Nella Lomotan’s Insider Guide to El Nido, The Philippines

Palawan Island, in the western Philippines, has long been a secluded enclave for nomads and nature-seekers. Now, a cohort of Filipinos is striving to preserve its eclectic biodiversity and low-key ambience by combining back-to-nature experiences with community initiatives. In partnership with Corona, our #ThisIsLiving guide takes you into the off-grid wilderness of this Filipino paradise.

In partnership with

El Nido. You might recognise this Edenic Filipino region from its many appearances on the silver screen: all towering limestone formations topped with serpent-green fringes and surrounded by crystalline waters that teem with Skittles-coloured marine life. Perched in the northernmost point of Palawan Island, the most eastern landmass of the Filipino archipelago, it's a mesmeric setting. Since the 1970s, nomads and nature-seekers have been drawn to the isolation of the region's 36,000ha of protected land and 54,000ha of preserved marine beauty. It became a byword for absolute escapism - paradise found.

We won't pretend it's an under-the-radar destination, but the tide is turning on El Nido's icing-sugar beaches. Resistant to development and brazenly focused on protecting its uniqueness, a group of conscientious El Nidoites has been switching up the town and its surrounding region, streamlining eco-positive experiences and community-focused initiatives in an attempt to preserve the paradisaical character of the place. The result? The destination remains a little mysterious, a little unexpected - the electricity might cut at strange hours, and you can't rely on the WiFi.

As part of our partnership with Corona, we've called upon the expertise of environmental conservationist and El Nido inhabitant Nella Lomotan to guide us around her hometown and the coastlines beyond it. The founder of sustainable and environmental enterprise Eco Explorations and co-founder of NGO Philippine Parks and Biodiversity, Nella is at the forefront of local initiatives pairing incredible experiences with strong environmental principles. She left a corporate job to launch nature-first community development programmes in the Palawan region, and now spends her days working to protect the Philippines' myriad flora and fauna, ensuring future development not only preserves the biospheres, but also the communities (both animal and human) that call it home. You won't find her in a boardroom - she's more likely to be spotted paddling in a kayak around the limestone rock formations of the Bacuit Archipelago, her labrador pup, Mounty, tucked between her feet.

For Nella, El Nido's allure is its kaleidoscopic biodiversity, both that of its wildlife and the back-to-nature experiences on offer. You might wake up in a bamboo shelter with a soft ocean breeze on your face at dawn, dive into the riot of underwater life by lunchtime, and end your day, cold Corona in hand, on a sun-bleached beach at sunset, kicking back to a lo-fi soundtrack alongside El Nido's drifters and dreamers. From sky-tickling treetop hotels and beachside shacks to low-key surf spots and challenging hiking trails, we're diving headfirst into El Nido's protected wilderness, seeking secluded moments amid its raw, unfiltered beauty. This is living.

hotel

The Birdhouse

Experience Palawan’s lush tropical forest at this canopy-cosseted accommodation just outside El Nido. Perched on a steep hillside overlooking the golden crescent of Maremegmeg Beach, The Birdhouse’s three tented suites are built in harmony with the emerald foliage that ensconces them. Glamping tents are made from sustainably sourced local materials – tad-tad roofing, sawali bamboo mats and boho-inflected furniture – while a central restaurant, The Nesting Table, serves up a delicious farm-to-table menu. Solar power fuels the property, but there’s an emphasis on minimising guests’ reliance on resources, too. Activities are lo-fi: yoga on the roof at sunrise, treks into the trees to find solace and low-key beach days. Owners Mark and Camille have a nature-first approach: they even organise regular climate-resiliency retreats.

Address

Sito Pakalsada, Barangay Corong Corong

hotel

Tao Farm

A stay at Tao Farm is the ultimate desert-island experience. You’ll spend the night in a tuka lodge, a bamboo structure open to ocean breezes, with a soundtrack of waves lapping softly against the powder-sand beach, the rustle of palms above and the gentle clink of ice-cold beers as guests congregate on the beach. Your shower? A foliage-hidden natural spring. Dinners are plated up by Chef Mike in an open kitchen – all regional cuisine made using the harvest from a permaculture garden and the local fishermen’s daily catch. And the best bit? In escaping, you’re giving back. The farm is the home of the Tao Kalahi Foundation, which trains young people in tourism-industry skills and supports local communities. So, you’re helping yourself and helping the EL Nido community.

Address

Barangay Corong Corong

hotel

Frangipani

Minimalist Frangipani turns the tide on what eco looks like. Plastic-free, with responsible waste-management practices, it hits all the green goals, with a side helping of soft luxury. With its peach-toned sandy beach, coconut-coloured interiors and penchant for jungle foliage throughout the property, this low-key boutique hotel comfortably straddles urban sleekness and jungle escape. After a berry-fuelled iced tea upon arrival, it’s off to one of just seven rooms, all of which are decked out in creamy, neutral shades, Machuca tiles and natural touches. Freshened up? Head down to the beach, or hop aboard a boat to visit the hotel’s private Three Coconuts cove. Evenings start with a cocktail at the rattan-bedecked Rubra bar, before settling down at a table at hotel-restaurant Cala. Our pick? The flavourful coconut seafood soup, binakol.

Address

Sitio Lugadia Corong Corong