Pamalican Island, Sulu Archipelago, Agutaya, Palawan, Philippines

Amanpulo occupies its own island in the Cyuo Archipelago, where members of the animal kingdom outnumber humans by some comical order of magnitude. Adding to the resort’s castaway cred is the private airstrip, where guests land after a quick flight from Manila. When not communing with the islet’s dozens of resident bird species or carefully avoiding nesting sea turtles, visitors can dive among the countless colorful denizens in the adjacent marine park, sail to neighboring islands, or hide out under the seashell-tiled ceilings at the spa (don’t miss the Hilot massage, which features warm banana leaves and cold-pressed coconut oil). Those interested in the local cuisine can even pick their own ingredients in the resort’s organic garden and have the chef whip up a feast. Don’t leave without at least one peek through the island’s refracting telescope, which makes the epic night sky look hallucinatory.

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Amanpulo Hotel, Philippines

About 250 miles from Manila, 3-mile-long Pamalican island lies in crystal-clear water and amid warm trade winds. This is one of the greatest places I’ve stayed. Each bungalow is like a small house on the beach or atop the tree canopy. And each one has its own golf cart, so you can explore the small private island, drive to your massage, go to the clubhouse for fresh lobster or a daiquiri, or just drive to get lost on one of the many white-sand beaches. Amazing diving, snorkeling, and sailing hobie cats is included. You will feel like you are the only guests on the island. While I was there, we helped put sea turtles into the sea as they hatched on the protected birth zone. After you arrive by a short flight from Manila, villas will run $800 to $4,500 USD.... but be prepared to be pampered! This backpacker was in heaven! Luckily it was for work so I didn’t have to worry about the bill!

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