Perfect base to explore Nusa Penida and Nusa LembonganKollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

Just a short ferry ride from Sanur are the Nusa Islands. We missed out on this part of Bali last year so we were eager to cross it off our list this time! Deciding on where to stay in Nusa Lembongan and Penida was easy- a quick search using any hotel booking engine will show you Batu Karang Lembongan Resort & Day Spa sitting pretty at #1. It became clear to us that this ranking is no joke from the moment we landed in Denpasar.

Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

4:30pm. Our driver, , had waited over an hour for us but we were still in the immigrations line. Worried we weren’t going to make our 5:30pm boat ride from Sanur we called Luca, the bar manager, who got in touch with Putu and Rocky Fast Boat. By the time we hopped on the car it was already 5pm. It was a bad day for traffic at DPS- it took us an hour just to get out of the airport!

6pm. Putu had spent the last hour driving as fast as he could through that crazy Bali traffic and begging the boat to wait for us. We were still on the road when the last boat sailed. Our hearts sank. The general manager called and said we’d have to stay in Sanur for the night before catching the earliest boat over to Lembongan the following day.

Then a miracle happened. “Lembongan! Lembongan!” Bursting with joy, Putu put the pedal to the metal and told us to get ready to run- a boat was waiting for us at Sanur! It was 6:11pm and we were the only 2 passengers on the way to Nusa Lembongan. By 7pm we were sipping on our welcome drinks at Batu Karang!

Where to stay in Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida

Location & Space

Batu Karang Lembongan Resort & Day Spa is footsteps away from the speedboat harbour, where Rocky and Scoot dock. The famous yellow bridge connecting Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan lies on the other side of the resort, just a short ride away. You can reach Nusa Penida within 15 minutes by speedboat from the yellow bridge. This makes Batu Karang the perfect home base for exploring the Nusa Islands.

Because the property sits on a slope, all villas and common grounds have a breathtaking view of crystal clear turquoise waters. Golf carts are available to transport guests who have rooms up the hill and those requiring mobility assistance.

Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

Where to stay in Nusa Penida and Lembongan – Batu Karang

Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

Where to stay in Nusa Penida and Lembongan – Villas at Batu Karang

Facilities & Amenities

Get pampered at the Lulur Spa after a long day of exploring the Nusa Islands, or chill by the pool. Two is better than one, but what about 3 pools, including one with a swim-up bar? Those looking to stay in shape on vacation can take advantage of the gym and steam room. A day lounge is also available to facilitate early arrivals and late departures. There’s even a mini movie theatre!

Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

Where to stay in Nusa Penida and Lembongan – Batu Karang

Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

Where to stay in Nusa Penida and Lembongan – Batu Karang

Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

Villas & Suites

Whether it’s a double room or a 3-bedroom villa, all 6 different room categories capture the essence of being home away from home. The villas and suites are luxurious and spacious; designs reflect traditional Balinese architecture with a modern flair.

We stayed in the air-conditioned 1 bedroom villa, furnished with a comfy king size bed with mosquito net, personal safe, workstation, and plush robes. The large balcony was perfect for yoga morning sessions and relaxation on the daybed. On top of a fully stocked mini bar and coffee/tea-maker, complimentary bottles of drinking water are replenished daily. Our favourite part was the private outdoor shower and beautifully hand carved bathtub.

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Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa 16
Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

Where to stay in Nusa Penida and Lembongan – Batu Karang

Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

Where to stay in Nusa Penida and Lembongan – Batu Karang

Drink & Eat

Muntigs Bar & Restaurant, The Deck Cafe & Bar, The Howff, The Balcony- all of Batu Karang’s on-site bars and restaurants offer a stunning view of the beach and Mount Agung in the distance. Grab a seat and enjoy a beautiful sunset over delicious food and drinks. Luca and his staff will take care of your dining experience; Wiran and Ray really stood out as fantastic servers.

Breakfast is complimentary at Muntigs or The Deck- the Islander Bowl was so good that I had it every morning! Muntigs also offers fine dining in a gorgeous setting. The seafood laksa and beef rendang set the standards high for the rest of our trip.

