Dates: January 30th — February 1st, 2018
Who Stayed: Sabrina & Her Boyfriend
The Birdhouse is a unique "glamping" experience nestled into the foresty hills of El Nido, with treehouse-inspired nests that overlook the breathless Bacuit Bay.
I actually discovered The Birdhouse through the fortuitous magic of SEO. I was in the early stages of planning our trip to El Nido, not yet looking into lodging but doing research on how long our trip should be. I stumbled onto a blog entry with sample itineraries and out of curiosity clicked on the domain, only to find the exact type of unique, well-designed lodging that The InnBox is all about!
Fast-forward to our trip. We spent first half of our time in El Nido at The Amakan (review forthcoming). I would've preferred to spend the entire time at The Birdhouse but this place fills up fast and I literally planned our entire Philippines trip around the two nights of availability they had in January. The Birdhouse staff were incredibly communicative in coordinating our arrival— because, yes, it involves some logistics. Let's get into that!
The most important thing you need to know about The Birdhouse, logistically, is that it's not located off a major road. There is no door-to-door drop off service. Unless you plan to stay on their grounds for the entirety of your stay (and miss out on all the beautiful El Nido islands) there will be some walking involved to get in and out of The Birdhouse.
We were dropped off at the entrance to Marimegmeg beach, the closest a vehicle can get. Because we coordinated with The Birdhouse, they had two staff members there to greet us and help us out with our bags. We followed them down a set of stairs and across almost the entire length of the crescent shaped beach. We took a left turn behind one of the many beach bars and walked through a cleared path in the forest, across a few small bridges until we hit the foot of the stairs leading up to the Birdhouse.
The first time I took these stairs, I was panting and out of breath. As you ascend you'll come across a few signs with motivational messages like "one step at a time!" and "the best is yet to come!". When we reached the lobby a staffer was waiting with fresh glasses of ice water, which I immediately seized while wheezing out a "thank you" and then chugging for my life. The funny thing is, the climb seemed so much worse the first time we did it (and we weren't even carrying our own bags) but the subsequent two times it really wasn't that bad. It also helped that our tent was located the closest to ground level.
You might think that being "closest to the ground" meant that we had the worst view, but it was actually the exact opposite. We were already pretty high up off the ground and our "nest", Number 3, was actually perfectly positioned so that our view of the bay wasn't as obstructed by the trees that shade the rest of the compound. I mean... look at this.
This was my first "glamping" experience so I wasn't sure what to expect but the tent was so much bigger and roomier than I expected. For one, I didn't realize there'd be two additional twin beds inside in addition to the queen bed, meaning each tent can accommodate up to 4. Our room came supplied with some basic amenities: towels and bottled water, and a flashlight in case the generator went out (it didn't during our stay).
The Birdhouse is also big on conservation so they only turn on their electricity from 6PM—6AM at night, which is honestly the only time you really need it with most guests off on excursions during the day.
I thought the bed was super comfy and each side is flanked by a huge fan. With the fan on at a low setting I felt the temperature was perfectly comfortable for me at nights (and I usually find myself getting either "too hot" or "too cold").
There's also a significant amount of space outside the tent on your own private wooden platform, including a drying line behind the tent for hanging up any wet clothes.
I love the idea of "glamping", camping, or generally sleeping in the outdoors. I get excited about that... what I get anxious about is the bathroom sitch.
We had been warned by the staff not to be freaked out if there were geckos around the bathroom. It's expected, it's normal. I braced myself for it. And yet, I didn't see a single gecko in or around our bathroom during our entire stay! In fact, I saw less crawling critters in our outhouse bathroom at The Birdhouse than I did in our indoor bathrooms at all the other hotels we stayed at in The Philippines.
Honestly, it was fine. The bathroom was cozy, it was cute, and the appliances all seemed up to date and new. The shower water doesn't get very warm but you don't really need it to the kind of weather we had. You'll also be confronted in the bathroom with a lot of signage about conservation and water-use; seriously, the commitment is strong. The owner even mentioned to us that he's looking into switching to solar power.
We got a hint from a fellow guest that the Birdhouse lets you break off a piece of aloe from their plant to treat your burns. When we enquired about it one of the managers came out to help us, cutting off a piece of the plant and showing us how to skin the plant and get the most use out of the aloe. They even let us take it with us on the road, although we had to throw it away before we got to the airport.
The owner of the Birdhouse, Mark, is also a friendly face that often pops up during your stay and is happy to chat with guests. He actually greeted us from his spot chilling on the beach during our initial trek to the lodge and not knowing who he was, I thought "wow people in El Nido sure are friendly!" before one of the staffers carrying our luggage explained his presence. His wife, Camille, is responsible for all the stunning interior design at the Birdhouse, and we even befriended the current yoga teacher on-site at one of the local bars— although we never did ended up making it to the free yoga class...
Complimentary breakfast is included at The Birdhouse and they serve a different dish everyday accompanied by fresh fruit, like yellow watermelons, which I'd never had before. The first day we had chorizo, eggs, and garlic rice and the second day we had apple butter toast, which was my favorite of the two breakfasts.
We also ate at the restaurant for dinner on our first night there (after climbing those stairs we weren't in a hurry to go back down). The food is kind of expensive but it's a bit understandable when you take into consideration the labor and effort to get the necessary ingredients and supplies up there— and the food was good, so that helps! I had the pumpkin vegetable curry which had very generous portions. If you're lucky and it's not too crowded you can grab the one table on the restaurant's balcony for a shady yet unobstructed view of the bay, or chill in the cute lounge area on the balcony for evening drinks.
The Birdhouse is located in Corong-Corong, a more sparsely populated area compared to the denser El Nido town. There are tons of beaches, including Marimegmeg beach which is big and gorgeous, and quite a few bars and cafes around the shore. During our stay we even got to go down to a little Full Moon party at one of the beach bars, where tourists and a few locals were all mingling.
Since most of the tours in El Nido leave from the beach at El Nido town, it will take a twenty minute drive (included in the cost of most tours) to get there. If you want to experience more diverse dining options its recommended to eat and hang around El Nido town after your day tour before heading back to Marimegmeg beach and The Birdhouse.
This one kind of goes without saying but... given the trek across the beach and several steep stairs to access The Birdhouse, we really can't recommend it for wheelchair users or anyone who has difficulty walking.
If you enjoy active vacations and want to experience El Nido to the fullest, I highly recommend staying at The Birdhouse El Nido. It's probably one of the most memorable places I've stayed at, which pushed me a little bit out of my comfort zone while still being a relaxing and inspiring place to put my feet up.
If you found this review helpful, please let The Birdhouse know when you book!Book your stay @ The Birdhouse El Nido