Kookoo’s Nest: Your Private Paradise in Negros Oriental

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If you happen to be in Dumaguete,  head a bit far from the city center. In about 90 minutes (bus and motorcycle ride), you will find a piece of paradise – Kookoo’s Nest.

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Going down the beach would take quite an effort! 

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Kookoo’s Nest is an intimate resort in Zamboanguita. There is nothing posh about the place, but it has a rustic charm that will surely leave you in awe. This tiny cove offers the perfect respite for those who are looking for a private getaway. Our group was the only one checked in during our visit. Except for some who would walk-in for a day tour, most of the time, we had the beach all for ourselves.

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The beach and the restaurant. Our cottage is on the right side 

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Perfect beach buddy! 

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My good friend, Rhum, being lazy! We learned about this place because of him! He also makes awesome beer and cider. If you are in Dumaguete, be on the lookout for Birdie Num Num craft beers. 

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Rhum playing with one of the owner’s dogs. 

During our overnight stay, we booked the Kingfisher Cottage. I was advised that it is the best, so I did not hesitate in having it chosen. All cottages are made from native materials. The entire resort only has six cottages and this is the largest. It has one double bed and the loft has two single beds. It also has a spacious balcony, great for hanging out while enjoying the view of the beautiful Sulu Peninsula. There  is no A/C, but this should not be a problem since you will be surrounded with towering trees and lush greenery.  I love how the cottage comes with well-designed ropes and pulleys, making it easier to open or close the windows and blinds.

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Our unpretentious cottage is on the left side. No A/C, TV, fridge, or mini-bar. Loved everything about it! If you’re going to Kookoo’s Nest, make sure to book this cottage! 

Our bedroom. You can close the window at night, if preferred. 

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Our room as seen from the stairs leading to the loft 

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The loft

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Beautiful morning! 

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The balcony 

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Still from our balcony 

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Enjoying the chill life 

You won’t go hungry while you are in Kookoo’s Nest. The kitchen is the heart of the resort, which is staffed with people from the nearby local village. They have a decent selection on the menu. I suggest that you try their Nasi Goreng. I had it twice during our stay.

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Inside the restaurant 

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The view from the restaurant 

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Nasi Goreng – this was my favorite from the menu. 

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Grilled fish! Yum! 

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Burger topped with thick slices of cheese 

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Want beer? Don’t bother calling the waitress! Get one from the cooler outside the kitchen and update the list on the board! Each guest’s name will be listed and you have to list down any drink you will be having. Honesty system! Pretty convenient as well. 

They offer a variety of activities for those who would like to be active, such as snorkeling and kayaking. If you just want to relax, on the other hand, you can just lie on the beach and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

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From the left-most end of the cove 

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Until next time, Kookoo’s Nest! 

Kookoo’s Nest is one of the best places I have seen. What it lacks in luxury, it makes up for in natural beauty and intimacy. This is a great choice if you want a laidback holiday! Heard a lot of good words about the owners, but unfortunately, they were on a vacation when we were there. Hope to meet them one day!

Coco Grove Beach Resort: The Best Place to Stay in the Magical Island of Siquijor

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Coco Grove Beach Resort

 

12nn. We were aboard a pump boat going to Siquijor from Dumaguete. I texted Coco Grove Beach Resort and asked if they have an available room. The response was quick. I was also swift in making the booking. Without second thoughts, I made the reservation and it was instantly settled.

 

Casa Coco’s entrance 

 

2pm. Just in time for check-in, we arrived at the resort. Having only two days to spend in Siquijor, we had a lot of plans for the afternoon. Initially, we wanted to book an inland tour and explore waterfalls and beaches. But, the moment we saw the resort, our plans immediately changed. We ended up just chilling out, drinking beer, and taking it slow.

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Outside our room at Coco Grove. We booked the cheapest. The spa and one of the pools in the resort are just a few steps away 

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Orange walls and blue seats are seen all throughout the resort 

Expect a lot of walking during your stay. This place is huge! They have 91 rooms, 3 swimming pools, and 3 restaurants.

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At Casa Coco, the newest part of the resort. Here, they have 30 rooms and 1 penthouse. They also have a Jacuzzi. This is the only part of the resort with Wi-Fi. 😦 

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One of the resort’s three pools. This is the one nearest our room

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Olympic-sized pool with bar. The deepest part is 10 feet. 

