Feelin’ shady: Coast Boracay features great branding that extends to the staff uniforms, like this one for their security team.
MANILA, Philippines – Boracay is a small enough island for a tourist of multiple visits to say, “I’ve seen it all.” I have become one such annoying vacationer; after seeing Boracay from when it was barely populated until it turned into its own kind of megalopolis, I was pretty sure there was nothing about it that could surprise me anymore. Sure, its sand and its waters will always be beautiful, but what is so new about it when it has shown me every iteration of mixed drinks, tropical-themed hotels, and the occasional drunk guy on the beach?
Ever the cynical city girl, I mused over those thoughts as I headed to Boracay — and didn’t expect to spend the best time I’ve ever had there. And to think, on this trip I barely left my room. No bars to drink bad cocktails at or long walks down the beach, even. In my three days there, I basically lived it up at Coast Boracay, a new hotel managed by the Raintree Hospitality Group and owned by the Beach Design Hotel Group that pretty much sums up the best parts of a tropical holiday. Think of what you could possibly want in your dream vacation — minus Chris Hemsworth in board shorts — and imagine all of that neatly packaged into a boutique hotel in Boracay.
When I say that dreams come true here, I mean it. Whether you’re coming from the bus station (from Kalibo) or the airport (at Caticlan), Coast already has you covered. We were picked up by the hotel van at the airport then were dropped off at Coast’s own jet boat — complete with complimentary water bottles and ambient music that puts you right into a holiday mood. We were told that this is all part of the Coast package as soon as you book a room with them; ground transportation to and from the hotel are all covered. And on an island that requires multiple transfers just to get you to and from your beachfront hotel, this is actually a huge relief. (Less time worrying about that means more time to work on your tan, basically.)
Coast isn’t a huge hotel — just 71 rooms spanning three floors. But it is an undoubtedly gorgeous building. In fact, the Young STAR team and I made a game of taking a drink whenever we’d see passersby stopping to take a photo in front of the facade. I mean, it’s that pretty. Coast’s hotel front is an airy, all-white dream — the open-air restaurant Cha Cha’s greets you on one side, which features a deck you can have breakfast on (highly recommended) and the front desk has a gorgeous wood panel and a placid pond to greet you as you enter. The brilliant part of this architecture is that from any vantage point at the lobby floor, you get a view. Raintree Hospitality Group president Annabel Wisniewski says that this was deliberate on their part. They wanted guests to have lunch at Cha Cha’s and enjoy the scenery from wherever they were seated. “It’s all blue,” she says. You either faced the beach or looked into the hotel’s swimming pools (a dipping pool, a kiddie pool, and a lap pool.) Coast is one of the few places in town with pools of its own, but I would say that this isn’t even the most notable part of the whole Coast experience.
Something we noticed the minute we landed in Boracay that Coast takes seriously and many hotels do not: branding. A small thing, perhaps, for the traveler used to the usual accoutrements, but it definitely speaks volumes of what a hotel values — especially to a younger clientele. Coast teamed up with Team Manila on various aspects of their hotel branding, including the staff’s really witty shirts. Everyone wore pique shirts with clever designations on the back: the maintenance team’s shirts said “Neat Freaks,” the security team’s shirts said, “Like Men in Black, but in white,” for example. It felt warmer, in so many ways, and it perfectly matched the hotel’s uber-personalized service. This is something Coast’s general manager Randy Salvador takes pride in, and something we saw while we were there. You really feel like you’re being taken care of while you’re there.
In fact, we felt borderline spoiled as soon as we got there. Even while we were just lapping in the pool, a pool butler stood close by to take drink orders and hand us fresh towels even before we needed them. By the time we decided to cap off the day with a quick nap (okay, a three-hour nap) before dinner, turndown service would come knocking with chocolate fondue. We could enjoy cocktails everywhere — personal favorite, the Chotto Matte highball — at the restaurant, by the pool, or by the beach. Seriously, this was our life for three days. And we haven’t even gotten to the rooms yet.
This is why I was hardly bothered by the fact that I basically hibernated for three days. Coast Boracay offers a host of room types: from the practical deluxe, the elevated premier room, the spacious one bedroom (where we stayed; perfect for a barkada getaway), and a loft for those who want to live it up. Each room also has a Smart TV and hi-speed WiFi; so you can actually spend a whole day watching Netflix without realizing that it’s time for dinner. Another common denominator is that all rooms offer the most amazing — and I mean, amazing — beds you’ll ever lie on. Ms. Winniewski says it’s a mix of spring and foam that makes them so comfortable, but I’m willing to bet that angels were involved in their creation. I mean, that’s the only way that makes sense to me.
Everything else in the rooms is a visual treat. The design sensibilities of Coast put a lot of emphasis on Filipino craftsmanship. All the furniture you’ll find in the hotel was made in Cebu, while some of the pillows feature the famed Yakan weave. On the walls are murals by local artists, and while we were there, they were mounting gorgeous beach photos by photographer Pilar Bonnin. According to designer Erik Lopez of Erik Richard Design, it was all about putting the guests in the mindset of the perfect holiday. “We want our guests to feel like they’re really here,” says Erik.
And that sense of presence, of being aware that you are enjoying a slice of paradise, permeates every part of Coast. While we were there, Halloween celebrations were in full swing on the island. Coast had nice sunset sessions by the beach, inviting beatmakers both from Manila and Boracay to play music that was far removed from the usual EDM fare. Honestly, what else is there to ask for?
Despite all that it offers, Coast is far from finished. According to the Raintree Hospitality Group, Coast will soon add a gym, a kids’ playroom, and a dining area for private functions. There will also be a small pseudo-spa/massage room by the pool area. Best of all, there will soon be a rooftop bar that will offer amazing views of the island. Coupled with Coast’s signature cocktails, this will definitely be one you shouldn’t miss.
On our last day in Boracay, the wonderful staff of Coast gave me a cute door hanger that says “Pet Inside.” They’re a dog-friendly hotel, they tell me, and I rejoice at the thought of finding the perfect hotel. Also, have I told you that they offer all these five-star services at four-star prices? (What is wrong with this place? I wanted to ask. Nothing, absolutely nothing.)
And so there’s the rub of finding the perfect hotel in the most beautiful island in the world: how in the world do you leave? It was raining intermittently while we were there, so I quietly prayed for some rain showers to delay our exit for a bit. But like a mean joke, the sun came blazing back when we were told that the car to take us to the jetty port was ready. I may have seen it all in Boracay, but at Coast, I’ll be back for sure.
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Coast Boracay is located at Station 2 Beach Front, Brgy. Balabag, Malay, Boracay Island, Aklan. You can reach them at +6336 288 2634, +632 576 4555 (their Manila office), or via email at email@example.com. For more information, visit coastboracay.com, Instagram @coastboracay and facebook.com/coastboracay.
By Marga Buenaventura (The Philippine Star)