The islands of the Philippines (consisting of over 7,100 in total), are absolutely brimming with pristine beaches, world heritage diving sites, killer surfing, and five-star beachside resorts. To reach these amazing sites, one has to travel through the capital city: Manila. While the great metropolis functions as the main travel artery to reach any of the gorgeous beach destinations awaiting, it’s also a great place to spend a few days in its own right, before exploring the islands in the distance.
My first encounter with the city of Manila greeted me like a good Filipino friend should; that is, loud and lovingly. Warm and tropical almost year-round, Manila is a teeming mass of life from landing to take-off, as all the sights, sounds and smells flood your senses immediately upon arrival. It’s no wonder that Manila is a top contender for the title of “Pearl of the Orient”.
To compliment the seemingly chaotic backdrop, try indulging in the cities’ finer sides of life, including award-winning kitchens, 5-star hotels and a vast array of entertainment options. My idea of a perfect vacation to the Philippines would have me landing on a Friday morning into Manila, with a full weekend here to enjoy the pulsing beat of the city’s restaurant and nightlife scene. After the partying subsides, this would be followed by taking off to one of their many amazing oceanside destinations.
Hotel H20 - Drawing inspiration from the the aquatic world surrounding the Philippines, Hotel H20 offers 120 marine-themed rooms designed after the scenic coastal regions, splendid beaches, and bountiful rivers and lakes that dominate the local scenery.
The Peninsula Manila - A stay at this luxury Asian hotel chain always means an overt display of opulence. Fashioned after the colonial days of Manila’s past, large white columns and a grand lobby greet you upon entering. A standard in Makai, Manila’s business district, the hotel has been synonymous with luxury for over 25 years.
Edsa Shangri-La Manila - If you’re seeking a relaxing resort ambiance, yet desire to be within close proximity of the action, be sure to check out Edsa Shangri-La, conveniently located in the very heart of Manila. The property features beautifully manicured flora, spacious rooms and an oversized outdoor pool, you will almost forget that you’re in the densest city in the entire world. A true oasis of paradise in the jungle of the city.
La Cocina de Tita Moning - If you’re looking for traditional Filipino fare, make sure to visit La Cocina de Tita Moning (translated as “Fine Dining in an Ancestral Home”) for an authentic taste of the Philippines. With a welcoming staff, the menu is full of 20+ different set dining menus, complete from start to finish.
Corner Tree Cafe - For those seeking more healthy, animal-friendly options, be sure to stop by Corner Tree Cafe, tucked away on a quiet corner of Jupiter Street in Bel-Air, Makati. Truly the talk of the town in the vegan world, the cafe has expanded its clientele with a consistently creative menu that changes seasonally, allowing the establishment to continue being fresh and “new”.
Drink & Dance
Opus Restaurant & Lounge - Located in the Resorts World complex, Opus Restaurant and Lounge features an award-winning menu by day, and one of the best nightlife scenes in Manila by night. Billed as the city’s only “see and be seen” club, the drinks menu here is equally award worthy as the dining menu. To add to this, the DJs on deck are always spinning top club hits from around the world. Get your best dress and dancing heels on for a gorgeous night of opulence, decadence and fun!
It’s about… TIME! Time in Manila has quickly become one of the hottest dance spots in the region, with world-class resident DJs and frequent guest DJs from around the globe. The club is situated in the heart of Manila and features a relaxing open-air third floor lounge, offering a reprieve from the heat of the dancefloor.
Intramuros - For a piece of “Old Manila”, head down to Intramus, the oldest area of the capital. Famous for its Spanish architecture, beautiful old colonial homes and for Fort Santiago, Intramuros literally means ‘within the walls’.
The Baywalk - The Baywalk is a two-kilometer stretch of waterfront, with a long promenade where you can sit and enjoy the view. The perfect way to take in the city, The Baywalk offers stunning views morning or night. It’s the perfect place to grab that romantic someone and enjoy the beautiful Manila sunset, as you sip on fresh coconut juice at one of the beautiful waterfront restaurants.
Amanpulo Resort - Stray slightly from the big city of Manila and hop on a chartered jet to the remote island resort of Amanpulo. The name appropriately derives from the Sanskrit word for peace, aman, combined with the local Tagolog word for island. Amanpulo offers a serene retreat with pure white sands, turquoise seas and seemingly endless blue skies, all signature hallmarks for which the Philippine archipelago is famed. Privately enjoy the entire island of Pamalican, which is dedicated to Amanpulo, and is fringed by seven square kilometres of pristine coral reef and lapped by the tranquil Sulu Sea.
Jonathan Bridge Hudson is currently based in Hong Kong working as a travel writer, editor and model. His lust for travel has lead him on a pursuit of adventure throughout SE Asia and the world. He currently contributes to several regional travel publications, and has also been a participant in both the Hong Kong and Macau Travel and Tourism exhibitions.
You can also find Jonathan Bridge Hudson on twitter.