February - March 2008
Part II - North Palawan

Cocoloco Island

Around Puerto Princesa we didn't find an island with a white beach where you can stay a couple of days, except the not recommendable Dos Palmas Resort. The closest up north was the
Cocoloco Island Resort
Tel.: 0919-613-2393
and the photo and price looked nice (lot of fliers lying around the hotels and there is also an office in Puerto Princesa).

We made reservation by phone a couple of days before we finally boarded a bus going to Roxas. Actually, we wanted to take an aircon van. The one waiting was still empty, so you never know when it was full with passengers and will leave (the whole van would have cost around 50 Euro). We rather took the public bus scheduled to leave at 8 o'clock for El Nido. It left almost on time. And it was full and did get fuller and fuller, because it picked up other folks on its way. No one will ever be left behind, even if somebody has to ride on the roof. So it also took a little more than three hours instead of two to finally reach Roxas, but the fare was only 2.40 Euro per person.

From the bus terminal in Roxas we had to take a tricycle to get to the Cocoloco office at the pier. There we waited until the Cocoloco service boat was ready to leave with supply fresh from the market and all the fresh water canisters (no fresh water on Cocoloco).

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

Fisher boat coming from Cocoloco? This is not Cocoloco, just a sandbank
This looks like Cocoloco And it looks beautiful
We were surprised about the beauty of this island. It really looks like a South Pacific island you were always dreaming about. We were received with a welcome drink and with a subsequent lunch in the restaurant before we could occupy our cottage.
This is the main center with the restaurant And this is the white beach for swimming
Now we could still choose between beach front and second row. We decided for a beach front cottage with bathroom and fan for 50 Euro including all meals for two. The second row cottages would have been only 35 Euro. We were wondering what's left for the food.

One word about the money: up north from Puerto Princesa there are no ATMs. So bring enough cash (best in Peso, because of a worse exchange rate than in Manila) for the rest of the Palawan trip. Some expensive resorts accept credit cards without a commission, but many others, like the Cocoloco, only with a hefty 7.5 % surcharge (actually against the law, but it's always the excuse of having additional cost for transmission, etc. from a remote place). Ok, also ATMs may charge you extra, if you have the "wrong" card. I, for example, have a Visa Credit Card without being charged any ATM fee worldwide.
This is our cottage with the number 9 And this is the beach in front of our cottage
First thing was exploring the island after we took over our hut. It seemed that we were the only one around here and felt like living on Robinson's island. But "Friday" or somebody else must have just left their marks on the sand before us. You could have walked around in 10 minutes, but we leisurely needed one hour.
We inspected the sand and the white beach all around
Walking around the island while passing driftwood art
This is a sea shells seeker and Pandamus fruit eater?
We did not have to eat the unedible Pandamus fruits. The full board meals were real good. We could choose anything from the big menu whether beef, pork, chicken, or even king prawns and whole white fish, any way you like it, and all kinds of veggies. Only drinks have to be paid for, but a coffee and tea making facility and drinking water was available all day.
Shining sun in the late afternoon Reflection over the small sandbank
Just left and right of that small sandbank were beautiful coral reefs ideal for snorkeling. However, the water was not so clear because of very strong waves caused by winds coming from the coast during our stay. Beside snorkeling and walking around and seeking shells there are enough other things to do: swimming, playing table tennis, darts or billiard, reading or just sitting or lying around, and watching the news or a movie in the restaurant in the evening.
High Tea in the afternoon sun Playing billiard in between
Yes, you are right: it may get bored after some time: always the same. Still, we only wanted to stay three nights but extended it to five nights.

In the morning nice view to the beach while having breakfast in the restaurant above
After Cocoloco we wanted to go to Port Barton at the China Sea side. We even made already reservation at the Swissipini Resort, but the transportation was an issue and we were also told that the beach was not that nice, so we canceled it. There was only one jeepney leaving Roxas between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. To get then from Port Barton to El Nido we were offered by Swissipini a van for 160 Euro. They didn't mention any outrigger boat making the circuit, what we later found out when we were in El Nido.

