Top Luxury Resorts in Cebu
The majority of Cebu’s luxury resorts are located on the island of Mactan, which is surprising since Mactan island’s beaches are the least impressive that Cebu has to offer! To overcome this, some of the resorts have artificially designing their own beaches; even to the extent of bringing in white sand (some say illegally) in the construction of the beach. Not only that, most have built huge (sometimes extravagant) swimming pools to overcome these shortcomings. Guests will never be short of a place to cool down from the tropical heat of Cebu!
Most of these resorts attract the high end tourists who predominately spend their whole vacation at the resorts. The only issue I have with the resorts in Mactan is
1.) The price – they tend to be overly expensive for what you get and
2.) The beaches in Mactan are generally not that great (as discussed above).
Most of the resorts will offer scuba diving and other water sports as well as some opportunities to island hop to some of the nearby islands for a day trip. The best islands to check out are Nalusuan Island with its awesome snorkelling at its marine sanctuary. The island also makes a great day trip with restaurant and white sand beach area, extremely popular for Korea groups. There are also stilt cottages for overnight (and longer) stays. Visit here for more details.
The other island is Pandanon Island, a great little white sandy island great for sigh seeing and beautiful beach area. If you don’t want to book through the resort, Island Banca Cruises organises island hopping trips around Mactan Island as well. The banca boats are a bit more upmarket than the norm and they come with beanbags to chill out on. I have used them a number of times and I can recommended them as they run a great service. If you want to do something romantic try out their Sunset Cruise, you can see the video I made on the Mactan Island page. Also worth a trip is Olango Island with its famous wildlife sanctuary. More details on Olango Island can be found here.
Poverty around the resorts in Mactan
Some people are put off by the poverty around some of the resorts and actually feel hesitant to step foot outside (the resort) as they feel it’s dangerous. This couldn’t be further to the truth. You do need to take the right precautions, but you will find the Cebanos the friendliest people you could ever met. Despite their poverty, they are probably the easiest people in the world to start up a conversation, and they aren’t looking to rob you! They know the resorts bring money in, and probably most likely someone in the family or friend works in the resort. They know not to jeopardise that! The most annoying are the touts wanting to offer you tours, rides or other services, sometimes you have to be persistent in saying no! Eventually they will get the picture! The reality is, that you’re already getting “robbed” at the resorts with their expensive costs than someone outside the resort!
Getting to the shopping malls in Cebu
If you plan to do a bit of shopping in Cebu City at the main shopping centres (SM and Ayala Shopping Malls), the resorts in Mactan are about 45min to 1 hour taxi ride away (depending on which resort you are staying and traffic). You will be looking looking at a taxi fee (on the white taxi meter) of around 250 – 300 Peso one way. If you book the taxi with the resort expect to pay double this! A lot of these resorts do offer free scheduled shuttle services to the shopping malls (normally 2 or 3 a day) so check with the resort if you plan to take them.
Other Islands in Cebu
If you’re looking for luxury in the other tourist spots of Cebu such as Malapascua Island, Bantayan or Camotes, you might be disappointed. These places are yet to have any resorts that I would classify as luxury, the best you would be looking at is 3 star resorts.
Saving Money on the Resorts
A number of these luxury resorts in Mactan regularly offer promos so its best to keep you eyes open. Checking the resort’s website or the cheap online booking websites such as Agoda and HotelsCombined are often promoting sales or discounts. In low season you may be able to book at considerable discounts, I’ve seen the online booking sites advertising up to 50% off. The resorts also offer early bird sales in which you save money by booking in advance (usually a month or so prior to arrival). For more details on this you can visit my other article on saving money on hotels in Cebu visit here.
Rating: 5 star
One of the most famous resorts in Cebu, the Shangri La Mactan Resort is also one of Cebu’s biggest and most luxurious with 530 rooms and covering 13 hectares, made up of lush tropical gardens, great swimming pools and a lovely beach front. Having stayed here a number of times, the Shangri la has never failed to impress me. The resort is beautiful, gorgeous tended gardens and lawn. The private beach cove although man made, is a pretty area. Relax by the sandy beach in the resorts’ cabanas, swim or snorkel at their own marine sanctuary that spans six hectares. It teems with over 160 species of fish, clams and coral. Great for the whole family. If you get tired of the ocean, there are the resort’s 3 swimming pools awaiting you!
Shangri La has its own spa called CHI, and while not cheap (with basic massages starting from around 6000 P) sometimes it’s OK to treat yourself to some TLC! The spa has Jacuzzi , sauna, steam bath and plunge pool.
