A secluded retreat of El Nido, Palawan, The Philippines: El Nido Resorts - Pangulasian Island
Thinking of running away from El Nido town and staying at one of the high-end resorts in the middle of El Nido’s Bacuit Bay? Are you looking for a fuss-free vacation in which the resort itself is the entire island? Look no further, El Nido Resorts - Pangulasian Island is renowned for its understated luxury served up, in spades, and for its space and privacy. Despite the pandemic, Edmund and I were fortunate to stay at the resort for 4 days 3 nights in the middle of March 2021 under El Nido’s travel bubble initiative.
5 weeks after our first pandemic vacation in Boracay, we packed again for another holiday and this time for El Nido in Palawan! The fact that we booked our vacations to both Boracay and El Nido shows how much we crave for the sea and for the sun after being confined within Manila’s urban jungle for so long during the early days of the pandemic.
El Nido Resorts is a group of eco-resorts located in the municipalities of El Nido and Taytay in northern Palawan. There are 4 island properties under El Nido Resorts. Pangulasian Island, which is the most luxurious; while the other 3 are Apulit, Miniloc and Lagen Islands.
In response to the slow reopening of the tourism sector in the Philippines during these unprecedented times, El Nido Resorts initiated to prepare its collection of resorts with 3-night travel bubble vacations inclusive of return flights from Manila. After all the comparisons made, we decided to choose Pangulasian Island - dubbed as El Nido Resorts’ Eco-Luxury island resort in Bacuit Bay, El Nido.
The next we had to do were to choose the pre-determined dates set aside by the management of El Nido Resorts and to get ourselves swab-tested not earlier than 48 hours from the departure date.
Under the travel bubble, guests can only travel via AirSwift’s chartered flights from Asian Aerospace Corporation’s private hangar in the Manila airport. Once our luggage was handed over at the baggage drop-off point, we were quickly escorted to a private lounge. As opposed to what I read from past reviews, refreshments were not provided in the lounge, which was something we expected since we were travelling under the “new normal” amidst the pandemic. The journey from Manila to El Nido took us about an hour. From up above, it was fascinating to see the landscape change from urban-crowded Manila to lush and mountainous Mindoro, just before crossing the sea and landing at El Nido’s Lio Airport.
For safety purposes, we were assigned to designated seats in the arrival hall with our names on it. It was not long until we were called and were then escorted to a van for a short ride to the jetty lounge. Here, we were given life jackets and on arrival, we were fetched by the private buggy. Riding through the buggy along the long jetty and being surrounded by the ocean and the beach were the perfect start to our El Nido Resorts experience.
The only setback during the transfer was that we had to move from the small boat to the speed boat and similarly from the speed boat back to the small boat upon reaching the resort. We had an amazing 30-minute boat ride where we were able to enjoy the ocean breeze while admiring the surrounding limestone islands of the Bacuit Archipelago. Being able to recognise Pangulasian Island from afar, I immediately pointed it out to Edmund given the island’s long and idyllic beach and cove which looked exactly as what we had seen from the pictures online.
The moment we stepped onto the palm-fringed paradise, we felt as if we left the real world behind. We were welcomed by the resort’s friendly staff and then escorted to the main restaurant called Amianan Restaurant for our first lunch right before checking-in to our respective villa. With the effort of the resort to have the check-in to be truly contactless under the new normal of travelling, we were asked to fill the required forms out right after we placed our reservation with the resort prior. Hence, we bypassed the front desk!
We entered our villa through a flight of steps where there was also a water station at the bottom to wash off the sand from our feet. As we were walking up to the balcony, the beautiful view of the Bacuit Bay slowly unveiling was completely breathtaking.