So we went directly from Roxas to El Nido by bus, the same one we came from Puerto Princesa five days ago. We did get two of the last cramped seats while stepping on sacks of rice of which the whole floor of the bus was laid out. The bus was also a truck at the same time. No room for our suitcase which had to go on the roof, also used as a bench for the roof riders. The fare was 4.80 plus 0.80 Euro for the luggage.

El Nido

After five and a half hours (including lunch and pee stopovers and picking up all sorts of people, and a half bumpy unsealed road) we finally arrived in El Nido in the late afternoon.

The day before I inquired and received the confirmation that there are all sorts of accommodation available at the
Lally & Abet Beach Cottages
El Nido
Tel.: 0917-850-2948
so we went there right around the corner from the bus terminal. We could have had one of the rooms in the main cottage for 16 Euro with cold water, but Joy wanted it hot, so we rented the delux room on the second floor in the back for 32 Euro (including breakfast). It was not worth it, but more about that Lally later on.

First we had to book a boat tour for the next day. The Lally lady offered us one but could not tell whether we are the only ones thus maybe paying for the whole boat. So we went to the
El Nido Boutique and Artcafe
Buena Suerte
El Nido, Palawan
Tel.: 0920-902-6317
where some people have already booked two of the island hopping tours as listed on a board. We just added our names for Tour B for 10 Euro per person including BBQ-lunch. Meeting point: Artcafe at 9 a.m next morning.
Going on an island hopping cruise together with a bunch of women
The weather does not look too good but later changed to the better
All those limestone rocks around El Nido are really fantastic. It looks like the Halong Bay in Vietnam but here the islands of the Bacuit Archipelago even have more to offer: more white beaches and caves, snorkeling above coral reefs in crystal clear water, lagoons to be explored by kayaks and hills to climb.
Passing by nice rocks all over with a majestic appearance
First stop was at a privately owned island just for snorkeling in a coral reef before the beach, which we weren't allowed to step on. Wonder how much that island was worth.
Some have nice beaches in between This has some nice private retreat
Then we crossed through heavy waves to get to another island. Two Danish ladies (on the picture behind us) positioned themselves on the far front deck which heaved the boat up and down and each time a full wave swept over them into the boat. They quickly moved back into their seats. I was lucky that I could put my camera in a plastic bag just in time.

Next stop was at the Snake Island. Also here named after the shape of the sandbank adjacent to the rocky hill island. The snake was flooded right now because of high tide. We had some time to climb the hill and not walk the snake but along the snake while our boatmen were preparing our barbecue lunch.
Stopover at the Snake Island with a beautiful view from top
Also down to the sea is a worthy sight
Then walking along the snake's curve Finally having our barbecue with fish
After lunch we had some rest and a cool swim before we did get on the boat for another island and a real adventure. After we put down the anchor I thought that we will just stay at another beach for snorkeling. But one boatman led us along the rock to a hole and made a sign to enter. We did let the other go first.
The next island had a real surprise: A cave only to get in through a small hole
Except the one big Danish lady: she couldn't get through the hole and thus missed a lot. The inside of the Cudugnon Cave looked fantastic in the little daylight still falling through another hole in the ceiling. One of our boatmen climbed up to the opening, and my monkey tried to follow to look for a bird's nest until I said stop, because it really looked very dangerous.
The inside looks fantastic and invites for some climbs
But higher up only for the daring one I had angst but not my climbing monkey
Looking every corner around until a bird's nest was found
El Nido and the rock islands around are famous for their bird's nests, thus the name, which means "The Nest". To keep the birds population steady, only during certain months it is allowed to "harvest" or steal the nests to be used for the famous and expensive Chinese soup. It's a dangerous job to climb up the rocks to get to the nests but it's good money the locals can earn.
A tree hanging dangerously above the cave Better get back on the boat, it's more safe
The next destination was the Cathedral Cave, which was equally impressive, but unfortunately couldn't get in. We only did get a glimpse through the entrance from the sea.
Another rock island with another cave
The inside looks like a cathedral hall The outside has an overhanging wall
The rock formation is impressive How to climb it from the platform?
Then we passed the Lagen Island Resort, which is one of the upmarket places (like Dos Palmas in Honda Bay) with rates also starting around 160 Euro per person per night. But it did not look inviting to me with all the concrete around. Look up El Nido Resorts, if you want to know more about it.
The Lagen Island Resort is too expensive I prefer the sight around, it's more impressive
Next comes another South Pacific dream, the Inabuyatan Island, where we stopped over for a stroll along the beach while watching not to step on a jellyfish, and then a climb on a small rock.
That's what I like most of it Palm trees swaying in the wind
Standing firm as a rock on the rock and not like a jelly fish dead and soft
That was our last island we hopped on. As soon as we did get back to the Artcafe, we booked another boat trip to other islands for the next day. The price of 22 Euro per person included lunch again and a kayak to explore the lagoons.

