Quite recently, I had the pleasure of exploring one of the Philippines’ last frontiers, the Busuanga Islands in Palawan.
Getting to Palawan, as to any other exotic island destination, entails patience for the transfers—a 30-minute van ride from the airport and another half an hour’s speedboat ride to get to the resort.
The provincial charm, with the view of cattle and green pastures, provided soothing relief. But the spaholic in me thought that there should be more to this idyllic getaway.
First stop was the famed Coron Island. A scenic boat ride south from the town of Coron brought me to a coconut-dotted sanctuary known as Two Seasons Coron Island Resort and Spa. Touted as 100 percent self-sustaining, Two Seasons Coron sets the benchmark in protecting the environment by being the first eco-friendly luxury island resort in Coron.
I stayed at The Sandbar Bungalow Villa, the only one of its kind on the island as it has breathtaking, unobstructed east and west views of the ocean and surrounding islands.
As its name implies, it literally sits on the pointed tip of the island, where the beautiful sandbar is connected to an islet.
A few steps down is a small private sunset beach cove. From the room lounge sofa, another sliding door opens to a verandah facing the sunrise, and a few steps away is the sandbar.
But what really aced this short stay for me was a day of pampering at the resort’s Narra Spa. To say the place is well-appointed and well-planned is an understatement when describing this soulful oasis.
You can have your treatments in your preferred location: in a beachfront cabana; a hilltop villa with a spectacular ocean view; or in a villa nestled intimately in a mangrove forest. I did both—once in the spa pavilion and once in my room. Jing, my therapist both times, did some great bodywork massage.
Whichever place you choose, you can definitely throw your worries away as you indulge in various Asian, Polynesian and contemporary therapeutic massage treatments.
From enchanting Coron, it was time to explore the mystique of Busuanga Island. Arrangements can be made between two resorts for the transfers.
I must admit that I had no grand expectations as I set foot on Huma Island Resort and Spa, but from the moment I met its very gracious and attentive ground staff, I was immediately smitten by the place.
The Maldivian-inspired island resort boasts 81 villas (64 of which are on stilts over the water), seven food outlets serving everything from Italian to Middle Eastern cuisines, untouched marine life worth exploring, and, to my delight, a full spa pavillon.
The spa has an extensive service menu, and what really caught my attention was the Arabic Hammam. Memories of my all-time favorite private hammam sessions in Istanbul came flooding back. I was hooked on hammams after that, and you can bet that’s the first thing I will try if it is on the menu.
Unfortunately, the treatment fell a bit short of my expectations. The marble massage table was built quite high, which doesn’t make it easy to get on, and it’s slippery once it gets wet with soap, thus making you feel uptight instead of relaxed.
The therapists, though, are very pleasant and eager to please.
I asked about the Ayurveda treatment. The last time I had one was at Deepak Chopra’s Ayurveda Center in the United States. Unfortunately, the therapists for Ayurveda treatments at that time were not available. So I just tried their signature massage in a spacious spa room that has its own Jacuzzi and glass-bottom floors!
Somehow this made up for the spa setbacks, because where else in the Philippines can you experience a massage while looking straight down at the ocean floor? It was quite mesmerizing.
Huma Island is an incredible place to go to. My room, a 102-sq m Water Villa, had a private wooden sundeck, a Jacuzzi and outdoor rain shower facing the ocean, with stunning views. If one is so inclined to be connected to the world, there is a flatscreen HD TV and free WiFi that works.
There are several dining options: On the Harbour for the freshest catch of the day; Tagahuma serves Asian cuisine with a twist; Al Dente for Italian fare from a live open theater kitchen; Rudi’s Wine and Cheese Bar; the all-day dining restaurant Waves; and my favorite Al Fairuz with live shawarma stations and shisha lounges.
Another gem of the island is the staff, so courteous and attentive they can almost always anticipate what you need before you even utter a word.
Adding to their charm is their customary bow, with one hand touching their heart, with a huge smile on their faces whenever they chance upon a guest. Who would not feel special with that? It’s a dream island, no doubt, one that is full of promise and is yet to reach its full bloom.
Both resorts have white sand beaches, water sports and activities, excursion packages to nearby islands and more. Truly pieces of paradise in the Philippines beckoning to be discovered and admired.