No doubt that Palawan is one of the best destinations in the Philippines. The island has some of the best beaches with the clearest waters filled with marine life that absolutely boggles the mind.
Puerto Princesa is one of the brightest jewels of the island. Add to this, it is home to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, or the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR). With so many natural wonders that the city offers, it is no wonder that travelers flock to this part of the island. This is also the reason why Astoria Hotels & Resorts (AHR) chose Puerto Princesa as the location for their resort property in Palawan.
“We saw the opportunity to build in Palawan a few years ago, given the growing popularity of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, when it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also voted as a New 7 Wonders of Nature destination. This boosted the attractiveness of Puerto Princesa as a destination. Together with the opening of Puerto Princesa International Airport, it has been primed as a destination for a high influx of tourists,” says AHR COO Vivian Ng.
Why Astoria Palawan is the number one resort in Puerto Princesa
Located in San Rafael, Puerto Princesa, Astoria Palawan is a five-hectare luxury resort that sits on a mango orchard that offers unobstructed views of Honda Bay and the Sulu Sea set before the mountains of San Rafael. It has a rustic modern style that exudes a natural ambience that highlights the ecotourism, sustainability and the biodiversity of the area.
The resort has 112 luxurious, spacious and chic accommodations housed in 13 leaf-shaped wood cabin villas and two two-story structures spread across the orchard. Guests can choose either a deluxe room, or a one- or two-bedroom suite.
“We design our property to highlight the environmental beauty of our surroundings. Our design and construction strategy always take the sensitivities of the environmental condition of the area into consideration with the end in mind — to preserve and enhance what is natural in the area and integrate it into the whole Astoria Palawan experience,” explains Ng.
Resort facilities include a beachfront swimming pool, a video game room and library, an all-day dining restaurant offering buffet and a la carte dining options, and a convention hall that can accommodate 400 people. It also has a playground, a videoke room, gym, beach volleyball court, a putting green with nine holes, and a water park — making it perfect for families and big groups.
Aside from the in-house facilities, the resort also offers services like island activities and excursions to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River Park, island hopping within Honda Bay to see corals and tropical fishes, a trip to Port Barton to see the majestic sea turtles, a city tour, and other local community-based tourist destinations.
Astoria Palawan launches premier villas
Recently, AHR launched its newest facilities, the Premier Villas. Consisting of six villas with 30 rooms facing the Sulu Sea. Guests can choose to stay either in a one- or two-bedroom unit and the rooms are equipped with one king-size or two double beds.
The Premier Villas have high ceilings and glass windows, and feature a custom hard-surfaced kitchen and ceramic-tiled bathroom with a separate relaxation tub, an LCD flat screen television and complimentary high-speed wireless internet, tea and coffee-making facilities with refillable glass water bottles.
In addition, the Premier Villas give off a feeling of privacy, with an infinity pool that is dedicated solely for those staying in the villas. “With the new luxury villas, our guests have a new experience that is more private and with a direct view and access to the beachfront. This introduces a more upscale experience to the resort,” adds Ng.
Subaraw Biodiversity Festival
Last Nov. 11, the city of Puerto Princesa celebrated its second Subaraw Festival. Originally called the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) Day, the weeklong festival is to commemorate the inclusion of the Underground River to the New Seven Wonders of the World, which was declared on Nov. 11, 2011.
“We started celebrating the PPUR Day in 2014 as a local event. In 2018, we thought of making the festival into a national event. We realized that most of the festivals in the country are based on religions; for Puerto Princesa, we thought of offering (something) different, (something) unique, which is biodiversity,” explains Mayor Lucilo Bayron at a press conference with members of the local media and those from Manila.
“Puerto Princesa is very rich in biodiversity in land and in sea. And we want to make this into an event that is comparable to major national events like the Sinulog Festival of Cebu,” he adds.
Subaraw is the fusion of the native words suba, which means river, and taraw, which means limestone cliff. This aptly describes the subterranean river park, which is home to around 800 species of trees and 268 terrestrial mammals — a testament to its rich biodiversity.
The festival’s events and activities included the Subaraw Grand Biodiversity Parade, a street dance competition, to name a few. This year, Astoria Palawan participated in this year’s Subaraw Biodiversity Festival as a major sponsor and contender.
“Astoria always endeavors to support the initiatives of the local government in any way that we can, as it is our way of contributing to the vibrancy and interest in Puerto Princesa,” says Ng.
Sustainable tourism and local support
Aside from featuring the biodiversity of the island, Astoria Palawan also feature food, drinks and products that are distinct to Palawan. The resort is an advocate of responsible tourism and is one of Puerto Princesa’s greenest, eco-friendly and sustainable resorts. In addition, it also works with the local community by being involved in projects that benefit it and the local economy.
Their projects include providing food donations and holding livelihood projects for the Batak Tribe, reaching out to farmers and the Port Barton fishermen and committing to purchasing their daily catch at fair prices, as well as holding an annual event called “Sikap Pinoy.” Sikap Pinoy gathers together educators, motivational speakers, and financial management experts to train and teach the local community livelihood skills.
“We always work with the community to be able to sustain and maintain the beauty of Palawan’s uniqueness such as the indigenous culture of the Batak tribe, Palawan’s products and attractions… We listen and collaborate with the locals by way of supporting and providing help where it is needed and working hand in hand with the local communities to introduce the beauty of some of the hidden eco spots of the area around us,” shares Ng.
The resort encourages a strong working relationship with the community to support biodiversity and eco-tourism, to preserve the environment and its beauty — a shared effort and commitment between Astoria, the local government, and the native community. In addition to this, Astoria Palawan regularly hires and trains people from the local community and place them in areas that match their talents.
Astoria Palawan is currently at 80 percent average occupancy and aims to increase its facilities. AHR is set to spend at least P3 billion in the next three years to expand its footprint across the country, P600 million is allocated to the Puerto Princesa resort which is presently undergoing construction for an additional 50 rooms, bringing its total inventory to 200.
In recent years, the tourism in the country has been steadily growing with the opening of more international airports around the country, increasing the number of options for foreign travelers to visit.
“We quickly expanded our market to foreign tourist arrivals which helped spur our growth… Foreigners always remember the great Filipino hospitality and our ability to entertain warmly and from the heart. This, together with the improvements in our infrastructure development will hopefully propel our tourist arrivals and allow the tourism industry to leapfrog,” says Ng.
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Astoria Palawan earned top rankings in the 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards. It ranked number one in the category of Family-friendly Hotels and Resorts in the Philippines and ninth in the world. It also bagged the sixth spot in the Top 25 Hotels in the Philippines category and 11th in the Top 25 hotels for Service in the Philippines. To know more about Astoria Palawan, visit www.astoriapalawan.com.