Where to stay in Nusa Penida and Lembongan – Muntigs Restaurant at Batu Karang

Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa 8

Our personal favourite were the drinks and tapas at The Howff Whisky, Gin, & Wine Bar, a romantic speakeasy tucked away from the island bustle.

For a more laidback meal head to The Deck; their burgers are finger-lickin’ good! Happy Hour is from 5 – 6:30pm every day with 25% off selected cocktails and beers. There’s also live music with DJ’s spinning from 5-8pm at Sunday Sunset Sessions.

Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

Where to stay in Nusa Penida and Lembongan – Batu Karang

Other tips & Info

  • Rates start at $260CAD+ for Twin Rooms, $290CAD+ for Double Rooms, and $325CAD+ for 1 Bedroom Villas.
  • Breakfast is included in the nightly rate.
  • WiFi signal is strong throughout the whole resort!
  • Rocky Fast Boat is the recommended boat service from Sanur; 500,000IDR for a round-trip transfer. The resort can arrange this for you.
  • Pickup/drop-off in mainland Bali is available for a fee.
  • For more information and current promos, visit their official website, Facebook, and Instagram pages.

Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa
Disclaimer: Many thanks to Batu Karang Lembongan Resort & Day Spa for hosting us. All opinions and experiences are honest and our own- we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!

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Kollecting Koordinates - where to stay in Nusa

20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido in Palawan

Hurricane Hagupit swept across the Philippines days before our flight to El Nido in 2014. We shrugged off the sunk costs and tried our luck again in 2016. When we arrived at Mactan-Cebu Airport to check in for our flight, we were told our flight was canceled. Dammit, what does it freaking take to visit this place?! We eventually made it there the following day and realized it was all worth it! Here are 20 photos to inspire you to visit El Nido in Palawan, Philippines.

READ MORE: 8 Reasons to convince you to visit Cebu in the Philippines

20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Island hopping is a must!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Town proper from the sea

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Marvel at the countless islands and rock formations

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

The ocean has never been so inviting!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Have breakfast with views overlooking the Corong Corong Bay

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Indulge in views like this from the Taraw Peak

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

And this

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Sun tan on this soft white sand beach

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

…as long as you bring sunscreen!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Go island hopping on your own private banca and avoid crowds

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Explore this natural aquarium

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Enjoy sunsets while swinging in a hammock on your balcony

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Dive into crystal clear turquoise waters

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

The snorkeling conditions here are pristine!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Live among trees in a cottage with an infinity pool

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Motorbike to the famous twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

The Twin Beaches of El Nido: Nacpan and Calitang

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Go kayaking in the Big and Small Lagoons

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Get your hair fried and skin burnt…. worth it!

Still not convinced? Check out our Youtube video:

Stay tuned for our guide to visiting El Nido comfortably and efficiently without breaking your bank!

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Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

A Quick Guide to SantoriniKollecting Koordinates - Santorini

How can you miss Santorini when you’re in Greece?

Long have I dreamed about visiting this picture-perfect island in the Cyclades. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to walk along the caldera to see the whitewashed houses, to swim in the crystal clear blue waters of the Agean Sea, and to catch one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. My wishes finally came true when we spent three nights here on our honeymoon last year. Here’s a quick guide to visiting this timeless destination- Santorini!

Kollecting Koordinates

1. Travel in low/shoulder seasons

Do NOT go during the summer months. If you hate crowds like us you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Heck, we were there in early September and it was still extremely busy. We used the public bus to get around Fira-Imerovigli-Oia and passengers were packed like sardines every time. Unless you get on at the very first stop, chances are you’re gonna be standing in the aisle holding on for your dear life.

We went in early September and it was still very, very hot. Swimming in the ocean was heavenly but there was no shortage of sweat on land. Go either in early/mid June or mid/late September not only to avoid the crowds, but also for a more comfortable temperature.

2. Stay in Imerovigli

Because of its elevation and central location on the caldera, Imerovigli has my vote for having the best view in Santorini. Yes, we’d say it’s even better than the famous town of Oia.

