I have been to most of the Philippines, and to several points in Pangasinan – – – Hundred Islands, Sual, San Fabian, Dagupan, Urdaneta, Alaminos and some towns in between, including a pilgrimage to Manaoag – – but for some reason, never got to Bolinao. I distinctly remember a client-friend talk of Bolinao with fondness, saying he brings his family there every summer. Thus, from Zambales, I went to Bolinao. It was a very nice drive from the last Zambales towns to Dasol in Pangasinan, and onwards to Bolinao via Agno and Bani. All coastal towns dotted with beach resorts. If only I had all the time in the world, I would stay a day or two in each town. But on this trip, I had a back-to-home schedule. I had to be home for our wedding anniversary, and yet, I still wanted to cover the Ilocos region afterwards. Priorities. . . . Now I understand why my client-friend loves Bolinao. It is a beautiful town. Even the quaint town center, with the old church and the food stalls on the side of the town’s gymnasium is already worth the trip.
Deliberately, I checked out the farther end of town, until I got to what seemed to be a dead-end, the fisherman’s wharf.
I then turned around to get to the resort area, turning at Carmak where the booking station of one of the resorts, Treasures of Bolinao, also stands. A few kilometers onwards and the row of resorts starts. One can see that the bigger and better resorts are able to advertise themselves. Puerto del Sol. Treasures of Bolinao. Punta Riviera.
PUERTO DEL SOL
Puerto del Sol had a blurb on their posters “Pre-Holiday treat. 35% off on Published rates. Book now for as low as Php 1,450.00” And who would not be attracted to such proposition, seeing with my own to eyes that the resort, indeed, was one of the better resorts in town? I went to the front desk and promptly booked a room. The room, as it turns out, costs P3,900 at promo rates. I asked “what about the P1,450 as advertised? They said it is for an “open cottage”. Talk about truth in advertising. Anyway, tired from a long trip from Zambales, I said I will get a room anyway, and can I please see the room? The front desk clerk showed me photos from a file, and when I requested to see the room so I can decide what type of room to get, she was like dragging her feet to take me to the villas. I liked the room, signed up, and gave my card. And then I was told to deposit P2,000 CASH on top of full payment for my room. I was shocked, and asked why. The front desk clerk said it was their policy, to cover incidental expenses. I reasoned that they can always charge the expenses to my card, and that by virtue of my visa card being approved as they swipe, I become a known entity. Still, she insisted that this was a policy. Exasperated, I opened my wallet to show her I had much much more than the P2,000 deposit they wanted, but that I won’t do it because it is offensive, and insulting. I told them that I have been to most parts of the world, and to practically all points in the Philippines, and NO ONE EVER ASKED for a cash deposit. I left, never to return to Puerto del Sol ever again. I went to Punta Riviera instead. Then I realized, everything happens for a reason. (N.B. The moment I learn that this cash deposit policy is changed, I will promptly advise my readers on this blog about this development. I might even try and stay to experience this beautiful resort – – – and of course I will pay for my stay, as decent bloggers do).
PUNTA RIVIERA is a nice resort with a location that could very well be the envy of other resorts. They are the only resort with a river, a sandbar, and of course the white sand beach. Guests can use the resort’s kayak down the river for free. The infinity pool, while quite small, is beautiful and clean. Most of all, the resort has a super friendly staff, and super friendly owners.
Because it was off-peak, I was given a room that normally costs P6,000 a night for only P3,500, inclusive of breakfast for two. Published rates start at P2-3,000 for cabanas, with family rooms for 8 persons at P12,000.There is a suite for 6 persons at P13,000, and an El Grande at P14,500 for 15 persons.
The restaurant serves good food, and the bar is well-stocked with excellent wines and liquor. The bartender makes good mixed drinks, and the spirits and mixers are all A-1 (take it from someone who knows his drinks).
The waiter, Jethro, suggested I try “dinakdakan” and it turned out to be the best dish I had throughout this 5-stops trip. And I was only my second stop.
Punta Riviera can be booked by email : email@example.com, or by phone (63) 756961350 / 756961274. Website : http://www.puntarivieraresort.com. Look for the owners Aileen and/or Ian, or their very amiable front desk staff, Elvie..
TREASURES OF BOLINAO
Located 5 kms away from Punta Riviera, towards the end of Cape Bolinao, is Treasures of Bolinao. It is a huge complex with villas, cottages, and suites. Rates start at P4.000 for 2, with the Maharlika room at P8,000. Visitors can, of course, ask for off-peak rates (like the villas then were available at only P3,000). Guests at Treasures can use the resort’s facilities like the jacuzzi, the swimming pool, billiards, videoke bar, and corkage is free.
Contact Treasures of Bolinao at : Manila office : (632) 413 4914 Bolinao Office (075) 6963266, 5544444 Mobile : 0908 2272748, 0920 3818888, 0921 5592732, 0915 4166003
There are a lot of alternative accommodations in Bolinao, with small resorts dotting the entire stretch of the cape. These smaller resorts offer aircon or non-aircon rooms to suit the traveler’s budget. My guess is that even in summer, visitors will find a bed, if not a space to pitch a tent, in beautiful Bolinao.
There are several caves in Bolinao. However, those into serious cave exploration will be disappointed. No, they are not like the Jenolan Caves, nor the caves in Sagada. The caves in Bolinao are small, and have been converted into resort-type underground swimming pools. The most famous is Enchanted Cave, where the cast of Marimar once shot a scene with actors Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera. Do not expect to see marvelous stalactites and stalagmites. They have been ripped off, to “make passage to the underground pool less hazardous”. Oh well.
A visit to the lighthouse could well be one of the most pleasant things to do in Bolinao. Unlike other lighthouses, this one is easily accessible. I literally drove up to the base of the tower. It is in a public park, the viewdeck for a breathtaking vista of the cape. Built in 1906, its tower is one of the tallest among all lighthouses in the country
Bolinao is such a well-kept secret. I guess it must be the distance. It is actually isolated, and visitors to Bolinao need to have this town as the destination, not just a side-trip. But having discovered this town, the other Pangasinan towns can be the side-trip, with Bolinao as THE DESTINATION.
How to go to Bolinao:
Shorter route: Take NLEX-SCTEX and exit at Luisita in Tarlac. Turn left to Camiling, first hitting the town of San Jose, and San Clemente before reaching Camiling. After Camiling is Tarlac’s last town, San Clemente. The it will be onwards to the province of Pangasinan : Mangatarem (stop by the church and take a snap shot, it is very beautiful !), Aguilar, Bugallon. Labrador, Sual, and finally Alaminos. From Alaminos, the Bolinao resorts are an hour away via Bani.
Scenic Route: I took the scenic but longer route via Zambales. Take NLEX-SCTEX going to Subic (SBMA). From Subic, go north, passing thru all the Zambales towns. It might be necessary to spend a night in either San Antonio or Iba. From the last town of Zambales, you will hit Pangasinan towns like Infanta, Dasol, and Burgos. Drive on to Agno, Bani, and Anda, until you hit the town of Bolinao.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION is available. I saw a FIVE STAR bus in town, on the way back to Metro Manila. A check with their website showed that rides to Bolinao can be taken from either their Pasay or Cubao terminals. Call them for actual schedules and fares. http://www.angelfire.com/alt/fivestarbus/
I will definitely be back in Bolinao, and Punta Riviera, with their dinakdakan, it will be.