Picture-postcard beaches, exciting mega cities, verdant rice fields, splendid nature and some of the friendliest locals you’ll ever meet: the Philippines is a holiday paradise. Culturally and spiritually it’s a world apart from most other countries in Southeast Asia, thanks in part to the legacy of 350 years of Spanish rule, and this eclectic mix of European and Asian influences makes for an intoxicating holiday experience.
It’s also one of the largest island groups in the world, with more than 7,000 islands to explore. If you’re never been to Cebu – or even heard of it – then you’re missing out. Located in the central part of the Philippines known as the Visayas, Cebu is one of the Philippines’ most developed island provinces, but it’s also a region known for its enormous natural beauty, with everything you’d expect of a tropical paradise: glorious beaches, turquoise waters, and secluded coves and lagoons.
The main island of Cebu is surrounded by 167 islands and islets, each with its own unique beauty and appeal. Mactan, which lies a few kilometres southeast of Cebu, is one such island.
Renowned for the extraordinary diversity of its coral gardens, the waters around Mactan offer some of the finest diving and snorkelling sites in Asia. Mactan’s urban side means there’s a brilliant mix of nightlife, shopping and dining, but it’s also the place to go if you want to pamper and spoil yourself, thanks to lovely beaches and some of the finest five-star luxury resorts in the Philippines.
One such resort is Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, Cebu. It’s located on one of the loveliest beaches on Mactan: a private white-sand beach that stretches out for 350 glorious metres (the longest on the island) before falling away into the azure blue sea.
Set in 13 hectares of lush tropical gardens, there are little touches and surprises around every corner, from a love seat in the gardens to a hammock overlooking the beach. A palm-fringed infinity pool is one of two pools at the resort, with a poolside bar and complimentary beach cabanas helping to make lazing in the sunshine even more relaxing.
There are dining options aplenty, including contemporary Italian at Acqua, elegant Cantonese cuisine at Tea of Spring, and an all-day international buffet at Tides. Two private dining pavilions provide idyllic spots for romantic dinners for two. The Observatory is just a short walk from the al fresco seafood restaurant, Cowrie Cove, while the Gazebo is located on a more secluded breakwater, at the end of a kind of mini-promontory. Both sit at the ocean’s edge, overlooking the clear blue waters, and are the perfect spots for a romantic dinner, an intimate reception or even a private ceremony. The resort provides a romantic backdrop for a destination wedding or any memorable celebration – with fireworks, fire dancing, drum beating, or violinist arranged at your request.
The waters around the resort are exquisitely clear and beautiful. Guests can make the most of them with a huge range of activities, including parasailing, kayaking, windsurfing, jet skiing, sailing, deep-sea fishing, to name but a few. The resort introduced its own marine sanctuary in 2007, sinking two ships to form artificial reefs and encourage the proliferation of coral and fish. Today the sanctuary teems with more than 100 species of aquatic life, and exploring its wonders – complete with snorkel – is a real highlight.
Further afield, adventurous couples can go whale watching, take an island-hopping snorkeling safari, or go scuba diving to explore the deep seas off the surrounding islands. There are more than 20 unforgettable dive sites teeming with marine life no more than 30 minutes by boat from the resort.
For adventures on dry land, head to the city of Cebu – a 30-minute drive from Mactan Island. It’s the second-largest city in the Philippines, with intriguing historical sites reflecting its Spanish influence and providing a great excuse for a day trip.
When you’re done with the adventures and fancy some serious relaxation and pampering, CHI, The Spa is a haven for rejuvenation and indulgence. There are six couples’ villas and eight individual treatment rooms in which you can enjoy some 35 customised therapies, including an indigenous Philippine Hilot massage to help restore the body’s balance.
And when you’ve had enough of pampering, excitement or simply lazing by the pool, head back to your room, with gorgeous views of the gardens or ocean. Couples wanting privacy, exclusivity and a premium level of service would do well to book a room in the Ocean Wing. Close to the beach and with the best views of the sunrise, they feature elegant and spacious accommodation, with a private balcony overlooking the ocean; a separate driveway and entrance; and a dedicated service team to deliver an unparalleled level of personalised attention.
Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, Cebu is quite simply one of the most beautiful resorts in the Philippines – enjoy.
Mactan-Cebu International Airport, located on Mactan Island, is the second-largest international airport in the Philippines. It only takes an hour to fly here from Manila, and flights are regular and affordable, so it’s very easy to include a trip to Cebu on your Philippines itinerary. Once you’ve landed, Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, Cebu is just a 20-minute drive from the airport. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific fly from most Australian capital cities to Manila.