Sabang, Puerto Galera: Easy Get-Away at One of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World

Begin with the end in mind: Stress-free holiday

It was a beautiful Easter Sunday.

My family and relatives were munching on humongous bags of Kettle Korn and savoring our beautiful three days spent at Puerto Galera when I turned on the television and watched the news. My jaw nearly dropped (including some half-munched popcorns) when I saw what is on the telly: horrible traffic jam not just at the North Luzon Expressway but also at the South Luzon Expressway. The beeline at the toll gates stretched as far as two kilometers long!  I heaved a sigh of relief and thanked my lucky stars that we were not part of the massive homecoming crowd.  Although truth be told, we never considered going to the “North” or even the “South” during Holy Week. Simply put, a nice holiday should be stress free.

Just like most people, we also took advantage of the Holy Week for some well-deserved holiday. However, we decided to go to Sabang, Puerto Galera for the following reasons:

1) From Calamba exit there is a connecting road that leads to the STAR Tollway to Batangas port.  I have yet to experience a vehicle congested STAR Tollway during the holidays.

2) At Batangas Port, there are numerous paid (and guarded) parking areas with reasonable rates.

3) Sabang, Puerto Galera is only an hour and fifteen minutes away by motorized outrigger boats from Batangas port. The boat ride costs 260 pesos per head (or about 5 USD).

4) Sabang, Puerto Galera is a popular diving and snorkeling spot.  More than anything, it is not as crowded as the White Beach.

5) Big La Laguna at Sabang, Puerto Galera is a very safe beach even for kids.

outrigger boats

So how was our return trip home?

After feasting on fresh crabs, we left our simple accommodations at Big La Laguna at around 12:45 pm.  Since we do not fancy walking to Sabang jetty port which is around 7 kilometers away from Big La Laguna, we walked to the beach and negotiated with a boatman to bring us to Sabang.  The one-way boat trip cost 200 pesos only which is a good price for 14 people. Since the boat from Sabang to Batangas port was scheduled to leave at 1:00 pm we sent an SMS to our contact at Father and Son lines to reserve our tickets.  We just paid for our fare before boarding the boat. After an hour and fifteen minutes of boat ride we arrived at Batangas Port. We walked to the car park and then drove home. Easy breezy.

safe beach for kids

On food & luggage

From Sabang jetty port, just walk a few meters to the wet market and buy some fresh produce to save tons of cash on food.  Don’t worry about being burdened with too  much stuff, just ask a boatman to bring you to Big La Laguna.  Cost of boat ride will just set you back 200 pesos (haggle if needed).

fresh seafood

Accommodation

Best place to stay is at the small houses for rent that are just a few meters from the beach of Big La Laguna.  We always go to Cataquis Lodge because they are very friendly and located just about fifteen feet from the shoreline. At Big La Laguna you can have endless fun under the sun or snorkel to your heart’s content. The beach is very safe for kids especially during low tide. A Cataquis Lodge (two bedrooms, aircon, cooking stove and cutlery, hot and cold shower, ensuite toilet) just cost us 3,000 pesos (or 68 USD) per night.

beach huts

Sabang, Puerto Galera: Where the “Underwater” Magic Happens

Mask, fins, snorkel and life vests can be rented for 100 pesos per day at a stall near the beach at Big La Laguna. Do rent some gear to fully enjoy the underwater views. You can try kayaking too. There will be “island hopping tour” agents who will approach you and offer you tour packages to the coral garden, cave, giant clams, and other interesting sites.  Usually the rate is at 1000 pesos for the boat rental and around 200 pesos per head for the “attractions.”

snorkeling for all ages

Travel hack: The boat rental for the “island hopping tour”  usually comes with free snorkeling gear.

magical at coral garden

Diving at Sabang:  Best bang for the buck

Sabang perhaps can be considered as the place to be if you are a diver. My wife and I decided to go for the Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) package.  We asked around and found Sea Rider Dive Center which offers the DSD for 2,500 pesos per person.  Obviously I expected to have a fantastic time considering the cost of the activity.

