Open secret: Hidden in a sprawling forest, Lihim Resort offers private accommodations and fantastic views of El Nido - Travel

“We wanted to break away from the run-off-the-mill resort and provide and experience that is both memorable and uplifting.”

Tourism is beginning to pick up again, with restrictions easing and travel guidelines firmly in place. I am confident that our powdery white beaches and crystal-clear waters will soon draw millions of visitors.

READ ALSO: Memorable Trip: After Months In Lockdown, Apples Aberin Rediscovers Paradise In El Nido

One such majestic spot is El Nido, a destination that is internationally lauded for its stunning shores, limestone formations, and well-preserved coral reefs. Its province, Palawan, regularly appears on “World’s Best Islands” lists, a recent example being this year’s Condé Nast Traveler awards.

From left: Guests arrive via a three-minute boat ride; Lifestyle Asia EIC Dong Ronquillo

Quick and convenient

I found on a recent trip that Lio Airport, which is owned operated by Air Swift, has made traveling El Nido easier. Since it’s located around 25 minutes from El Nido town proper, the airport eliminates the need for an hours-long van ride, which you have to take coming in from Puerto Princesa or Busuanga.

Since the airport is privately owned, the amount of people going in and out is more controlled. The carrier, which is owned and operated by the Ayala group, operates several flights a day in Metro Manila out of NAIA Terminal 3.

When I landed, a butler from Lihim, the resort I was staying at, was waiting for me outside. Lihim, which is hidden away in a sprawling forest in El Nido, opens its doors to tourists this month in time for the holidays. 

I was taken to the port (around a 15-minute ride) on a private car service, with cold towels and water on hand. From there, I rode on a fast boat, with towels, cushions, delightful music, and clean and new life vests. The boat ride itself, which afforded views of the different islands around us, just takes about three minutes. Pretty soon we were docking at the resort, which faces the expansive turquoise waters of Bacuit Bay.  

Local touches

At the dock, the smiling staff welcomed me with a cold towel, a drink, and a souvenir necklace. There was no need to go through reception for check-in, and I could proceed either to the restaurant or my room as my details were filled in for me.

The homey restaurant and lounge area is adorned with classic chandeliers, tasteful bamboo chairs, tropical designs, and younger touches such as neon signs. Lihim’s staff are in Dennis Lustico, who created different motifs corresponding to their function.

The carefully-curate menu includes such classics as Eggs Benedict

The reception area, restaurant, villas, and other facilities were all constructed in the tradition of Philippine huts. Elements such as thatched roofs covered in anahaw leaves and layouts that open up to the outdoors reflect a design sensibility anchored on our nature-dependent and nature-loving culture.

Lihim’s 16 villas were envisioned as private retreats that rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul, and I think they have lived up to this goal. Outside each spacious villa is a fantastic view of El Nido while inside there are well-appointed art, hand woven fabrics, and five-star amenities. More practical features such as electric sockets with USB ports, bluetooth speakers, and a TV with Netflix are also available.

Unforgettable experience

“We wanted to break away from the run-off-the-mill resort and provide an experience that is both memorable and uplifting,” explains Raffy Ladao, COO of Araw Hospitality, the company that runs the resort. He says that Lihim integrates wellness, sustainability, and community, allowing guest to connect to the island’s soul and essence.

This mantra is also alive in their in-resort wellness center, Panari Spa. Well-trained massage therapists are available also for in-room massages and treatments. Traditional Philippine healing techniques are complemented by state-of-the-art wellness equipment and world-class fitness experts at the spa.

They believe that their guests value wellness so much that you can ask for gym equipment be brought to your room to exercise at your own convenience while enjoying the view.

Apart from this, leisure tours and immersion activities such as curated hikes, yoga, private island tours, and meditations are also offered. I had an amazing experience in the island tour, and I enjoyed some of the hidden spots like the Entalula island. We even had a luxurious lunch at Cadlao Lagoon. It’s a hidden paradise where one can enjoy paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, and free-diving.

From left: Inside one of Lihim’s villas; tasteful bamboo chairs, tropical designs, and younger touches like neon signs can be found at the restaurant

Last but not the least, there was the food, which I found amazing. The menu was carefully curated with a wide array of choices that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I am happy that I was able to uncover Palawan’s wonderful secret.

For more information, visit

This story originally came out in the December 2021-January 2022 issue of Lifestyle Asia.

Banner Photo from @lihimresorts on IG

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