Despite being born and raised in Batangas, I never really went to any of its beach resorts before I got my first job. I only had the sea shores of Barangays Ilijan and Dela Paz, my parents’ hometown, to visit. In fact, I didn’t know that places like Anilao, Laiya, Calatagan and Nasugbu are famous summer destinations, and didn’t even know such places exist.
Moving forward to today, having discovered my fondness of traveling, I have been to a few of Batangas’ beach resorts. My most recent one was a family trip to Pico De Loro in Nasugbu, Batangas. I know that Batangas does not have Boracay-white sand beaches, but sometimes, proximity is a good reason to go there, especially now that I am expecting. I was supposed to treat my family to Puerto Princesa, Palawan last January but severe episodes of vomiting and nausea cancelled our trip. And so, my dream of showing my parents the other side of Luzon did not push through. Hopefully, our short trip to Pico De Loro made up for it.
I have read a few blogs and reviews about Pico De Loro before deciding to go there. It was a mixture of goods and bads, but what option do I have? Summer is fast approaching and almost all beach resorts in Laiya, Calatagan and Nasugbu were fully-booked. One of the few available resorts was Pico De Loro.
I found the Pico Sands Hotel too expensive for an overnight stay for a group of 6, even in Agoda, so I resorted to looking for a condo unit owner who offers rental. Luckily, I found one. The owner’s facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/hamilocoastcondo. Their website is http://www.hamilocoastcondoforrent.com/ We rented Myna B Studio Unit for 4,500 a night. It’s still a little expensive but it’s more economical than staying in the hotel.
Having Batangas City as a starting point doesn’t mean we had less travel time than if we started from Metro Manila. Batangas City is 103 kilometers away from Pico De Loro, vs. 82 kilometers if we came from our apartment in Mandaluyong City. With 5 adults and a kid, it took our old sedan about 3.5 hours to get to our destination. We started traveling at 12 in the afternoon and arrived there at 3:30 already. We had to stop by Jollibee in Nasugbu town proper to have our lunch before proceeding with the trip.
Travel tip: Plan to leave early so you will arrive at the destination early and maximize your stay. (Yes, I should have known, but we had to visit the auto shop first to make sure our good old car was ready to hit the long road)
I found the studio unit small, but it was just enough for an overnight stay. Anyway, I knew that we won’t be staying inside long, for we went there to swim, swim, swim. The pictures here http://www.hamilocoastcondoforrent.com/412mynab.html are exactly what you will find in the room. What was nice about renting this place was that we had everything we need. It was just like staying in our home. For our food, we just brought uncooked rice (they have rice cooker and stove), drinking water, and some food to reheat. Kitchen and dining wares were complete (although I didn’t notice if they have kitchen knives).
We felt we were really finally there when we entered the gates … NOT! We had to drive about 5-10 more minutes along a mountainside before we got to the condo. Pico de Loro was a huge property, I may say.
There was a man-made lagoon in the middle of the condominiums and hotel. The place was like a huge park. To get to the beach, you can either take their shuttle service or just walk. We took the shuttle service in the afternoon, but the next day, we decided to have a leisurely walk along the lagoon going to the beach and enjoy the shady trees.
The country club is accessible both to members and guests, while the beach club requires a member to accompany guests to use its amenities. In order to use the country club facilities, guests are required to pay guest fees.
Guest Fee Payment
One thing that I didn’t like in Pico de Loro was the service. I was told that we had to pay a guest fee per head, and purchase their cash card in order to use the beach. So after taking some rest at the condo unit, my family took the shuttle going to the Country Club. When we got there, there were only 2 ladies at the reception area who were assisting the guests. I was third in the queue. I thought that being third in line would take just a while, but I was wrong. I waited like 15 minutes to be assisted, and about 30 minutes to be registered and for my payments to be processed. My, oh, my! 45 minutes of wasted time.
Note: Guests are required to pay guest fees. The rate during that time was PHP500 per head because it was still lean season. In addition to the guest fee, a group should also purchase one cash card for PHP1050. It has an initial load of PHP1000, and could be reused and reloaded (so make sure you keep it for future use).
Sunset at the Beach
Because of the delay in Country Club registration, we arrived at the beach at almost 6PM. Just in time for the beach to be closed for swimming. It was sad that we were not able to swim that time, but it was still amazing to watch the sunset. My husband and my daughter still managed to sneak some swimming time at the shallow part of the beach. I’m glad that Mr. Lifeguard didn’t mind them taking a dip. And while they were enjoying the calmness of the sea, I was busy taking everyone’s photos. We’re glad we brought a mat, where my folks sat down and seemed to enjoy the moments.
