When in Surigao: Road Trip to Enchanted River

Surigao lies next to the fathomless underwater gorge, “Philippine Deep”, being one of the deepest portions in the Pacific Ocean.  Rugged mountains are prominent borders throughout the long coasts.  Bounded by the Hinatuan Passage, this area stands strong from the countless typhoon as the eye of the tropical storm frequently visits Hinatuan.

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Not all people know the beauty and the potential of tourism of Surigao.  For some, it’s just another flight or a boat ride to the more famous one Siargao.  But if one gets to witness the hidden treasure in this overlooked paradise, the experience will be one for the books.

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Transportation is very challenging where bus rides are very scanty and habal-habal trips are a pain in the ass, literally.  Destinations can be reached ranging from three to eight hours each.  However, after every pause, every picture and every smile, you realize that the journey itself is the best part of your vacation.

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From Surigao to Cortes is a three to four hour bus or van ride involving a long and winding road with lots of drifting.  View of a barren mountain is due to intense mining in the province resulting to a dark muddy beach and polluted brown waters.

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When riding a bus to Tandag, alight from the drop off point of Cortes and ride a habal-habal going to Laswitan for 20 minutes.  With us, we made a detour first to their carinderia which took about 10 minutes to have our lunch and to change our clothes.

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Pathway to the entrance

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The entrance fee here is for only 20 pesos.

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After going down the stairs for about 2 minutes, you get to witness this view.

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Going further is the pathway to the ocean waterfall.

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Behind me is supposedly the ocean waterfall.  Unfortunately, it was a bad timing for us as the current is not so strong to make a continuous flow along the steep rocks.  They say December to January is the best time to visit as it is the peak of rainy season and typhoons visit the area for the water splash will be huge and nonstop.

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You can take time and swim in this natural pool.  Go here during high tide to see the scenery as the best time to visit is the rainy season.

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More picture taking first before the mountain kamang.

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The struggle is real. Seriously.

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Reminds me of Bolinao in Pangasinan. One slip here and you’d fall and die.  The waves were so big that they almost reached me.

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With great shots involves more buwis buhay che che

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Going down with ropes and guide? Kill me now.

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Next on our trip is the famous Enchanted River.  It takes another five hours to reach Hinatuan from Cortes with a total of eight to nine hours of freaking land trip from Surigao.  If you want less travel time, you can make Butuan your point of origin which only gives you half of the travel time.

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Well, this river is not so enchanting after all.  I think the water was not so clear because it was raining.  We were really jinxed at that time.  The river was so crowded.  There were so many people so you can’t actually enjoy swimming or take good pictures.  But the fact that it has salty water is very intriguing and on the left side is a bottomless pit where nobody has reached yet.  Few divers tend to take the challenge but were tragically unsuccessful.

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Habal-habal ride from our inn to Hinatuan takes 30 minutes to the tourist spot.

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You can have some refreshing buko juice when you arrive.  I don’t honestly drink this but yeah, you can enjoy it yourself.

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Before heading to the entrance, there are a lot of vendors selling food.  They will cook for you.  It’s like what we call pala-pala.  Enjoy seafood at an unbelievably cheap price.

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Entrance fee is for only 30 pesos.  Tour with the habal-habal includes Enchanted River and Tinuy-an Falls costing 1500 pesos.

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Swimming time while waiting for our food.

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These are the cottages where almost everyone enjoys their lunch.  Our table is for only 50 pesos.

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The food was worth the wait.

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Here, with our manong driver who is ever so accommodating.  Boboy – 0948 126 9618

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Around 12pm, the visitors flock to the side to witness this eventful fish feeding.

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Time for some pictorial before going to the next destination.

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Excuse the tampi, hindi ako na inform na wala may naga bikini diri.

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Too much crowd, but the water was very clean and bluish green.

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Because if I didn’t have this picture, then I wasn’t here.

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The water was incomparable.

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Renting a raft is for only 150 pesos.  There are two volunteers who would “drive” the raft without charge but do accept tips or donations.

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Entrance to Tinuy-an Falls is only 50 pesos.

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From Enchanted River, this can be reached with the habal-habal for an hour and a half travel time so a total of three hours will be a freaking waste of your squats.  Too long for us to sit on the habal-habal where your butt goes numb for a long time, so we stopped over for icecream and coffee for manong.

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Muni-muni

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Well, honestly there were only a few decent pictures on the raft because the water was so strong.

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Char!

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Ikadlaw na lang ang pag hang sang gopro.

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Kudos to manong for jumping in the water to get this shot.

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Smile!

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Goodbye Tinuy-an!  Can’t afford to waste time to follow our itinerary.

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Day 3 is Island Hopping to Britannia Islands

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The boat can very much occupy up to ten people.

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The picture doesn’t do justice of how beautiful the water is.  I can imagine surfing here with just having the most pristine waves.  However our boatman told us it’s not safe and the sea floor is rocky.

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First on the list is Bonbon Island. It’s the largest among the group.  The usual rate is 1500 for 3 hours but then if you want to visit this place then you have an additional 1000 since it’s the farthest of the islands and you can have the boat the whole day.

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Next is Hagunoy Island.

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This is my favorite as there is a little sandbar wherein it’s a perfect place to swim as waves from opposite direction meet together.

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Naked Island is a small islet.  It is just a small mound of plain white and powdered sand surrounded by unparalleled clarity of the water.

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I’m definitely in my happy place.

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Naked Island in Britannia, Surigao is different from the Naked Island in Siargao. Although it’s smaller compared to the famous one in Siargao, the water is very clear and similar to Maldives.

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Hiyor-Hiyoran Island is the eating place of all the islands.  There is a pala-pala here; a little expensive compared to Hinatuan.  You can also enjoy shopping for pasalubong.  From keychain to wooden mirrors and sala sets, they have it here.

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Natunaw na ya ang ice. letse

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Cheers!

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Lubos-Lubos ang bulad for the perfect tan!

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Tried sea urchin and it was fine. hahhahaha. We had a hard time arguing on how to cook the octopus.  All this time I thought octopus and squid are much the same. Wth.  Told them to just prepare it as kinilaw.  Didn’t like it so we made them turn it into adobo.  Yes, we are that demaning. So sorry.

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Last stop. Boslon Island.

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There are two islets connected by a sandbar.

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We just didn’t have time to spare to get to the other side.

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The water is too pretty.

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All done. Back to Surigao City.

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Where To Stay

Hinatuan:
Maryland Lodging House
Población Zone II, Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, Espana Blvd
+639078689808

San Agustin:
Mac Arthur’s Place
Britannia, Surigao Davao Coastal Road, San Agustin 8305 Surigao del Sur
+639999910845

Surigao:
Lokal Suites
Narciso Street, Surigao City, Surigao del Norte
+63868360778

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Travel Tips

  1. It is best you travel by large groups so you can rent out a van and follow your itinerary.  Public transportation is really a struggle as there are only few trips throughout the province.
  2. Fly to Butuan airport instead of Surigao to save travel time for the land trip.
  3. If you have an ample time, take a ferry from Surigao City and visit SIARGAO.
    For ferry schedule and fare visit: http://surigaoislands.com/news-and-updates/item/83-surigao-to-siargao-island-boat-schedule.html
  4. Or you can take your road trip further and visit to Davao via land transportation.
  5. For SIARGAO blog posts click here:
    https://wengwengwanders.com/2014/10/15/where-to-go-in-siargao-island-hopping-at-bucas-grande/
    https://wengwengwanders.com/2014/11/06/when-in-siargao-go-on-island-hopping-at-naked-dako-and-guyam-islands/
    https://wengwengwanders.com/2014/11/26/when-in-siargao-surf-at-cloud-9/
    https://wengwengwanders.com/2014/09/15/where-to-go-in-siargao-magpupungko-beach-and-tidal-pools/

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Travel Itinerary

Day 1

Bacolod to Cebu 7:40pm
Cebu 10:30pm
Eat 10:45pm
Check In 11:30pm
“Clubbing” up to 3:00am

Day 2

Cebu to Surigao 7:35am
Airport to Bus Terminal 9:00am
Tandag 1:00pm
Lunch 2:00pm
Laswitan 2:30pm
Tandag 4:00pm
Hinatuan 9:00pm
Dinner 9:20pm
Check In 10:00pm

