Club Paradise, a luxury resort in Coron is a whole island on to yourself and maybe some friendly monitor lizards. Travel writer Johanna Michelle Lim sojourns to this beautiful place and share her experiences in Langyaw.com.
When it comes to beautiful islands, Coron has a surplus of them. With over 300+ islands and islets on the South of Palawan alone, you can easily make one of them your own if youâ€™re brave enough to conquer Palawanâ€™s virgin frontier. But if luxury is what youâ€™re after, Dimakya island is the way to go.
Dimakyaâ€™s nineteen-hectares is home to Discovery Shoreâ€™s Club Paradise Palawan, the only resort on the island. A favorite of Filipino celebrities who want to unplug from the hectic city life, Club Paradise embraces eco-lux living by trying to merge nature and structure seamlessly.
Accessible, but in the middle of nowhere
Getting to Club Paradise is an experience in itself. From the airport, youâ€™ll have to take a 15-minute van ride and a 30 to 45-minute cruise through Pangcawaran River, past bakawan mangroves and a small fishing village. Club Paradiseâ€™s cruise team will pamper you with ready cold towels, and some macarons as you enjoy a lazy cross through the river until it meets the open sea. From there, youâ€™ll have to take a guess where Club Paradise is. There are quite a number of islands before and after it. And the genius of its architecture is that it doesnâ€™t loom over Dimakya, but rather merges so well with it, hidden by beautiful banyan and talisay trees, that from the boat, only a small concrete slab indicates that youâ€™ve arrived. That, and the Welcoming Team, bringing their signature Cucumber Calamansi shake and beaded bracelets strung by the Tagbanuas.
Hello, bayawak and some panikis
Because Club Paradise sits on a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, many of the redesign decisions (there was another resort here before) seem to focus on ensuring that guests get an airy, well-ventilated feel for the outdoors without disrupting the islandâ€™s natural assets. High-ceilinged rooms with bamboo slats and an amakan finish give the whole resort the feel of an elevated Filipino village with a string of contemporary bahay kubos. Structures are so successfully integrated that even the bayawaks, friendly monitor lizards, leisurely cross the pathways without fear and a colony of fruit bats hang on their trees all parts of the day.
Sunrise and sunset villas
The Sunrise villa assigned to me was on the opposite side of the island facing Hidden Beach, a short and exclusive shoreline that faces a photogenic sandbar called Malpagalen. The other set of villas, Sunset villas, face Club Paradiseâ€™s 700-meter shoreline, while standard rooms loom across the forest trail leading to Eagleâ€™s Point, the highest point on the island. All throughout my stay, I was faced with a champagne problem: to stay in and enjoy all that my villa has, or to stay out and explore all that this luxury resort in Coron offers? With a King-sized bed, local turndown treats like nilupak (boiled cassava and cheese), and the sound of the waves meters away, my villa could lull me to sleep in a matter of minutes.
Tropical Thai and Filipino cuisine
In the mornings, guests converge at Firefish, the only restaurant on the island (although not for long as an all-Filipino resto is currently being constructed). It offers a buffet of international favorites like a fruit and salad bar, cereal and muesli station, an omelette station, hash browns and deli, and heavy pork, beef, fish, and veggie selections. During my stay, General Manager Joegil Escobar also treated the group to opulent thematic meals like a Visayan dinner on a teepee-like structure, a Filipino boodle fight at Diatoy island also owned by Discovery Shores, and a Thai dinner on a white canopy by the beachside.
GM Joegil is hands on about these things, having meticulously managed several weddings here including that of Iza Calzadoâ€™s. He says guests can have meals set and customized on the 700-meter shore, or the more private Hidden beach. While all of the meals are generous and intricately-prepared, I can still remember how flavorful and texture Chef Alexâ€™s Tum Yom Goong and Chu-Che Pla barramundi fish was. And if you can, try the Club Paradise Cashew Mix, an addictive combination of cashews, grated coconuts, sugar, salt, and kaffir lime. Itâ€™s what I imagine the tropics would taste like.
Go Around the other islands
While this luxury resort in Coron holds several activities that can already occupy your attention, my favorite is their house reef where you can see colorful brain corals just meters away from the shoreline, you can also try other activities outside of Club Dimakya such as diving in nearby Dimalanta with CP Divers, their inhouse diving guide, or have lunch at Malpagalen or Diatoy. The staff can prepare a substantial picnic for you (picture three-inch shrimps, lechon belly on a pit, and Pampanga sisig with sago or local beer to down it all.) And end the day with a massage at Glow Spa where you come out smelling like coconuts from the kathang gata, coconut milk, and other organic herbs from the island.
One thing I especially love Club Paradise is how they tackle sustainability, not only as a marketing tool, but from a functional operational standpoint. As itâ€™s logistically difficult to constantly cruise back and forth to buy mainland supplies, Club Paradise has their own 20-step water filtration system called EcoPure, which allows you to get sparkling water easily. They are currently in the middle of building their own all-natural vegetable and bee farm so guests can have access to fresh produce and honey daily. They have an Eco-Conserve Program which guards the sea, the land, and the efficient use of resources headed by their very own staff.
Their conservation programs seem to be paying off as, apart from the large groups of turtles on the island, species like the dugong or sea cows are returning as well, and can be spotted every so often by divers.
Mornings in Club Paradise are like secret rituals with nature. As I walk back and forth the shoreline, I see the lone heron pecking through the sand for leftover food while blackbirds fly freely through the open-air restaurant. Early morning wakers start to read the sea, making bets on how long this weather will last. Then when the sun breaks through the clouds, thereâ€™s a certain sense of business that overcomes everyone. Time for breakfast, for yoga, for coffee. I am confronted by the many man made rituals, ready to face them knowing Iâ€™ve secretly done it with nature a lifetime of a minute before.
Cebu Pacific now flies from Cebu to Coron twice (2x) a day. Escape the city life easily, and be in Club Paradise, perhaps the best luxury resort in Coron well before lunch time.
Club Paradise Palawan
Johanna Michelle Lim is a long-form essayist and travel writer based in the Philippines. After university, she became involved in advocacies like poverty alleviation and education, during which she started her excursions around the Philippines and Southeast Asia. Her essays are mostly a result of these trips where she tackles subjects like Filipino diaspora, ancestry, identity, and culture. In 2019, her first book, What Distance Tells Us, was shortlisted for the Madrigal Gonzales Best First Book Award.
She has since written for publications such as Grid Magazine, Mabuhay, Smile Magazine, Illustrado, Experience Travel and Living, Tripzilla, Expedia, Womenâ€™s News, and Rappler.
In her everyday life, Lim is the Chief Brand Strategist of Dual Story, a brand strategy and communications agency that focuses on companies with sustainability or social good components.