Nacpan Beach: To Go or Not To Go (and Spend P1500)

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El Nido Nacpan Beach 00


I’ll be honest: if the tricycle driver hadn’t offered to take us to Nacpan Beach for P1000 — instead of the usual P1500 — I might never have gone.

Nacpan Beach has been described in superlatives ranging from “the best beach in El Nido” to “the most beautiful beach in the world.” Friends who’ve been there told me: absolutely, I should go. And yes, I’d seen that oft-shared overlooking image of the twin beaches, Nacpan and Calitang, separated by a stripe of palm-tree-lined blinding white sand. Nacpan is nice — no question about that.

But sometimes, the more a place is hyped up, the more I hesitate. I feel like if so many people I know have already been to a place and unanimously agreed that it’s great, then there’s not as much motivation for me to go and see it for myself because…what could I possibly add to the discussion? And superlatives are all very well but I have to admit I’m a bit cynical about them, especially here in the Philippines where a surefire way to go “viral” is to tell us Filipinos we are the best at something. Online poll results I take with a grain of salt, particularly ambiguous awards like “best” or “most beautiful” because, well, how do you define good or beautiful? It’s all subjective. For me, it’s less informative being told that Nacpan Beach is the best beach in El Nido (or the world!) than being told exactly what makes it good, what people love about it.

So…in the end I went to Nacpan Beach. And in case anyone out there is also wondering whether it’s worth the P1500 asking price, let me tell you what I liked about it so you can decide for yourself.
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Sunset at Marimegmeg Beach

SGMT | Sunset at Marimegmeg Beach — 
Do yourself a favor. If you’re going to El Nido, set aside at least one day for beach bumming. Spend a lazy afternoon at Marimegmeg Beach and stick around for the sunset. You won’t regret it.
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El Nido Marimegmeg Beach Las Cabanas 04

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It was more bed weather than beach weather, the day we arrived in El Nido, but we didn’t want to waste the chance to spend the afternoon at Marimegmeg Beach. Never mind that the sun wasn’t likely to put in an appearance that gloomy day. Never mind that we weren’t likely to witness one of Marimegmeg’s spectacular sunsets. Plans are not plans which alter when they alteration find, as they say, and a little drizzle wouldn’t hurt us.

How we got to Marimegmeg Beach

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We found a tricycle driver — or rather he found us, standing outside the office of El Nido Paradise. Tricycle drivers have to hustle a bit in low season and Jack at first approached us with an offer to take us to Nacpan Beach for ₱1500 ($32). When we didn’t bite, he mentioned Las Cabanas — the other name for Marimegmeg Beach — and this time we eagerly agreed.

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Island Hopping in El Nido: Combo Tour A & C

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It was our first time in El Nido, and it wouldn’t be our last
 — or so our guides assured us. According to both Jack, the tricycle driver we engaged on our arrival in town, and Sam, the boatman who led our island hopping tour the next day, most of the people who come to El Nido almost inevitably come back.

First, they go home. They tell everyone they found paradise out west, at the very edge of the Philippines. And then they return, many with a new batch of first-time visitors, fresh converts, in tow. If El Nido were a secret — and it isn’t, not anymore — it seems to be a secret no one can, in good conscience, keep to themselves.

And after going on the island hopping tour myself, I could definitely understand why.

El Nido Paradise - Island hopping combo tour A and C

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The Philippines has more than 7,000 islands to its name, and island hopping tours here are a dime a dozen. The ones around El Nido, though, are special — even to those of us who’ve lived our entire lives in close proximity to swaying palms and white sand beaches.

For one, the seascape is different. Dozens of towering limestone cliffs dot the seas around El Nido. There are strips of white sand aplenty, but many of them are nestled between rocks of gray and clumps of green and glittering blue seas.

Another difference: a sense of space. The town of El Nido itself is cramped and necessarily busy, as one would expect of a place descended upon by busloads of tourists everyday. But out in the sea, there is an unfamiliar vastness. You feel like you’ve come to the edge of the known, that a Dawn Treader-type adventure was waiting just beyond the horizon, if you would only dare to go forward.

El Nido Paradise combo tour A & C

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Blue and Good

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At this time last week I was with my family on a beach in Davao. 

