November 28, 2023
MANILA – Vacations, while enjoyable, can hardly be considered purely relaxing. It may seem like a much-needed break, but out-of-town trips can take you away from the creature comforts of your daily routine.
Going around an unfamiliar city can make for a good time (and good photos), but it can be draining. Riding in a boat is exhilarating, but losing your valuables to the ocean remains a grim possibility. In short, a vacation is not always all fun and games.
But isn’t that the point of it? We embark on such adventures not necessarily to have it easy, but to enjoy life beyond the confines of our rooms and our cities. After all, these trips make memories we can laugh about years after—we don’t sweat the details, we smile because it happened.
And if you’re looking for moments you can look back fondly on with your friends or your family—here are 10 must-try activities you can do when you visit El Nido, Palawan.
Possibly containing the oldest rock formations and fossils in the Philippines, as well as an abundant variety of marine life in its 45 islands—there’s much to be seen in El Nido, Palawan. And if you’re curious, through Republic Act 1140, the municipality (which was once named Bacuit) was named as such after nests of swiftlets were found in the area. El Nido translates to “The Nest” in Spanish.
It would be a shame if you were to just stay in your resort—they have so much to offer! Hit the waters and explore the numerous islands around: from the likes of Snake Island and Shimizu Island to Helicopter Island and Pinagbuyutan Island.
Boats dock along the shore near Secret Lagoon | Photo courtesy of JT Fernandez
If time persists, visit the Secret Lagoon on Shimizu Island to see a naturally occurring pool of water at the center of towering limestone cliffs. Be sure to wear reliable and water-friendly footwear as you will have to walk along the reef towards the beach and into the small entrance leading to the lagoon, a small hole embedded within the limestone wall.
As it can be quite daunting, and not to mention dangerous to explore all on your own, be sure to also enlist the service of qualified touring groups. From our experience, The El Nido Leatherback Travel and Cruise team was not only helpful and mindful of our needs, but knowledgeable concerning every stop we made.
Hit the sands on Seven Commandos Beach
The story as to how Seven Commandos Beach got its name is based on two different narratives: during World War II, seven soldiers got stranded here; the other, “Seven Commando” was the name of a fishing vessel that was once marooned on the beach. Regardless of its origin, the coastline attraction is a spot you can’t miss out on.
Under the coconut trees and on the fine white sand, unwind, get that tan, and grab a drink as you revel in the wonderful weather and relaxing atmosphere. And if you’re feeling a little energetic and sporty, you can indulge in a couple of games of football and volleyball together with the locals and other tourists.
While you’re relaxing, be sure to also keep an eye out for any boat-riding vendors that may be coming ashore. From ice cream to soft drinks and juices, they have everything you would need to help you recover from the blistering heat. And if you don’t have any cash on you, don’t worry, you can pay via GCash (technological advancement at its finest).
Kayaking in Small Lagoon
While the marvelous rock formations around El Nido can be wonderful to look at from afar, nothing compares to the sight up close. Leave behind the massive boats and put your kayaking skills to the test in the popular Small Lagoon. Located around Shimizu Island, a narrow 2-3 feet entrance opens up to a wonderful ocean oasis perfect for swims and IG-worthy content.
As a warning, do leave your electronic devices and valuables aboard the boat. While you will be safe and dry on the kayak, accidents do happen—you wouldn’t want to replace your phone mid-trip. But if you want to take pictures, bring an underwater camera or place your phone in a ziplock or waterproof bag.
Enjoy the wonderful combination of pastries and coffee
After a long day of sailing the West Philippine Sea, nothing beats the wonderful combination of heart-warming pastries and delicious coffee to pick you right back up. And from our experience, those from Lamoro Hill Bakery and Lick (Lost Islands Center for Kape) are the absolute best.
Naturally leavened bread and laminated pastries are at the forefront of Lamoro Hill Bakery, located at Lio Beach. Their chocolatines and sourdough are absolutely divine, but don’t overlook their pandesal and Spanish bread too.
