I should probably begin with letting you know that I am not married, nor am I engaged. And I don’t even have any plans to get hitched anytime soon! But I recently visited a special tropical retreat on it’s own little island, floating in Bacuit Bay in the Philippines. And boy, am I already planning a faux honeymoon for a wedding that isn’t on the cards, just so I can go back.
“That is our very unique resort on Lagen Island. So pretty. Very nice and full of lovers!” yelled our tour guide over the drill of the boat’s relentless engine as he pointed to a distant cove of far-off cottages. An exclusive and elusive resort that no one can touch unless they have a reservation, we curiously peered at this distant little community as we chugged past to continue our tour.
The next day I got to see the resort up close and personal on our private boat after our pick-up at El Nido’s main port. With our chaperone, “Lover” (his real name or a purposeful nickname to up the romantic feels?), chattering excitedly about what was in store for us, we bounced over the waves towards the tall, limestone karsts.
The two arms of water cottages reach out to sea, hugging the quiet lagoon and providing a welcoming embrace to new guests. As soon as we stepped onto the wooden pier, the impeccable service and warm welcome kicked off and never let up for our whole stay. Traditional filipino singing erupted from the foyer as we wandered along the wooden walkway, past the water cottages sitting in the shadow of the impressive craggy cliff. And with welcome drink in hand and a coconut leaf weaving around our necks, we were pretty certain that this was going to be a special few days.
This hidden eco-sanctuary is an environmental conservation area. The resort works hard to protect and preserve the environment they’re placed within, especially as it’s been protected since 1988. It’s surrounded by four-hectares of forest – the densest of all the limestone islands of Bacuit Bay – and it teems with exotic wildlife. A multitude of monkeys swing from the canopies, swooping birds are ready to capture the eyes of any bird-watcher, and nesting green sea turtles lay eggs on Lagen Island’s sands. It also has diverse marine life which you can explore on boat trips, diving excursions (they have all the kit you need), and by paddling around the calm lagoon on stand-up paddle boards or strange round boats that look like giant coconuts. If you fancy staying on dry land, work up a sweat on the 45-minute hike up to the peak of the island for a birds-eye-view of the bay on the other side.
But you don’t have to be active. Oh no no. I wasn’t there with my newlywed like the majority of the other couples (or as I assume). This was a little getaway with my best friend from Australia to really kick-back and catch-up… our bonding meant reclining by the expansive pool among the palm trees with a cocktail in hand – happy hour makes them taste sweeter – watching the sun slowly disappear in a blinding orange splash. Unfortunately, the bay doesn’t face the sunset/rise, so they make up for it with complimentary sunset and sunrise cruises. Every single day, a boat awaits any guest who fancies a trip out to sea to catch the Filipino sun setting the skies on fire.
As an eco-resort, all the charming rooms contain floors and furnishings from timber recycled from old Filipino homes. Choose from Forest Rooms set on the fringe of the thick vegetation, Beachfront Cottages looking out to sea – or where I stayed. What made me really swoon on Lagen Island Resort were the Water Cottages. We were lucky enough to be placed in one of the 18 cottages that balance on stilts out into the sheltered lagoon, and once you swipe that room key and enter the cool hut, you can tuck yourself away for days in your own little nest. With plump beds, rich dark floorboards and colonial wooden shutters, it’s perfect for lovebirds who want to hide away from the world… or BFF’s who want to sip cocktails on the private veranda looking out to turquoise sea.
We lunched on generous buffet spreads that had seafood, salads, curries and sushi, and when night fell, we snuck to a candlelit dining experience beside the lagoon away from the other guests. This private à la carte dinner can be booked through the resort – enjoy a four-course meal and sip on the best wine of the islands under the incredible night sky. The stars are out in full glory above Bacuit Bay and a good gaze of the Milky Way should always be the last sight before bed. I recommend star-gazing from a Water Cottage veranda with a nightcap – take a peek into the waters below as you may catch a stingray swooping in the shallows.
Saying goodbye to the staff and the lovely manager, Jen, was pretty damn sad. It tugged on my heart strings like when I say goodbye to my mum before a long trip – I’m being cast adrift and no one’s looking after me anymore! It was a taste of luxury that never felt crowded, although the resort was nearly at capacity during this peak season – it was a real paradise island retreat. I waved farewell to my adoptive family and