Boracay Bliss

Boracay Bliss

16 August, 2013
Feature Review
Shangri-La's Boracay Resort and Spa offers sweet indulgence in spades

The Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa, situated on 12 hectares of lush green hillside and fronting two stunning secluded beaches at the northern end of the tiny tropical paradise of Boracay, defines luxury escape. Planned and designed in accordance with the highest eco-friendly global standards, the resort lies in the heart of a beautiful nature reserve. It is just far enough from the madness and crowds of White Beach to exude a pervasive sense of serenity, and its impeccable 6 star service and thoughtful design encourages guests to sink into the deliciously slow pace that defines a true tropical vacation.
The Shangri-La packs in all the treats that discerning travelers expect from a luxury tropical resort. The maze of indigo-hued infinity pools is breathtaking. Families can enjoy abundant water sports from snorkeling to parasailing, and the youth activities are endless. Mom and dad, meanwhile, can sink into heavenly spa treatments at Chi, The Spa and enjoy a number of seductively designed dining and cocktail options. And, of course, the jaw-dropping natural beauty around every corner deeply satisfies all the senses. Most inspiring of all, in keeping with their company-wide CSR commitments, Shangri-la has taken great measures to be at harmony with the island and minimize the resort’s impact on the environment, which makes every blissful moment there all the sweeter.
From the moment we landed at Caticlan airport and met Gilbert, our friendly porter, we felt our cares melting away and our tension evaporate into the humid tropical breeze. We were swiftly shuttled to a welcome lounge at a private boat pier and our thirst slaked with fresh calamansi cocktails. No time wasted, we boarded a shiny new boat that sped us past the stunning scenery of White Beach to the Shangri-La’s dock, where a team of eight waited to welcome us ashore and lead us to our private pool villa. And… we were home.
Our spacious private pool villa came courtesy of a generous upgrade; our squeals of surprised delight are probably still echoing over the hills. We made copious use of the infinity pool and two outdoor rain showers, as well as spacious living and sleeping areas that could be completely opened to allow natural warm breezes to circulate. We were able to entertain guests and sprawl lazily in the various areas of the enclosure, while our personal maid kept us well supplied with fresh water and fruit, always with a warm wide smile. On the green side, rooftop solar panels power each villa’s water heaters, making my nightly shower under the stars, surrounding by ferns, even better for knowing the steaming hot water was sustainably heated.
In addition to the pool villas and regular deluxe rooms, the resort offers 16 stunning hillside Loft villas and hilltop Tree House villas, each with outdoor terraces and either infinity pool or Jacuzzi, plus the ubiquitous and delightful outdoor showers. From this vantage point, one can enjoy spectacular 180 degree views of not only the Shangri-la property, with solar panels glinting on every rooftop, but the entire symphony of forest, beach, water and sky – a perfect spot for viewing the legendary Boracay sunsets.
The villas are not the only sunset-stalking venue, however. The Shangri-La Boracay has two private beaches: Punta Bunga, the larger beach which hosts the excellent water sports center, and Banyugan beach, a smaller and more serene spot, which includes a stunning array of well-designed infinity pools. Even when other guests were around, we felt special and secluded in one of the many cleverly planned sitting areas around the pools and beach. A fantastic touch was a sprawling grassy lawn dotted with tall palm trees and giant swaying hammocks, plus plenty of blankets and cushions for cozying up with a book or a family nap under the blue sky.
On the subject of nap – there wasn’t much else we could do after our blissful treatment at the 5,717 sq m oasis that is Shangri-La’s signature spa: CHI, The Spa. We booked a Hilot massage in the evening, to put a sweet finish on a relaxing day. Thanks to an inside tip from GM Mark Kirk, we gave ourselves ample time to make use of the spa’s private vitality pools and steam rooms and get into deep relaxation mode under the late evening sky. The Hilot is an authentic Filipino treatment that involves detecting areas of energy imbalance and blockages in the body and releasing them. We love that the CHI spas at Shangri-La properties offer treatments unique to their locale, using traditions and products found in the region. The knowledgeable therapists and soothing “secret garden” atmosphere of the spa left us floating back to our villa.