While occasionally collaborating with the bakery, Lick (Lost Islands Center for Kape), which can be found at Unit 12B Sitio Uno, inside Lio Estate at Barangay Villa Libertad, offers the perfect cup of coffee made from the finest and locally-sourced single single-origin beans.
Lick also offers workshops and classes on the methods for tasting and brewing coffee to those interested.
Embark on a nature-filled hike at the Lio Beach Eco-Forest Trail
Out of the water and into the forest, hiking enthusiasts are in for a treat at the Lio Beach Eco-Forest Trail. It is a 3.8-kilometer trail loop (1.9-kilometer ascent and descent) and the journey could last anywhere between 30 to 40 minutes (maybe an hour or more for the first-timers). Atop the trail is a viewing deck 82 meters above sea level that is perfect for both catching your breath and taking in the wonderful view of the surrounding islands.
Do be careful, watch your step, and make sure you’re with friends and a guide, as the path on the trail has become overgrown. Portions of the trail are also very steep and slippery due to the rain, added caution is advised.
The staff at Lio Estate can help arrange for a guide.
Shop and dine at Kalye Artisano
As shown in our recent feature on Kalye Artisano, the brainchild of Paloma Urquijo Zobel is a public space located inside the Lio Tourism Estate that showcases everything from mouth-watering bites and luscious drinks to artisanal retail shops. The island living experience on full blast, a stroll through Kalye Artisano is a demonstration of a life well lived and made worthwhile despite being removed from the comforts and the extravagance of the city.
Take it easy at Lio Beach
Name a better combination than fine white sand, calm waters, and wonderful weather. Lio Beach has it all and more, and is the perfect place to simply relax when you don’t want to do anything. Nearby, there are also several shops and restaurants to choose from—have a filling bite at the Ay Papito! food truck or grab a cold one at L’Assiette Bar and Restaurant.
If you’re a little charged with energy, you can also take part in a number of exciting and adrenaline-pumping activities. Take your pick from Bamboo Biking and Skim Boarding to Kayaking and even Surfing.
Refocus and recenter with meditation and breathwork
We often go on trips and vacations for relaxation. These fleeting moments of respite act as a way to refocus and recenter ourselves when the hustle and bustle of daily life becomes too much. But more likely than not, we only ever address our outer fatigue, a band-aid solution to a much deeper pain. At times, we need more than a fun time.
Meditation and breathwork involve a number of different movements that place stress and pressure on the body. Throughout the entire process, you are asked to carefully monitor and mindfully control your breathing. And in the same way athletes enter a state of pure focus, the exercises leave you in a similar situation—where fatigue creeps up, all the more are you inclined to shut out your surroundings in search of the strength to keep on moving.
In a sense, it’s situational meditation—an enforced quieting of the mind to combat the surrounding chaos.
Boursier, our instructor during our session, is an international Meditation and Breathwork facilitator with more than twelve years of experience. He has been trained in Meditation and Meditative Therapies in India at the OSHO International Meditation Resort. He studied Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork, and went through various shamanic initiations around the world.
He is the co-founder of The Beach Meditation in Boracay, and is now based in El Nido. His meditation and breathwork classes will also soon be offered in Bahay Artisano.
A taste of the El Nido nightlife at Pangolin
An island-themed bar awaits you in The Pangolin El Nido. Craft cocktails, delicious bites, and energy-driving music lie in store as you dance the night away to end your day on a high note. Beyond serving a good time, the bar also donates to the preservation of pangolins (the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal).
The Pangolin El Nido is located at Hama Street, Barangay Masagana.
Refresh and cool down at Gusto Gelato + Bistro
For the sweet tooths out there, cool down and treat yourself after a hot day and satiate your cravings at the Gusto Gelato + Bistro. While they serve savory meals as well, be sure to try out their Speculoos and Popcorn Caramel flavored gelatos, as well as their Nutella Mango Crêpe.
Gusto Gelato + Bistro is located at Hama Street, Barangay Masagan.