Day 3
Breakfast 08:00am
Enchanted River 10:00am
Lunch 1:00am
Trike to Tinuy-an Falls 3:30pm
Check out 6:00pm
San Agustin 8:00pm

Day 4

Breakfast 7:00am
Island Hopping 08:00am
Lunch in the island 11:00am
Bus to Tandag 03:00pm
Surigao 07:00pm
Dinner 07:30pm
Check In 09:00pm

Day 5

Surigao to Cebu 11:30am
Lunch at Airport 3:00pm
Cebu to Bacolod 04:35pm

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Travel Expenses

Plane Fare to Surigao 8371
Plane Fare to Cebu 5100
Taxi 205
Dinner 2160
Taxi 103
Room 1480
Taxi 70
Taxi 200
Bar 375
Taxi 200
Bar 400
Taxi 80
Taxi 200
Jeep to Terminal 150
Van to Cortes 750
Lunch 310
Water 75
Entrance to Laswitan 60
Trike to Laswitan 500
Van to Tandag 150
Van to Borobo 330
Bus to Hinatuan 150
Dinner 360
Trike 60
Breakfast 512
Room 1200
Entrance to Enchanted River 90
Lunch 910
Plates 36
Seafood 610
Hut 50
Package Tour 1500
Snacks 113
Trike 150
Entrance to Tinuy-an 150
Raft 400
Trike to San Agustin 1000
Dinner 375
Environmental Fee 75
Room 2000
Breakfast 200
Redhorse 225
Lunch  1220
Boat 2700
Shower 60
Trike 60
Bus to Tandag 240
Bus to Surigao 1200
Room 1690
Dinner 474
Breakfast 300
Trike 150
Terminal Fee 300
Trike 24
Trike to Airport 150
Lunch 1200

Total 41203 group of 3 (13734)

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How To Tick Off MALDIVES From Your Bucketlist by wengwengwanders

I dream about Maldives as other people dream about Paris.

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I never thought that I could actually afford it.  What I’m about to write is not the ultimate cheap skate about this place because in all honesty, nothing is freaking cheap in there and it would ruin every experience possible if you try to cut costs.  I come from the Philippines and there is no denying that Boracay and Siargao are both heaven and every beach is just much the same.  However, Maldives for me is the epitome of all great beaches and what you pay for is that luxury experience uniquely present on the islands.

Itinerary

Day 1
Bacolod 08:50am
Manila 12:40 pm
Kuala Lumpur 06:25 pm
Male 07:45 pm
Immigration/Customs 08:30pm
Depart from Airport via private speedboat 09:30pm
Fihalhohi Island Resort 10:30pm(Male time) 11:30pm (resort time)

Day 2
Breakfast, Lunch at Resort
Beach
Checkout 12:00pm
Kaani Beach Hotel (Maafushi) 05:00pm
Dinner

Day 3
Breakfast
Anantara Beach Resort 09:00am
Lunch and Cocktails
Dinner at Maafushi

Day 4
Swimming at Bikini Beach
Maafushi Island via public speedboat 05:30pm
Male 08:55pm
Kuala Lumpur 08:20am
Manila 12:15pm
Bacolod 05:25 pm

Transportation

There are three means of transportation in Maldives:

Public Speedboat that only travels from Airport, City and Maafushi (Public Island) and runs on schedule : 20USD per person per trip
Private Speedboat chartered based on your own schedule
Male Airport to Maafushi: 150USD per boat per trip
Male Airport to Fihalhohi: 70USD per adult per trip and after 6pm additional of 25 USD per adult per trip
Seaplane: 200 to 400USD per person per trip

For bookings: contact your hotel or though http://www.atolltransfer.com

img_3870Where to Stay

Fihalhohi Island Resort

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We arrived at the resort late at night.  On our way there, we were accompanied by 4 staff in the speedboat as I have prearranged it for pickup from the airport privately.  The boat was big enough which can accommodate for about 20 people.  It was the most dangerous thing I have ever done in my life frankly.  There were no lights nearby; telling me that if the boat were to sink, we’ll be left in the middle of the ocean.  But it’s just me overthinking things.  It took us about 50 minutes hell of a ride to arrive at the resort and we were welcomed with drinks.  In the left side of the reception, is the list of activities you can do throughout the week, you can write your name to reserve your slot if you fancy fishing, boating, snorkeling or swimming with the manta rays.  Around 11pm, we settled and had our dinner at the nearby cafe.

The next morning, I was so saddened.  On the glass window, I freaking saw that it was raining hard and looked like there was a storm. I checked the weather update and to my dismay it was really a bad day.  I thought to myself that I didn’t come all the way with 24 hour trip just to have it raining on the beach.  We had our international breakfast at their main restaurant. We had free breakfast and dinner buffet which was included in the room rate.  Next to the restaurant is the concierge and in front of it is the dock for the welcoming guests.  Knitted and aesthetic chairs lazed around the wooden dock for you to have that perfect tan and the gorgeous view of the blue waters.

After our sumptuous meal, we looked around. And to my surprise, I have found my new favorite beach. Not because of the luxury and the facilities, but because this is where I saw the most beautiful beach I have ever seen in my entire life.  I don’t want to be so overwhelming or anything, but it’s just hands down the best beach ever.

Picture a very fine and the whitest sand you can ever think of. Hugging it is the foamy and aquamarine to turquoise clear water.  Now wouldn’t that be perfect?  There was still no sun yet so we just continued on our tour.

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At the back of the resort is the manmade cottages over the water.  From there I knew that I’m definitely here in Maldives when I saw it.  They were just too pretty to look at during the day and they’re the best backdrop for the travel hashtag you have been thinking.

Fihalhohi is definitely a small resort compared to the others but while scanning through the other resorts, they have definitely great reviews and best rates, they are one of the nearest to the airport so it’s definitely a plus when scouting for a place to stay.  You can finish your tour to the island for only 20 to 30 minutes.

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We had our lunch and thankfully, the sun was out. Oh, I’ve been dreaming for this.  We went back to the beach and took some photos and had a swim while waiting for our boat.  With too much time to just laze around all day, it was time to transfer to Maafushi which they call the public island.

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Maafushi

The most public island I have ever seen on Maldives, is the capital of Kaafu Atoll.  With only 2000 in population, the natives mostly live here.  It’s relatively small and can only be compared to one station in Boracay Island.  You can roam the island in 30 minutes.  Their port is a 5 to 10 minute walk from the hotels which are situated in the Bikini Beach.

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I booked at Kaani Beach Hotel but there are inns and hotels that offer a cheaper rate like it can go down to 1000 pesos per room.  However, I preferred Kaani because the beach is just exactly in front of it.  I heard about Maldives that with their beaches inhabited by planktons, it tends to glow in the dark and sometimes, if you’re lucky you can see it in this island.  But tried going out late at night even with a local guide but it was an unfortunate time for us.  Locals informed us that we have to take a flight to a Vaadhoo Island to see that glowing blue tide at night.

Bikini Beach is the only liberated place in the island. Wooden makeshifts lined as walls along the beach to serve as a border for the tourists to be on their swimwear.  The beach is very clean even if it’s very open to everyone.  It is not as fine as one can expect but it’s very white.  But the water is just impeccably clear and blue.  One can do paddle boarding or just laze around the hammock planted on the water.  Sun beds are laid on the beach to achieve that tan you want.  You can definitely experience paradise at a cheap price.  Keep in mind, when wandering around the island, you have to make sure that your are covered up to your arms and knees. This place reminds me so much of Boracay when it comes to the island vibe minus the nightlife.

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Anantara Resort

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A ten to fifteen minute ride from Maafushi is the luxurious Anantara Resort Dighu and Veli Maldives.  Two resorts are exactly different with the guests they cater.  Although both have wonderful spas they offer with the ever gorgeous view of the island, one is for the family and the other is more for couples, respectively.  We arrived first in Anantara Veli wherein the setup is mostly copied from a Balinese slash Japanese zen.  As usual, you are welcomed with a drink and a cold towel.  We had a little tour first on the island wherein you can roam around in 20 minutes.  After the short tour, we spent most of the time on their own jewelry shop.  They have the most exquisite colored stones I have ever seen.  They claimed to import it from Sri Lanka which is very famous for that.  So if you want a best kept souvenir, you should head here.