The DSD was a beautiful experience.  We intently listened to our diving instructor “Annie” for a quick but very important lecture on diving and then practiced some diving related skills at the shallow part of the beach. When we were just about ready, we were brought to a diving site and interacted with the marine life 21 feet below the surface. Truly an unforgettable experience!

discover scuba diving

Hope you can visit Sabang too, friends!

 

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Balay Indang: On team building, finding oneself, and true recreation

Balay Indang (the Red Ginger Farm and Garden) is located at 88 Mahabang Kahoy, Indang, Cavite, Philippines.  “Balay” means house and perhaps this is an apt name for this charming bed and breakfast at this part of Southern Luzon.  Balay Indang is a bit popular for those who have been there or experienced a company sponsored R&R at the place.  However, it is not yet too “commercialized” which lends to its rustic charm.

Balay Indang is just an hour drive from Sta. Rosa City, Laguna. You will pass by the scenic Tagaytay road before reaching the main road  to Indang, Cavite where Balay Indang is located.

fruits

Going to Balay is really effortless because traffic is light and easy. The only catch though is that they have a small signboard and if you are going too fast then you might just miss the place.

Team Building at Balay

Last 31 March, we decided to hold our department team building at Balay Indang.  The place was a run away choice for two reasons:

  1.  It is relatively affordable at 700 pesos per person (around 16 USD) which includes a sumptuous lunch and use of the pool.
  2. It is a wonderful place that invites one to simply “re-charge” and “re-connect.”

walk

Upon arriving at Balay Indang, one cannot help but immediately feel relaxed. Take note though that it is not a resort. Imagine instead that you are at a friend’s retirement farm.

pool

There is no wifi at the place. Instead, guests are encouraged to talk to each other, find time for personal reflection and take leisurely walks or just rest. For those who are highly strung and burned out, Balay Indang will be a good place to start the “recovery period.”

meeting

Balay Indang has a large pavilion near the pool wherein a group can have some team building activities

pavilion

Make sure to utilize the pool area in your team building exercises so you can have a quick low-impact exercise too.

palying

Balay Indang serves fresh “home-cooked” meals. Yup, the kind that makes you think of your mom. Fresh dalandan juice, salad greens with sublime savory honey mustard dressing, tuna wasabi, oven roasted chicken…the list goes on. Free refills for those with hearty appetites!

feast

Finding Oneself and True  Recreation

After feeding the body, there are opportunities to feed the soul. They have a “sanctuary” where one can spend some quiet time, reflect, and just get away from the hustle and bustle of things.

sacntuary

They also have a barefoot walk which is basically a foot path littered with stones of various sizes, shapes, and textures.  An interesting experience for those tired feet.

barefoot walk

If you feel like having some “me time” then the vast property will be more than enough for a person to walk till he reaches enlightenment…or something like it.

path

 

Perhaps you want to just spend the afternoon under the shade of a tree.  And maybe, just maybe you will fall into sweet slumber.

tree shade

Some folks do get hungry after an afternoon nap.  So when you hear the bell, then that means you are more than welcome to partake of the food at the Balay.

bells

If you ever need to “sharpen the saw” then perhaps you can consider Balay Indang.  Truly, it can be your home away from home.

summ

Easy Luxury: Summer at Dos Palmas, Arreceffi Island, Palawan

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.

x3

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.

x beach

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.

x snorkel

The birthday peg allows one to have a special birthday cake for free.  Anything that is free is a good deal for me!

x bday

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.

x dried fish

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.

x paradise

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!

x sunset

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.

x karaenan

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.

x pool

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.

x bday beach

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.”

x snorkel buddy

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.

x spa

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)!

x go htoel

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.

x mercado

x kasuy

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.

x palnains

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’!”

x kalui

It was a wonderful way to kick off summer 2014 and Dos Palmas is really a gem.

Hope you can visit someday, friends!

x end

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Comments & suggestions are very much welcome