There are four types of villas in Pangulasian Island: the Canopy Villa, the Beach Villa, the Pool Villa and the Kalaw Villa - with the Canopy Villa as the most affordable. As requested, we stayed at Pool Villa #28. Regardless of the villa category, each villa has a floor area of 65 square metres plus and a 15-square-metre private balcony. However, since we booked a Pool Villa, it has an additional 22-square-metre private pool attached to the balcony - allowing us to bask in serenity while enjoying the perfect view of Pangulasian's sandy cove and Bacuit Bay's outlying islands.
Spacious, tactile and modern yet respectful to Filipino elements, the villa uses local materials that blend harmoniously with the island’s natural surroundings. The bathroom is very spacious with a separate shower stand and two vanities. Believe it or not, there is a long comfortable day bed in the bathroom! There is also a refreshment counter behind the king-sized bed where you can find a kettle, a coffee machine, some bottled water and free snacks.
Each villa also gets three hats in different sizes, water containers and an eco-friendly bayong bag for beach necessities. A basket of fresh fruits and a bottle of wine were also part of the welcome gifts given by the resort. The resort is environmentally conscious so they provide refillable bottles as no plastic is used in the entire resort.
If I had to choose my most favourite part of the Pool Villa, then it would be the view from the bed, it faced an extensive view of the infinity pool together with Bacuit Bay’s surrounding islands as the backdrop. Not to mention waking up to the sound of the gentle waves lapping on the shore!
The only complaint we had was the lack of privacy between the villas. But this could be possibly due to the almost 100% occupancy rate under the travel bubble despite during the pandemic. Also, the vegetation between the villas could have been denser to ensure better privacy to all guests. However, it was by no way something that would stop us from coming back!
Of all the 4 properties under El Nido Resorts, Pangulasian Island is the most luxurious one. Fondly known as the “Island of the Sun”, the resort is said to boast gorgeous views of both the sunrise and sunset. The location is very ideal because it is not far from all the important spots El Nido has to offer but still provides the right seclusion that we were looking for. The weather during our visit was mostly overcast – which was quite unusual for early March as it is supposed to guarantee lots of sun and warmth. But fortunately, that did not affect our trip at all!
The resort and surroundings were stunning, a perfect marriage of design and nature. It has a 750-metre white sand beach overlooking Bacuit Bay with 42 villas split across the Canopy, Beach, Pool and Kalaw villa categories. We loved the look and feel of the villas which were rustic yet luxurious. Unlike the beachfront of all the Beach Villas and for those who intend to stay in the Pool Villa like ours, you must expect that it is not advisable to swim at the beach right in front the Pool Villas as the rocks and corals on shallow waters are sharp. The resort is also a home to its own marine sanctuary; just steps away from the beach, the island has its own house reef teeming with abundant coral life.
Do not be surprised! You might have an encounter with the real residents of the island, such as monitor lizards and monkeys!
The resort has three restaurants - Amianan Restaurant, Pool Bar and Beach Bar. Amianan Restaurant is the main dining area right on the beachfront. Meanwhile as the name suggests, the Pool Bar is located right next to the communal pool with a casual al fresco bar that is right on the beachfront for you to take in the views while sipping on your drink. However due to the pandemic, the Beach Bar was closed during our visit.
We did not use the gym but it was equally beautiful, it was perched up and contoured around the natural surroundings with all the Canopy Villas.
From the onset until the end of our vacation, the entire staff had given their best effort to make our visit an unforgettable one. They were very accommodating and would always display the kindest smile on their faces. We felt welcomed on the first day when they were waiting for our arrival. And on our last day, they even waved at us while we were on the way to our boat to take us back to the main island.
Special mention to Athena, the Guest Activity Coordinator during our visit, for being so patient and accommodating - especially on the planning of our daily activities, be it all-inclusive tours or private tours. A very special thanks to our instructor Richard, he knew how to give us our privacy during the tour but also engage us with conversation about the landscape, marine life, culture and the topography of the islands around us. We were really impressed with his enthusiasm that we even specially requested for him to be our guided instructor for the private tour on the last day.
