EL NIDO, Palawan -- This new hotel in El Nido is a beachfront property, has a beautiful pool, and features tastefully designed rooms. And with only 50 rooms, it is a perfect spot to get away from the crowd.
Aptly called Huni, the hotel is nestled between the shores of Lio Beach and the lush surrounding forest. Endemic birds sing their songs all day long while the sea brings in the soothing sound of waves crashing on sandy shores.
The hotel is the latest addition to the growing community of Lio Toruism Estate, a development project of Ayala Land Corp. Operated by the real estate's company's subsidiary group Ten Knots Development Corp. (TKDC), which also operates luxury island resorts El Nido Resorts, it is the fifth hotel to open in the 325-hectare property.
Although the hotel only has 50 rooms, it is already the second biggest hotel in the estate after Seda Lio, which has 153 rooms. The first three hotels that opened in the property houses fewer rooms -- Casa Kalaw with 42, Balai Adlao with 20, and Hotel Covo with 20.
“When we say five resorts, people would assume it's crowded. But four of five resorts only have 20, 40, and 50 rooms. They are equivalent to one development in Boracay. There are a lot of products but it's diversified,” explained TKDC group director of sales and marketing Joey Bernardino.
Staying at Huni doesn't feel crowded at all. It's located in its own pocket of space, away from the main area of Lio Beach where most of the hotels and shops are situated. It's also a beachfront property, giving guests their own space along the 4.5-kilometer beach.
The hotel's interior design is inspired by contemporary Filipino. The color palette is neutral, giving a resort-like feel. The rooms also feature wooden furniture that have modern lines. Chairs highlights local weaving while modern pieces like an asymmetrical mirror and geometric shaped lamps complete the contemporary look.
Rooms are spacious, which ranges from 34 to 54 square meters. The hotel has three room types: Deluxe, Deluxe Pool View, and Family Room. Most rooms also have their own balcony with a seating area.
The structure of the hotel is pretty basic, a simple box building. Despite its boxy appearance, the space is open and airy, starting with the lobby, which opens directly to the pool. The building wraps around the swimming pool that is surrounded by manicured landscaping.
There's also a reason why the structure is designed like this. According to Bernardino, the simpler it is, the better it is to maintain.
“We made it more structured because we want to maximize the size and minimize the upkeep. It has to be very simple. It also goes with our standards of sustainability. The less you have to maintain, the better it is for the property. You're using less materials for cleaning, for equipment, carbon footprint is lessened also,” he said.
The developers built Lio Tourism Estate with sustainability in mind. It is one of the most eco-friendly properties in El Nido.
Huni abides to the green practices of the estate including the removal of singe-use plastics. The hotel provides pitchers inside rooms instead of water bottles. Water dispensers are placed all over the hotel so guests have round-the-clock access to potable water.
Soap dispensers for shampoo, bath gel, and hand soap replace bathroom products that are usually packaged in small plastic bottles.
“It's hard [to be green] because you have to be conscious of everything and it's not for showcase because that's who we are. Everything we do has to have sustainability, eco-friendly, and community based aspect. The hiring is still the same, 90 percent, as much as possible are local. So we have to train from ground up. We give opportunities to the students, we have internships, we go to the schools and provide them opportunities,” Bernardino shared.
Moreover, Huni has its own restaurant that serves buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner. El Nido Resorts also has its own farm that provide vegetables and pork to the hotels and island resorts.
This new hotel is targeting couples, groups, and families. TKDC aims to provide quality accommodations in El Nido at different price points.
“We're trying to make it inclusive. Because people's mindset before, El Nido Resorts is expensive. We want to give quality products even to those who are on a budget,” he said.
EXPLORE BACUIT BAY IN STYLE
One of the newest ways to explore El Nido's famous Bacuit Bay is by a yacht. El Nido Yachting Club is a new provider of premium island hopping tours.
It operates several boats including a speadboat (17 people), a wooden yacht (45 people), and a catamaran (25 people). The boats go on the usual island tour of the islands starting at P3,499 per person. The packages include hotel transfers, lunch, access to a private beach, snorkeling equipment, drinking water, licensed tour guides, and fees (eco-tourism development fee and lagoon entrance fees).
The yachting club also offer private charters for couples and groups.
There's a lot to explore within Lio Tourism Estate. Guests can start with Kalye Artisano, an artists' village that features local crafts and products. The village has several shops that sell Palawan and Filipino crafts, from clothes to house ware to food.
Lio Beach is also known for its restaurant row. One of the latest restaurant/bar to open on the strip is Jungle Bar by Piopio. It's a Filipino restaurant that is housed in a stylishly designed bahay kubo.
The restaurant serves classic and modern Filipino eats and some international flavors. They serve classic kinilaw while also serving croquettes and mixed green salad. The newest item on the menu is a giant chicharon perfect for groups.
The bar menu highlights Filipino cocktails, infusing local ingredients to classic mixes. For instance, the Ternatonic is a gin and tonic infused with blue pea flower turning the usually clear drink into purple. The bar's version of mojito uses local lambanog.
Likewise, there's a variety of flavors along the row including Pizza & Amore, which offers Italian food; The Red Crab offers seafood feasts; El Nido Grill offers Filipino food paired with live music every night; Bead Cafe is a coffee shop where you can make your own bead accessory; D'Factory for gelato and crepe desserts; and Manille Beach Bar for some serious cocktails.