The Set Up
It all started with a goal: Kick off the summer in a luxurious island resort at Palawan.
However, there are two conditions:
1. The kick off must not break the piggy bank;
2. The escapade should have the best bang for the buck.
And so last December 2013, the Dos Palmas Summer escapade planning and implementation began. Yup, three months before Summer 2014. Back when people were still nursing Christmas party hangovers, we were already thinking about the beach, the sun, and the great blue sea.
Providentially, there was a seat sale at Tiger Airways which saved us heaps of cash.
Consider this: Two way fare for four adults for only PhP 2,000 or around USD 45. Then we booked our stay at Dos Palmas and leaned heavily on our status as “returning guests” and a “birthday celebration” peg to hustle a beach villa close to the Karaenan resto. This is critical since there are beach villas at the far end of the resort. I assure you that when you are dead tired from too much snorkeling then walking a few paces is a real struggle.
The birthday peg allows one to have a special birthday cake for free. Anything that is free is a good deal for me!
Sometimes cheap comes at a price
To our surprise, by the first week of March 2014 we received an email from Tiger Airways. Our booked return flight from Palawan was moved to an earlier time. This is a bit of a problem since we will be forced to leave Dos Palmas (at Arreceffi Island) very early in the morning. This also means cutting our vacation short. The solution: We called up Tiger Airways to ask if it is possible to have our return flight moved the other day. They agreed. As a result, we can leave Dos Palmas at lunchtime, go to Palawan city and just check in at a value hotel. We will use the afternoon to buy some pasalubong, sleep, and then leave early the next day. Problem solved.
The good, the fantastic, and the wonderful
At Dos Palmas, expect to be treated like royals. Well almost. At 13,000 pesos (or 295 USD) a night perhaps one can expect great service. If you wish to cut that rate to half, check agoda.com. You can have a beach villa for around PhP 5,000+ a night (or USD 113) and enjoy luxurious accommodations.
The beach villa is air conditioned. The terrace opens at the back where one can enjoy the view of the beach AND mangrove forest. Fantastic sunsets can be viewed at an observation deck. Below the observation deck one can see clown fishes, some small sharks, and large sea urchins. The marine life is vibrant!
The Karaenan resto serves wonderful food in big servings. However, if you are a vegan or hypertensive then you have to settle for a limited selection of vegetable-based offerings. For those who want to celebrate and let calories shoot through the roof, the resto will not fall short of fulfilling your expectations. As for the price, food is relatively affordable at around PhP 600 (USD 13) for three adults.
There is wifi at the resto and at the bar. The signal is erratic but that is understandable considering the location of the resort. The bar serves interesting mixes although a bit pricey so make every shot count. Piece of advice: Skip the beer and take your drinks neat. Soda (Sprite) is a common mixer and a bit of a disappointment if you are looking for a quick buzz.
For a special occassion, you can request the Dos Palmas staff to prepare a special “private dinner by the beach.” It is a bit expensive but the experience is worth it. Imagine the cool sea breeze, sand on your feet, romantic tea lights and your loved ones dining and celebrating. Well, you get the drift.
Interested to see some fantastic marine life? Dos Palmas has their own coral reef called “Helen’s Garden.” The resort staff will bring you there using a speed boat. A marine guide will help you enjoy your snorkeling adventure even if you don’t know how to swim. Talk about being “inclusive.”
After a hard day of beach bumming, you can head to the Pranarian Spa for a good massage. Not expensive at around PhP 600 per session. Or you can just do some laps at the adjacent private pool.
At Palawan City
We left Dos Palmas after lunch and headed straight to Go Hotels at Palawan City. We booked online and using our “agoda rewards” we were able to book a room good for four people for only PhP 300 (USD 9)!
The hotel is near Robinson’s Mall and a few minutes by trike to popular souvenir shop “Mercado de San Miguel” and the “Old Market.” Travel hack: Hire a trike to bring you to Mercado and the Old Market. It will be more convenient and you get to experience “local color” too.
Beware though, souvenir shirts and cashew tarts are way cheaper at the Mercado than in the Old Market. A few steps from the entrance of the Old Market one can find a long stall of street food vendors selling banana cue, camote cue, and vegetable okoy.
Hungry after all that shopping? Head over to Ka Lui Restaurant (Note: They are closed on Sundays) and feast on their fresh and delicious offerings. Don’t forget to take off your shoes and sandals though before you enter the dining hall. At Ka Lui’s, “you are barefootin’!”
It was a wonderful way to kick off summer 2014 and Dos Palmas is really a gem.
Hope you can visit someday, friends!