In the evening we relaxed at the Aplaya Restaurant right on the beach where the Rizal Street ends. While watching the sunset and the beach life we had a very good big fish to share with veggies and rice and paid not more than 8 Euro altogether including a shake and two beers.

Next morning at 9 a.m. we were at the same meeting place and soon after we did get on our boat which has already been loaded with our kayak.
Another day's cruise to Miniloc Island with some really fantastic lagoons
No outrigger gets through to here What is better: snorkeling or paddling?
We have decided before to rent a Kayak with a guide
That is not the son of our guide above but is just baby-sitting the kid of a French lady who wanted to snorkel around alone. It was a lot of swimming through the lagoons but with a life-vest it was more comfortable and relaxing too. However snorkeling was not so rewarding because there are no corals. The trip without the kayak would have been only 9.50 Euro per person, thus just the one kayak for two of us has cost us 25 Euro (ok, that was including the guide and guide's kayak.
Fantastic views up and through
But kayaking did get more strenuous after we also decided to paddle through heavy waves and strong current (almost hit a rock) in the open sea to get from one lagoon to another. The snorkelers were more lucky to jump back onto the boat. Except for one couple: they have been just forgotten by our crew and the boat left without them. They had the chance to follow us with another boat of another tour to catch up. They complained fervently as soon as they came back to the Artcafe.
Then paddling back and follow our outrigger
to another lagoon with many gorges
A secluded smaller adjacent lagoon Paddling at ease after the high waves
We could have continued to kayak to the next island, but declined and jumped back on the boat. Also lunch was due and we have really earned our meal.

Back on our outrigger boat heading to another island for lunch
We settled right close to the rocks in the shadow. And one rock really looked scary as if he wants to eat us. There are also some small caves around which did look like an open mouth.
The rock monster with open jaw looks like Joy has been swallowed
But my climbing monkey has no problem getting out
Next we pass the Miniloc Island Resort. Same company as the Lagen Island Resort ( El Nido Resorts). It's no secret to pay at least 160 Euro per person and night.

But the next lagoon was a secret. Only few insiders know where to find the one-man-hole to get through into the lagoon behind. So no photo (had to snorkel there anyway).
Passing Miniloc Resort and reaching the secret lagoon
The water around the secret lagoon, however, is infested with a lot of jellyfish (maybe trying to guard the secret), so we better get out of here and head back to town while admiring more rock islands now in the evening sun.
More rock islands in any shape you like it
Finally reaching our house rock island and our home: the El Nido beach
Back in El Nido we unfortunately had to stay again at Lally. We complained the day before to the lady that there was no hot water that morning. We told her before and she knew it that we only took the delux room because of that (hot water). She answered that this was meant only for the next following morning and not for the rest of our stay, because turning on the generator cost a lot of money (El Nido has a blackout, called brownout, every morning). I asked her: "Did you really think I am so stupid to pay just 16 Euro a day more for nothing?". The answer was that we can go if we don't like it". Ok, that's what we did.

