The Philippines’ slogan is so true – it really is more fun there!
We opted to fly into Cebu so we could access the ferry towards Panglao. We were so lucky to have a friend’s MIL pick us up from the airport and dropped us off at the hotel. No matter what, you have to cross a bridge to get to the city, and the ride there was as colorful as it was jam packed. It’s really humbling to see the varying socio-economic makeup within a 30-minute drive.
Our hotel, Best Western Plus Lex Cebu, was adequate for a night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast to get us ready for the next day’s journey to Panglao. Since we didn’t have a car, we walked up and down the main road and checked out a couple of restaurants. We even tried the ever-so-popular Jollibee. While it’s a religious experience for some, we didn’t quite see the allure. It’s comparable to our KFC, I suppose.
The next morning, we made our way to Panglao via a ferry and then a long car ride along the countryside. It was especially fun to see how many households had goats in their yards. From the lengthy ride through the rural landscape, it’s hard to imagine such a modern resort waiting for us.
The South Palms Resort is the perfect getaway. It’s a quiet stretch of white sand and glistening waters. Our beachfront room made the waters even more alluring. Per the resort name, the grounds are dotted with palm trees – and plenty of hammocks and swings in between. The restaurant and bar in the center of the resort made it easy to grab a drink or a snack and lounge.
Between lounging and swimming, the resort also offers plenty of recreational activities. We opted for paddle boarding since the water seemed shallow enough at the shore to deter my fear of falling over.
We didn’t want to say goodbye, but had to make our way to our final destination: El Nido!
Palawan Island consistently makes numerous top-destination lists around the world. El Nido sits on the very northern tip. Though it’s still a developing area, and many places don’t even have air conditioning, it’s definitely worth the trip. Air Swift has direct flights from various cities to El Nido, so it’s almost too easy to say yes.
We stayed at Last Frontier Beach Resort, and while it’s not as nice as the hotel in Panglao, we were mostly interested in the day tours anyway. It seemed everyone had their tours divided into four groups: A, B, C and D. We opted for the most popular two:
- Tour A: Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island & 7 Commando Beach
- Tour C: Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach & Hidden Beach
If that sounds like a lot, it was; because I can’t differentiate the beaches in my mind now. I mean, you’re on an island trying to see a bunch of smaller islands – it all starts to look like a fantastical dream of sand and water.
The tours were insanely fun and well-ran. Even though we got rained out one morning, the captain re-routed us to see one part earlier and came back to the Big Lagoon at a later time in the afternoon. This actually turned out to be the most wonderful kismet experience we could’ve had. We got to see the Big Lagoon while almost no one was around. At one point, we were one of only two canoes in the entire lagoon – and it’s a big one! Jackson Groves has a great, quick, drone video for a better idea than I can ever describe.
A couple of other things of note:
- Trike rides are the best way, and also the scariest way, around town. But do it anyway!
- The rum there is the cheapest on this planet. A bottle for $2? That’s crazy talk.