El Nido Resorts, Lagen Island, Palawan, Philippines

El Nido boatmanThere’s always something magical about arriving at your destination by water, and in this case it really is spectacular. Just before sunrise, I catch a small plane from Manila to the Palawan, and now I’m skimming across the South China Sea and Lagen Island is coming into view. Completely surrounded by the water, the resort is dominated by huge limestone cliffs, which tower above its 50 rooms, and as I transfer to a smaller boat to make my landing, I’m told that I will be staying in one of the water cottages, perched on stilts jutting into the lagoon.

El Nido water cottagesThere are also twenty forest rooms located at the edge of the jungle, three forest suites and nine beachfront cottages with a view of the lagoon. All are spacious with double beds and private bathrooms, and are built from timber recycled from old Filipino homes. The hardwood floors and furnishings give a sense of charm and quiet luxury, and I really like the full length sliding glass doors that open to my own private veranda.

El Nido sunsetEvery night, I sip an exotic cocktail and watch the sun go down over Bacuit Bay and reflect that it’s good to be alive. Once it’s dark, there’s no light pollution, so stargazers can get clear views of heavenly wonders like the North Star, the Southern Cross, and the Milky Way. Even better, the only sound is the gentle lapping of the waves which sends me into a deep sleep.

The cliffs are a sanctuary for a diverse variety of birds and mammals, and it’s their sounds that wake you up in the morning. If you fancy some exercise before breakfast, then take the nature trail leading through the forest and spot all kinds of birds, including Palawan hornbills. Along the way, energetic macaque monkeys leap out at you, before  you end up in a secluded cove for a refreshing swim, then it’s a boat transfer back to the hotel.

Lagen Island poolFood is pretty good here as Lagen Island serves only sustainable menus using greens organically grown from their gardens. Locally caught fish is a feature and both international cuisine and Filipino dishes are offered at the Clubhouse Restaurant. It’s normally buffet style, although private romantic dinners at Lagen Island’s Garden Chapel, by the beach, or in one of the many beautiful islands in Bacuit Bay can be arranged.

So what to do all day? There’s a large pool, spa, massage cabana and, if you’re into snorkelling, the crystal clear waters will ensure you’re rewarded with stunning close-ups of the diverse marine life. Otherwise, kayaks are provided, so you can tour the shallow lagoon or paddle to beaches round the corner, exploring hidden caves. The island is PADI certified, with a complete range of diving equipment and offers a variety of dive courses. There are more than 20 diving sites, all easily accessible by boat nearby.

Snake IslandIsland hopping is also an option as El Nido Resorts also own Miniloc Island and the newly opened eco-luxury property, Pangulasian Island, both less than an hour away. In reality, most of the 45 island and islets of El Nido are not much more than craggy limestone outcrops, jutting out of the sea like cathedrals, covered in tropical vegetation, with sandy coves at their base. Guests of Lagan can visit the restaurants on Miniloc and at Dibuluan Beach Club, or take a picnic to Entalula Beach Club.  It’s also worth exploring several natural attractions including Cathedral Cave, Cudugnon Cave, Snake Island, and the Big and Small Lagoons, all easily accessible by boat.

But, if like me, you just want to enjoy sitting on the veranda of your own private island, then you won’t be going too far. This is a unique place to unwind and just enjoy being surrounded by the ocean, with no sounds of traffic, everything natural. The drawback? For the elderly or infirm, then the boat transfers are probably too demanding, but the crew are there to give you a hand and your luggage is transported separately. If you’re a 60+ spring chicken like me, you’ll think all your birthdays have come at once and won’t be able to leave.

El Nido Resorts Lagen Island
Palawan, Philippines
+63 2 902 5980
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Rupert Parker

Writer, photographer, cameraman & TV producer

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