by Shawn L Fitzpatrick
Whether you’re in search of an all-inclusive luxury resort or a chilled out beach villa, the Philippines has no shortage of remote retreats to whisk intrepid travelers off the grid. Home to more than 7,000 islands, the Southeast Asian archipelago counts abundant marine life, colorful reefs and pristine beaches among its selling points.
But you will want to get there soon. The country’s natural beauty has caught the eye of international jet setters and tourism has grown at a rate of 8% per year since 2010. While the cluster of resorts along Manila Bay are easy enough to find, you will have to work a little harder to check out these far flung hotels listed below:
Amanpulo is one luxurious adventure. Claiming a plot of sand on its own private island, Amanpulo is all about off grid luxury. The exclusive address sprawls across 89 hectare Pamalican Island in the Sulu Sea, which is about an hour’s flight southwest of Manila. The only catch? To get here, travelers must spring for a chartered flight – the 15 seat jet lands on the island’s own private airstrip. But, then again, if you are staying at the Aman Resort’s Philippine outpost, you can probably afford it (Spielberg, JFK Jr and Daryl Hannah did – among others). Upon arrival guests settle into a beautifully appointed villa, designed using natural materials such as Cebu marble, coconut shell table tops and pebbled walls. The experience includes a personal butler, private plunge pools and even personal chefs in some of the top end villas. Active types, rejoice: Most days will revolve around exploring the pristine surrounds – think jungle trekking, diving, snorkeling, cycling, turtle spotting and tennis.
Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Sulu Archipelago, Philippines; +63 2 976 5200
For those looking for peace and quiet, Qi Palawan is about as secluded as it gets. To access this family-run retreat, travelers must catch an hour long flight from Manila to El Nido Airport, followed by an hour’s drive to the northeastern edge of Palawan island. You know you’re close when the van bumps along a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Once there, it’s nothing but sea views, breezy hammocks and lush gardens. Taking eco conscious measures to reduce its carbon footprint, the retreat features back to basics luxuries such as locally made soaps, an organic herb garden and open-air architecture. There are seven bamboo villas, a yoga pavilion and an open air restaurant helmed by one of the best chefs in Palawan. Guests can try their hand at kiteboarding on the beach or take a day trip to nearby dive sites and remote islands. Other highlights include a picnic lunch, snorkeling or a venture to the lush Linapacan island group, considered one of the most pristine locations in the Philippines.
Qi Palawan, San Fernando, Philippines
Tugawe Cove Resort
Hummingbirds, dense forests, limestone cliffs, waterfalls and lakes – Caramoan Island is an idyllic corner of south central Philippines. In the middle of it all is Tugawe Cove Resort. Built along a hillside above Lauing Bay, the elevated outpost offers panoramic views of Sombrero, Loto and Litao islands in the distance. There is an open air restaurant and an infinity pool perched at the top of the hill, and a path that leads down to the water. At the beach, guests can hop into a kayak, don snorkeling gear or try their hand at paddle boarding. The rooms’ warm wood finishes and ocean tones echo the surrounds – with options to stay in three distinct areas: by the nearby lake, along the hillside or at the very top.Reaching Tugawe Cove Resort requires careful planning to align with the limited flight schedules. Expect an hour long flight from Manila to Virac, followed by a 45 minute ride to Codon port, and a 30 minute boat ride to the resort.
Tugawe Cove, Colongcogong, Caramoan Peninsula, Camarines Sur, Philippines; +63 917 501 6711
Amarela embraces with an all natural aesthetic. A low key beach resort overlooking the Bohol Sea, Amarela is at home on a secluded beach on Panglao Island. All about the carefree island lifestyle, the 31 room retreat is a one hour plane ride from Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol’s capital, followed by a 30 minute car transfer. Amarela’s location is far enough away to feel remote, but close enough to offer relatively easy access to a few worthwhile attractions on Panglao island. The main draws include the photogenic Puntod sandbar, Hinagdanan cave and lagoon, Balicasag’s colorful reefs, and pristine Alona Beach. Keeping with the all natural aesthetics, the resort’s rooms have been designed to complement the surrounds – picture reclaimed wood, antique furniture, local art and a warm, earthy palette.
Amarela, Barangay Libaong, Panglao Island, Bohol, 6340, Philippines; +63 38 502 9497
Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa
Located on Panglao Island in south central Philippines, Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa stretches across 16 scenic hectares of rustic gardens and dramatic cliffs. The luxury resort feels remote thanks to its position on the southernmost tip of Bohol, but it is relatively easy to reach – just a one hour flight south of Manila, followed by a 30 minute drive. Relaxed yet refined, all the thatched roof villas feature private pools, but the hotel’s infinity pool is the pièce de résistance. The water’s perfect shade of turquoise tricks the eye into thinking the pool spills into the ocean. The pool may look inviting but there are plenty of other water activities at this oceanfront address – from dolphin watching to sunset cruises, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and island hopping.
Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa, Barangay Tawala, Panglao Island, Bohol, 6340, Philippines; +632 654 6480
Apulit Island’s over water cottages promise unobstructed views. El Nido Resort is usually one of the first names to pop up when researching hotels in Palawan. The string of boutique properties was one of the first luxury ventures to touch down in El Nido more than 30 years ago, when there were only a handful of modest beach bungalows in the area. The most remote in the El Nido Resorts portfolio? Apulit Island. Situated on the eastern coast of Palawan in lesser frequented Taytay Bay, this eco adventure spot is surrounded by imposing limestone cliffs. A vacation here offers an adrenaline filled few days of diving – there is a Japanese shipwreck just off the coast; snorkeling, cliff jumping, rock climbing, rappelling, spelunking, snorkeling and island hopping. Built on stilts, the 50 over water cottages promise unobstructed sea views and easy access to the turquoise water below. Most travelers budget at least a week to enjoy the area, due to the lengthy trip. Plan for a one-hour flight from Manila to El Nido, followed by a 1.5 hour drive east and an hour long boat transfer.
