Philippines: The Reason I Chose to Spend My Honeymoon in Palawan & El Nido
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‘Where are you going for honeymoon?’ my best friend asked 2 months prior to our wedding. Common answers revolve around Mexico, Paris, Italy, Hawaii, Maldives… all are the world’s hottest honeymoon destinations. But I’d long decided that the pristine beaches in Koh Samui, Thailand would be where I wanted to spend my romantic, once-in-a-lifetime holiday. Only that it didn’t come true after hearing the horrifying bombing incident inside Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand just a few weeks prior our trip, killing 20 with more than 100 people injured. It was then I started frantically researching possible honeymoon destinations in Asia at the very last minute. Although the bombing happened no way close to Koh Samui (Kev even joked that we could probably get a better deal now that no one wanted to travel to Thailand), still… it’s better be safe than sorry.
I must admit that I am a picky person and hate following the trends. Those lists of top honeymoon destinations are no use to me. Maldives – not unique enough. Hawaii – too crowded. Mexico – extremely touristy. Crossing one after another off the list. The supposedly relaxing post-nuptial escape had created extra planning tension for me. After days and nights of research, I came across a travel agency in Taiwan that specializes in island getaways and honeymoon arrangements.
As I browsed their website, one location particularly caught my eye – El Nido. Known as the last unspoiled paradise on Earth, it is a well-kept secret amongst the locals. You could snorkel in the turquoise green clear water and swim with turtles and sharks, undisturbed by mass tourism. THAT’S where I wanted to be with my beloved husband?
Why honeymoon package, not self-planning?
I enjoy the freedom of planning my own trips; however, the logistics involved can be tedious and frustrating. Stress was the last thing I wanted on top of the burden of planning for the big day. Why not leave the nitty-gritty to the experts?
Our travel agent, Shali, from TM Travel was exceptionally professional and flexible. Even though the company doesn’t offer custom honeymoon packages, she helped us extend our stays (from 6 days to 10 days) to fit our needs. And being all the way across the globe was no problem at all, she assisted us with ALL the arrangements. It was completely worry-free.
One week prior to our trip, we had a quick pre-trip meeting with Shali to ensure we had all the essential documents. Within the waterproof ziplock bag she handed to us included our day by day itinerary, e-tickets, hotel confirmation receipt, pictorial summary of the transfer process at Manila Airport, map of the airport terminals, list of activities at each of the resorts, and reminder of what to bring & what not to bring. She even filled out our customs declaration cards for us (in case we don’t understand English). Most importantly, she gave us the name and contact info of the tour guide who would pick us up at the airport upon our arrival in Palawan.
Before we left, Shali handed us a handful of postcards that we could send to ourselves from El Nido, highlighting magical details of the trip. What a sweet idea ?
Where did we visit in Palawan & El Nido?
During our stay in Palawan, we participated in a city tour, hitting the major attractions in Puerto Princesa, including Baker’s Hill, Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Plaza Cuartel, Palawan Butterfly Ecological Garden and Tribal Village, and Crocodile Farm. Of course, island-hopping was a must! We visited stunning islands with white sand beaches at Honda Bay. Just north of the city of Puerto Princesa is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park stretching 8.2 km long. This world heritage site was chosen as one of the new seven wonders of nature in 2012!
Leaving Puerto Princesa, we started our adventure at various all-inclusive resorts, including Daluyon Resort near the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, as well as Apulit, Miniloc and Pangulasian Islands in El Nido!
How much did it cost in total?
Our package was originally 6 days which was priced as low as at NTD $45500 per person (~CAD$1920). But the price could vary depending on the resorts and room type you chose. We extended our stay to 10 days 9 nights, mixing in mid-range and luxury resorts. That brought up the cost, but it was well worth it. The package covered everything from air tickets, visas, ground transportation, boat rides, hotels, meals, to attraction tickets. What it didn’t pay for were the tips and paid activities at the resorts.
There’s no ideal location for honeymoon escapes. After all, it comes down to personal preference and budget. Some people like secluded beaches. Some prefer busy cities. As long as it is memorable and affordable, that’s all that matters.
Hope this post helps for those who are in the process of planning their honeymoon. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in the specifics!
