While island-hopping and spending time at the beach are the more common activities in El Nido, Palawan, the scenic limestone cliffs don’t just serve as a backdrop for your photos – they also offer another great activity in the areas – cliff climbing.
Here are some things you should know about cliff climbing in El Nido:
1. Mt. Taraw is the spot for cliff-climbing in El Nido. Taraw is a local term for the towering limestone cliffs. To get there, you will pass through the local community into a pathway leading to a forest and up the mountain trail.
2. Hire a guide to show you the way. No ropes or specialized gear will be used in the climb so be prepared to scale the jagged rocks surface of the cliffs with your bare hands. The rock surface is easy to grip, but some points are quite sharp and can wound you if you’re not careful.
3. Don’t bring a bag. A small belt or sling bag (if you’re bringing an SLR) will do, but a backpack will seriously slow you down.
4. It’s best to head out in the morning (around 8am) because the sun can get harsh around noon. We left around 10 and made our way slowly but surely, arriving at the top around noon drenched in sweat from the heat and effort. There were also a lot of mosquitoes, so I recommend putting some Off lotion before you embark on your trip.
5. Wear closed shoes suitable for hiking. While locals can easily climb up just wearing rubber slippers, those not used to the terrain will find sturdy shoes welcome protection.
6. In some areas, you have to vertically climb the cliff’s walls, twist around tree branches, and balance precariously on jagged pinpoints of the rock surface to get around.
7. Cliff climbing is generally recommended for good hikers. A sense of balance and foolhardiness also helps. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who has a fear of heights (or a fear of death by falling).
8. Locals say it takes about 45 minutes to climb up and the same time to get down. This does not count the rest stops, time for photo ops etc,. so budget 3-4 hours for a leisurely climb.
9. Bring a water bottle to keep hydrated. Be sure to bring the empty bottles down and not throw it in the crevices of the rocks like some other visitors apparently do! >:( Please don’t write your name on the rock surfaces either.
10. The view from the top of the cliffs is simply amazing. You can see the expanse of the town heading towards the nearby islands of Cadlao. Below, tiny boats dot the blue waters while rows of houses line the shores. Pictures do not do the place justice. It’s something you have to see for yourself.
NOTE: At the time of our visit, cliff-climbing cost about P350/a person for guided tours, with a minimum of two people per tour. Inquire at El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe in the town proper or other accredited tour guides. Sometimes cliff climbing tours are not as well-advertised as the island hopping ones, so be sure to ask for the best deals. We found about it through our boatman, who arranged everything with a local guide.