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Our three nights at Vallais Villa was, without a doubt, one of our most memorable hotel stays. It was like waking up to paradise every morning! With a view of the Skaros Rock and caldera, a breakfast spread that is equally beautiful as delicious, and an outdoor Jacuzzi on our private balcony, this place is hard to fault.

 

3. Indulge in delicious food

Maybe it’s the lack of rice and noodles, maybe it’s the amazing seafood. Whatever it is, I LOVE Greek Food. Tzatziki, gyros, baked feta, hummus, calamari, moussaka, fresh octopus, … the list goes on! If you’re on a budget you can survive on gyros and souvlakis. Our go-to’s for cheap eats are Pitogyros in Oia and Lucky’s in Fira.

Our favourite is a little place that serves tapas and meze (Traditional Greek cuisine). We dined here multiple times and loved every dish we tried. Their portions are very generous and prices fairer than most restaurants in Oia. And of course, don’t forget to stop by Taverna Katina in Amoudi Bay for some fresh catch of the day!

Kollecting Koordinates

4. Get lost in the towns

This is an obvious one, but an absolute must! You can hike from Fira to Oia, or you can bus between towns to save time. Make sure your camera is fully charged because you’ll be greeted with a postcard moment every corner you turn.

Kollecting Koordinates

There are also many, many cats on the island… like this little guy who was very friendly! Most of them are pets of restaurant and shop owners but many are feral.

 

5. Go on a sunset cruise

We signed up with Santorini Sailing for an afternoon of sailing and swimming in the Agean Sea, visited the hot springs, and stopped by the Red and White Beaches. Oh and did I mention we were served unlimited drinks and food? Hell yeah!

Kollecting Koordinates

6. Catch the world famous sunset

There are a couple of places to watch the sun dip into the horizon and they all offer different perspectives of this beauty. We had a pretty good view from our balcony in Imerovigli with a long stretch of the caldera in the foreground, and we also had an unobstructed view from our boat. Another place is Santo Winery in Pyrgos. What better way to to enjoy the sunset than pairing it with some wine?

Then there’s Oia Castle, the obvious choice. You’ll have to camp out for a good spot but there’s a reason why everyone gathers here for the sun to go down. It was truly magical. 

Kollecting Koordinates

What took my breath away, though, is seeing the town light up against the multicoloured sky. I mean, just look at this! We couldn’t have asked for anything more romantic.

Kollecting Koordinates

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Kollecting Koordinates - Santorini

3 days in an underrated paradise- West CreteKollecting Koordinates - Crete

Greece is not just about Santorini or Mykonos. The largest island is one that is underrated and often overlooked- Crete! On the hunt for beautiful beaches in Greece, we almost booked our flight to Zakynthos until we discovered Elafonissi Beach and Balos Lagoon. We ended up spending 3 days in Crete!

It’s been a year since we left the island and my tan lines are still slightly visible! No amount of sunscreen was going to protect us from the blazing sun; most definitely not in August and not in Crete. We were sweaty, sticky, smelly, and covered in sand or dirt the entire time. It was definitely not your typical honeymoon itinerary but did we regret it? Hell no! The adventurous aspect made it that much more fun!

How to spend 3 days in Crete

With only 3 days in Crete, there was no way we could’ve explored the entire island. We made our home base in Chania (pronounced HAN-NYA) and limited ourselves to 3 main points in West Crete: Elafonissi Beach, Samaria Gorge, and Balos Lagoon.

Our friend advised us against driving in Crete because of the rough terrains leading to these places. Boy, were we glad we listened. The only thing separating vehicles from falling off huge drops and cliffs were rails at about 3-4 feet high (srs, no joke!). Traffic isn’t bad within town but if you’re going to these 3 places, leave it to the pros! I don’t know how they do it but the Cretan bus drivers are able to navigate gigantic tour buses like nobody’s business. The ones on the Balos route especially deserve an award. It was a total shitshow squeezing a massive bus through parked cars on both sides on a cliff.

Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece - Elafonisi

3 Days in Crete – Day 1: Elafonissi Beach

We walked to the bus station from our Airbnb in Chania Old Town for the 9am bus (€10.90 per person). KTEL (Cretan bus service) uses tour buses as their public transport, so the 2.5hr ride was actually quite comfortable. We grabbed an umbrella and 2 chairs (I think it was about €7 for the whole day), slathered on sunscreen, and explored this famous pink-sand beach.

Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece - Elafonisi

Elafonissi is actually a small island, with a long strip of sand connecting it to the mainland with shallow waters on each side. The sand itself isn’t really pink- the hue comes from dead corals and red microscopic organisms. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I mean, just look at it!

Of our 3 days in Crete, this was our favourite stop. 6 hours passed quickly splashing around in the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Libyan Sea. Before we knew it, we were 6 shades darker and on the bus ride back to Chania.

tips

  • Public bus services to Elafonissi and Balos are only available in tourist season, so check their most up-to-date timetables before you go. If you can’t see them on this site, it means they’re not operating these routes at this time.
  • There’s only ONE bus coming back from Elafonissi. Make sure you get on the 5pm bus!
  • Snacks, water, and sunscreen are a MUST. There are stands at the beach but prices are steep.

 

3 Days in Crete – Day 2: Samaria Gorge

This is a 16km hiking trail in one of Crete’s National Parks- the longest in Europe. You can drive here on your own but I wouldn’t recommend it because you’ll have to leave your car at the entrance of the park and somehow pick it up at the end of the day after your downhill journey ends in Agia Roumeli. Plus, you’ll want to save your energy for the hike.

Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece - Samaria Gorge

We joined an excursion for €18 each, and were picked up from Chania at 6am for a stunning 1hr comfy ride to Xyloskalo. We began our downhill journey from an altitude of 1250m, passing by floral and fauna (and tons of goat poop!) during our descend. You might come across “Kri-kri” goat on your hike, but we weren’t so lucky.

It was nice and cool for the first hour or so, but by the time we got to the 10km mark there was no more shade! We were baking in the August Cretan sun. It took us around 4-5 hours to reach Agia Roumeli– the hike really isn’t as bad as some make it sound unless you have knee problems, because it’s pretty much all downhill with some rocky parts. We also didn’t have an issue with overcrowding, even in peak season, because the gorge is massive. In fact, we were actually all alone 2-3hrs into the hike.

To be honest, we felt a little underwhelmed by Samaria Gorge, probably because we have some of the most beautiful hiking trails back home in BC Canada. However, that’s not to say Samaria Gorge isn’t amazing! The landscape, crystal clear creeks, and rock formations (especially the Iron Gates) are truly magnificent. This is something you’ll have to experience at least once in your lifetime. Definitely squeeze this in your itinerary of 3 days in Crete.

tips

  • The entrance fee to enter the gorge is €5; ferry ticket to Sougia is €10.
  • There are washrooms and water fountains throughout the trail. You’ll be fine with just a small water bottle.
  • Bring a roll of toilet paper with you- my husband thanked me for this.
  • Bring flip flops (and a swimsuit) so you can soak in the sea after you get to Agia Roumeli. So refreshing!
  • You can pay €2 for a shuttle ride for the last 2km of the trail.
  • Bring a hat and lots of sunscreen. Your skin will thank you, especially after you pass the 10km mark.
  • Make sure you keep your entrance ticket because you will need to show it when you exit. There is no overnight camping at the gorge. This is also how the rangers keep track of lost hikers.

 

3 Days in Crete – Day 3: Balos Lagoon

“Balos by bus or by boat?!” We took the 11am bus (7.80 per person) to Balos Lagoon via Kissamos from Chania. After 100min of being amazed by our bus driver (30min of which was us close to shitting our pants because of how close we were from falling off the cliffs, we arrived at another one of the most stunning beaches in Europe. 2 stunning beaches within only 3 days in Crete? Score!

Upon arrival, you have to walk for about 20-30min down a rocky hill. This is easy peasy as long as you watch out for goat poop. It is also here where you get the best view of the lagoons!

Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece - Balos

The first part of our day was fantastic. It started going downhill when more people and more people started to arrive, and then some. As the day went on, the temperature rose higher and higher. I started getting really dizzy and nauseous from the extreme heat. Hiking (or shall I say crawling) back up the rocky hill was an absolute nightmare, especially when there is no shade!

