Okay, truth be told: after our month-long adventure in China in the summer of 2013, me and my backpack were on the verge of a breakup. I seriously started to resent that ol’ thing and it was time for him to go. I was done. Full disclosure: the fact that I was getting closer and closer to the big 30 and the fact that I had my eye on a cool new wheeled duffle bag might have had something to do with the breakup. Anyway, I guess you could say that I stopped being a backpacker way before I laid my eyes on all that El Nido has to offer. But I like to think of myself as the cool off the grid explorer chick instead of the chilling on the beach vacationer chick – just because I wanna be cool of course. Then I stepped into paradise… And, everything changed. (Well, temporarily. I still wanna be cool.)
“Leave only footprints, take nothing but memories” – Chief Si’ahl
The first thing that came to my mind when our private boat transfer – a traditional banca – entered the beautiful Bacuit Archipelago that is El Nido was: I am never leaving this place. True story. It was everything I had imagined it to be, and so much more. Cliché, I know. And after the rough few weeks we had, family and work related, I think we could not have come to a better place than the gorgeous blue waters and super-soft sand beaches of El Nido. We had booked a deluxe sea-view room at the Miniloc Island Resort, which is part of the El Nido Resorts group that holds 4 eco-friendly island resorts in the Bacuit Archipelago. They’re the only group that has been allowed to built resorts on the actual islands in the archipelago. The only other option for accommodation in the area is if you base yourself in El Nido town on the mainland, and take trips from there. But mark my words: El Nido Resorts is worth every single penny. Here’s why.
Good Morning, Paradise!
When you wake up to the beautiful skyline of old Amsterdam every single day you pretty much become a beautiful-bedroom-view-snob. But I have to admit that the view from our room at Miniloc could easily give our own bedroom view a run for its money. Every night we slept with the doors open, so we’d fall asleep and wake up with the calming sounds of the ocean and a refreshing ocean breeze. Divine. So divine. The resort is built on a small stretch of sand between high karst cliffs and thick jungle which is the perfect backdrop for a paradise getaway.
Food, Glorious Food
It’s no secret that I am a serious foodie. I think it’s safe to say that I think of food every 10 to 15 minutes or so. That’s right. Good thing that I am of the healthy food-loving kind and to stuff my face with a delicious nutritious meal is one of the highlights of my foreign adventures. All meals during your stay with El Nido Resorts are included in the package rate (as well as all activities – more on that later) which meant that it was a full-on food fest for me. YAY! Fresh seafood, fresh greens and fresh fruits are three things that I could eat all day, every day. So much yummy in my tummy. And for someone who struggles with severe IBS and is on the pretty strict FODMAP diet, the choices were still plentiful. Oh, and did I mention we had lunch at deserted islands, and a private candlelight dinner on the beach? Yes, that happened. Ah-mah-zing.
Hello I’m Angel, Your Activities Coordinator
When we got off the boat and stepped onto the Miniloc boardwalk for the first time we were welcomed with person one giving us a lovely palm leaf necklace, person two giving us a very nice coconut cocktail, person three giving us a table in the open air restaurant, and an entire chorus of staff members singing for us. Okay, I am not good at these things so obviously I felt super awkward with this private performance (thankfully my man didn’t, so he snapped pictures).
Afterwards one of them stepped forward and – with a warming smile – introduced herself as Angel, our activities coordinator. Uh, our what now? As mentioned, all activities at El Nido Resorts (except diving and the spa facilities) are included in the rate, and the activities coordinator helps you plan your trips during your stay. So we went island-hopping by banca to various pristine islands where we could kayak, paddleboard, surf, snorkel, swim, sunbathe, and of course eat our hearts out.
We also had breakfast at one of the other resorts, on Lagen Island, which made us even more sure of our choice for Miniloc Island which is the more rustic and authentic one in the bunch. Lagen has a swimming pool, which might be nice and all, but come on – who’s picking a swimming pool over Miniloc’s gorgeous blue house-reef where you can snorkel up to meet big jackfish and little Nemo? Bottom line: go for Miniloc.
Of course we also treated ourselves to a 2,5 hours couples massage in the over-water massage hut. Sigh…
El Nido, I’ll be back…
Once you’ve stepped into the beautiful paradise surroundings of El Nido you try to ignore the fact that you have to leave sooner or later. #neverleaving just wasn’t an option. But, you know what? Paradise wouldn’t be paradise without the yearning and longing that happens before you go. That deep feeling of wanting to be there, nay, nééding to be there while you count down the days is part of the ecstatic excitement that will come over you once you finally arrive.
So with that in mind we left this wonderful place, vowing to come back one day… And of course, we were waived goodbye by the staff chorus while we got on the banca that took us to El Nido Resort’s private airport from where we flew back to Manila. This was without a doubt the coolest airport ever, ánd also: wooden boarding passes! Yes, please.
Backpacking explorer or sunbathing chillaxer?
I have never been a laying on the beach kinda gal, mainly because I get bored way too easily and usually act like a little kid (or a puppy dog): “I wanna play, I wanna play! Let’s go do something!”. But after the weeks we’ve had it was really nice to sit back and relax, cocktail in hand, and just completely be in the moment. But of course I am still that girl with her natural-born curiosity and “lets go!” mentality so the combo of chillaxing and all those possibilities to explore – by banca, kayak, paddleboard, or foot – was perfect for me. So in conclusion I think I’ll just stick with sunbathing explorer :). Because who likes rain, am I right?
Lots of love,