As almost any Western Australian would know, travelling anywhere other than Bali is going to take some time and effort. But with that being said, I was more than happy to commence our journey to the PHILIPPINES! After seeing numerous travel snaps popping up on the gram recently from this glorious blue magical land it was definitely time to tick it off.
First stop, Cebu and more precisely Shangri La Mactan Resort and Spa. After the 13 hour flight with a stopover in Hong Kong we were thrilled to arrive in what could be best described as a huge jungle like sanctuary. I’ve stayed at a fair share of large chain hotels and resorts in my time but this definitely didn’t have an impersonal feel to it all. From our airport transfer to check in, the staff were eager to help and extremely attentive to all of our needs. As with every place I visit, I make it a priority to walk around the whole hotel as soon as I get there, to see what’s what and basically explore what’s on offer. I’m not going to lie, it took me some time seeing as the resort is HUGE being located on 13HA. Okay so I may have not walked that far but definitely hit the highlights on my hotel map. Our first night we visited Cowrie Cove Restaurant, this is the resorts seafood restaurant and was one of our favourites. The resort prepared a feast for us; Salmon Gravalax, Lobster Broth, Fillet and Prawns, Chocolate Forrest dessert, safe to say I’m pretty sure we rolled back to the room. A huge highlight of this resort, being an Instagrammer is the high speed wifi, it’s better than my internet at home, not kidding. Super handy for keeping on top of posts to make friends back home jealous and of course watching Netflix at night after a long hard day of basking in the sun. The buffet breakfast was insane; my boyfriend was in heaven every morning. For me I was blown away by the watermelon juice dispenser and unlimited fresh cut mangoes, I mean what else could you want in life. They had various nationality dishes on offer, such as Filipino, Korean, Japanese and Western. It was easy to put away at least three plates of all the goodies on offer (working on that holiday bod). We spent our days visiting the amazing beach front, basically three little inlets that lead out to the coral reef for some pretty epic snorkeling. The resort is very family friendly but it’s also big enough to not be affected by children. They provide an array of amenities and activities for kids that let the adults relax in peace which is always a bonus for both the parents and other guests. Filipinos are huge on their water sports; we snorkeled for a few hours each day and enjoyed the sunshine whilst doing so. Shangri La also offered jet-skis, kayaks, sup boards and had a dedicated dive shop on the property for those adventure seekers. The resort has many pool areas for you to kick back and relax in and enjoy a yummy fresh coconut or a cheeky cocktail. The room itself was perfect and housekeeping came numerous times a day keeping it sparkling and clean. We also visited Acqua the Italian inspired restaurant a couple of times – the menu was large and it was tricky to choose so we left it up to the chef. We had the chefs special on our first visit which was an American rib eye paired with a few other delicious appetisers, the Chef came out and did the whole salt bae cutting routine in front of us which was quite special. To be honest you don’t even have to leave the hotel complex, we spent four nights here and didn’t have a reason to leave until we had to go to our next island – absolutely everything was there!
Flying into Palawan was basically like flying into a scene straight out of Jurassic Park, or something equally as crazy and amazing. The natural landscape of this region is extremely beautiful and one not to be missed when visiting the Philippines. The airport is small and transport to Coron town takes about 45 minutes via car. From there it was another 45 minute trip via speed boat to one of the most idyllic postcard settings, Coron Two Season’s Island Resort. Two Seasons Coron Island Resort & Spa, a 5-star eco-friendly accommodation is located on the beautiful Malaroyroy Peninsula in Bulalacao Island, Coron, Palawan, Philippines. Stepping out of the boat onto the jetty makes you feel like you’ve just arrived in heaven. Tropical palm trees line the clear white sandy beach, and the vibrant blue water is just like a Microsoft screensaver only better because its real and not at all pixilated. Alternatively they have seaplanes available, if you want to be a little bit more lavish, I mean why stop when you’re ahead! We spent two nights in the Sandbar Bungalow room; the only one of its kind on the island. It is located on the pointed tip of the island where the beautiful sandbar connects to the islet of Bulog Dos. A breathtaking, unobstructed east and west views of the ocean and surrounding islands are the highlights of this unique bungalow. It was INSANE, definitely in my top 5 places I’ve stayed ever. We were situated on the tip of the island with picturesque views surrounding us, one side wall to ceiling windows with a balcony with sun beds and sea views, and the other side a balcony with a spa built into the rocks overlooking the ocean and of course the sunset, ohhh the sunsets. This resort is extremely remote and with that comes a high level of exclusivity. To get around the island there is a golf cart service to take you here and there (to the restaurant, to the spa, back to your villa etc). The resort itself is the only thing situated on this island (name), during our stay we barely ran into other guests which made it very intimate, just like we had the whole island to ourselves! It was peak season, so the resort was actually at capacity; however it is big enough for all guests to enjoy and still have their personal space. The SULU restaurant is amazing and the menu is extensive, we tried ALOT of dishes during our stays with the Two Season’s chains (one week in total). The Chef’s Angus Burger was delicious and of course all the local seafood, not to mention the watermelon juice (bit obsessed) or a pina colada from the BAYA pool bar (served by the ever so charming Ethan). The rest of our time was spent relaxing in the sun; swimming, snorkeling and of course sup boarding on the pristine crystal blue waters. We treated ourselves to a night of indulgence at the NARA spa and experienced their amazing full body Swedish massage, bliss – safe to say we both fell asleep during our pampering session. Two Season’s Coron Island Resort is one of those places you won’t believe exists until you see it for yourself, so do yourself a favour and get booking.
