These Boracay resorts are redefining luxury

The Lind and The Henry both refuse to use the L-word, expressing how guests’ needs are evolving and that it will take more than flash and excess to fulfill them.

The island of Boracay has gone through many phases—from pristine to overcrowded to almost uninhabitable that the government had to intervene and give it some pause. Now, it seems that the island is slowly finding a happy middle wherein it has come to terms with its status as one of the world’s most popular tropical destinations while keeping it safe and environmentally sound for its locals and tourists.

There will always be a demand for the large, flashy hotels, but it is also good to note that they are no longer the benchmark. Travelers are now looking for intangible qualities that create more profound memories.

Businesses along White Beach are back and seem to be thriving, while resorts in all shapes and categories have reopened to give their guests comfortable dwellings while they enjoy the island.

There are many deciding factors when choosing a resort, such as location, distance from tourist spots, and most notably, price. However, when money is no object, then one needs to simply enumerate the luxurious amenities that make the resort rise above the rest. While the prestige of being the resort with the biggest presidential suite on the island or having their own sandy cove that is only accessible to their guests do have their merits, hoteliers are discovering that there is more to hospitality than the trappings of luxury.

Strong local players

The view from one of the beach rooms at The Lind.
Photos by Jaclyn Clemente-Koppe

Filipino-owned The Lind—a lifestyle resort on the top of White Beach’s Station One—has been operational for nine years but its impeccable upkeep belies its true age. I commend their VP for Operations and Business Development Zsolt Siket for their valiant efforts at maintenance, knowing all too well how challenging it is to keep a seaside property looking fresh despite being constantly exposed to (and sometimes battered by) the elements.

“We are always on the lookout for any kind of wear and tear,” he says, “and the rooms regularly undergo maintenance. It is safe to say we use a lot of white paint.”

In a quiet corner closer to Station Three, up a steep incline where a cluster of smaller resorts enjoy the benefits of being shrouded in trees away from the crowds, boutique hotel The Henry is the fairest of them all.

The homegrown hotel management brand is known for their work with heritage houses and their Boracay property is no different, building on the bones of an old hotel, salvaging what they can to preserve its distinct character. “Innkeeper” Hanky Lee is very firm when it comes to applying their ethos and they make sure to align with likeminded property owners when they come in with their team.

“We build and operate our partnerships based on our brand pillars,” Lee explains. “First is a sense of place—we look for properties that are authentic and not contrived, with its soul and character intact. Second: the people. We are proudly Filipino, we believe in the innate talent of Filipinos when it comes to service. Finally: the Philippines. The brand is rooted in promoting the beauty of our country and our culture, which is why each property reflects the unique character of its location.”

Unique experiences

The Henry Boracay’s infinity pool

While consistency will always be a valuable quality in hospitality, it does not mean uniformity. More than ever, travelers are looking to visit places and stay in hotels with distinctive characters and offering one-of-a-kind experiences.

The Henry has double-downed on this, ensuring that a stay in one of their boutique properties is a different adventure each and every time. The Boracay property is unique even among many resorts on the island that jostle for a prime beachfront location. Their space offers guests a quiet respite from all the action and the harsh sun, protected by large trees from the heat so that lazy mornings are cool and breezy, and the afternoons are never too hot for siesta. Even if you strain to listen, all you hear is the gentle splashing of their infinity pool and the exuberant singing of birds.

On the other hand, The Lind provides their guests also with the unique vantage point of being in the heart of all the action without compromising on exclusivity. Its location near the tip of White Beach means there is minimal traffic on their beachfront.

And while “luxury” is not a word they like to use to describe them, Chief Operating Officer Pierre Henrichs shares that they choose to evoke a certain lifestyle and they like to keep their ears on the ground in the hopes of ensuring guest satisfaction. “We are always interacting with our guests, and always evolving to be able to cater to their changing needs,” he explains. “We have definitely changed a lot since we opened nine years ago, and we will keep on changing and evolving and improving to be able to deliver what our guests expect from us.”

A focus on food

Fresh pasta and brick oven pizzas at The Lind’s Crust restaurant

One of the most important factors, especially in remote locations such as Boracay, is food. Nothing says “we care” more than ensuring that their guests are fed well all day, and The Lind has found a highly competent leader in Iain Murray as their Director for Service Industry. The soft-spoken Scotsman only broke character when talking about Jan Cornelis Struijk who came in as pastry chef and is now Manager for Product Development, sharing his excitement about how having the highly skilled dutchman elevates their game to a whole new level.

They make European-style bread and fresh pasta in-house, and their breakfast buffet include incredibly flaky croissants and fruity danishes. With the freshly minted F&B Director Matteo Giurdanella guiding the team on the ground, they make sure that even on their busiest days the quality of their food is never diminished. While we were enjoying a sumptuous barbecue feast on their beachfront with perfectly grilled prawns, A5 Wagyu, Turkish koftas, and Mexican corn eloté, they were also making sure that the wedding party on their infinitely pool deck enjoyed their tropical island buffet.

For a smaller operation like The Henry, something more specialized and niche seems like an appropriate coupling. Lee called on his friend, popular food writer and cookbook author Angelo Comsti who is a well-known advocate for regional Filipino cuisine, to come up with something special for Boracay.

Nasi Lemak-style breakfast plate at The Henry Boracay, with arroz a la cubana
The author with Hain’s Angelo Comsti, the regional Filipino restaurant at The Henry Boracay

His most recent cookbook Also Filipino is a compilation of lesser-known local recipes and was a good kickoff point for the project. Comsti’s restaurant inside the property  is called Hàin, and provides hotel guests with nasi lemak-inspired breakfast plates as well as regional Filipino dishes that are fast becoming popular not just with tourists but also locals. Aklanon dishes like tuway (assorted shellfish cooked in chili leaves and a gingery broth) and inubaran na manok are bestsellers and speak of the authenticity coming from the kitchen which is manned by local chefs.

Knowing what matters

The Lind has the widest beachfront in Station One.

There will always be a demand for the large, flashy hotels, but it is also good to note that they are no longer the benchmark. Travelers now seek not only creature comforts and reliability (which both of the above mentioned hotels have in abundance), but are also looking for intangible qualities that create more profound memories. Whether they prefer sitting on the balcony of a beach room at the Lind, or luxuriating in the outdoor tub in one of The Henry’s villas, guest can expect very similar core values, such as a sincerity in providing unique and memorable experiences, as well as a genuine pride in their people and what the brands stand for.

With both hospitality brands expanding this year (The Henry just signed the contract on a new property in Clark, and The Lind is poised to open their resorts in Siargao and Coron within the year), we can only get excited knowing that we will see them in more destinations around the Philippines. But, for now, Boracay is truly lucky to have them.

The new lifestyle.