You know you’re off the beaten track when the track suddenly begins to look something like this.
You may bump into a few fellow travelers on the same path…
But you may not always end up at the same destination, which in our case, was Nacpan Beach, El Nido.
The most important thing you need to know about the beaten track: more often than not, going off it is totally worth doing.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
“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.
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.
But at Nacpan Beach, El Nido, we were content to laze around all afternoon, blissfully satisfied to be away from it all. Can you really blame us?