Palawan in the Philippines has come under much attention recently, garnering "Best Island" awards from many a respected print and online travel publication – there seem to be a few instances each month where it is once again proclaimed the "best island in the world". But is it really worth the hype? What makes it so special?
Our recent stay at Amanpulo, perhaps the most luxurious resort in Palawan and therefore in the Philippines, puts this acclaim into perspective. We highlight 5 reasons you should drop everything and experience a unique stay at Amanpulo.
Many visitors attest to this being "the best beach in the world" – softer, whiter, finer sand than you've ever felt before lines the coastline of Pamalican Island upon which the resort of Amanpulo spreads itself over. Seasoned travellers will agree that nothing compares – not the Maldives, not Fiji, not Bora Bora, not the Caribbean. And as it must be, this stretch of beach and coastline is complemented and accompanied beautifully by the immediately striking turquoise of the sea, and the multiple shades of aquamarine, teal and blue beyond.
The snorkeling and diving
With great beaches come great submarine life and Amanpulo is no exception. Blacktip reef sharks, tropical fish, plentiful coral and giant sea turtles all call the waters around Amanpulo home. Amanpulo runs complimentary snorkeling excursions by boat, and rental equipment for non-motorised watersports is offered free of charge.
Aman's legendary service standard is best showcased at the Aman many of its fans – or Amanjunkies¬ as they are known – call home on a frequent basis. Smiling, attentive staff who somehow manage to anticipate your every request, desire and whim and respond accordingly, always with a beautiful smile that is a hallmark of the Filipino people and local staff who also call Palawan home.
Filipino food sometimes gets a bad rap, owing perhaps to the lack of abundance of options for the general public to try. But food at Amanpulo is exceptional. Serving Aman's signature style of refined homecooked version of locally inspired dishes, the Filipino and Southeast Asian fusion (Thai, Vietnamese) in particular is delicious, with local dishes such as longganisa, fried milk fish, garlic rice and mangrove crab curry a particular highlight. For those enjoying a longer stay, there are plenty of restaurant choices though, and other restaurants serve a variety of cuisine including casual picnic fare such as pizzas and pastas in an appropriately whimsical picnic setting, Spanish tapas and small eats, as well as upscale Western grill.
Ok, so this isn't exactly Palawan as advertised in those publications, as that's further southeast. Although the publication typically advertises the region of El Nido, Pamalican Island is set within Cuyo Islands in the Sulu Sea, a region of Palawan district. However, Amanpulo's exclusivity means that this resort is as easy to get to as Phuket - a morning flight departing from Hong Kong to Manila lands you at the resort in time for a late lunch via their twice-a-day scheduled transfers. And when paradise like this is only a few hours away, why bother going anywhere else?