The hours we spent refreshing browsers to get our hands on those online seat sales have paid off, at last. This year, we were finally able to visit one of the best islands, not just in the Philippines, but in the whole world - Palawan! So yes, while it seems that the majority of vacationers decided to fly to Boracay for a wet and wild adventure, we chose instead to reconnect with nature by making Puerto Princesa, Palawan the backdrop of our summer playground.
Since our squad wanted to make sure that we got to experience the best Puerto Princesa had to offer, we searched the internet to see which resort was a favourite among vacationers, and it seemed that the top choice was Astoria Palawan.
The resort was nestled in a 5-hectare mango orchard, so the moment we entered the property, it felt like we were given VIP seats to the unique theatricals of Mother Nature.
There were mango trees everywhere with the golden fruits hanging low and ripe for picking! Astoria Palawan is also home to Puerto Princesa’s first and only waterpark so that’s definitely an amazing feature a barkada like us can enjoy.
But besides the world-class amenities, the one-hectare waterpark, and their solar-powered Mangrove Conference and Convention Center, what really sets Astoria Palawan apart is their dedication to always provide great service.
Upon stepping into The Canopy, the resort’s reception pavilion, we were greeted by their courteous staff who gave us welcome drinks and necklaces - the best way to begin our tropical getaway!
Since we booked online during the peak season, the only available rooms in the resort were their Superior and Deluxe Rooms. We then came to an agreement that the men will stay in the former room, while the women will sleep in the latter room. Here are a few notable things about each room type:
Astoria Palawan’s Superior room is a spacious 32-square metre, fully-furnished room that features two queen-size beds, modern shower and bathtub, flat-screen TV and DVD player, free Wi-Fi connection, and a kitchenette where we could cook meals! The room was painted in vibrant tropical colours, so it’s definitely a nice change of scenery from the dull grays of city living.Check Availability
It was already past lunchtime and we were waiting for the girls for what seemed like forever, so we decided to pay them a visit. The 38-square metre Deluxe Room was a tad more spacious compared to the Superior Room and it featured the same amazing in-room amenities we had in our room. Needless to say, they were happy with their space!Check Availability
We decided as a group to inform the hotel manager that we want to upgrade our rooms once a suite was available. Luckily, on the third day of our stay, we were able to transfer to their 56-square metre one-bedroom suite which has its very own living room, perfect for our late night kwentuhan and board game sessions.Check Availability
Our happiness over being upgraded to the one-bedroom suite was nothing compared to the joy of the ladies being transferred to the largest suite of Astoria Palawan. Their two-bedroom suite looked like a spacious, well-designed and decorated condo unit out of a Home Living Magazine. We were thankful for their new room as well since it featured two bathrooms, significantly cutting the girls’ prep time.Check Availability
Astoria Palawan’s waterpark was definitely the highlight of our stay! We’re not afraid to admit we all let our inner child enjoy the various rides and slides of this one-hectare waterpark. It was everything any young and young-at-heart would want in an aquatic theme park! We spent the majority of the day taking a dip in the wave pool, cruising along the lazy river ride (which they patterned after Puerto Princesa’s Underground River), running around their splash pods, and going down their thrilling slides. We didn’t even pass up on the chance to experience the Tumbling Buckets Zone, which was originally designed for little kids to enjoy!
Though the beach had its irresistible inviting charm, we couldn’t help but experience swimming and chilling in the resort’s outdoor pool. This 39-metre infinity pool, called “The Pod”, is the brand’s longest pool to date. It’s unlike any other pool we’ve seen because it was designed to seemingly spill over the vast Sulu Sea. The girls, who were very eager to get that sun-kissed glow, had a great time lying on the pool’s sunken loungers. Chilling by the pool was made more amazing at night when it lit up in different colours, making night swimming a truly relaxing treat.
Another great thing about this resort is that the fun doesn’t end the moment you’re done being outdoors. Astoria Palawan’s reception and recreation pavilion, named “The Canopy”, features various entertainment sources that we were able to enjoy as a group. Our squad had a blast playing billiards, card and board games, table tennis, foosball, computer and video games. But what made The Canopy one of our favourite spots in the resort was its karaoke room. Believe us when we tell you that we spent many hours belting our hearts out to both old and new hits. We were even more ecstatic to find out that using all these were free of charge for checked-in guests!