Next morning we moved to a much better place hundred meters down the street, to the
Rosanna's Beach Cottages
Quezon Street
El Nido, Palawan
Tel.: 0929-605-4631
The nice beach front cottage room on the second floor with a nice balkony and an attached bathroom (no hot water, though) cost 19 Euro.

And the new managing lady was a nice one again, like most of the people in the Philippines. I felt sorry for the other girls working at Lally, having such a boss.

On the previous photo above the red arrow points to Lally and the yellow one to Rosanna.

This is our new home up on the left Joy's shells spread out on the balcony
Moving was not so easy with all the shells Joy has collected in the meantime, but we did get help from our tricycle driver we have hired the day before for our countryside adventure.
Heading with a hired tricycle up north into the countryside
First stop with a subsequent walk over a hot water swamp until we reached the almost boiling water spring. No way to take a bath. But maybe someday they will build a Spa around.
This is not an easy walk over hot water to the hot spring
The small pool looks inviting The water is crystal clear
Because it seemed to have some healthy properties. The deposits looked like minerals. At least it was stinking from yellow sulfur.
But this is really too hot for taking a bath These girls look very unhappy about it
The Carabao (water buffalo) rather likes cold water to cool himself off in the heat of the day. Maybe it's a good idea to chase him to the hot water spring to get him pre-cooked before the barbecue.
This Carabao is not getting cooked he likes a cold creek, but no company
No bath for us, yet. We had to trek some miles and cross nine "rivers" and climb some hills to get rewarded with a beautiful waterfall and a pool to swim.
After crossing many creeks we finally reached the waterfall
Very inviting for a refreshing dive and swim and a climb somebody can't withstand
Back home is the time to relax and to admire the view from our balcony
Another day: I wanted to find out what another resort is all about: the Dolarog Beach Resort. They had a cottage with full board available for 64 Euro per person per night when I inquired a couple of days before. A tricycle goes there from El Nido for 1.60 Euro, according to the guidebook. So we took one, and the tricycle driver didn't object. Oh my goodness: he let us off a mile away from the beach and another two miles along the beach. Ok, we walked and it was a nice walk but with too many shells to collect (I am always estimating the excess airfreight cost).

Finally we reached the resort. Wanted to eat some lunch. Sorry, no cook availabe (I was wondering about the full board). So we had a coke. We only saw another couple. Looked around (swimming pool not finished). Sorry, this is private property (the waiter came running after us), you better get out. Any way to get back to El Nido? Yes by boat for 13 Euro. Thanks, we rather walk back.

Finally we reached the Dolarog Beach Resort also with a nice view, but here we wouldn't stay
The place was Italian owned. We met an Italian couple after we went back to the road (they probably booked from Italy ). They just wanted to go to El Nido for two hours and were waiting for the tricycle now which had been ordered by phone by the resort's staff, but the tricycle did not come.

No traffic on the road for 45 minutes, so we decided to walk in the direction of El Nido and were soon lucky to catch a tricycle just turning around after he dropped a passenger. Made sure he was not ordered by the Italians. They may have never made it to El Nido or couldn't get back in the dark (it was already 4 p.m. and sunset is at 6 p.m.).

So what tells you this. Never book anything in advance for your vacation in the Philippines or do not always believe the guidebook (the pretty new Rough Guide as of September 2007 was full of errors). Have a look first or make no longer commitments than just for a couple of days.

Expensive doesn't necessarily mean good. But if it's good I wouldn't mind staying three days in one of those resorts, like Lagen or Miniloc, etc. There is also a better chance to get a promo (or last minute) offer by walking into one of their offices in town (see Dos Palmas).

But still, staying in El Nido is best choice for me. You are more flexible: going to any of the islands during the day or trekking or climbing around and having a delicious dinner in any of the many restaurants in El Nido in the evening.

