Palawan isn't called the "most beautiful island in the world" for nothing. Stunning landscapes and clear blue water are just two reasons why thousands of tourists flock here each year, with El Nido being a starting point for many. The beach town has a slew of restaurants, bars and shops to keep one entertained for hours. Embarking on a romantic getaway? Here are tips on where to eat, sleep and play.
Assuming you'll have breakfast at your hotel, consider grabbing lunch in town. El Nido Boutique and Artcafe is a smart choice for lunch or dinner, as it directly overlooks the water. The menu is fairly extensive but Italian cuisine is definitely their specialty (think pastas and pizzas). The main level has comfortable seating near the bar for casual snacks and upstairs has tables for larger groups.
Come evening, there's no better spot to watch the sunset than Republica Sunset Bar (Corong Corong). Besides offering cold beer and refreshing cocktails while diners take in the view, the Spanish-owned restaurant serves flavorful tapas and paella. If staying in the downtown area, take a tricycle ride, as the joint is located outside the city center. Stop by for a drink and then head into the town proper for dinner.
A trip to El Nido is not complete without a meal at Squidos. There are two options: the downtown location and Squidos Hilltop Bar. Known for serving up traditional Filipino dishes and fresh seafood, this is an ideal place to experience local cuisine. Their seafood curry is always a hit with diners, as is their seafood pasta, stuffed squid and buttered crab. Serving sizes are large so come hungry!
An average hotel can sometimes put a damper on an otherwise great trip but luckily, El Nido has some very romantic offerings. For something quiet yet convenient, opt for the Cliffside Cottages. Just 5-10-minute walks to the beach, the cottages feel secluded and upscale, making this a perfect choice for honeymooners. Décor is simple but the garden views are unbeatable.
For something even more luxurious, head straight to El Nido Cove Resort. It's about a 15-20-minute tricycle ride to the beach but still very accessible. Located right on the water, hotel guests have free access to kayaks and snorkel gear. Rooms are spacious and decorated with simple yet stylish furnishings. One of the biggest perks of staying right on the water is getting a clear shot of El Nido's famous sunset.
If money is no object, splurge on a few nights at Pangulasian Island. All 42 of the deluxe accommodations feature innovative "green" design and the amenities are even more impressive. There's also no shortage of beautiful landscape like a tropical forest where flora and fauna thrive and a white sand beach that stretches for 750 meters. Calling all snorkelers! The resort is nearby to the colorful coral reefs.
Palawan is a top beach destination and naturally, many of El Nido's excursions center around the ocean. Spend a day island hopping where you can explore the lateral beauty on land and underwater. Many tour companies include a freshly prepared lunch served on a secluded beach as part of the price. Best of all is the view. You'll sail past limestone islands, rainforest, rocky coves and sandy beaches.
Challenge yourself with a three hour-round trip hike to the top of Mount Taraw, a name that means towering limestone cliffs. The trek is suitable for moderate to advanced hikers and while tiring at times, the view is worth the climb. Try to start the day early so you can avoid both crowds and the afternoon heat. Alternatively, aim for late afternoon to coincide with sunset. Remember to bring your camera!
Another interactive way to tour El Nido is to learn a new sport. To up the romance factor, pick a soft adventure sport like kayaking or Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP). In many cases, tourists can rent kayaks for the day and explore beaches at their leisure. Windsurfing is another popular skill to master. Either rent equipment or sign up for a beginner class and learn from the pros.
By Megan Eileen McDonough of Bohemian Trails.