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SETIR: An inside look at the Palawan luxury island resort that's more than its Maldives inspiration

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Sep 22, 2022 8:47 pm

I'm writing this while overlooking one of the most beautiful views I've ever seen.

No matter how long one has been writing, there are some experiences that words can't suffice, so before you read on, it's only right you see this beauty with me.

The famous glass balcony of the SETIR Cluster Villas.

That's only one example from one of the villas of Sunlight Ecotourism Island Resort (SETIR), a home-away-from-home luxury resort that's welcomed the likes of Anne Curtis, Isabelle Daza, Andi Manzano, Chie Filomeno, and more. 

You might have first heard of SETIR through those famous names, or even from the recent gorgeous beachside wedding of It Girl, Jess Wilson, but beyond its exterior is something more than the Maldives-like clear waters and villas.

Nestled in the clear blue waters of Culion, the Calamianes group of Islands in Northern Palawan near Coron, is the lone luxury retreat in the region that claims a true island getaway.

A view of the Sirakan Villas. 

Getting to SETIR is a luxury in it and of itself, as you need to book from their domestic boutique charter airline: Sunlight Air. The airline flies avid travelers to various island destinations within Coron (Busuanga), Camiguin, San Vicente, and Boracay (Caticlan). The flights are exclusively chartered by Asia Pacific Travel with top-notch service from the get-go.

Once you reach Coron, you're treated to a boat ride that will take you to Culion's SETIR. The travel can be no hassle at all, as your bags will arrive safe and sound on the island in a separate boat. 

Maldive villas with a Filipino touch

SETIR holds four beaches, 10 restaurants, and 55 Maldivian villas that are architecturally designed to have an ocean view of either sunrise or sunset.

We were given the Amihan Cluster Villas that promised a sunrise view, while its Habagat counterpart on the other side of the island holds a similarly gorgeous sunset one. From that small but impactful detail, you can already see just how SETIR prides itself on the little details that can turn an island into paradise.

Although I was already feeling like I was on the precipice of luxury with our Cluster Villas, it turns out that the celebrity's choice was actually the Sirakan Villas, which boast the Maldive-inspired villas often seen on social media.

The Maldives-inspired Sirakan Villas.

The 65-square meter accommodation features glass-bottom floors that allow guests to gaze at the marine life underneath, a plush king-sized bed, an indoor jacuzzi, a seaside view balcony, as well as hardwood fixtures. It is priced at a hefty P37,000 / night, excluding airfare.

For that added lap of luxury, the villas also showcase a jacuzzi overlooking a majestic view of the Palawan oceans.

Jacuzzi while overlooking the ocean? Who said it isn't possible?

Aside from the Cluster and Sirakan Villas, there's also a multitude of other offerings to choose from, such as the Single Studio for 2 pax (P22,000 / night), Two Bedroom Villas for 4 pax (P35,000 / night), and Duplex Villas for 8 pax (P30,00 / night).

Remember the view I showed you? Apparently, that was the cheapest offering they had at roughly P17,000 / night. 

What the average Filipino-themed, Maldives-inspired Villa rooms look like.

Each Sirakan villa comes with a freee bottle of champagne. Perfect for the wonderful view.

Worldwide food offerings and activities

One of the main reasons why luxury islands are all the rage nowadays is the privacy that it provides. Though we may not all be famous celebrities that want to keep prying eyes away, we all have those moments where we just want to be away from the pressures of the Metro (and sometimes our own phones).

SETIR provides just that with their multitude of activities that will make you be in the moment, simply enjoying the sun on your skin and the serotonin that nature provides: Guests can take a spectacular sunset cruise or simply liven up lazy afternoons by playing billiards, chess, and board games.

More of a lazy vacationer? Their lush walkways will make you want to walk around the entire island.

If you want to take a solo tour of the island, free bicycles are readily available throughout the 18-hectare green island where you can go exploring on its clear and clean paths for as long as you please.

For the adventurous types, you can even go island hopping and try your hand at their readily-available sporty activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, or simply taking photos via their crystal kayak a la Boracay.

Sushi boat from Hikari Teppanyaki. 

For those that want a straight all-out vacation: SETIR also has their Sanctuary Spa and fully-equipped gym with a gorgeous view of the sparkling waters.

Of course, a vacation isn't complete without good food—and just because you're on an island doesn't mean you're limited to seafood.

Island Garden's Boodle Fight platter. Best enjoyed when island hopping.

SETIR has a total of ten multicultural restaurants on the island, ranging from Korean BBQ, Teppanyaki, Hotpot, Filipino food, and more. You read that right: even our favorite samgyupsal is available on the island.

Guests can satisfy whatever cravings they may have: even if it's just a good 'ol cheeseburger by the sea.

Their restaurants offerings are as follows:

  • Mangrove
  • Island Garden
  • Sun Cafe
  • Poolside Patio
  • Cafe Adlow
  • Hikari Teppanyaki
  • XIang Hotspot and KBBQ
  • The Cellar
  • LUNA bar
Hikkari Teppanyaki.

Wellness through nature and privacy

There is a type of luxury that alienates, there is a type that embraces. While we've gone through the opulence that the island provides, there's also a certain warmth that radiates from the everyday privacy and luxury that SETIR exudes.

Unlike other luxury resorts and getaways that offer a multitude of wellness programs at a costly price, SETIR keeps it simple but significant by giving you the freedom to be, while being just in reach of everything you need.

The breakfast buffet's quaint  Bread Station.

While touring the island on one of our quiet days because of gloomy weather, I came across Christian, one of the bartenders in LUNA Bar. He shared that, like many Filipinos, he lost his job amid the pandemic. 

It can be easy for many of us to dismiss service workers while in the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila, but in SETIR, they're there to provide good conversations and remind us that while luxury can be at our fingertips, it's the employees like Christian that make it possible.

While he served poolside drinks, he shared how SETIR had breathed new life into his passion, asking every now and then about my coverage on the island, too. If this was new territory for me, this was simply home for him. He shared stories of life in the island, how it had always been his calling to do what he was doing now.

He even shared a little anecodate on previously serving Korean superstars BTS in a different Palawan resort back in 2017. He said that RM was polite and the group kept laughing during their times alone.

LUNA Bar's resident bartender, Christian. Strike up a conversation with him when you get there!

During our lively conversation, it occurred to me that what made SETIR extra special, aside from the aforementioned amenities and food, was the people in the island. Everywhere we went, the employees were ready with smiles on their faces and service that went the extra mile.

At one point, one of my companions briefly gushed over a specific bottle of wine, and since one of the waitresses took note, he was given a fresh bottle of it every time we went out to eat. I didn't know who had a bigger smile: him every time the bottle appeared, or the employees that fashioned it seemingly out of thin air.

Meanwhile, Christian hopes to one day reach international shores with his hospitality skills and bartending experience, but for now, like the many other individuals happily working on the island, it serves as his literal home away from home.

This secluded spot in one of their beaches is a go-to place for couples to pop the question.

All in all, SETIR isn't just a place, but an experience, and our four days wasn't enough to take in all of the island's beauty and lively characters and amenities, but it's a good place to start.

If you want to experience your own piece of paradise, the Sunlight group is currently offering a Fly, Stay, Dine travel bubble package complete with airfare, accommodation, daily breakfast, in-island water activities, and more.

The all-inclusive travel package runs until December and ideal for those that want to get the full SETIR experience. Check it out here:

For inquiries and reservations at SETIR, you may contact +632 8657 1919 and +632 8657 1918. You can also send an email at e-mail [email protected]. Visit their website for more information.