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From the entrance, is an infinity pool overlooking the massive waves of the Indian Ocean. Next to it is a bar and blue lazy boys that you can chill in and just soak in the sun.  Continuing the path, is the concierge and their Japanese restaurant.  Just across it is their main restaurant where everyone can enjoy their breakfast.  You can have the option to have your breakfast next to the beach and they set up the table for you.

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On the other route, is a small pathway lined with plants which direct you across the water bungalows and hammocks right next to the white beach.  This is where you find a small port that gets you to the other side of the island, which is another resort, Anantara Dighu.

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Anantara Dighu Maldives Resorts is a more luxurious one with eight restaurants, a spa, gym, and a private island you can free dive or snorkel.  It just promises an ultimate getaway. With a 5 minute boat ride to transfer from Veli, you get welcomed to an unfathomable Maldives experience.  Welcoming you is a spa located on the left side carefully designed in their water bungalows.  On your right is the path to the unparalleled whitest and finest sand and water with indescribable clarity.

Asking the locals; of all the resorts they say, you should definitely see Anantara because it comprises those gorgeous rainbow colors of blue waters that Maldives is very known for.  It is a large resort compared to the others and you can get lost in it.  Thankfully, you get a map so you can work your way throughout.  We were on our way to their private island because I wanted to do some snorkeling and see the underwater.  We first borrowed some snorkeling gears from their watersport and everything was for free by the way.  Their lobby is located near the Fushi Restaurant where the main jetty port is located.  Note that there are two ports on the island, one is for the transfer to Veli and the other which is the Main Jetty to transfer to their private island hideaway called Gulhi Fushi.  It takes about 5 minutes to get into the island and all you have to do is inform the lobby that you want to visit and you get the boat in about 10 minutes.

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Their private island was such a total bliss.  It was scorching hot so I got to witness that majestic view.  Well, I can’t say it again but the beach and the sand and the water are uniformly beautiful and just breathtaking.  Adjacent to the island are the over water pool suites giving you a perfect backdrop.  Did I just mention that you can snorkel anywhere? And if you’re lucky you get to see manta rays.

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While waiting for our lunch, I went for snorkeling.  The current was very strong so I didn’t risk going deeper and farther from the island.  After our delicious lunch, we got back to the main island and had some cocktails in Aqua Bar.  Next to it is the infinity pool and just below it is the beach.  I went for another swim and was aiming to go to the hammock in the middle of the sea but I just couldn’t  lose my life and I haven’t seen any lifeguard on duty.  Finished my tour of the island with just chilling on their beach huts next to the restaurant.  It rained again and went back to Veli to have some afternoon snacks.  We ate non stop that day and had some fine wine, even I was still full.  Thankfully, the rain stopped and we got to enjoy the sunset at its finest.

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With recent changes including locals to be allowed by the government to have their own homestay, guesthouses and build restaurants, Maldives is now more practical and cheaper compared to previous years where the tourists are only confined on luxurious resorts.  Anyone can definitely travel.  You just have to put your mind to it and scout for great deals. I guess you’re now ticked off from my bucket list, Maldives.  You’re one hell of a pristine beach.

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Rates from Maafushi (cheapest):

Snorkeling Trips

Maavilaath (60 minutes) 4 pax: 12USD PP
5 pax + : 10USD PP

Banana Reef & Manta (60 minutes) 4 pax: 25USD PP
5 pax + : 20USD PP

Turtle Reef (60 minutes) 4 pax: 35USD PP
5 pax + : 30USD PP

Coral Garden (60 minutes) 4 pax: 35USD PP
5 pax + : 30 USD PP

Whale Shark Trip (Ari Atoll) 4 pax: 200USD PP
8 pax + : 100USD PP

Night Fishing: 4 pax + : 25USD PP

Dolphin Watching (60 minutes) 4 pax: 25USD PP
5 pax + : 20USD PP

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Island Hopping Day Trip

Fihalhohi Island Resort
Day Trip: 49USD PP
With Lunch: 74USD PP
With Day Room: 93USD PP
Transport: 4 pax: 30USD PP
5 pax + : 25USD PP

Biyaadhoo Resort
Day Trip: 43USD PP
With Lunch: 67USD PP
With Day Room: 80USD PP
Transport: 4 pax: 15USD PP
5 pax + : 12USD PP

Adaran Club Rannaalhi
Day Trip with lunch and unli drinks: 70USD PP
Transport: 4 pax: 35USD PP
5 pax + : 30USD PP

Kandooma Maldives
Day Trip: 150USD PP
Transport: 4 pax: 17USD PP
5 pax + : 15USD PP

Adaaran Prestige Vadoo
Day Trip with Lunch, Unli Drinks and Transport: 100USD PP

img_3963Travel Tips

  1. When charging electronics, they have European adapters.
  2. It’s better to transact in Maldivian Currency and US Dollars. If you’re changing from other currency, opt for US Dollars so you can use it when you’re traveling across countries.
  3. Check with your hotel regarding the time zone.  Other hotels such as Fihalhohi is one hour advance Male time.
  4. When booking for hotels, make sure you know how far it takes from the airport to your destination.  Hotels may be cheaper because they’re farther from the airport but the cost of transportation will be higher.  Choose wisely.
  5. Maafushi is a public beach.  Male is a Muslim country so selling and drinking alcohol is prohibited.  Locals informed us that you have to ride a small boat away from the island if you want to drink.  Furthermore, wearing of shorts and sleeveless is not appropriate.  You can only wear bikinis on their Bikini Beach which is just a short walking distance.  However when you’re in the resort, you can wear and drink whatever you want.
  6. Most of the food served in the hotels are of European cuisine.  Maldivian food is not very much endorsed.
  7. To tell you frankly, traveling by speedboat can be very frightening especially at night.  Waves can be gigantic as it is an open sea and you get to feel every high when you’re in a small group.  Islands are dispersed and can take from 30 minutes to 2 hours on transfers.  Make sure you are ready for the bumpy ride or you get the option to ride a seaplane instead.
  8. Wifi is available in resorts and the airport.
  9. In booking for your rooms, consider if you want to book half or full board meals as you can really save much if you book meals with your room.  If you’re not staying at the resort and have a lot of activities throughout Maldives Islands, you can only book halfboard or just for a free breakfast.  They offer flexible rates to adjust to your liking.

Expenses

Plane Ticket BCD – MNL – BCD14089PHP
Plane Ticket MNL – MALE – MNL 32000PHP
Terminal Fee 400PHP
Water 50 PHP
Travel Tax 3240PHP
Adapter 200PHP
Lunch 710PHP
Snacks 600PHP
Tip 10USD
Fihalhohi (Room and Halfboard) 481GBP
Kaani (Room and Breakfast) 231GBP
Dinner 60USD
Anantara (Lunch and Cocktails) 340GBP
Food 2USD
Water and Sunblock 12USD
Tour Guide 10USD
Pasalubong 75USD
Public Boat 40USD
Anantara Boat 50USD
Lunch 40USD
Snacks 40USD
Dinner 30USD
Ramen 35USD
Lunch and Coffee 850PHP

Total Expenses 143 830 PHP for two
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When in Antique: Take a dip at Sira-an Hot Springs

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It’s overwhelming that for a quiet province like Antique, there is so much to offer. Lying in Western Visayas, this quaint and humble place is slowly making headlines now. Millions of tourists travelling to Boracay Island bypass it, rerouting into a shorter route. But if you have an ample time for an extended stay and for worthy exploration purposes, then Antique is waiting to be relished.

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I actually made an itinerary which lasts for three days because there are just too many places which I’m dying to visit. Sadly, I was only able to go the nearest ones and hopefully, I can go back to this place to explore the rest.

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Going to Antique was the most unplanned trip ever as I was originally going to dive at Apo Island with friends. The morning I woke up, my parents asked me where I wanted to go so the first thing that went to my mind was this. As numerous plans were already postponed going here, I thought that this was the best time.

