Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Acuatico Beach Resort: Almost Picture Perfect (Laiya, San Juan, Batangas)

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.

I took my family for a costly overnighter just before New Year. At PhP24,000 ($540), I didn't mind the price since this was family activity. Six people on a "cottage" named Estancia A. Cottage should be a misnomer because it looks like a small home: 2 levels, 3 rooms, a terrace on both levels, a living room, and a bathroom with 4 side-by-side shower closets; all a hop away from the swimming pool.

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!  

Welcome drinks

Living room

Bed 1, my bed, at the 2nd level

Bed 2 at the ground floor

Bed 3 facing the pool at the ground floor

My bed

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.

Front desk

Driveway. Outside is the highway.

Simona Spa


Ramakrishnan said...

Fascinating pictures of a picturesque resort.It is a pity even after paying a kings ransom you had to put up with disturbances.

eye in the sky said...

I know, Ram. Sometimes manners and proper decorum can't be bought. ;) And some resorts don't know how to handle situations that benefit most of their paying guests.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello greetings and good wishes.

This is an amazing resort and the photos are fantastic.

Some how two things put me off. One is the noise of drunken revelers in the night disturbing the quiet and peace of others. This happened in a hotel once I was staying and I vacated the hotel the very next morning.

And flies. Oh, I am frightened of flies in a hotel. They carry germs. I don't like to eat in hotel with flies.

Such an enchanting place and the owners are not bothered about these nuisances. And yet people are going there to stay. This is very strange. May be the people are attracted to the extra ordinary beauty of the location of this resort.

I loved your photos of this beautiful place with an interesting commentary.

Best wishes.

eye in the sky said...

It's a beautiful place especially if one likes taking photos. Too bad they have more than enough cons to make me want to come back. :(

Lora said...

Hi, I like that your blog entry is an honest one. I'm planning to book a room in this resort with my family, but reading your comments, I'm having second thoughts. I think ill gonna wait for some discounts or promo rates first b4 i visit this hotel. haha

eye in the sky said...

Hi, Lora, Please don't let this blog post stop you from visiting the place and see it for yourself. Just maybe you will have a different experience from mine? Enjoy. :)

Czarina Maye said...

I've been wanting to visit this place for quite some time now. Like the others, it's hard to book coz they sold out really fast. Moving on, I've just deposited almost P26k for our 3D2N trip next month. Also staying in Estancia with the rest of the fam. I'm not exactly happy with what I'm reading about now. Haha. Parang gusto ko humingi ng refund. LOL.

eye in the sky said...

Hi Czarina,

Since you've wanted to visit Acuatico, then your visit won't be for nought. Who knows you might actually like it? There's very limited activity though, unless your idea of a holiday is pool-swimming all day long (their pool is open until 10 PM). The good thing about your visit is that you will be able to actually say your piece about the resort. That is more than enough reason to go through with it... and I do hope you will enjoy your visit with your family. I love their rooms; the bed and sheets are very comfortable. Please let us know how your holiday went? And please don't let this little "review"rain on your holiday parade. Have fun. :)

Juvy Ann Petilla said...

The place looks real nice though from your pictures. We have stayed at its sister resort "Acuaverde" and had a splendid relaxing weekend. The only thing missing at Acuaverde is a pool and it would have been perfect.

Unknown said...

Hi! Any suggestions on where to go or any attractions near acuatico? Thanks!

eye in the sky said...

Sorry for the very delayed reply, Yigael. I've rarely visited my blog since last year. Hope you had fun in Acuatico.

eye in the sky said...

Sorry for the very delayed reply, Juvyann. I haven't been actively blogging and wasn't aware I had tons of unanswered messages in this blog. Hope you had fun at the other resort.

Henry Price said...

I enjoyed reading your staycation experience. I could say that this is the real staycation as it is worry free and enjoyable. The activities and the whole place is filled with relaxation and fun. The hotels and beaches in The Select App, which I use everytime I planned for a staycation has the same hotel pass and offers.