This impressive five-star property in Malate is a gem
words & photos: MATTHEW COWAN
Diamond Hotel on the famed Roxas Boulevard by Manila Bay had a lot to live up to before our visit. Reviews gush in their praise of the 483-room property’s location, rooms, service and dining experiences. Indeed, the hotel’s location is enough for anyone to consider booking a stay here — Manila enjoys a reputation for being the most congested city in Southeast Asia, perhaps the world. Somewhere easily accessible and close to Manila’s sights and nightlife is what you need.
Fortunately for us on the day we arrived, Manila was experiencing a ‘good-traffic’ day, which meant that it took the hotel’s airport transfer just 30 minutes from Ninoy Aquino International Airport approximately 9km away to get us to the hotel. It’s best to organise arrivals into Manila somewhere between 9am and 3pm (or in the wee hours) to avoid the city’s clogged arteries. Our flight landed at 1pm and we were checked into our Premier Room (approx. US$150) by 2.30pm.
The Premier Room is a spacious 40sqm with a king-size bed, bath/shower and carpet throughout. The Premier Rooms are on the upper levels of the hotel facing north towards Rizal Park with glimpses of Manila Bay, and south towards City of Dreams 6km away, also with glimpses of the bay. Both sides of the hotel afford guests with amazing sunset views across the bay, with rooms on the southern side perhaps enjoying better views of the sun rising over Manila in the morning — the only real difference between the two options.
The bathrooms are simple but spacious with plenty of vanity space. They can be dimly lit with a nightlight function to help you find your way without illuminating the entire room and disturbing others in their sleep. Audio can also be piped in from the TV or sound system if you wish — a nice touch if you’re sharing a room and you don’t want everyone to hear what you’re up to. The shower pressure is excellent with plenty of hot running water. The bath fills quickly and manages (just) to fit two average-sized people if they get creative, although someone will invariably have to settle with their legs resting on the sides.
The king-size bed is ultra-comfortable and with rooms well-insulated, there’s no reason to have a bad night’s sleep. The difficulty with the room is knowing when to get up. Dragging yourself out of the place is a challenge, especially with the thick window drapes and lack of any discernible noise coming from the hallway. But of course, there is always one incentive that will get you out of bed and downstairs — the buffet breakfast.
Diamond Hotel’s buffet breakfast (until 10am) is one of the best The Bureau has come across in recent years and caters for both Western and Asian tastes. Breakfast comes with the room price or can be purchased separately as a-la-carte. The lunch and dinner buffets are also excellent with plenty to choose from, a highlight for sweet-tooths is the rather large chocolate fountain.
Diamond Hotel caters well for families. The pool is just a metre-deep and there is plenty of pool deck for guests to catch some sun or watch over the kids. The poolside bar is housed inside a huge grotto that also has a sizeable waterfall that empties into the pool. Try the sangria — one of the best we’ve had in a while.
So what’s the lowdown on Diamond Hotel?
As far as we can tell, there aren’t too many downsides to a stay here. The staff are friendly and attentive and offer great service. Anyone who is concerned about security will feel safer knowing that cars and bags are checked on entrance. Guests must pass through a security scanner before entering the lobby. There are also sniffer dogs that give bags and suitcases the once over on arrival. Over the top? It’s hard to say but security checks like this are common in Manila, even entering a local supermarket requires you to be scanned.
The location of Diamond Hotel is excellent being located right on Roxas Boulevard and within walking distance of Rizal Park and Ermita. There are quite a number of historic sites in the area, including Intramuros — the walled city — which was built by the Spanish in the late 16th century and was the seat of government and political power during 250 years of Spanish colonisation of the Philippines. The hotel’s amenities are all in excellent condition, and its rooftop bar — 27 — is stylish and elegant with magic views.
The downside? Well, you’re not going to stay here if you’re on a tight budget. It’s a five-star hotel with five-star hotel prices. Still, that’s not the hotel’s fault. If we were to be picky, we’d say the pool is too shallow for adults, there’s no happy hour at any of the hotel’s bars, not all staff we came in contact with knew basic information like check in/check-out times, the gym is pokey, 27 is closed on Sunday, the lifts smell of cigarette smoke at peak times, and the Old Fashioned cocktail we ordered from Corniche (the hotel restaurant) was well below-par. Told you we were being picky.
Would we recommend this place, though? Definitely. It’s hard to fault. Overall, the US$150 or so per night we spent was well worth it. This hotel has a friendly and upbeat vibe that capitalises on everything else it has on offer. Oops, are we gushing? Just add it to the list.
Diamond Hotel is at the corner of Roxas Boulevard and Dr. J. Quintos St., Manila