With hoards of tourists taking over well-known beachside destinations in South East Asia like Bali and the Maldives, it's no wonder that serious travellers are now looking to explore more untouched areas in the region.
El Nido has become a hotspot for divers and beach bums alike, with looming islands and beautiful caves as well as pristine sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. Nestled amongst this raw beauty (and just an hour plane ride from Manila) lies Pangulasian Island, one of the few luxury hotels under the El Nido Resorts group and recently voted one of the "Best Resorts in the World" according to the 2018 Readers' Choice Awards.
Here are 5 reasons you should visit this incredible island:
1. A secluded sanctuary
Just a hop and a skip from Hong Kong, El Nido is close enough to make it an easy getaway yet far enough to deter those who aren't committed to visit this sandy sanctuary. After a two-hour flight to Manila, guests transfer to a smaller plane for a one-hour flight to El Nido, where hotel staff are on the ground, ready to welcome you with refreshments at the dock. From there, it's just a 45-minute boat ride to the resort, which takes up its own island and at the heart of the region's must-see spots and snorkeling sites.
2. Nature untouched
One of the first things you'll be told upon arrival is to not be alarmed if you come across monkeys or water monitor lizards around the resort. Take one step off the powdery soft beach into the water and you'll see patches of busy coral amidst silky sand where the marine life rivals that the Maldives. It is not uncommon to see harmless black tip reef sharks and sea turtles. There is a sense of purity reserved for places that have yet to see direct flights and international hotel chains, so be sure to rent one of the resort's beautiful glass bottom kayaks and Go Pros for your stay.
3. Luxury with integrity
A common theme amongst the El Nido Resorts is that rather than forcing a luxury compound onto the islands' banks, the structures are very much integrated into its natural habitat. Rooms are spacious with wide, welcoming balconies, some of which overlook the beach (with each villa given its own set of chaises in front), others sit amongst trees with a more birds-eye view of the ocean. Inside, the large, canopied beds give way to a fully-stocked bathroom (nearly of equal size to the bedroom) complete with complimentary locally made hats (of three different sizes, no less), woven bags and resort-friendly slippers.
Other hotels in the group, like Lagen Island and Miniloc, which cater to those who prefer island-hopping, do not have private beaches but instead feature over-water villas.
4. Personalised service
You can expect impeccable service in the form of staff who know your room number—and drink order—by heart, and recognise anything you might need without you asking, but one experience you shouldn't miss is a private dinner on the beach. More than your typical romantic candle-lit dinner, El Nido Resorts offers a variety of locations to have a romantic meal, including the Snake Island sand bar, several beach clubs and secluded beachfronts, and a floating platform just off the Pangulasian beach where a dedicated butler pours wine by the glass as you lounge on bean bags in the middle of the ocean.
Another can't-miss activity? Get a private boat tour around the islands. The friendly and knowledgeable guides, many of whom were born and raised on these very waters, know when to visit each site to avoid the crowds, and can take you to nooks you otherwise wouldn't find yourself.
5. Conservation efforts
Beyond many hotels' eco-friendly standards, like encouraging fewer changes of linen, El Nido Resorts takes it one step further to preserve its beautiful wildlife. Complementary stainless steel bottles are offered to every guest with water refill stations planted around the resort, but guests are also encouraged to wear coral-safe sunscreen and not collect any sea shells during their stay.
Each year, a competition is held where staff brainstorm ways to make the resorts more sustainable. One former winner took transformed plastic bottles into floatation fillers for all the resorts' kayaks. Every few weeks, guests are invited to join a beach-cleaning day on an island dedicated to conserving turtles. We can't think of a better way to bring your trip to a meaningful end.
(See also: 6 Luxury Eco Resorts For The Perfect Honeymoon)