So when my family and I went to Davao, we booked 2 nights at the Pearl Farm Beach Resort, which I think is one of the most famous resorts in Davao (if not the most famous). Upon getting there, I felt that the atmosphere was oddly familiar. I realized that it was because I’d been to similar resorts before. 2 other famous resorts in 2 other famous tourist destinations in the Philippines. Since they were very similar (with regard to standards, cost, etc.) I decided to make a comparison to see which one was the best, though to be honest they’re all pretty great and I consider myself very lucky to have seen all of them. But for argument’s sake, let’s compare them, shall we?
The three resorts we stayed at were:
Dos Palmas Island Resort, Palawan (DP) – December 2008
Panglao Island Nature Resort, Bohol (PINR) – September 2007
Pearl Farm Beach Resort, Davao (PF) – January 2011
I realize that it’s been 3 years since I stayed in PINR and 2 since DP, but I think they don’t really change that much in 5 years or less.
And, some more information: You can click on the images to enlarge them. I used only the pictures that I and my family took (with our consumer point-and-shoot cameras), so they look real, as opposed to if they were taken by paid professional photographers who have lighting tricks and such. Also, I’ll be using this point system — 3 points for the best resort, and then the next best will get 2 and then 1. The resort with the most number of points at the end wins!
Getting There (from Manila)
DP – plane, bus pickup from airport, then almost 2 hrs. boat ride on non-calm water (I got dizzy, and water splashed on my face) – 1
PINR - plane, van pickup from airport – 3
PF - plane, taxi from airport (pickup is too expensive, P250 additional per person), 45 min-1hour boat ride on pretty calm waters and free mineral water – 2
I know that the more expensive rooms are probably better, but I think we stayed at the equivalent rooms, so I think these are still valid comparisons.
DP - (Beach Villas) The beds are big and the rooms are spacious. They have balconies that have a view of the beach, even the rooms that aren’t in the cottages on stilts on the beach. It’s also not that hard to get to the dining area and other parts of the resort. – 3
PINR – (Superior Room) The balconies are great, and there’s WiFi (as you can see from my picture). Unfortunately, they’re hard to get to from the common areas (you have to take a golf cart), not all of them have great views (some views are obstructed by trees, though I like trees so it’s not that bad), and my biggest complaint — they’re too dark! That’s the reason I don’t have a picture of the inside of the rooms, because lighting was bad. – 1
PF - (Samal House) The beds are somewhat small, and the area to make coffee is right on top of the sink where you’re supposed to brush your teeth, so that’s kinda weird. But it has a great view of the ocean, and you can feed fish two steps from your door! – 2
This I guess is the trickiest category since everyone has different tastes (literally) and appetites for food, and also because the food packages included in our reservations were all different, but I’ll try my best.
DP – Our package included full-board meals so we got to eat all our meals from the buffet table the whole 3 days we were there. The food was delicious, and the coffee and tea were free-flowing. But if you wanted snacks in the middle of the day, the choices on the ala carte menu aren’t that great. The pizza we ordered was quite disappointing. – 2
PINR – The meals included in our package were buffet breakfast and dinner. They probably assumed that during the day, you would be touring around Bohol and so eating your lunch elsewhere. I think this is a big advantage for them because a) you don’t get tired of the food they serve; and b) you can spend less for food if you have one of your meals in a cheaper place outisde the resort. But if you don’t want to go out, the food they serve anyway is very delicious. – 3
PF – Our package only had buffet breakfast included, but that’s OK since I don’t think it would’ve been worth it anyway to have buffet meals for lunch and dinner, too. The food was delicious, but too expensive, in my opinion, and if you don’t avail of the buffet lunch and dinner, the ala carte menu is very limited. They do have 50% off on drinks at the bar when it’s 4-6PM, though. – 1
DP – Their signature massage using banana leaves was great and I loved that it was part of the package (you have a choice between a massage or an intro-dive course). The spa had its own pool and the rooms were great. – 2
PINR – The massage that’s included in their package is only for 30 minutes, but that’s enough (for some people like me), and there is an option to extend, which I think would be worth it because their therapists are great, this according to my sister who went to their spa 3 times when she was there. Also, look at that view from the place where you get a foot spa. That’s amazing. – 3
PF – In fairness to PF, they’re only a Beach Resort and not a “Beach Resort and Spa” like DP and PINR are, so I kind of get why their spa is a small open-air hut with only 2 beds. The massage anyway is cheaper than in the other 2 resorts, only P200 for a 20-minute back and shoulder massage. – 1
DP – The pool isn’t that big and kind of hard to navigate in. What’s with the islands in the middle? Although there’s a separate pool at the spa, but the view there isn’t as great as in the main pool. – 1
PINR – Their infinity pool is I think the infinity pool that started the infinity pool trend. It’s great. And there are jacuzzis all around it, and also a big lapping pool at the spa area. – 3
PF – The infinity pool has an amazing view and when you walk along it, you can take a cool picture that looks like you’re walking on water. Also, the other swimming pool at the back of the resort is huge. – 2
Probably the most important category, since this is generally what you would go to these places for, so I hope my review will help a lot.
DP – The sand isn’t that fine, and there are a lot of plants in the water. I like beaches where you can swim in, so I’m not too crazy about the beach here. But it’s great for kayaking, and there’s no additional fee to use the kayaks. – 2
PINR - The water on the beach is too shallow to swim in, and when you get to the deeper part, it becomes a bit scary. – 1
PF – The beach isn’t that wide, but the sand is pretty fine, the water’s great, and it’s real easy to go to the small island across the resort, where the beach is bigger. – 3
(AKA the stuff that one resort has that the others don’t)
DP - One of our lunch buffets was served at this small white sand island across the resort. It was great because the sand on this island was finer than on the Dos Palmas beach. The view was great and it was just a nice place to relax. And then at night, their dinner entertainment was top notch. I know these poi dancers are common in Boracay, but it was nice to see them here. Their other facilities were great, too — no additional fee for KTV rooms, and billiards, and ping pong, and you can ride a bike around the island, too. – 1
PINR – It’s called “Panglao Island Nature Resort” because of all the nature stuff within it. You can walk to a small cave (via the path you see on the photo), there are lots of trees, and other things to explore. Also, as I said in the food part, it’s a big advantage that this isn’t a boat ride away from the nearest city (Tagbilaran) because while staying here, you can explore Bohol all you want. You won’t get bored that you’re in a small island with no other place to go to. – 2
PF – Exploring the resort is great because you can get to the top of the hill and see an amazing view of the island across, which you can go to via speed boat (see picture of us in the boat on the right). And though DP also has a small island across it and PINR has that man-made island you can walk to, the island across PF is the best because it has a wider beach, more facilities, and way easier to get to. Also, it was fun to ride the electric car that takes you to the different areas of the resort (it’s what we took to get to the top of the hill). – 3
And, that’s it. Now it’s scoring time. BTW, I didn’t include Staff and Value for Money in the criteria because the staff in all the resorts are equally helpful and pleasant, and the prices for their packages don’t have much difference. As in, maybe PINR is more expensive initially, but more stuff are included in their package, and though the rooms of PF are cheaper, their food is more expensive, so… I think they all balance each other out when it comes to cost.
And the winner is, Panglao Island Nature Resort! Nevermind that their rooms are too dark, everything else makes up for it.
Still, all these resorts are really great so it’s likely you won’t regret staying in any of them. And if you’re wondering why I didn’t include Boracay or other resorts, I guess it’s because they have a different feel to these three. I mean, the resorts in Boracay are all along the same beach, and you know, other factors like that. Enjoy your vacation!