I had planned the perfect itinerary for us for our trip to the Philippines and we were looking forward to having one whole week to ourselves. No email, no work, no nothing. Just beach, sun and adventures in El Nido.
It was going to be amazing.
Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. We heard about an upcoming typhoon two days before we left Taiwan and they were saying it would turn up and go north towards Japan. So we thought it’d be safe to go.
Instead, typhoon Hagupit decided to keep going straight and barrel right through the heart of the Philippines. A class 4 typhoon, Hagupit made landfall five days after we got to the Philippines and for the first two days in Puerto Princesa, we talked to many other travelers and locals trying to decide if we should go to El Nido or not.
Even though the island of Palawan is further southwest, El Nido was included in the circle of affected areas for when it hit Manila. It was a tricky decision and we couldn’t take the risk of getting stuck in El Nido in case it rained too hard and we weren’t able to bus or fly back. We had to be smart about this.
To go or not to go
As we were contemplating to go or not to go, I saw on Instagram pictures from DJ Yabis of Dream Euro Trip who was at El Nido at the same time and he said it was amazing. So we jumped on the bus and took a 7 hour bus ride from Puerto Princesa to El Nido and he was correct. El Nido was gorgeous, you would never know a typhoon wasn’t too far away!
We talked to some local tour operators so we were hopeful that we could do one tour the next day and then take the 5 AM bus back to Puerto Princesa the day after.
Luck wasn’t on our side and for the next three days, all boat tours were cancelled. Typhoon Hagupit was close enough to the eastern islands of the Philippines that the coast guard was worried the winds would be too high out at sea and wouldn’t take any chances.
I don’t blame them. I’d rather be careful and not take any risks, especially when it comes to typhoons like this one. Just a year ago, typhoon Haiyan smashed through the Philippines leaving 10,000 dead and destroying thousands of homes. I can’t imagine the fear that people felt when they heard another typhoon just as big and deadly was coming their way once more.
What do we do now?
So our one full day in El Nido wasn’t spent out bathing in the gorgeous clear waters but we made the most of what we could. There was an inland tour but they got booked up super fast so our options were limited at that point.
First option: Rent a scooter and go to the beach
We spotted a group of tourists renting motorcycles so we figured that was probably the best we could do and hey, we fell in love with scootering so might as well do it in one more country in Asia. We took a bike and headed out to Nacpan beach. Although we weren’t allowed to swim due to high winds, at least we could see more of the island beyond El Nido.
The Palawan landscapes are just breathtaking. Though I’m used to seeing lush green tropical jungles, this was on a different level. The ride was quite enjoyable as it was a beautiful sunny day.
It was about a 45 minute ride to Nacpan beach where we ventured off the main path and rode through huge puddles of mud and rocks.
Nacpan beach is beautiful. There were a bunch of tourists but all we could do was take pictures and sit around since no one could go in the water. We decided to walk around and enjoy the beach as much as we could.
After walking through most of the beach, we were starving. Hopping back on our bike, we headed back to El Nido to find some food and figure out what to do for the rest of the day.
Second option: Eat and drink
What do most people do when they’re bored? Eat. Snack. Drink. That’s what we did, mostly because we had a late start to our day and were super hungry but what else could we do in town? We checked out a couple places that were recommended to us and treated ourselves to a nice lunch and dinner.
Third Option: Get full body massages
In between lunch and dinner, we wandered around town and ended up doing something we don’t normally do since it’s expensive. We found a place that was offering full body massages for 300 PHP ($6.65). Since we knew we would never get a massage any other time, we both got full body combination massages and were in bliss for an hour.
Fourth Option: Hangout with other stranded travelers
We ran into a Spanish couple back in Puerto Princesa and spotted them walking around El Nido. They were incredibly friendly and we ended up hanging out and talking for the rest of the night. This is the part I love most about travel – meeting other people from around the world.
Yeison and I love traveling together as a couple but we need friends on the road. It’s good for us to talk to someone else since we are with each other 24/7 and this couple was so friendly. I was happy that Yeison got to speak Spanish after not speaking it for months and to practice my own rusty Spanish.
You always have to look for the positives in a negative and this was one of them!
Though it wasn’t what we expected, we still had a great time
As I flip through my photos of the Philippines, I’m disappointed I don’t see pictures of Yeison snorkeling next to a turtle or us boating through the secret lagoon. However I am grateful for the experience as it made me more appreciative of life and taught me a few more things when it comes to traveling. Plus this means we have to go back sometime in the near future!
What is even better is that typhoon Hagupit didn’t wreck as much havoc as Haiyan. It still destroyed homes with casualties but the numbers were significantly fewer. The locals were much better prepared this time around and evacuated early. As we watched the news in Puerto Princesa, we kept hoping that everyone was safe and the damage was not too severe.
So although our plans didn’t go as planned, we were lucky to catch a couple of beautiful sunsets on the beach, be surrounded by spectacular landscapes and meet really great people. What else could you really ask for when you’re stranded in El Nido? Not much to be honest.
Read more Asia adventures here
Or check out this sweet Philippines travel itinerary for ideas for your own trip!