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Palawan Beach: Las Cabañas, El Nido

Today I want to take my time to share with you guys a wonderful experience and discovery we had on our Palawan beach vacation in El Nido, Philippines. UPDATE 2016: I wasn’t surprised one bit when Conde Nast Traveler named Palawan as the best island in the world in 2015. Although it went down one notch in 2016 and got overtaken by Boracay, but for me, Palawan is still number one.

This beach is THE stereotypical tropical beach in the Philippines (and I mean it in the best sense), but with the added bonus of having breathtaking sceneries, and its name: Las Cabanas Beach, El Nido. At the risk of sounding trite: it is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to in my life.

El Nido, Palawan, Las Cabanas Beach as seen from the road above.
El Nido, Palawan, Las Cabañas Beach as seen from the road above.

Sunsets

We were told that there was a beautiful beach right outside of El Nido town that is perfect for watching sunsets. That made us curious because we love sunsets. We wanted to go there and see for ourselves. You see, at El Nido beach there was no sunset to see. The town was shaded by a big mountain starting at 3:00pm. Then the sun disappears behind it at around 4:00pm.

How to get there

The scooter fanatics that we are, it was the easiest decision on the mode of transport we take to check Las Cabanas Beach out. A 20-minute drive along a beautiful coastal road leading out of El Nido town, the sceneries with the mountains in the water is just so different than in Oslob, Cebu.

You basically have two options to reach there:

1) By tricycle. It’s around P600-800 for two people both ways; or starting at P1,500 if you want your tricycle driver to wait for you until sundown (so that you’re guaranteed that you will be able to have a ride back to town).

2) By renting a scooter. It starts at P400 for half a day (i.e., 1:00 pm until 6:00pm). There are so many scooter rentals at El Nido town that there’s no need to be stressed out.

The coastal road going from El Nido towards Las Cabañas Beach.
The coastal road going from El Nido towards Las Cabañas Beach.

As we took off with the rented scooter, we didn’t really know what to expect, nor know exactly where to go. We ended up driving many kilometers off course. We were looking out for the signage of the Orange Pearl Beach Resort, but didn’t see one. We were getting deeper and deeper inland until we had to stop and ask direction from a woman. She laughed and said “You’re going in the wrong direction!”.

So we turned around and headed back to the town. Later on, we were about to pass by again at an out-of-the-way place where there were lots of tricycles parked by the roadside. Arthur slowed down and then we saw the signage. It was a very small one and looked like it was done by hand. I wonder how many other people expected a huge and professionally done signage too. Anyhow, the signage was the starting point of the trail leading from the road to the beach—about 15 minutes walk.

Scooters, motorcycles, and especially tricycles cannot go inside the trail because it is very narrow. So narrow that even people have to pass by each other one line at a time.

A long stretch of white sand at a Palawan beach Philippines
El Nido, Palawan’s Las Cabañas Beach has a long stretch of white sand.

What to expect

The beach stretches for around 1.5km long facing Bacuit Bay. It has all the magical factors of a perfect tropical beach:

  • white powdery sand
  • turquoise, clear waters
  • coconut trees along the beach

The “entrance” to the beach, where you get out of the trail, was too crowded for us. Many tourists sunbath, have drinks at the beach bar, and eat at the Orange Pearl Beach Resort’s restaurant. Even though it was a pleasant atmosphere, with lounge music blaring, and everybody having a nice time, we still prefer less crowd.

It only took us a few hundred meters of walking to leave the crowded area behind. Because of the coconut trees and other plants, there was plenty of spots with plenty of shades in the area. It’s what I love about this beach. There’s so much space for having your privacy while enjoying the beautiful landscapes.

The fact that there were only a handful of bars and only three resorts along the whole stretch of the beach is what makes it special, as compared to El Nido bay.

I hope it will stay like that for a long time. I fear it will soon be (over)developed and get saturated with many resorts like at the main beach in El Nido. The reason for this is because there is a zip line from the hill at the trail leading towards the next island. The zip line seems very popular. Every few minutes you see and hear people zip lining above the beach and over the water. This is a sign of “progress”, but a negative one, I fear.

View of Bacuit Bay from the beach.
That’s the  mountain that shades the Palawan resorts in Bacuit Bay in the afternoon.

The beach

There’s a gentle drop into the sea making it perfect for wading in the water. There are only a few fishermen boats in the sea too, so nothing to block the spectacular view of the islands.

Next time we come to El Nido, we want to stay overnight in one of the resorts in Las Cabañas. They seemed a little more pricy than in El Nido town. But considering it has all the ingredients one can wish for when on a tropical island: the breathtaking surroundings, the beautiful beach, the seclusion; we think it might be worth it.

This beach bar has the best sunset view.
This beach bar in Palawan island in the Philippines has the best scenic sunset view.

Best spot to watch the sunset

Even when the sun was still high up in the sky, we enjoyed being at the corner at the end of the beach. We were there all by ourselves taking photos, drinking cola at the cozy beach bar, and enjoying the Palawan island tropical paradise vibe—to think this is only one of Philippines’ many top beach destinations!

The bartender told me that his bar is the best spot for watching the sunset. The best in the entire stretch of Las Cabañas. “Sure”, I thought. Of course he has to say that from a business point of view. But as it turned out, he was absolutely right.

The way the sun set behind the many islands of Bacuit Bay was something very special. The islands in the distance seemed to be on fire the way the golden light hit them.

What a way to spend our last day in El Nido before the chaos that is the Palawan airport. But that will be another post.

Sunset as seen from that beach bar at Las Cabanas.
Golden sunset as seen from that bar at Palawan’s Las Cabañas beach in El Nido.

6 comments

  1. @sabrina there are so many beautful seas and beaches here in the philippines and its beautiful thats why. its called pearl of the orient.

  2. Wow I didn’t know there are so beautiful beaches in the Philippines. i wonder why not so many people know about it. Everybody seems to always go to Thailand.

    1. Yes, Thailand is clearly the number 1 tourist destination in South East Asia. And even though there are tourists in the popular areas here in the Philippines, it’s nowhere close to the other South-East Asian backpacker countries.

      I think the reason why the Philippines is not (yet) that popular is, first of all, because it’s not included in the easily accessible backpacker-routes: like starting in Indonesia, going to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and so on. All of these countries can be accessed by trains and buses. There are many affordable tour packages going from Europe to, for example, Thailand. Flight tickets to the Philippines are clearly more expensive.

      But another reason also is the lack of coordinated tourism strategy by the government. The Philippines is just not yet as well prepared for western visitors. Many beautiful islands that are a popular spot for Filipinos, are still too rural for Westerners.

      But I see a huge development going on. I think in 10 years or so this country will become a popular stopover for many backpackers. (You can see many developments going on: e.g. direct flights between Cambodia and Cebu.).

      But until that happens, now is the best time to enjoy the country’s islands before it will be overrun and overdeveloped.

  3. Hehe,the water would have been perfect for me.nothing worse than going into a dirty Finnish lake. 🙂
    I also absolutely love sunsets.when I was in key west I was told they got the best sunset in the world there,but sounds like el nido isn’t too bad either. 🙂

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