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The pool at Casa Coco. It’s shallow and has a Jacuzzi. 

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One of their restaurants. Loved their chicken curry! 

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One of the bars at Coco Grove. They have cheap beer! Even the ones from the mini-bar are cheap. 

 

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The beach was dirty. We didn;t even bother swimming! Probably because of the weather. Good thing they have three pools! 

Coco Grove offers a number of tours and activities, but typical of a hotel, their rates are more expensive compared to what you can find outside. We decided to hire a motorcycle to take us around. Regular rate is 1,000 for a day tour around the island. We were too lazy to go around, so we just checked out the Balete tree and Cambughay Falls.

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Cambughay Falls 

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Enjoy drinks at Baha Bar. Best to visit during sunset. It’s only about four kilometers away from Coco Grove. Some nights, they also have buffet dinners. 

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Bantayan Island, Cebu: Exploring One of Cebu’s Hidden Gems

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After welcoming 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I had something exciting to look forward to – my first time in Bantayan Island, or anywhere in Cebu. While I am not a fan of bus rides, I can endure as long as there is a promise of a rewarding experience at the end of the trip. In El Nido, for instance, I had a 5-hour bus ride from the airport to the town proper. I did this already twice and did not mind the length of the trip because I know my destination is going to be worth it. The same also holds true in the case of Bantayan. From the Mactan International Airport in Cebu, we had to to go to North Bus Terminal and rode a bus bound to Hagnayan Port (170 pesos) for 3 hours and a ferry (170 pesos + 10 pesos terminal fee) going to the island for an hour. Including the waiting time, it took us more than 5 hours before we have finally arrived.

The seclusion of Bantayan is perhaps its biggest selling point. The long stretch of the beach that is not crowded with tourists offers the perfect retreat for anyone who is in search of utter privacy. While they have limited restaurants in the area, almost every place we visited offered an unforgettable culinary delight. There are no bars playing loud party music, but we loved every night spent drinking beer and listening to reggae music. The beach itself isn’t swimmable, at least during the time of our visit. Nonetheless, it was compensated with a visit to the nearby island and an entire day of an inland tour.

Anika Island Resort

Bantayan Island, Cebu

We booked a single villa room at Anika Island Resort from January 8 – 11 and paid only 2,200 pesos per night. I find the rate quite cheap, considering the ambiance at the resort. While the sand is fine, it was disappointing that the beach is quite dirty during the time of our visit. The room, set in a container van, is quite small but does not fall short in terms of the comfort it provides. Our room also has a private veranda. While the resort has its own restaurant, we personally felt it is not at par with what you will find around the area. Apart from being overpriced, there is nothing really special about their food. Anika also has its own beachfront area, which is the perfect place to chill under the heat of the sun, with a beer, of course!

Our room for 4 days

Our room for 4 days

It was windy during our visit. Unfortunately, teh beach by the hotel where we stayed was like this.

It was windy during our visit. Unfortunately, the beach by the hotel where we stayed was like this.

Eating and Drinking

Bantayan is no place for fancy, five-star hotel dinners and sunset cocktails. However, this does not mean you cannot have a gastronomic adventure while in the island. During our 4-day vacation, were able to sample some of their best culinary delights, from mouthwatering pizza to the best pork sinigang we have tasted. The nightlife is quite laidback, mostly spent listening to reggae music or having intimate conversations by the bar. While this is no place to get drunk and wild, it offers a perfect stress-free nightlife you might just not experience somewhere else. Lost all pics from where we had dinner and drinks. Best places to check out include Bavarian Beer Garden, HR Native Restaurant, CouCou Bar and Restaurant, and of course, Blue Ice Bar and Restaurant.

Virgin Island

Because it was windy during our trip, we were not able to swim at the beach in front of Anika. It was also kind of dirty that time. Good thing we visited Virgin Island, which is about 45 minutes away from the resort. We rented a boat for 800 pesos and paid 500 pesos for entrance good for two. We did not bring lunch because we were advised there is food in the island. However, it turned out they have nothing but fish, which can be only fried and does not look fresh. It will never be enough to get your stomach filled, especially if to plan to stay longer. Good thing they sell beer! If you are planning to include this in your Bantayan itinerary, be sure to bring lunch or at least pack sandwiches.

