Coco Beach, Northern Luzon
September - October 2008
Part I - Coco Beach, Ilocandia

If you want to skip directly to the other parts, then just hit
Part II  - Pagudpud or
Part III - Laoag, Vigan, La Union


This is an abridged description of a trip to Puerto Galera and Northern Luzon in September-October 2008. The intention is to give a firsthand personal experience of how we, Joy and I, traveled through the country and stayed in the best resorts in most of the places. So there was not much adventure but utmost relaxation (again).

Since this is not only a travel report but also a personal memory album I apologize for showing too many photos also just about our happy days (are here again), almost like a honeymoon (maybe as a suggestion now for real honeymooners after I already described a retirement stay in Puerto Galera the previous year).

And this kind of a journey implies wanting to have a hassle free stay (without any adventure) and thus I have put more emphasis on describing those resorts a little bit more and as neutral as possible (WEW Michelin). I didn't get any incentives for a positive evaluation and I disavow any personal connection with any of the resorts I visited.

How to get from Berlin (or Frankfurt) to Manila

As far as I am concerned I was not coming directly from Berlin to Manila this time but actually from Samar, where I stayed with Joy in her home village for a couple of month before we went on this trip.

There are many ways to get to the Philippines. I prefer the 4-star Qatar Airways (they rate themselves 5-star). They fly to Manila via Doha, thus changing planes only once. Some people seemed to have some problems with them, but I could never complain (never delayed, no charge for excess weight, and they even put me once into business class without surcharge). Gulf Air would be my second choice. One year ago I paid for a round trip ticket from Berlin, valid up to 6 months, 719 Euro (including tax), but this time the fare has increased considerably to 1040 Euro. I book all my flights at the Vietnamese Travel Agency Deviko in Berlin. My "girlfriend" Dr. Phan always books the cheapest flight possible.

How to get from Manila to Coco Beach of Puerto Galera

Our first destination during this trip was Puerto Galera (after a stopover in Manila), where we had been before (see Puerto Galera Nov-Dec 2007) But this time we have chosen the best (in my opinion) and a little expensive resort (but still cheap to Western standard), the Coco Beach Island Resort.

The DeLuxe Cottage (see photos) for two did cost 42 Euro including breakfast buffet. This rate is the lowest during the lean season from August 1 to September 31. This resort also offers their own transport from Manila (and return for 8 Euro). The only thing was that the pickup was at the too expensive Diamond Hotel, where we didn't stay but rather at the
Cherry Blossom Hotel
550 Jorge Bocobo Ext.
Ermita, Manila
Tel.: (02) 524-7632
which offered a standard double room for 1580 Peso (24 Euro) including American breakfast (same whether for one or two). Someday, there will be another report about Manila for more hotel suggestions.

Ok, from here on I will only state the prices in Euro for simplification. I took the average exchange rate of 67 Peso to the Euro valid at the time we went on this trip.

We left the Diamond Hotel at 7 a.m. by van and after two and a half hours we arrived at a place between Bauan and Mabini along the Batangas Bay. There was already the Coco Beach boat waiting to bring us directly to the resort in just an hour.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

Riding the outrigger while watching dolphins

Coco Beach

And there it was: the resort on its own secluded beach only reachable by boat (if you don't want to walk a couple of miles through the bush to Sabang or even to Puerto Galera town).
Getting closer to Coco Beach
Our cottage was also very much secluded in the middle of the coco palm tree forest on the slope of a hill.
Our hut is not on the right but high up on the left side
The cottages are mainly built of natural material. But also staying there meant "back to nature": no hot water and no air-con.
All natural bedroom and a nice balcony
From the balcony we also had a nice view to nature and we could see a little of the sea through the trees. We needed five minutes on a foot step path to reach the beach, where in front all the other facilities were located.
With a nice view to nature and from the pool to the sea
Paradise for kids with water slide View to the whole pool area
The main restaurant was part of the main building with two adjacent pavilions. The breakfast buffet, which was included, I wouldn't rate excellent but just good. Also the menu for snacks, lunch and dinner was versatile with tasty food and modest prices.
The two restaurant pavilions in the middle of the pool landscape
There were two more restaurants: one up the hill and one close to the coast in a revolving tower, but both were not open because there were not enough guests around. Also most of the group activities offered had been canceled for the same reason.

So, if you want to join all actions, then you better come during the high season (if you also like to pay more and don't mind the big crowd). Actually you can join up to 101 activities, tournaments, lessons, excursions and events, almost like Club Med.
Revolving Restaurant Tower Actions, actions, actions
One of these events is a frog race. You pay 3 Euro per bet per frog. I chose one with a good jumping capability, but then it became lazy when it did get serious. The winner is who jumps out the last circle of beer bottles first. The more people bet, the more you can win, if you win.
Who is the best jumping toad But it was not my number one
The following picture does not show racing turtles, but endangered young hawksbill turtles, who didn't have to race to and in the sea to escape their predators. They will be finally released into their natural environment as soon as they are big enough to survive, as part of a program conducted by the resort.

