Nacpan and Coron, Palawan Philippines
“A fresh coconut a day keeps the doctor away.” — Our Nacpan motto
Nacpan was a dream come true. After the intense hustle and bustle of El Nido we landed upon a spot that felt close to the way Siargao made us feel, welcomed and safe, a home away from home if you will. My friend Deeda and I shared a tricycle for 500 pesos($10) from Rasta Family Homestay to Nacpan. The drive was forty five minutes with the last fifteen minutes consisting of a very bumpy dirt road. The driver we took to the laundry mat convinced us to let him drive us in his sub par tricycle and stopped along the way to visit his brother’s birthday party and pick up some free food. I swear you get used to Pinoy time eventually.... I managed to wack my face on a banana vendor’s stand breaking my glasses, but it gave us all a good laugh in the end. It’s hard to function properly in the heat of the day while in Palawan...
By the time we reached Hammock Homestay, Deeda and I were exhausted from the heat and extremely hangry, angry because we were hungry. The owners happened to overbook the dorm room, giving Deeda and I our own little hut above the kitchen. It was made of dried palm frawns and bamboo, equipped with mosquito nets and out in the open air. It was such an upgrade for only 350 pesos($7) per night! A few days later they told us we were given a discount because they thought we were angry at the change in plans, but we explained we were just REALLY HANGRY.
For the next six days we were woken up by the sounds of dogs, pigs, frogs, chickens and an elderly man yelling “GHEEEEEEE” to alert his pigs it was feeding time. Unlike me, Deeda slept through all of this, but I didn’t mind because the morning time was the only part of the day where it wasn’t sweltering hot. Hammock Homestay has a true family feel, where giving back and wearing a smile is always appreciated. The owner runs the summer camp and helps with the school for the local children so you’ll always find a handful of kids hanging out and playing games with the guests.
Nacpan is a small village town located on a beautiful five kilometer beach. It truly was one of the most relaxing places I visited in the Philippines. We spent our days gallavanting along the beautiful beach with unreal blue water, paddleboarding, and swimming while ringing in every evening at Hammock Homestay with a different celebration. We had a home cooked meal every night with an array of Pinoy food including kinilaw (Pinoy ceviche), fresh fish and muscles, tortantalongs (eggplant omlettes) and fresh salads galore. Many backpackers visit Nacpan and spend their nights at Mad Monkey, where parties never end, but not Deeda and I. We relished in our homestay learning to play the guitar, taking cooking classes from our good friend Ivy, AKA Monkey, reading under the fans in the main cabana common area and, of course, singing kareoke.
Deeda and I frequented the same coconut men everyday while at Nacpan beach. For 50 pesos ($1) you get a big mature coconut full of deliciously hydrating coconut water before they take a machete to the big old nut and you get a fantastically nutritious snack. To the left of the main restaurants when you first arrive at Nacpan beach you will find a table with an umbrella, a part of a tree trunk, and our good friend Justin waiting with a bunch of coconuts. Justin is a mad man with the machete and even climbed the trees to cut down more coconuts for Deeda and I. Pascual and Justin treated us like coconut queens and made for very good company! There are women offering massages nearby on the beach and for only 400 pesos ($8) I definitely recommend it. You’ll find the masseuses and coconut men hanging out together during their down time.
CAUTION: Watch out for the sand flies in this area. Rent a chair if you are on the beach and don’t stay out on the sand after the sun goes down. You will literally be attacked by thousands of small black flies that will leave bites all over your body making you look like you’ve just had a terrible case of the chicken pox. There were many people at Hammock homestay that were victims of the sand flies. Bug spray does not help even a little bit.
What to do:
Rent a scooter and drive up through the northern parts of Palawan through Sibaltan and back through the middle towards El Nido. You’ll pass a few waterfalls that are worth a gander.
Nacpan Beach- walk towards the right if you want complete peace and serenity.
Snorkel- The clear waters offer a perfect place to snorkel.
Paddleboard/Kayak- When you stay at Hammock homestay they let you use their for free. The water is so clear that you can spot turtles five meters below the surface as you paddle out into the horizon.
Mad Monkey offers free shots every hour after sunset and different themed parties every night.
Where to stay:
Hammock Homestay- 350 pesos to 600 pesos ($7-12) per night depending on your accomodation. Highly recommend this place!
