Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa: Magellan Should Have Just Chilled on the Beach
Though it is connected by a bridge to the hustle and bustle of Cebu City in the Philippines, Mactan Island and its surrounding reefs are a hub of relaxation and recreation. Throw in some fascinating history — including the exact spot where Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan was killed during the Battle of Mactan — to go along with myriad resorts, and this locale becomes well-rounded enough to justify a multi-day stay. Below, we take a walk through one of its premier hotels, Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa.
Shangri-La’s overall theme combines a tropic, garden resort layout with a prime location for both water and on-land activities. Three colors dominate the grounds: the blue of the pool water, the green of the landscape and the beige of the sand. Overall, there are two wings, four restaurants, five bars, health club, tennis court, six-hole putt-putt course and two swimming pools.
The beach at Shangri-La is unique in its layout in between large boulders, many of which accommodate sitting areas, massage tables, or, in the case of Cowrie Cove, a restaurant. But there’s much more to do than sit around.
Shangri-La established a marine sanctuary in 2007 that spans nearly 15 acres of the resort's beachfront, and two ships were sunk to form artificial reefs that now serve as a home for 160 species of fish, clams and coral. Be sure to bring or rent snorkel equipment.
PHOTO: Main Wing Mactan Suite Bedroom. (photo courtesy of Shangri-La Group)
There are two wings at the resort, the Main Wing and the Ocean Wing. The Main Wing, which was recently refurbished, has a total of 354 rooms and is within the same structure as the lobby and the Tides and Tea of Spring restaurants (see restaurants below).
The decor of the main wing attempts to capture the allure of Filipino craftsmanship — think capiz shell headboards, timber flooring, and highlights made from teak and mother of pearl. The Ocean Wing is a step higher, offering a more personalized and luxurious experience than the Main Wing (although keep in mind this is the Shangri-La, so the Main Wing is plenty luxurious).
The main differences of the Ocean Wing are that guests get access to the Ocean Club Lounge, including a complimentary cocktail hour every day from 5 to 7 p.m., and all rooms have a balcony overlooking the ocean. The Ocean Wing also has a separate entrance from the Main Wing in an attempt to keep things more personal.
There are four restaurants on property to go along with a variety of bars and lounges. As is typical for resorts catering to foreign taste buds, the themes range from Italian comfort fare at Acqua to an internationally themed buffet at Tides (excellent for breakfast). But the clear winner in gastronomy on property is the seaside Cowrie Cove that focuses on local seafood with a local twist. Curry-scented rock lobster, for example, to go along with classics like roasted scallops and mussel gratin. If nothing else, pencil in a drink at Cowrie Cove’s oceanfront bar, Waves. To keep your feet close to the sand, check out Breeze Bar during sunset. At night, there’s live music nightly at both Waves (DJ) and the Lobby Lounge (local musicians).
Spa and Activities
PHOTO: CHI Spa exterior. (photo courtesy of Shangri-La Group)
CHI is the name of the spa at Shangri-La’s Mactan, and it is designed after the namesake of the hotel, aiming to create “a place of personal peace, enchantment and well-being.” That translates into reality with treatments created in line with the natural healing methods of Asian and Eastern culture, with an emphasis on those that hail from the Philippines, such as the Barako Coffee Bean Scrub or the Water Shiatsu massage.
The Tea Pavilion, where you can relax before or after your treatment, has a beautiful tropical-imperial design, and the treatment rooms, with their golden lighting and deep-red color schemes, definitely provide a sense of place as it relates to creating an “Asian oasis.”
Diving is the main adventurous event on the island, with numerous dive operators to choose from. If you’re new to diving and want to take a course, the Shangri-La conveniently offers them on-site at the resort, with opportunities ranging from instructional “get your feet wet” pool dives to intensive PADI-certified courses. Day trips for snorkeling and sightseeing are also possible.
One of the main claims to fame for Mactan is its deep history concerning the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. The Bay of Magellan was the site of the Battle of Mactan in 1521 between Magellan’s men and the tribal inhabitants. Magellan was killed during this battle and now there is a shrine in remembrance of his death. It stands near another shrine for the chief of Mactan who defeated Magellan. Obviously, though they remember his death, Magellan is not a hero in these parts.
Maybe if the explorer and his crew had simply basked in the gorgeous tropical setting instead of going to war with the locals, things would have turned out better.
More by Will McGough
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