Cinque Terre: Monterosso al Mare

I’ve just returned from a staggering three-week trip to Croatia (part of my education in taking long holidays, European-style), another dream come true. But I can’t move on to my next travel series without sharing this last piece of Cinque Terre with you.

On my last morning, right before I had to catch my train to Pisa and flight to Amsterdam, I hopped on a ferry to Monterosso al Mare, the one town among the five terre with the most accessible and swimmable beach.

Arriving in Monterosso, the first thing that caught my eye were the rows upon rows of brightly colored beach umbrellas. Well, make that the *only* thing that caught my eye, because I just couldn’t take my eyes off them!

Monterosso Cinque Terre colorful striped beach umbrellasMonterosso Cinque Terre orange striped beach umbrellas
Monterosso Cinque Terre bright yellow beach umbrellas

I took tons of photos. To me, these images are just brimming over with summer, happiness, and good memories. Just looking at them now, over two months later, makes me smile—and I think they always will.

Monterosso Cinque Terre orange and green umbrellas and lounge chairs

It was a mad dash made enjoyable thanks to the company of a few new friends—Lisa, Nikki and Christina from the Dreamathon workshop. We spent the little time we had in Monterosso swimming in the sparkling Mediterranean, sifting through the pebbles on the beach, and talking ideas, creativity, dreams and action.

Monterosso Cinque Terre crystal clear turquoise water

Mark my words, this will be and Marlon someday. I hope we’ll still be able to visit places like Monterosso together when we’re old and gray.

Monterosso Cinque Terre old couple sitting on beach

If you’re coming into Monterosso al Mare from any of the other towns in the Cinque Terre, I highly recommend the ferry for a short but memorable and highly photogenic trip. 

Monterosso Cinque Terre colorful rows of striped beach umbrellas

And of course a gelato (or three) while strolling along the main promenade never hurts too!

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Cinque Terre: Postcards from Riomaggiore

Cinque Terre Riomaggiore view of town from commune

We all have a place that we’ve always dreamt of visiting. What a feeling it is when the fantasy finally becomes a reality!

Cinque Terre has been one of those places for me since I first heard of it almost 10 years ago. I was at a backpackers’ hostel in Granada, and everyone seemed to be either en route to, or coming back from, these mythical cliffside villages by the sea. Everyone but me!

Many years and many other trips later, I discovered that one of my absolute favorite bloggers, New York Times bestselling author Justina Blakeney would be holding a creative workshop this summer in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre. I closed my eyes, handed over my credit card details and signed up within 48 hours.

I’ll save my takeaways from my Italian playcation for another post, but from these pictures you will see that I have. Absolutely. No. Regrets.

Cinque Terre Riomaggiore flowers and houses Cinque Terre Riomaggiore colorful buildings closeCinque Terre Riomaggiore laundry hanging from windows

Should you be visiting Cinque Terre—particularly Riomaggiore—for the first time, here are a few travel tips you might find useful. More gorgeous eye candy and hidden gems after the jump!

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Autumn on the Dutch dunes: Wijk aan Zee

It’s a Saturday morning in the Netherlands. It’s November and all of 4 degrees Celsius outside, but at least the sun is out. What is there to do?

Go to the beach, of course!

Autumn on the Dutch dunes Wijk aan Zee

On a Saturday morning like the one I’ve just described, we bundled up in full winter gear and headed out to Wijk aan Zee, a small, pretty town tucked into the Dutch dunes on the North Sea.

Cycling on the Dutch dunes Wijk aan Zee

That I can even conceive of this as an enjoyable activity is a testament to how far I’ve come since I moved to the Netherlands almost four years ago.

I arrived here a die-hard beach snob. Coming from a tropical country with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Philippine beaches—their white sands, warm turquoise waters, stunning sunsets and perfect weather—had spoiled me rotten.

Looking around for the nearest beach to sustain me, I turned to the North Sea—and was less than inspired by what I found.

Walk on the beach Wijk aan Zee

I almost froze to death on my first trip to Texel, one of a chain of islands so far north it was practically nudging Denmark. I wrinkled my nose at the frigid, muddy-brown waters of Zandvoort, Bloemendaal, and the towns along the Dutch coast who all shared the same last name “aan zee”. (Although I had to admit the Dutch dunes were pretty.) Den Haag’s Scheveningen was mobbed and frenetic. And the city beaches of Amsterdam depressed me outright.

So what was a sun-starved, beach-loving tropical girl to do? Live with it. Tolerate it. Make do with what I had.

But somewhere along the way, something strange happened. I fell in love.

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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, which in our case, was Nacpan Beach, El Nido.

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.

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El Nido: Sunset at Corong-Corong beach

While island-hopping is *the* thing to do in El Nido, Palawan, it isn’t the only thing to do.

Taking a break between island-hopping days (because, you know, it’s such a tough job!), Marlon and I hired a tricycle to explore El Nido by land. Tricycles in El Nido are serious, hefty, all-terrain metal workhorses, and it’s easy to get one in town. Prices vary depending on your chosen destination; we managed to negotiate a full-day road trip to two beaches for Php 1,300.

Most island-hopping tours depart from the main waterfront of El Nido, but ours took off from Corong-Corong beach, a few kilometers south of town proper.

Corong-Corong beach El Nido low tide

When we returned to Corong-Corong at the end of the tour, this brief glimpse of the beach at sundown made me curious about coming back for another look.

Corong-Corong beach El Nido bancas at sunset

With a determined grumble, our diesel-powered chariot charged up the steep, winding road from El Nido town towards Corong-Corong beach.

Corong-Corong beach El Nido sunset

At the top of the hill, this view opened up and a tiny squeal of delight escaped me, prompting our driver to pull over to the side of the road. “Picture muna, ma’am?” he said with a chuckle.

Corong-Corong beach El Nido

He pointed out our destination: Las Cabanas, a secluded resort at the southernmost tip of Corong-Corong beach.

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