After a few hectic weeks of increasing work demands and a moderately intense diet and training regimen to prepare for my first jiu-jitsu competition, I was nothing if not ready for a vacation.
Last year, around this time, my companion and I had taken our daughter to Coco Beach for a wonderful family vacation and she loved it so much that, despite our separation earlier this year, we decided to go back for her.
My mother has been visiting us here in the Philippines as well and I hoped she would enjoy this beautiful resort.
The trip was booked: my mother, my daughter, my daughter’s father, and I would be sharing a family deluxe room at the paradisiacal Coco Beach in Puerto Galera.
Booking Your Vacation
A room like this–big enough for four adults and up to two children–will cost you about $120 dollars per night and it includes quite a nice breakfast buffet with lots of fresh fruit, a salad and omelet station, some bread and cereal, and hot dishes.
Hold up; let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
October marks the beginning of their regular season, which is when we booked this year, whereas September is still considered low season. Expect peak prices in December and January when the holidays are in full swing and the weather in the Philippines is at its best.
Last year we got a great deal on a regular room for two adults and one child for less than $50 a night and we lucked out with amazing weather in the middle of September.
I booked our trip using Agoda.com, which is what I’ve used to book most of the hotels and resorts we’ve stayed at in the Philippines. I typically find the best prices there and have never had any problems with a booking.
Getting to Puerto Galera
Since we live in the south, the Starmall bus terminal is only a short Uber ride away. Starmall is located along the SLEX in Muntinlupa just before it exits Metro Manila and becomes the Star tollway (and then another tollway).
From here, buses leave every hour to Batangas Port and usually make it there in two hours. In our case, it was a two-and-a-half-hour trip because the driver got off the highway early and made a lot of stops to pick up and drop off passengers.
When the bus isn’t full–which is often the case on weekdays–the driver will stop more frequently to get more passengers. On the way home we had a full bus and made it back within two hours.
Once you get to Batangas City, the bus will stop at a large terminal but you won’t get off yet. After this stop, it will take you straight to the port and if you’re going to Puerto Galera you should head to the far left of the pier.
You’ll liked get swarmed by guys offering to help you carry your luggage and book your tickets for you but it’s typically best to politely refuse.
They’ll often grab your bags without asking and expect you to pay them for helping you later.
Similarly, they will “offer” to take your money to purchase your tickets and pay the terminal fee but before they give back your change they’ll have taken quite a cut for themselves.
Carry your luggage to the smaller terminal on the left side of the pier and purchase tickets to Muelle in Puerto Galera from Father & Son Shipping lines (schedule available online).
Having caught the 7 AM bus, we arrived in Batangas at 9:30 and were just in time to board the 9:35 boat to Muelle–although it didn’t leave until closer to 10 AM.
The seas were smooth and it was a fairly comfortable hour-and-a-half boat ride to Muelle, where we arrived in time for a quick lunch on the pier before heading to Coco Beach for our noon check-in.
We sat at a bar dubbed “the place to be” because that’s where the people were but had to wait some time for our food. The power went out once or twice while we waited to be served and my mother had time to check out the souvenir shops.
The food was nice, the beer was cold, and after lunch we got a private boat to Coco Beach for 250 pesos ($5).
Here’s a breakdown of what this trip will cost you:
Bus to Batangas: P137 (<$3) per seat
Boat to Muelle, Puerto Galera: P230 (<$5) per adult; P200 ($4) per child
Terminal fee in Batangas: P30 (<$1) per adult
Boat to Coco Beach: P250 ($5)
Environmental fee in Puerto Galera: P50 ($1) per adult
Conversely, you can have the resort arrange an airport transfer for you with a private van from Batangas directly to NAIA for P5,000 ($100).
Arriving at Coco Beach
When you step off the boat onto the shore of Coco Beach, you may allow the staff to carry your bags–they won’t ask you for money.
You’ll receive a warm welcome and once checked in you’ll meet your service family, who will take care of you during your stay. They’ll carry your things to your room, bring you a complimentary early-morning pot of coffee if you so desire, and drop off little snacks in the afternoon.
The regular and family deluxe rooms are made of bamboo. They don’t have air-conditioning or hot showers but they’re nice and breezy and who needs a hot shower in the tropics anyway?
Check out this gorgeous view of the ocean from our bamboo porch.
Food, Beverages, and Activities
Anticipating four days at the beach and thinking I would have lots of time to kill, I brought my Mandarin study book and downloaded the audio of my favorite yoga video from Do Yoga With Me on my phone.
Turns out I never did catch a peaceful moment to do yoga on the beach and I barely kept up with my one Chinese character a day.
Mornings were spent swimming in the ocean when the tide is high and you can float above the coral. After a good hour at the breakfast buffet, that is.
When we got tired of the ocean, my daughter and I would transfer to the swimming pool for the following activities:
2. Play on the slide (no pictures; too wet)
Afternoons are good for naps in hammocks, kayaking into the open ocean, and happy hour, heralded every day from 4 to 5 PM: two for one cocktails. Come one, come all, get drunk on our signature Weng Weng!
You can swim in the pool until 8 PM and in the ocean whenever you please.
For lunch or dinner, there’s pizza and pasta at the Trattoria on the beach, a varied menu at the main Carabao restaurant by the pool, and charcoal-grilled specialities up the hillside at the Coco Grill, located just in front of the silent pool only 200 steps up from the shoreline.
Coco Beach also has a dive shop, free diving lessons in the pool, snorkeling activities, free boat rides to a different beach every morning, island hopping trips with packed lunches, a basketball court, a spa, and a whole list of things to do if you get bored of the beach and the pool.
Thank you, Coco Beach, for giving us a beautiful escape from our crazy lives and a place to be nothing but happy. Thank you, also, for singing our daughter her favorite coconut song on our last night.