Just adjacent to the turtle pool is the diving station. The waters around Puerto Galera are one of the world best diving grounds with many corals and tropical fish.
No turtle race to survive These fish are not alive
The beach, white and clean, looks fine but the sea in front is not the best one. Swimming during high tide is okay (within the marked swimming area to keep off the boats), but stony ground surface during low tide. So the resort offers a boat trip for free to one of the other much better white and secluded beaches every morning at 9:30 a.m. to return 11:30 a.m.
This is the beach of Coco Beach and this the view out to the sea
If you are not up to swimming, then strolling around the vast tropical forest and garden, walking over a hanging bridge to the trails behind or climbing up the hill (cable car was not in operation) to the Silent Pool are one of the many other options you can do all by yourself.
Hanging Bridge Cable Car
"Silent Pool" up the hill No wonder, nobody around
Nature pure Paradise flower
Yes, it really looks like paradise. And you also can get all kinds of wellness treatments, like a Shiatsu massage for 5 Euro. And much much more. Just look up part of the action list above or check the Coco Beach Resort internet site.
Also landscape designs around everywhere
Outrigger boat as art or a design by nature
Lots of orchids in all colors
Ok, that was Coco Beach. And some day we may come back. I highly recommend this place (if a cold water shower is not a horror).

Fort Ilocandia

From the Coco Beach Island Resort we went back to Manila the same we came here. After another night at the Cherry Blossom Hotel we flew to Laoag in the northern part of Luzon. We had booked the flight with Cebu Pacific via the internet two weeks before. The one way fare was 48 Euro for the two of us.

We also made reservation at the Fort Ilocandia Golf and Country Club by phone at the time we booked the flight to Laoag. The double room, including breakfast buffet for two, was 45 Euro per day as part of the 4D/3N package deal (which also included one dinner for two).

The regular room rate per night would have been 84 Euro (the presidential suite even 740 Euro), So we made a good deal and were looking forward to another relaxing stay. The first treat was already the free pick-up from the airport as soon as we arrived. After a few kilometers down south from the airport we reached the resort located at the Suba Beach (10km from Laoag).

Resort Ilocandia Entrance Resort Ilocandia Fountain
Our terrace Our lobby
The whole compound is huge. It is said that it was built by Ferdinand Marcos for the wedding reception of his daughter. I think he was the first to use it as soon as it was finished (though may have invested some of his graft money). But I do believe that there were really so many wedding guests to occupy the whole resort. Now it seemed to be deserted during the low season. Actually a good place for honeymooners having the whole place almost for themselves.
View to the sea via pool and to our wing via pool
Now, let's inspect the area. First we paid a visit to the small zoo with many poor monkeys and some rabbits and two ostriches, actually nothing special.
Monkey looking through the fence Ostrich looking over the fence
Don't get too close, they are dangerous Not so the deer if taken by the horns
Ok, the deer was not real, and hunting was not part of the deal. Sculptures had been distributed all around the resort. Nice photos to pose with them.
Don't shoot me or my monkey
Any similarity with a monkey than with a human being?
Also the whole stretch of the seven (or nine, or ten) miles beach looked deserted. Where have all the people gone? Or was the beach here still contaminated by explosives left by the film crew who made the Vietnam combat scenes of "Born on the Fourth of July" with Tom Cruise?
Here is the "golden" Suba Beach with flotsam stranded on the beach
Nobody was doing anything during our stay. But there were many actions offered. You name it they got it, like Arching, Shooting, Paintball, Horseback Riding, Lawn Tennis, "All Terrain Vehicles", then all water sports from Banana Boat to Wind Surfing, etc., and last not least hitting the golf ball on the Driving Range and Putting Green, not to mention the 18-hole Golf Course (some kilometers away, though).
Drive an ATV on the beach? or rather practicing golf on the driving range
Don't hit the sea! Where is the ball?
Let me try and try hard
Putting concentration Where is my hole?
Then there was a nice park with some ponds dotted with real ducks and water canals for the duck pedal boats. A nice place to leisurely walk around and have a drink at the snack bar.
What else to do than climbing a tree but the papayas we couldn't reach
We did get a lot of fresh papayas beside other exotic fruits from the breakfast buffet. The rest was more quantity than quality. You also could have fully stuffed yourself with Chinese rice and noodles.
Mediocre breakfast buffet but including papaya fruits
Not much better was the dinner buffet in the same restaurant for 5 Euro per person, which was also covered by our package dinner voucher for one day. The Chinese restaurant was still the best, but beware: each order is good for two. We had one meal each plus one veggie order and had to leave in the end two thirds on the plates. The waitress should have told us in advance, what usually is being done in other restaurants. The final bill including the drinks came then up to 28 Euro.
Couldn't eat those fish or kois like these
What to do after dinner? Walking around in the lobby, watching the catfish and kois in the pond while listening to the piano player, or take a look at the photo gallery. A lot of famous people and even some presidents from all over the world have stayed at this resort. Also the 2004 Miss Earth Pageantry took place here.

Rather admire the koi's colorful bodies and the ones during the Miss Earth pageantry
Then a final visit to the casino, only to look around and watch people loosing money by playing with the One-arm Bandits or Black Jacks (no roulette). Guns and cameras had to be deposited before entering the premises.

And then I checked the weather forecast every day to follow up on the typhoon slowly approaching Luzon, because I would have liked to experience one while staying in a fortress (Fort Ilocandia was like one), and not in a hut below a landslide endangered hill or located on a river bank. But "unfortunately" it passed 250km off the shore of Northern Luzon and continued its path to Taiwan. Only the weakened but still strong winds and waves reached our beach.
Last walk to the beach with rolling waves
coming from the past typhoon thus too dangerous to swim
Final short evaluation after 3 nights and 4 days: It was nice but enough. We could have made some excursions around, but we rather enjoyed our luxury stay within the compound. Since we wanted to go further up north anyway, there were other opportunities to visit some interesting places on our way back. What we did.

If you want to skip now to the other parts, then just hit
Part II  - Pagudpud or
Part III - Laoag, Vigan, La Union

© WEW Tours