Boracay – a Jewel in Philippine’s heavenly islands

- John Nielsen, For John Nielsen, luxury hospitality and tourism has been part of his life since he recalls. Having been fortunate to travel extensively during his childhood in Denmark, it was almost a natural choice for John to join the Scandinavian travel company, Spies Travels in 1983. This journey and a beginning of his career, took John to Madeira & Portugal, where he gained his love of luxury hotels. From there three years were spent studying in Switzerland, then to South Korea at Hotel Lotte, to Hong Kong with hotels including the Mandarin Oriental and Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, Hyatt Carlton Tower in London, Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, Crown Towers in Melbourne and Grand Hyatt Melbourne. Throughout the years in senior management John developed a passion for wine and in 1998 co-founded Liquid Assets Wine Storage in Melbourne. In 2006 John joined Kiwi Collection as a Regional Director in Asia Pacific and today continues to consult as well as contribute to WOW Travel. John recently completed his Master of Business with an added Master Degree in Tourism. These days John is based in Melbourne with his family, working for the Australian PGA Links company as General Manager of Hospitality. The travel bug will forever stay and with family based across three continents, there is always a good excuse to seek out new destinations and new wines.

Tourism has been part of Boracay for the past 30 years on this sleepy little island, but luxury tourism has never really been part of the scene, until now.

Located at the north-western tip of Panay and a 35 min flight from Manila, Boracay the beautiful small island that is home to world-class powder-fine white beaches including the four-kilometre “White Beach” with deep blue waters. Well-travelled visitors claim it to be one of Asia‘s finest beaches.

The 1,000 hectare or 3.9 square mile island has a number of natural tourist attractions like the Preserved Dead Forest, which is located on the eastern side of the island and the Bat Caves located on the northern end of the island. The island, roughly shaped like a dumb-bell, is 7 km. long and the narrowest spot is nearly 1 km. wide.

Up until recently Boracay was a sleepy holiday destination for locals from Manila. In 1990, the 18 hole “Fairway Golf “ course opened up. The planned private luxury suites and villa’s never really took off until recently when the Manila based hotel group, Discovery Hotels, headed up by Annabel Wisniewski took the bold decision to open up the first small luxury boutique hotel on the island. “ We had been visitors to Boracay for 15 years, but always found the accommodation an issue, no where could we find a really nice hotel, so we set about to create the dream of a contempery luxury hotel” says Annabel. By January 2007, the 88-room Discovery Shores Boracay Island opened its doors. With its architecture, interiors and landscape the resort is designed to fit in with the environment’s culture. The stunning resort is set on the White Beach next door to Fridays, the original pioneers of a luxury resort in Boracay. The two resorts are very contrasting, with Discovery Shores modern designs and Fridays, a more the traditional island feel, but both located on the exclusive Station 1 section of the beach. The service is five stars all the way, as you enter your room you are greeted by a masseur who welcomes you with a complimentary foot-massage! This is just the beginning to the holiday. Cool fresh lemon juice awaits you after a swim in the sea as you sit down under the palm trees and relax…all part of the service.

The hotel’s décor and design fits in beautifully with the beach environment. The bedrooms and suites have incorporated all the modern amenities of today’s luxury hotels, from the flat screen TV to the pillow’s of your choice, be it the Danish Dream or European Duckdown to ensure that your dreams are sweet! The layout is excellent and spacious. With a white sandy beach as your backdrop one could be forgiven for thinking that a light coloured scheme would not work, but a few added contrast colours of green and black add a great touch to the overall feel. The pool was a clear favourite with the children, and no wonder when the parents can sit and relax in the lounge bar overlooking the pool and beach, whilst enjoying a dish or long drink. The food was perfect. A well-organised buffet for breakfast with all the trimmings and a dinner buffer with heaps of seafood and local specialities ensures you can’t go wrong. If all else fails then the ala carte menu is great, my club sandwich at lunch was fresh and very tasty. The one thing that does stand out is the friendly and very sincere service. I have always felt that Philippine staff offer great service and it was not just here, but all the way through the two Discovery Hotels in Manila and other hospitality venues in Manila. Their English is perfect and they are always happy to help.

As Discovery Shores neared the completion, Shangri-la Hotels & Resorts announced they would build a 280-room resort and spa. The face of Boracay is changing; even small guesthouses are suddenly undertaking renovations in the hope of attracting the new traveller.

Restaurants range form the native fast food stalls to establishments that would satisfy even a gourmet. A walk along the 4 km White Beach will take past many of these establishments that are set facing the stunning beach. If you desire a nightspot or two or a beach bar serving ice cold San Miguel then there are plenty to chose from. The food is as varied as the people, a mix of international cuisine with local seafood make this an easy destination to enjoy your meal at. Excellent value and service ensures that most restaurants are lively.

Boracay is accessible by plane (Philippines Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Asian Spirit and SEA Air) from Manila via Caticlan. A 35 minutes trip and a five minutes boat ride and you have arrived on the island.

This small island has become the prime destination in the Philippines and it is positioned, as a sun-beach and holiday destination, but now golfers are keen to play a round. Designed by Graham V Marsh, the 18-hole par 72 Fairways and Bluewater Golf Resort and Country Club, has lush green and fairways with breathtaking view water features, rushing waterfalls and lakes. Fairways has just launched the third phase of the Mulligan Golf Hotel that will add 24 studio, 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom units for non-members visiting the island.

Apart from golf there many other activities including snorkelling, scuba diving, sailing, trekking, windsurfing or more land based sports such as beach volleyball, tennis, bowling and even horseback riding to enjoy on the island of smiles. If you want to explore the natural beauty alone then rent a motorbike or mountain bike to roam the island.

The island was a delight to visit and I for one cannot wait to return and walk along the white sandy beach and experience the most beautiful sunset on earth with the warm clear waters around my ankles.

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  1. Lovely photos, there a good atmosphere there, mostly at nightlife. Boracay is the best place for relaxing…

    Tanya Gemarin