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Inland Tour

Bantayan Island is composed of three municipalities – Bantayan, Madridejos, and Sta. Fe. The island is relatively small and one whole day is more than enough for a tour. The best way to get around is to rent a motorcycle, which was what we did. We paid 700 pesos for the whole day and spent the day visiting caves, surrounding beaches, a church, the public market, and a nature farm.

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El Nido, Palawan: Twice The Charm The Second Time Around

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El Nido, Palawan

With the abudnance of accolades received by Palawan, including being voted as the best island in the world, there is no wonder why many people are suddenly including it on their bucket lists. Palawan, however, is huge and finding a specific place that tickles your pickle can be a hard feat. With plenteous stops to choose from when traveling in this world-class destination, one that truly stands out from the rest is El Nido.

When I first visited El Nido in June 2013, it was love at first sight, island romance at its best. I easily forgot how I loved every other local destinations I have visited. From the moment I left, I eagerly planned my return. It took quite a while, but when I came back in November 2014, it was the same feeling – trapped in a special kind of exhilaration that is hard to explain. This place has a unique character, making it an easy choice when asked by other people about the best place to visit in the Philippines.

Because I loved El Nido so much, I am sharing with you our experience during our 5-day trip. We stayed at Entalula Beach Cottages and booked all of our tours from Discover El Nido.

Entalula Beach Cottages

We booked a room for 2,500 per night good for three persons. The room was small and it has a veranda. It is by the beach, which gives you a good view of Bacuit Bay. The booking also came with a free breakfast. If you are a heavy eater, you might want to consider eating outside as their breakfast comes in really small servings.

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A bad shot of Entalula. Forgot to take pics of the room. 😦

Nacpan Twin Beach

During my first time in El Nido, we failed to visit Nacpan Twin Beach because of the bad weather. When I came back, I made sure it is going to be part of our itinerary. We rented a van and paid 800 per head to take us to Nacpan, which is about half an hour away from the town proper. There, we were greeted with an almost empty beach. We walked towards a hill to snap a commanding shot of the beach.

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Priceless view of Nacpan Twin Beach

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From the other side

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El Nido Crew

Marimegmeg Beach

After spending a few hours in Nacpan and swimming with the playful waves, we headed to Marimegmeg Beach. This is where we tried their zip line and watched sunset. There are a couple of accommodations here but more expensive than the ones you’ll see from the town proper.

Scenic zip line. 500 pesos one-way. Once you reach the other end, you can walk going to Marimegmeg Beach,

Scenic zip line. 500 pesos one-way. Once you reach the other end, you can walk going to Marimegmeg Beach,

Sunset at Marimegmeg Beach

Sunset at Marimegmeg Beach

Tour A

If you ask anyone who has ever been to El Nido or even the tour operators, this is going to be one of the most highly recommended activities. The regular price of this package is 1,200 pesos per head. Since I have already booked with Discover El Nido before, they gave me a discount and we had it for only 1,000 pesos. Renting a kayak is also ideal for this tour. We did so and paid 700 for one kayak for the whole day.

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For this tour, we visited the Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7 Commandos Beach. We used the kayak we rented to enter the Small Lagoon. You can ditch it if you know how to swim and if you have the energy to do so. For the Big Lagoon, all you can do is take pictures and there is no swimming.  We also entered the Secret Lagoon, which can be reached upon entering a small hole. We had lunch at Shimizu Island and went kayaking around the area. Our last stop was Shimizu Island where we had ice cold bottles of beer to end the tour for that day.

 

Tour C

This is another activity that should not be missed when you are in El Nido. Instead of the normal 1,400 pesos for this tour, we paid 1,200 only from Discover E Nido. Again, this is because I have already booked with them before. Our first stop is the Matinloc Shrine, an abandoned shrine where you can have a picturesque view upon climbing a rock. We also visited Hidden Beach and Secret Beach, both were nothing but amazing. The last time I was in El Nido, we were not able to enter the Secret Beach because of the high tide. In this trip, we are lucky enough to finally be able to enter the lagoon. It is a bit of a challenge especially for non-swimmers since you need to enter a small hole first. We had lunch at Star Beach, where the boatmen once again showcased their plating skills through the sumptuous meal they prepared for us. The tour ended with a visit to Helicopter Island. During my last trip, we did snorkeling here. This trip, I was too tired and did not eve entertain the idea of wearing my snorkeling gear.

