We are on our way to El Nido, Palawan Island, one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines, if not the world!
How to get there?
There are several options to get to El Nido, the northernmost municipality of Palawan. A direct flight from Manila or Cebu is probably the most convenient way but the more budget friendly options is to fly to Puerto Princesa in Central Palawan and arrange a minivan to El Nido (5 hour drive, 500 pesos per person).
Another option is to take the ferry from Manila, which we recommend if you plan on stopping in Coron island along the way for some awesome shipwreck diving.
Lio Villas Resort
After a few nights in El Nido town we decided to move to a closeby village called Lio, only 10 minute tricycle ride from El Nido. Here in the lush green jungle of Palawan we found the atmosphere to be different; instead of noisy tricycles we only heard the sounds of joyful children playing basketball, singing from the local church and roosters crowing.
There aren’t many accommodation options in Lio, but we were lucky to find Lio Villas, a newly opened luxury resort quietly tucked away from the main road.
Our week long stay was perhaps one of the most relaxing time we have had so far during our Asia adventure.
Lets tell you why!
Fresh fruits and shakes by the pool at Lio Villas
Personal service to a new level
The owners Nick and Mylene, along with their two wonderful kids, ensure that you will enjoy you stay to the fullest and make you feel right at home. They are both very relaxed and easy to get along with. They will help you with everything you might need; wether it’s arranging an island hopping tour, hiring a bike or sharing some secrets on less visited pearls in the area. Lio Villas isn’t a mega resort with hundreds of rooms, so it never feels overcrowded and the relaxed atmosphere makes it easy to meet other guests. Likewise you really get to know Nick and Mylene and the rest of the staff. In the end you really feel like you’re a part of the family.
Mac Neil, the friendly resort manager
The talented chef from Manila
The air-conditioned bamboo huts are really spacious and traditionally designed. We noticed the high ceiling that ensures proper ventilation inside the room. The king size size bed has a soft foam mattress which made our sleep reviving and the romantic canopy kept the mosquitoes away. The bathroom is neatly designed with a lot of space (making Ása happy) and has a rainfall-style shower with hot water. Other amenities include a working desk and a large wardrobe.
In front of our luxury hut
The Pool Area
The pool is one of the resorts main treasures! Spotlessly cleaned everyday, surrounded by tropical gardens, the pool becomes the center of paradise. The cool water is the perfect escape during hot summer days and we really enjoyed chilling by the banks with our fresh mango shakes (you can’t find better tasting mangoes in the world). It makes for some picture perfect holiday photos!
Beautiful flowers in the garden
We ate at a couple of restaurants in El Nido town, but none of them came close to the restaurant at Lio Villas. They emphasise on the highest quality ingredients which they buy fresh from the local market. One day, we got a ride with Nick and Mylene to the market where they taught us how to pick the best mangoes and introduced us to the local ingredients.
The local market in El Nido
Fresh fish from the bay
Their chef is a specialist in Philippino cuisine and makes the best chicken adobo we’ve tasted so far. The rosemary chicken was also a favorite, served with pomodoro sauce and garden vegetables. We went for the stuffed squid one evening which was surprisingly tasty. We’ll let the pictures talk…
Stuffed squid with soy and vinegar on the side
Delicious chicken adobo
The breakfast is included in the room price and you can choose between a Philippino or a Continental/American breakfast. We recommend going for the Philippino breakfast at least once during your stay; the sweetened pork strips are delicious and different from anything we’ve tasted before. Also don’t miss out on the pancakes! The breakfast includes a complimentary coffee/tea or juice.
The lounge area includes the restaurant, the bar, the check-in desk and a chilling zone with comfy chairs in each corner. It has a massive straw roof that keeps you in the shade when the sun is roaring and gives you an overview of the garden and pool area. This was our haven after a long day out exploring and we just loved hanging out there with an ice cold San Miguel listening to some awesome tunes from Nick’s playlist. We had a few nice chats with Mac Neil, the lovely resort manager who always made sure that we had everything we needed. The wifi was stable and worked properly during our stay, especially in the common area, and made it easy for us to plan our future travels. On the contrary, in El Nido town the wifi was often spotty, since everybody is competing for the same signal.
The best pineapple shake!
The lounge area sheltered under the massive straw roof
Although El Nido is the gateway to most activities in the area, especially diving and island hopping, we quickly realised the benefits of planning our accommodation a little bit outside of town. First of all, El Nido is getting a bit crowded and the quality/price ratio is getting lower. Secondly, tricycles are everywhere, and it did bother us a little being asked 10 times a day wether we liked a ride to nearby attractions. Lastly the beach in El Nido is not suitable for swimming, since all the sewerage flows into the water in that area. Don’t get me wrong, even though El Nido isn’t the most charming town in the world, your reason for visiting isn’t the town itself, rather the pristine waters and the captivating limestone islands in the surrounding Bacuit Bay.
As we said before, being located a little outside of El Nido has its merits and we really loved being in our quite little paradise away from stress and tricycle hustlers. Many of the best beaches are all outside El Nido; one of Nick’s and Mylene’s best advice was to visit Nacpan beach, which is a 30 min ride from their resort (saving you 10 minutes compared to leaving from El Nido).
You can easily rent a motorbike from Lio Villas and ride to Nacpan beach
Also if you arrive by air you won’t be disappointed to know that the airport is only 3-4 min from Lio village. If you need to visit the ATM (just opened a few weeks ago) or chill at a café in El Nido, you can always ask Mac Neil to arrange a tricycle to town and you’ll be there in 10-15 minutes.
On our way to Nacpan beach!
Stunning Nacpan beach
Island Hopping Tours
Island Hopping is one of the most popular activities in El Nido. The limestone islands in the Bacuit bay are often compared to Halong bay in Vietnam, just less crowded and the water is much clearer. During the tour you’ll discover hidden beaches and secret lagoons, perfect for swimming or snorkeling. Don’t worry about getting hungry; at lunch time you’ll be feasting on an amazing lunch buffet. If you need more information on the tours don’t hesitate to ask the staff at Lio Villas. They can easily arrange the booking for you.
Tour A: Snorkel tour to lagoons on Miniloc Island, Simisu Island, and 7 Commando.
Tour B: Tour to Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave, Lagen Island, Inabuyutan Island, Cathedral Cave.
Tour C: Big snorkel tour around Matinloc Island and Tapiutan Island, with a visit to the Secret Beach. You have a big chance to see turtles.
If you are looking for a luxurious stay in El Nido’s countryside we truly recommend staying at Lio Villas. The highlights of our stay were the incredibly personal service, the tasty food and the picture perfect pool. We’ll definitely be checking in again at Lio Villas during our next visit to El Nido!
For more information and reservations check out their website at www.liovillas.com
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