Over the past few years I’ve developed an idiosyncratic theory about traveling: Ever since the jet set gave way to EasyJet, my thinking goes, you need to hop at least three different planes to discover any place truly off the beaten path. (This is assuming you’re traveling commercial and departing from a major city in the United States or Europe.) In our new world order, places that once sounded glamorously remote—Cartagena, say, or Chiang Mai—can easily be reached with a quick stopover in Miami or Bangkok. Once there, you’re bound to find a Four Seasons, Sofitel, or Shangri-La with a perfectly proper room not unlike the ones at the Four Seasons, Sofitel, and Shangri-La back home; chances are that at some point during your vacation you will run into a famous fashion designer—except that he’ll be wearing shorts and a weird hat.
Not that there’s anything wrong with all this, mind you. But more and more I’ve been craving something different—and I’m willing to go the extra mile, literally, to find it. Imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered that a trip to Dedon Island in the Philippines would require not just three different planes but 37 hours of travel. I’d fly 15 hours from New York to Seoul and then, after a four-hour layover, continue for almost five more hours to Cebu, Philippines; landing at the stroke of midnight, I would check in at—no joke—the local Shangri-La and, 12 hours later and jet lag permitting, board a puddle jumper for the final hour-long hop to the small island of Siargao.
It was worth it. Arriving at Dedon Island (not actually an island but, rather, part of Siargao) is like visiting a magnanimous uncle’s fabulous tropical getaway. There’s nothing so prosaic as a reception desk to speak of; instead, you are simply led through luscious foliage to one of the nine airy cabanas designed by Jean-Marie Massaud and Daniel Pouzet that dot the four-acre property. Nestled among the cabanas are a low-key yet impeccably attended restaurant, a spacious outdoor living room, a pool, and a beachside bar. But the real attraction is the pristine nature surrounding you: a forest of mangroves on one side, and the ocean—clear, still, and bath warm—on the other. A strenuous day’s activities on the island might include a ride in a “hubble-hubble”—a motorcycle taxi, which can safely accommodate two but is sometimes loaded with entire families—to Dapa, a tiny town with a bustling fish market; or a visit to Cloud 9, a surf break of worldwide renown. (Held in the fall, the Billabong Cloud 9 Surfing Invitational is the main event on the island’s otherwise charmingly comatose social calendar.)