I have been to some of the most beautiful beach destinations, including Bora Bora, Moorea and the Maledives – unfortunately, they all come with a pretty steep price tag, even when using points for the hotel! Fortunately, you can visit a similarly beautiful region with incredible, unspoiled beaches and without the crowds at a much more reasonable price – at the Busuanga Bay Lodge, Coron, Philippines!
You can read more about the area of Coron in my dream destination review here – you can enjoy unspoiled beaches and great diving at a much lower price point than even Hawaii or the Caribbean! Our choice here was the Bususanga Bay Lodge, a small 4-star resort with less than 40 rooms, sitting all by itself on the Busuanga Bay. It was highly rated on Tripadvisor and reasonably priced on the booking portals, making it a good fit for a special occasion.
Hotel/Amenities: The hotel sits on top of a cliff and you are welcomed into the open-air lobby, with what is one of the best features of the hotel: the spectacular view over the infinity pool and the ocean and islands beyond! The main restaurant is right next to the lobby and pool, with some loungers around the pool. There is another bar/restaurant on the waterfront, where you will also find the small, private beach, watersport equipment and the hotel pier for boat excursions. We went on an island hopping trip organized by the hotel. While it was more expensive than independent tours, it was worth it: We had a private boat (instead of joining a large group), with flexibility on where we wanted to go and for how long. We also had a guide to accompany our trip (in addition to the captain and his helper), snorkel equipment from the resort and a lunch catered by the restaurant. The white table cloth on a remote beach was a nice touch! The rooms are located in the main building, small villas on the cliff side and a large building on the waterfront with the majority of rooms.
Breakfast was served a la carte at the main restaurant and we enjoyed the selection and quality of the food. We had one meal in the main restaurant and one at the waterfront bar – the bar tender makes some pretty mean cocktails, perfect to watch the sunset! We ordered from the same menu as in the main restaurant and again the quality, selection of food and the service were a step above what I’ve found in other beach destinations in the Philippines. They maintained a casual luxury feel that was just right for the occasion – an upscale feel without feeling stiff!
Room: We were upgraded (free) to a “Casita”, a small villa with a nice room, bathroom and a large veranda, with a lounger and bistro table with chairs, featuring the same spectacular view as the reception. There was plenty of storage, a safe, 42in flat-screen TV (that would go unused), minibar and coffee/tea facilities. The rooms also have a Bose iPod dock and each their own wifi router – you have a strong local connection, although the internet access from the resort is not very reliable and slow, I’d think due to the isolated location. They have a large, local video library to complement the (apparently equally challenging TV reception). Our room had a large King bed, nice linens, towels and bath robes. I liked the modern decor that managed to retain an island feel without the kitsch. The bathroom was huge and had a window, which I much prefer in hot ocean climates! The pictures on the hotel site are perfectly accurate.
The regular rates at the Busuanga Bay Lodge start at rack rate of $150, including breakfast and airport transfer. You can get better rates at Agoda, but not all rooms are available online, so you might have to email them. It always help to ask for a discount or promo – never accept the first price in the Philippines 😉 Considering the beauty and remoteness of the destination, I consider this great value for a hotel of this caliber. You get very comfortable access to paradise at an affordable price!
Service: While service standards are high across South East Asia and especially friendly in the Philippines, the Busuanga Bay Lodge still managed to stand out. We were checked in while lounging on the sofas with welcome drinks and cold towels. The process was quick and we were on our way to the rooms. The staff was happy to help with excursions we were planning to do and any requests we had. There was a large wedding party during our stay and the team did a nice job to work around it, ensuring that everybody had a good stay. Because the hotel is pretty small, it felt more like a visit to a home than a hotel – very personal and relaxed! The transport to and from the airport was on time, not a given in South East Asia, quick and comfortable.
Overall, we loved our stay at the Busuanga Bay Lodge, we recommend it to friends and would love to go again. You could stay at a budget hotel in Coron town – and miss out on the feeling of your private paradise – or you could stay at a private island hotel for perfect privacy. The Busuanga Bay Lodge gives you most of the latter for half the price!