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Boracay Haven Resort: A New and Promising Hotel at the Heart of Station 2

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Boracay Haven Resort: A New and Promising Hotel at the Heart of Station 2

By being strategically-located, a hotel enjoys the benefit of accessibility – one thing that lures people who are looking for the perfect accommodation. Staying in a place near where all the action is, in spite of being crowded, will make your vacation worry-free. With the beach, restaurants, bars, and other places of interests within its vicinity, Boracay Haven Resort became an easy choice for our first night in Boracay during the Labor Day weekend.

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The decision to book an overnight stay at Boracay Haven Resort is something I made in haste. During the Travel Tour Expo 2014 held at SMX, I found a room offered at 2,700 and after a quick look at their website, I had the booking settled right there and then. Perhaps because of excitement, it was too late when I realized that I did not check reviews from other people, especially from my always-trusted TripAdvisor. When I finally had the time to check, I became disappointed when I saw negative reviews from past guests, most of which were noting that construction is not yet done. Nonetheless, the management assured that by the #LaBoracay weekend, the hotel will be all good and ready to serve its guests.

Hotel's Reception Area

Hotel’s Reception Area

When we arrived at Boracay Haven, we were immediately attended by some of their friendly employees and were offered cold towel and welcome drinks. These were exactly what we needed to survive the heat! The check-in went a bit slow, but tolerable. We were informed that construction works are not yet totally finished and are scheduled from 10 am to 5 pm. From our experience, we have not been bothered as the noise is minimal.

The room given to us is at the 2nd floor of the hotel and was almost no way different from the pictures in their website. It has a balcony, where you can see the entire hotel, including the swimming pool and the restaurant. There is no fridge, but they have safety deposit box, TV, coffee and tea-making facilities, cabinet, and split-type AC. The bed was clean and very comfortable, although I prefer the pillows to be firmer.

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View the room's balcony

View the room’s balcony

Although the bathroom is nice, it is very evident that construction has been rushed. I liked how they do not skimp of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Instead of the usual small bottles, they have huge containers that would never ask for a refill. They do not have hair dryer and bidet, though. They have hot and cold shower. It was my first time to see a rainshower head with LED that changes its color when water is hot or cold! I found this really cool and cannot help but take a look at it while taking a shower.

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If you do not want to go outside the hotel to eat, they have their own restaurant and bar, which is open 24 hours. We had lunch there and ordered Sinigang na Baboy and Lumpiang Shanghai. I forgot how much exactly we paid, but I am sure it is between 500 to 600 pesos only. I would recommend eating here at least once during your stay. Not only that it is convenient, the food deserves a thumbs up! Two thumbs up, actually.

Lunch from Eden Bar and Restaurant

Lunch from Eden Bar and Restaurant

Our booking came with buffet breakfast, which is perhaps another reason on why we enjoyed Boracay Haven. Although options are quite limited, they are almost all good. Some items from the menu that I can remember include Potato Mojos, Chop Suey, Pancit Bihon, Pork Adobo, and Hungarian Sausage. They also have egg, salad, and fruit stations.

Buffet Breakfast

Buffet Breakfast

The swimming pool is one of the highlights of the hotel, but we did not have the chance to take a dip while we were there. From the way it looks, seems like the pool isn’t completely done, although already good for swimming.

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As you walk outside of the hotel going to the beach, you will pass by Boracay Regency and McDonald’s. Even if the hotel it not located on the beachfront, they have a private area by the beach that can be used by its guests. It is located in front of Reyes Barbecue, which is also owned by the same owners of Boracay Haven. This is also where you can get the complimentary cocktails given to their guests. Their sunbeds are perfect if you want to get a tan, see the sunset, or simply revel upon the sight of people enjoying the beach.

Sunset at Haven's exclusive beachfront area

Sunset at Haven’s exclusive beachfront area

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If you are making plans of heading to Boracay anytime soon, I highly recommend that you check Boracay Haven Resort. The rates are very affordable, while making sure that your stay will be memorable. This will surely make you love Boracay even more.

