For our last-minute holy-week getaway from Manila, we chose the Sunset at Aninuan Beach Resort in Puerto Galera – it’s blessed with a fantastic location and their owners and staff sure take care of their guests. With a beautiful beach and very good diving, it makes for a good getaway from Manila!
Location: If you want to be in Puerto Galera, the location of the Sunset is the best feature of the hotel. It shares Aninuan beach with one other resort and the large private estate of one of the richest families in the Philippines. That gives their guests access to a clean and unspoiled beach, shared with few people – in stark contrast to crowded White Beach. The hotel is facing the ocean with nice views over the sea, especially at sunset – priceless!
You can walk to White Beach in about 15 minutes along the road, crawl over the rocks during low-tide in about the same time or take a quick tricycle ride.
Puerto Galera is 4-10 hours from Manila by bus/car & boat – reasonable on weekdays and slow-season weekends and a nightmare on holidays. I would never attempt to go on a busy weekend again – ever! You can also fly with a sea plane from Manila Bay in 25 minutes – much nicer, but expensive!
Service: The second stand-out quality of the Sunset Aninuan is the service. The owners live on property and are very engaged and check in on their guests frequently. They have hired a great team of staff, many of them have been at the property for years, and they are setting a great example for them – staff throughout our stay was exceptionally attentive and lovingly took care of the guests. They were always ready to assist guests and responsive to any request you might have. Even more so, they anticipated guest needs, for example proactively placing umbrellas in the hot sun, moving them around over time, or arranging tables in time for the meals to suit the different groups!
Our check-in was quick and friendly and we were brought to our room. Staff knew our names and room at the end of day 1, automatically charging our room for anything we ordered, without ever having to sign a form. Housekeeping did a good job cleaning the room, but they ran out of towels on day 2 – not ideal. The restaurant staff knows the menu well and the bartender makes some mean cocktails – a rare skill on the islands.
The Sunset Aninuan also has a dive shop on site and works with a very experienced dive master, making it a great place to get your certification or enjoy a few dives on vacation!
While service is generally friendly in the Philippines, the service levels at Sunset Aninuan are very high and would make any five-star hotel proud! If you are used to service levels in Europe or the Americas, you will be amazed!
The only service issue we had is a pet peeve of mine: the hotel policy operates on a cash basis and charges an outrageous 5% fee for any credit/debit card payments – not very customer friendy in 2017, especially for the many foreign guests!
Room: The Sunset Aninuan started with four nipa huts 11 years ago and has continually added new buildings and rooms. We booked a Junior Room with a queen bed in the main building, the second lowest room category and one of the older rooms on the property – and that showed!
The bedroom is rustic… with basic, local bamboo and wood furniture, tile floors and white walls. The painting over the bed adds a nice touch of color. There is a small flatscreen TV on the wall (which we didn’t use) and a small fridge with drinks for a charge. There are no coffee/tea facilities, which I sorely missed in this price category! The best feature of the room is the small balcony with a love seat and table and glorious ocean views.
The bathroom is large, but in desperate need of renovations. You have a simple wash table with sink on one side, an open closet with an old-fashioned, key & PIN number operated, safe in the middle and a shower and toilet on the other side. The shower had a dirty curtain, a simple water heater you find in budget hostels across South East Asia and a handheld shower-head without a proper wall mount, so you had to hold it in one hand to shower. The toilet looked new, but didn’t flush properly. There were only two bath towels and two washcloths provided, no hand towels. On day two, we received no fresh towels and after asking, got two beach towels instead. The walls and furniture are painted in shades of white/grey.
There is no WiFi internet in the rooms – which is hard to believe in 2017 – that’s like not having hot water or electricity to me. There is (theoretically) wifi at the lounge and beach bar, but it is so slow and unreliable that it is useless. It stands out as the slowest I have ever measured at any of almost 100 hotels around the world with two measurements at 0.01Mbps and 0.02Mbps and three measurements failing for an average of 0! We relied on our mobile phones for internet, but reception was weak in this location as well, so be warned if you rely on internet access for work or personal needs!
Overall, this room would be acceptable at a budget hotel, but is very poor value for this price category!
I wasn’t able to inspect the other rooms, because the hotel was sold out, but was able to take a peek before departure into a room being cleaned – and the newer rooms are drastically nicer, with new furniture, nice bathrooms and proper showers appropriate for this price category!
Restaurant/Amenities: Despite it’s small size, the Sunset Aninuan has all the amenities of a beach resort. There is a large, beachfront pool with great views, good for a quick dip. Across the street at the new building, there is another, smaller pool as well as a small gym with weight and cardio equipment for a basic workout.
The hotel also has a very good dive shop with a very experienced dive master and I’d recommend it as a good place to get certified or have a few vacation dives.
For a nice pampering, you can try out the small spa – their massage rates are reasonable for a beach resort.
The resort also has kayaks for use of the hotel guests, a nice way to see White Beach and get a little workout. Be careful not to paddle too far out – the winds and wave can get pretty strong! There is a ping pong table and the kids loved it!
The hotel has a sandy terrace area above the main beach, providing a private area for hotel guests with an ocean view just steps from the water. It is shaded by grand trees and lots of umbrellas as needed. You’ll find a great variety of seating, from regular sun beds to hammocks and suspended, rocking chairs, so everybody should be able to find a comfortable spot to relax!
In the same area overlooking the beach is the hotel restaurant, as well as the Tiki Bar, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. It’s all outdoor and was comfortable with a little breeze and in the shade.
Breakfast is served plated, with a very basic continental breakfast of fruit, egg, toast and coffee/tea included in the room rate. There are plenty of other choices, including pancakes, eggs, meats and hot local dishes.
Lunch and dinner has an even bigger menu, with plenty of international and local dishes available. The food quality is very good, all the dishes we tried very tasty and well prepared. The prices are pretty high for Puerto Galera, but you’ll have lower priced alternatives on White Beach. For us, the perfect sunset views from the resort, good cocktail and food were worth the price and we had all our meals at the hotel – pretty rare for me!
There is a new restaurant at street level above and we tried it for lunch at departure. It’s open to the public, but for house guests there is little reason to select it over the much nicer beachfront restaurant.
Bottomline: The Sunset Aninuan is a full-service beach resort in the best spot in Puerto Galera with a great beach and beautiful views. The owners and staff are wonderful and will do their best to ensure you have a great stay – you’ll have a hard time finding better service elsewhere. If you are looking for a short stay with beach and dive activities, this is a great spot to go. Be careful what you book though – at $150/night at peak-season prices for a budget room in need of renovation, our Junior Room main building is terrible value – I wouldn’t stay again in any room in the main building, even at regular rates of $120/night. Rooms in the new wing are only $10 more – but you get a modern room at much better value indeed. You can check the current prices here!