Make no mistake, Acuatico Beach Resort is one of the most picturesque places I've visited in Luzon. But I had ambivalent feelings about the place for a lot of reasons; I'm getting ahead of myself, am I not?. Acuatico is beautifully designed and conceptualized, maximizing the limited space it occupies on the beachfront of Laiya in San Juan, Batangas.
Breakfast is inclusive; all other meals are paid extra, with a buffet rate of PhP800++ per person, if I remember it right. In short, this is an expensive place to be, and quite popular as well. In fact, booking via Agoda for the next 6 months is almost quite impossible. How so? They have limited number of rooms, thus limited occupancy.
The cascading pool reminds me of Crimson Resort in Mactan, Cebu, albeit a small-scale version. In comparison to Batangas' Pico de Loro, there will probably be 6-or-more Acuaticos to fit into the area that Pico de Loro occupies. This renders the place a degree of intimacy. No one will get lost here, that's for sure.
The moment you step out of the lobby, after checking in, the lagoon-styled swimming pool greets you with a certain degree of awe or wonderment - or both. Our cottage is just in front of the infinity pool and just a few paces from the beach. Each stand-alone cottage is exquisitely designed - modern, light, breezy, employing skylight for natural illumination (glass panels on the ceiling and on walls). Modern conveniences are supplied: refrigerator, LCD cable televisions in every room; split-type AC; a bathroom that has glazed see-through glasses as doors, etc.
Unfortunately, despite what seems prime materials to construct these rooms, the walls are too thin that we could hear people talking from the cottage beside us, which is a bit baffling because there's space between cottages. Yes, you could eavesdrop from your neighbor's room.
But what bothers me is that the resort doesn't seem to have regulations against noise even after midnight - when people are supposed to be asleep. A boisterous group had drinking spree until 4:30 AM and we could hear their laughter and oblivious chatter until dawn. If you want solitude and peace, your 20K won't guarantee you that. I read about a similar observation from some guests in Trip Advisor and Agoda and I thought that the incident could be a random situation. Guess what?
In the evening, before the inconsiderate merriment of some uncivilized souls, the surroundings turned into a magical haven of reflections-on-water and serenity, bathed by warm lights from all around. The easterly wind blew a cool, relaxing breeze. It was almost perfect, until 10 PM. We went there on a Tuesday. Imagine how it is on a weekend.
The beach is a small patch of golden sand, bigger than what qualifies as "fine sand". The waters have rocks and sudden depressions so they're not exactly safe for children, but then you have your picturesque pool to play in, which is open until 10PM. They have lifeguards too; watchful guards sneak in the periphery..
I travel mostly to places that interest me. This one did. But if I want to take my family for an overnighter, is it worth taking them here? Like most travels, I research and read reviews. How did other people find it? Did they whine reasonably? Did they dance in absolute ecstasy? So I turned to Agoda, Trip Advisor and some blogs for the nitty gritty. There are after all factors to consider when you travel with family: distance, location, price, amenities, food, service, and sheer beauty and convenience.
Acuatico Beach Resort is located in the town of San Juan, Batangas, some 120 kilometers south of Manila and 43 kilometers east of the provincial capitol of Vilma Santos' Batangas City. The coast of Laiya is dotted with resorts, you'd lose count if you consider the billboards advertising them from the sidewalk. Tayabas Bay moves its ripples to the south and eastern coasts. Quezon Province is a neighbor. Most literature say that it takes 3 hours to get there from Manila. A blog even boasts it took him 2.5 hours - and maybe he had wings. We took 4 hours, including a less than 30-minute detour in Lipa City. The drive is long. The town of Rosario seems to go on forever.
I have mentioned about the amenities: top class and modern. Wifi has excellent signal. Unfortunately, this connection disconnects every 10 minutes or so - without fail! You'd have to reconnect again and again, if it doesn't drive you crazy. Most times, this reconnection doesn't even work. Modern resort with absolutely shitty internet connection. Period.
Then there's the food. Our stay had inclusive breakfast at the Oceano Restaurant. Supper, which we paid PhP800+ per head (if I remember it right). Thankfully, dinner was okay. They served crabs and shrimps. There was a tasty sisig and platters of sushi on one of the buffet stations. When breakfast came, I was surprised that everything they served was bland. Heck, even the rice didn't taste like the usual Oryza sativa. It tasted old. Longganisa was dry. And how can a freshly cooked omelette taste so bad, I wanted to throw up after the meal. I remember online reviews saying how bad their food was.
If culinary mastery isn't their strong suit, check out observations about the restaurant's pesky visitors. Flies! How can an enclosed meal hall have so much flies inside? Unless they've never heard of pesticides or fumigation, it is one thing they have to remedy. Yet if you notice the guest comments, these go as far back as a year ago. One year and no effective solution?
Clearly, there are better options. After all, you don't pay 20K for a dining hall riddled with Dipteras, characterized by an unforgivably bland breakfast. Finally, if you expect a restful sleep, you'll have better luck elsewhere. Resorts that are way nearer, quieter and bigger - and most probably less expensive. Forget the picture-perfect place. Acuatico isn't the only one in all of Luzon.
But hey, everything is relative, and I am writing from my own experience. You may be willing to drive that far and numb your senses to the resort's weaknesses; bask on its strength. Others obviously have. Take note of its occupancy.
This is the Eye in the Sky!
|Bed 1, my bed, at the 2nd level|
|Bed 2 at the ground floor|
|Bed 3 facing the pool at the ground floor|
|Veranda from the 2nd floor|
|4 shower cubicles with glazed doors, you can actually see who's inside when he's doing his "business".|
|The pebbly beach with rocky sea bed and sudden depressions.|
|The beach facing Tayabas Bay.|
|The cottage beside us.|
|Delicious Uraro, arrowroot cookies, that are complimentary gifts in every room. They melt in your mouth.|
|Driveway. Outside is the highway.|