Often times when you hear about the Philippines in the news, the images presented is of a poverty stricken, undeveloped country. While sadly this is true to some extent, it also gives foreigners quite a distorted idea of what the country is like. Too many times I hear people say ” I really want to go there for my honeymoon since the beaches are so beautiful, but I don’t want to sleep at a hut with no electricity or running water.”
Little do people know that the Philippines’ economy is steadily on the rise, and there’s no other sector where this is evidenced more than the tourism industry. Admittedly, there’s still a long way to go, but since developing countries mainly rely on foreign money coming in – the tourism sector has been getting a lot of attention by the both the government and private investors.
So, nowadays you can easily have a luxurious all-inclusive holiday in the Philippines, without fearing your standards won’t be met. Sure, it’s still not as fancy as the Maldives or even Thailand and Bali, but on the flip side you’ll be paying much less and be able to enjoy attractions without running into large crowds. Here are my top 5 Philippines destinations for an all inclusive vacation, along with some thoughts about what makes each stand out.
Philippines’ Best All-Inclusive Vacation Spots
Anyone who’s planning a luxury vacation in the Philippines can’t afford to skip Palawan. Being one of the best islands in the world, it’s also the quintessential definition of a pampering island getaway. This is as close as you’ll get to a Maldives-like experience, as hotel standards and quality of service are truly exceptional.
Some private island resorts can cost up to 600 USD a night, but they are well worth it. It’s still much less than you’d pay anywhere else in the world for 5 star beach resorts. If you book one of these, they’ll take care of literally your entire stay in Palawan. Not only will you get to enjoy the hotel’s amenities and activities, but they’ll also organize day tours and visits to mainland attractions for you.
El Nido has the widest selection of such resorts, and is a popular destination for couples who seek the perfect romantic setting for their honeymoon. From your resort there, you can go on island hopping and diving trips to some of the most beautiful locations in the world. Or, you could just stay at the resort’s private beach area and enjoy a pampering massage or a fancy cocktail. Another option is to venture further north to Coron – which is just as beautiful but much less crowded. Over there, you could stay at the Two Seasons Coron – one of the most luxurious resorts in the country.
Along with Palawan, Boracay is undoubtedly the most popular tourist destination in the Philippines. This is mainly thanks to its highly acclaimed White Beach strip – widely considered to be among the best beaches in the whole world. With no less than 500 different hotels and resorts to choose from – it’s quite easy to find a place to stay at, but just as easy to make the wrong choice.
Honestly, I don’t think Boracay is the best place for an all inclusive vacation. Most 5 star resorts there are notorious tourist traps – they claim to offer one thing then once you get there you get another. Overall service and attention to small details is quite sloppy, and it can leave you quite disappointed and ruin what could otherwise be a wonderful vacation.
If you really want to be right at next to the beach – picking a 4 or 5 star resort in the Station 1 area is fine. Don’t expect the same standards as you’ll have anywhere else in the Philippines though, these aren’t world class resorts by any means. The only good thing about this resorts is they are quite cheap and you shouldn’t pay more than $150 a night if you scout for deals, since the competition there is so fierce and drive the rates way down. If prices are all similar, my choice would be one of the Henann chain resorts – these usually maintain a decent standard and never disappoint.
To me, the only hotel in Boracay which is really high end is the Boracay Shangri-La. It’s located near Puka beach at the northern tip of the island, but has its own private beach. The Shangri-La is a well established chain and have an excellent reputation, with their Boracay branch being the crown jewel. Being a bit off the main tourist area is actually a good since Boracay is such a small island anyway. You’ll get to avoid the hordes of loud tourists, but if you want to enjoy the nightlife it’s always just a 10-minute drive.
Cebu City is the second largest city in the Philippines and the main entry point to Cebu Island and the Visayas area in general. The city itself is worth spending a day at, as there are quite a lot of historical landmarks to visit and the nightlife is pretty good. Visiting the Santo Niño Basilica is recommend, especially if you’re lucky enough to be there during local fiestas.
Cebu City has a lot of good hotels to pick from, and it’s most sensible to stick the large, better known names such as Radisson Blu or the Marriott hotel. These are top of the line hotels for what will most likely be the cheapest you’ll ever pay for such – prices can be as low as $50 a night!
Those who prefer to stay away from the city and by the beach should head to Mactan instead. This small island is connected to the city by a bridge, and is also where the Cebu Airport is located. Over there, you’ll be able to find plenty of 5 star beach resorts. Mactan is also the jumping point to some of the best island hopping tours in the Philippines.
If you got the time, it’s really worth it to spend a few days exploring the whole Cebu island. Places such as Kawasan Falls, Moalboal and Oslob are all worth a visit. However, none of these locations offer any high level hotels, so if you really mind that you should just set your base in Mactan and visit them all as part of the day tour out of Cebu. My recommendation would be to book these as part of a Cebu travel package, and have everything already taken care of once you get there.
Bohol island is only an hour by boat from Cebu, but it’s considered such a tourist hotspot on its own accord that it’s worth a separate mention. Panglao area has some of the nicest beaches in the Philippines who rival even those of Boracay. Most notable is Alona beach – where all 5 star resorts are to be found.
Unlike Boracay, Bohol’s vibe is very laid back and attractions revolve around diving and nature instead of nightlife and extreme watersports. Accommodation levels are roughly the same though, not the highest you can find but certainly reasonable. Again, my choice would be Henann resort, but if you can find a better deal for some other luxury hotel then go for that instead – the standards are all roughly the same.
Bohol’s main attraction is the Chocolate Hills – more than 1200 hills in different shapes and sizes. Taking the ATV ride and then climbing to view deck is highly recommend and makes for a great day trip from your resort. You can easily do this day tour out of Cebu as well – so it is possible to spend just a day in Bohol before going back to your Mactan resort.
Many people think Manila is chaotic and dirty, and try to get away from it as quickly as they can. It’s hard to blame them, as this busy metropolitan can seem very unwelcoming at first glance. But once you scratch the surface a bit, you realize this city also holds an endless amount of possibilities, especially for those who appreciate the finer things in life.
Manila is where you’d find the best restaurants, nightclubs and shows. Hotels in Makati are generally very good – with many different 5 star hotels to choose from. It might be a surprise, but Solaire Casino resort is probably the best hotel in the Philippines. It’s also a good choice if you want to take a tour of the old city since it’s quite near.
Once you had enough of the city itself, there’s no shortage of exciting opportunities at nearby locations. One option is visiting Tagaytay and spending a night at the Taal Vista hotel – another fantastic all inclusive hotel. Tagaytay is a mountain ridge overlooking a lake with a volcano at its center – some of the most breathtaking views you’ll ever see. If you are eager to visit the beach, the best option would be Laiya in Batangas which is only 2 hours away from the city, and has some of the best beach resorts.