Rooms at the resort as expected are of a high standard, spacious and modern. The older rooms (part of the Main wing), have been progressively renovated and due for completion around August of this year (2013). Personally I like the rooms that have ocean views; nothing beats a room with a stunning view of the water! The more expensive suite rooms offer more room for families with separate dining and living areas. The Ocean Wing Panorama Suite offers magnificent ocean views.
Shangri La Restaurants
The Resort offers a number of fine dining options including Cowrie’s Cove – a restaurant with a romantic setting offeringh awesome views overlooking the ocean. It specialises in seafood, with some of its best signature dishes being the Singapore classic Chilli Crab and Stir-Fried Tiger Prawns.
Tea of Spring is the Chinese restaurant with contemporary Chinese cuisine. They offer Dim Sum for their lunch meals. Acqua Restaurant offers Italian cuisine (risotto,pasta and pizza) with signature dishes such as Tagliata di manzo con fagioli cannellini (grilled beef rib eye).
For breakfast the Shangri La serves up a fantastic buffet breakfast (one of the best on Mactan) to keep most happy. The breakfast comes with a massive variety of foods including pastries, fresh fruits and cereals. Sometimes the room rate includes the buffet already. When I have booked with Agoda it has always included breakfast in the price, but do check this as things can change.
Shangri La Cebu is very family friendly, every time I stay here I always see tons of families. The resort looks after kids with special kids swimming pools, an adventure zone area and even a toddlers zone! There are plenty of aqua sports available for the “older” guests as well.
For truly one of the best resorts in Cebu, great staff, beautiful rooms, delicious food and a good beach (although man made!) Shangri La defines luxury in Cebu and is definitely worth checking out.
Imperial Palace Cebu
Rating: 4.5 star
One of the largest luxury resorts in Cebu, Imperial Palace has over 550 rooms.
During the low season I have seen 50% discounts on Agoda as well as early bird sales of up to 25% discounts if you book well in advance, so keep an eye out for sales like this as it could save you considerably! Also note this is a very popular resort for Koreans so during their holidays you may see an influx of tourists, even when it’s low season in the Philippines!
Make no mistake about it, Imperial Palace Mactan’s main draw card is its water-park. It features five different “themed” pools all designed by Dream Park USA.
1/ Amazon River – jump into one of the inflatable tubes and let the “river” flow take you around.
2/ Wave pool – An artificial wave pool meant to give the feeling of being at the beach. Waves are pretty tame, so leave your surfboard at home!
3/ Beach Pool – built to give the impression of a beach, laze, swim and relax – just like being at the ocean without the sea urchins!
4/ Captain Hooks Pool – especially made for the kids with pirate ship and slides.
5/ Toddlers Pool – another one for the little ones.
On top of those the resort has its famous slides – Open body Slide, the second longest of the resort (120 meters). Or try the resort’s slide called The Tube slide.
The 3rd slide, The Space Bowl offers a bit more in extreme fun! It lets you spiral in its “space bowl” before being flushed into a deep pool of water.
They also have an their main swimming pool, a huge pool that dominates the main grounds. It contains a nice little pool bar you can sip cocktails will keeping cool in the pool.
Imperial also has its own private (small) beachfront, though not as good as other luxury resorts on Mactan and seriously you’re probably going to spend more of your time in the other swimming pools or rides. The standard water sports are available such as jet ski, banana boat, island hopping tours and scuba diving.
For the younger ones there is the Kids Club, which offers activities such as face painting, arts and crafts and game consoles such as PlayStation 3 and Wii. The Club has a mini-library equipped with a selection of toys and books.
Imperial Resort Restaurants
Start your day off with breakfast at Familia Buffet Restaurant. Here you can savour on cuisine from a huge choice from different parts of the world – Japanese, Western, Oriental and the delicious dessert station. I have heard this place can get busy, but the times I have been, I haven’t had an issue. If the resort is busy expect to find breakfast to be very busy. Familia has seating for 390 people and the resort has over 550 rooms which could mean over a 1000 guests at one time. When I see a resort is busy, I tell you I’m at breakfast as soon as it opens. It’s always a good idea to (try) beat the crowds!
The Resort also has a Chinese Restaurant, The Cheon San. An authentic Korean cuisine Restaurant – Maru. The Coral Restaurant, a seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean and some more casual dining at Aqus Pool bar, Café Amiga and the Delmar Lobby Lounge. Generally the food is great but at the pricey side of things, so be prepared to keep your wallet open!
Imperial Palace rooms and suites
Firstly don’t be fooled by the “Garden View” rooms, my first time to the Imperial I booked this room type, garden view is in reality “car park” view. Although there isn’t anything different between rooms, having an ocean view is a much better option in my opinion!
