When you’ve got young kids and you’re picking a minibreak destination, you need your flight to be two things; short (under three hours) and direct. This is why the island of Mactan (part of the Philippines province of Cebu) continues to be a hugely popular family getaway.
Getting To Cebu
From Hong Kong, you can fly direct with either Cathay Pacific or Cebu Pacific Air. The Cathay flight timetable is better, meaning you can leave HK late afternoon and land in Cebu in the early evening. The return flight departs at 20.05 giving you the whole day spent by the pool. Cebu Pacific has an odder schedule (landing in Cebu at 4am anyone?) but… it is cheaper.
Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa
Even if you’ve only been in Hong Kong a short time, you will have heard people raving about the ‘Cebu Shangri-La’. Located a mere ten minutes drive from the airport (hooray for a short transfer when travelling with kids!), you can be off on the plane and into the hotel room in no time. There may be a charge for the airport shuttle service depending on your room rate.
The resort is a sprawling complex with 530 bedrooms and suites on offer. Compared to modern boutique hotels, the Shangri-La’s piped music, muted pinks and rattan furniture give it a slightly dated (or shall we call it retro?) Hawaiian feel. However, the grounds are spectacular with lush greenery, lawns for kids to roll around on and swimming pools galore. Factor in a calming view out to sea and you’re in mini-break heaven.
The Shangri-La rooms do not come cheap. We booked the most basic room, a ‘Superior Garden View’. Whilst it’s not the most stylish room I’ve ever stayed in, it was big and most importantly, clean. My daughter slept on the sofa-bed so I created a partition with chairs to create a little bit of privacy. The room also had a private balcony; useful for those times you’re babysitting during daytime naps.
The Shangri-La advertises ‘Refurbished Rooms’ at an extra cost. You also have the option of paying more to stay in the newer ‘Ocean Wing’ where the rooms are more modern and you get a few extra perks like ‘Premium’ Toiletries and round-trip airport transfer. The Ocean Wing also houses some Deluxe Family Rooms, with two queen-sized beds. Upgrade further to Ocean Club room for access to their Ocean Club Lounge with complimentary Wi-Fi, magazines and nibbles.
What facilities are on offer?
This place is all about the fab facilities including two big swimming pools, a separate shaded children’s pool and an aquaplay area with a water slide. There’s lots of grass for the kids to run around on and a little area with swings. For some peace and quiet, offload the kids on your partner and escape to one of the cabanas with a book!
A big attraction for our kids was the beach, a short walk down from the pool. It’s manmade and not so big, and can be a tiny bit rough underfoot with coral but is a dreamy turquoise colour, with a reef you can snorkel at close proximity to shore. The hotel thoughtfully provides lots of beach toys for the kids. Our kids were a bit too young but there’s also a wide range of watersports available from sea kayaking to windsurfing, and if you’ve hit the breakfast buffet hard, the gym is big and well equipped.
The Kids Club consists of several play areas; Toddler Zone, Adventure Zone and E-Zone. The Toddler Zone is complimentary and toddlers must be accompanied by an adult. The Adventure Zone, (4-17 year olds) has slides, hanging bridges and ropes to enjoy. Remember to pack socks and long sleeved tops! The E-Zone is popular with older kids and parents, with arcade machines, table football and a snack bar. Some room rates include use of the Kids Club, but if not, an hour is approx. 200 pesos (approx. HKD $38). There are also daily activities for kids (at extra cost) divided by age range such as tie-dye, wind-chime making and mini golf.
The hotel has several restaurants to choose from. There is a breakfast buffet in Tides and Acqua (Ocean Wing). My advice is to avoid the crowds and eat your breakfast at Acqua – as far as I could tell you didn’t need to be staying in the Ocean Wing to eat there. Enjoy a spot of al fresco poolside lunch at the Buko Bar. My favourite time of day was heading to Breeze Bar on the beach for happy hour from 4:30pm – 7pm …and it has a great kids menu. The international buffet dinner at Tides was overcrowded and disappointing., however, kids under 12 do eat free at all the buffets. Cowrie Cove was a magical beachside setting with delicious seafood and an adjoining bar, Waves.
My tip would be to make the most of the hotel babysitting service (our lady was lovely!) and go for dinner at the fabulous Abaca, a nearby boutique hotel.
Find your Chi
Whatever you do, don’t leave without booking yourself in for a treatment at Chi Spa. Escape the kids and relax in the spa pool before being whisked off to the beautiful treatment rooms.
Should I go?
If you’re looking for a quiet, luxury boutique break, this is not for you! But if you’re fan of a big resort packed with fun things to do with kids then yes! Just remember to save some pesos to pay your departure tax at Cebu International Airport.
For more information, check out the Shangri-La Mactan Resort & Spa website.