Safety is relative: Visiting the Philippines: Travel Weekly

beyond the capital

Manila may ensure that the Philippines is more than just a beach vacation, but there is no doubt that the proximity and diversity of its islands, mostly short air hops, are key reasons for the growth in tourism. The archipelago boasts spectacular natural beauty and diversity, including volcanoes and pristine waters rich in marine life, as well as promising snorkeling and diving opportunities.

A dream destination for backpackers and explorers for decades, the travel organization began courting the baby boomer market more than 10 years ago with the arrival of the country’s first luxury hotels.

The groundbreaking Amanpuro Resort opened in 1993 and is part of Aman’s 31 resorts that originated in Thailand in 1988 and spread rapidly abroad. Pampered Amanpuro guests can take a one-way flight from Manila on a private charter flight to the small private island of Pamalek.

While upscale resorts continue to open in select locations, equally beautiful areas that lack five-star properties and below will naturally appeal to the more budget-conscious millennial market. They flock to the famous Ifugao Banaue terraces and the Cordillera Mountains, often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world and recognized by UNESCO in 1995.

Introduced by the Chinese to the Ifugao people around 2,000 years ago, the mudstone-walled terraces are still home to the Ifugao tribal culture, with artificially carved landscapes resembling “land art” through breathtaking hiking trails.

The surfing capital of Siargao Island (referred to by as one of the top 10 surf destinations in the world) continues to grow in popularity, and it’s not just its waves: lush landscapes amplify its appeal.

The Heart of Philippine Biodiversity

As a first-time guest, I was most interested in the Visayas, a group of central islands in the Philippines. They are the center of the country’s biodiversity and the natural attraction for much of the country’s tourism, starting with Bohol and its peculiar Chocolate Hills, more than 1,000 unusual geological formations over 19 square miles (50 square kilometers) Construct tumbling Hershey brown at the end of the rainy season. Cebu has a major international airport, many historical and cultural sites as well as popular festivals, beautiful beaches and growing infrastructure that help attract tourists. The Visayas is also the hottest beach destination you’ll find – the ultra-popular Boracay, a contender for South East Asia’s party island and home to the most photographed white sand beach.

Over the years, magazines like Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler have regularly listed Boracay and Cebu, along with neighboring Palawan, as a trio of dream islands. In fact, Boracay and Palawan regularly compete for first and second place on multiple world’s best lists. Like many islands in the Philippine constellation, both Boracay and Palawan offer very different experiences.

After an hour-long flight from Manila to Caticlan Airport in Panay followed by a short boat transfer, I arrived at Boracay and was overwhelmed by the abundance of island beauty crammed into less than four square miles of land. I follow the legions drawn to its shores and aptly named white-sand beaches, witnessing the over-loved and impressive stuff that young bloggers devalue.

Strolling along its powdery shores and revelling in one of the island’s famous sunsets shows why it’s so easy to love. But it’s also easy to leave the crowds and bustling nightlife behind if you’re staying at the waterfront Linde Hotel (though I’ll admit I love impromptu volleyball games and strolling families admiring the majestic salmon and purple skies), all the hustle and bustle It feels like a light year away. A glorious oasis hidden at the end of the fabled chain, it remains central but peaceful.

The lounge in the lobby and the sidewalk of the Linde Hotel in Boracay, an oasis at the end of the white sand beach.

Opened in late 2015, the bright, modern and chic five-star Lind has 119 rooms, attracting international guests, mostly Asian, who love colour and impeccable design. An infinity pool overlooks the oceanfront lounge below, three restaurants and a sophisticated spa encourage an escape from the water activities the island is known for and the nightlife that comes with it.

Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa is further away from the island’s hustle and bustle, built on a sheltered hillside that leads to a quiet bay and two separate sandy beaches. There’s a Balinese character here, with vernacular designs in common areas and villas, rich native forests, open, breezy architecture and luxury (not unlike what Shangri-La lovers find in Cebu’s sister hotel).

When it opened in 2009, it set the standard for island accommodation not just for Boracay, but for the entire island scene. Shangri-La’s new 5-star neighbors share this unique corner of Boracay, including Crimson Resort & Spa and Mövenpick Resort.

The magic of Palawan

Stretching 270 miles to the tip of Borneo, Palawan Island offers a completely different vibe. It is sparsely populated, has extensive agriculture, is home to various indigenous groups, and prides itself on being the cleanest province in the country.

Puerto Princesa, home to its provincial capital and one of its two island airports, feels much smaller than its rapidly growing population. The area is interesting with its small museums, waterfront restaurants and Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park, a World Heritage Site and one of the longest navigable underground rivers in the world, proudly touted as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

Experienced divers take liveaboards to the world-class Tubbataha Reef, which is listed by many (including as one of the best dive sites in the world.

Many people take the one-hour flight from Manila to the northern tip of Palawan, but we took a five- to six-hour private transfer from Puerto Princesa north of Puerto Princesa, following good but winding roads through family farms surrounded by volcanic mountains. Eternal Landscape.

Our destination was the combative but thriving town of El Nido at the northern tip, and a model offshore Palawan: the rugged, dramatic limestone outcrops and breathtaking waters of the Baquet Islands. Narrow traditional outrigger boats known as bangkas slide into secluded lagoons and empty palm-lined beaches, reminiscent of Thailand’s Krabi coast or Vietnam’s Halong Bay (but less crowded). Understandably, it’s one of the great spots for island hopping in Asia.

Development in and around El Nido town is clearly happening, but the trio of El Nido resorts on three Baquette islands are currently sailing away without competition.

Each idyllic, eco-sensitive hotel has an original location and a unique experience. Price categories, vibes, and accommodations vary, each appealing to a different category of guests, from honeymoon couples to three-generation families, with budgets ranging from middling to blowout.

El Nido’s Miniloc was the first to open about 30 years ago. It was purchased in 2012 and reimagined by El Nido Resorts, owned by Manila-based family-run real estate firm Ayala Corp. Lively and located on its own sandy beach, snorkeling two steps from your deck chair, and kayaking a few minutes from the beautiful lagoon, it is the most attractive vacation destination and the most visible place in the United States, accounting for about 30 guests. 30%.

The Lagan Resort is the mid-level sibling, more peaceful (although TVs in every room) and slightly more expensive.

At the top is the refined Pangulasian, which I think is Amanpulo’s only real contender in the Philippines, albeit a lot cheaper. It exudes effortless barefoot luxury in a contemporary indoor/outdoor design, surrounded by dazzling white sand and barely-absorbing shades of blue and turquoise.

As part of the same country that prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a travel advisory in 2016, it’s hard to reconcile an island of immense natural beauty inhabited by smiling and friendly people. The specific point of concern cited is the Sulu Archipelago in the southern half of Mindanao. On an empty palm-fringed beach in Palawan, it feels like the other side of the world. Worries and worries don’t seem to be on anyone’s mind or lips.

The concept of “safety” is a relative one these days, and I must say, I don’t recall feeling more carefree and safe in the embrace of a pinoy’s true enthusiasm.

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