Of all the destinations in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has been habitually ignored over the decades by travelers, despite its abundant assets. The reasons for this vary from political instability and terrorist concerns in parts of the nations to a lack of care taken towards tourism marketing, but after years of mismanagement and bad luck, the tides have shifted and suddenly, this island archipelago is hot in travel circles.
And how! With 7,000 islands lined with countless underutilized and undiscovered beaches, cultural elements that make it stand out from the rest of Asia (a nation filled with 100 million Christians that have a significant portion of their lineage tied to the Spanish and the Americans), and some of the friendliest people on the face of the planet, it is the Philippines time to shine.
Want to experience a piece of this rewarding place, but are afraid that you may have to rough it? No need to worry, as while there are elements of Filipino society that are still in developing world mode, the vast majority of the infrastructure here is sufficiently developed enough that with a little patience and understanding, your trip here will a positive one.
Below, we will profile three locales that may appeal to you during luxury travel in the Philippines.
Manila: Colonial history amid modernity
Many people have a negative perception of Manila, and seek to leave as soon as possible. While the rich/poor divide here is noticeable, we do not feel this is basis enough to avoid a destination. Indeed, Manila has several sights worth seeing before jetting off to a beach getaway further down the country.
Intramuros contains many houses, churches and shops from the Spanish Colonial Era, which includes San Agustin Cathedral, a UNESCO recognized religious structure, and Fort Santiago, from which you can capture a perfect shot of the Manila skyline from across its bay. Golf fans be aware: an 18 hole course wraps around the walls of this old part of the city, making for a unique experience.
Boracay: The Phils best established full service resort
If you seek the classic beach resort experience with some of the whitest sand your have seen in your life, then you can hardly go wrong by booking a week or longer at a luxury resort on the island of Boracay. Prime options for hanging your hat here include the Shangri-la Boracay Resort & Spa, the Boracay Manadrin Island Hotel and for those seeking a serviced apartment style experience, Tanawin Resort and Luxury Apartments can’t be beat for an inspired mix of convenience and homely touches in their suites.
White Beach is the center of action during the day, where one can simply bake in the sun, go swimming at their leisure, or get active and participate in activities from parasailing to snorkeling. If the hustle and bustle of this locus of action is too much for you on certain days, Boracay is small enough that one can get to quieter gems like Puka and Bulabog Beaches without much effort. On the latter beach, one can observe adventurous kitesurfers on blustery days, adding a touch of entertainment to the idyllic surrounds of Bulabog.
Palawan: The diamond in the rough
If you have a lust for adventure in your luxury travels, then the distant island of Palawan will satiate it in the most poignant way. This former backwater of the Philippines is located far to the west from the majority of the islands that compose the Filipino archipelago, a fact that ensured its obscurity … until recently.
With the advent of the internet and social media though, word is finally getting out about the island that inspired the novel The Beach by Alex Garland (not Thailand, as is commonly thought), and with sheer limestone karsts that hide secret beaches, unbelievably blue water, and an unbelievably chilled out way of life, it shouldn’t any surprise.
Luxury accommodation here isn’t the on the par of the Hilton or the Four Seasons (yet), but it is well-appointed, clean and comfortable, and with otherworldly placements over the water or close to it, we don’t think you’ll mind too much about the lack of a concierge. In El Nido, the epicentre of tourism on Palawan, the daily activities revolve around tours that uncover secret coves, trekking amidst many local paths that will reveal yet more isolated corners of this special destination, and SCUBA diving/snorkeling trips that will reveal the incredible biodiversity that lies in the reefs below the glowing aquamarine water that is commonplace in the El Nido area.