Empty beaches and crystal clear lagoons in El Nido

Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
Trip End Feb 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
What I did
Island hopped and beach bummed!

Flag of Philippines  , Palawan,
Monday, March 28, 2011

Good evening all!

We had an uneventful mini bus ride up from Sabang to El Nido. Having an uneventful mini bus ride in the Philippines is a good thing because the driving of the mini bus drivers is atrocious! 

Kaz & Anna quickly found us some bungalows on the beach. Sadly not facing the ocean but a mere 10 seconds walk from it! Tut tut, Ashley & I accepted this calamity with good grace! 

The beach in El Nido is jam packed with bungalows, restaurants and bars. The ocean is full of the sturdy traditional Filipino bangkas (boat) and yet the beach still has its charm. There are more beautiful beaches in the area as you are about to find out but compared to beaches in Europe, El Nido is a gem.

There are lots of karst formations in this area of Palawan like in Thailand & Halong Bay and even though I have seen them many times now I will never tire of looking out at these beautiful formations whilst chilling on a beach. 

El Nido has a cool night life scene too with lots of bars that have live music. It was great just to kick back with a beer and watch a band. We miss live music big time! That first night we ate in a restaurant called Squidoo's, named after their signature dish, Squid. My word, it was the best stuffed squid I have ever tasted. They literally stuff the whole squid with cabbage, tomatoes, garlic and onions. The squid was cooked to perfection too, not your usual rubbery blob. 

The following day we hired our own boat with a boatman and headed off to a beach called 7 commandos. It is a lovely big beach with incredible white sand. As Karen was getting off the boat she fell into the water. All good fun. Unfortunately, she was carrying the bag with our lunch which was now submerged into the Pacific! So our sandwiches consisted of tuna, salad, sand and sea! Yum yum! It was too windy on 7 commandos beach so we asked our boatman to take us to a more secluded beach. It's crazy to think that we could just pick and choose our own empty beaches! 

There are loads of islands off El Nido, some of which are in kayaking distance. So Kaz & I decided to Kayak out to one and spend the day on our own bit of paradise. Sadly Ashley had way too much sun so could not join us. Now I warned Kaz that it would not be easy but she brushed me off as if I was some land loving gimp! I am sad to say that I was proved correct as when we were between islands the water got quite choppy. It was not too bad but it was no walk in the park either! 

Thankfully we made it to land and literally crashed on to the beach as if we had been at sea for months!   Now the beach we were on was lovely but I don't think we relaxed too much as we knew we had to kayak back. When we did eventually get back in our sturdy bit of fibre-glass the water had become even more choppy. So we did what anybody would do in that situation. We bummed a lift off a passing boat! Well we did want our own Robinson Crusoe moment and we got it in all it's glory!

Paul's been quite kind to me in his description of our terrible kayaking adventure. When we were stuck out in that deep dark ocean in our little, flimsy kayak I felt sheer terror. I was screaming my head off, totally having a hysterical fit that easily surpassed any of my dramatic outbursts to date. My whole life flashed right before my eyes. It was officially the scariest moment of our trip so far!

The next day we opted for an easier outing and took a tricycle to a nearby beach called Los Cabanas. Wow! It was the posterchild for the word 'idyllic'. A beautiful curved bay, surrounded by cliffs and palm trees, white sand, clear waters, rows upon rows of palm trees and NOT ONE PERSON in sight! Incredible! Plus the beach still had the benefit of having two restaurants at one end. It was there that we met Wee, a charming fun-loving guy who'd trained as a lawyer but decided that running a resort was more up his street, especially as he could wear dresses here, unlike the courtroom. By the time we left, we were firm friends and promised that we'd be back with our other two friends the next day. Ash and Anna had spent the day discovering diving. Whilst Anna had done a diving course years ago, Ash had never dived. We were so excited for them and eagerly waited their return, like parents waiting for their child after the first day of school. They came back all smiles and full of stories about the wonderful things they saw! Yippee two more diving converts!

On our last day together we booked one of the famous island hopping trips, described by the Lonely Planet guide as the main reason for coming to Palawan. We'd saved the best for last!
The four of us got on our own private bangka and toured the wonderful surrounding islands and beaches of the area. One highlight was snorkelling in a secret spot that our boatman's son Kenneth had discovered where we saw hundreds of fish, quickly followed by a superb lunch of bar-b-q's bangus fish cooked by our boatman on a deserted beach. The main highlight however, was the big lagoon. Imagine swimming through crystal clear water through a small opening in the cliffs. Once on the other side you find yourself in turquoise water completely surrounded by tall cliffs. There's no one else there, except a few birds, the silence and stillness is complete. That is how we experienced the small lagoon, one of the most beautiful places we've seen to date. Paul and I swam to a rock in the middle of the lagoon and just sat there admiring the beauty surrounding us. Once again, nature had come up trumps and left us awestruck. 


As we'd promised Wee, we ended our tour at Los Cabanas beach, drinking rum, enjoying the sunset and befriending the local dogs. Wee had a special treat for us. When night fell he offered us a lift back to our resort on a boat. As we sailed on the dark still waters in the moonlight, we dipped our hands in the sea which immediately lit up with tiny dots of light formed by the plankton. It felt like we were waving magic wands in the sea and creating sparks. It was a perfect ending to a great day and a wonderful two weeks with Ash and Anna. 

 We were sooooo sad to say our goodbyes the next day. We'd truly had a fantastic time together, and knew we would miss them a lot (2 months on and we still do!). Ash and Anna, thank you for coming out to meet us. You made our first two weeks in the Philippines truly special! 

But it's onwards and upwards for these two vagabonds and a few days later we left our little piece of heaven and made our way back to Manila. From there we were heading to a very exciting destination - Donsol a place where you can swim with Whale Sharks. Woo hooo

See you when we get there

Lots of love

Karen and Paul
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auntyp on

What can I say.....SIGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhh !!!!!!!!!!!
Awesome guys xxxxxxx

pearl foyle on

Paul & Karen what a place, I love reading your stories, Karen I can just pic the bag falling into the sea, that happened to my friend when we got of a boat, it brought back some memories for me. Well am waiting for the next lot of pic keep them coming. Take care. xx

mom on

Wow that was an amazing read and great pictures ,hope the fish enjoyed your lunch keep them coming xxx

mary tsiterou on


Jack benson on

This is all very well guys- but if u fancied a kebab at one thirty in the morning you'd be stuck big time...... I will forward some pics of holloway road just so u can see what you're missing! Xx
Ps. Bastards!!

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