Escape to El Nido (part 1)

El Nido is in my wish list of travel destinations for the longest time, and last weekend, I got my wish and was able to experience the beauty and wonders of the islands with my family. After our first day, gusto na namin agad mag plan for our next trip! It's a different world out there! While my photos don't do justice to how beautiful El Nido is, I will just let my pictures do the talking and briefly share what we did over the three glorious days in this little piece of paradise.

This was my family's first trip to Palawan and my second. The first trip I took with my friends was in the summer of 1999, and we stayed at the then newly-opened Dos Palmas Island Resort. Aside from snorkeling, some memorable activities we did was exploring the St. Paul Subterranean River in Puerto Princesa, now one of the seven natural wonders of the world, a visit to the crocodile farm and butterfly garden, and kayaking through mangroves. For this family getaway, we headed straight to El Nido, so we had a different itinerary.

June 2 - 4, 2018
Airline:  AirSwift
Resort:  Lagen Island - El Nido Resorts

Departure time was 6:30am and within an hour, we safely landed in Lio airport. Lagen Island transfer staff was waiting for us and brought us to Lio Tourism Estate where the resort jetty lounge served snacks and refreshments. Sweet!

We are very pleased with the service of AirSwift. Air fare was part of our all-in vacation package, including accommodations with full board meals and guided tour activities. Incidentally, Lio, AirSwift and El Nido Resorts are all under the Ayala group of companies. Hope they will remain consistent with their commendable service. 

By 8am, guests were all aboard and headed to the resort. We passed many fog-covered cliffs and islets that it felt like a journey to Jurassic World, hahaha! Weather was cloudy but waters were calm. After 40 minutes, we were already being welcomed and serenaded by the management and staff of Lagen Island resort.

We stayed at the famed Lagen Island - El Nido Resort, which is "nestled between a lush four-hectare forest and a calm, shallow lagoon. It has the densest forest over limestone out of the 45 islands and islets of Bacuit Bay. Lagen eco-sanctuary island resort is home to a variety of birds, mammals and other endemic species". (souce: www.elnidoresorts.com/lagen-island)


Check-in time is 2pm, so we were able to wander around the resort and have snacks while waiting for our cottage to be ready. The kids and I immediately spotted one of a few resident monitor lizards just walking around amidst startled guests, hehehe. There was also the macaque monkey and a variety of corals and tropical fish within the cove.

Lagen Island has a total of 51 Filipino-inspired cottages and rooms. Each can accommodate up to 3 adults and 1 child, perfect for our family of four. We chose to stay in a Water Cottage and get the best views day and night.

Since we checked-in very early, J and the girl went for a swim. We were not expecting to be in our cottage until after lunch, but luckily, it was ready before 12nn.

Aside from water activities, the resort features an inviting pool, club house, bar, boutique, game area, spa, library, and kids activity center to keep guests entertained.

They gave us cottage 109 which, according to a staff memer who assisted us, is one of the most requested since it's away from the noise and crowd. But it's also the farthest! Dulong-dulo talaga. :) The cottages on stilts are connected by a boardwalk.

Here's our cottage, with beds all prepared for the four of us. Yay! It was a very comfortable set-up. I was expecting the worst -- 1 king bed to be shared by me and the 2 kids (the usual case in our hotel stays), while J gets the extra bed. The boy got first dibs on the mattress, while the girl gladly took the daybed. Everybody happy.

Unobstructed view from our balcony.

It's all about sustainability and eco-friendly practices in El Nido Resorts. While they provided towels and woven slippers, robes and dental kits are by request. The soap and shampoo were in pump dispensers to do away with disposable plastic tubes and containers. This tote and pouch were also part of the welcome kit to carry our essentials while we explore the islands.

During registration, the activity coordinator offered several resort-based activities as well as the half-day tours. We immediately booked Tour 1 for the afternoon -- a visit to Snake Island, snorkeling and cave exploration. Boat leaves at 1:30pm. Tour 2 will be for the following morning (to be continued in part 2).

It started raining on our way to Snake Island. We were with a family of three ladies, so the group tour was very manageable. Our friendly and knowledgeable guide, Benjie, apologized that we have to skip the cathedral cave visit due to high waters.

Rain won't stop us from swimming at Snake Island. The kids had so much fun while J watched us from the boat. Sayang, the sand bar was already below the water surface when we arrived. Hiking was out of the equation na rin, so no top view of the "snake". On a sunny day, the snake-like sandbar is exposed and you can walk on the whole stretch of sand.

Off to Cudugnon Cave. I was the only one who went in to check it out.

The entry way was really small and it was very dark inside. We did not explore further kasi it was still raining, and the kids already wanted to go back to the resort.

After a hearty buffet dinner, time to retire to our cottage. A specially delivered bedtime story was a thoughtful gesture after the turndown service.

J and I had cocktails at the bar for a night cap. We even spotted an eastern egret walking about and trying to fish for food at the cove.  It was a very fun and productive first day despite the rains, and we can't wait to kayak through the lagoons next!

(To be continued.)

Here's what happened on DAY 2 and DAY 3 in El Nido:

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