I have a confession to make. I’m not really a beach person. I can actually go for months, even years, without going on a beach trip. Our last family beach escapade was last 2015 when we celebrated my 40th birthday at Shangri-La Mactan. I don’t know what changed this year, but for some reason, my husband and I had the itchy foot at the same time yearning for a beach weekend getaway that was just a few hours away from Manila; Paranaque to be exact.
Initially, we were set on Laiya, Batangas, because that was one of the better options going South for our family with 3 kids — a restless tween, an energetic 8-year-old, and a terrific toddler. We crossed out all the other beaches that needed us to ride a banca. I felt our family just wasn’t prepared for a boat ride. We just wanted to be near the sea, feel the sand, feel the breeze, hear the crashing of the waves, and breathe fresh air. We had “high” standards. We wanted to do away with air-conditioned and hotel-type accommodations. We wanted the kids to experience how it felt like to be one with nature without the comforts of the modern world. The resort we were eyeing in Laiya almost fit our criteria, except that they were fully booked that weekend and, well, the cabanas still looked very much comfortable sans the AC.
Fortunately, I came across a friend’s recommendation to check out Aplaya Caarusipan in Pundaquit, Zambales. Browsing through their FB page, their place was exactly what we were looking for! I messaged them and received a reply on the same day.
The trip from Paranaque to Pundaquit took approximately 5 hours. I think it could have easily been shorter had we left earlier (we left at 5:30 am) and avoided the piling EDSA traffic. We also stopped at NLEX for coffee, and Subic to visit the place where hubby used to work. Roads to Zambales were smooth. There was only a few meters of rough road as we reached Aplaya Caarusipan (AC). I wouldn’t even consider the roads rough. I’ve seen worse roads driving around Metro Manila. AC was quite easy to locate, thanks to Waze.
We were all excited when we saw the sea, and all the more excited when we saw our tiny house for the weekend, the kubotorre!
The kubotorre is a kubo (nipa hut) that had a second floor. The second floor had a BETTER view of the sea. Love, love, love the view! Did I mention we could feel the sea breeze from up there? AC provided us with a foam banig. We only brought three pillows with us. I forgot to ask if they provided us with pillows. They were generous enough to lend us additional two pillows. Good thing we had our own blankets and sheets. The kubotorre was so cozy. Even Zoe and Phoenix, who were very choosy and critical about our staycation rooms, loved the kubo! We were all a bit scared for Titus, my 2-year-old, though. We made sure we kept an eye on him and assisted him as he climbed up and down the ladder. Not sure if I can vividly describe how it goes, but a portion of the second floor can be lifted and latched so you can climb up. That portion can then be closed when it’s time to roll up the other mat/banig on that part of the floor. The kubotorre was so masterfully made! I love how all four sides of the second floor had curtains to respect your privacy, especially at night when the light was on and you can easily be seen from outside. During daytime you can easily pull back the curtains to let more breeze enter. I also appreciate that the owners covered the whole kubo with netting or screen to limit insects entering. We weren’t feasted upon by bugs. We had those anti-mosquito stickers and bug sprays, but the net helped for sure. The kubotorre can easily house 6-8 pax (if the ground floor will be converted to a sleeping quarter, too). Our family of 5 fit the top floor just right. We used the ground floor as our dining area. The kubotorre costs Php2,500/night, Php2,000 for a daytrip.
Our host/resort owner, Abel, was very accommodating. He would reply to all my queries and transacting with him was smooth. He even arranged for someone to market and cook for us. We just had to let him know the dishes we wanted then they charged us accordingly. We brought lunch with us for Friday from The Coffee Shop Subic, so only Friday dinner, Saturday breakfast-lunch-dinner, and Sunday breakfast were covered. They charged us a little less than Php3k. Really good deal, right? The dishes were tasty, too!
In case you prefer to do your own marketing and cooking, the resort can charge you for usage of their stove or grill as well as cooking utensils. This is how their outdoor kitchen looks like.
The kids didn’t waste any time, and started digging away in the sand. Buhangin pa lang, masaya na sila! The sea was beautiful! Just looking out, staring at the blue hue of the sea, and feeling the breeze did wonders to my soul. The sand was not white, but the grains of sand were fine and firm. Unfortunately, the waves are quite strong in Pundaquit, so we were scared to take a few more steps farther. We were happy just catching the waves by the shore and building sand castles.
The place was very picturesque. Imagine staring out the sea on one side, then seeing the green mountains on the adjacent side. We fell in love with the sunsets at Pundaquit. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch the bigger sun coz we were having too much fun viewing it from the above-ground swimming pool.
The resort has two above-ground pools that’s chlorinated, a basketball area, and a billiards table, in case you want to do something aside from enjoying doing nothing (haha!).
Aside from the kubotorre, you can stay in a bahay kubo which is farther from the beach but closer to the common toilet and bath, OR you can rent or bring a tent and stay on the shed, which is a few steps in front of the kubotorre. The common T&B is around 90 steps away from the kubotorre. It has separate T&B for the men and the ladies. There are two toilets and three shower stalls. I am usually finicky about using public toilets but theirs was well maintained.
Our two nights in Pundaquit is definitely one for the books. Our family had a grand time being one with nature and experiencing how to have a kubotorre as our home, even just for two nights. It was a wonderful time to just bond as a family and tune out from our normally busy lives. These mini vacations are really priceless!
Side Trip to CASA San Miguel
We took a side trip to CASA (Center for the Arts at San Antonio) San Miguel, which was 20 minutes away from Aplaya Caarusipan. It is an artists’ haven owned by renowned violinist Coke Bolipata. The place exposes music and art to the youth of Zambales. There, the children of mostly fishermen learn how to play music. It’s a very charming bed and breakfast place. For 100 pesos, you can go around the place, check out the museum, hangout at their outdoor area which had an old Volkswagen Kombi upcycled into a cozy mini library of sorts, and check out their art and music studios. You also get a welcome drink of either iced tea or unlimited Starbucks brewed coffee. The server said they use Starbucks’ Cafe Verona (one of my favorite dark roast blends), which I found to be too diluted.
We had lunch at Backstage Cafe and ordered their Pizza Zambalena, topped with Zambales longganisa and sili leaves. Their pizza was good! We also tried their special polvoron, which was served during Obama’s visit to the Philippines. We liked the mango flavor. The adobo roll and Zambales bread were just okay.
CASA San Miguel offers Summer art workshops. Kids as young as 9 years old can stay there for a week to learn. They also offer art, yoga, surfing lessons for a fee. Every Sunday, the kids of San Miguel hold a mini concert. Unfortunately, we wanted to be home before it gets dark and in time for Sunday mass so we didn’t wait for the concert anymore. All the more reason to be back.
Thank you, Zambales, for allowing us to plant more happy memories as a family. I can’t wait to be back and see what else you have to offer. When the kids are older, perhaps we’d take a boat ride to your many islands and explore more of your hidden gems.