As a freelance writer, I get to travel a lot on my own. However, I haven’t gone a real trip with Art since last year. Since he works regular office hours and Sundays, scheduling leaves are more difficult for him. During weekends, we usually settle for biking trips or motorcycle rides near the metro with date meals in random carinderias. But with the weather lately, we usually end up coming home either exhausted from the heat, drenched by rain or splattered with mud. Sometimes, you just kind of want to take a luxurious break for a change.
Since we had to cancel a longer out-of-town trip together because of his work schedule, I asked Art if he wouldn’t mind spending a chill staycation that didn’t involve biking. As someone who promotes travel around the Philippines, I haven’t really explored Manila (particularly the old Manila / Pasay area), including the museums and nearby attractions like Manila Bay which are high interest sites for first-time foreign visitors, so I’ve been looking for an excuse to stay in the area.
We wouldn’t normally stay in a 5-star luxury hotel like Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, but it’s one of the most popular hotels for foreigners, families and luxury and business travelers because of its prime location. The main draw for me here was actually Spiral, Sofitel’s in-house restaurant which is reputed to be one of the best buffets in the country. So I decided to combine a hotel review for research purposes with a quick getaway and buffet binge.
Since it was a last-minute decision, I booked our stay with the Traveloka App, my go-to booking app for flights and hotels, which always provides ongoing promos and discounts. Booking hotels with the app is so hassle-free. There’s no need to call up the hotel to check what rooms are available and make reservations (which I hate doing). With just a few swipes on my phone, we were good to go. It didn’t even matter that I didn’t have enough cash on hand because payment online can be done by credit card and various other payment schemes (even PayPal!).
Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila is located in the CCP Complex Roxas Boulevard, Barangay 1, Manila Bay, Pasay, Philippines 1300, with both the domestic and international airports only 15 minutes away. The Traveloka app conveniently displays the nearby attractions on a map.
Sofitel is located very near landmarks like Coconut Palace, the Philippine International Convention Center Amazing Show and Star City. For foreign tourists who want to do some sightseeing, from here you can easily visit the old Manila area of Intramuros, The Manila Cathedral, Binondo, Luneta Park and top museums. It’s also very near the Mall of Asia (MoA) for shopping. Sofitel provides a free shuttle service to MoA.
BOOKING AND CHECK-IN:
As with most of my hotel bookings, I booked the stay last-minute on the morning of our stay, but promptly got the confirmation by email a few minutes later. I just had to present my phone and a valid ID at the check-in counter and they found my booking with no problem. After giving a refundable security deposit (can be by cash or credit card), we were handed our keys and on our way to the room. The design of Sofitel draws inspiration from local culture and tradition with a very strong French influence. It’s not everyday we get to stay in a luxury hotel, so you’ll want to make the most of it.
Sofitel has 609 guest rooms featuring 2 Opera Suites, 4 Luxury Suites, 7 Prestige Suites, 32 Sofitel Suites and the majestic Imperial Residence are exquisitely appointed with the finest luxuries and comforts for a rejuvenating city retreat.
We were booked in the spacious Superior room, which came with 1 King-sized Bed and a private balcony that offered a view of the cityscape. The room comes with all the basics you would expect from a top-class hotel including WiFi and wired Internet access, a large LCD TV, a refrigerator with a minibar, coffee/tea making facilities and 24-hour room service. While lounging around in the afternoon, Art managed to get some last-minute work done.
The bed was very nice and comfy with premium bedding, a down duvet, a pillow menu, blackout drapes/curtains, and turndown service. Just perfect for relaxation and catching up on some important reading. The room also had a private bathroom with shower (no tub), bathrobes, slippers and complimentary toiletries.
Sofitel Manila has several restaurants and bars, including La Veranda, an indoor trendy lounge; Le Bar, a haven combining a bistro, patisserie and library; the modern Snaps Sports Bar; Sunset Bar, an outdoor dining venue that features grilled barbecued specialties on Friday and Saturday nights; and The Club Millesime Lounge, which boasts of an elegant reception area, private library, lounge, wine station and intimate meeting spaces.
But Sofitel’s flagship is the award-winning buffet Spiral, which has 21 dining ateliers and serves buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Since we didn’t want to pig out on all our meals, we only opted to have breakfast here (which came with the room) instead of dinner.
- Breakfast Buffet: 6 :30am-10 :30am
- Lunch Buffet: 12nn-2 :30pm
- Dinner Buffet: 6 :30pm-10:30pm
I usually skip breakfast and just have coffee in the morning, but since breakfast was included, we had to sample the buffet. There’s a wide selection of salads, appetizers, hot Japanese, French stove, rotisserie, wood fired oven, churrasco, North Indian, Asian noodles, peking duck oven, steam basket, Chinese wok, Filipino, Thai, Korean, la boulangerie, la patisserie, chocolaterie and creamery.
The main highlight for me was L’épicerie, which offers a wide variety of the best cheese and charcuterie (cold cuts) from France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. I also made sure to load up on the nuts, Japanese tempura and smoked salmon and smoked tuna from the salad bar, going back for seconds and thirds. A tip for buffets: skip the rice, so you can load up on all the other good stuff. My food shots are a bit limited because I was too busy eating.
The breakfast selection is limited compared to the lunch and dinner service, as some ateliers, like the premium chocolate room were still closed off. But there’s still a lot of dishes to choose from. While dining, I noticed waiters carrying around a cart of taho, going table to table, which I thought was a nice Filipino touch for foreign and expat guests, who might not get to experience normal Pinoy street food.
Sofitel has numerous wellness facilities including a spa, salon, gym and parlor. They also have lots of function rooms and private rooms for business facilities, meetings and banquets. For luxury travelers, the best feature is the swimming pool area.
With the coconut trees, cozy pillows, hammocks and chairs overlooking Manila Bay, it almost feels like a real beach. There’s a small playground for kids, and you can even play mini-golf on the grounds if you want.
After breakfast, we spent most of the morning by the poolside, just enjoying the place. There weren’t a lot of people swimming, so it was nice to have the huge pool to ourselves and just lounge around. There are lots of spots here for lifestyle photography and OOTDs if you’re into that kind of thing. I kind of wish I brought a nice dress just for photo ops since I had a companion / photographer with me.
When we checked-in, I also noticed that there was a Bambike prominently displayed in the lobby advertising their Intramuros tours aboard bamboo bicycles. We previously rented Bambikes to go around that area and visit top sights like Manila Cathedral, Intramuros and Fort Santiago.
If you’re a first time foreign or domestic tourist visiting the Philippines looking for a different way to explore Manila, this is a good option. You can book a guided tour or rent a Bamboo Bicycle for just P200/hour.
READ MORE: 10 Unique & Fun Things to Do in Manila
WHO SHOULD CHECK IN:
Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila is ideal for luxury travelers, expats and business travelers who want stay in a prime location along Manila Bay near the old district of Manila and relatively near the international and domestic airports. It’s for those who want 5-star luxury accommodations, first-class service, quality and comfort without necessarily caring about the cost. Sofitel is a good choice for couples and families celebrating special occasions who want to splurge and dine in Spiral.
For additional discounts, make sure to book your stay with Traveloka! Thanks to Traveloka for this hassle-free and chill staycation in the city.
ADDRESS & CONTACT INFO:
CCP Complex Roxas Boulevard, Barangay 1, Manila Bay, Pasay, Philippines, 1300
NOTE: Additional unwatermarked photos from Sofitel’s website. Visit: http://www.sofitelmanila.com/