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At a time when wellness tourism is booming, the Philippines stands out as a destination that delivers holistic and healthful experiences – in serious style.
Blissful beaches, dreamy far-flung islands, rainforest cooled by the mist of waterfalls, opaline lagoons in every shade of blue… the Philippines has its fair share of landscapes that inspire calm. Because being amid nature makes you feel good – we’ve known it for centuries, and now science proves it. And today, more than ever, we’re all looking for that rush of happy hormones, whether found in our surrounds, in spas or in healthful resorts. This is travel’s new luxury.
Indeed, the growing need to improve our health on a more holistic level saw the value of the wellness industry soar to $US4.4 trillion in 2020, according to the Global Wellness Economy Monitor. And wellness tourism accounts for $US814.6 billion of this, set for a compound growth rate of 13 per cent over the next seven years.
The good news is that you can tap into the trend when you touch down in the Philippines, with the archipelago’s bountiful natural assets complemented by some of the world’s most trendsetting health and wellness resorts.
Back to nature
Case in point the pioneering Farm at San Benito, a breezy 90-minute drive – or 25-minute helicopter ride – from Manila, the capital. Enveloped by coconut palms and bougainvillea-filled gardens, the retreat’s villas are designed with teak and local fabrics, each offering commanding views over the jungle-trimmed Malepunyo mountains. In the light-filled spa, therapies like the ‘Hilot Haplos’ incorporate ingredients sourced from the immediate surrounds, including fresh coconut milk, coffee, cocoa and papaya. Days here are punctuated with flavourful vegan cuisine, combining herbs and vegetables from the retreat’s organic garden, alongside medically supervised programs that might include cell renewal, meditation, acupuncture, nutritional workshops and oxygen therapy.
On the tiny island of Pamalican, in the Cuyo Archipelago of northern Palawan, Amanpulo’s villas and casitas are inspired by traditional huts on stilts. Frangipani trees and tangled bougainvillaea bowers surround a calm lap pool, rope hammocks hang by pathways leading to sandy sweeps, and the laid-back beach club is ideal for barefoot suppers of freshly grilled fish. You could easily spend languid days enjoying back-to-back treatments in the spa, including traditional Filipino hilot massages alternating hot and cold to rebalance areas of tension. Or sign up for the resort’s ‘Active Adventure’ program for massages, hot-stone therapy, guided snorkelling, a private sunset cruise, and yin yoga practiced while at sea.
One of the Philippines’ most famous islands, Boracay’s white-sand beaches and aquamarine waters are delightfully serene, thanks in part to a strict cap on visitor numbers. Additionally, hotels and resorts must pass environmental rules set by the government, single-use plastics are banned and there’s a state-of-the-art monitoring system that provides real-time data on the water quality around the island. When the place you’re staying is healthy, you can’t help but feel the same way.
Wellness is amplified at the Shangri-La Boracay, a postcard-perfect resort tiered down a jungle-clad hillside. Fronting two secluded beaches, the property exudes tropical luxury; it also radiates serenity – no area ever seems busy, no-one ever rushed. You positively glide in and out of the resort’s legendary Chi, The Spa, which is a sanctuary within a sanctuary comprising 10 treatment villas built on a breathtaking peninsula with mountain views. Here, the principles of traditional Asian therapies meet ancient Philippine diagnostic methods that go way beyond the usual spa fare.
El Nido Resorts is also committed to leaving a minimal impact on the land, but a big impression on guests. This quartet of sustainable island resorts across Palawan is as environmentally friendly as companies come, from restaurants delivering sustainably and ethically sourced cuisine, to nature-based activities low in carbon footprint and high in natural and cultural interpretation, to use of renewable materials in construction, to green design and architecture, to strong community partnerships. It’s guilt-free luxury in unbeatable tropical biodiversity. Activities vary between properties, but might include rappelling down limestone cliffs, snorkelling with giant clams or canoeing through mangroves.
Other places to check in and bliss out include Nurture Wellness Village in Tagaytay, which offers a unique wellness concept the resort dubs ‘ecotherapy’ – yes, you are encouraged to spend as much time outside as possible, and many spa treatments are conducted alfresco. The resort’s detox programs are holistic and designed to change your mindset, incorporating healthy meals, vitacell therapy, charcoal wraps and qi gong. Also in Tagaytay is Sonya’s Secret Garden, a joyous menagerie of blooming flowers and plants, and all the wildlife it attracts – much of the flora that is grown here is used in the spa, from rose petals to herbs. If you’re inspired, you can join Sonya herself for an organic gardening masterclass.
Meanwhile in Cebu, Badian Island Wellness Resort is perched above an ocean the colour of an Ice Mint. The philosophy here is barefoot luxury, from the spacious suites to the spa. Soak in tubs filled with flower petals while gazing out to sea, enjoy a massage using pure coconut oil, or soak away your worries in the saltwater thalasso pool, replete with waterfalls.
Situated on a coconut plantation on the island of Negros Oriental near Dumaguete, the luxurious Atmosphere Resorts & Spa enjoys a spectacular beachfront location alongside the warm coastal waters of the Philippine Sea. If the setting doesn’t slow your heart rate, then the treatments in the spa surely will. Book in for massages incorporating hot stones and bamboo, detox your skin with a coconut-and-ginger scrub, get wrapped in papaya and pineapple… then sit down to healthful meals in the restaurant.
Over in Bohol, Mithi Resort & Spa is a tropical heaven uniting turquoise water and powdery sand, with stilted villas tuck into the jungle. There are all manner of outdoor adventures to be had (including swimming in the resort’s private cave); when it comes to visit the spa, look forward to massages that take you around the world, alongside body treatments that are good enough to eat – chocolate and peppermint scrub, anyone?
Discover a world of holistic rejuvenation and blissful serenity amidst the natural beauty of the Philippines. For more information, check out the link below.