I’m a fan of small, boutique hotels for many reasons: service, quality, friendliness and tranquillity being the main ones. I had a flight from Cebu to Singapore after a 2 week trip and was aware that traffic for transfers on Cebu can be hit and miss. As it was essential I made this flight to make a connecting flight, I decided I didn’t want to risk driving across the island on the day of the flight so a hotel close to the airport needed to be found.
Cebu is a great island for a holiday. There are direct flights from numerous Asian cities as well as domestic flights. The airport is on, Mactan, a small island across the bay from Cebu City. Within a short drive from the airport are numerous hotels catering to all styles of holidaymaker and with all sorts of budgets.
I wasn’t after a large brand hotel – what I wanted was something boutique, luxurious, relaxing and a little treat to myself before I headed back on a long flight. The top rated hotel which kept coming up in my searches was Abaca. And so it was booked.
Arriving after a 4 hour drive across the island, I appeared at an inconspicuous sliding gate. After a bit of sounding the horn the gate slid back to reveal a parking lot and a couple of friendly security guards. In fact, this is the only point about the whole hotel which needs improvement – when you arrive and are dropped off (assuming you don’t use their airport transfer), you are left slightly abandoned whilst you wait for your personal butler to walk up from the hotel. An improvement would be if there was shade and no drinks offered.
Once your butler appears you’re walked down to the hotel and shown the key points on the way: the restaurant and the steps to the pool. There’s no reception, instead, everything is done via the 24-hour butler service. The hotel has only 9 rooms. Small even by my standards.
The rooms, and I’d only booked a Master Oceanfront Suite, were incredible. My room was situated on the ground floor as you walked from the restaurant, but on the first floor as you looked at the pool. The slight elevation meant that the vistas were incredible from the expansive suite. Equipped with complimentary mini bar, large living area, balcony and huge bathroom, the rooms were certainly luxurious.
After completing all the paperwork, there wasn’t much else to do than to make the most of the lovely weather and the empty, yes empty, infinity pool. The pool is surrounded by sun loungers and cabanas, which are available on a first come, first served basis. There’s enough space for everyone, should all rooms be full and all guests choose to use the communal pool (some of the rooms have their own pools). On the afternoon I arrived, my biggest decision was which of the cabanas or loungers to choose.
As I was debating this, one of the hotel staff appeared at my shoulder with a pile of fluffy towels. As soon as I’d picked my lounging location (the cabana closest to the ocean for those of you interested), he set about spreading towels on the bed. I hadn’t been there for more than about ten minutes when he returned, carrying a large jug of complimentary iced, flavoured water and some plastic glasses. Certainly there’s no risk of dehydration here and this is a really nice touch.
Lounging in my cabana with the water, listening to the music being fed through the speakers at an appropriate level, I realised I was hungry, not having really eaten since breakfast. Being used to limited pool-side snack menus, I wandered over to the service desk and asked for a menu, to be given the most decadent set of choices….not wanting to eat lots and ruin a meal later, I opted for the asparagus with poached egg and hollandaise. Served on a tray in the shade of my cabana, the service and food was simply divine.
From the ocean side of the hotel, you realise that the properties next door are really quite close. Fortunately, the development at Abaca has been done very well and the acoustics and sight-lines are such that unless you wander to the far end of the sea wall, these really aren’t that obvious, and they’re certainly not imposing or noisy. Everything has been thought of at Abaca, even the ‘do not disturb’ signs are beautiful shells which are hung on the outside of your door.
For those who fancy a bit more activity, there are a couple of kayaks moored just off the purpose built beach. The hotel can also arrange day trips and excursions should you have the inclination to move from the tranquillity of the hotel. If you just want to move to the coolness of the spa, then massages and treatments are available on site.
Given the standard of the hotel, I decided that my usual attire of denim shorts and t-shirt probably wasn’t appropriate for dinner that evening. I raided all the cupboards looking for an iron; to be defeated. This is where the joy of your personal butler comes in handy – a quick call and your butler pops to your room to pick up your attire.
The restaurant is large and airy. Admittedly, this is the tropics, so it can rain at inconvenient moments, but the layout means that there’s a seating area for drinks at one end overlooking the pool and then a large, beautifully decorated restaurant and bar area. The menu isn’t extensive, but it is exquisite. A really lovely touch was as I was peering through the dim light at the menu, was that the executive chef appeared to introduce himself, find out if I had any food intolerances. The food is reasonably heavy – pasta, meats etc, and it could maybe do with some lighter options for those not so hungry. The Abacá bar features a carefully selected list of both old and new world wines cellared in climate controlled wine room. A complete cocktail menu including a wide range of tequilas and single malts is available as well as many healthy tropical fruit juices.
All bookings come with a free cocktail per person (which I actually forgot to redeem!) and soft drinks in the mini bar are also free. Toiletries are also plentiful and replaced or topped up on a regular basis. Housekeeping pops around several times a day which means that beds are always made, empty glasses cleared away and your suite is left looking like it has been freshly made. This can be a little disconcerting and if you really don’t want this to happen, just hang your shell on the outside of your door and staff will respect this, even if they know you’re not in the room.
Breakfast is also inclusive and the choices here will certainly suit all tastes. From the baskets of freshly made breads and pastries, through to a full menu including French toast, all types of eggs, fruit, coffees and tea and juices.
Checkout is swift and slick – once you’re ready to leave, you call your butler who will collect bags and transfer them to the car whilst you settle the bill. All this is done in the restaurant. Small bottles of water are provided for the short journey to the airport (note, as with most airports, you won’t be able to take these through security to the airside zone unless they are empty). Transfers to the airport are complementary from the hotel and again, another thoughtful touch.
I only had one night at Abaca, but could easily have spent much longer there. Definitely book direct at this one and check out their special offers. If you’re after a personal service, luxury and tranquillity, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.