The island of El Nido is a 6-hour drive away from Puerto Princesa. Some say it is best to travel to the island early in the morning so that there is still daylight when you arrive while others have said it is best to travel at night so by sunrise you will already be at the beach frolicking and enjoying the pristine waters. There are plenty of buses and vans going to El Nido from San Jose terminal. If you want comfort, you can take the buses but if you want to mix with the locals, you can take the RoRo buses.
Bus Services from San Jose Terminal To El Nido Terminal
6.30am, 8.30am, 10.30am, 11am, 2.30pm
Aircon: Php 483.00
Non-aircon: Php 250
6am, 8am, 10am, 2pm, 6pm, 10pm
Aircon: Php 550
Non-aircon: Php 450
5am, 9am AC, 11am, 1pm AC, 3pm, 9pm AC
There are also various van services waiting at the airport ready to take you straight to El Nido but these vans will charge higher fares than those at San Jose Terminal.
On the Road
Our long drive to El Nido was sometimes bumpy because there were a few potholes and from what I gather, the local government was still repairing the roads but for most of the 6-hour drive, the roads were cemented and the ride was smooth, save for the occasional stray dogs sunning themselves on the road. I was surprised to see during nighttime that there were no light posts on the side of the road and the driver had to rely on his headlights to navigate our way safely through the sinewy roads.
EL Nido is dotted with verdant greens and lush foliage and as we drove past the picturesque countryside all I could think of was the provincial life; waking up everyday to the sound of roosters, drinking hot choco made from tablea and eating breakfast. I could live the bucolic life, if only for a while. There were cows grazing, local farmers toiling on their fields and even corn being dried on the roadside. Houses were small and simple.
As we drove by I could see that most of the land is covered with rice fields, mangroves and mango trees. If you think sweet, sweet mangoes, which the Philippines is popular for, you should forget about that in Palawan. As our Puerto Princesa guide explained, this is because the mangoes in Palawan were infested with mango pulp weevil. These pests are also the very same reason why you cannot take mangoes from Palawan out of Palawan. You will be arrested and you will be fined if you try to do so. Research is still conducted to find a viable and long-term solution to this pest problem.
Most of the other passengers in the van were locals who went to Puerto Princesa to purchase some goods. As the driver dropped them off one by one, I wondered to myself just how exactly they were able to tell if they were in the right place when it was very dark and you could hardly see where you are. Well, having lived there, I bet they know EL Nido like the back of their hand.
Because our driver drove like a maniac, albeit a careful maniac, we reached El Nido before 9pm. We left the terminal at 4pm. It was raining when we got there and the driver dropped us off by the roadside and explained that it would be very difficult to drive down to the inn because it was muddy. We were left with no choice but to walk to the inn. Not that I’m complaining. It was a very short walk, after all and the views we got the morning after made it all worth it.