El Nidos Resorts Miniloc Island is single handedly responsible for rebalancing my outlook on travel. I indulged in a few all-inclusive holidays in my early twenties but after discovering the joy of backpacking, I couldn’t imagine going back. I’d cast a disparaging eye over package deals, wondering why I’d ever paid so much money to sit beside a pool. But after just one night at this eo-discovery resort, I’m convinced it’s completely possible to find the balance between convenience and adventure.
I’ve tried to write this post so many times but being able to capture exactly what made Miniloc Island so special is proving challenging. It’s something I just know and feel, rather than something I feel able to properly express. I’d already got a sense of Miniloc’s out-of-this-world beauty from Island Hopping Tour A the previous day, but it was the warm spirit of the place that enveloped me from the moment I set foot on the wooden jetty. I had bouts of anxiety throughout this incredible trip to the Philippines but Miniloc Island was the one place where my mind quietened for a whole precious 24 hours. Walking barefoot across the sand and up the steps to our Beachfront Cottage, sipping a cool drink containing ginger and diving deep into a book next to the infinity pool are all memories that I hope will never leave me.
The fact it’s the most expensive hotel I’ve ever stayed in might have something to do with this rave review. Sadly, I’m not as accustomed to luxury accommodation as I’d like to be (read: not remotely accustomed) but it wasn’t about wasn’t expensive furniture, Michelin starred food or that intimidating air of money. In fact, those things felt thankfully absent in exchange for a sense of quiet comfort, of freshness and passion, of classic Filipino hospitality. The vibe seemed to spread among all the guests who mingled and chatted at the bar as the sun set before everyone headed towards the restaurant for food.
The buffet-style restaurant is relaxed but serves delicious food, accompanied by the sound of the waves. I’d cite the magnificent views too but no matter where you are in the resort, you can see the sea sparkle and the lush vegetation adorning the cliffs rustling in the breeze. Fellow veggies, you’re in great hands here with tons of great options including a tasty tofu salad, freshly baked foiccacia and aubergine fritters. Oh and lots of dessert, obviously. What else is all inclusive for, am I right?
The rooms are simple, stocked with comfortable beds, refillable water and toiletries and complimentary woven bags created by women in the local community – just a few of the sustainability drives that El Nido Resorts is most famous for. The splendour of the resort isn’t in the fittings but in the surroundings, something our unobstructed sea view emphasised each time we glanced towards the wide double doors.
As well as being incredibly welcoming, the team oozed passion and friendliness from every pore. As you arrive and leave the resort – on a dedicated boat transfer, so fancy – the team wave, sing and play music; an exciting sight when you’re arriving and one that makes your heart hurt to leave. In particular B, the environmental officer on duty the day we stayed, took the time to advise us on the best places to snorkel in front of the resort and gave a fascinating talk after happy hour about long tailed maquries. Did you know that these monkeys engage in cultural or learned behaviours, like eating charcoal when they’ve eaten toxic plants? We may not have been lucky enough to see any but if you’re there for more than one night unlike us, hopefully you’ll catch a glimpse in the early morning sun!
I truly believe you get what you pay for at Miniloc Island Resort. Along with including breakfast, lunch and dinner, the most valuable part of their all-inclusive room rates is access to a long list of free activities throughout your stay. This includes excursions to some of the most spectacular attractions in El Nido, days at various beach clubs and the ability to kayak to small beaches just off the resort at leisure.
We stayed on mainland Palawan for two nights because we wanted to take the classic island hopping tour but had we known what was available for free at the resort, we’d have scrapped one of the touristy boats altogether. Sadly, our 24 hours in the resort didn’t leave much time for heading out and about but there was one activity that we deemed worth waking up at 5.30am for.
In half-darkness, we sleepily stumbled along the jetty into our waiting boat and set off for our destination, just five minutes around the island. When we first came to a stop in an enclosed area of rocks, my first thoughts were that the Small Lagoon was kind of…overrated. Until our guides pointed us to a hidden opening and we were the first to kayak through the tiny space.
As this tour runs before boats come from the mainland, we paddled gently into an wonderously empty lagoon, silent except for the sound of tweeting brids and half shrouded in shadows as the sun’s rays began to pierce over the cliffs. Compared to the power of the Big Lagoon at midday where the colours were vibrant and larger than life, visiting the Small Lagoon with a Miniloc Island tour felt like a completely different experience. With just ten people spread out across the tranquil space, it felt truly secret.
As a budget traveller, I’d ummed and aahed so much before booking a night on Miniloc Island – even though I had a much bigger budget than usual to play with for this trip! I was really torn, thinking it couldn’t possibly be worth the cost, but now my only regret is that we didn’t stay longer. From the minute we left, I started planning how long it’d take me to save up and spend a full week there.
I’d originally felt drawn to El Nido Resorts Miniloc Island for its eco-friendly credentials (read more about sustainability in El Nido here) and ended up feeling so much joy and privilege to spend a single day there. Of my whole time in the Philippines, it’s some of these memories that stick with me the most and at the end of it all, that’s what matters most.
*We were kindly given a press discount to stay at El Nido Resorts Miniloc Island but honestly, I’d have stayed regardless. This place is worth every penny.