Thinking of a tropical family escape in beautiful Boracay, Philippines? We’re all about finding the best family-friendly holidays here, and when we find a fab family vacay that’s easy to get to from Singapore, we just need to share! In need of chilled-out holiday (but with some wow factor), HoneyKids mum Kate headed to Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa, Philippines, with toddler in tow… here’s why you need to add this little slice of paradise to your travel to-do list!
Once upon a time, Boracay was a top contender for our honeymoon, and while my husband and I ultimately decided on somewhere else, a seed was planted! Fast forward five years, add a two year old, and I still hadn’t made it to The Philippines. It was definitely time! Hoping to capture the luxe holiday vibe of a honeymoon (because let’s face it, life is a little different with kids), we booked into The Shangri-La Boracay to experience the island’s tropical wonders and find out if it is, as the posters say, “better in the Philippines”!
How easy is the journey?
There are two main options to fly there – either land quite close to the island of Boracay at Caticlan Airport (this requires a transfer in Manila), or fly direct to Kalibo International Airport and take a ground transfer of 1.5 hours. We opted for Kalibo, thinking it would be easier on our mini-traveler (and our sanity!). We arranged an airport pick-up through the Shangri-La and we were greeted by a friendly driver and promptly shuttled in a comfortable van to the Shangri-La jetty lounge, then into a speedboat for the 10-minute scenic ride to Boracay island.
We arrived at the hotel’s private jetty at dusk, taking in cruising sailboats and the throbbing nightlife of White Beach before we reached the serene grounds of the Shangri-La Boracay. The staff greeted us with huge smiles, and whisked us to reception on the first of many rides on a large golf buggy (a highlight throughout the stay for our two-year old!).
Our home for the next few days was an exquisite ocean view room with a stunning vista. Our room had been prepared with balloons and a chocolate cake – our baby’s birthday was about a week away – just one of the many thoughtful touches we experienced throughout our stay.
The Shangri-La is a sprawling property with a tropical luxe feel, and was the perfect home base for our visit to Boracay – far enough from the hustle and bustle of White Beach but close enough to everything to explore easily: more on this later!
What’s in it for the kids?
We spent most of our trip at the property – there was something for everyone. Our little guy loved the amazing kids’ club full of toys and a massive slide; there were daily kids activities from fish feeding to crafts, and even a super-sized Flying Fox character who hung out at the massive buffet breakfast! For older kids, there’s a great Entertainment Zone with basketball, air hockey and foosball.
And for the grown-ups?
My husband loved snorkeling at the two beaches on the property – there are plenty of colourful fish in these waters and coral gardens to explore if you want to take a snorkeling trip. For the more adventurous, there’s also kayaking, scuba diving and paddle boarding. My favourite hangout? The amazing CHI Spa – a secluded, spectacular retreat of its own with a pool and quiet treatment pavilions. The bathrobes were simply incredible – so plush! I sampled the Philippine Hilot massage with warmed coconut oil and banana leaves as well as the facial, which used Biodroga Golden Caviar products (and yes they feel and smelled as decadent as they sound).
Adventures in Boracay
When we did venture away from the hotel, we also had great experiences. The hotel arranges frequent van shuttles to and from the centre of White Beach and for alternative times or destinations it was easy to hire a van or a tricycle – the local transportation – basically a motorcycle with a covered sidecar. The tricycle was a cheap and fun ride for short distances, but wouldn’t win any awards for safety – use at your own risk!
We had delicious Greek food at Cyma located at D’Mall in the centre of White Beach – a 4km long stunning beach busy with both bathers and boats. We had fresh seafood at D’Talipapa, an open-air seafood market where they sell everything from fish to prawns to lobsters and you can test your negotiation skills before having one of the neighbouring restaurants cook it up to your specifications. We witnessed a stunning sunset with calamari, pizza and pina coladas at Wahine on Diniwid beach – near the very cool Spider House, which felt just a bit too hip and young for a toddler. We also ventured to Puka Beach at the north side of the island, which was quiet and chill, dotted with a few feet-in-the-sand restaurants.
We quickly slipped into the blissful habit of winding down our days at the Shangri-La poolside happy hour (2 for 1 drinks!) and watching the sun set over the beach’s beautiful clear, calm water and fine white sand. A great band set up each night and played mellow tunes and the kiddo was happy alternating between swimming, watching hermit crabs, and collecting seashells – bliss!
Why you’ll love it
The most outstanding feature of the Shangri-La Boracay was the impeccable service – from start to finish – from the van driver, to the housekeeping staff to the concierge. We were astonished that they so frequently knew our names and not only were they prompt, professional and pleasant but they all also doted on our mini-traveller as if he were some sort of rock star we were accompanying. This love of kids is perhaps as much cultural as part of the warm service, but it made travelling in the Philippines with a child an easy and pleasurable experience, and one I’d definitely recommend!