From the moment we stepped on the polished ebony floor of Kalinaw’s open-air lobby, I was tempted to abandon my shoes. I later did, as the softness of the crushed rocks and sand that lined the path to our villa. The villas may not be Balinese as the owners suggest, but they suggest they echo many of the boutique hotels lining the streets of Kuta or Seminyak. Kalinaw addresses a dearth of boutique hotels in the Philippines, which has not made it on the spa circuit as fast as its Southeast Asian cousins, Indonesia and Thailand, but will catch up.
Siargao, the tiny tear-drop shaped island off the coast of Mindanao, has an exotic name that evokes 1960s travel lore. A mainly rural island coated in mangroves and coconut groves, the runway reminds one of Air America: grass is growing between the cracks. A field of vegetables lines the tarmac, which brings in the small numbers of surfers and the white-collar types who have hear the word about a tucked away gem.
Villas share the dark ebony flooring, the local hardwood, and nipa—thatch peaked roofs. Inside the modernist furnishings are a nod to clean modernist design. The bathrooms feature local abaca furnishings and a shower pavilion with a slatted bamboo floor.
A full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows face the bay. Not for swimming in the largely coral and limited sand. A dedicated grounds keeper rakes the sand every morning. Swimming is not a viable option in low-tide; surfing is a 10 minute walk down the dirt road to the Cloud 9 Pavilion, home to international competitions, or a boat ride away. The gray slate infinity pool is perfect for drinks at sunset, as infinity pools should be.
Service earns high marks. Unlike other Filipino establishments outside of Manila’s five-star hotels, staff in the restaurant promptly takes orders and delivers the food according to course, and will give patrons the bill the moment they are asked. Foregoing the usual cocktails, which are good, my husband and I enjoyed a French sauvignon blanc.
Wood-fired pizza, French wine…
As for the cuisine, the restaurant boasts a wood-fired oven to cook the best pizza this side of Naples. Liberal dollops of mozzarella, fresh basil and a Which is saying something, but really everything is good, and fresh. Salad with capers; French wine; Thai spring rolls. The pizzas served as a nightly favorite. The wood-fired oven takes three hours to warm up so are only available after 7 o’clock.
Daring predictions of the “next” Phuket aside, I plan to return to Kalinaw for a longer stay. I will want my experience on shore to stay the same and will hope for larger waves offshore.
Where do you go to get out of the city? Let us know in the comments!
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