Harmony with the natural landscape was a top priority in the resort’s planning and design, and it shows. Native materials, such as coral stones, local hardwood and capiz shells, are used throughout the property to stunning effect. The design incorporates traditional Filipino architecture with an eye for nature’s beauty, often using open-air designs that, aside from beautifully blurring the line between indoor and outdoor, have the added benefit of cross-ventilation and breezeways that reduce the need for air conditioning.
In the building stages of the property, a number of mature trees along the ridge were meticulously uprooted, then cared for and re-planted post-construction. This, along with strategically placed “enviro-cells”, was done to maintain the hill’s integrity and beauty, and the natural habitats of over 36 species of bird and fruit bat. The visual result is that the year-old villas set into the hillside seem to have been part of the landscape forever, blending in seamlessly with the surrounding greenery.
In accordance with the group’s environmental policy, all Shangri-La hotels have ‘Green Programs’ to identify ways to reduce waste, eradicate practices that damage the environment and generally promote environmental awareness. Company-wide measures include water-saving devices on taps, efficient temperature control systems, and energy saving lighting in many guestrooms and public spaces. At the Boracay property, surrounded by and dependent on nature’s beauty, this also means a focus on conservation. Along with the solar power program, we were pleased to see modern on-site rainwater collection, desalination and filtration, sewage treatment facilities, and recycled water irrigation systems for the many beautiful gardens, all of which serve to drastically reduce water consumption and waste.
Many of the best practices and initiatives that make a hotel “green” happen on a level that is invisible to the average guests. Greywater recycling and plastic separation are wonderful, but they happen at the back of the house where no one gets to see. So we were delighted to discover the “Shangri-La Eco Center” (SEC) in Boracay, a first for the hotel group and a very exciting one. It is an interactive play and learn space where guests, and especially children, can learn about local natural phenomena as well as some of the resort’s social and environmental initiatives. We loved the hands-on educational displays about corals, rocks and shells found in the area. The Friends of the Flying Foxes have pitched in too, with an informative display about the indigenous bat that lives in the mountain above the resort, and what the Shangri-La is committed to doing for its protection. The SEC ties in with nature trails around the property where guests can stroll or participate in guided tours and other activities.
At all of its properties, Shangri-La seeks to enrich the quality of life for the communities in which it does business, and serve as good stewards of society and the environment. This means infusing local dimensions and culture into the ethos of hotel operations, as well as working towards the promotion and preservation of local cultures. In Boracay, this fusion takes the shape of several inspiring programs that have been implemented to support the local islanders. Sending children to school, providing job opportunities and hosting regular community events are part of the resort’s dedication to harmony with the surrounding culture and people. General manager Mark Kirk shared with us that the Yapak, the island community who now share their home with the sprawling property, are recipients of annual education grants funded by the hotel, with positions available for them at the resort upon completion of their education. This gives youths the opportunity to eventually secure local employment, support their community and fulfill their true potential through the Shangri-La family.
Speaking of family, a review of this property would not be complete without a word about its wonderful staff. At every moment we felt cared for in the most genuine of ways, a testament to the Shangri-La’s corporate branding and hiring policies. In addition to complete staff housing and lifestyle facilities, General Manager Mark Kirk told us that staff frequently engage in fun team building activities like beach cleanups and fitness programs. The people who work here are happy, which translates into happiness for the guests and fulfillment for the management.
Leaving the Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa was an exercise in reluctance. It had taken us no time at all to sink into the sweet lounging feeling of being on a tropical holiday, and we were sad to say goodbye. We plan to keep our parting promise to the staff, now our friends, that we will “come back soon”.
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By: Nissa Marion


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