After an epic backpacking adventure around Vietnam and The Philippines, the island of Boracay was our final destination. Touching down in Kalibo Airport felt bitter sweet; bitter because it meant that we would soon be going back home to England, and sweet because I had a feeling we had saved the best ‘til last.
Measuring in at just 10.32 square kilometres, Boracay is one of the smallest, and well-known islands in The Philippines. The island has been catapulted into the media recently for its paradise scenes (it’s also just been named #1 Island in the World by US Conde Nast Traveler). Because of all this, I was itching to see and experience it for myself.
We stayed at Shangri La’s Boracay Resort & Spa, as Part 2 of my exciting collaboration with Kuoni. This resort is regarded by most as the most private and luxurious hotels in The Philippines, and it was my first experience of a Shangri-La property. After all the adventure, adrenaline and endless modes of transport we had crammed into the previous 6 weeks, we couldn’t have chosen a more idyllic place to unwind before the long journey back to the UK. Here are 7 reasons why I loved Shangri La’s Boracay Resort and Spa…
The Grand Arrival
As Boracay doesn’t have an airport, locals and tourists have to take a boat from Caticlan Port on the neighbouring island of Panay. Often packed with hoards of party-seeking travellers, catching the public boat can be a hectic experience. Guests of Shangri-La get to avoid all of this by travelling through the resort’s exclusive departure lounge and private jetty. I felt an immediate sense of calm as I stepped inside the lounge. Immaculate staff welcomed us through the doors and after 5 minutes of sipping on ice-cold water we were shown the way to our private speedboat.
An invigorating 10-minute speedboat ride later and we were slowly chugging up to the resort’s private jetty. An ensemble of traditional Filipino musicians played an upbeat island tune on our arrival and we were whisked off to the reception by buggy. The private speed boat transfer felt very ‘Bond’, and the spectacular arrival marked the start of a truly luxury experience.
The Gourmet Dining Experiences
For me, food is such a huge part of a luxury travel experience and disappointing restaurants can really be a deal breaker for me. Fortunately, the food was a definite highlight of the stay for us and I was blown away by the quality, flavours and diversity of cuisine available at the resort. All 4 restaurants also have their own identity and atmosphere in an impressive location, so every meal is different from the next (due to the remote location of the resort, guests should be prepared to have most evening meals in the hotel).
We had our first evening meal at Sirena, the resort’s signature seafood restaurant perched on a cliff top above the water. I ordered the Sous Vide Norweigen Salmon with asparagus, truffle Mash and Sambal Cream Sauce followed by a desert of Churros with salted caramel sauce. Indulgent, not too heavy and utterly delicious! Whilst it was dark outside when we dined, we could still hear the crashing waves around us, which created the perfect atmosphere for a fine dining seafood restaurant.
My favourite dining experience of the stay was at Rima on our final night. Set high in the treetops over looking the whole resort, it is definitely one the most unique restaurant locations I have seen. Rima is the resort’s elegant Mediterranean restaurant and I ordered the signature dish of Homemade Liquid Parmesan Ravioli with Zucchini and Capsicum Sauce. The colourful dish was a work of art and each bite was bursting with flavour.
The Immaculate Pool Area
There are two beaches within the resort, one of which is totally private (Banyugan Beach) and the other is semi-private (Punta Bunga Beach). Behind the private beach is the hotel pool; an impressive design of waterways, jetpools, bridges and fountains. A separate, smaller infinity pool stretches right out over Banyugan Beach and overlooks the crashing turquoise waves. The water feels immaculately clean and I loved the intricate dark blue tiling, which spread throughout the entire pool complex.
It’s Child and Big-Kid Friendly
As we were travelling as a couple and don’t have kids, we didn’t make use of the children’s facilities. However, after seeing them for myself I can image that they would be a godsend to parents with young children. Tucked away in a subtle corner of the resort is a huge Children’s zone with soft-play area, huge slide and lots more. Parents can drop their children off to be supervised and entertained all day at no additional cost.
For big kids and adults there’s also an expansive entertainment zone with bar, pool tables, table tennis, table football, arcade games, cinema room and karaoke rooms. Because of a passing storm during our stay, we spent lots of time in here working on our cue technique as the rain poured down outside. Even if you come alone, the staff are happy to be your opponent!
The Spectacular Tree House Villas
We stayed in a Premiere Sea View room, but I also got to check out all the different villa types during my stay. The spectacular tree house villas were by far the most impressive, and look like something from ‘Grand Designs’ (a UK TV programme about innovative property design). Located close to Rima at the top of the resort’s hillside, the tree house villas definitely provide the best panoramic views of the resort. The expansive duplex villas have a jaw-dropping outdoor deck with Jacuzzi and the ‘bathtub with a view’ is another talking point. Staying in one of these villas would be a phenomenal experience, but not one I’d recommend if you’re scared of heights!
The Heavenly Chi-Spa
Another jewel of this resort is Chi-Spa, hidden away in a peaceful corner of the grounds. This tropical destination spa is a village-complex in itself, with central reception building, spa pool and separate treatment villas. The air oozes with serenity and you’re struck by the signature Shangri-La scent as soon as you walk through the doors. My boyfriend and I got to experience a Philippine Hilot couples massage, which used warm coconut oil and banana leaves to detect areas of energy imbalance and blockages. I left feeling calm and energised, with a clear head. The spa pool is reserved for spa guests only, but one treatment gives you access for a full day.
It’s more important than ever for big island resorts to play a part in protecting the eco-system, and I love that Shangri La Boracay takes full responsibility for theirs. So much so that they’ve created an Eco-centre within the resort and a Marine Sanctuary Restoration Project just a few meters into the sea. Children and adults can visit the centre for educational information about the island’s protection. We popped our heads in as a group of children were learning about a set of artificial reefs that were to going to be lowered into the Marine Sanctuary to spur re-growth of sea life.
Shangri La’s Boracay Resort & Spa is in a little world of its own. Whilst the location feels like it could be any tropical paradise location in the world, there are subtle Filipino touches to give you a sense of place. For me, the service and attention-to-detail made all the difference in this exclusive hideaway. If you’re looking for a slice of laid-back luxury in The Philippines (or simply a break from the backpacking), it’s time to discover this resort for yourself.
Want to read more? Check out my Essential Guide to The Philippines.
Going to Vietnam? Check out my review of Six Senses Ninh Van Bay
Watch the video below for a closer insight into my Shangri-La experience
What did you think of my exotic Shangri La experience? Have you stayed at a Shangri La property yourself or are you thinking of visiting? If you’ve enjoyed this post, please let me know by leaving me a comment in the box below! Jess x
This post has been sponsored as part of a content collaboration with Kuoni. All views are my own. To experience Shangri La’s Boracay Resort & Spa for yourself, speak to the travel experts at Shangri La’s Boracay Resort & Spa