Not to forget the staff in the restaurant for being so accommodating with our food preferences. Our most favourite staff would have to be Jude who was very cheerful and attentive, he almost served like our personal waiter. Also, we appreciate the resort’s gesture in arranging us for a private dinner by the beach, in conjunction of our belated anniversary so that we can have a quiet and intimate celebration.
The only mistake that could have been avoided would be Edmund was mistook as “Ms. Chiew” instead of “Mr. Chiew”. But other than that, I would rate the resort’s services to be very good overall!
Food & Beverages
Except for our private dinner by the beach on our second night, we had all our meals at Amianan Restaurant. But of course, all meals can be served wherever your heart desires. Thanks to the resort’s care for detail, you can enjoy bespoke meals and drinks from the privacy of your villa.
Due to the “new normal” in travelling, serviced buffet was being observed at the kitchen. We just had to go to the kitchen and asked the staff to refill whichever we chose. The only thing we did not like about being in the resort though was how limited the food selection was. However, I must say, we were impressed with the quality of the food! In fact, in my humble opinion, I enjoyed the food served in the resort more than what we had in Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa a month prior.
It is worth to highlight that the seafood platter served was very generous with none of the usual cheap fillers like cockles and shells, but rather we had very high quality fresh grilled prawns and squids! We had it almost every single lunch and dinner to the extent that we were worried of our cholesterol levels towards the end of the vacation.
It could be due to the pandemic in which we were the only foreigners during our batch of the travel bubble, the food served was mostly Filipino - especially the breakfast which we thoroughly enjoyed!
Activities and Excursions
Well, given the strategic location of Pangulasian Island in the middle of El Nido’s Bacuit Bay, you simply have no excuse for not exploring the best of El Nido! There is an endless list of activities available for both adults and children alike.
Most of the activities that we had involved the need to be on a boat. However, the great part is that our resort ensures a small group for each tour, they managed to limit 4 persons for each of the tour that we had. In fact, we availed the second complimentary tour with the same couple since we got closer from our first tour with them.
There are a list of tours and activities offered by the resort, not all are complimentary. The complimentary tours that we had cover several spots such as Big Lagoon, Entalula Beach, Secret Lagoon, Miniloc Island and Small Lagoon. However, we did not manage to avail all the complimentary tours as there was so much to see in a short span of time.
We did hire a private tour to visit Secret Beach and Matinloc Shrine on our final day. This was opposed to our travel rhythm as we usually prefer to be lazy on our last day. The best part is that we were on our own schedule as we had the boat to ourselves.
We were given to understand that during the pre-pandemic times, staying in Pangulasian Island also gives you access to visit the other El Nido Resorts’ properties. Meanwhile, guests staying in the islands of Miniloc, Lagen or Apulit cannot go to Pangulasian Island.
Overall, we had a great time in exploring the best of El Nido! Due to the pandemic and the timing set by the resort to give the best possible experience to its guests, we had almost all the spots that we visited completely to ourselves.
If you are looking for a private island retreat in the middle of Bacuit Bay with the attractions of El Nido within a short boat ride, then El Nido Resorts - Pangulasian Island is definitely the place for you! Pangulasian Island is not only a luxury escape, but is also sustainable in every aspect of its operation.
Edmund and I had a pleasant stay in the resort, though we would love to have stayed longer for another one or two more nights. That is, if our trip was not the travel bubble set by the resort.
Also, El Nido is so gorgeous with all the awe-inspiring limestone cliffs. I must admit that El Nido was hardly on top of my bucket list of destinations to visit here in the Philippines given the impression of how touristic it was during the pre-pandemic times. The travel bubble initiative amid the pandemic by the island resort was brilliant that we definitely enjoyed El Nido thoroughly and it truly exceeded our expectations!
For bookings and inquiries, you may check their official website here.
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST. IT IS BASED ON OUR EXPERIENCE LAST MARCH 2021. ALL PHOTOS, THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.
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