Have a confirmed reservation. I know this much and my wife made it a point to remind me every hour or so before we headed towards Laiya, Batangas. We haven’t taken a break for some time now and my sense of adventure made my whole body itch. Just go, I thought. And so we embarked on a journey of discovery one sunny, warm (or really hot?) Saturday.
First discovery, and I feel like an idiot with this, Laiya is a place in San Juan, Batangas, and not the name of a resort. All this time I thought Laiya is a resort, one with white sand different from the not-so-sandy beaches in Batangas (think Eagle Point or Leisure Dive Resort). Laiya is littered with resorts along a whole stretch of beach. I also discovered that even with the number of resorts dotting the place, overnight check-in accommodations (as opposed to day tour/trip) could go fully booked during peak seasons. Like this time of the year.
Day tour guests could rent a cabana for the day, then go home before sunset. That’s less costly. Because not all beaches in Laiya are created equal, survey the scene before picking a spot. Each resort has pros and cons. I took a walk along most part of the Laiya beachfront and found out that some beach fronts have great waters and better sand (Virgin Resort and Kabayan Resort, with the latter more exclusive and less crowded than the first). Some are more expensive. Some won’t allow people to pass through the beachfront.
The beach in Laiya is really good, but to manage expectations, let me say that it’s not as spectacular as Pagudpud, Boracay, Panglao or Palawan; the sand not as white and the waters not as clear. The sand in Laiya ranges from a mix of black-gray to white. Not much water activities like banana boat or parasailing.
But the problem with Palawan, Bohol and Boracay is the distance from Metro Manila. Batangas is just a three-hour drive through open tollways and smooth highways. Laiya is a good place to go for people who want simple summer beach fun.
Coming from Manila, take the South Luzon Expressway (SLE) and drive until the end, the Sto. Tomas exit. Just go straight towards the direction of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, and, before reaching Sto. Tomas, turn right at the entrance of Star Tollway (the least congested tollway, I must say). Take the Ibaan/San Jose exit. Don’t make the mistake, like I did, of driving all the way to the end of Star Tollway (but with practically no traffic, you’ll forget to take off your foot from the gas pedal). From there you’ll pass by Ibaan, then Rosario, finally San Juan. That’s where Laiya is found. You could also check the maps conveniently provided in the resort websites (like here). Or simply ask the friendly Batangas folks along the way.
Our original choice was either Acuatico or La Luz, both of which looked good on their respective websites (and actually looked good when we checked them). Our backup plan was to scour Laiya if these resorts are fully booked, which we fear they would be (Acuatico weekends turned out to be fully booked until May, wow!). Worst-case scenario is just have a day tour, enjoy the day on the beach, then take the 170-kilometer drive back to Manila. I don’t mind the drive — the winding roads, the golden leaves and the smell of crisp, smog-free Batangas air provide some level of comfort to the city-charred nerves.
The search turned out well, not because we found a good alternative to stay in, but because it was the closest thing to offroad driving I could have (I know, it’s nothing compared to what hard-core offroaders do, but it’s the nearest thing my wife would allow me to make the vehicle suffer). Speeding through stretches of dirt roads off the highway. Potholes around the corners. Tight turns, between coconut trees and what have you, alternating with rocky open fields. Plumes of white smoke as the wheels grind on segments of loose cement-like white sand. I could go on searching the whole day and I wouldn’t mind. Except that our kid is with us.
And so after an hour of having offroad fun (at least for me), we found a vacant place — the Laiya Coco Grove (the website doesn’t do justice to the place, something we told the owner when we met him by chance during dinner). Now, before going any further, let me say that what works for one may not work for others. Let’s have a separate post for Coco Grove (click here).
Then there’s the sunset. We know that Batangas offers great sunsets, just like in Calatagan. We’ve featured the Golden Sunset Resort in Calatagan which offers much more than a thought-provoking vista of a golden sun: the food is great and the landscape is immaculately manicured (or shall I say pedicured?). Too bad I missed the sunset in Laiya by just a few minutes, so all I have is this photo. Now, try to imagine that view 5 minutes earlier. Can’t? Go here and look at the Golden Sunset.
We didn’t get to enjoy Laiya as much as we wanted to. There was a tsunami warning that made us think twice about going to deeper waters (I know Batangas is not covered by the Tsunami Bulletin issued by Phivolcs, but it’s better to be safe than sorry). While we’re at it, let me say that I didn’t notice any tsunami evacuation path prominently marked in the area. Maybe I just missed it. Or maybe they have to get serious and put something there.
Still, Laiya is a place I’d willingly go back for more. We simply didn’t have enough time to explore it. We didn’t have enough information on what to look for. We really have to go back.