South East Asia is one of our favourite places anywhere in the world – great food, incredible beaches, warm sunny weather (when the UK is at its worst), and beautiful clear water to swim in. The region is also home to some very special hotels, from luxurious beach front villas, to remote private islands. We’ve tried a couple of such places over the years, including Six Senses Con Dao in Vietnam and, one of our all-time favourites, Song Saa, a tiny private island resort in Cambodia. On a recent trip to the Philippines, however, we stayed at Amanpulo a hotel that takes the idyllic island escape dream to a whole new level.
Totally marooned in the middle of the Sulu Sea, Amanpulo is only accessible by the hotel’s own private charter plane which flies back and forth from Manila twice a day. The fun really starts as soon as you rock up at the private air terminal, which is totally separate from the chaos of the main international airport. There’s an Aman lounge where you can relax with coffee and cakes while you wait to board, a short 30 second walk from the lounge across the tarmac. The Aman service is so slick that once you’ve checked in your bag at the airport, the next time you see it, it will be already waiting for you in your room.
When you come into land, you’ll get a sense of how amazing this island is – shallow reef waters that glisten bright blue; brilliant white sand that stretches round the entire island; and lush jungle in the centre. You are met by your Aman guest representative straight from the plane who will whisk you around for an island tour on a golf buggy – a golf buggy that is yours to use for the entire stay. We’d be lying if we said that this wasn’t one of the most fun parts!
The island is a decent size – it takes over an hour to walk a full loop around the beach – so there’s plenty to keep you entertained. There’s a big outdoor pool at the Club House restaurant; a gym; spa; an outdoor obstacle course; and several restaurants (more on that later). Amanpulo also offers an insane amount of activities, everything from boat tours and kitesurfing to nature walks and diving.
There’s also a schedule of daily activities which are offered free of charge, such as a daily snorkelling trip, Pilates, and meditation. We’d recommend doing the snorkelling at least once. We saw so many beautiful tropical fish over two trips, plus several HUGE green turtles, some of which are 100 years old! The remote location of Amanpulo means that there’s not too many other people around to disturb the natural landscape, and the area surrounding the island is a designated turtle conservation area. Even walking around the island itself you’ll see lots of birds, including the bright yellow Oriole, and the amazing monitor lizards which are forever crossing the paths in front of you.
You’ll want to leave plenty of time to simply relax on the beach and soak up the sun and the magnificent surroundings. The island is so spread out that it’ll only feel like a few people staying there even when it’s at full capacity. Sitting out on the beach looking out to sea, you’ll almost feel as if you have the place to yourself!
Our room was a Beach Front Casita – there are also Hilltop Casitas and bigger villas for families – which as you might guess, was located pretty much right on the beach, with just a small private path leading back to the room. Inside the Casitas it’s pure luxury – sleek dark wood, a huge bed, and two day beds by the windows which have amazing views of the sea. Then there’s the separate bathroom with freestanding tub, double sinks, rainforest shower, and dressing table. It really does feel like your own little house – we even got a room service dinner one night and sat eating it on our own dining table. We were absolutely ready to move in permanently.
Room service was a one-time treat for us however, as we wanted to check out the plethora of other eating options available. For Filipino and other Asian classics there’s the Club House; Nama meanwhile serves fresh sushi; for Mediterranean dishes there’s the beach club; and for a pizza there’s the secluded Picnic Grove, which is open at lunchtime only. As much as possible, ingredients will come from the Amanpulo’s own organic garden as well as fish caught by local fisherman.
We enjoyed the Filipino dishes such as adobo (a pork stew) and the buko pie (coconut pie) at the Club House on the first night and then on our last night we had a special private dinner Gary’s Nest, on a hidden rocky outpost at one end of the island. A very romantic setting, we were treated to fresh barbecued fish by our own chef and were even serenaded at one point! If you’ve got a special occasion to celebrate or if you’re even thinking of popping the question… this could be the place!
We absolutely loved Amanpulo (it would be pretty hard not to) – if you’re on the lookout for a truly remote luxurious escape, with almost dream-like white sand beaches, and beautiful clear water, we think it’s pretty hard to beat. Even when judged against similar hotels in its price bracket and style, Amanpulo feels like a special place – a rare combination of stunning setting and slick hospitality which adds up to one incredible experience.
Stays at Amanpulo from £972.10 per room per night, including breakfast and all taxes and fees, based on double occupancy (Aman.com, + 44 800 368 6143)