Another 45 minute boat ride back to Coron main land and we arrived at our private jetty at Two Seasons Coron Bayside. The hotel is super new, only being opened a few months back. Everything is shiny and new, the rooms are large and all the amenities are of course very modern. I wasn’t feeling the best during our first day (I’m a bit of a sook when it comes to travelling in boats on the open ocean – unfortunately it was a windy day on the high seas). I fell asleep for most of the afternoon and missed exploring our area. However after a good slumber I certainly appreciated the room service menu on offer. The next day was our big day of exploring Coron Island. The hotel organised a boat tour for us to navigate around the famous island. We had an exclusive tour, meaning it was just us and the tour guide (a teenager who spoke fluent English and was more than happy to swim everywhere with us) and of course the boat driver. Personally I think it’s worth spending the extra money for a private tour, to be able to dictate exactly what you want to see and for how long. We chose our preferred locations and off we went, it’s only a 20 minute boat ride from the main Coron town, therefore it being the perfect spot to anchor yourself whilst exploring this area. First stop we hit the Twin Lagoon, of course photos from drones always make it look a little bit better, but it was still extremely divine at eye level. The boats can only enter one side of the lagoon, to visit the other side you have to swim through a small cave. The swim is quite far from the boats to the second lagoon so I would recommend wearing your life jacket if you’re not an Olympian. On the other side of the second lagoon you are greeted with breath taking aqua green waters, coral reefs, fishes and some of mother nature’s finest limestone rock formations. The lagoon gets warmer the deeper you swim down and it’s a very unusual feeling having heat rising beneath you. Next stop we visited Skeleton Beach which was an old sunken Japanese ship wreck, it can be seen from the surface but even better if you can hold your breath snorkeling or of course diving. The reef here was SO blue and had an amazing coral garden full of sea life. The crew then took us to Beach 91 for a Filipino beach buffet style lunch; it was traditional fare of rice, chicken and seafood. Our last destination was Kayangan Lake, after seeing my brother’s September trip photos from here, I needed to go! The hike to top for THE picture is about 150 steps, it’s pretty steep though and will certainly make you puff, that, or the view itself will take your breath away. After the photo frenzy we descended down the other side of the mountain into the Kayangan Lake swimming area, it’s another 150 uneven steps, but totally worth it. The lake is freshwater and a little bit chillier than the twin lagoons, but inevitably highly tranquillising like most of the Coron Island surroundings. It would be incredibly easy to spend a week exploring this area – seeing as there are so many unique islands, each as amazing as the next!
We were a little hesitant about what Boracay would be like after everyone we had spoken to had dubbed it the “party” island of the Philippines. Fortunately for us Two Season’s Resort was located in Station 1, this is Boracay’s gleaming white beachfront known famous for being much more peaceful and relaxing compared to other areas along the 4km tropical stretch. The beach front is awash with tourists from various countries, mostly Japanese and Chinese. To get to Boracay we flew into Caticlan airport and then from there had a 5 minute car ride to our awaiting speed boat which took 10 minutes to get to Boracay island itself, another 25 minute car ride and we arrived in the hustle and bustle of an evident tourist destination. Most of the resorts here are located on the beach, with amazing beachfront access and views. We were lucky enough to stay in the Suite Heaven room which is the best room available in the hotel, located on the top floor with an amazing view over the whole beach, with floor to ceiling windows looking out over our own infinity pool and tanning deck. We spent the majority our time on our balcony and in the pool soaking up the sunshine, completely relaxing and taking in the magical view. Once again the restaurant BarLo was delicious and the ‘Gambasetti’ pasta dish was definitely a highlight. The sand on the White Beach is so soft and white; it’s easy to understand how it has quickly become a tourist destination. At sunset, people flock to the shores and the water is full of sailboats and colorful parasails. We walked along the beach every night and experienced live music and fire dancers at almost every venue. Boracay is the perfect place to kickback onto a beachfront lounge and enjoy an icy cold cocktail or two; seeing as happy hour runs from 1-8pm in most places!
FAVOURITE PLACES TO EAT:
3 MUST-DO’S IN THE PHILIPPINES:
Water Sports (Snorkelling + Sup Boarding)
Unwind (visit a spa and indulge)
Coron Island Boat Tour (a day you will never forget)
FAVOURITE SPA IN THE PHILIPPINES:
I SHOPPED IN THE PHILIPPINES:
Bamboo Markets and D-Mall in Boracay
BEST PHILIPPINES PHOTO OPPS:
MY 3 TRAVEL ESSENTIALS TO PACK:
Dettol Handwash, Straw Hat + Snorkel
WHY I WOULD COME BACK:
Out of this world islands and crystal clear water!
You have travelled to the Philippines and want to share your experiences? We’d love to hear from you in our The Asia Collective – Luxe Travellers group on Facebook – join to share your travel tips and ask for advice from the like-minded travellers.