We stayed at Hibiscus Garden Inn last March for 3 nights and 4 days. It’s an accommodation that we unreservedly recommend to everyone when in Puerto Princesa. It has the ambience, good service, and great value. We can’t wait to go back there.
Hibiscus Garden Inn is the whole “package”, and here’s why. It’s like a sanctuary set amidst the din of Puerto Princesa’s bustling city center. Relatively close to the airport but not walking distance to downtown Puerto Princesa either. But such was the appeal of this hotel (and especially their restaurant) to us that we didn’t feel the need to go to the city center at all. At least for us, after every exhausting day trip (at the Underground River and Honda Bay Tour) we always looked forward to returning to Hibiscus Garden Inn everytime.
After arriving from El Nido by bus, we chartered a tricycle from the bus terminal to the hotel. The neighbourhood where Hibiscus Garden Inn was located didn’t look inviting. It looked parched; dusty; cramped; and, well, looked basically like a normal inner city neighborhood. In fact, we didn’t even expect it to be located in that neighborhood, thinking it to be in some exclusive or upscale location. But our snooty attitude vanished once we set foot at the reception area of Hibiscus Garden Inn. We immediately felt like we stepped into an oasis—literally and figuratively. We instantly forgot the parched scene outside. From the reception area, we could already see greenery and natural-looking wooden benches and tables.
After a fast and easy check-in, we entered into the open-air garden and were right away enveloped by a sense of serenity. The 7-hour bus ride from El Nido quickly forgotten like a long lost memory. Everywhere you look, you see tasteful decors, hammocks, sitting areas.
The overall ambience of the hotel is very cosy tropical. You would be forgiven if you keep forgetting that you are near downtown Puerto Princesa.
The room units surround the open-air lawn in an angled U-form. Every room unit has their own patio with their own sitting area out in front, consisting of two padded rattan chairs and a low wooden table. You get your own hammock too. Another nice touch is the small bamboo rack where you can hang your wet swimsuits and towels to dry. This way you don’t need to bring the damp clothes inside the room after a full day out in the sea. You can also order food and drinks from the Hibiscus Garden Inn restaurant to your patio; or simply serve yourself from the in-room minibar, which has the same price as in their restaurant.
The only negative point we have about this hotel is that the free wi-fi signal from the restaurant and garden is not strong enough to reach inside the room. As beautiful as it is outside the rooms, it is nice to be able to stay inside especially during early evenings when the mosquitoes are out in full force; or if it’s extra humid outside. But when conditions outside are perfect, the wi-fi signal near the reception area, restaurant, and all over the garden work as expected.
Our room was exactly what we wanted for a relaxing stay. The orange walls, the tropical decor, and the wooden furnitures gave a cosy feeling. It was huge, with a double bed, plus an extra single bed. There were lots of storage space in their wooden cabinets and big wooden desk. Cable TV, air con, extra ceiling fan, all worked well.
The bathroom, too, was spacious and came with everything we needed, hot water included. The room and the bathroom, like the rest of the hotel, were very clean and well-maintained. That, for us, is a very important factor.
This was the highlight of the hotel. The garden forms the centerpiece of Hibiscus Garden Inn. It’s a botanical garden with a great variety of plants, flowers, and fruit-bearing trees; and, of course, a Hibiscus plant blooming right in the center of the garden. Hammocks, small seating areas, and even a nipa hut dot the property, free for guests to use. This is what makes it like an oasis of peace and tranquility because, even though it’s located near the city center, you can hear the sounds of the geckos, birds, and the beautiful sound of silence. Also, if you get lucky, you might even get to hear the resident cat meow “hello” to you, which seemed to love the garden as much as we did.
From the check-in all the way to the check-out, the staff were friendly, helpful, and always greeted us with a big smile.
The rooms were made every day and we were given fresh towels daily; fresh bed sheets; and new shampoo and soap. We used their laundry service for a very small sum and assisted us with all our booked tours even though we didn’t use their tour operator (we had pre-booked most of the tours with another tour operator).
Another thing to mention is their system for breakfast orders. We’ve never seen a system like this before, but call us impressed! It goes like this: the main reason most guests are in Puerto Princesa is to experience the day tours (like the Underground River Tour, Honda Bay Tour, Firefly Watching, etc.). Since the pick up time usually starts around 6:30-7:00am, they know that the guests would likely like to have an early breakfast. That’s why every night the restaurant staff go door to door taking breakfast orders in advance, with choices between Filipino breakfasts, Continental breakfast, or American breakfast. With this system, they can prepare the guest’s breakfast well before their pick up time the next day.
For example, our Underground River Tour’s pickup time was 7:00am. We agreed with the restaurant staff the night before for the breakfast to be served at 6:30am. At 6:30am the next day, our warm breakfast was waiting for us in the restaurant, giving us enough time to eat before we were picked up by our tour guide. Now that’s what I call service!
Now the restaurant deserves a review all by itself. The quality of the food is among the best we’ve had here in the Philippines. It seems to specialise in Italian dishes, although they do also offer local cuisine. Annika swears that their pizza and pasta has authentic Italian taste. A taste she thought she could only find in Italy. We began to suppose that maybe an Italian was preparing the dishes for us. But we could only see a middle-aged Filipina behind the counter in their open-air kitchen.
A lot of reviewers in TripAdvisor recommend their pizza, but our favourite is the Seafood Pasta. The price might probably be a little more than what you would pay in other restaurants in Puerto Princesa, but it’s worth it considering the fresh-tasting ingredients and the quality of the food.
On our last night in Puerto Princesa, we had booked a Firefly Watching Tour at Iwahig River which normally includes dinner in one of the local restaurants. But we canceled that dinner just because we didn’t want to miss out our last chance to enjoy dinner at the Hibiscus Garden Inn. That’s how good we think the restaurant is. If we’d live in Puerto Princesa, we’d probably dine there all the time.
It’s not often that a hotel deliver exactly on their promise and more. You see, there’s a usual tendency for hotels in the Philippines, big and small, to “overpromise” and don’t deliver at all. I’m talking about their fancy names. Names that conjure up, for example, images of harbour views, spa resorts, white sand beaches, elegance; but actually having none of those. It perplexes me constantly how the owners can think that they can get away with it forever. Or maybe they don’t grasp the concept that the hotels where the holidaymaker intends to stay sets the tone for the kind of holiday/vacation they’re going to have.
That’s why I was genuinely surprised that Hibiscus Garden Inn was located near the city center and surrounded by everything urban; yet they managed to carve that small portion of space into something their guests can truly call an oasis or a sanctuary once they set foot inside its gates. Genuinely and pleasantly surprised that a hotel with a “garden” in its name do have an actual garden, or better yet, the entire place being the garden.