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The joy in reaching the best spot on Boracay, a seven-kilometer-long isle shaped like a bitten drumstick in the Philippine Sea, is amplified by the journey. "You have to work hard to get to paradise," a staffer joked—or so we assumed—ahead of the voyage. You'll need planes, to Los Angeles, Manila and then Kalibo; an automobile, to the tiny Panay port of Caticlan; and a powerboat, to hurtle you to Shangri-La's Boracay Resort and Spa.
Once there you can be lazy—lounge in the stone pools or sit beachside and watch the bancas (shallow longboats) row by—or return to the water. Boracay is a coral-flanked haven for scuba divers, and the resort has its own dive center, with hardy Brits who guide trips to sites with names such as Crocodile Island, Virginia Drop and the Bat Cave. (The large, harmless bats unexpectedly are part of the eco preserve's charm, swooping gracefully above the trees every evening near dusk.)
Another benefit to going on a dive is that it will work up your appetite. Shangri-La offers haute cuisine (even the colored marshmallows used for dipping in the chocolate fountain are ornate) in four restaurants, including Sirena, which sits atop a cliff and offers views almost as spectacular as the food.
Boracay has evolved from a hidden jewel of the Philippines, in the 1970s, to a backpackers' haven in the '80s and '90s, to a full-blown destination for tourists. But the Shangri-La's grounds are a refuge, and the island itself is still unburdened by an airport, mega-cruise-liner dock or four-lane highway. It's just two seven-kilometer coastlines of white sand, at a peaceful remove from the world.
SHANGRI-LA'S BORACAY RESORT AND SPA
Prices: from $385