Summed up: El Nido is literally heaven on earth; a smattering of tiny uninhabited islands full of deserted bays and quite possibly the bluest, clearest water in the world. The coastal town itself is simple, rustic and local, dusty laneways with ramshackle shops and a handful of delicious eateries. But, it’s the surrounding area and stunning views that will absolutely knock your socks off. Located on the northern tip of the island of Palawan it has recently been voted the #1 island in the world by Conde Nast readers and once you clap eyes on this incredible paradise it’s easy to see why. Often referred to as the Philippines’ last frontier, its endless white beaches, crystal jade-coloured waters and dramatic limestone jagged cliffs will make you feel like you’ve wandered into a movie set. And indeed it was, the last scene in the Bourne Legacy was filmed here. Local legend also has it that Alex Garland penned his bestseller “The Beach” in El Nido and it’s spectacular scenery was the real inspiration for his book….if it’s good enough for Hollywood it’s good enough for us! Flabbergastingly idyllic this is a truly magical place to enjoy splendid isolation….for now. Why we chose El Nido: We’d heard wistful, glowing recommendations from friends urging us to go there. After a quick poke around the internet we were drooling over glorious beaches and stunning scenery. With long, lazy days at the beach, wild encounters and all-day boating adventures on offer it sounded right up our street. Remote enough to offer adventure El Nido is also developed enough to offer the facilities and conveniences we need to keep everyone comfy and happy. The weather was: Incredible; spotless blue skies and bright sunshine. The climate can vary throughout The Philippines at the drop of a hat, but generally the best time to visit is from December to May, avoiding the rainy, typhoon and hot seasons. Where we stayed: I can't tell you how happy we were to find Angel El Nido. A wonderful little resort located in Caalan Beach it’s a short amble from bustling El Nido. Simple turquoise cottages each with their own wooden verandah to watch the incredible sunsets from. In the distance, just at the water’s edge, you’ll spot a couple a couple of hammocks hanging between the palm trees. We stayed in cottage #1 - closest to the beach. The cottage was a good size (well good by Filipino standards where we’ve been crammed into rooms smaller than your average downstairs loo). Super clean; we had fresh towels every day, hot water and air-con. No fridge but the lovely staff stashed our bits and bobs in the fridge and delighted in prepping Millie’s nightly bottle for us. Breakfast was delicious - on tables perched over the bay you can soak up the tranquility and ogle at the view whilst you tuck into pancakes, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and Italian coffee - what more could you wish for. The staff are so welcoming and hospitable and we were really made to feel at home here. I was lucky enough to have my birthday in El Nido and had a wonderful night at the Angel “bar” celebrating with the owner, staff and other guests! Our stay here made our trip so special and we’d highly recommend it. Be warned El Nido was literally bursting at the seams when we visited and without a booking well in advance you’d be hard pressed to find something off the cuff. What do we do all day: 9 days in El Nido was just right for us - enough time to thoroughly explore the incredible area at a slow pace whilst building in down days to keep the little ones happy. You can certainly do it quicker but we were happy to linger a little longer in such a wonderful place. With 45 islands and inlets to choose from there is incredible island hopping to be had. Every morning visitors wade out to bangka boats to explore nearby Islands and lagoons, snorkel in crystal clear waters and discover caves and hidden beaches. We took 2 boat trips (A & C); A is the most popular and covers the best known lagoons and beaches in the area. Centred around Miniloc Island you’ll be treated to 7th Commando Beach, Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon and finish up at Secret Lagoon. You can ogle at stunning island scenery and snorkel in crystal clear blue-green waters. Our most memorable moment was navigating our way into “Small Lagoon” where we had a hair-raising swim towards a tiny crack in the rocks at high tide to get in! The girls were proper troopers and charmed everyone on the tour with their bravery and adventurous spirit. Tour A is seriously impressive but as all the boats all visit the same islands in the same order (why-oh-why-oh-why?) at times it was teeming with tourists. Our second trip Tour C was by far our favourite - our crew were super friendly and let us decide on our destinations. We had a full day’s boating adventure exploring pockets of hidden beaches, our own deserted island to bask on and a secret lagoon all by ourselves to swim in. They also cooked up an incredibly delicious lunch of chicken, fish, squid salads and fresh fruits. Just perfect. Back on dry land you’ll be spoilt for choice by all the gobsmackingly glorious beaches. Our favourite was Los Cabanos - a short 10 minute tricycle ride away from El Nido this long curving bay of powdery white sand slopes gently into the warm, blue sea. With plenty of shady palm trees and the laid-back "Beach Shack" on hand for long-leisurely lunches it's hard to beat a day here. If you want to head further afield jump aboard a tricycle for 45 minute ride to the utterly stunning Nacpan beach. Sure it's dusty and bumpy but it's so worth it. Enjoy splendid isolation on a beautiful wide, sandy beach. With a few small waves Jessica relished the chance to learn body-surfing for the first time! Eating and Drinking: We’d been warned that food in the Philippines isn’t up to much so were very pleasantly surprised to find some delicious eateries even in far-flung El Nido. Altrove with it's simple, delicious food-wired pizzas and authentic pastas has to be our family favourite - come early to avoid a queue. If Middle Eastern flavours are your thing don't miss the wonderful Blueazul - seriously the best falafel & hummus I've ever tasted. Art Cafe is a bit of an El Nido institution serving up delicious, affordable Western & local favourites in a buzzy atmosphere. We loved my birthday cocktails and dinner in upmarket sophistication at the fab Mezzanine and of course The Beach Shack was our staple for long, leisurely lunches - delicious fresh fish & chips by the seaside! Daily budget: Daily budget: The Philippines is slightly pricier than other destinations in SE Asia but it's still really affordable. Due to the isolation and inaccessibility of El Nido we did notice a bit of a hike in costs for food, drink and essentials. Accommodation varies massively - you can opt for rustic charm or splurge on 5 star luxury. Finding good quality mid-ranged, well-priced is thin on the ground so book early. We paid approx. 40GBP per night for Angel. Our total daily budget for all our activities, transport, food and drink works out at roughly 85GBP making El Nido one of the priciest spots on our trip so far. Top Tips: If I had the chance again I’d fork out the extra and hire a private boat giving you more flexibility with your route and a chance to escape the tour operators. For the more energetic and child-free you can also hire kayaks and head off on your own adventure to one of the nearby inlets and islands. To enter the National Park you pay a 200 peso entry fee. Make sure you hang onto this piece of paper as you can use if for up to 10 days. It’s like an all-access pass at a festival and good for all the islands and beaches in the El Nido area. Getting there/away: One of the reasons El-Nido remains so beautifully quiet and rowdy tourist-free is the effort it takes to get there. There are regular flights with all the budget carriers from Manila to Puerto Princesa. From here it's a 5-7 hour winding, meandering, hair-raising, tummy-swishing bus ride; you sometimes wonder if it will ever end. But El Nido certainly knows how to reward it’s visitors when you get there! If budget allows you could splurge and get a private jet from Manila direct to El Nido for around $200USD per person. El Nido is nothing short of paradise and if you're planning a trip to the Philippines you'd be mad to miss it! 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