Featured image from www.elnidoresorts.com
Got a few minutes? Good, ’cause this is a really long one. We had a five-day weekend in Manila when the Pope visited the country last month. Carpet Head and I decided to take advantage of this long weekend and go away somewhere nice. We saw a list of top 10 beautiful resorts in the Philippines (for the life of me I can’t remember the link now) and we decided to go to Lagen Island El Nido Resorts in Palawan. Gorgeous place, I tell you. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but it’s a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL place. I cannot say that enough.
There are two ways to get to El Nido from Manila. One is to take a flight via Island Transvoyager Inc. to Lio Airport in El Nido and then take a boat to the island resort you’re booked in. Another way is to take a commercial flight to Puerto Princesa, take a six-hour ride to El Nido and then take the boat to the island. Carpet Head and I decided that we didn’t want the stress of a six-hour land trip so we got the 3 PM chartered flight on Friday afternoon.
The El Nido Resorts waiting lounge was pretty nice. It had a very ‘Filipino’ feel and had comfy wooden furniture, air-conditioning, free WiFi, and free refreshments. Our flight was slightly delayed but it was just about an hour long and it was still light out when we arrived at the airport in El Nido. When we got there we were treated to a welcome song by a few locals at the arrival cottage, which was pretty quaint and had refreshments ready for us. We were immediately met by a guy named Jimmy, our El Nido Resorts guide to Lagen Island.
From the airport we rode a van to ‘downtown’ El Nido to pick up another couple who were also going to Lagen Island and from there it was straight to the pier. Of course, during the ride Jimmy mentioned a few things about the town and answered whatever questions we had. When we got to the pier, we were given life vests – yellow for Lagen Island – and we got on one of the resorts’ speed boat. I learned that the speed boats were used mostly to bring guests from the dock to a motor boat ‘parked’ further out or the other way around – there are just too many boats that not all of them can dock on the pier. I also learned that I really don’t like the part where we get on and off any boat! I always have this vision of losing my balance and falling into the water, bag and all. Once I’m safely in the boat though, I’m fine. Mostly. I’ll get to that.
So we got on a speed boat which took us to the motor boat that took us over choppy open waters to Lagen Island. Our guide Jimmy pointed out the islands while Carpet Head pointed his fancy schmancy camera at the islands, the beautiful horizon and, one time, at me. It was getting dark though so I was probably all shadow and the background gorgeous as ever. The place really is breathtaking. There are these little islands with amazing rock cliffs that make you wonder how in heaven’s name did the waters and the wind carve those out and how many lifetimes did it take. Stunning.
The boat ride took about half an hour or a little longer. The boat stopped several meters away from the breakwater, built to protect the cove from the crazy waves, and a speed boat came to meet and kiss our boat. Hah. And came my favorite part – making like a ninja and switching from one boat to another. Once the speed boat crossed the breakwater it was all good because the waves were calmer.
From the boat area we walked to the reception area where the staff greeted us with cold pandan drinks (refreshing!) and a few local songs. Then we checked in, listened to one of the activities guide talk about what we can do during our stay, and headed to our water cottage on the other end of the cove.
That first night we didn’t really do much except have dinner and relax in our cottage, which was pretty roomy and had a nice balcony with a view. We were hoping to get massages but the spa was booked. That was okay though. The real downer that night was actually the dinner. We were a little disappointed with the buffet because the food was cold when we got there. I think it could have tasted great but it just wasn’t warm or hot anymore. The resort made up for it though with a surprise chocolate cake for our table. It had the words “Happy Anniversary” written on it so that was pretty cool. We were too stuffed to eat all that cake – uh huh, the food wasn’t great but we still ate a lot haha – so we took it with us to our room (we finished that cake with coffee the next day). During our dinner, the activities coordinator came by to ask us about our plans for the next day. We decided to go to Dibuluan Island beach club where we could relax, swim, and paddle board.
The next day, Saturday, we slept in a bit and went to the dining hall less than an hour before the breakfast buffet closed. We were running late on our supposed schedule so we moved our Dibuluan beach club trip to an hour later. The Dibuluan beach club was nice. The waters were pretty calm because the beach was surrounded by other islands. We just chilled, had a cold drink and a nice lunch. Carpet Head tried paddle boarding and kite surfing. I took a quick dip. Not long after, we had to go back to Lagen. It was still early when we got back to the resort so we decided to check out their gym. Yup, we actually did our workouts while we were on holiday. It felt pretty good though.
Our dinner that night was quite special. Carpet Head booked us a private dinner with a menu of our choice. We weren’t sure at first what to expect, but it turned out that our “private dinner” was a dinner on the beach at one of the coves. That meant we had to take the speedboat to another side of the island. We didn’t have to switch boats because the cove was only about five minutes away, but it was quite an experience to ride a speedboat in darkness. A security guy rode with us and he would flash his torch occasionally, but for most of the trip we were in total darkness. I kept imagining some leviathan rising up from the deep and toppling us over.
The dinner setup on the beach was very romantic actually. A small tree strung with pretty lights, table for two, candlelight, red wine, and our very own server who prepared the dishes right then and there. This time the food was amazing. To kick off our night, we had creamy squash soup that wasn’t too sweet or salty and tasted just right. Then we had a yummy salad of greens with cheese sandwiched between slices of water melon. So gooood. For our main course, we had beef medallion and potatoes. Everything was delicious. At the end of it we had fruits and pandan panna cotta for dessert. We were supposed to have sticky rice and mango and I’m not sure what kind of mix-up happened there, but the panna cotta was good. We didn’t stay long after and we asked to have the rest of the wine sent to our room. The speedboat ride still made me a little nervous, but it was a quick trip back.
The next day we had planned to take the hiking trail to the cove where we had our dinner and then kayak back, but we kinda slept in again and decided to just check the spa after breakfast to see if they had any free slots. Luckily, they did, so we spent our last day on Lagen just lounging around and getting massages. That day the seas were a little wild – we wouldn’t have been able to kayak anyway – and most of the water activities were cancelled. Some guests were stuck on the other islands while resort staff waited for the Coast Guard to give the signal that it was okay for the boats to travel. Our ride back to El Nido town wasn’t cancelled though and we made it to our 5PM return flight safe and sound.
Aaaand that was our weekend trip to El Nido, one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever been to. I wouldn’t mind going back there someday. To remember our trip, Carpet Head bought us little fish keychains (which are now hanging on our trusty backpacks), a Lagen water bottle, and a small red dry bag, which served us pretty well in Boracay last week (another story, another post!).
So I end this NOVEL and leave you with photos by Carpet Head. Yayyy,
Note: This post was brought to you by the word pretty. LOL. I realized I pretty much like to use the word pretty a lot. Hah.