The drive is long. The road from Manila to San Juan, Batangas, through the SLEX and Star Tollway, may be smooth, thankfully, but it’s still a long drive. And it’s not surprising to doubt if, at the final stretch through that quiet cemetery, the narrow and unpaved road leads anywhere good. But there it waits, that oasis of serenity called Palm Beach Resort.
We didn’t get to read a lot about Palm Beach Resort when we decided on another weekend adventure to Laiya. It turned out well because everything came as a surprise. It’s better that way. Wake up in the morning, decide on which direction to go, pack some clothes, and go on a trip of discovery. Spontaneous. Be ready with what the road offers. The travel gods smiled on us that day because we ended up in Palm Beach Resort.
And perhaps “ending up in Palm Beach Resort” best describes the trip. Through the narrow and unpaved road, through the road forks happily bursting with resort direction signboards, out of nowhere when you would probably decide to turn around and head back to where the crowd is, proudly stands a resort that slowly reveals its beauty as you stroll in.
Our marker is that cemetery, all in peaceful (or scary, depending on how you look at it) white, at the end of the paved highway. That’s where Acuatico and other resorts are clustered. The end of the line among Laiya’s resorts used to be La Luz Beach Resort. Now, it’s the Palm Beach Resort, although to be accurate, this resort is found in Brgy. Hugom, still in the town of San Juan, Batangas [see Maps and Directions].
As the vehicle leaves the comfort of the concrete road, dust (or mud, if it’s raining) flies about as the vehicle navigates between trees and fences. Workers are pouring concrete, paving small portions of the road. That will probably take time. They’ve started a year or so ago, the last time we were here. But we like it. It’s like offroading. Exciting, really. We always say that this car is built to take this kind of adventure. And we always say that the fun of the journey is pretty much as important as the destination.
Guests have to park on top of a hill. It’s actually a hill below a hill. So only resort vehicles are allowed downhill after you go downhill. That probably doesn’t make any sense. If it makes sense, it means you’ve been there. It’s difficult to describe this resort carved from the sides of rolling hills.
You’ll see roof tiles while on the hill. The wide, open sea is visible but the landscaping and everything else about the resort is hidden. Intentional, maybe, and it sure keeps the surprise factor.
Going down the bend, safely tucked inside the service van, one gets a quick glimpse of the first infinity pool to the right. nice, peaceful, cool. The other spanking-new infinity pool sit idly beside the pavilion. The pools are perfect, but if there’s one thing that I would ask from Palm Beach, please do something about the slippery tiles used on the rungs down the pools; it’s an accident waiting to happen.
Down the hill, on sea level, is the natural landscaping that Palm Beach Resort is proud of. Palm trees and Talisay trees dominate the green landscape that hugs the white buildings of concrete, wood and glass. Along the sandy resort road, opposite the buildings, the bamboo-floored, cogon-roofed open cabanas wait for guests beside the beach.
The reception area, where the cashier is found, is not exactly a reception area. It’s just like a cabana. Small. Dispensable, meaning you don’t need it anyway. Upon going down the service van, guests are escorted straight to the rooms. A small yet brilliant touch that makes guests feel special.
One important component of Palm Beach, just like any great resort, is the warmth of the staff. You’ll see a genuine smile when you see one. It’s refreshing someone sweeping the dead leaves from the pathways, who smiles and nods to acknowledge your presence, asks if you’re ready for your dinner, then whips out the handheld radio (no, not the balisong (fan knife) that the Batangueños are known for all over the world) to advise the pavilion to prepare for the new set of guests.
Without intercom in the rooms, it’s comforting to see staff within eyesight, ready to assist guests. And that’s if you’re looking for them. What’s amazing is the feeling that the staff isn’t there. They must have practiced that a lot — the art of being there but making the guests feel like the staff are not there, respecting the privacy of guests.
If we have not featured the beach in this post, it’s because we’re saving that for another article (see Beach Life at Palm Beach Resort). The biggest surprise was the field of coral, a feature not highlighted by the resort and we discovered quite by coincidence. The beach and the surprising corals revealed by the low tide deserve a separate post.
The food? Food is good. There are a few beach resorts along Laiya with great food, like Virgin Beach Resort, but food in Palm Beach is ok. Fresh seafood. Pasta. The home-made meat life (we think). Fresh fruits. Cakes and sweets. All served buffet at the pavilion, which means guests can load up on energy before heading back to the beach for more swimming, snorkeling, kayaking or riding the banana boat.
We didn’t try any of the water sports. Tempting, yes, but there’s something else that we soaked at Palm Beach. The sun, yes. The fresh, clean air, too. But the one thing that we discovered and loved about the place is the calm and peace it offers.
It’s far from the crowd and not really that accessible. One could hear the ruffling of the leaves even during the day, more so at night. The sounds of birds and crickets, joined by the regular beat of waves hitting the shore, lull guests to sleep (if they’re not busy with the cable tv). Sit back and relax on the wooden chair at the porch, close your eyes, and let go of the pressures of the city. Even for a while.
The almost 200-kilometer drive from Manila to Palm Beach Resort is in itself a road trip of discovery. What waits at the end — the peace and relaxation offered by Palm Beach Resort — makes the journey doubly worth it.