The resort's centerpiece infinity-edge pool
Last November, I was already dreaming of going to Acuatico after I heard lots of good things from friends and browsing through their website. This premiere leisure resort is located along the sandy coastline of Laiya in San Juan, Batangas. We originally planned a year-end trip to Acuatico but our preferred villa and target dates were already booked, so we headed to Tagaytay instead.
Early this month, arrangements were made by my sis-in-law and luckily, she was able to book us an overnight stay during the last weekend before the Holy Week (of Lent). She was informed that it's the only available date and they're already fully booked on all weekends until end of May.
Panoramic view of the infinity pool and floating bar from Oceano Acuatico, the main dining hall
At 9 am last Friday, we left the Pasig-C5 area and breezed through the South Luzon Express Way (SLEX), up until we reached Batangas proper. There was an overcast and we were hoping for clearer skies as we passed through several towns, with light traffic, like Sto. Tomas, Lipa, and then San Juan. Finally, after a 3-hour drive, we made it to Laiya, known for its long, white, sandy shoreline where travelers can choose from a row of resorts that fit any budget. The service road leading to the main gate was quite narrow and shabby. But as soon as we went down from the main driveway by the lobby, we were warmly welcomed by Acuatico's friendly staff and receptionists. It was drizzling then.
We arrived at exactly 12 o'clock. Check in time was at 1:00 p.m. and our rooms were still being tidied up. With my camera on hand, being the pathological picture-taker that I am, I was so overwhelmed by this picturesque resort. I didn't know where to start shooting. It was a visual overload!
Outdoor jacuzzi (left), stairway leading to the dining hall (top right), and the dining hall interiors
I will now stop yapping and just let these images, and anecdotes, do the "talking". Despite the reduced image sizes and collages, I still have so much photos I wanted to share but have restrained myself to avoid having a kilometric post.
So let's start with lunch...
Soon after we arrived, the kids were already raring to jump in the inviting pool. Me too! But we headed straight to the dining area first and were greeted with a courteous wait staff. Still no sign of sunny blue skies.
For lunch, they were offering a set menu with our choice of one main course, the soup of the day and a buffet of appetizers and desserts. Good comfort food and great ambiance kicked off our two-day stay at this fairly new leisure establishment. Service was excellent.
(Clockwise from top left) Grilled chicken inasal with a side of pinakbet; artfully plated lechon kawali (deep-fried pork belly) with dips; spicy squid; and teriyaki-glazed gindara (cod) fillet
This wrought iron wine rack in one corner of the hall caught my eye with its colorful wine bottles. Everywhere I look, there's a postcard-perfect shot! The architectural design of Acuatico was well thought out.
I finished off my light and tasty gindara fillet with a sweet and chewy macaroon and juicy watermelon wedges. My niece gobbled up the other two macaroons while the mini peanut brittle went to the nannies.
The game room adjacent to the dining hall
After a filling meal, we can't wait to settle into our family villa, the bi-level Estancia. We were led to Estancia-A. There are only 2 family villas (A & B) which can accommodate a group of 6. It has 3 bedrooms, 1 restroom (housing 2 toilets, 2 shower cubicles and a lavatory), a living area with LCD TV, a porch and a view deck. The resort-wide wi-fi internet access was a bonus. The Estancia was perfect for us since we were 3 couples (splitting 4 kids and 2 nannies). They have a separate driver's quarters.
Our room on the ground level has an accordion door-divider, with twin beds we joined together to share with 2 kids
My parents got the first room with a queen-sized bed, but (with a big BUT) it only has curtains for privacy, separating it from the living area. What's worse was we all have to pass through their "room" to get to the rest room from the ground floor. The Achilles' heel of Estancia is its rest room. I regret not being able to take pictures but it's on their website. It was just too cramped. Also, the shower sliding doors were not rolling smoothly. And considering my father and brother were not that big, though they are taller than average, they complained they could not move comfortably in the toilet and shower cubicles (read: cubicle). I wondered if they had better toilet and bath in the other units.
My brother's family occupied this bedroom with a queen-sized bed and it's own flat screen TV, with direct access to the view deck (see photo below)
Overlooking the living area and front porch from the second floor bedroom window
Floating bar in the 700-sqm. pool
Acuatico Beach Resort boasts of a Balinese-inspired design aesthetics, with modern amenities and rooms offering a magnificent view of the infinity pool, the mountain or the sea.
Soon after we chose our respective rooms, we quickly changed and plunged in the cool, clear waters of this spectacular 4-tiered infinity-edge pool, unique to Acuatico. It seamlessly combined a jacuzzi on the top level, flowing down to a 2-foot deep kiddie pool, and the bar in the middle. The two little girls were so confident wading and splashing around as soon as they discovered they can stand up and walk in the shallow pool without assistance. My boy, on the other hand, was so fixated by the active fountain.
The boy had a blast and was content jumping on the mini fountain in the middle of the kiddie pool
My brother was the only one who had his picture taken against this breathtaking view, darn!
