Surrounded by white-sand beaches, clear blue waters and coral reefs, Amanpulo is the epitome of an island paradise.
Named after the Sanskrit word for peace, aman, and the Tagalog word for island, Amanpulo is a serene retreat offering the pure white sands, turquoise seas and endless blue skies for which the Philippine archipelago is famed. Occupying the private island of Pamalican, Amanpulo is fringed by seven square kilometres of pristine coral reef and lapped by the tranquil Sulu Sea. From Manila, guests travel one hour southwest by private plane, landing on Amanpulo’s own airstrip.
Amanpulo features 42 casitas, 65-square-metre bungalows in hillside and beachside settings, which are modelled after the Philippine bahay kubo (village home). Amanpulo’s twin-roofed casitas are topped with wood shingles rather than palm fronds, yet despite this modest nod to progress, Amanpulo’s accommodations do not lack for island romance. In these private retreats, it is everywhere present in the details: pebble-washed walls; coconut-shell tables; rustic Palawan rice and knife baskets; a king-size bed with a rattan headboard; sliding-glass doors that reveal outdoor decks and his-and-her divans.
Wood is the finish of choice in Amanpulo’s light-filled Clubhouse, its rafters and columns done in lawan wood from the Philippines, the floors laid in warm Brazilian narra wood. The lounge’s rattan chairs, from Cebu, are matched with inlaid coconut tables. The restaurant, located in a wing at one end of the Clubhouse, spills out into a terrace for alfresco dining, with views to Manamoc Island across the channel. At the far end of the Clubhouse stands the fossilized-marble bar. Spreading out to the terrace, it offers views to the sea and beyond the channel to the rocky flanks of Manamoc Island. The terrace is set with piedra China (China stone) from Manila Bay, which Chinese ships once used to use as ballast, as did Spanish galleons sailing to the Philippines in the 1600s.
Amanpulo’s centrepiece, a magnificent, 30-metre swimming pool with aqua tiles to match the hue of the Sulu Sea’s reef waters, begins just a few steps down from the Clubhouse terrace. Two high trellises that spill over with bougainvillea border the wide blue pool, while large, open-air salas (pavilions) are arranged on the expansive green behind the pool. The salas come with large mattresses for all-day, poolside lounging. A walkway leads down from the pool to the sand beach and Amanpulo’s Beach Club. Sunlight and shadow rake the open-air Beach Club pavilion, making for a tranquil and sunny escape. Half-a-dozen, sand-white mattresses with matching triangle pillows are spread out over the deck, facing the sea. Rattan stools line the Beach Club Bar, and beach umbrellas set in stone tables are twinned with reclining lounge chairs at the beach.
Amanpulo is a paradise for water-sports lovers. For novice divers, Amanpulo is a welcoming retreat, with glassy seas in front of the beach club and a gentle drop-off to deeper waters. For certified divers, there are a number of fine dive sites on both sides of the island. Snorkellers can commandeer a Malibu ocean kayak, tie up at one of several buoys and take to the water from there. The House Reef, which faces the Beach Club, is a popular snorkelling stop. Hawksbill turtles, parrot fish, manta rays and a wide array of coral fish colour the House Reef waters. Fishing enthusiasts can troll for wahoo, tuna and mackerel or bottom fish for snapper and grouper.
For windsurfers, Amanpulo’s far-reaching blue lagoon, with its gentle, flat-water conditions, makes for smooth board-sailing. The Windsurf Hut is located under a canopy of trees along Pamalican’s eastern beach and it’s on this coast, where the barrier reef breaks the Sulu Sea’s momentum, that the region’s winter trade winds are best tackled. Close by the Windsurf Hut is the Lagoon Retreat, a sandy-floored setting complete with a hammock and reclining beach lounge chairs, ideal for picnics and relaxing pursuits.
Nature lovers will want to walk the 5.5-kilometre island, which at its widest point is only 500 metres across. A barefoot stroll along silky sand beaches gets you around the island in less than two hours. Keep your eye out for birds: starlings and kingfishers, black-naped orioles, sea eagles, egrets and more, all of which feed on the surrounding sea life or from the island’s sandy jungle of scrub and thorn-bush thickets. At Pamalican’s exposed southern end, past the point’s sand dunes and spits, at low tide, baby black-tip sharks are often visible, slipping smoothly through the shallows. In season, you may even catch a glimpse of nesting marine turtles. There’s also a turtle hatchery next to the Windsurf Hut.
At night, it’s the heavens rather than the sea that commands attention. With Pamalican so far from civilisation, the evening sky is generally clear and awash with stars. Pick out your favourite constellation over dinner or drinks. You can also study the planets from the terrace behind the Clubhouse’s bar where Amanpulo keeps two 850x90mm astronomical refractor telescopes. The Milky Way never looked so good.
Phone. +63 2 976 5200
Photos courtesy of Amanpulo