About half way through my motorbike trip around Palawan Island, I stopped in El Nido, a stunning limestone cliff-studded island paradise. This was my first trip back since 4 years earlier, and I
barely recognized the place. It’s amazing how much can change in 4 years. Entire neighborhoods have been built, along with countless new hotels and resorts.
Honestly, I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the changes. It seemed my little piece of paradise was gone forever. I navigated through swarms of people and tricycles crowding the narrow streets, slowly making my way to my new home for the next few nights–“The Nest El Nido”.
Here, with an absolutely stunning view looking out to iconic Cadlao Island, I was able to relax after a longggg ride in the sun. It was only then that my head cleared a bit, and the hotel manager informed me of something. He said that while the town has definitely grown, the crowds I experienced were probably just all the school kids getting out at the same time, temporarily choking up the streets. Whew!
“The Nest El Nido” is a family-owned and operated resort situated in Caalan, on my favorite and more remote side of town. This is the area I walked past each afternoon 4 years ago, when I would
journey up the beach to photograph beautiful island sunsets.
This resort has a special place in my heart, and for several reasons. First of all, the design aesthetics are just my style. I love the tasteful blending of “modern” and “beachy”. It’s truly a classy place, but with a nice, laid back feel to it.
The garden landscape in the center of the resort is quite expansive, and beautifully designed. Gardening is a passion of the owner, and amazingly, she did all this landscaping herself! Yes, this resort is a real family affair - a homecoming and a labor of love, all wrapped up in one. Keep reading and you'll see why...
The outside villa windows are basically perfect mirrors, which not only insures complete privacy for guests inside, but also reflects the stunning beauty of the garden and views of Cadlao Island across the sea! It gives the cozy property quite a colorful and spacious feel. Nice touch!
I mentioned that the resort is family owned and operated, but I did not mention that it is Filipino owned and operated–something that is unfortunately rare for high-end properties in the
Philippines, and even more rare because the land this property is on has belonged to this family for over 6 decades! Seriously, I loved hearing this story…
He was a WWII soldier stationed in Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan. After the war, stories of a wild and scenic paradise pulled him north. He kept going further and further, eventually reaching this fabled Shangri-La at the top of the island.
Aside from a few Chinese fishermen, the village of El Nido was unknown to the world, just a spec on the edge of a remote Philippine island. Here, in this enchanting paradise, the man saw potential. He put down roots...eventually fell in love and married a local girl. They started a family.
He became the town postmaster, and owner of its largest store, which he ran out of his own home. The store, called "IBR", is still there today!
He was one of the only residents earning any kind of decent salary. As you can imagine, there wasn't a lot to spend the money on in a sleepy seaside village, so he just started buying land. It was so cheap...the family thinks he purchased the land the resort is on for just $20! Think about how much it must be worth all these years later, being situated in the most sought-after part of the #1 island in the world!
Smart man, and it's incredible that the family held on to it all these years.
When his daughter grew up, she got married and started a family in Alaska, of all places. After the kids were grown, they left the bitter cold to return home to the Philippines, and live her dream of having a resort in the paradise of her childhood. Pretty amazing to find original land owners in El Nido going all the way back 60+ years!
As mentioned, she handles all the gardening. The design and construction was carried out by her husband and her son Michael, who also does an excellent job managing the place, along with his lovely wife Christine. You can see the 3 of us posing for a picture below (along with much of the resort staff:) The family is incredibly humble and down-to-earth. They made me feel right at home.
(Click photos for more info)
I was there before the kitchen was even finished being built, and before they were offering lunch and dinner meals. However, I did get to do a taste-test, and was also able to experience a mouth-watering breakfast, including fruit that was locally grown across the water on beautiful Cadlao island! Did I mention I also ate some of the best bacon I have ever tasted in my life? Imagine the best bacon you’ve ever had, and that you're eating it here:
I experienced a massage on the upper level here as well. You can’t beat the relaxing sound of island waves crashing during a blissful massage. REAL waves, mind you. This is not an iPod playing:)
I think they also plan on having yoga classes up there...all with an absolutely stunning view!
My villa felt warm and inviting. The little details made all the difference in the world…things like the fresh, aromatic smell of the soap, and even the soft, oversized bath towels! I never realized a towel could smell so good. Bedding feels luxurious and inviting as well.
(Click photos for more info)
Another thing I loved is the craftsmanship of all the furniture on the property–it’s all locally sourced, or made directly on the property!
Send load to friends and family in the Philippines!
These views are my favorite part about being in El Nido. The daytime shot was taken directly from the resort restaurant, I believe. The sunset shot was taken at a nice secluded spot about 10 minutes north up the beach. You just need to keep trekking along the beach until the sunset comes into view.
Sorry if I can’t stop gushing about this place. I guess I left a little piece of myself there. I love everything about it–the story, the people who run it, and the neighborhood it’s situated in.
I’m not the only one, apparently they are already booked solid for months out, and it's not even completely finished yet!
Yes, it goes without saying that you should book as far in advance as you can. Enjoy this little piece of paradise, and please send the family my best!
Check rates and read reviews HERE
- Nathan Allen
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