Monday, June 20, 2011

El Nido: The Ultimate Beach Get-Away

There are places that are magical when captured through a camera lens: they are photogenic. And there are places that no camera lens can do justice to their beauty: they are paradise here on Earth.

El Nido, Palawan belongs to the latter.

My trusty Canon Ixus 860, the almighty Nikon d90 and the borrowed Canon G10 with the underwater casing can’t capture the beauty El Nido has both above and underwater.  Or we’re just bad photographers.

I prefer the former.

Towering limestone cliffs, magnificent lagoons, fine white beaches and tropical forest teeming with giant trees, exotic birds, mammals and reptiles dot this group of islands on the northern tip of Palawan.

Beneath its water lie an array of corals housing small and big fishes, urchins, sea cucumbers, turtles and the darling nemo (the clown fish-anemone tandem).

After scraping off an arm and a leg to pay for a post-summer getaway, I found myself getting on this teeny-weeny aircraft bound for the exotic island of El Nido. I can’t hide my excitement despite the car mishap a day before, 3 hours of sleep and a bad case of hyperacidity.

The travel buddy is not as giddy as I am. He used to call El Nido his work place, took the same flight each month when the chopper can’t accommodate the facility’s workers and when a project requires it has to stay the night at his offshore base. Glamorous no?

He calls it a job that feeds him and a career that he's passionate about.

Upon touchdown in El Nido, an activity guide of the resort ushered us into the waiting area to discuss the activities that we can enjoy for the rest of our stay. There were at least 30! We chose only a few since we thought of enjoying the resort to practice the art of doing nothing.

We think we made the right choice.

Lagen Island: The Resort

To start with, Lagen Island is gorgeous: it has a tropical rainforest right at its backyard, a snorkeling area right by its front yard, the whole perimeter of the island to kayak and several coves to head to when you feel like going on a short kayak paddle.

As for the resort, it is in a lush garden setting with numerous flowering plants, with a pool and the clubhouse as its centerpiece, a beautiful path that leads to the water cottages, the friendliest and most accommodating staff I have encountered, 5-star hotel amenities, let’s just say the place is definitely worth the price you paid for.

This is the view by our water cottage veranda. And expect to be woken up by the mournful coo of the Grey Imperial Pigeon, that sound is just so lovely to wake up to.

Let me share with you that the resort has a quiet and relaxed feel. Partying is best left in Boracay, so if a magnificent, deserted hideaway is not your cup of tea, then you might not enjoy this place.


Most of the activity fees are already included in the daily rates except if you availed of some promotions, wherein you have to read the fine print and the activity fees are charged.

Spend a Day at Miniloc Island

We arrived way ahead of our check-in time so we headed straight to Miniloc Island and spent the day at the resort. This is the value of being in your swim wears and all gears are with you so that you’re ready to jump into the water, literally by the way, when needed.

Miniloc is different from Lagen Island. It is packaged as an adventure/native resort hence the huts don’t have the luxury hotel feel of Lagen Island but beautiful nonetheless. The restaurant is an open area, it has a wider beachfront (Lagen has none) where you can soak up some sun, it houses the famed Miniloc House Reef and you can play basketball, volleyball, pingpong, while enjoying a martini from the bar.

We had lunch in Miniloc and whiled the time away snorkeling and kayaking. We also got the chance to see some of its house pets: a school of 1-meter jacks in five-foot deep water!

Big and Small Lagoons

Visiting the Big and Small Lagoons is a must-do for any El Nido visitor. It is best done as a side trip while you are in Miniloc because it’s just 5 minutes away by speedboat. It is 30 minutes away I think if you depart from Lagen.

The important thing to do here is marvel at the limestone cliffs, take loads of beautiful photos, be with your thoughts, spot the hornbills, kingfishers, macaques, monitor lizards, and an array of flora growing on the surrounding wall

Snorkel at the Big Lagoon

And kayak at the Small Lagoon where the water is still and bluegreen.

Hike the Lagen Trail

Another of our must-do is conquer the 30-minute Lagen Trail. You can have a guide or do it on your own at your pace. We chose the latter and we fared pretty well. Before the hike we put on some insect repellant and brought water. The trail starts at the back of the resort, moderate in difficulty and has a blue rope that you can hold on to. One can see huge trees, wild shrubs and berries, and you can hear all sorts of animal calls. It is magical.

At the end of the trail, one can find a cove with fine, beige sand, perfect way to cool off from that very humid hike. It has a deserted feel so it feels like you discovered the short stretch of beach. It’s a good place to have private lunch (you can set it up with the resort), take loads of magazine-worthy photos, sunbathe and dip in the water. Don’t worry, there’s a resort staff who’ll attend to you if you need anything. 

Head back to the resort via a 15-min kayak paddle. You surely want to do this.


Speaking of kayaking, you can do this all you want in El Nido. It feels nice to tread the water utilizing your arm power. You can do this by the safety of the resort’s shallow water or be a bit bold and explore the nearby coves.

The way we want it is to head to the open water and take photos of the cliffs and the get near to the nesting birds! I personally don’t like the sound of the waves crashing the base of the towering cliff but the reward is just priceless.

You can’t just kayak enough. Trust me.

That and snorkeling. I don’t think I can stress that more than enough.


Another way of saying do nothing and just enjoy the resort.

Admittedly, we weren’t able to maximize the resort’s activities. However, we won’t have it any other way. The resort in itself is just so beautiful that it’s well worth it if you stay put. There’s a nice pool, there’s a bar where you can have drinks, lounge by the pool and surf (God forbid, please minimize your online time), read at the library, read outside, marvel at the balinsasayaw and other birds, sit down by the wooden port walkway and count the parrot fishes and other schools of fish, play foosball and air hockey, and enjoy a massage!

Oh yes, I forgot to add that, have a massage at the end of your stay to soothe your tired muscles.


The resort has a buffet in the restaurant or you can order ala carte. You can also have room service and enjoy a meal by your veranda or have one at the bar. One good thing about having the whole island or make that the whole El Nido as your playground is you can enjoy a meal at any island of your choice. That comes at a price but this is rest and relaxation we’re talking about.

The food is not its strongest suit. Price is similar to Manila mid-range restaurants so I say not bad at all but the taste can definitely be improved, especially at Miniloc. Seafood is abundant so as Asian/American/Italian cuisine.

For prices, please refer to the resort’s link. Please click here.

In Summary

1. El Nido is paradise made of limestone cliffs, fine sand beaches, a biodiversity of flora and fauna and worth the visit.

2. Lagen Island Resort is worth every penny you paid for. The resort in itself is crafted as a luxury, tropical hideaway and it doesn’t disappoint. The rooms are well thought of and have good amenities and essentially you don’t have to lift a finger to make your stay most comfortable.

3. It is perfect for a romantic get-away, family vacations and if you just need to relax. It is best to take it easy, do a half-day activity and spend the rest of the day lounging in the resort.

4. Service is its strongest suit. The staff is friendly and they seem to have thought of everything that you need even before you ask for it. That includes the strategically-located umbrellas, towels, even the kayak that you need to get back to the resort. Safety is also an utmost priority. You are not allowed to do any water activities if you don’t don on a life jacket. –(“,)-*wink*

5. If I’ll have it my way, I’d like to make my annual summer pilgrimage to El Nido but then again life happens and there are things that must be accomplished. So until I’ve saved up for my El Nido fund, I’ll just soak up in the memories of this one magical trip.

Bacuit Bay, El Nido

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