Our first big trip from Hong Kong: Boracay, Philippines. BOI (boy of interest) planned the whole trip as a surprise Christmas celebration. Talk about a surprise hard to beat.
We flew into Manila (3 hours from HK) then a short domestic flight (1 hr) then a boat ride (30 min) to our destination: Shangri La Hotel at Boracay Island. Paradise in Asia. It felt like a second honeymoon. We had unbelievable weather (in the 80's), clear blue ocean to snorkel in, and an incredible room (jungle villa overlooking the ocean).
Trip Highlights and Hotel Review:
-Shangri-La decorated their whole premise with an ocean Christmas theme. Kind of makes you forget about the whole "White Christmas" concept and get really into the "Sunny Christmas" idea. Shell ornaments and carols on the beach--hey, if I don't have to wear 15 layers I'm into it.
-Fire dancer show every night at sundown at the resort. About five teens swinging fire around and doing juggling dances coordinated to Celine Dion: we were hooked.
-We had a wedding every night that we were there on the resort. What was the benefit of that? Free firework show every night ;)
-Free snorkel gear provided by the hotel so we were able to jump in and explore the private beach whenever we wanted. With the clear ocean, we were able to swim with all the creatures up close.
-We visited White Sand Beach (one of the top beaches in the world)...and I think the name pretty much sums it up for you. A tourist attraction for sure, we went to the main town of Boracay and walked around with the locals and chilled on the beach. BOI enjoyed a fresh coconut while I just sat in the ocean soaking in paradise. The water is so low for hundreds of feet out that you walk through calm, clear water one some of the softest sand your feet will ever touch. Only downside of going to this area is that if you're not Pilipino, then you will get swarmed by locals to buy gifts.
-Shangri La was amazing: the setting, staff, spa, food. If the beach wasn't so clear, I would've been at their pool 24/7. They had an infinity pool everywhere and so many places to nap in the sun or enjoy a nice drink (Boracay Lemonade was go-to). There was live music every night, movies on the beach, multiple dinner options, and a tranquil spa. Definitely more a splurge hotel, but it was nirvana.
- The lifestyle here is on a much slower pace. Be prepared for things to take awhile to get done and no rush on travel times. The flights are never on time. This doesn't mean they are delayed, it just means that the time listed is really more of a time "suggested". We thought we were going to miss our flight out because the staff was moving so slow to get us back on the boat. But when we got to the airport, it was snail pace and so lax. We ended up be there for an hour. Just go with the flow and know that their process isn't rigid.
- Lots of power outages in Philippines. Not an issue when you stay with a nice hotel, but you'll see why it happens so often when you visit the towns. Phone wires and cables hanging EVERYWHERE.
- Take a tuk-tuk for a more authentic experience. Most hotels will provide car service but if you can take a tuk-tuk to and from places, do it. It's not expensive and it's so much more fun to explore the island on a little motorcycle car.
- Food, drinks, and souvenirs are cheap in town. Great place to get gifts for family + friends and the locals are very friendly. But you'll make up for that cost difference at your hotel. Take advantage of the town prices when you can!
- If you have your diving license, plan a day trip to go diving. You'll see so many fish and turtles.
- Water isn't drinkable, but hotels will provide you with filtered water.
- If you have time, rent a junker boat and go island hopping. This is a must-do for our next time around!