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Travelling from Bacolod, we took a RORO going to Iloilo. Travel time is 2 hours excluding the waiting time. From the Iloilo Port to Anini-y, Antique, taking the southern route, lasts you to about 3-4 hours depending on your car speed.

Points of Interest:

Sira-an Hot Springs

While scanning on Google, I came across a folklore about this place. There was once a forbidden love affair involving the daughter of the Malayan chieftain named Anini and Nogas who was a former slave and a farmer’s son. Since they belong in different statuses, their love story ended badly when Nogas was killed and his body was casted into the open sea. An island formed which is presently named after him. Devastated by the death of her lover, Anini died and left her remains by the rocky shore facing the island. On her burial site there appeared a mini hot spring representing her tears and a sleeping volcano making her heart still beating for her true love.

There lies now the refreshing hot springs in the southernmost town of Anini-y making it a public go to place of the locals and now the tourists. This irresistible view is made of sulfuric pools which are believed to heal diseases and skin disorders, making it a health resort.

Heading your way from the entrance lies a small mound that is said to be a dormant volcano and placed at the top is the grotto of Mama Mary. There presents a cliff that sits you on the edge witnessing the panoramic view of the humbly picturesque Nogas Island.

On the left side is a big swimming pool, filled with natural sulfuric waters which are turquoise to deep moss green in color. Getting further is another small pool, not an infinity one but is placed on the edge of the cliff with a great view of the pure shores.

What catches the tourists’ attention are the perfectly placed hot spring pools in miniature sizes that only allow one to two people. With your own tub of health spa, you can stay as long as you want and lounge until sunset.

Opposite lies the natural beach that is unlike any other. The beach front is filled with medium sized stones making it similar to Dauin beaches in Negros. It has black coarse sand which sets it apart from the rest. Cottages and private rooms line up facing this gorgeous scenery.

Near the entrance is their mini bar and restaurant. Cheap seafood and videoke are available. The humble vibe reflects the availability to the public.

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Nogas Island

For just 500 pesos boat ride, you can spend the day in this enchanted yet majestic island. It takes about ten to fifteen minutes from the resort to get to this place. With high expectations, the beach is not as fine as Boracay but can be likened to the beaches of Siquijor and Guimaras. The sand is coarse with tiny pebbles but perfectly pearly white. Its water is crystal clear, without a tinge of pollution and exposes naturalness. It is relatively small wherein you can finish touring in just under 15 minutes.

Nevertheless, there are small cottages made of nipa huts wherein you can have lunch and just chill. The setup actually reminds me of Dako Island in Siargao. There are no canteen or restrooms so all in all it is a virgin island.

Nogas Island Lighthouse

Making your way to the lighthouse, you are welcomed with calachuchi trees lined up in opposite sides of the path. It extends to about 150 meters which is just a perfect backdrop for picture taking. The lighthouse is closed to the public but the caretaker let us in and climb up. It is a two storey staircase and to be frank, it was very steep. The lighthouse, situated at the the center, makes a panoramic view of the small island. Non functional but well preserved.

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Century Old Balete Tree

On the other side of the island, with a 3 minute walk from the lighthouse is the century old balete tree. Like any other balete tree, “lunok” the native term for it is believed to be home of enchanted people coming from other world dimension. It creates a spring water amidst the island filled with saltwater and cannot be explained where the water comes from. Going further, you get to witness numerous mangroves.

We didn’t get to stay long, and we decided to head back to the resort after exploring the beautiful Nogas Island.

Assemblage Point

If you want luxury in your stay in this quaint province, try to book into this newly opened resort in San Joaquin. The rooms are very spacious and you get the option for a seaview or a pool view. You can enjoy relaxing on their bar and restaurant overlooking the stony beach of Antique.

All in all, I can say that if you like Siquijor then you would be a fan of this place. There is just so much to do and see and I’m surely coming back for more.

How to get there:

From Aklan: from international airport, take a tricycle to Kalibo bus terminal then take a Ceres Bus or van for hire heading to Antique

From Iloilo: from international airport, take a van to Molo terminal, then another van, bus or jeepney to Antique

From Bacolod: take a RORO to Iloilo, then follow GPS
Dumangas RORO reservation: 034 493 0414

 

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Where to stay:
The Assemblage Point Resort and Convention Hub
Lawigan,San Joaquin – Aniniy Road, Antique
033 503 3477 / 033 336 2147
0998 541 4511
http://www.facebook.com/TheAssemblagePoint/

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Travel tips:

If you have ample time, stay in Nogas Island and wait for the high tide so you can see the true beauty of the islet.
Soak in the sulfuric mini pools as you watch the sunset.
Don’t forget to pass by Miag-ao Church. It is a UNESCO heritage site.
If you’re in groups, it’s better to bring a car with you so that you can tour the whole province without hassle as public transportation is limited especially if not at peak hours.

Budget: 8000 all in (2666 each)

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When in Cebu:  Override the Powerful Cascades of Badian to Kawasan

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Thinking about what to do this summer?  Tired of the usual cerulean waters and white sand beaches? Ever thought of risking your life for so many times in just one adventure?  If you answer yes to all these questions, then Badian-Kawasan Canyoneering is definitely worth of a life gamble.

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I never liked going to the falls.  Maybe because it was just too cold for me and when I equate summer, I would love to soak myself in the sun, lay bare in the white fine sediments and just a cocktail on my hand would complete my trip.  But I just thought that if I had this adrenaline rush and knowing that I won’t be getting any younger then surely this opportunity I would not let pass.

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We had a call time of 12am, riding a bus from Bacolod to Dumaguete.  Since Badian is found at the West and Southern part of Cebu, we decided to take the Sibulan-Liloan route.  Just a town before Dumaguete, we alighted in Sibulan and walked towards the port.  It will take you at least 15 minutes to arrive in Liloan, Cebu.  From Liloan port, we rode a tricycle going to the bus station and rode a bus going directly to Moalboal because it was just very tiring for us to do the canyoneering  on that day.

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White Beach Moalboal, mostly famous for its diving sites and white sand beaches, is one of best tourist spots of Cebu.  It is highly sought for value travelers and their public beach is great for camping and lounging.  If you’re a diver, experience free diving with million of sardines in Pescador Island at a very cheap price.  In addition, Moalboal is very cheap overall, with “carinderia” prices of food and low room rates.  You will conclusively get more of what you pay for.

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Spending the night there, we swam in the clear waters against the best backdrop of the sunset.  We got cozy on the beach with drinks on our hands, watching people get busy on their bonfires at night.  Just a laid back vibe and pure simplicity depict the beach.

Early morning while we were having breakfast, it freaking rained hard.  We were just so disappointed that we traveled so far for nothing.  We talked to our contact to make sure if we could still pursue it and we had a positive response.  It took us about an hour from Moalboal to Badian.  Arriving at their mini booth, we asked the guide to make sure if it’s really safe.  Just because the adventure itself was already a big risk, I just didn’t want to kill myself more hahah.  The tour guide explained that they only stop canyoneering if it continuously rained for three days and if there is a storm the week before.  So they only base the current of the water of the previous days.

We changed into our suits and hooked all our safety gears.  Our bags were placed on their lockers, bringing only the necessary things.  Remember to bring money with you and put it on a waterproof bag because the canyoning can make you very hungry afterwards.  We rode a motorcycle heading to the starting point at Poblacion, Alegria which takes you about ten to fifteen minutes.  There were two registrations needed to be accomplished before it started.  There were food vendors situated at the registration.
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Just a five minute walk from the office to the starting point,  the adventure now begins.

Badian-Kawasan Canyoneering has two kinds of adventure.  The most famous one is the downstream canyoneering which you start from Badian, the higher portion and just have a total of 8 cliff jumps and countless times of sliding and swimming, finishing it until Kawasan National Park and waterfalls.

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The more challenging kind is what they call the reverse canyoneering which is the river climbing.  They start at the lower portion which involves abseiling and the use of climbing gears.  Whichever is your choice, it will surely be a once in a lifetime experience.

Prepare to cliff jump to as high as 20 feet which is the highest jump to start the canyoning tour.  Cebu Canyoneering involves climbing down the canyon by the means of walking, swimming, climbing and abseiling so prepare your mind for the action that awaits you.

