City, Beach or River Resort – 3 Ways to Stay in The Philippines
Most people imagine the Philippines is all islands and beaches. But there is much more to experience. The islands are varied and accommodation options are too. Instead of worrying about finding the best things to do in The Philippines, why not stay in a few different spots. That way you get to see more and experience more of the islands, island life and Filipino culture. While visiting The Philippines we tried three very different ways to stay around the Central Visayan islands of Bohol and Cebu; a unique inland riverside resort, a classic luxury beach resort, and a nature themed spa resort close to Cebu city action…
The River Resort: Bohol
There can’t be many holiday resorts in the world that offer monkey watching as part of the package and riding a water buffalo as an optional extra. But then the Loboc River Resort feels more Disney than real life. As the name suggests, it is set on the Loboc River, on the island of Bohol. And I mean on the river; the vibrantly green water laps a few metres from our breakfast table and further downstream, children are catching the school boat. In the evening you can take a similar boat out to see the fireflies put on their regular show. Or like us, you can watch them perform in the trees above the pool.
Loboc River Resort
Loboc River Resort is a series of lodge rooms, connected by pretty wooden bridges. There are two luxury suites and a series of interconnecting double ensuite rooms with more on the way as the resort rebuilds; it was partially destroyed by the earthquake that hit the Philippines in Oct 2013. The Filipinos are a nation that bounce back from disaster, with a smile and a song.
An education in food, nature and community
Owner Manhuelito Varquez is a keen musician and can often be found on the piano in the restaurant. Loboc is famous for its music; its children’s choir performs around the world. We go to see the local brass band practice; it’s 500 strong when all the kids are present. This resort is also an education about where food comes from; we watch wine being made and fish being harvested, we find out how you pick and smash open a coconut and how you transform it into dinner.
A great base from which to discover Bohol
And then we go off and explore Bohol; the famous Chocolate Hills, the Adventure Park with the Bohol bike zipline, tree root climbing, meeting the Tarsier Man and exploring caves.
The Beach Resort: Palangao Island
Palm trees and pure white sand form the scenic backdrop to the idyllic South Palms Resort on Panglao Island, just a bridge away from Bohol. The resort’s ultra comfortable suites are just off the beach and strolling back from dinner under the stars to a seaside soundtrack is one of our memorable moments on Panglao.
Sea, palms and cocktails
The seafood restaurant caters for everyone’s tastes but I prefer the more casual beachside bar with fresh juices by day and cocktails by night. The sea is the centre of life here; you can have a massage beside it, take a kayak out on it or lie on a sun bed, hammock or beanbag anywhere along the beach and drift off to sleep. This is The Philippines you will know from the brochures and what’s not to love?
The Close to City Resort: Mactan Island
You can kayak the swimming pool at Nature’s Garden Park Resort in Cordova on Mactan Island. It’s not a big effort; the pool is outside your bedroom door. This small resort is a charming oasis, a leisurely taxi ride away from the teeming urban life of a large Philippine city. Beyond busy Mactan (also known as Lapu Lapu) is the colourful, chaotic Cebu city.
Beyond the oasis lies a taste of Philippine city life
If you want to taste a big city life but can’t face Manila then you might want to do Cebu. It’s great fun to ride in a Jeepney, you can put your heart in your mouth 126 metres up on a Sky Walk or the Edge Coaster at the Sky Experience Adventure, try some karaoke, do some shopping, visit a guitar factory or Cebu Cathedral. But after all that it’s good to withdraw to the Korean owned resort for some care and relaxation, spa facilities and terrace restaurant serving Korean and Filipino food. The hotel staff rarely stop smiling for the duration of our stay. And when you’re surrounded by smiles, you know you are in The Philippines.
And beyond the city there’s plenty more action
When you’ve had enough of Cebu’s city chaos, it’s just a short jeepney or taxi ride to get to something more relaxing. A ferry ride away and you can be cycling through villages on the island of Olango, or heading out to visit mangrove swamps at the Olango bird sanctuary. You can explore the undersea worlds, snorkelling in local marine reserves as part of an island hopping trip on a traditional banca (a traditional Philippine boat). You can have a sea food lunch in a floating restaurant or just sit in a hammock on a beach and try and learn the ukulele.
Something to suit you Maam
Whether you are a city slicker, nature lover or action girl, whether you like the idea of a beach enclave, river resort or city oasis, one of the many great things about this part of The Philippines is there’s going be something around to suit you. So, what would you prefer maam? Do leave a comment and let us know.
Disclosure Note: We visited The Philippines in a collaboration with Expedia as part of their Travel That Matters campaign supporting regeneration of The Philippines tourist economy after the typhoon and earthquake disasters of 2013. Expedia provided access to these resorts as part of our visit. The experience, views and opinions remain, as ever, entirely our own.