There is also a pretty new and good resort just next to Lally up the road, the
El Nido Beach and Garden Hotel
Quezon Street
El Nido, Palawan
which we checked out. It has a large nice garden with a swimming pool (and more) for 64 Euro the cottage (for two).
Rather recommend to stay in El Nido with nice restaurants and a view like this
The last night we were walking along our beach and we had dinner again at the Aplaya Restaurant. We once ate at the Squido Restaurant, in the middle of Quezon street, which generally is a good place with many foreigners, but we can't recommend the pizza and the steak we had (we should have eaten squids and fish). Another good restaurant was the Ric Sons Restaurant, almost opposite of the "Squido". Why wasn't there any Jellyfisho Restaurant?
The jellyfish really looks delicious
Another restaurant is the before mentioned Artcafe, which also serves Swiss meals, because the proprietor is a Swiss lady married to a Philippino. We had there our last breakfast the morning we left El Nido for Coron by boat, which we also booked there for 32 Euro per person. We wanted to fly with Seairs but the 18-seater plane was already fully booked. The other alternative would have been going back to Puerto Princesa by a 20-seater for 40 (?) people jeepney or bus.
Going by jeepney is an adventure
The boat had a capacity for 40 people but we were only around 15. We left shortly after 8 a.m. and arrived at 4 p.m. in Coron town. We were lucky that the sea was very calm so we had a very smooth and relaxing trip. We even could lie down on the long cushioned bench. No food but cold drinks were available. We bought our sandwiches at the Artcafe before we left.
With our outrigger Jessabel cruising eight hours over the sea
while passing Coron Island and finally reach Coron town


Coron is famous for its good diving, especially wreck diving (beside just island hopping). Twelve Japanese warships have been sunk here by the Americans during WW II. So Coron and the surrounding islands provide all sorts of accommodation. We could have stayed right away at a resort on the pier but rather went by tricycle just one kilometer up the road to the
KokosNuss Garden Resort
Tel.: 0919-776-9544
As the name implies it is owned by a German, Rudolf and his son Joerg, married to Filipinas. We made sure they had vacancies by texting them the day before. The cottage with attached bathroom was 21 Euro. It had a good restaurant surrounded by a beautiful garden. The American breakfast was 3.50 Euro. And they make the best apple pancake in the Philippines.
Arriving at the new pier restaurant and settle down in the Kokosnuss
Surrounded by a beautiful garden with a nicely decorated pool
They also conducted boat tours around the islands and we directly booked one for the next day for 11 Euro plus a 4 Euro lunch per person. In addition to this there will be more fees to be paid, we were told.

That evening, we did not eat at Rudolf's but at Bruno's place in town
Bistro Coron Cocktail Bar & Restaurant
National Highway
Poblacion 5
Coron, Palawan
Tel.: 0918-305-0750
He is French and the chef and cooks excellent meals and prepares delicious salads (try the Nicoise with a lot of anchovies). You better make reservation for dinner, because this place gets full in the evening.

Ok, next morning at nine start at the gate at first with a tricycle we had to pay ourselves.
A whole day cruise is a must but this skipper I do not trust
But with these two boatmen we felt safe and taken care of
Next charge was a 1.60 Euro fee per person for permission to snorkel in these waters, which were not so clear, but it was declared a Marine National Park.
Here we had to pay a snorkeling fee And it was not a scam of this pirate
Then we were following the coast of Coron Island. The first stopover was at the path leading up and then down to the inland lake Cayangan.
Treasure Island was just around the corner which we had to climb. Where is the treasure?
Which was a spectacular view first one to the sea, then down to the lake
At the arrival on the next beach it was time for swimming, snorkeling (for free!) and to have lunch in a shed on the beach, but for another 1.60 Euro fee (per person).
Lunch now at a white beach but only with another entrance fee
The beach was average and the sheds simple Why didn't we stay at this other beach?
The rock formation is always impressive while passing by. Similar limestone rocks like in El Nido.
The rock formation is really bizarre No way to climb this single rock island
Then we were moving into another lagoon surrounded by steep cliffs. Are there any caves or lakes hidden behind? Yes, they are. But how to get there? Either climbing over the cliff (you see that guy?), or diving through a tunnel under water. The guy who tried to dive through did not make it and came back right away, because of the high tide the hole was to deep under water.
The boat tries to avoid hitting any reef or rock while getting as close as possible to the hole
At the next and final stop we have to climb up and down to get to the Barracuda Lake for 1.20 Euro per person. There is supposedly a 1.5m long barracuda living in the lake. So beware, snorkelers. Also be careful of the sharp rocks.
Another adventure is awaiting us and a dangerous climb over sharp rocks
No problem for a small monkey but more so for a big bear
There it is: the Barracuda Lake inviting for an exploration
We survived the barracuda attack and the bone breaking climb
Ok, that was it, the daily boat ride trip. Now the last thing was a tip. The whole thing came finally up to 20 Euro per person, that was double of what we paid in El Nido.

