The Top Hotels in the Philippines
Whether you’re an urban explorer or more of a beach bum, the Philippines has a hotel for your type of trip. Stay in a historic hotel in Manila, a luxury property near Makati’s best shopping, or a beach resort on its own private island.
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.
Pangalusian Island, El Nido, Philippines
The problem with Pangulasian—dubbed the Island of the Sun, thanks to its surreal sunrise and sunset views—is its excess of good choices. Do you book a beach villa with direct access to the powdery sand and turquoise waters that likely lured you to the remote northern reaches of Palawan in the first place, or a pool villa with almost 240 square feet of private plunging space and gorgeous vistas of Bacuit Bay? What about a canopy villa that soars 50 to 60 feet above the ground and offers treetop-skimming panoramas of the El Nido islands, or a Kalaw Villa with its own private cove? Once you’ve decided on your accommodations, the choices only get harder. While heading off on an adventure is tempting—think snorkeling, diving, stand-up paddle boarding, windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, touring lagoons, and picnicking on private islands—so is the prospect of simply taking in the view from your gracefully netted, organically appointed bed.
Ayala Avenue corner Makati Avenue, Makati City, 1200 Metro Manila, Philippines
A city within a city, Makati is Manila’s poshest shopping, business, and nightlife district. At the Makati Shangri-La, guests have amazing access to—and respite from—all of the above, including the malls that have made the neighborhood a retail pilgrimage site. After settling in, walk over to Glorietta, where you’ll find everything from high-end beauty boutiques to a family-run pawn shop and multiple Starbucks for good measure. Some of Manila’s best restaurants are also located in Makati, but the Shangri-La’s own Shang Palace is so beautiful and beloved, you won’t want to miss the experience if you have even the slightest interest in Cantonese food. As for the aforementioned breathing space on the guest floors, it starts with the waterfall you’ll pass en route to your room and ends with the custom-appointed bed in your plush, spacious surroundings. Go for one of the Deluxe Suites and you’ll also enjoy panoramic views of the bustle you’ve just left behind.
Barangay Yapak, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan 5608 Philippines
Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa is located in one of the Philippines’ most popular vacation spots. And while it has all the musts—the turquoise waters, the powdered-sugar shores, the lush hills—what it doesn’t have is the crowds. And therein lies the resort’s beauty, or at least some of it. Tucked into an eco-reserve with its own shimmering beach, the Shangri-La is also home to a canopy-cloaked dining aerie, sunset-surveying clifftop cabanas, and a peninsular spa on a private bay. Accommodations are impeccably appointed with local touches (think woven abaca rugs and lamps bedecked with capiz shells), and several of the lodgings feel more like private vacation homes. Take the aptly named treehouse villa, for example, where the canopy-level second story commands stunning sea views (best enjoyed from the hot tub on the balcony), or the pool villas, where the lure of en suite swimming almost overpowers the sea just outside.
Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
The undisputed grande dame of Filipino hospitality, the Manila Hotel has so many tales to tell that even Hemingway was impressed. “If the story’s any good,” he’s reported to have said, “it’s like Manila Hotel.” The Nobel laureate was but one in a series of visiting dignitaries, from military brass (General MacArthur took up residence in 1935 and left shortly before Japanese troops occupied the property in the ’40s) to Hollywood A-listers (including Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Sammy Davis, Jr.) to rock stars (when the Beatles notoriously snubbed Imelda Marcos by accident in 1966, they stayed here). The hotel has had plenty of cosmetic work done as well, including a dramatic renovation for the 2012 centennial festivities. So while you can still stay in, say, MacArthur’s quarters (known as the MacArthur Suite), the bathrooms now come with Bulgari toiletries and the bedrooms with HDTV. There was little the hotel could do to improve upon the already amazing bay views, as you’ll see from the suite’s dining room windows.