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In the middle of the tour, you get to lounge in this dark blue waters which are too dreamy and enchanting.

You know when you’re nearly finished when you arrive at the second highest jump after about three hours.  There are grilled food situated at the cliff so while you’re gaining your composure and prepare for your jump, you can take a rest and eat some pork inasal.

On your way to the exit, you can witness the lovely color of the stream which forms as a mini pond.  You can never fail to appreciate the awesomeness of the nature’s beauty.

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The end of the tour welcomes you to the gorgeous sapphire water of Kawasan Falls Level 3, the topmost portion of the famed Kawasan cascade.  There are also food vendors selling snacks and drinks to replenish your lost calories.  The whole experience takes you to about 3-4 hours depending on your speed.
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We made our way to Level 1 and took a swim for a little while.  After having enough rest, we went back to their booth and caught a bus back to Liloan.

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Canyoneering Tour:

Joeproadventures (as low as 650 pesos each if direct booking)
+63 935 531 4702
inclusions: safety helmet, life vest, transportation fee from station to jump start, all entrance fees

Kawasan Canyoneering (1200 each)
Pips: +63 918 654 4111
inclusions: safety helmet, life vest, transportation fee from station to jump start, light snacks, recovery meal, all entrance fees

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How to get there:

From Bacolod:

Bus to Dumaguete (5 hours)
Alight in Sibulan (5 min walk)
Take a ferry to Liloan Port (15 minutes)
Ride a Bus or Trike to Bato Terminal (10 minutes)
Bus from Bato to Badian (1 hour and 30 minutes)

From Moalboal: Ride a bus to Badian (1 hour)

From Cebu: Ride a Ceres Bus (3-4 hours)

From international and other provinces: head to Cebu International Airport or Dumaguete Airport

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Where to stay:

Basdaku Beach

Budget:
HK Beach Resort +63 919 476 6385
Ester’s Homestay +63 927 578 5983 / malyn_esc7106@yahoo.com.ph
Magic’s Place +63 905 906 6956

Pricey:
Barefoot White Beach Resort +63 928 4939 798

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Tips:

  1. Arrive early.
  2. Bring money with you on the tour.
  3. Always listen to the guide or you get washed away with the current.
  4. Wear proper attire to protect yourself.
  5. Eat a fair amount to last you for 5 hours.
  6. Get a good sleep the night before.
  7. Don’t forget to bring your GroPro camera.  If you don’t have any, they let you rent it for 500 pesos.
  8. If you have any valuables with you, they offer a locker.
  9. If you have an ample time, you can pass by Lambug Beach in Badian.  It has incredible white sand and public yet serene beach.
  10. You can make moalboal diving, canyoneering adventure, swimming with the whalesharks in Oslob and island hop at Sumilon in one trip. So make the most out of your adventure in Cebu.

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Budget Breakdown (group of 4)

Ceres Bus 1464
Ferry to Liloan 280
Breakfast 120
Trike to Bato Terminal 100
Bus to Badian 228
Trike to Lambug Beach 160
Entrance 60
Bus to Moalboal 52
Trike to White Beach 150
Lunch 1200
Water 60
Dinner 276
Breakfast 275
Room 1800
Trike to Badian 300
Tour 2400
Tip 100
Bus to Liloan 204
Trike to Port 200
Dinner 234
Ferry to Sibulan 248
Jeep to Dumaguete 60
Trike to Ceres 32
Bus to Bacolod 1100

Total: 11103 (2775.75 each)

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When in Batangas: Hike to Taal Volcano Crater

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So we were on our trip to Manila for the Maroon 5 Concert and we were planning a day tour to the nearby places just to get the most out of our stay.  If you’re a traveler, I suggest you would skip Manila.  Because of the hustle and bustle of the traffic, your time will just be put to waste commuting the whole day.  Go outside and explore what the nearby provinces have to offer.  You’ll just be surprised that there are plenty of adventures lined up for your choosing.  If I could recommend a place that’s exciting and an easy reach at the same time, it would be a trip to the Taal  Volcano Crater.

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Just 50 kilometers from the south of Manila lies the second most active volcano in the Philippines and the smallest in the entire world.  Taal Volcano is indeed a geological wonder.  Imagine a volcano within a lake within a volcano within an island.  If that doesn’t confuse you, technically the Vulcan Point Island is within Taal Volcano Island which is within Taal Lake sitting within Luzon Island comprised within the Philippine Islands.  I guess that makes sense now.

Imagine hiking to one of the most dangerous places in the country.  Then if you think that’s an adrenaline rush with its profoundly perfect panoramic view, picture yourself lavishly plunging in Taal Crater Lake.  Yes, you can actually freaking swim there.  Well, this is definitely one for the books.

IMG_2700To make our trip easy, I already arranged a tour with one of the cheapest I found.  It’s around 900 pesos per head which is from Bryan Gonzales Malvataan at Talisay Batangas.  Depending on your point of origin and whether you commute or have a private service, Bryan gives directions for an effortless way to their boat station.  He even texts you just to get an update of where you are specifically.

We left our hotel at seven in the morning.  After a series of bus and jeepney rides, we arrived at the Taal Boat Station around 9:30 am.  We were briefed on their cottage made of nipa huts; we registered ourselves and signed a waiver.  Few minutes passed and we were ready for the boat ride which lasted for about 15 minutes.  The waves were calm and the weather was great so we were ready for the time of our lives.

With five minutes of walking, we reached the registration office.  However, we booked a tour so our boatman arranged everything for us.  The horses were all lined up partnered with their horsemen.  The number of the horses were just as many as the number of tourists visiting this tourist spot.

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Going up to Taal Crater takes up about 30 minutes of horse riding and about an hour and a half of trekking.  The trail to the top gets steeper while overlooking the panoramic view of the Taal Lake.  You have to make sure to hold on to your horse very well or your might fall.  Good thing, Saring, my horse, knows how to follow instructions from my guide and I was in good hands.

 

The top of the volcano consists of a viewing deck for a scenic view of Taal Crater and Taal Lake.      A number of vendors were selling souvenirs and snacks right at the entrance.  On the right side of the terrain is what they call the red lava area.  There is an additional payment of 50 pesos for its entrance fee but it’s definitely worth it since you get to be closer to the crater and have a perfect backdrop.  The area can be reached within a 10 minute hike.  Remember to be cautious as there are no railings on the side so watch every step as the path can be steep and dangerous.

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As usual, we stayed for a little while to do some picture taking.  Thankfully, our tour guide knows the best shots and angles.  He even choreographed some of my poses.  Now satisfied with our takes, it was time to head back to the mainland.  Unfortunately, it rained hard so we had to secure our raincoats which were freely given by Bryan.

The tour was a little tiring.  The weather was a bit crazy.  Luckily, we had free coconut drinks when we returned.  We changed clothes and decided to have lunch in Tagaytay.  Bryan was very accommodating and he even arranged our transportation and gave us some tips on our travel.

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How to get there:

Batangas route from Manila:

  1. bus bound to Lipa or Batangas which passes Tanauan
  2. jeepney from Tanauan to Talisay
  3. rent a boat from the public market

Tagaytay route from Manila:

  1. bus bound to Tagaytay, Nasugbu or Balayan
  2. jeepney to People’s Park (before rotunda)
  3. alight at Ligaya Drive
  4. jeepney or tricycle to Talisay
  5. rent a boat to volcano island

Where to stay:

Hilik Boutique Hostel

2nd Floor 7844 Mavenue Building, Guerrero, Makati, 1210 Metro Manila, Philippines
http://www.hilikboutiquehostel.ph
+63 2 519 5821 / +63 915 379 3917 / +63 999 768 4375

Bryan Gonzales Malvataan Tour: +63 917 203 2792
You can rent a boat directly to Precious Boat Station
325 Sitio Gulod, Brgy. Banga, Talisay, Batangas (in front of Talisay Mini Cockpit)
https://www.facebook.com/ilovetaalvolcano/?fref=ts

Budget:

Taxi 100
GOCS bus to Tanuan 285
Tricycle to Jeepney Stand 45
Red Lava Entrance 150
Tour Guide Tip 200
Tricycle to Tagaytay 300
Lunch 1200
Tricycle to Bus Stand 30
Bus to Buendia 267
Taal Tour 4000

Total: 6577 = 2192 each

Travel tips:

  1. Eat breakfast before starting the tour.
  2. The best time to start is early morning to prevent the scorching heat of the sun and the crowd.
  3. Bring face mask to protect you from the dust from the volcanic ashes.
  4. Bring plenty of water and extra clothes if you’re planning to hike.  If you change your mind in the middle, don’t worry as you can have the option to take a horse to follow you while you hike.
  5. You can always ride a horse for an easier means to go the crater lake.
  6. Don’t miss the red lava area.  Other tours will tell you that the view is just the same with the viewing deck but it’s definitely different.
  7. There are plenty of food vendors at the peak.
  8. Take lots of photographs and don’t forget to put on sunscreen.
  9. If you finish early with your tour, take a sidetrip to Tagaytay and visit Skyranch.

