TRAVEL SERIES | The Philippines | Part One | El Nido

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 The Philippines consists of about 7,641 islands and is situated in the western Pacific Ocean. Due to its diverse geography of mountains, rainforests, and coastlines, the Philippines is extremely biodiverse and a hotspot for plant life, mammals, sea creatures, and reptiles.

Join my family and me in our caffeinated adventures as we explore a few of the municipalities of the Philippines. Our first stop: El Nido, Palawan.  

From the coves to the caves to the miles long reefs and beaches, El Nido is home to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful sights, both above and below sea level.

WHERE WE STAYED:

Casa Kalaw (Lio Tourism Estate)

 

Casa Kalaw is a beautiful boutique hotel of Lio Tourism Estates located on the mainland of El Nido. It is walking distance from the El Nido airport and has several small bars and cafes along its remote beach. Town is a short 15 minute ride away and the hotel offers free shuttle services that depart every half an hour to an hour with the last shuttle of the day departing at midnight. However, if you’ve ventured off into town to explore the nightlife, note that you can still take a tricycle (the island’s form of a taxi) back to your hotel from town. When taking tricycles, ensure you are carrying pesos or cash for payment, and firm up a price with the driver before boarding the vehicle.

Pangulasian Island Resort (El Nido Resorts)

 

Pangulasian Island Resort is an eco-luxury resort located in Bacuit Bay, El Nido. Accessible by boat, the private island is also referred to as ‘Island of the Sun’ because of its incredible view of both the sunrise and the sunset. The resort has a marine sanctuary stretching along its pristine white-sand beach and a tropical forest as its backdrop. From the crystal clear waters, to the stunning green designed villas overlooking the beach, to the endless activities and beautiful scenery, Pangulasian Island Resort is a tropical paradise.

ISLAND HOPPING: 

To ensure the sustainability of the natural resources and beauty of El Nido and to limit the overcrowding of these beautiful spots, the Philippines’ government regulates the tours offered in El Nido. Four options, in addition to private tours, are available.

My Top Three Highlights:

Small Lagoon & Big Lagoon:

Located on Miniloc Island, Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon are kaleidoscopes of colours: from the turquoise waters that sparkle like crystals from the sun’s rays, to the greys of the limestone karsts, to the greeneries that grow from them, each aspect of the lagoons are magnificent on their own accord, but as they stand together in stark contrast their beauty is extraordinary and breathtaking. The marine life is diverse and flourishes within the safety of the enclosures.

Within the walls hide eerily stunning caves, that when found and explored are awe-inspiring. Christian and I had the chance to find some of these hidden beauties in the Small Lagoon and spooked ourselves as we ventured within the dark abyss of the limestone caves, which were lit only by small crevasses. Should you choose to explore these caves please be careful and keep your eyes open for rocks jeering out and any wildlife that might be hiding around the corner. As we went back to find out where our partners in crime, Carlos and Anthony, had ventured off to, it became apparent that they had missed the entrance to Small Lagoon entirely and were simply paddling around the open water (genius… we know). So if you’re not travelling with a tour leader, make sure you’re paying attention to the limestone walls for the small entranceway and get ready for an experience of a lifetime (oh and yes, we pointed Anth and Carlos in the right direction and they ended up finding the entranceway).

 

Cudugnon Cave: 

Once a sacred burial site, this cave was used as a natural catacomb for the people of Borneo. As such, it is presently an important anthropological site. To gain access into the cave you must climb through a small opening nestled between the rocks. Once inside, it looks as though you’ve landed within a science-fiction movie. The cave has high ceiling-like rooms surrounded by a variety of different rock formations, some smooth and slimy, others rough and jagged. Shades of green, blue, and grey paint the walls. Bats lurk and flutter through the hidden passages. It is eerie and stunning in the same breath – truly and absolutely magnificent.

 

Secret Beach: 

Hidden away by large karst cliffs, Secret Beach is a small stretch of white sand beach only accessible through a small crevasse that is sometimes submerged during high tide. The not-so-secret beach is a popular tourist attraction and a great snorkelling spot. The underwater world is home to beautiful marine life and holds plenty of different underwater passageways. But the beauty for us was not the beach itself nor the exquisite underwater world, but the secrets that still lay hidden behind the beach and within the rock formations that hide the cove. If you have a good eye, you’ll spot narrow gaps between the rocks and if you are adventurous enough, these gaps will take you to a whole new secret spot. Be wary of the creatures that may lurk within these walls –  we noticed there are large holes in the ground, the perfect size for snakes and reptiles to hide and inhabit. Also, word of advice, ensure you are with at least one other individual whenever you go exploring… you never know if and when you’ll need a helping hand, as I did when I got a little excited and got myself into a little climbing pickle in this hidden spot.

 

El Nido was a dream; a beautiful dream of natural wonders, wildlife, amazing excursions, and surprisingly delicious pizza… I would be remiss if I did not give a shoutout to Trattoria Altrove for serving me the most delicious pizza I believe I have ever devoured in my entire life (okay, in the top 3 for sure). It was well worth the wait, as everything from the atmosphere, to the drinks, to the delectable eats, to the professional service was outstanding. Now can we arrange delivery to Canada?

 

Cheers El Nido!

Stay tuned for the next caffeinated adventure: Boracay!