Located at the centre of the resort is Astoria Palawan’s in-house bar and restaurant, The Reserve. It’s easy to say that what really made our tropical getaway come full circle was the great selection of food the resort has to offer. Breakfast and dinner buffets were available daily, while ala carte and set meals were ready to be served during lunchtime. When we were able to finally get a taste of their carefully-crafted cuisines, we happily filled our tummies and forgot all about our #SummerBodyGoals. Not an ounce of regret especially after that savoury barbecued Red Snapper in sweet and sour sauce!
We were glad to find out that Astoria Palawan is an advocate of responsible tourism! The property only uses green and sustainable materials and methods. This is evident in the state-of-the-art equipment they have designed for efficient and effective waste management and energy consumption.
They also show their love for the island and the indigenous Batak community by sourcing only locally-produced goods and employing Palaweños, so every guest can feel the brand’s signature “homegrown hospitality.”
Though we only saw it from outside, we learned that Astoria Palawan also has its very own events venue called Mangrove Conference and Convention Center. This facility was built together with the waterpark to make the property the perfect “workplays”, targeting both business and leisure travellers.
The property’s event centre is a stunning 439-square metre space with two function rooms that can accommodate 200 guests, and one main convention hall with a seating capacity of 450. According to the resort manager, they cater to both business functions and social gatherings.
We didn’t know this until we googled it but apparently, one of Astoria’s claim to fame is its bibingka! Commonly, this popular Filipino rice cake is only available during the holiday season but it seems that Astoria believes that guests shouldn’t be deprived of their soft and delicious bibingka, so lucky us!
Here at Astoria Palawan, this crowd-favourite native delicacy comes in three flavours – traditional, ube, and dulce de leche. We decided to try them all and we couldn’t get enough of it! Our favourite was the traditional bibingka, while the girls preferred the much sweeter dulce de leche.
Direct flights, which take around 45 minutes to an hour, are available daily from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport or from Cebu’s Mactan-Cebu International Airport to Puerto Princesa International Airport in Palawan.
Boats are available once a week from Manila Port to Puerto Princesa, travel time takes around 18 to 22 hours. Weekly trips are also available from the Cebu Port but it would take around 36 hours due to stopovers in Iloilo and Cuyo.
Astoria Palawan provides free shuttle service from the seaport or airport if you have a booking in the resort. Reservations must be made at least 48 hours before arrival time.
You can also take a tricycle to the San Jose bus terminal and from there, catch a bus going to Roxas or El Nido. Any of the two will pass by Astoria Palawan.
Taxi cabs are also available, while vans can be rented if you go to the Lexus Shuttle Terminal located at the airport’s parking lot.
It’s no secret that Palawan is one of the best islands in the world. Its lush tropical greens and natural seascape sceneries closely resemble what we consider “paradise on Earth”. The great thing about Astoria Palawan is that it’s a gateway to some of Puerto Princesa’s best tourist attractions; here are three to name a few:
Going to Puerto Princesa and not paying the Subterranean Underground River a visit is missing the best thing about this island. Being one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, it is impossible not to be struck by its natural beauty. This 8-kilometre UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the longest navigable river-traversed tunnels in the world and features deep caves, majestic limestone formations, stalactites and stalagmites, large chambers, small waterfalls, and amazing flora and fauna.
Another magical experience to try in Puerto Princesa is firefly watching at Iwahig River. Here, you get to witness a scene that feels like it came straight out of a fairytale. This tour takes place right before dusk falls. A guide will take you to a secluded part of the river where mangroves and trees are home to an abundance of fireflies. The location is far away from the city proper so the absence of light pollution will really let the amazing creatures take front and centre. Please take note that flash photography is strictly forbidden here.
If you’re up for an activity that’s a bit more challenging, then a trek to Ugong Rock is the one for you. The trail to its peak is a 7-kilometre hike where you will have to get through interesting paths, such as tunnels, chambers, rope and wooden bridges. Besides trekking, you can also go for other Ugong Rock adventures such as ziplining and spelunking. The hike may seem intimidating, but believe us when we tell you that once you’ve conquered it, the awe-inspiring, panoramic views of the surrounding countryside will make it worth the climb.