First, your name is Cat but you don’t have a weakness for cats? How could you? My cat Chester is disappointed in you. Second, are you from Vancouver because you’ve been to Seattle and you’re Canadian (nobody from Canada would go to Seattle unless he’s from Vancouver – it’s okay I’m from Seattle so I can diss my own city)? Third, great article! My fiancé and I are struggling to find a place to get married and go on our honeymoon so this might be a good spot for us. As a man, I am too lazy to do any kind of planning, so thanks for having the plans ready for us. Woot woot!
Hi Hung Thai, thanks for stopping by! In fact, I have a weakness for cats, but sadly our house is too small to accommodate one at the moment 🙁 Funny that you ask – I am actually not a Canadian nor am not from Vancouver. I had lived in Vancouver before for 4 years while I was attending university there. I am originally from Taiwan. Glad that my post is useful to you! I will be posting more about our honeymoon in the coming weeks – check in for more details! Last but not least, congrats on your engagement!
Awesome. I was actually in Taipei a few months ago to take wedding pictures with my fiancé at Cang Ai – do you know about this place? It was pretty awesome but took 9 hrs… 🙁 Anyway, very nice to meet you and hope to talk to you again soon. Keep up the good work.
I am not familiar with the wedding studios in Taiwan, but I know almost all of them take photos outdoor. I know my husband and I both don’t like going through the hard work going outdoor, thats why we chose to go with the wedding studios in Korea 😛 Congrats on your engagement!
Sounds like Shali is one heck of a travel agent! I’ve never booked a trip through a travel agent, but maybe we should try it some time. And it sounds like you found a perfect spot to start your marriage! That beach looks beautiful, and no other people in sight! Congratulations on your marriage!
Thanks, Jolanta! I haven’t booked through a travel agent for a long time, but sometimes I surprised me the kind of good deals we were able to get! Happy traveling!
Gorgeous pics! Definitely inspires me to go to the Phillippines!
Thanks, Ines & Kathy!
I can see why you chose to spend your honeymoon in the Philippines. It’s so beautiful! I wish I could visit Palawan.
Thanks, Anda. It’s gorgeous!
I love the look of El Nido and it looks particularly great for a honeymoon. I ususally book our own trips but I can see definite advantages in having such an organised travel agent book your honeymoon for you. It makes sense to reduce stress at such a busy time. It would be lovely everything flow like clockwork at such a memorable occasion.
Thanks, Jan! On some occasions, it’s just easier to book through travel agents to avoid all the troubles 🙂
It looks like the picture perfect spot for a honeymoon. I look forward to reading the coming posts about the Philippines.
Thanks, Sally! There are more stunning pics to come!
Well, I think that the Philippines is a gorgeous honeymoon place. The beaches are stunning! What a great idea!
Thanks, Corinne! It is in fact one of the top places in the world for diving!
I can’t wait to read the upcoming posts on Philippines as we are hoping to head there within the next year. I agree, sometimes it is easier to just pay for an all inclusive package, especially for an event like a honeymoon where you want everything to be perfect.
Thanks, Lyn! Philippines is the perfect vacation spot! Hope my posts will help you plan your trip 🙂
Bravo to Shali! The last time I used a travel agent was back in 2010 and ours was really good too. I’ve since referred her to other travelers.
I’ve not been to the Philippines but each time I see photos, I think, why haven’t I gone? One of these days. Do I need to ask if you enjoyed your honeymoon?
Happy travels in 2016!
Thanks, Marcia! Agreed, sometimes it is just easier to book through travel agents 🙂 Happy travels to you too!
I have heard such wonderful things about Palawan (which always makes me think of the Star Wars Jedis in training called “Padawans”), and this is yet more proof of what a fantastic place it is to visit. Although I’m sure that Koh Samui would have been perfectly safe, I think that once you start getting worried, it would be more relaxing to switch to another destination. Congrats on the wedding.
Thank you, Michele! I still would like to visit Koh Samui one day, but I am glad that we spent our honeymoom at Palawan! No regrets!
I like you attitude and way of thinking. I chose Guatemala and Belize for my honeymoon. I those places do not necessarily sound romantic but we have a blast. Plus, we came back with tons of stories. Glad to know you chose a destination based on what you really wanted.