We liked Elafonissi a lot better than Balos because the sand here wasn’t as soft and clean. Once in the water it’s a different story, but there is a noticeable difference on the beach itself. Another thing to point out is the washroom at Balos, or lack of. I really needed to pee when we were waiting for the bus, but the closest thing was literally a hole in the ground in a little shack. No doors. No flushing mechanism. It was FILTHY in there with other people’s shit and piss everywhere, but when you gotta go, you gotta go!

tips

  • If you’re planning on driving, keep in mind that the last 30min is on a rocky, steep, and winding dirt road.
  • Or just take the bus! You’ll be able to rest up on the way back. There are multiple services to and from Balos every day during peak season.
  • Bring a pair of sneakers for the rocky descend/ascend.
  • I have yet to figure out where the legit washroom is at Balos. Do people just pee in the water? What if they have to take a dump?

 

 

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Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece

Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & SpaKollecting Koordinates - Shangri-la Mactan

Ah, Shangri-La Mactan. This gorgeous resort in Cebu served as my sanctuary on our last night in the Philippines. We knew we were in good hands from the moment our airport shuttle pulled up to the security check. Our time in the Philippines was going to end on a good note after all.

A nasty flu slapped me in the face towards the end of our Philippines journey. When I finally saw my GP after week 3 of nonstop coughing, he said I would’ve gotten pneumonia if I didn’t recover from laryngitis by week 4 (yikes!). Anyway, after suffering from high fevers for 3 days straight in El Nido, I was relieved when we landed in Cebu. We were to stay here for one night before flying back to Taiwan.

First Impressions

Similar to other Shangri-La properties, this one is grand; it was like walking into a palace. We were welcomed by staff in gorgeous uniforms (that’s right, even their outfits are spot on!) and sipped on yummy welcome drinks while checking in. A bell boy, full of smiles, then walked us to our room. We don’t know his name, but he picked us out from the crowd the next morning to say bye to us!

Kollecting Koordinates - Shangri-la Mactan

Room

Perched on the 9th floor, our massive room offered a beautiful view of the coastline. The king-sized bed is the most comfortable bed we slept on this entire Asia trip.

The staff even surprised us with fresh fruits, wine, chocolates, and a cake to celebrate both our birthdays! We had reservations at Cowrie Cove, one of Shangri-La’s onsite restaurants, but had to cancel because I was just too weak. When we ordered room service later in the evening, they surprised us with 2 more cakes! That was such a sweet gesture. The service and attention to detail here is just impeccable!

Kollecting Koordinates - Shangri-la Mactan

Food

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Filipino food. I don’t like rice nor do I eat meat, so I didn’t have many options in the Philippines. The food at Shangri-La Mactan, however, is a different story. The vegetarian bibimbap I had for lunch was and the breakfast buffet was the best thing I ate that whole week. The cuisines they offered included Filipino, Western, Japanese, and Korean. There was a fruit bar, salad bar, dessert bar, and even a gluten-free zone! There were also plenty of vegetarian options too- I was in heaven.

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Amenities

With its own private beach and onsite spa facility, Shangri-La Mactan has something for everyone. Fitness training, snorkeling, beach volleyball, jet ski, tennis, yoga… the list goes on and you’ll never run out of things to do. It’s the perfect place not only for couples on a romantic getaway, but also families with small children. They even offer nail art and hair braiding for kids!

Kollecting Koordinates - Shangri-la Mactan

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Thoughts

It’s a shame that we weren’t able to indulge in everything the resort has to offer. We would’ve loved to have a romantic candlelit dinner or try some water sports, but I just wasn’t physically able to do anything. Thanks to Shangri-La Mactan’s luxurious comfort and service, though, I was finally able to rest up and recharge my body.

We’ll be coming back- and next time, we’ll be treating ourselves to a spa treatment after cruising on jet skis!

Kollecting Koordinates - Shangri-la Mactan
Disclaimer: We received a discounted rate for our experience at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa. However, these are our own honest opinions and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Shangri-La Mactan