Use this link to book something on booking.com and get $25 off —www.booking.com/s/21_8/595c81a1
Oh Coron, the small quaint island that was supposed to be my last destination after two months in the Philippines. We had to go back to El Nido for one night to then get on the nine hour ferry to Coron the following morning. The ferry ride was a bit of a disaster because I was struggling with El Nido belly for the last 24 hours, but luckily I was able to sprawl out on the floor on top of padded life vests to sleep through my fever and nausea.
We arrived in Coron around 5PM and quickly got a tricycle to drop us off at our lovely hotel. We splurged for one night because I couldn’t imagine not having air conditioning or a nice bed to lie in given my health at the time. The tricycle driver was sweet and stopped by the fruit shops for us to pick up a few things along the way. We paid 100 pesos($2) to be dropped off at Ricardo Valley Inn and were greeted with fresh juice and a wonderfully clean room.
Deeds hiked Mt Tapyas while I continued to nurse my food poisoning in our cozy air conditioned room. Mt Tapyas is right outside the main town offering glorious views of sunset after you climb up hundreds of stairs to the top. Beware of the little black thunder bugs everywhere. They will stick to you and leave little bite marks everywhere. On your walk back into town be sure to stop by Ale.o Hippie House for a refreshing drink, nice meal and chilled out atmosphere. This was one of my favorite places I found to kick back and relax in the Philippines.
Couchsurfing has saved my life many times, but meeting Francis was by far one of the best couchsurfing experiences I have ever had in my three years of travel. Although it was very last minute he had no problem picking Deeda and I up to then gather our bags before heading back to his place where we stayed for four nights. He drove us out to Conception Falls where we battled the rain and sat in the gazebo with the male security guard before venturing out to a local pier to watch the sunset.
Francis and his roommate Diego, also took us to the northern part of the island. Driving a whole two hours to get to Omicanican Beach near Black Island. The drive was stupendous as we blasted music and ate pork cracklings (vegetarian friendly). We found the beach and posted up under some coconut trees to play card games and watch as the sun set along the horizon.
We had so much fun with Francis and his roommate, Diego that we didn’t want to leave. Unfortunately due to my medical emergency my time with Francis was unexpectedly extended with me in a terrible condition, often in tears and heaps of pain. However, he stayed by my side the entire time I was in the hospital, lugged a 50 liter tank of oxygen up to his room where I was hooked up throughout the night, brought me coconut shakes and drove me all around the whole island when trying to make way back to Manila which was another whole disaster in itself. Honestly, without Deeds, Francis and Diego I probably wouldn’t be writing this entry today and they will never know how much I appreciate them.
Coron is known for their crazy sunken war ships and incredible wreck dives thirty meters below the surface. It was truly an unreal experience, however the bends is real and I recommend you proceed with caution when diving anywhere in the world. We also dove in Barracuda Lake where the thermocline leaves you feeling like your diving in a hot tub for half the dive getting all the way up to 38 degrees Celsius. The change in temperature in Barracuda Lake creates this clear murkiness that leaves you feeling a little woozy. It was my first time diving without a wetsuit and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Diving in the Philippines is well worth it, but be sure you have your own dive computer. Do not trust the guides to think of your safety. I experienced the most terrifying moment in my travels when I got the bends in Coron which I will dedicate a separate entry to, but in the meantime be sure you sign up with a reputable company. Do not use Reggae Divers.
What to do:
Mt. Tapyas at sunset
Wreck Diving- USE YOUR OWN DIVE COMPUTER- Do not use reggae divers! They do not have any emergency action plans in place and totally screwed me around.
Kuritas Reggae Bar
Where to stay:
Ricardo Valley Inn- 450 pesos ($9) each per night.
Try Couchsurfing if you haven’t already! It’s free and a great way to meet locals!
Use this code to book somewhere on booking.com and get $25 off -www.booking.com/s/21_8/595c81a1
Cool Monkey Hostel- 350 pesos($7) per night
Where to eat:
Fika- Great food and incredible coffee!
Ale.o Hippie House- Great atmosphere and delicious food.
Frujitas- Delicious restaurant with heaps of vegetarian and vegan options.
Buko House Shakes- Unreal fresh coconut shakes.
Taste.Spoon- A bit more expensive, but delicious Pinoy cuisine.