Watching Stars at Night
One of the nice things to do here if you have kids, is watching the night sky. We were supposed to build a tent that night if only we had more energy and time (I had to go to bed early). Instead of setting up a mat, we used the beach chairs to lay down and watch the stars. The sea was still calm and the weather was perfect. My 5-year old daughter said “This is my idea of a perfect vacation: watching stars!” I was waiting for a shooting star, but I think my eyes need glasses to do that.
After my daughter identified her stars of white, blue and red colors, and watching planes and helicopters pass by instead of shooting stars, we headed back to the condo unit. My folks were already asleep when we got back. I was really tired, too, and soon everyone was asleep.
After eating our breakfast of rice, embutido and adobo, everybody dressed up with their swimsuits and excitedly went to the beach. We did not take the shuttle. Instead, we enjoyed walking along the lagoon going to the beach. I was glad that my parents and my little one enjoyed the sceneries. I tricked my mother to walking past the hanging bridge, knowing that she easily gets nervous with those kinds of things. I just wanted my my parents to enjoy their life and not worry too much. The last time I got them to do something that scared them was making them ride the big ferris wheel in Enchanted Kingdom. :D They seemed to enjoy those challenges after. :)
It was 9AM already when we arrived to the beach. I knew we were a little late … again … knowing that check out time was 12 noon, but that was vacation. We were just taking things slowly at a time. My parents enjoyed the shallow and calm waters of Nasugbu. There were protective barriers to prevent swimmers to go deeper, so I guess my mother got a little bored. They grew up in a place where they swam the seas almost everyday of their lives. I think shallow waters were not much of a challenge for them. But because the water was crystal clear, we all enjoyed swimming and even watched a few fishes. It was amazing to see fishes almost near the shores. :) The waters may be nice to swim in, but beware of the jelly fishes. We were fortunately not stung, but we did catch 2 small ones.
After swimming in the sea, we went to the Country Club to try their swimming pool. They had different types of pools, but the deepest was only 4 ft. The pool was a bit crowded, and there were no chairs left for us to sit on. It was a good thing that we brought our saviour mat again. Swimmers were strictly advised to wear swimming attires. Unfortunately, my mother was wearing cotton shirts, so she was not allowed to swim.
Pack up Time
This was another thing that I didn’t like about our stay. I knew that check-out time was 12 noon, but I didn’t want everyone to hurry up (this is, again, vacation, right?). In the unit owner’s email, we were told that we would pay an additional PHP500 each hour of extended stay, so I thought it wouldn’t be bad to just pay. However, the unit’s caretaker told us to vacate the place because there would be guests who will use the room next. They should have advised us earlier when we checked in, else, I would not have thought of extending and we would have used our time more wisely to check out at exactly 12. We didn’t have a choice but to get everything and just get the hell out, with me still combing my dripping wet hair.
My frustrations with checking out didn’t end with my dripping hair. I told the lady at the reception desk that my family was ready to check out. She told me to wait as the room was being checked. I waited long because there were other visitors who were checking out. Somebody was even complaining about her reservation. I waited for about 20 minutes before I made a follow up. My family was already getting impatient outside, and I could hear my daughter crying. I just found out that the receptionist thought I was checked in at another room, while our room was actually already cleared out several moments ago. With this trip, the deal-breaker was always service: to think that it was not yet peak season. Sigh. I guess they should train their staff more.
Lunch at Lagoa Restaurant
Before heading home, we thought of trying their food at the Lagoa Restaurant, located at the Country Club. We were pleased with the service here, at least we didn’t wrap up our trip with the bad experience during check out.
Buffet lunch was available at PHP850 per head. We could not afford such price, and there were not much food choices, too, so we just ordered ala carte: rice, sinigang na liempo, grilled pork liempo, pinaputok na bangus, and turon with ube and langka. The food was not that great but I still think they did a good job. I’ve read of diners who were not at all pleased with the food here. Maybe the management did some improvements, which was good.
Our trip at Pico De Loro, Hamilo Coast was definitely something to remember. The place has a lot to improve in terms of service, but I would still go back for another family vacation. It would be best to stay here for more than a day, to explore and enjoy the place more.