When in Negros: Kayak at Lake Balinsasayao in Sibulan

I never knew I was looking for a different kind of place until I came across Twin Lakes as I search on Google the best places to go when in Dumaguete.  We were heading to a small town of Dauin which is just minutes away from the capital. We were spending a night there at a certain resort and I wanted to squeeze one worthy place to visit on our itinerary.  From that moment I saw pictures of it, I knew I was in for a total adventure.  It was a break from the aquamarine beaches and the hectic city life.

Lying on Negros Oriental, Sibulan is just a five hour drive away from Bacolod.  Prepare to get intrigued at these two deep crater lakes filled with fresh water that can rise up to 1000 feet above sea level.  Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park is comprised of three lakes namely: Lake Balinsasayao, Lake Danao and Lake Kabalin-an.  Now a part of a protected area, it encompasses a wide range of flora and fauna.   With the two lakes separated by four mountains, Lake Balinsasayao can be found at northwest while Lake Danao is on the southeast.

Driving to about 20 minutes from Dumaguete is a small town of Sibulan.  There is a big signage to the entrance on the left side of the national highway.  Notice the antique lamp posts on the bay, then you’re near the route.

After a 14 kilometer drive, you can witness the majestic view of Lake Kabalin-an.  You have to stop to register at their office just at the right side of the road.  But you don’t have to be asked to get out of your car to fill up the forms because the view is so bewitching that you truly need a stopover.    Encircled by the ridges of the mountain, Lake Kabalin-an is a view that I enjoyed the most in my visit.  It’s like it just came out of an Avatar scene.  Catching your view are the trees growing from the water that are so enchanting.  A range of medium to large rocks wreathe the small lake.  Small huts are also situated near it for you to spend the day.

After a twenty minute drive, you can now reach Lake Balinsasayao.  Welcoming you is a large kubo, where you pay the respective fees.  It serves as a restaurant and a souvenir shop.  As an added bonus, you get a panoramic view of the lake from their viewing deck.

Just about a 100 meter walk from the descending pathway which is frankly very tiring for an unfit person like me, you arrive at your destination, Lake Balinsasayao.  Surrounded by a tropical lush of greenery, one can find the Almagica Tree which is the tallest tree in the Philippines.  You can enjoy kayaking or you can rent a small boat if you’re travelling in groups.  The boat ride ends in a viewing deck with a panned view of the twin lakes.

Truly, it was an exciting experience overall to witness a magnificent crater lake view which can be likened to the the Pinatubo crater in Luzon.  It is indeed a beauty waiting to be appreciated.

How to get there:

From Dumaguete:

head to Sibulan (6 km away)
watch for the big signage at the left
follow the road to Lake Balinsasayao

From Bacolod:

ride a bus bound to Dumaguete via the Mabinay route
drop off at Sibulan (town after San Jose and before Dumaguete)
watch for the big signage at the right
follow the road to Lake Balinsasayao

Fees:

  • Entrance – 10
  • Vehicle – 30
  • Kayak – 100
  • Boat – 250 per hour
  • Tour Guide – 200
  • Habal-Habal from Highway to Twin Lakes – 200
  • Ceres Bus from Bacolod to Sibulan – 350

Where to stay:

Sea Dream Resorts
Sea Dream Drive, Masaplod Sur, Dauin, 6217 Negros Oriental
http://www.sea-dream-resorts.com/index.html
+63 917 863 4866

Harolds Mansion
205 Hibbard Ave. (corner Hibbard-Lo-oc), Dumaguete City, 6200
http://haroldsmansion.com/
harold@haroldsmansion.com
+63 917302-4455
+63 35 225 8000

Travel tips:

  1. You can bring your own packed meals but light snacks and drinks are served in their canteen.
  2. Activities at the lake include kayaking, swimming, trekking, fishing and boating.
  3. Check out Azalea Restaurant on your way back from the Twin Lakes if you are not planning to spend the whole day.
  4. If you are commuting, habal-habal or a motorcycle is the best transportation as the roads are underdeveloped; however, for comfort, a private car is preferred.
  5. There is no commercial place to spend overnight at the lake.
  6. Tours to this place are also offered at certain hotels and resorts such as the Harolds Mansion.

When in Pangasinan: Cliff Jump at Marcos’ Island, Hundred Islands


Nothing beats the uniqueness and appeal of the bountiful little islands of the national park in northern Philippines.  As part of the protected area of Alaminos, Pangasinan, the Hundred Islands National Park definitely conveys the message that truly “it’s more fun in the Philippines”.  Explore  the 123 islands this perfect tourist catch comprises, covering a wide area of 1,844 hectares.

With so much more to see and do, the whole day would not be enough.  Every island has its name, some are very catchy like Devil’s Island and Kissing Island, while some are from the president’s names like Romulo’s Island and Quezon Island.  Each island is very unique with different features and characteristics and I guess every tourist will have their own favorites.

We were traveling from Bolinao to Alaminos and it took us about 40 minutes to get there.  Thankfully, we found a van which with charming negotiations, it took us straight to the Lucap Wharf.  We wasted no more time since we already left Bolinao a little late.  We then registered for the private boat as you can visit all the islands instead of getting the day tour in which you can only check the three main islands: Quezon, Children’s and Governor’s Islands.  In the latter, you only get to see the two islands for 20 minutes and you get to stay at the Quezon Island but you have to provide your desired pick up time.

We paid for all the fees at their registration office located at Lucap Wharf.  There are food stalls located outside so we bought some goodies for our island hopping.  It was almost lunch so we had to hurry to be able to explore the islands.  With the scorching heat of the sun and despite the storm forecasts, it was definitely a great day ahead.

Points of Interest:


Governor’s Island

First on our itinerary was the Governor’s Island.  This is one of the developed islands of the national park.  Climbing a two hundred-step staircase, you get to see the bird’s-eye view of the enthralling islets adjacent to each other showing off a decadent scenery.

On the other side of the island is a medium sized guest house called “Bahay ni Kuya”.  As an added attraction, this was featured in the famed show, Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition.  There is also a viewing deck on the far end of the house, wherein you can see a good background of the islets bordering it.  On the middle of the island is a small and white sandbar which serves as the docking area.  We also found numerous scuba divers exploring on the opposite side of the island.

Romulo’s Island

The most beautiful islet with the whitest and finest sand has enticed us to make a stop over.  It was so irresistible as it can be likened to White Beach, Boracay.  Even with its small size, the rugged terrains and coralline development perfectly placed at the center of the island give off a natural vibe.  The opaline powdery sand comprises the beach circling a small cave under the stony contour.

Marcos’ Island

When we docked at this gorgeous shoreline, the water was so inviting.  As usual, the white sand was always my weakness and it contrasted the beryl water of the beach.  We climbed our way to the top of the island and we noticed the workers developing the pathway.  It was an easier ascent compared to the Governor’s Island.  At the end of the path is a big hole which serves as an entrance to Imelda’s Cave.  Descending to about ten steps is a point for cliff jumping.  Depending on the water level, you can jump from as high as twenty feet.  On the average, the jump off point rests up to twelve feet and the water about six to eight meters deep.  After jumping, you can snorkel your way out to the opening of the cave, swim to the open sea and back to the shore.  It took us almost forever to jump.  Although it’s quite low for a cliff jump point, it was our first time so were so apprehensive.  After having enough courage to do it, it was such a rush so we decided to do it again to make a video.  We were just so hooked.

