(As of December 2022, Eco Sanctuaries already offers satellite wifi, 24/7 electricity, and in-house dining at their new restaurant .)
Tourism in El Nido, Palawan centers around its town proper, the jumping off point for island-hopping tours of Bacuit Bay. This marine reserve is one of the most beautiful seascapes in the entire Philippine archipelago. While the cliff-hemmed beaches and lagoons are absolutely stunning, they can get busy, especially during the peak season. So if you’re looking to escape the crowds, you should head out farther north to explore the rest of mainland El Nido.
One of the up-and-coming mainland destinations is Nacpan Beach, an immaculate stretch of white-sand, 20 km north of the town proper. Its long and wide shore stretches for more than 3 km – it takes more than an hour to walk its entire length from tip to tip! On its southern end, the vast cove touches Calitang Beach, forming the grassy headland of Twin Beach. While a few resorts have been built along its southern half, Nacpan retains the off-the-beaten-track character that has attracted intrepid travelers over the years. Getting here is quite an adventure in itself. Nacpan is a 45-minute drive from town via national highway, before detouring to an unfinished access road that gets dangerously muddy when it rains.
The newest addition to the area is Eco Sanctuaries El Nido, a sustainable beachfront lodging with private villas located on the quieter northern end. Unlike the established resorts in the area, this rustic accommodation sheltered in a coconut grove offers a low-key, secluded atmosphere where you can unplug and unwind. With no internet access or mobile signal, staying at Eco Sanctuaries compels you tune in to nature and savor the simple life. Wake up to birdsong. Marvel at fiery sunsets. And fall asleep to the symphony of frogs and crickets.
(Caution: Like many remote coastal areas in Palawan, Nacpan Beach is inhabited by niknik or sandflies, which are tiny flying bloodsuckers that live on the sand. They are most active during sunrise and sunset. Unlike mosquito bites, theirs often go unnoticed, but become red, irritated and very itchy after a few days. Regular insect repellants don’t fend them off. Eco Sanctuaries provided a bottle of Bite Block sand mite spray, but I highly recommend bringing your own for your Palawan trip. Take oral antihistamines to suppress itching and prevent scarring or infection as a result of scratching the bites. Niknik are annoying, but they are an indicator that the beach is still pristine!)
Set in coconut grove right along the central section of the beach, Eco Sanctuaries has only three guesthouses: a 64-sqm Premium Villa with private bathroom, and two smaller Regular Villas at the back with shared toilet and shower rooms (male and female). Built with sustainable lightweight materials that facilitate ventilation, all three villas are fan-cooled. I stayed at the Premium Villa, which had two large beds that can accommodate two to four people. A colorful handwoven tipo mat by the Jama Mapun people of southern Palawan hangs above the beds. The spacious accommodation also an indoor mini garden and private sea-view terrace with a pair of lounge chairs – an excellent spot to watch the sunset!
Staying here means unplugging from your digital life and tuning in to nature. Electricity is solar-powered, and available 12 hours daily from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am. (Although, you can ask the staff to turn on the power outside the schedule when needed.) Moreover, there is also no Wifi access or mobile signal at the property and along the northern half of the beach. If you need to connect to the internet, you can ask for Wifi access when you dine at Angkla Beach Club & Boutique Resort, 400 m walk away from the villas. For mobile signal, you’ll have to walk further down the beach to Sunmai Sunset Restaurant to pick up a reliable connection. (As of September 2022, wifi internet connection has been installed at Eco Sanctuaries.)
Aside from the villas, there are outdoor tables and chairs sheltered by a rain tarp, where guests can enjoy their meals al fresco, and a small open-air pavilion where yoga and mindfulness sessions are held during Eco Sanctuaries’ wellness retreats. Check out the Facebook page of SoulSpeak for upcoming events.
Unfortunately, the property doesn’t have its own food service. However, next-door beach resort Jack’s Place can arrange meals for guests upon advanced notice. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian options are available. Angkla Beach Club and Sunmai Sunset Restaurants are the nicest places to dine out, but they’re somewhat pricey. Affordable eateries can be found further down the beach after Sunmai.
Accommodation at Eco Sanctuaries El Nido starts at ₱2,950 (excluding taxes & charges) per night for a Regular Villa for two persons. Contact them for complete room rates and availability!
How to Get There
Located 20 km north of the town center, Nacpan Beach is a 45 minute drive north of El Nido proper via the Taytay-El Nido National Highway. From El Nido town or Lio Airport, the most hassle-free way to get to Eco Sanctuaries is by private 4×4 transfer (₱2,000 per way), which can drop you off right at the property. This can be arranged in advance with the accommodation.
Another option is to charter a tricycle for ₱800 to ₱1,000 return between El Nido town and Nacpan Beach. Be advised that tricycles may not be able to drop you off near the beach during rainy days when the access roads become terribly muddy.
The most affordable and practical way to get to Nacpan Beach and around mainland El Nido is to drive your own scooter or motorcycle, which can be rented in town for ₱500 per 24 hours (excluding fuel). I rented a Yamaha scooter from a sari-sari store across Lime Resort at Corong-Corong Beach (Contact Joel at +63 9282927058). Scooters can be parked near Angkla Beach Club from where it’s a 10-minute walk to the villas. (During my visit, the muddy conditions of the access road prevented me from parking at Angkla, but I was accommodated by the staff of Sunmai Sunset Restaurant to park my scooter at their property.)
Address: Nacpan Beach (beside Jack’s Place), El Nido, Palawan