Philippines Travels

Untouched Beauty in San Vicente, Palawan

I felt overstimulated upon departing our hotel in Boracay, and looked forward to promised serenity in Palawan.  However, I was unaware of quite how overstimulated I would be by the end of the day.

See, Secret Paradise Resort & Turtle Sanctuary is remote.  Off the electrical grid.  Only accessible by boat.  It ticked all my ‘get away from it all’ boxes.  

The thing is, I underestimated the potent combination that is a remote place and a third world infrastructure.  I had no idea it would take from before sunrise to after sunset to arrive!  To give you an idea, it went like this: 30 min van ride, 20 min boat ride, 10 min van ride, 1 hr flight, 3 hour layover that turned into 5 hour layover, then an hour sitting on the runway, 1.5hr flight, 3 hour drive (off-road for an hour), 1 hour boat ride!

When we met our captain for the last boat ride, the sun was sinking down over the hills surrounding the port. I was a funny mix of exhausted, exasperated, and enchanted.  Despite how long the day had been, I found myself on a small outrigger, in completely waveless, glasslike water, with the sunset reflecting beautifully over everything.  I became absorbed… And then terrified as night fell!  Luckily, our captains were skilled, and seemed unfazed by the darkness and our tiny boat.

Our arrival at Secret Paradise in Palawan instantly calmed my nerves.  With 1990’s Norah Jones on repeat, we ate seafood in the open air restaurant.  The concierge won me over when he started our orientation of the property with, “Do you want us to wake you up if baby turtles hatch on the beach?” …Yes, sir. Yes!

Secret Paradise breathes new life into the overused term “eco-resort”.  Many properties claim eco responsibility, but Paradise Cove has taken many exceptional actions.  As a Zero Carbon hotel, the resort is committed to reducing its environmental impact.  As a turtle sanctuary, Secret Paradise has facilitated release of over 5000 sea turtles since opening.  They let the turtles grow in netted enclosures in the bay, so they have a better chance of survival in the wild. They also help rehabilitate injured adult turtles.  Guests are able to participate in care of the turtles by feeding them fresh seafood and cleaning their shells.  The owner has also made efforts with the local government in Palawan to ban dynamite fishing, which destroys entire ecosystems.  In short: amazing!

This resort mostly appeals to those who relish in the fantasy of being marooned.  Who seek to bask in a sunset view that few ever get to see.  Although hiking, kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, and island hopping are available, most guests are contented to languish lazily, devouring novels in the shade, losing complete track of time.  With only 7 bungalows, accommodations are intimate.  Though somewhat basically appointed, the bungalows remind you of what you truly need in a hotel: an enchanting place, a clean room, and friendly staff.  It is a place for rejuvenation in nature and to experience a part of the Philippines that may not remain isolated for much longer.

Paddling in authentic outrigger-style kayaks to the four beaches on the property was a workout with a well-deserved reward: completely undeveloped, desolate beaches.  Snorkeling in the bay revealed countless bright hued species of fish, and the intermittent harmless jellyfish.  Hiking to the viewpoint gave way to a stunning panorama of the bay and outlying islands — and was also a nice place to enjoy a San Miguel.

We took an island hopping trip coordinated by the hotel, and although more people could have joined, we were the only two on the boat!  We visited several lush islands and sandbars and countless stunning offshore reefs in the Port Barton Marine Sanctuary.  This area of Palawan is often overlooked, but is spellbinding.  Our captains barbecued an impressive seafood lunch on a desolate island.  I felt nothing but gratitude for the incredible day!  And, given the US dollars strength against the Philippine peso, it was astounding to think that it cost under $100 USD.

Valentine’s Day was our last full day at Secret Paradise. although I was already feeling the anticipatory sad pangs of leaving, I was astounded at what a perfect day it was.  The resort put together a giant bonfire dinner on the beach for all of the guests.  The sun slipped beyond the horizon as we had drinks on the beach, and I can say for a fact that it was the most stunning sunset I’ve ever seen!  The most wonderful surprise, however, came after dinner, after we had fallen asleep.  Baby turtles had hatched on the beach, and we were able to see them emerging into open air for the first time!  It was incredible.  Icing on the cake of an unbelievable six days in this beautiful region in Palawan.

Secret Paradise Resort & Turtle Sanctuary completely disconnected me from the outside world., leaving me to be with my husband in one of the most peaceful, romantic, and frankly gorgeous places on earth.  Although many may have trepidation to make the long journey, the few who do will be rewarded a thousand-fold for their effort.  Secret Paradise reinforced the true goal for me when traveling: truly being in a place, absorbing it, and making it part of your narrative and worldview.

2 thoughts on “Untouched Beauty in San Vicente, Palawan”

  1. The local government has a good reason to be cautious on how they should go about exploiting the area. Despite being the main hub of a logging operation in the late ’70s, San Vicente remains the most densely forested area of Palawan, with 86 percent of its total land area still covered by trees.

    1. I agree with you — This special area should be developed with care and consideration for the beautiful natural environment. Personally, I wouldn’t mind it going untouched!

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