A Quick Break at Pico Sands, Nasugbu

Today marks 12 days since getting my redundancy notice at work. I’ll be traveling to Hong Kong on May 20th and staying for around two weeks – available for meetings and also appreciate any tips on networking events I should attend. (I’m already registered for Cloud Expo Asia and planning to go to Web Wednesday.)

I received the official news of being made redundant on May 4th (the day after my birthday). We already had a reservation for a holiday at a beach resort for 4 days starting on May 6th. I decided to keep that because getting away for a few days to chill wasn’t going to hurt – also my wife had come in for my birthday and I thought she needed a “real” vacation as well.

Actually I’d waited until almost the last minute to book something and May being summer in the Philippines, a lot of the places I had in mind were already fully booked for that weekend. I decided it had to be a place I could drive to because I didn’t want to deal with the airports here.

Finally I was able to book three nights at the Pico Sands Hotel in Nasugbu, Batangas. This is part of a private development called Pico De Loro Cove, which features 8 low rise buildings with condos, a clubhouse and the hotel built around a man-made lagoon and a private beach with another clubhouse.

Leaving on a Saturday morning, it took us close to four hours to drive the 60 miles from our home to the resort. Hello Philippines!  We drove down via Cavitex, which ends up being a very scenic drive (there were lots of places where I would have loved to pull over and take photos but there weren’t many safe places to do that). There’s not many food choices along the way – pretty much your standard selection of fast food joints once you hit Rosario.

The resort itself is beautiful – very nice design and very well maintained. It was full on Saturday and early Sunday but not that many people there the rest of the time.

(All photos are mine – I neglected to add watermarks.)

On arrival and check-in we were told that only some of the facilities were available for use by hotel guests. We could use the gym and pool and restaurant at the clubhouse at the lagoon. We could not use the clubhouse at the beach at all. The hotel lobby had a restaurant, a bar and a small shop, a branch of the Kultura chain. The staff everywhere were well trained and really helpful.

Our room was large and in good condition. The TV seemed quite small for a large room. The free WiFi, available throughout the resort, was crazy slow. I ran a speed test and came up with 0.66 Mbps – enough for email and Facebook but forget about streaming any Netflix movies.

Here’s the main clubhouse – which had a restaurant, a “bar” with a small bowling alley and some pool tables, a playroom for kids and a karaoke room. There’s also supposed to be a convenience store here, but we never went looking for it.

The beach was good – very clean and because it was a private beach, no hassle from vendors. There were restrooms and showers. There were beach cabanas available for a fee (p700) set quite far back from the beach. There was a beach bar and restaurant. Jet skis and kayaks were available for rental, they had the banana boat thingie, and a water taxi (though I never asked about where it went). The beach was about a 5-10 minute walk to the hotel but they also had shuttles running back and forth every five minutes.

If this was facing west we would have had some amazing sunset views. But it was facing south – the sun went down behind the surrounding mountains.

Here’s the beach clubhouse that we were not allowed to use (I saw it had a pool and another restaurant). Even that section of the beach with those chairs and umbrellas was set aside for members only.

We were able to get beach chairs with umbrellas and a table each day. The water was the perfect temperature, clear – and the bottom was smooth and easy to walk on. No surf because this is a cove, maybe with breakers in front, so the water was very calm. No rain, every day was blue sky paradise.

The pool was huge and divided into several sections – including a kiddie area, a jacuzzi area, a few lounge chairs in the water, and so on.

So far, so good.

But we were deeply disappointed in the food choices in the the restaurants there. The Filipino cuisine that they had was well-prepared. The international dishes on the menu were odd. The breakfast buffet had most of what one would expect and was pretty okay. So far, pretty much as one might expect, right?

But here’s the thing. When we were driving there, we saw vendors just outside the entrance selling fresh live crabs. When we drove through Nasugbu town, we saw stalls set up along the street selling live lobsters. We’re at a beach resort. We expected tons of seafood on the menu and we were wrong. What little seafood they had on offer was buried under heavy sauces or drowning in soup. Nothing grilled, barbecued or lightly sauteed with a bit of olive oil – their so-called “Spanish Mediterranean” restaurant didn’t offer any paella (despite it being a hugely popular dish in the Philippines) or anything resembling tapas.

My wife asked and was told we could get barbecued seafood at the beach bar if we booked a “boodle food fight,” but that was for a minimum of 5 people and we were just the two of us. On our third night there my wife said that we should go back to the beach bar and see if we could order any barbecue a la carte – except we found out that it closed at 5 PM.

That was the other problem here – this place is heavily slanted towards families (there’s a chapel and pony rides). No one was ever at the bar in our hotel lobby (which didn’t have a TV or music) and the bar in the club house with the pool tables closed at 10 PM.

I can hear you asking – why didn’t we go somewhere else? Aside from being unfamiliar with the area, the road immediately outside of the hotel was one of those narrow, winding mountain roads. I think it would have taken us around 30 or more likely 45 minutes to get to any of the restaurants in Nasugbu town.

Our original plan was to ask for a late checkout on Tuesday, have a leisurely lunch and maybe one more swim, and head home as soon as possible. Instead, we woke up early on Tuesday, had breakfast and checked out and hit the road by 9 AM. We drove back by way of Tagaytay, which meant we could stop at Breakfast at Antonio’s for an early lunch and of course the amazing view.

Then a quick stop in Santa Rosa for a bit of shopping and we were home before 3 PM.

So, overall, a restful four days (aside from the time spent driving) and Pico De Loro was a beautiful spot but we won’t be returning there.