Island residents tell us how best to enjoy the festive season, from island hopping, a dance-till-you-drop boozy party, to fireworks night

By Lory Alba

The underwater tunnel at Dilumacad Island (Photo courtesy of Submariner Diving Center)

Shaun Boag
Manager, Submariner Diving Center

WHAT TO DO? “It’s a very busy time of the year and everyone is happy around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. There are a lot of firework shows so the main beach lights up with a free display of colour for everyone to see. But I’d say SAVA Bar is the place to be for New Year’s Eve. You have to buy your ticket early though as there are only limited spots.”

WHY GO? SAVA is a modern beach bar serving world-class cocktails using only premium liquor and imported ingredients. It is located right on the beach side where tourist boats dock, so it’s a convenient stop off and the best place to go after a day of island hopping. Every year, they host the biggest holiday party on the island with international guest DJs. Tickets run out fast, so it’s best to get yours as soon as you can. SAVA Beach Bar is at Calle Hama, Barangay Masagana, El Nido. To know more about their year-end party, email [email protected] or send a message on Facebook @SAVABeachBar.

Vicky Abary
Co-owner, SAVA Beach Bar

Party prepping at SAVA Beach Bar (Photo courtesy of SAVA)

WHAT TO DO: “I have not yet spent Christmas in El Nido as my family is based in Manila and I usually spend it with them. But our New Year’s Eve party at SAVA is off the hook. We bring in guest DJs from Manila, have fireworks, the whole bit. We sell tickets to control the crowd, so if you are in El Nido for New Year’s, be sure to reserve as we sell out quickly. For the best night life, I’m totally biased, are you sure I can’t say SAVA? The sunset scene at Republica is pretty awesome, and if you are lucky to catch it, The Beach Shack’s Full Moon party.”

WHY GO? The excellent cocktails at SAVA puts it on our list of things not to miss in El Nido. Republica is a Spanish restaurant and bar, serving great food. Its sunset views alone make it worth a visit. And the Beach Shack is known for its awesome full moon party. Visit @SAVABeachBar on Facebook, Republica on www.republicasunsetbar.com, mobile +63 905 486 2499, and thebeachshackelnido on Facebook, mobile +63 917 577 7513.

Eva and Jeremy Aston
Owners, Cafe Athena and District Bar & Kitchen

View from inside District Bar & Kitchen

WHAT TO DO? “Well it is a bit of a cliche but we love being able to go to the beach or go island hopping on Christmas and Boxing day. Because we are in a touristic destination, everyone is here to have a great time, and there are plenty of options for dining and celebrating during the festive season. Of course our must-dos are Cafe Athena for Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinner, and then off to District for a fun party. Other places worth checking out are SAVA Bar in town, Maremegmeg Beach Bar & Panorama in Corong-Corong and The Gardens in  Nacpan.”

WHY GO? Cafe Athena is a gorgeous open, beachfront restaurant that serves authentic Greek cuisine with fantastic views of the rock formations over Bacuit Bay. For Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Cafe Athena will have a special set menu. Tip: It usually gets packed so make sure to book ahead. Newly-opened District Bar and Kitchen is best for savory Vietnamese-inspired dishes and bar snacks paired with cocktails. Join District’s New Year’s Eve (NYE) party, and usher in 2020 in style. Café Athena is at Serena Street, Brgy, Buena Suerte, El Nido, tel +63 977 830 0732. District Bar + Kitchen is at Osmena Street, El Nido and is open from 11:30AM-2AM. Find them on Facebook @district.philippines.

Jeremie Green
Co-owner, The Gardens

Always a party at The Gardens (Photo courtesy of The Gardens Day Club)

WHAT TO DO? “The holiday, that two-day period of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, is a time for family andfor friends. We make sure that the staff and everybody at The Gardens are all able to come together as one big family and celebrate. There’s the New Year’s Eve party at Happiness Bar which we started about three years ago. It’s just good to bring together people from all over the world to just enjoy themselves and have a good time. This year is the first year for The Gardens and we’re doing a New Year’s pool party during the day.”

WHY GO? The Gardens Day Club is water party place central for adults from 18 years, with a 10-meter tall water slide, a salt water pool, and a custom mural bar. The Gardens Day Club is at Nacpan Beach Road, El Nido, tel +63 916 527 5559. Happiness Bar is a charming bar and restaurant that serves vegan-friendly, Middle Eastern food with a Mediterranean twist. Try the margarita or piña colada with their delicious house fries. Happiness Bar is along Serena Street, El Nido, mobile +63 966 972 9264. Find them on Facebook @happinessphilippines


Remy Elliot
Owner, Karuna Villas El Nido

Gorgeous views of Bacuit Bay as seen from Karuna (Photo courtesy of Karuna Villas)

WHAT TO DO? “The best thing about being in El Nido this time of the year is that the weather is pretty good, the seas are clear, I can get the boat and spend three to four hours in my favorite snorkelling spots around Bacuit Bay. From where we are located on the hill, on the Corong Corong side, we can see all the fireworks going on. So yeah, it’s just great. We’re planning a special dinner for Christmas at Karuna, and something for New Year’s Eve as well.”

WHY GO? Karuna El Nido Villas is located up on a hillside, with spectacular panoramic views of Bacuit Bay and its towering limestone cliffs. Stay in one of their luxurious pool villa and joglos, all modernized versions of the ancient Indonesian Joglo design. Karuna El Nido Villas is at Barangay Corong Corong, El Nido, www. karunaelnido.com, mobile +63 926 087 4782.

Borja Ribes Garcia
Co-owner, Panorama Boutique Hotel and Beach Club

Breakfast at Panorama (Photo by Lala Magbuhat)

WHAT TO DO? “This coming Christmas is gonna be my 5th year celebrating here in El Nido. My first time was in 2015. I remember it was a little bit different for me because normally I spend this time with my family and friends on the mountains skiing. But it was so easy to adapt myself with the amazing views of El Nido, the weather, the food, the beaches and all my new local friends from here. During this season, people just want to enjoy places like SAVA, Pangolin, Maremegmeg or Panorama Beach Club that bring good DJs from Manila or international DJs to make sure people have a memorable night. For us at Panorama, every January 1st, we organize a brunch event at the Beach Club for the people who want to spend their first day of the year with us, starting at 12 PM with DJs until 10PM. As a tradition, we offer seafood paella, tapas, and beers for our first in-house and walk-in guests.”

WHY GO? Panorama Beach Bar’s location is its biggest draw. Corong Corong, about eight minutes from El Nido town, is acknowledged by locals to have the best sunset views. And Panorama Beach Bar which opens out right on the beach, with day beds on the deck, makes full use of nature’s asset. It’s also a favorite place of El Nido’s who’s who. Panorama Beach Club is at Sitio Lugadia, Barangay Corong Corong, El Nido, mobile +63 998 240 5291.