Apulit Island, El Nido Resorts Apulit Island, Taytay, Palawan, Philippines; +63 2 902 5994
Ticao Island Resort
Hidden away in the southeastern Bicol Region of the Philippines, Ticao Island Resort enjoys a long stretch of sand all to itself. It’s a well earned reward after a long trip. To reach the island outpost, expect an hourlong flight to Legazpi City from Manila, followed by a 1.5 hour drive and a 2 hour outrigger boat ride. Upon arrival, guests quickly settle into the laid back island life thanks to full board rates and nearly all inclusive activities. The beachfront cabanas and rustic surrounds are perfect for back to basics getaways – picture simply appointed thatched roof huts, breezy decks, an open air restaurant and uninterrupted ocean views. Thanks to the manta ray and whale shark populations nearby, the address has developed a reputation for its diving classes and tours. One of the hotel’s partners is also the founder of the Manta Bowl dive site. Ideal for experienced divers, the site is like an underwater ride thanks to a current that pulls divers through the water alongside fevers of rays. Back on land, Ticao Island Resort offers a full roster of activities, including jungle treks, horseback riding, billiards, darts and outings to nearby Mayon Volcano.
Ticao Island Resort, Sitio Tacdugan, San Jacinto, Ticao Island, Masbate, Philippines; +632 893 817
Atmosphere Resort & Spa
Atmosphere Resort & Spa conveniently sits opposite the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary. An independently owned resort, Atmosphere Resort & Spa is run by two British expats – a scuba diver and an architect; who met in the Philippines more than 15 years ago. The husband and wife duo couldn’t have picked a better location – picture dark volcanic sand beaches in the shadow of Mount Talinis. Thanks to minerals in the sand from the nearby volcano, the area’s marine life is unique and varied, attracting underwater photographers and divers from all over the world. The address conveniently sits opposite the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary, which makes for easy snorkeling and diving excursions. Emphasizing health and wellness, Atmosphere comes fully equipped with a gluten free and vegan friendly bakery, daily yoga classes by the beach and a secret garden like spa where treatment pavilions are surrounded by waterfalls. The destination is relaxing, but getting here takes some effort. To reach the resort, travelers fly into Dumaguete Airport – about an hour long flight south of Manila; followed by a 40-minute drive.
Atmosphere Resort & Spa, Maayong Tubig, National Road, Dauin, 6217 Negros Oriental, Philippines; +63 35 400 6940
A recently opened resort on its own outlying island – off the coast of El Nido in Palawan; Cauayan Resort aims to attract a well heeled crowd. To reach the private island resort, travelers typically fly from Manila to El Nido, followed by a 15 minute transfer to the port and a 30 minute boat ride. The stylish resort offers a mix of private villas, a few scattered around a lagoon and the rest right on the beach, where baby whale sharks swim freely. Each of the 24 bungalows is decked out with teak wood, king-sized beds and rain showers, while the Grand Cauayan Pool Villa features two bedrooms and a private pool. Aside from the bamboo bungalows and some wooden steps, Cauayan Island is still an untouched tropical jungle, so expect back to nature experiences with insects, birds and unexpected animal encounters. To make the most of its location in scenic Bacuit Bay, the hotel runs daily island hopping outings, which may include stops at the aptly named Secret and Hidden beaches nearby, as well as the iconic Big and Small lagoons, accessible by kayak.
Cauayan Resort, Cauayan Island, Bacuit Bay El Nido, Palawan; +63 91 9587 7350
Every detail has been designed to celebrate the area’s natural beauty. This is the place for carefree island vibes and a stretch of empty sand. Dedon Island is a remote outpost on Siargao Island in the far south of the archipelago, about a five hour trip from Manila via Cebu, followed by a 40 minute ride in the hotel’s jeepney bus. The luxurious retreat offers all inclusive rates, so you can spend your time sipping sundowners rather than counting coins. From open air pavilions to coconut tree groves, frangipani gardens, a hidden treehouse, romantic day beds and bird’s nest woven chairs, it seems every detail has been designed to celebrate the area’s natural beauty. The upscale address is also a favorite among well to do surfing enthusiasts, thanks to its proximity to Cloud 9 – a break in the Philippine Deep trench known for picture perfect tubes. Can’t balance on a board? No to worry – there is a wide lineup of activities, including deep sea fishing, kayaking, wakeboarding, island hopping, biking and relaxing evenings at the outdoor cinema.
Dedon Island, Surigao del Norte, 8419, Philippines; +63 917 701 7820
Siargao Bleu Resort & Spa
A personal butler, airport transfers, poker nights, an outdoor cinema and a gorgeous pool – Siargao Bleu Resort and Spa is not a typical beach retreat. There are 40 villas and hotel rooms – some with Jacuzzis and all with ocean views. The hotel operates tours all over the island, including trips to the nearby rock pools, crocodile sanctuary, mangroves and even water buffalo rides at sunset. Just a five minute walk to the famous Cloud 9 swell, the resort also offers a special package aimed at experienced and aspiring surfers. To get here? It is a one hour flight from Cebu to Del Carmen in Siargao, then a 45 minute complimentary van transfer to the hotel.
Siargao Bleu Resort & Spa, Barangay Catangnan, General Luna, Siargao Island, Philippines; +63 917 772 4188
“Do not go where the path leads, travel instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” @wbbrjp