiting hopefully, but what is more annoying is that this part is totally useless when you think that they all leave together and you are going to end up all together in every single spot. On the end waters are going to be foggy, and the snorkeling impossible. Walking around the rocky spots of some islands are just a procession in which you queue with hundreds of other people. I wonder why in El Nido they have at least thirty boats, they give you different appointments at different time but on the end nothing changes, and they decide in which boat are you just on the end, at the beach.
And that is how I decided to come back in San Vicente after I left it just for having a look in El Nido for few days. The experience was so frustrating that I had to run away. The crowd and the sadness of mass tourism has killed my joy for exploring new places.
Enjoy this little paradise before somebody realize its beauty and start to build shameless pieces of concrete everywhere to improvise facilities.
There is a river long enough to be paddled for a good hour or more. I just explored it from my cottage to the sea and once taking an other road in a certain split. The first would take towards the fishing village, the second is a narrow passage onto some water palms labirinth.
I stayed in Farmbelle cottages which it wasn’t cheap compared to what happend in the little town of San Vicente. There you can find double room with fan for 500pesos or 600 or 1000 if with airco. In Farmbelle we are around 1200pesos. This was a good deal for us to stay closer to the long beach and renting a motorbike in town for 500pesos per day the distance was easy to manage. In town, which is around 3km away from the main access to the long beach you can find shops, restaurants and bar. There is a public market with fresh fishes and veggies, there are a couple of second end clothing shops and a very cute food court with 7 eating spots. I liked the local food served in a sort of buffet with many different choises (if looking for more veggies better to go for lunch than dinner). Good food is served also at Mango bar and the restaurant besides it. The local buffet set ups are of course the cheapest option to eat in town. Don’t look for wine or western food here. It would be a very disappointing choice. Go for fruit shakes at Mango bar that are amazing or the Tanduay local rum with kalamansi juice always available.
There are massive plans to make San Vicente become a new El nido. For sure it has the potential, and it has much more space and options to grow faster and better than the packed and cahotic El Nido. The harbour area is massive, the long beach is 14 kilometers of pure beauty. The surrounding area is luxuriant. Waterfalls and rivers are other chilling spots and very often you can see buffalo chilling as well in the middle of the rivers or rice fields.
My favourite swimming spot was where the river ends on the long beach. The Bighao waterfall are alse reachable by motorbike and a good refreshing spot although they are little and if unlucky you get there where other 10 people come with a tour from Port Barton. It’s one hour and a half drive in a very dusty sometimes sandy road beacuse is under construction and it will connect San Vicente to Port Barton.
Bighao waterfalls are closer to Port Barton than San Vicente. Infact we chosed to keep on going on the same coastal road till Port Barton to get back to San Vicente form the main road/highway.
Hospitality in San Vicente is now modest and cheap and when I compare the service I got in Port Barton and El Nido, I wish this place will not follow the same path. Port Barton and El Nido had been growing in a savage way and they claim importance as well as lot of money for a service that is far from being decent.