The rooms are just terrific, large modern and comfortable. The deluxe rooms are 38 sq. with a nice little balcony. While the suite rooms are huge starting from 76 sq for the one bedroom suite.
The villas are huge, with their own private Jacuzzi, living room, king-sized bed, sun deck and a big bath
Imperial Palace Cebu is a wonderful place for families, with plenty to offer both adult and child. Sure, the resort also appeals to couples and other travellers, but definitely families would get the most out of the Imperial. The resort is huge and has heaps of facilities, it is expensive, but if you’re staying in Mactan that is something of the norm!
Crimson Resort Cebu
Rating: 4.5 star
Crimson Resort and Spa Cebu is another large luxury resort on Mactan Island. It features an awesome (large) 3 tiered infinity pool, the most famous icon of the resort. Each of the tiered pools are of different depth, although none are very deep (2 feet, 3feet and 4 foot). Crimson also has its own private (smallish) beach front, but while OK is nothing to write home about. A popular resort for Koreans.
The resort offers the usual water-sports (kayak, snorkelling, jet ski, island hopping tours, scuba diving and banana boats. For children there is the Crimzone and for a relaxing spa (again pricy) Crimson has its own spa called AUM.
The resort has 4 restaurants and bars. Like with most of these resorts in Mactan, expect to pay a premium. With its isolated location you cannot simple walk out of the Crimson and expect to find any restaurants outside. So unless you’re prepared to pay for a taxi to take you somewhere, you’re most likely to be eating inside at one of the resort’s restaurants. Food is generally of a good quality.
For breakfast the Saffron Restaurant serves up a huge buffet with array of international cuisine and pastries. The buffets are terrific and on par with the other top end resorts in Cebu. They serve up buffet for lunch and dinner, as well as having a la carte menu. When I booked via Agoda the breakfast was included in the price.
The other main restaurant is the Tempo Lounge which unfortunately I haven’t/didn’t get the time to check out yet. For a more relaxing and casual feel, check out the Score Sports Bar for drinks and light meals. Play pool or watch a game on one of their TVs. Azure Pool Bar as the name suggests is located next to the pool with a great view of the ocean. I found this place refreshingly cool at night as it’s open air and it gets cooler night sea breezes. Great for a cocktail or beer after a long day!
Accommodation at Crimson
The rooms at the Crimson are of a good standard and large and spacious, especially the bathroom which is just huge! The lead in room type is the deluxe, with the deluxe garden being slightly larger and having a small private garden (not accessible) outside the bathroom window. They have the larger villas (115 square meter space) that are probably more suited to families. They come with a living room area and plunge pool, the most expensive having ocean views.
Overall , although they do have facilities for children I feel places like Imperial, Plantation offer more in the way for families.The biggest negative for me is it’s the most isolated of the luxury resorts in Mactan. While resorts such as Imperial Palace or Shangri la you can easily walk to a highway, Crimson you simply cannot do this. You will need to catch a “resort” taxi which is invariably overpriced. My mate loves this resort, but having teenage children the main issue is keeping them happy. For him he finds spending time at Plantation Bay a better option. He feels that resort offers a lot more activities. Having said that, Crimson is an excellent resort, that while having a few shortcomings, is still a fabulous resort to stay at.
Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort
Rating: 3.5 star
Some people don’t realise this is classified as a 3 and half star resort (with 5 star prices!) The way it’s marketed you would think it that it is 5 star. For me I find this is a fantastic resort and luxurious enough to be into the top 10 luxury resorts in Cebu. Maribago Bluewater Resort is a large resort covering 7 hectares with its own private (man- made) beachfront – again pretty average for swimming, but it does look pretty and is nice to laze around. If the beach isn’t your thing, Bluewater has 3 swimming pools dotted around the resort. Other noteworthy facilities are its Amuma Spa that offers a range of treatments and therapies. A small children’s playground and lots of water sports such as jet skiing and scuba diving. It also has banquet and function rooms that are equipped to host corporate functions and wedding receptions.
Maribago Bluewater Restaurants
Buffet breakfast is good, with a great selection although not as good as Shangri La or Imperial. Sometimes the breakfast is included with the room, when I booked with Agoda it was at the time. The resort holds nightly themed dinners (buffet style) which where good although pricey. They include live entertainment and sometimes live dancers. Themed nights include Asia, American backyard grill , Mediterranean and Seafood.
The Cove specialises in fresh seafood, you can choose from their fish tanks. For light snacks including fresh salads and healthy fruit/vegetable drinks check out the The Amuma Spa Café and Juice Bar.