Ok, it is all much cheaper anyway than in any first world country, but there are also many Philippinos travelling around, like a couple who also stayed in KokosNuss and went on the same tour.

If the extra fees are all in accordance with a government ordinance, then they should rather increase the taxes for the resort owners. Or the hotels or tour operators should charge an all inclusive price. Also carrying around all the small money in your snorkeling outfit and being ready to pay the exact amount was cumbersome.

That evening we tried Otto's place, just a few houses from Bruno. The restaurant on the second floor was cosy with a well stocked bar. A nice watering hole for the divers who meet here almost every evening, as Otto told me, in German, because he came from Austria. The food I tried was real Bavarian: Leberkaes (some kind of meat loaf) with fried potatoes and a lot of mustard and a wheat beer. Joy was also really content with her Hungarian Goulash.

Next day was our last day, not even last night, because our Super Ferry was scheduled to leave at 11:15 p.m. We could stay in the room until we left the resort by tricycle at 9 p.m., and were charged only one fourth of the room rate, i.e. 5.30 Euro.

Instead of relaxing in the garden we hired a tricycle for 3 Euro to visit the Hot Springs not far from Coron town, where we had to buy two tickets for another 3 Euro. When we got there after a 20 minutes dirt road drive, we had the pool and pools for ourselves.

The water really felt hot (but not as hot as in El Nido). Actually stupid to take a hot swim under a hot sun instead of cooling off in the sea. Anyway, it was fun and maybe it also had some "rejuvenating" properties, like a youth fountain.
It really looks a little bit hot but not as hot as in El Nido
Then relaxing in a hot pool but also having a hard time
Miss Wet T-Shirt Pageant? I am already hot enough
The last hours we relaxed in the hammock in the garden of KokosNuss. In the evening after dinner we finally left for the pier and embarked on the Super Ferry (coming from Puerto Princesa) and occupied our stateroom. As soon as we left Coron we watched the stars from the deck before we went to bed.
Our super Super Ferry finally arrived in Manila Bay
Next morning we had breakfast in the dining room and at midday our ship was waiting in the Bay of Manila (we arrived too early) until we had finished our lunch. At around 1 p.m., our scheduled arrival time, we were ready to disembark.

Lower class is ready to disembark Then we saw another Super Ferry in full size
After "enjoying" Manila (yes you can, but this will be covered in another report) for a couple of days, we finally flew back "home" to Catarman in Samar (yes, Samar is my second home, and that will be also covered in another report).

Ok, that was the second part of our trip to Palawan.

As it was said before and will be said again: There could have been seen and done a lot more. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more all about the places I have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or in the Internet.


Palawan for me is one of the best destinations in the Philippines. And it may be not only for me: There is actually something for everybody: whether backpackers traveling through this province the hard way (by taking public transport, etc.) or the "jet-set" by pre-booking one of the many expensive island resorts (including pick up from the airport), and a lot of in betweens.

However, it's all more for nature lovers and for recreation, less for the kind of people interested in exotic cultures, antique arts and history (there was no old civilization and the Spaniards didn't leave much).

Though, some 47.000 years old human bones have been found in some caves, and there are still some indigenous tribes people living in Southern Palawan. Maybe next time I am going to visit them (if they are still there).

Let's only hope that the population increase of 2% a year (the Catholic Church thwarts every birth control initiative) goes together with enforced regulations to protect their natural environment.

© 2002 by WEW Tours