 

 

Misibis Bay Resort and Casino: A Piece of Luxury in Bicol

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Misibis Bay Resort and Casino: A Piece of Luxury in Bicol

Dubbed as a luxury island playground, Misibis Bay Resort and Casino in Albay, Bicol offers elegant accommodations with top-notch facilities to provide their guests with an experience that is worth the splurge. Being a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Misibis is within the ranks of Discovery Shores in Boracay, Eskaya Beach Resort and Spa in Bohol, and Pangalusian Island Resort in El Nido.

This trip would have not been possible if I have to pay for my own accommodation. Luckily, I was tagged along to join my tita’s group for this trip. I was the one who took care of the booking, which is why I was the default choice as replacement when someone was not able to make it. I made the booking during the Travel Tour Expo, which made the price lower than normal rates. I travelled with a group of 9 people who paid 16,000 per head. This rate is inclusive of 3-day, 2-night accommodation, round-trip land transfers, full-board meals, complimentary city tour, and a set of activities.

Welcome to Legazpi!

Welcome to Legazpi!

From Legazpi airport, Misibis can be reached in 45 minutes via land. It was already around lunch time when I arrived at the airport (after a 2-hour delayed flight). The van took me straight to the resort. With the scenic view, I did not notice how time passed by. Quickly, I found myself being welcomed by two people in native costumes performing a traditional dance. I was given a lei, welcome drinks, cold towel, and fish crackers. After checking-in and a brief orientation, I headed straight to the restaurant, too eager to start with a sumptuous lunch.

Dancers in native costume

Dancers in native costume

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Reception Hall

Reception Hall

Welcome to Misibis Bay Resort!

The Garden View Room where we stayed was grand in ways more than one. From the scenic view from the window, comfortable beds, exceptional in-room facilities, bathroom, and even toiletries, you can indeed experience luxury. What I liked most about the room is that it is situated in an area with its own swimming pool. The  glass widow that overlooks a lush landscape is something that will make anyone love the room even more.

Garden View Room

Garden View Room

View from the window

View from the window

The Bathroom

The Bathroom

Pool in the Garden View Rooms

Pool in the Garden View Rooms

There are other swimming pools that are located around the resort, the most notable of which would be their infinity pool, which also has a pool bar. There is also the lagoon pool, which was the biggest, and a kiddie pool.

The Swimming Pools of Misibis

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Infinity Pool

Infinity Pool

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Lagoon Pool

Lagoon Pool

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Kiddie Pool

Kiddie Pool

Pool Beds

Pool Beds

Pool Bar

Pool Bar

Lagoon Pool Cabanas

Lagoon Pool Cabanas

If you feel like basking under the scorching heat of the sun, you can head to the beach, where there are tons of activities for you to enjoy. While it is perfect for sun-bathing, you might want to think twice before swimming since it is as nice as I pictured it would be.

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The Beach

The Beach

Nonetheless, it is still nice in its own way, especially given the fact that it offers an abundance of activities that can make your stay more special. I tried the Jet Ski for 30 minutes. Other activities that can be enjoyed include kayaking, paddle boarding, and sailing. At the farther end of the beach, we did snorkeling. Without sounding exaggerated, I believe it is one of the best snorkeling sites I have ever been. The colorful school of fishes made me wish I had an underwater camera. Too bad I cannot share with you how beautiful it was. The sunset cruise is another activity that should not be missed when in Misibis. The highlight? The Mayon Volcano with the golden setting sun as its backdrop.

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Jet Ski

Jet Ski

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Snorkeling

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Boat for the sunset cruise

Boat for the sunset cruise

Mayon Volcano as seen during the sunset cruise

Mayon Volcano as seen during the sunset cruise

Aside from the water activities, another thing that will make your stay worthwhile is the Segway. It came free with the package that we availed. Using the Segway, we went around the resort and the beach. I also tried the ATV ride going to the hilltop where you can enjoy a breathtaking view. Unfortunately, the area with the zipline was closed during that time, which made me unable to try it.

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Segway

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They also have a recreational area where you can play a game of pool, foosball, or darts, among others. You can also simply lounge at the bar outside and have a drink. Aside from the fitness center, they also have a spa, perfect to make your stay more relaxing. They also have a locker room, which I guess is made for those who were visiting for day tour. If you are into gambling, they also have a casino, though it is most of the time empty and they have limited operating hours.

