Located at Sabangan Beach, Santiago, Ilocos Sur
From Vigan, we turned back south and headed towards the quaint coastal town of Santiago. In a quiet cove lies Vitalis Resort & Spa. We stop there, but our friend and guide Donny smiles wryly and says, "this isn't it." He points across the water at a rocky cliff where stark white structures are hanging off the side. "That's where we're going."
Vitalis Villas is obviously inspired by the hillside town of Santorini in Greece, where the stone houses are painted white and Aegean blue; the steep, winding cobble stone streets carved on the rocky face of a cliff.
The high-end villas were built on a cliff in Santiago Cove, just like the Greek destination. As you climb up the narrow road, you are greeted by a white dome. When we visited, it was still under construction and it will inevitably be the lobby and main hall. Sloping down towards the left is what looks like the makings of a chapel. I can already imagine the romantic and intimate weddings that will be held there.
We stayed in a two-bedroom villa which was just a few steps away from the snack bar (where we had our meals) and the pool. The villa is massive! It had a living area, dining room attached to a kitchen, and two bedrooms with en suite baths, plus a powder room. To get to the 2nd bedroom, you had to take the stairs down. Yaya Jo preferred to sleep in the living room's day bed, so we just blocked the stairs with some dining chairs in an attempt to child-proof.
Vitalis is owned by the same group as Hotel Luna (read about our stay at Hotel Luna here), so they furnished the rooms with the same sumptuous beds. The bathrooms, too, are spacious and elegantly finished. The entire villa is painted white in keeping with the Santorini theme, with only the rustic woven curtains in white and blue providing contrast and texture to the Spartan decor.
Things to do
The plan was NOT to do anything, and this we did with much flair. Splash around in the infinity pool if you must, get some sun while you sip on some Glenmorangie highballs (that's what I did). When you come to Vitalis, you really just want some quite time to relax. Honestly, I can't imagine any other reason to come to this sleepy Ilocos Sur town.
Kids (and animal lovers of all ages) will love the mini-zoo where you can go for a pony ride. Little Chi adored the Shetland Pony's and bravely did a couple of rounds around the track. I wasn't there because I was feeling sick (yes, I overdid the highballs) but based on the photos it seems Matt was more tense than she was.
There is also a zip line for the thrill seekers, which goes from the top of the cliff and crossing the cove to the other side. The resort also offers some water sports like jet skis and wave runners. They can also help you plan a sunset cruise if that's your thing.
What to eat
I was excited to hear that Robby Goco made their menu and trained the kitchen. However, when we visited, their kitchen was not yet fully operational and most of the food was still coming from the resort which was a 5-minute drive down the road. Keep this in mind when you book with them- perhaps it would be good to ask if their kitchen in the villas is already open. Otherwise, you might end up waiting an hour for what was sometimes cold food.
However, breakfast was solid. We enjoyed our silogs immensely as well as their waffles. The pasta dishes by Chef Robby were quite exceptional, like the goat Bolognese and the seafood pasta with uni. The pizzas, too, are products of their massive brick oven. I'm excited to try more of the dishes that they will cook in it.
Vitalis Villas is a beautiful place where you can spend some quality time with the hubby or with the entire family. Keep in mind that the stairs are steep and some people with disabilities and of a certain age might have trouble climbing them. The amenities are first class and the service is often quick, friendly, and efficient. This magical place might have been inspired by the romantic Aegean, but it's warmth and charm is all its own.
By: Jaclyn Clemente-Koppe
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