Quezon Island

We were already starving so we decided to head to Quezon Island which serves as a recreational center where you can enjoy kayaking, rapelling, wall climbing, snorkeling, play volleyball and frisbee.  It is one of the developed islands in the national park.  Welcoming you is a three storey high open building which serves as a docking point in the first floor.  The main restaurant can be found on the second floor wherein they serve simple courses.  On the third floor, there is an extension of their restaurant and you get a scenic view of the island.  Moreover, the open building serves as an areal platform for a zip line course connected to the manmade bridge.  If you want to spend the night there, you can either camp and rent a tent or cottages are also available at a cheap price of about 2500 pesos.

Snorkeling Area

Our boatman brought us to the spot for snorkeling just near Quezon Island.  It was late in the afternoon and the waves were getting stronger.  The boat just docked on the side of the area as it would be difficult for them to transfer on the inner range.  We secured our life vest because the water level is higher on some parts of the sea.  It was a joy to snorkel on one of the most treasured marine life.  I just hope that we could have found a better spot for snorkeling with a high water level so that we can prevent on touching or stepping on the corals because it takes hundreds of years for some to grow just an inch.

Cuenco Island

It was almost sunset so we decided to make our last stop on Cuenco Island.  What makes this uncommon is that it has a cave shaped like a tunnel.  With interesting limestone formations, there are two beaches in opposite sides.  In the near end is a white sand beach where the boats dock and serve as the entrance to the cave.  As you continue in the far end, the opening becomes narrower connecting to the restaurant by the beach.

Bat Island

On our way back to the Lucap Wharf, we pass by the island.  Well, it’s home to where the island was named from, bats.  It was impossible to dock since there is no beach area so we just admired the uniqueness from the boat.  The island is filled with bats hanging from the trees on top of the island.

When we arrived back to mainland, we bought pasalubong and took a shower on their public restroom.  We were in a hurry to catch a trip back and thankfully, we were able to ride the bus back to Manila just in great time.  Truly, the Hundred Islands National Park can be listed on one of the best tourist spots in the country as it offers a variety of activities for people of different age groups.  It is indeed for everyone.  It was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had and the scenery it offers is just hands down impeccable.  So if you are in Manila and you’re in for a great adventure, check out Hundred Islands in Pangasinan.

How to get there: (travel time up to 4 hours from MNL)

  1. private car – SCTEX route going to Alaminos, refer to google maps
  2. public bus – Five Star Bus Line (http://www.5starbus.co/contact-us/), Victory Liner and Dagupan Bus Line
    ride a tricycle to Lucap Terminal then to Lucap Wharf

Where to stay:

Governor’s Island, Hundred Islands
(at least 1500 pesos)

Quezon Island, Hundred Islands
(at least 500 pesos)
Brgy. Lucap, Alaminos City, Pangasinan
+63 75 551 2505 / +63 75 205 0917
+63 928 244 9011
www.alaminoscity.gov.ph

Rates: http://www.tripadvisor.com.ph/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g676747-d1023405-i121427974-100_Islands-Alaminos_City_Pangasinan_Province_Ilocos_Region_Luzon.html#121427955

Maxine By The Sea Lodge and Restaurant

(at least 1100 pesos)
Lucap, Alaminos City, Pangasinan
+63 75 551 2537
+63 921 642 8551
maxine@maxinebythesea.com
www.maxinebythesea.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maxine-By-The-Sea-Alaminos-City-Pangasinan/210222269006607

Travel tips:

  1. If you want to explore the whole national park, prefer getting a private boat instead of the day tour service boat which only visits the three main islands.
  2. Buy food and bottled drinks at the vendors situated at the Lucap Wharf since it is more expensive at the islands.
  3. Leave as early as 12 midnight from Manila if you’re only good for a day tour to get the most out of your travel.
  4. Public restroom and shower are available next to the tourism office.
  5. Snorkeling gears are available for rent.
  6. Only rent a boat from the Lucap Tourism Office for standardized rates and for safety and security.

Budget Breakdown (4 pax daytrip)

  • Van from Bolinao to Lucap Wharf – 300
  • Private Boat – 1560
  • Gears – 150
  • Restroom Fee – 15
  • Water – 130
  • Junk Food – 45
  • Ice Cream – 80
  • Lunch – 415
  • Dinner – 280
  • Alaminos to MNL – 1632

Total : 4607 (1152 each)

Itinerary:

Day 1 – Capones Island, Zambales
https://wengwengwanders.com/2014/08/23/backpacking-in-zambales-day-tour-at-capones-island/

Day 2 – Bolinao, Pangasinan
https://wengwengwanders.com/2015/07/02/when-in-pangasinan-relish-the-view-of-bolinao-rock-formation%E2%80%A8/

Day 3 – Alaminos, Pangasinan
https://wengwengwanders.com/2015/08/06/when-in-pangasinan-cliff-jump-at-marcos-island-hundred-islands%E2%80%A8/

When in Pangasinan: Relish the View of Bolinao Rock Formation


Want a paronamic view of the West Philippine Sea?  Make the small town of Bolinao in Pangasinan your next domestic haven.  Still unexplored by many, you get to see this natural wonder.  Boasting its clashing features of having rugged terrains of rock formations and long, polished stretch of cream sand beach on opposite ends, you’ll be amazed of what it has in store.

Honestly, I’ve never heard of Bolinao.  My friend was the one who arranged our itinerary for our trip and we were aiming for the Hundred Islands in Alaminos.  She came across an info about Patar Beach and we decided to check it out because we would never miss a trip without going to our ever special place, the beach.

We left Zambales after lunch and it was later than we expected when we arrived at Bolinao.  We thought it would just take 3 hours to get there when we checked Google Maps.  Unfortunately, our travel time was doubled because we were commuting.  We had dinner at a restaurant near the terminal and checked in at Casa Almarenzo at almost eight in the evening.  We had night swimming because we thought it would be a waste not to make use of their pool.  That evening, we already arranged our day tour with the owner.  There are numerous tourist spots at Bolinao but we were so pressed with time and we had to make our itinerary fit for only three hours because we had to visit the Hundred Islands in Alaminos  that day too.  Thankfully, the driver was very punctual and recommended the great places worth our visit even with our limited time.

Points of Interest:

Bolinao Rock Formation

First on our tour is the best stretch of rugged coral formations at the Patar Rock Beach Resort.  Originally, this wasn’t included in the itinerary but the driver insisted that we should check out the place as one of the famous celebrities shot some scenes there.  Welcoming you are the simple nipa huts lined up at the beachfront and we thought this was nothing new.  Much to our surprise, we saw the best view of Bolinao just in front of the coast.  Only a few people knew about this place as this is not much advertised by their tourism.  The gorgeous view extends to about 20 kilometers of rocky formations and on the left end, there is a small shed providing a gorgeous backdrop for photographers.  You will never get tired of this beautiful landscape.  You can also spend the night here at a minimum fee of only 300 pesos.

16th Century Cape Bolinao Lighthouse

On our way to Patar Beach, we made a stop at the famous lighthouse in this town which is the Cape Bolinao Lighthouse.  Standing to about 100 feet, this makes it the second tallest lighthouse in the Philippines.  Constructed on top of Punta Piedra Point, you get a great view of the South China Sea.  Sadly, tourists are now restricted to come up the lighthouse.  But when you get to climb the top, you can overlook the white sand beaches, mesmerizing rock formations, and lush greenery.  Now being a cultural heritage site, it is carefully preserved and has garnered a lot of tourists with its amazing architecture.

Cape Bolinao White Beach

Being the hidden jewel of the North, Patar Beach is considered a treasure as it is situated where the Lingayen Gulf meets the South China Sea.  The stretch of the tan to creamy white sand beach and its aquamarine water make it one of the best beaches of the town.  The sand is not so fine but grainy, which is similar to the texture of the sand in Pundaquit, Zambales.  But what makes this place unique is its natural and unexploited beauty.  Even if it’s a public beach, the place has maintained its cleanliness and it is uncrowded.  If you want a tranquil break from your work and bask under the sun, then this beach is just a 4-5 hour drive from the capital.

