I really adore staying in smaller unique places, especially when you are in more remote corners of the earth. They feel more genuine and all have quirks and charm that you never have with some massive chain hotel. I have already written about my top two favorite guest houses on the Island of Palawan (you can read about them here and here) but we stayed in so many great places that I just have to tell you about a few more.
About and hour and a half from El Nido (Hell Nido for those who have spent any time there) was a tiny 3 room guest house and restaurant on a hill that despite not being on a beach, was one of the best places we stayed in Palawan. Santeria is a tiny 3 room guest house that was built by and enterprising couple of ex-pats from England in their early thirties. They live half the year here and the other half back in Europe. After falling in love with Palawan the couple decided to find a plot of land and build their guest house. They couldn’t find a beach property that was suitable, so they ended up buying a few acres of hilltop overlooking the ocean. It’s gorgeous. It is a trek to get to the top; about 10 minutes, but glorious once you reach the top. An open air bar/restaurant/hang out area looks over a small cashew orchard that has hammocks and places to sit and relax. You can get all your meals here; breakfast and lunch are a la carte and dinner is a set menu served family style and is very tasty. It is especially impressive considering that this place is entirely off the grid and doesn’t even have a road to bring in supplies; everything is carried up the narrow, sometimes steep paths.
The rooms are little cabins overlooking the sea with small balconies out front. They are comfortable and even a little stylish, while still drawing on traditional building techniques. Bathrooms are shared, but modern and clean, have flush toilets and cold water showers. We paid 1500 Pesos a night for 2 people ($43.00 Canadian). Dinner was an extra 600 Pesos a night for 2 people ($17.00 Canadian). Update. The hotel is for sale, so you presently can’t stay there, but you can buy it and run it if you like.
Luke and Dana are great hosts, funny, sweet and helpful. It is a great place to go and chill for a few days; especially if you need a break from the beach.
While we were at Santeria we met a German couple who told us about another guest house there were heading to south of Puerto Princesa that had just opened up. We loved our new German friends so we made a plan to meet up with them a couple of days later and explore this part of Palawan. If you want off the beaten path, this is where you go. Almost all of the tourism in Palawan is north of the main city Puerto Princesa and that is where we spend the most time. In fact, until this opportunity arose we didn’t even consider going to this part of the island. Kaibigan Soul Camp opened up in 2016 for their first season and was the perfect way to end our month in Palawan. Opened by four German women, this is truly the kind of place that is good for your soul. It is just over an hour from Puerto Princesa, in an area that there are absolutely no other resorts or tourists. It is clear that time, attention to detail and passion have created this very special remote place. It is geared to wide range of travelers; everyone from back packers to those who need a little more comfort. It is the kind of place that is full of good energy and just sucks you in. There is so much to love in this place and what is so nice to see is that despite being ex-pats they are integrating into the community by employing many locals and treating them like family. The owners themselves are kind, cool, relaxed and funny. The food is incredible; healthy fresh and hands down the most delicious we ate in all of the Philippines.
We stayed in a one of the “Turtle” cottages beside the beach. The hut is a cross between camping and staying in a proper room. Through out Asia, beds were often hard and bedding was not the best; but here the owners made a point of getting comfortable beds and high quality cotton sheets. Sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference. The hut is small, but does the job.
If you want something a little larger and more comfortable, you can opt for a variety of different rooms. The entire resort was built by the owners in collaboration with a German master carpenter who specializes in building in remote tropical locations. It was easily one the most refined place we stayed in our month in Palawan, so you will surely find something to meet your taste and budget. Some of the rooms share bathrooms and showers while others (more expensive) have private toilets. The restrooms we used where fairly open air and it was incredible to shower under the gorgeous palms that run through the property. We ended up spending about 5000 Pesos a day ($142.00 Canadian) for 2 people, but this included our room, activities and everything we ate and drank.
The hub of the camp is dining/bar area. It is an amazing structure in itself and but is also where you can just hang out and relax and feel the good energy. The incredible food is served family style for dinner and is eaten on large picnic tables. There are board games and cards to play, but most impressively an incredible sound system. One of the owners is a DJ and had to ensure that she had the ability to play great music even in the middle of nowhere so in the evening, it becomes this glorious comfortable little bar to just hang out in. It is really special.
The beach here is not for swimming, but a great beach is a 15 minute walk away. If you need activities, they offer yoga, snorkeling excursions and trips to go swim in a local river; but of course you can just hang out and swing in a hammock. Like much of Palawan, it is completely off the grid. That means no power (its all solar and generators), no computers and no phones; so if you need to disconnect and really relax this is the perfect place to do it.