Later in the afternoon, my brother requested for coffee and we were served with their complimentary brew and delivered to our villa. Service deluxe! We all went down to the beach after a light snack and allowed the kids to get their hands dirty building sand castles. It was not powdery fine as Boracay's but the sand was white, and clean. The weather was lovely after an on-and-off drizzle and the whole family enjoyed the cool sea breeze while lounging around doing nothing, and walking barefoot. I was click-happy the rest of the day. How I wished my DSLR was waterproof!
Getting the hang of frisbee
My girl walking barefoot and sinking her tiny feet in a sandy beach for the first time ever
Serene Laiya coastline at 6 o'clock in the evening
I missed riding the kayak
An idle hobie cat awaits an adventurous soul
Before we headed back for a shower, a balut (duck embryo) vendor passed by the beach and we couldn't pass up on these juicy, succulent, and tonic delicacy. It's been a while since we had a good balut and with a pinch of salt, these were excellent. Slurrp...yum, yum! I ate 2 1/2 eggs in one sitting!
Taken at 6:20 in the evening, I loved this view from the bar -- it's our Estancia-A villa. This is the first villa coming up from the beach and stands at the edge, overlooking the sea with an unobstructed view.
Half moon at 5:26 and 6:24 p.m.
By 7 p.m. we were ready for dinner. The buffet was all laid out and Chef Ed was personally welcoming and inviting the guests for a sumptuous feast of Filipino-fusion cuisine.
Kids 7 y.o. and below are free to take their pick from the buffet. They also had plated meals for our nannies upon request. If you brought along a driver for the trip, the rate for the driver's quarter already included his dinner and breakfast the following day. This was a good deal.
I was suffering from a mouth sore for two days already and I hated the feeling of not being able to chew and savor my meal. And as much as I would want to taste each dish from the delectable spread, besides the sore, my tummy was still half full from the balut I ate less than an hour ago. Bummer.
What I was able to have was their deliciously crispy dilis (anchovies) for my appetizer (despite the stinging pain everytime I bite), garlic fried chicken, seafood chopsuey, and Hungarian beef goulash that tasted like caldereta (braised beef in tomato sauce). A lukewarm reaction by my family of foodies, however, had made me conclude that dinner was not that super. Fusion dishes somehow doesn't excite anymore. We all agreed that lunch was better. The black gulaman juice was refreshing, and I still managed to enjoy my dessert of halo-halo with homemade ube halaya (sweet purple yam jam), and a cereal-like concoction of mango and pandan jelly.
After dinner and an hour or so of chit-chat by the porch, I finally decided to retire to our room and put the kids to sleep. My sister-in-law did the same as the two little ones were both unsettled and was alternately crying. Suffice it to say, it was not a restful night's sleep for any of us. For parents traveling with small kids, you should not expect them to immediately settle in a strange bed and be comfortable sleeping. We were lucky my boy slept through the night with ease, but my girl kept us up all night with her intermittent cries, sleep-talking and unconscious bursts of anger towards her brother. I guess no sweet dreams for her! =)
Morning came with just a few hours of sleep. But we were still looking forward to a beautiful day basking in the sun. Well, the sun still didn't shine so brightly that day. Our only consolation was no one got sun-burned. What I was looking forward to was breakfast. For the first time in many years, a full breakfast was ready and waiting for me! All I had to do was pick and choose, and delight in this luxury of being able to sit down, relax, and enjoy a deliciously cooked first meal of the day.
A mouth sore did not stop me from indulging in this rich cup of tsokolate (hot cocoa), though it was too sweet for my mother. We all had a serving of ham & mushroom omelet. Also on on my plate was a portion of corned beef hash, half a slice of salted duck egg and diced tomatoes, crispy-fried dried squid with vinegar dip, and garlic fried rice. I also had a small fruit bowl and orange juice. They also had fresh calamansi (calamondin / lemoncito) juice. Again, the service was superb and the staff made us feel relaxed and comfortable as we dined. One attendant even offered to carry and bring my small fruit bowl to our table even when I can easily manage to hold it with just three fingers! =)
After a full breakfast, we took our last swim at the infinity pool with the kids and then spent the final hour on the beach before packing.
Ours was an amazing and memorable weekend retreat at Acuatico Beach Resort. The excellent customer service, state-of-the-art facilities and amenities (despite the cramped T&B), and breathtaking views made this long overdue family outing well worth the trip. The place is actually smaller than it looks on the pictures, but I think it's also an advantage as it was not crowded. There was a feeling of exclusivity, which I believe was the premium that we paid for. Even with the modern luxuries of this resort, the homey ambiance and friendly service had made our stay more comfortable and enjoyable. Couples and groups of friends would surely have a great time here as well. This is one summer I will never forget.
Acuatico Beach Resort
Laiya, San Juan, Batangas
+632.892.7577 to 79 - Open from 9am - 6pm Mondays - Fridays
+632.892.7577 to 79 - Open from 9am - 6pm Mondays - Fridays