Enchanted Cave

There are three caves that you can visit on your tour namely: Cindy’s Cave, Wonderful Cave and Enchanted Cave.  Of all the three, the driver recommended the latter to be the most beautiful.  It is indeed enchanted with so much to see.  According to our tour guide, the place was submerged under water ten million years ago as you can identify the limestone coral rocks and huge fossil clams around the area.  Its charm wins you with its crystal clear and jade fresh water that can rise up to six feet.  As an added attraction, there are monkeys on the trees who are able to roam around freely.  So don’t miss this enchanting place as it allures you with its magic.

How to get there: (travel time up to 6 hours from MNL)

  1. private car – SCTEX route and pass by Alaminos and Bani to Bolinao, refer to google maps
  2. public bus – Five Star Bus Line (http://www.5starbus.co/contact-us/), Victory Liner and Dagupan Bus Line
    ride a tricycle from the Bolinao Terminal to the resort

Where to stay:

Casa Almarenzo Bed & Breakfast

Patar Road, Brgy. Estanza, Bolinao, Pangasinan, Bolinao, 2406 Pangasinan

+63 922 858 8455

http://www.casaalmarenzo.com/

Travel tips:

Beware of tricycle tours who would overprice with their charges.  Ask locals for the normal rates.

If you have an ample time you can visit other attractions:

  • Balingasay River
  • Bolinao Falls
  • Tara Falls
  • Bolinao Museum
  • UP Marine Sanctuary
  • Church of St. James the Great

Buy their local delicacy, Binungey, as your pasalubong.

Deal a travel tour with the tricycle drivers to maximize your time and for a cheaper expense.

Travel Expenses:
From Zambales to Bolinao : group of 4

  • Fare to Sta. Cruz 760
  • Sparkle 40
  • Sta. Cruz to Alaminos 308
  • Alaminos to Bolinao 204
  • Dinner 780
  • Tricycle to Hotel 120
  • Hotel Room 3000
  • Tricycle Travel Tour 600
  • Rock Formation Entrance 200
  • Enchanted Cave 420

Total 6432 (1608 each)

Itinerary:

Day 1 – Capones Island, Zambales
https://wengwengwanders.com/2014/08/23/backpacking-in-zambales-day-tour-at-capones-island/

Day 2 – Bolinao, Pangasinan
https://wengwengwanders.com/2015/07/02/when-in-pangasinan-relish-the-view-of-bolinao-rock-formation%E2%80%A8/

Day 3 – Alaminos, Pangasinan
https://wengwengwanders.com/2015/08/06/when-in-pangasinan-cliff-jump-at-marcos-island-hundred-islands%E2%80%A8/

When In Iloilo : Seek Adventure in Gigantes Islands

Lying in the northernmost part of Iloilo are the most charming islands of Gigantes.  With its remoteness and naturalness, one cannot fathom the decadence this place has to offer.  If you’re willing to seek the ultimate adventure, a break from the overcrowded and overdeveloped tourist destinations, then this unexampled experience is for you.  One thing that seduces the adventurers in exploring the island is its cheap expense.  If you’re on a budget and travelling by group, then this adventure is definitely worth more than you are paying for.  This haven yields abundant and cheap seafood; reasonable tour fees; instagram worthy backdrops of white sand beaches, pristine blue waters, jagged rock terrains and amazing hospitality of the people.

We had a call time of 10:00am in Daan Banwa Port, Victorias City.  Upon arrival, the trip was moved to 12:00pm so that the boat can dock at the port at high tide.  We decided to have lunch in the nearby carinderias since the whole trip can take up to seven long hours.  If you’re looking for comfort, I suggest you take the longer route which is via RORO Dumangas in Iloilo since the trip can be a bit wet and by what I mean with wet is that water can get inside the boat so it was a bit of a hassle in summary.

After two hours, we barged in at Culasi, Ajuy in Iloilo which is just an hour bus ride to Estancia Port.  We then rode a tricycle from the bus terminal to the port.  Our contact from the Hideaway Inn was already waiting for us.  We arrived around 5pm so we weren’t able to make it in time for the public boat which has only one trip per day.  As a result, we chartered a private one to get to the island.

It was one hell of a two-hour ride from Estancia Port to Gigantes Island.  The waves were getting bigger as the sun was at dusk.  I was in the fore end of the boat and I got all the water splashing on my face.  It was so cold and the only warmth I got was from the lifejacket.  It took us forever to reach the island.  It was scary as the only light to guide us the way was a small flashlight.  Thankfully, we landed safely.  The boat docked straight to the lone island of Gigantes Hideaway Resort.  It is connected to the Gigantes Norte Island with a long sandbar.  The resort was lined with camping tents with various sizes.  The place expressed a laid back feel and I wished we could just stay there.  It was a perfect camp site with the beach and gorgeous white sand;  it was just irresistible.

We went for a 20 minute walk along the sandbar separating the two islands to get to the Gigantes Norte Island.  The water was about two feet above the sandbar and we were very careful not to drop our belongings.  We had a bountiful dinner which was composed mainly of seafood at the Hideaway Resort campsite.  We then moved to the other resort riding the habal-habal.  We arrived at the Jesa Beach Resort later than 9 in the evening and we wasted no more time and took a shower and got a good night sleep.


Jesa Beach Resort is situated fronting the beach.  It was a perfect morning to wake up to when you see a perfect backdrop of gorgeous and VSCO filtered terrains.  With blue curtains laced in the bungalows, it was the perfect spot to just chill on the beach.  Sadly, we had to leave early due to our fun packed itinerary for the day.

Points of Interest:

Gigantes Norte Lighthouse

Welcoming you to the entrance is the keeper’s house in ruins with a door directing you straight to the lighthouse.  We didn’t get to climb up to the tower deck because it is now closed for the tourists.  The lighthouse stands in 12 meters high and becomes one of the main attractions of the island.  Overlooking the cliff is a perfect terrain and the beach below reminds me of Capones Island in Zambales.  The paradisiac waves illuminating against the light composes a perfect exposure for your pictures.  Never a miss a shot with the single-storey house which is composed of stoney walls, still standing despite of being damaged by the typhoon.

Bakwitan Cave

After our breakfast, we rode a habal-habal to explore a cave.  There are numerous caves in the island with a total of more than seventy caves for your eager soul.  If you have two hours to spare and just for the sake of experience, check out the Bakwitan Cave.  This cave got its name for being the evacuation center during the World War II.  Now, being the main spelunking area for the tourists in the island, it offers an exploring of more than you can ask for.

We were briefed by our cave guide before starting our tour.  He handed us three flashlights for a group of 9 people so we made sure to have a buddy system.  The cave is divided into three stages.  The first stage is just for exploring the whole cave, giving you the feel of being inside it.  He gave us mini lectures about the different stalagmites and stalactites.  He told us not to touch anything to preserve the system.  If you don’t want to finish the three stages, you can decide to return back to the main entrance after the first stage.  However, if you want to have a little adventure and decide to pursue, you have to carry on with the trail towards the exit because going back  to your previous path can never be an option.

Stage two continued with crawling on a small opening.  We had to duck and move forward for about a meter.  We had to be careful not to rise up suddenly because we could get hit by the sharp stalactites suspending above.  It was then followed by spelunking.  We had to climb the cave to reach stage three.  As long as you are following the guide’s instructions and being aware of where your left or your right foot goes then you’re good to go.  As we reached the top, there was another path that we need to climb towards the exit.  Stage three is a bit more complex since one wrong move and you’re gonna fall back to where you started in stage two.  You have to make sure to get a good grip and to watch your every step.  At long last, we saw a light and went up to about ten meters and reached the exit after the challenging spelunking.

Just when we thought that the challenge was done, the trail going down the mountain was definitely the most exciting and fearful way.  Frankly, it was more challenging than spelunking.  There were no railings to protect you and the path was made of huge sharp rocks.  Just be careful with your every step making sure the rocks that you step on are stable because you can slide directly to the ground due to the steep path.  After thirty minutes of descent, we reached the ground unharmed.  We went back to the Hideaway Resort for breakfast.