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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Summer in Cebu: Top 5 Resorts

Summer is definitely here. I can feel it in the breeze that calls me to the sea. I can also feel it in the suffocating humidity. 40C baby!

Once a year, I get a strong urge to frolic in the water and make like a floating whale for three hours. I can swim but floating takes less energy and is much more relaxing. You hear nothing but the water that envelopes you. And all you see above are the swaying palm trees, happy sun, and puffy morphing clouds. Aahhh, so relaxing. As the pounds have added on, I've also found myself more buoyant, making the experience extra enjoyable -- glass half full, glass. half. full.

There's also the pressing desire to lounge in the sun in my bikini. I still prefer somewhere isolated. Remember the pounds? They tend to spill out of the bikini. But I want to be in the darned bikini dagnabit! I just want to be hubadera for a bit, albeit in private. I usually find a spot where not a lot of people are and just lounge to my heart's content. Feeling the sun on your skin is delicious. There's something so luxurious and decadent about the activity and getting a nice tan is an added treat. I also feel like I look skinnier and cuter for about three days before the color gets murky. It's worth it.

Given the general feel that I'm going for, a resort is always my preferred option for getting some beach and sun. I used to go to public beaches such as Hadsan and Portofino when I was younger. And they were so beautiful then. Now they're unfortunately overcrowded with people who have no beach etiquette. I have seen far too many floating turds and people coughing up phlegm to build any desire to come back as an adult. The sand in Portofino is powdery fine and white. If you can make it on a day without a lot of people (weekday), it is a nice option still. Entrance is a P100 the last time I went.

But for the resorts, here are my top options:

1. Plantation Bay Resort & Spa

There's a big debate that's ongoing for many Cebuanos about the best resort in the island and it's always been Planatation Bay versus Shangri-la. Personally, Plantation Bay wins by a mile. This resort is a colonial-style property engulfed in man-made saltwater and fresh water pools. The place has a unique concept that is not generic like the Shangri-la. The design also allows for so many spot options for people wanting some solitude. There are a number of activities to do apart from water sports. There's a no tipping policy. Service is fast and the food is great. The menu hardly changes but what they have ala carte is done really well. The breakfast buffet is okay, but the dinner buffet is always excellent.

To be clear: the actual beach front at Plantation Bay is not spectacular but the salt water pools will not leave you wanting for it.

2. Anywhere in Sta. Fe, Bantayan

Bantayan is an island in northern Cebu that boasts of pristine white sands beaches. The area of Sta. Fe, in particular, has the whitest and finest ones. Go anytime apart from Holy Week and Summer (end March to May) and the place is practically all yours. Its appeal is rustic. It's like a pre-perfect Boracay. Think castaway.

Accommodations and food can be had for cheap. Our hotel was P1,200 a night for an air conditioned room for two people, for example. My best tip is to choose one that is walking distance from the beach. And bring your own snacks if you can. Grocery stores do not exist here.

Do know that you will not be able to swim at night since there are no beach lights and street lights. But you can enjoy some night life in the town proper, should you be inclined.

3. Maribago Blue Waters

This resort has a small beach front with an island you can boat or swim to. The sand is clean and white. And it has all the amenities you'll need for a good day at  beach -- a bar, restaurant, clear restrooms. If I am particularly craving the beach, and not plain saltwater (Plantation Bay), this is my best option.

4. Sumilon Island Blue Waters

This resort is definitely worth the travel but it's only number four because it is so far away from the city. Sumilon is located at the South part of Cebu province and it has some of the most beautiful white sand beaches on its property. You also come here to scuba. One side of the island hosts corals with some really beautiful fish to spy on. And it was the best part of the visit for me.

I came here on a day tour but it would be best to stay the night given the long drive involved. There is a lagoon and hiking trail to be explored for those with more time. And do expect the weather to possibly be unpredictable. The island is basically open to the sea, so winds and rain can come and leave pretty strongly with no warning.

5. Shangri-la Resort & Spa

The Shangri-la is certainly known for being a swanky chain with really good service. But my stay here was lackluster in so many areas, and disappointing overall. It was nice but considering how expensive rooms and food was, it just wasn't worth it for me. If asked to stay for free, I would enjoy it. But if I'm asked to pay for it, I'd rather go to Plantation Bay.

For one, the beach was rocky. The sand leading to the water is white and powdery but once you hit the sea, it's all rock. I was there at low-tide time but there truly was more rock than sand on that beach. And that's not fun for me.

The service at the restaurants was also sooo slow. We were ordering a P400+ bread basket, for example, and that took 40 minutes to come out. How hard is it to heat bread? I hardly think they bake it to order.  The pancakes needed 1 hour 15 minutes since it had to be made to order. Good grief! We make pancakes at home for less than 15 minutes. The pool bar also does not allow you to order food after 5pm and that's a shame. You'll need to get your wet self to the main restaurant and lose the water view you wanted in the first place. Finally, the breakfast buffet was a hot mess. There were just too many people making it extremely stressful. Food was in abundance, options and servings both, but you have to fight through the hoards to get anywhere.

The rooms were nice though. And the check-in and check-out was a breeze. But everything else was sadly not what I expected for a minimum P10,000 (if promo) stay.