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The Locker Room

The Locker Room

With all the fun that you can have in Misibis, your stomach surely needs to be filled. Our booking came with full-board meals in buffet setup. The food varied per meal, and I have to commend their chef for their delicious dishes. For sure, you will be never left starving and you will find it hard to leave Spices Restaurant, where the meals are served.

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Inside Spice Market Restaurant

Inside Spice Market Restaurant

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Outside Spice Market Restaurant

While exclusivity and luxury are sure to make your Misibis experience pleasurable, one thing that can make it even more delightful would be the hospitality of the staff. Of all the places I’ve been, Misibis may have taken the spot for having the friendliest employees. Everywhere you see them, the warmth of their smile will surely brighten your day.

So, if you feel like spending and having a memorable vacation in Bicol, look no further. Misibis Bay Resort and Casino will surely provide you with a one-of-a-kind experience that other resorts might find hard to rival.

Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club: A Family-friendly Resort in Batangas

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Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club 

Travelling for three hours can prove to be grueling, but not when you expect something good by the time that you reach your destination. Taking the easy route going to Nasugbu via CAVITEX, we all did not expect that it will still be a long time spent on the road. Nonetheless, hours spent sitting on the van with the A/C almost failing to beat the summer heat was finally rewarded with delight when we reached our destination: Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club. Based on what I have learned from their website, Pico de Loro is Spanish for parrot’s beak, which is the shape that is supposedly resembled by Mt. Pico. Pico de Loro is one of the 13 coves that are located at Hamilo Coast. The whole resort consists of a beach club, country club, chapel, condominiums, and hotel, among others. This will pretty much already provide you with an idea of how huge the entire place is. Traveling with a group of 12 people and without a member, we managed to squeeze ourselves in one 2-bedroom condo unit. The resort’s policies dictate that members can endorse up to 10 guests during weekdays, and 6 guests during weekends (provided that the guests are staying with the member). Aside from the condos, you can also consider Pico Sands Hotel for your accommodation, but I do not find this practical since it is quite expensive, especially if you are checking in as a big group like us. The unit that we rented costs 10,000 pesos for an overnight stay. The price, I guess, will depend on the policies of the owner of the unit. I heard from a friend of mine that they are having their unit made available for rent for only 8,000, which also has two bedrooms. Aside from the accommodation, you also have to pay 1,000 per head for the use of the facilities. The beach club, however, can be only accessed when you are accompanied by the member. On the right side of the beach club is the area that can be accessed even by non-members. Image Image

The clubhouse, which can be accessed by both members and non-members, is the highlight of the resort. Aside from the 3-tiered swimming pool, you can enjoy other activities at a fee, such as billiards, KTV, bowling, and kid’s play area.

The Clubhouse 

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The beach club also has its own swimming pool, but smaller and of less grandeur than the one that can be found at the club house. When I first visited Pico de Loro, this area was still open even for non-members.

The Beach

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As you head to the water, you can see a warning informing you to be cautious of jellyfish. The 1.5-kilometer beach has fine brown sand and clear water. You can even see small silver fishes swimming with you. I do not know what you call them! ImageImage

There are several restaurants that you can visit when your stomach needs a filling. In our case, since we are staying in one of their low-rise condos, we opted to bring foods instead. The unit were we stayed has a functional kitchen that is almost complete with things that you will need, including utensils and rice cooker. If you want beer, you will also have several choices. We first opted to have drinks by the pool in the club house, but turned out that they close by 10pm. With this, we opted to have drinks at the hotel, which closes late (or they may be open 24 hours). One more thing that I liked about Pico de Loro is the serenity that it offers. Take a walk anytime of the day and you will surely feel one with nature. The views are not only scenic, but also very relaxing. ImageImageImage   Image Image Image

If you want to have a good view of the cove, you can head to the chapel, as seen from the picture below.

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Pico de Loro never disappoints. If I own a unit there (which is far from happening), I wouldn’t mind visiting the place every weekend. It is perfect for families looking a place that can offer them relaxation and for groups of friends who have grown tired of the usual weekend parties in the metro. The entire resort was just so serene, reminiscent of movie scenes wherein the main character tries to commune with nature to find inner peace. The lush landscape and man-made lagoon will provide a picturesque sight that you might find hard to forget once you are back in the city.