Paul Chai

This Shangri-La Resort and Spa, on the island of Cebu, is celebrating local experiences and showcasing the region’s marine life.

Thanks to the low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air, a lot more Australians are hearing the name Cebu, the heart of the southern Philippines. And if you make this resort your base for exploring the island you will get a mix of luxury and local culture.



Checking in & Beyond

A wide and white lobby greets you at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort & Spa, as does a refreshing kalamansi (sweet local lime) juice in a chilled flute.

It’s an effortless check-in as you recline on the couch just near the Lobby Lounge that will later serve me up a killer kalamansi margarita.

The resort sprawls across the beachfront that leads to a marine sanctuary with over 150 species to protect. There are the main wings as well as the more exclusive Ocean Wing, a lower-rise option with its own private swimming pool, that is home to visiting celebs.


The room

My Deluxe Room is in the Main Wing with a view of the gardens, where there is a secret chocolate garden (more on that later!). It’s a simple room with warm brown tones that uses local craftsmanship (also on display in the lifts).

The bathroom is a bit old school but the room overall is large, and the balcony is a great spot for a pre-dinner tipple.

Ocean Wing rooms (pictured) are a step up again in luxury.


Food and drinks

There are several resort options from the beachside Acqua bar to Asian-themed Tea of Spring but we enjoy a seafood banquet at Cowrie Cove Seafood Bar and Grill.

Seated outside overlooking the marine sanctuary, with the waves lapping up against our waterside perch, we are treated to marinated mackerel with coconut water jelly topped with a fresh kalamansi sorbet, a Caesar salad with grilled prawns and marinated pineapple for dessert. This is resort dining done right, fresh, unfussy and local.


Facilities and services

Yes, this resort has the standard conferences, weddings and workspaces but there are two standout experiences you have to see.

First is the Chi Spa, over a hectare of peace and tranquillity with accompanying spa residences that are the pick of all the resort stays. This spa feels like a separate village dedicated to your indulgence with residents and spa visitors floating by in their robes, all with a Zen look in their eyes.

The second is the new Chocolate Garden that celebrates the local crop of cacao. The Philippines is a major exporter of cacao, and most of the crop leaves these shores. Now, at the Shangri-La you can learn about the chocolate-making process and have a tasting of sikwate – Cebuan hot chocolate – the closest thing to drinking pure chocolate that you can find.

Two chocolate sommeliers – Amelyn and Sheena – will let you crush and shell the cacao beans before sitting down to a sikwate tasting paired with fresh Cebuan mango and sticky rice.

Or you can sample the freshly grated cacao on top of a chocolate martini at the bar.


The verdict


With Cebu opening up to Australians via the new low-cost flights the Shangri-La offers a nice mix of familiar resort options along with some unique local experiences.

The resort is a bit dated in parts, but the food is top notch and you have your very own patch of beach with a bar attached.

Location wise you find yourself nicely positioned between the airport and the bustling hub of Cebu city.


The details

Total 530 rooms
30 suites
24hr fitness centre
Kids zone

While there are not specific rates, the hotel is moving to dynamic pricing which will be accessible for agents.


Have you ever been to Cebu?