Off the beaten track: Nacpan Beach, El Nido

You know you’re off the beaten track when the track suddenly begins to look something like this.

El Nido Palawan road trip

You may bump into a few fellow travelers on the same path…

Carabao and kids in El Nido Palawan

in fact, more than just a few… Full jeepney on El Nido road

But you may not always end up at the same destination.

El Nido Nacpan beach resort

The most important thing you need to know about the beaten track: more often than not, going off it is totally worth doing.

El Nido Nacpan beach deserted

By far, the best part of our exploration of El Nido by tricycle was arriving at the remote, far-flung and almost totally deserted shores of Nacpan beach.

 

Very few tourists brave the long, bumpy tricycle ride to Nacpan —and the sore bottoms that come as a result.  I’ve seen  reviews, clearly from Filipinos, who are led to Nacpan by promises of a throwback to Boracay before its boom, and are annoyed upon arriving at Nacpan to find… nothing. No restaurants, no resorts (apart from a few beach shacks that offer the barest suggestion of hospitality), no bars or aqua sports, and certainly no Starbucks or McDonald’s of the present-day Boracay

“Why come all the way here for nothing?” fumes one irate traveler. Nothing is exactly the point!

El Nido Nacpan beach dog

The beach felt like it belonged to us, and that’s priceless. In our four hours at Nacpan, I counted exactly eight other people walking on the beach—and this was during peak season.

El Nido Nacpan beach local

Such pristine and desolate beauty is hard to find these days. Even on an overcast day with scattered rain showers, the water was warm and perfect for frolicking with abandon. We bodysurfed and swam, letting the tide carry us out and hammer us back to shore.

El Nido Nacpan beach waves

There are no accommodations here, apart from the holiday home of an Australian retiree who visits once a year. Our tricycle driver brought us to Catian Beach Resort: a few bamboo sheds, a hammock and a few lounge chairs, the use of which was free if we ordered food or drinks.

El Nido Nacpan beach hut

They even threw in a welcome drink—fresh coconut juice—for free.El Nido Nacpan beach fresh coconut juice

At lunch time, they came by with these gorgeous live crabs—still blinking and snapping their pincers—and asked if we wanted them for lunch. At the low, low price of Php 300 (€4!!!), how could we refuse?

El Nido Nacpan beach live crab

“Ma’am, ano pong luto ang gusto nila? Steamed or sa gata?” asked the caretaker.

Sa gata!” I shouted, nearly biting his head off in excitement. Marlon looked a bit taken aback by my enthusiasm. Forty-five minutes later, these beautifully cooked crabs arrived at our table, swimming in coconut milk and green chilies, with bowls of steaming white rice. Perfection.

El Nido Nacpan beach crab in coconut milk

Later on, I found that if we had only gotten our butts off our loungers and taken a stroll further down the beach, we would have discovered that Nacpan actually has a Siamese twin named Calitang beach.

El Nido Nacpan beach Catian resort

But we were content to laze around here all afternoon, blissfully satisfied to be away from it all. Can you really blame us?

Lovely comments:

  1. Those crabs are a steal! On a side note, I miss the coconut crabs of Batanes, which my Tita used to bring as pasalubong as I’ve never been there.

    … but back to Palawan. Your recent posts are a good argument for the apparently not-so-expensive El Nido!

    • You’re lucky to have family in Batanes, you should go!
      Yes, there’s a cheap way to do El Nido and an expensive way. We did cheap accommodations but a (somewhat) expensive chartered flight. Yung mga katabi namin sa flight: a venture capitalist and model from New York, and a Spanish mestizo family who was whisked home by helicopter when we landed in Manila. Malamang hindi sila sa El Nido town nag-stay. Haha.

  2. Hi! Seriously loving your posts on El Nido! I think it will be me and hubby’s next destination! And I love your writing… Hugs from Singapore xx

  3. I don’t eat crabs but that is one mouth-watering dish! Anything cooked in gata is always a winner in my book.

    • I didn’t eat crabs either (tamad maghimay, haha), until I moved to Singapore. Then I realized I couldn’t live there without eating chili crab, and my absolute favorite, black pepper crab, so doon ako natuto!

  4. BEAUTIFUL!!!! Would love to go there! :)

  5. hello, we are going in May to El nido, maybe better to rent a motorbike on your own to spent more time at the beach and see sunset?? is it ok to drive back?? after sunset??

    • Hi Nick! Neither of us know how to drive a motorbike, so we didn’t look into that option. Part of the route to Nacpan beach is really deserted, muddy and unpaved road, so I don’t think you would want to be there in the dark. I noticed lots of tourists riding motorbikes after sunset, but closer to El Nido town. Good luck and have fun in El Nido!

  6. Hi Deepa! I missed the twin Calitang beach too haha, probably cause I was blinded by love from the beautiful Nacpan. I was annoyed after the long drive (had a scooter and drove the wrong way, took me about two hours to find the place). I started telling myself I hope this damn beach is worth. When I arrived I was stunned. Everything else didnt matter. Nacpan is the most beautiful and lovely beach I ever seen

    • Hi Dee! Wow, bilib ako sa ‘yo. I can’t imagine taking a scooter all the way to Nacpan by myself. Glad you enjoyed. It was worth the effort!

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