To save a bit of money, only a few minutes away from Bluewater Resort is La Place Restro Bar, a nice chill out place for drinks. If you’re looking for a cheaper place to eat head over to Maribago Grill Restaurant, it has an outdoor garden area with open air cottages or eat inside. A great place for affordable decent food. These places are walking distance away you only need to ignore the touts when you walk out of the resort.
Maribago Bluewater Accommodation
The rooms are spread all around the resort and start from their lead in Deluxe Room. All come with the standard facilities including a small veranda. While I was there last year, the resort was still in the process of renovating the deluxe rooms. This should have been completed by now. I did take a look at one of the renovated rooms and to me it seemed more a semi renovation and not a total make over. None the less an improvement on the last time I stayed. Most recently I booked the Premier Deluxe which was totally brilliant, modern large and comfy, including a magnificent bathroom (complete with free standing bathtub and separate shower). Definitely the room to stay at here!
As you would come to expect from the resort (and Cebuano’s in general) the staff are very polite and helpful. The resort’s grounds are clean and well maintained. While it’s a notch down from say the Shangri La in pure luxury, it’s certainly no less deserving of a place to stay for those wanting to enjoy an amazing resort at a little cheaper rate! I wouldn’t have any hesitation recommending this is as a place to stay.
Plantation Bay Cebu
Rating: 4.5 star
One of the most iconic resorts in Mactan, Plantation Bay has been wowing guests since the late 1990s and is listed in Conde Nast Magazine as one of the top 25 resorts in Asia. If you can get over the fact that most of Plantation Bay is fake – while beautifully designed, the huge lagoons are actually made from concrete. The lagoons are amazing to look at but once in, you do feel like your swimming in a pool. Not that it’s bad, in fact it’s easier to control when it’s man made, it’s something that needs pointing out.
The resort is a little isolated, so you will need to catch a taxi to get anywhere around Mactan or Cebu. It is possible to walk down the long driveway to get outside the resort, but you will only find a couple of small sari-sari stores (general stores). The nearest shopping mall Gaisano Grand Mall is around a 10 minute drive. Here you can find a number of small stores, supermarket, banks and a few fast food restaurants.
I love the way they have designed the resort, it’s just stunningly beautiful to look. The resort is huge; it is spread over 11.4 hectares of tropical gardens, massive (saltwater) lagoons and swimming pools. The resort has its own small private beach, fine for chilling by but not really a beach that will blow your mind, which I’ve stated before is typical of Mactan.
The resort is also well-designed for families with so many activities and facilities for kids of all ages. There are a lot of indoor and outdoor activities to do here like wall climbing, archery, biking, kayak, golf putting, badminton, tennis (the resort hosted the Davis Cup in the Philippines). There’s also a game room which you can play billiards, table tennis, air hockey, arcade games and gaming consoles. They also have a good fully-equipped gym. Not only that add the water activities such as island hopping, scuba diving and whale shark tour.
Plantation Bay Restaurants
The resort has 4 main restaurants which are generally of a good standard. They include Kilimanjaro Kafé (both international and Filipino cuisine), the Fiji Restaurant located by the beachfront and offering seafood and Asian cuisine. Enjoy eating outside overlooking the ocean or inside in their air conditioned area. For Italian cuisine head over to Palermo, or for some fast food Plantation has its Savannah Grill. Expect to pay a premium for food (as with all other resorts).
I was a little disappointed by the limited buffet breakfast, that doesn’t match up to standards of other resorts. The buffet is a lot smaller so has limited variety compared to the others. Surprisingly, booking via internet websites such as Agoda, breakfast is not included.
Plantation Resort’s Rooms
The rooms are decent, a tad on the old side, but definitely not up to the standards of a 5 star resort. What you do get is a view to die for, that’s if you book the lagoon side room, which I definitely recommend booking if you’re staying at Plantation Bay!
Their spa – Mogambo Springs is very classy, built in the style of an old 18th century Japanese village. The spa has hot pools with Jacuzzi, cascading massage waterfalls, dry sauna and steam room. Mogambo Springs offers many spa treatments including Japanese Shiatsu (energizing), Swedish (relaxing), or a combination, and Fusion (rejuvenating).For more details visit their treatment link
Plantation Bay Resort isn’t going to be for everyone. If you can get over the “fakeness” of the place, it’s pure eye candy to look at. A bit like those resorts in Dubai, just less extravagant. The resort is fun to stay at, plenty of things to do, or if it’s your thing, do nothing but sit and relax by the tropical lagoons, Plantation Bay Cebu is a wonderful place to stay at. Great for families, couples or even singles. For me I do love this resort.
The other 5 resorts will come in Part 2… coming soon…
*rates and information subject to change without notice. Some photos courtesy of their Facebook pages.