Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Laiya Batangas: Acuatico Beach Resort

We started our drive to Batangas at 4am, the dusky sky at a standstill, showing no sign of emerging sun-up. The kids are awake and excited, although I wished for them to fall back to sleep as I do not have the unbridled energy to match theirs at this unholy hour of the day. As expected of a Holy Week excursion, the travel took around 4 hours, not counting the breakfast stop-over.

Due to its proximity to Manila, the province of Batangas is the primary preference for urban dwellers wanting to take off on a sojourn. The number of white sand beaches in the province are widely scattered throughout the different municipalities. The road that runs north and south through the west coast of the province has the famous Matabungkay Beach which can be found in the northern province of Lian; still farther up north is Nasugbu where the very exclusive Punta Fuego is situated; Calatagan can be found downward south, home of the country’s cable ski park and resort, Lago de Oro. On the south-eastern boundary, in the province of San Juan, is the salt-water Laiya beach.

The Laiya shoreline is a seven kilometer strip of white sandy shores and warm azure water, nestled behind the peaks of the conspicuous Mt.Daguldol. The Laiya beach (pronounced as La-i-ya) is situated along the coast of Sibayan Bay and Verde Island Passage, which lay claim to having the peak concentration of marine life in the world as appraisedby the World Conservation Union.

The white sand this beach offers is, in reality, a far cry from the powdery smooth sand of Boracay; the Laiya sand is rough and coarse, more like the collection of very tiny pebbles you put at the bottom of a terrarium. Nonetheless, the water is clean and incredibly clear, so no worries.

Inspite of the rutted quality of the sand, C and I enjoyed walking along the shoreline. As soon as the sun breaks the monotony of the sky with her sprinkles of yellow, we are off to the beach. I thought of it as having some exercise combined with foot exfoliation. :)
The kids, though, were not too keen on it. J and R, although not that enthusiastic to walk on the sand, did not mind a short leisurely walk. B was a different thing all together. She was all up in arms, "Why do I have to walk on the sand?" Her stubbornness showing itself, "I won't walk! Even if you leave me alone!"

Ok, if she says so...
But C doesn't really have a choice ...
There were a lot of tiny sand crabs leaping about in the glistening wet sand. C and R spend a few minutes catching these shy yet speedy little creatures. It's tricky to do and it is best done by scooping the tiny crab hiding inside the moundful of sand and sifting the sand until the crab reveals itself. Of course, as soon as they were done with it, they wished the crabs bon voyage and returned them to the sand so they can go back to where they belong!

Although Acuatico doesn’t have the wide and spacious frontage that other resorts have, it lays claim to having the best pool among the Laiya resorts, or even the whole of Batangas, for that matter. The pool area itself is divided in four parts: the Jacuzzi is nearest the dining area, followed by the kiddie pool, and a wading pool with a floating bar in the middle, and finally the pièce de résistance - the infinity edge pool that looks out to the open sea.
The first phase of the resort has several Balinese inspired villas of different sizes built on both sides of the pool. The rooms are sparsely furnished and modestly sized with a choice of either 2 twin-sized beds or one queen bed. An extra twin-sized bed can be arranged for P700.00. There are LCD TV provided for every villa, with the bigger villas getting two units.

We stayed at Estancia, a three-bedroom villa, the biggest in the resort and with the best location. It allows you to step right out of the villa door and into the infinity pool. We were lucky to get the room on the second floor as it afforded us some privacy, and the exclusive use of our own LCD TV. The verandah provides a panoramic view of the resort and the sea. However, there was only one bathroom in the entire villa and it is located on the first floor. It was a minor hassle going down in the middle of the night to go take a pee. C always has issues with the bathroom - everywhere we go. He just about panicked when he found out that there was only one bathroom to be shared by 10 kids and 6 adults.
The second stage of the resort is put up in the structure housing the dining hall, far away from the beach. It features 7 more rooms with accommodations similar to a modern hotel, with a refrigerator and a bathroom in every room. Although the rooms here are more spacious, they offer a limited view of the pool and the sea.

Each villa has a well-manicured tropical garden which we easily managed to turn into a hodge-podge of clutter….
The resort is undoubtedly the priciest among the Laiya resorts, but discriminating guests can see that the steep price went into the exclusivity and the small niceties the resort provided. The resort has a maximum guests limit of 60 persons; this means less intrusion and more relaxation. I appreciate all the fine and luxurious details like the faint scent which lingers on your skin after you use their translucent and highly-glycerinated soap infused with green tea essence; the velvety soft bed sheets; the restful sleep that a good quality mattress can bring about.

The kids also enjoyed the use of the water activities which came at no extra cost.

They were in the water for a good 30 minutes before I noticed that the girls had taken over at the helm, and were pedaling – with their legs up in the air! While the boys were busy at the back … scooping out water off the boat.
Luckily, the resort had several lifeguards on duty that went out to bail them before their boat filled up with water.
We didn't really have time to pose for a family pic as everyone was too busy having fun. This photo is only one of two taken during our entire 3-day stay. We will definitely be back!