My niece Syd, because I didn't do anything quite as picture-worthy as summoning the waves (or seeming to, anyway)

My niece Syd, because I didn’t do anything quite as picture-worthy as summoning the waves (or seeming to, anyway)

This week, right now, past midnight, my sunburned little nose is still stuck in front of the computer because I have to catch up on all the work I wasn’t able to do while on vacation.

It’s all good.

I don’t have much but I have a life that lets me do a little bit of everything I want and need to do, and, most importantly, lets me be with the people I love most almost all the time. It’s a good life. I am thankful.

Malapascua

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White sand, hot sun, blue green waters, and heavenly mango pancakes.

Summer is descending on the Philippines and nothing quite says fun in the sun like a day at the beach. In Cebu we’re blessed with beautiful beaches — not in the city center itself, with its growing number of glass-covered buildings, cafes and similar signs of urbanization, but in the island’s quieter peripheries.

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Less than an hour away from Cebu City, beach resorts in Mactan offer cabanas and comforts for a price. Local favorites include the Shangri-La, Plantation Bay, and Mövenpick resorts. A more cost-conscious option, especially for those beach-bumming in groups, is to stay somewhere cheaper and simply charter a bangka (a local outrigger boat) for a day — go island-hopping in the seas surrounding Mactan. Pandanon Island is one of the popular stops for these boat-based excursions; another is the Gilutungan Marine Sanctuary.

The finest beaches in Cebu, however, are those that are a little further away, and one of the best I’ve been to is Malapascua Island.

“Little Boracay”

A small island off the northern tip of Cebu, Malapascua is sometimes referred to as the province’s “little Boracay” — the same white sand, minus the crowds, plus a chance to see the only place in the world where thresher sharks congregate regularly for a body scrub.

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When I say “tip,” I do mean tip. From the Cebu City North Bus Terminal, it’s a four-hour bus ride from Cebu City to Maya, Daan Bantayan, where pumpboats regularly depart for Malapascua. The yellow Ceres buses are believed to be safer and even offer free WiFi; the Rough Rider buses have a more colorful reputation (and not in a good way) but I have taken one and lived to tell the tale. The Maya-Malapascua boats (P50/pax) are supposed to leave every half-hour but usually they wait to push off until they’re full. At both the Maya and Malapascua ports, if the tide is low, the pumpboats might not be able to get near enough to shore for you to step aboard directly. If that’s the case, smaller boats called “tunda” will take you from port to boat, or vice versa, for P10-P20 per person.

The benefit of this long commute: less people. The smaller crowds mean that it is quite possible to have that stretch of white sand all to yourself, even on a weekend.

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Malapascua Memories

I was in Malapascua a few years (and *mumble mumble* pounds) ago, and I remember being told you could walk all the way around it in 30 minutes. (Spoiler alert: you can’t.) After a quick nap — we stayed at a cottage in Malapascua Exotic Island Dive and Beach Resort, a mouthful of a name, so the locals simply called it “Exotic” — I began my quest to circumnavigate the island. It was slow going; the sand was so soft, my feet would sink with every step. After an hour, I gave up and contented myself with looking around.

The main beach in Malapascua Island is called Bounty Beach and it is where most of the nicer resorts are located. One had a beautiful beachfront wooden deck-colorful pillows-gas lamps vibe going; many were simpler affairs. I spotted a place called Hippocampus and wondered why anyone would name a beach resort after a brain part. (I later learned that Hippocampus is a scientific name for seahorses — shows how much I know!)

Further up the coast, most accommodations were smaller, quieter, and family-run. We saw a boat in the middle of construction and beach chairs being sheltered from the heat of the sun by a tarp held up by sturdy bamboo poles. Few people were in sight; their fishing boats, abandoned till the next day, dotted the beach here and there.

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And everywhere: white sand, summer sun, cool waters. Paradise, you might say. Come visit!

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Malapascua” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. Parts of this post have previously been published in my personal blog. All rights reserved.

“Postcards from Home”

Pandanon Island, 2010

Pandanon Island, 2010

Pandanon is a small island off the eastern coast of Cebu, where I live. It is easily accessible by outrigger boats departing from Mactan Island and is a favorite destination for island hopping. I don’t get to visit this postcard-worthy beach as often as I would like, but I feel ridiculously lucky that I easily can if I really want to.

I’d like to see your own “Postcards from Home” — post a link in the Comments section!

 

Postcards from Home” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.