Like many big Asian cities, Manila can be an overwhelming mess, but Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel provides a luxurious, calming escape from the chaos in a resort setting with plenty of land.
This Sofitel gets plenty of business travelers thanks to its location across the street from the convention center, but it’s on a park-like peninsula with shady trees and sidewalks, situated on the harbor. So it feels more like a vacation resort than a city hotel. It’s spacious and expansive, with a large swimming pool complex that even has a play area with slides for the kids.
Outside the place is set up like a beach resort, with lounge chairs by the pool, more by the water, and waiters roaming around to take food and drink orders. The outdoor furniture is high quality and you get a fluffy towel to dry off with. You can even lie flat on a daybed, swing in a hanging pod chair, sit a spell in a rocking chair.
The grounds are large enough to have a walking path and there’s a big function space at the end that’s popular for banquets and weddings. You can get massages and treatments from a full spa on site and the large gym is fitted with an array of good equipment. And as with a waterfront vacation resort, you can drop the little ones off at a kids’ club and leave them entertained in good hands.
This doesn’t mean the Sofitel Manila isn’t ready for serious business travelers though. The grand lobby will wow any clients you have to entertain, with its dramatic staircase, wall of windows, and chandeliers. Ample staffers in crisp uniforms and a big smile are always at the ready to assist.
The lobby bar area has an impressive array of spirits and wine to celebrate the closing of a deal and you can sink into sumptuous leather chairs or sofas, a piano tinkling in the background.
The real star of the show here though is the breakfast buffet on the lower level. I’ve been reviewing hotels around the world for more than two decades now and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the Spiral Buffet at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza. Picture all the things you’d see on a well-stocked hotel brunch buffet in a luxury hotel, then multiple that by three or four.
Part of the reason it’s so impressive is that Manila gets such a mix of visitors. So besides the western breads, made-to-order eggs, and meats, you’ve got a Japanese station, a Korean station, an Indian station, one that will please Chinese visitors, one that’s Halal. Then add an array of juice and tropical fruits, smoothies, and even ice cream. Since Sofitel is a French brand, you also get the kind of croissants and pastries you’re more likely to find in Europe, plus a glassed-off cheese room kept at just the right temperature.
You don’t have to wait long for an elevator to waddle back to your room and when you get there you’ll enter a relaxing space that’s well-equipped.
Most rooms have some kind of view, generally the Manila skyline in the distance or the boats bobbing on the harbor. Some look at an amusement park and mall in the distance, which can make for interesting lights at night. The decor is subdued and relaxing, with no big surprises, but there are ample electrical outlets and the Wi-Fi signal is strong. You get a real desk with an ergonomic chair when it’s time to work, a minibar and a balcony when it’s not.
Marble baths are stocked with good towels, a robe, and fine French toiletries, plus there’s turndown service at night and good blackout curtains for fighting the jet lag. Room service is available, though surprisingly the indoor and outdoor bars are the only other dining options on site besides a small deli—unless you count this candy counter:
You can walk to a few other nearby restaurants on this peninsula though, including one of the ubiquitous Jollibee fast food spots if you want to join the locals. You’ll need a taxi to go anywhere else and you’ll probably want to take that taxi when it’s not rush hour. Otherwise allow an hour longer than you think it should take to arrive.
This is a true international class luxury business hotel, which makes standard room rates that can start below $200 per night seem like a steal. (Plan on less for non-refundable bookings, $40-$60 more including the breakfast buffet.)
Review and photos by editor Tim Leffel, who was booked at Sofitel Manila while speaking at the Travel Blog Exchange Asia conference in Manila.