Thanks, Ruth! Guatemala & Belize sounds fun and exotic! I bet it was memorable 🙂
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Awesome blogs in regards to your honeymoon in Palawan!! I’m interested in doing something very similar in the November time frame for my honeymoon. When working with Shali at TM Travel, did you speak primarily Chinese to her or English? I’m coming from the United States but will first make a pit stop in Hong Kong and it would be great if we could have all the logistics figured out similar to what Shali did for you for Palawan. I see that your itinerary was completely in Chinese but hopefully they can do something similar for my wife and I. If you could let me know your thoughts that would be awesome!!
Hey Will, I am so excited for you! Palawan is the perfect place for honeymoon. It is so gorgeous that I would even go back there just for an island vacation 🙂
In response to your question about TM Travel, I spoke in Mandarin with our agent Shali. I’m not sure if they are fluent in English. I can ask for you via email if you like.
There are some questions I think you should think about though – 1) do you plan to stop over in Taiwan? Because for me, I had to go to their office in Taipei for a pre-trip meeting. That would entail handing you all your itinerary, air tickets, as well as telling you how to transfer at airports, who to contact…etc. 2) are you comfortable being in a small-size tour group with other couples? Keep in mind that you will have a tour guide in Palawan for the first 2 days (if you choose the same package as I did) and you will have to tour around the city with other Taiwanese couples. You will be on your own and have more alone time after leaving the city. 3) Are you okay with a guide who doesn’t speak English? The guides are employed by the TM Travel and they are all Taiwanese (I believe). Most of them speak Mandarin and Tagalog, but not English. The guides will give you a city tour and tell you about the history, local culture, customs…etc. Would you mind if you miss out on that due to language barrier?
Let me know what you think 🙂
Thanks for the quick response Cat!! Yeah I wouldn’t mind skipping out on the first two days touring the city especially with the language barrier. Unfortunately my wife and I only speak English and basic Cantonese. We also plan to spend about 7 days in Palawan as the second leg of our honeymoon we want to go to Japan. For us we’d probably skip Minoloc and the first two days of city tours due to time constraints. I would still like to go to Honda Bay and the Underground River in Puerto Princesa. Hopefully TM Travel will be able to provide us a similar package and work with us in English. If not, I guess my best bet would be to find an agency in Hong Kong that will do a bang up job like Shali did for you guys. Any recommendations if the TM Travel option falls through due to the language barrier? Thanks in advance for your help!!
Hi Will! To clarify, you want to do Underground River, Honda Bay, Apulit and Pangulasian? In that case, I would recommend you book directly with resorts. Daluyon Beach Resort is really close to Underground River. If you email the resort, they can organize local tours for you. You can ask them to help you book underground river tour (I know they offer it), possibly Honda Bay tour, and even ask them for transportation from airport to their resort. I didn’t personally book it that way, but I know they help foreigners with that or could direct you to local tour company. You can check them out at http://www.daluyonbeachandmountainresort.com. I wrote a post about them if you want to see what the resort is like. As for Apulit and Pangulasian, they are owned by El Nido Resorts. You can book directly with them at http://www.elnidoresorts.com/. Tell them that you are coming directly from Daluyon Beach Resort (or any other resort you decide to stay) and ask if they can organize transportation for you. This way it gives you more flexibility and you don’t have to deal with language barrier (at those places, they speak English fluently). If this is still too complicated, I can ask TM Travel for you. How does that sound?
Thanks Cat for the recommendations!! I actually just e-mailed TM Travel to gauge and see if they even plan vacations for people outside of Taiwan. If that falls through then I’ll probably have to roll my sleeve ups and book individually through each resort. Just a little concerned cause I know there are lots of transfer points if I want to go to the various resorts in Palawan. Just want to save the hassle and have someone like Shali do the heavy lifting. = ) Will let you know how it ends up!!
Hi Cat! Great post! I’m glad you choose to have your Honeymoon in the Philippines. Indeed Palawan is very beautiful and it’s getting more and more popular. As of being a local resident, i am proud that my country can offer this kind of beauty.. Keep it up.
Was wondering how you got in contact with shali as we are looking at the same thing for our honeymoon in sept any help would be great
Hi Richard! First and foremost, congratulations!
We booked our package through a Taiwanese tour operator called TM Travel and Shali happened to our contact. They mainly deal with Mandarin-speaking customers who are from Taiwan though. But it is worth a try to contact them and see what they can do for you. Hope this helps!