Warm, white sand feels as fine as dust as it runs through my fingers. Palm trees wave in the wind further along the deserted beach, and the clear blue ocean stretches off unbroken to the horizon.
The motorcycle is parked far behind us in Calitang village, and the sounds of laughing children and village life have been swallowed up by the waves crashing.
Calitang beach feels like a secret piece of paradise that we’ve discovered almost by accident.
Calitang wasn’t a place we had planned to go, nor a place we had heard much about before.
With just half a day left in El Nido, on the northern end of the Philippines’ Palawan Island, we were anxious to get out of the tourist town and do some exploring.
It was pretty easy to rent a motorcycle for the morning, and head north along the coast. Calitang was just a little dot on the map, and all we knew about it was that there was a small village and a beach there.
The roads were winding, but paved for a little while. About 15 minutes outside of El Nido, though, the pavement gave way to dry, dusty dirt. That soon gave way to rough, thick stones, making it slow-going on the motorcycle.
We nearly drove right past the turn to Calitang. Once we found it, we followed the narrow dirt road through thicker and thicker jungle until finally the road leveled, the jungle opened up, and the low, thatched huts of the village came into view.
As the motorcycle rolled slowly along the sandy road, children ran up alongside us, laughing and stretching their arms out for high-fives.
We wandered through the sandy lanes, and soon found a small shop selling refreshments. Calitang beach was just a few minutes’ walk away. We had this stunning beach almost completely to ourselves. Untouched white sand stretched off as far as we could see in both directions.
Behind us, over a narrow peninsula, the crescent-shaped Nacpan Beach curved along back-to-back with Calitang beach.
Our only complaint about El Nido had been how touristy it was – the beaches were stunningly beautiful and picturesque, but it was impossible to find one without tourist boats just in front of them. Here, just an hour north, we shared the beach with only a couple of village kids and fishermen hauling their boat back to shore.
We crossed the peninsula and slowly made our way along Nacpan beach, back towards the village. As we got closer to the huts, we saw more and more fishing boats lying along the sand. Everyone was unfailingly friendly, as they unhurriedly prepared the boats to go out into the waters.
Unlike in El Nido, the boats were all for fishing, not for taking tourists out into the waters. Still, if we wanted to go out in a boat, they would try to arrange something. If we’d had more time, it was an offer we wouldn’t have passed up!
Apart from fishing, the village’s other mainstay is coconuts harvested from the swaying palm trees that tower over the huts. They harvest the coconuts and sell them to a company in Manila.
Just as they had generously offered to take us out on one of the fishing boats, they offered to get us a fresh coconut. This time, we accepted. We watched, fascinated, as they found a boy to shimmy up one of the trees with a machete and hack down a coconut for us.
Back at the shop, the freshly-made chicken adobo that we ordered for lunch was easily the best meal we had during our trip to the Philippines. Paired with the coconut that had been chopped down just minutes before, it was an absolutely perfect way to end our trip to Calitang.
Planning a Trip To Calitang:
Calitang isn’t easy to get to—but it’s worth it. El Nido is the best starting place for a trip to Calitang. It’s possible to hire a driver to take you from El Nido to Calitang on a tricycle, although I can’t imagine it would be a comfortable ride! The most practical and popular way to get there is to rent a motorcycle.
The shop where we had lunch also had one room available to rent out. The place is called the Dandal Inn, although we couldn’t find any website or phone number for them.
Photo Credits: Stephanie Long