Why this new enclave in El Nido should be your next beach destination

Tarra Quismundo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 15 2017 09:13 AM | Updated as of Sep 15 2017 09:24 AM

Lio Estate, a sprawling new development in El Nido, Palawan, is a one-stop "eco-masterplanned" destination for tourists looking for adventure and relaxation. Tarra Quismundo, ABS-CBN News

EL NIDO, Palawan - If the gloomy weather is making you crave for the beach, here’s a getaway for all seasons.

The Lio Estate, a new development of AyalaLand Hotels and Resorts Corp. in a largely untouched corner of northern Palawan, is shaping up to be the next preferred beach destination in this tourist hub.

Accessible via a 55-minute direct flight from Manila, the enclave, the “first eco-masterplanned community” in El Nido, is a one-stop destination where guests may have both an adventure and a peaceful respite from the daily grind.

The experience begins as soon as guests step out of El Nido’s airy airport terminal, where thick foliage and the sound of chirping birds replace the sight of concrete and the sound of the roaring jet engine. The view seems to serve as an appetizer for things to come.

Thick foliage welcomes travelers upon arrival at the El Nido airport. Tarra Quismundo, ABS-CBN News

A ride on the exclusive tourist jeep—a cheery yellow-and-orange rendering of the uniquely Filipino bus—takes guests to Casa Kalaw, the estate’s first boutique hotel that opened just this year.

This cheerfully painted tourist jeep brings guests from the airport to the hotel. Tarra Quismundo, ABS-CBN News

The transfer is short but a treat for the senses: it traverses a concrete bridge that looks like a boardwalk, lined on both sides by wooden railings that cut through a rainforest. It may well be among the first spots for photos.

The bridge cuts through a forest leading to the hotel. Tarra Quismundo, ABS-CBN News

Guests then arrive at Casa Kalaw, Lio’s first boutique hotel that was named after the endemic Palawan bird.

Situated between the forest's lush greenery and the blue hues of the ocean, the 42-room hotel is simple yet elegant, as if meant not to overpower—and instead preserve—the abundant view of nature around it.

Casa Kalaw, the first boutique hotel to open at Lio Estate, is a two-story hotel that offers affordable luxury. Los Viajes Travel and Tours

At only two floors high, the hotel is the benchmark of what is envisioned to be a hub of “resorts, tourism and commercial establishments and residential communities” that “blend with the natural landscape,” its developers said on its website.

Notable too are the rooms’ amenities which discourage wasteful consumption. The hotel provides the bare minimum: no superfluous toiletries, just soap and shampoo in small native clay pots. This spares Nature from the added waste of product packaging.

In place of water bottles, the hotel provides a pitcher that guests may refill at the reception area.

And there is exactly one bath towel available for every guest; no surplus in supplies that at times lead to mindless use.

And while other island getaways here may be pricey—private resorts may be at 5-figure prices per night—Casa Kalaw provides guests affordable luxury while offering quiet and intimate relaxation.

Deluxe rooms, enough for two to three people, go for P9,000 per night. Rooms with a veranda are at P9,500. Premier rooms and suites, enough for at least four, go for P10,000 and P11,000. Prices may go down at promo rates.

Around the hotel, a sprouting of bars, restaurants and shops are open, offering a variety of cuisines to guests who may want to dine with a view of the beach and the feel of the sea breeze.

Several restaurants offer a variety of cuisines to guests at Lio Estate. Los Viajes Travel and Tours

They all bear similar designs: modern minimalist, the walls white, the wooden beams polished brown, and the floors in natural grey.

And, of course, the beach.

Dotted by trees on the way to the shore, it is a place where early morning or sunset walks are almost meditative. The rustling of leaves overhead, the chirping of birds, the lapping of waves towards the shore, and the whispering breeze create a symphony that calms and relaxes.

That nature takes centerstage at Lio is what makes it unique. It is away from the party crowd. The booming music. The crammed drinking spots. The frantic port where island-hopping tours jump off. There is enough of that downtown, 15 minutes away.

If you want to take a breather, Lio may be the spot for you.

Los Viajes Travel and Tours arranges trips to El Nido. Casa Kalaw rooms may be booked here. AirSwift flies direct to El Nido from Manila five times daily, and Clark four times a week.