Palwan islands, Philippines – July 2017
You know Amanpulo is going to be special as soon as you check in to the private lounge at Manila airport. Fresh fruit and hot snacks are served up as you wait to board a tiny plane bound for paradise. 45 minutes after take-off, flying over countless, seemingly deserted islands, you land on a tiny runway that is home to Amanpulo.
Upon disembarking, you're whisked to your casita by golf buggy, which is at your disposal throughout your stay. Despite being one of the original resorts among the Aman group's collection, the villas maintain a classic feel and subtle Asian influences without feeling dated. Dark wood floors and neutral furnishings feature throughout an oversized bedroom and large bathroom. Double vanities surround a giant bathtub which has jungle views and there are separate amenities for men and women.
There's a formal dining room that fronts the communal pool and a casual open-air restaurant that is situated smack bang on the beachfront. Breakfast can be taken at either restaurant and the menu offers eggs, traditional Philippino dishes, smashed avocado and crowd-favourite coconut tapioca pudding with fresh fruit. There's a beach shack which is open for lunch and has a wood-fired oven for authentic pizzas and an ice-cream cart which offers a artisan-made flavours that change daily.
For dinner book a private barbecue experience, which is set up on the beach surrounded by flickering lanterns and a roaring fire. Your chef cooks up freshly caught grouper, chicken skewers and rib-eye steak to perfection as you watch the sun go down and listen to the waves lap on the sand. Alternatively, a sunset cruise is just as fabulous where you are set up on the top deck of a boat that chugs quietly over the still waters that surround Amanpulo. It's quite spectacular to watch the sky change from candy-pink to dark orange while nibbling on a Mediterranean feast of cured meats and cheeses coupled with a fresh cocktail.
There's no shortage of things to do on the island. Water visibility is near perfect all year round at Amanpulo and makes for some excellent scuba diving. PADI qualified instructors will guide you around stunning reef and have you swimming with turtles, fish and bright coral in a flash after induction. There's snorkel gear for all ages with scheduled guided sessions running throughout the day and SUP boards and sailboats available for the more adventurous.
If you're wanting complete privacy book a picnic on the sand bar for a truly surreal experience. A short boat ride to another island reveals a pristine, seemingly endless spit of sand where staff set up a light and fresh picnic under a large umbrella. It's perfect for couples and the boat captain is quite happy to take you some secret snorkel spots along the way.
The spa is tucked away in the lush jungle on the island and expert therapists offer treatments infused with local ingredients such as coconut oil. It also offers complimentary wellness classes such as pilates on a rotating schedule. And if you feel like doing nothing at all, Amanpulo is the place to do just that. With Maldivian-like crystal clear water, coral that puts the Great Barrier Reef to shame and sand that is some of the whitest and purest you'll ever see, it will be tough to get you on the plane back to the mainland.
THE TURN DOWN
ACCOMODATION CATEGORY: Private island resort.
ROOM PICK: Beach Casitas for direct beach access or Treetop Casitas for panoramic views of the islands.
MINI BAR: There's a small selection of cookies and nuts and water available. Alcohol charged on consumption.
FEEL: Classic beach luxury.
LOCATION: Palwan islands, Philippines.
TURN DOWN SERVICE: Yes, with various house-made Filipino sweets.
RATES: Starting at $1390 USD plus taxes for a Treetop Casita.
GOOD TO KNOW: All guests get a golf buggy for their use to navigate the island for the duration of their stay.
POOL/GYM/SPA: There's a communal pool, spa and gym on site.
GETTING THERE: Amanpulo has two flights daily from Manila airport. Check their website for pricing and deals on airfares.
I stayed as a guest of Amanpulo.