We thought that when you go travelling you spend most of your time lazing on a beach, chilling in the sunshine, sipping beers and cocktails. OK we have had a lot of beer, but hardly any beach time! That all changed when we visited The Philippines, and the island of Palawan has some incredible beaches with the clearest waters I have ever seen. According to Conde Nast, Palawan was voted the best island in the world back in 2014, and we can see why! Here is what we got up to during our stay in the north of the island in El Nido.
Our first 24 hours.
On our first day we visited Las Cabanas beach. As soon as we stepped on the public footpath we were blasted by classic tunes, ‘Wasn’t Me’ by Shaggy, ‘Ignition Remix’ by R.Kelly and so on. The beach bar at the base of the footpath knows how to party and crank it up to 11. I’m getting old so that was a little too intense for me, especially at 11am, it’s too early
. We headed further along the beach to find The Beach Shack playing summer chill-out tunes. That’s better. With chairs, tables and footstools, here you can sit, admire the view and sip on a cheeky cocktail or chilled beer. The atmosphere, the floury sand and the ice colour sea, this ranks pretty highly on my best ever beaches list.
In the evening, back in El Nido town, we treated ourselves to a Greek at Taverna Agape. Opa! That was the name of our sizzling halloumi starter, served with pita bread. We haven’t had ‘real’ cheese in such a long time, I could have eaten that 10 times over. I then opted for the classic Mousaka, Pete had Souvlaki Wrap. Sat on the beach front, watching the sun go down and the waves go out, eating tasty, tantalising food. Yep, I’m happy.
Our next 24 hours.
We visited a bunch of coral reefs, beaches and islands on our Island Hopping Tour of El Nido, and every one of them was amazing. We booked the tour locally, costing 1400 peso each (£21 each). We started at Hidden Beach, which can be entered by swimming through a tiny crevice in the rocks (there is a more open, more accessible but less fun entrance). Shallow and clear water lap onto a smooth sandy beach. Stunning.
Our next stop was a snorkelling site. We almost weren’t able to enter the water as a sheet of tiny jellyfish blocked our way, it would have been too dangerous. But the guides on our tour were somewhat rebels, and they let us jump off the back of the boat and away from the jellyfish. This was the best snorkelling site we have visited so far on our trip, hands down. Clown fish (thanks to Finding Nemo I know their actual name), parrot fish, stripy fish, big fish, fish shawls, coral and star fish were all a feast for our eyes.
Now I am squealing like a child at Christmas! Why? Well, as the boat is taking us to our next destination (Secret Beach) I hear ‘turtle, turtle, turtle!’ WHHHAAAATTT!!! There are wild turtles bobbing along in the sea, coming up for air and swimming past our boat. I am so excited that I make a noise that only dogs would hear. I love turtles!
Lumps and bumps cover the sea bed and fish play and dance between them.
Secret beach pushed me out of my comfort zone, I was pretty scared! To access secret beach, like Hidden Beach you have to swim through a crevice, there wasn’t another way in. That was fine, but the sea was pretty choppy and the swells engulfed the entrance. We could only enter one at a time and the guides positioned themselves to drag you through the hole when the swells were down. Women were screaming, only playfully, but it still didn’t help. I lined up for my turn, paddling as hard as I could, my snorkel mask is grabbed and I am hauled through the cave. Shaken a little, I made it through. Phew! Secret Beach is a lovely little cove of sea and sand, but we hit this at peak time and it was packed with tourists. Shame.
Our trip ended on Helicopter Island, named so as the shape of the hills resemble a helicopter resting in the water. Here you can choose to chill on the beach or snorkel some more, we chose the latter. This area had some huge plates of coral, the size of a child’s trampoline. There were also huge mounds like boulders in the sea. Lumps and bumps cover the sea bed and fish play and dance between them. Great end to our Island Hopping trip.
That evening, we ate at Altrove, said to be the best pizza place in El Nido. Greek on the first day, Italian the next? Yes, unfortunately we weren’t loving the food of the Philippines, it’s a little plain in flavours – sorry! So, pizza it was. We then walked along the beach front, stopping at the bars and sipping cold beers, watching the waves.
El Nido is one place I will never forget. With silky soft sand, warm waters, and parties on the beach, with colourful living coral and an aquarium of fish, and wild turtles swimming in the sea, I could not recommend this place more highly. I just wished we spent more than 48 hours here!