Turns out I was right. It was the exact same place we've been to and loved more than six years ago, only now it's a different resort. So how is this new establishment? Here's a rundown.
Architecture and general ambiance
What we loved about Balai sa Laiya was that there were lots of open spaces and huge trees. So I was glad to see that the trees are still there and despite adding more rooms, Acuaverde has maintained its wide open spaces.
Although the new rooms are housed in concrete two-storey buildings, they never feel too in-your-face and instead just blends into the background. The white and brown paint, thatched roofing, and bamboo accents proved to be the perfect formula in maintaining that relaxed atmosphere across the property.
It's hard not to notice that there's just lots of shade in this resort. Very shady indeed.
The concrete buildings housing the rooms just blend into the surroundings.
There's a more than comfortable distance from the rooms to the beach.
Don't you just love all that green?
Instead of cutting down the trees, Acuaverde has worked around them and even improved on the landscaping.
We later learned from a friend of My Bibe's that her aunt owns the land where Acuaverde stands and that it was specified in the contract that no trees shall be cut. Bravo! How I wish all landowners who lease out land have that mindset and conviction.
At night, the place lights up beautifully, which practically eliminates any hesitation or fear about going out for a stroll.
Well-lit I said.
Who's afraid of the dark? Well, it isn't dark at all. And even during a power service interruption (which we've experienced once), their standby generator is capable of maintaining the resort's well-lit surroundings.
The reception area at night.
The resort has an online booking facility, which is a relief since a lot of these hotels and resorts in Batangas, Laguna and Tagaytay don't have any. I had to call, though, since I was using a voucher from a group buying site for one night and was booking another night at their regular rate. Thankfully I wasn't required to go through all that bank deposit stuff anymore and before long, my booking was confirmed.
Checking in was fast although I really can't say since there were no other guests being entertained at the time. Our welcome drinks were gulaman and we were pleased to see there were some complimentary panutsa (a disk-shaped delicacy of peanuts and brown sugar) in our room, which, by the way, they replenished daily.
The native-design ceiling of the reception area, which was an open-air hut surrounded by a koi pond.
Our panutsa and gulaman.
My understanding was that there are only two accommodation types here: Casa Verde and Casa Laiya, which are both similar in design, layout and amenities, and only differed in size by a mere 1 square meter, the latter being the more "spacious" at 16sqm. However, when I tried their online booking, a Casa Playa showed up although there's not much details provided. Room rates here range from Php 6,000 to Php 8,000 a night for two persons.
We got Casa Laiya with a queen bed (with a twin bed option available). We were assigned a room on the ground floor that was tucked away from the beach. From what I saw, all of the ground floor rooms have private porches and those on the upper floors have balconies. It's also cute that they have a foot wash and a bamboo tray to get rid of sand on your feet before going inside your room.
That's our room on the ground floor.
Get rid of sand with these. There's a laddle made out of coconut shell and bamboo to scoop water from the jar. As all rooms are non-smoking, ash trays are mounted outside.
At only 16sqm, our room was expectedly small, but not too small as there's still enough space to move around. The ceiling, however, was quite low. And by low I mean I can touch it without effort; probably not a good place to stay for basketball players.
There are no closets but there's a place to rest your bags and a few hooks behind the door to hang some of your stuff. There's only one bedside table, so I had to rest all my stuff on the floor. Cable TV and WiFi (though weak) are also available.
Our bed. That bamboo thingy to the right is the bathroom door.
Floor-to-ceiling glass windows affords a good view of the porch and what else is outside.
The section at the foot of our bed. Tom & Jerry showing on TV.
The bathroom, however, is another example of inefficient use of space. I appreciate the design aesthetic using bare concrete, stones, wood and bamboo, but it just felt too cramped. Nonetheless, it's clean and functional.
The bathroom. I'm standing in the shower area when I took this photo.
Laiya's beach is already comfortably wide and it's nice that Acuaverde has maintained that its structures are built even farther away from the water, so there's lots of space to move around. There are a number of cabanas and lots of sunbeds for lounging, and it never feels crowded because of all the space and of how they've set everything up. Also, there's a security guard watching over.
Space. Lots of it.
Cabanas and sunbeds line up the beachfront, yet there's still enough room in between. The cushions, I think, need replacement soon.
My Bibe just kicking back and enjoying the beach.
Just to manage expectations, please remember that the sand in Laiya is coarse and porous, which makes walking a bit of a struggle. Nevertheless, it's still foot-friendly and for me remains the best that's within reasonable driving distance from Metro Manila. Look after your kids, though, when swimming because the beach doesn't have that desired gradual slope. Just a few feet away from the shoreline and it's already deep.
Accommodations at Acuaverde already come with full-board meals (dinner, breakfast and lunch). Meals are usually served buffet-style but they shift to plated when there aren't enough guests to warrant a smorgasbord. The food is certainly not great but is not bad either. The choices may be limited but they always have some soup, salad, seafood, veggies, pasta or noodles, rice, meat, and dessert. Apart from lemonade or iced tea, there's also complimentary coffee and tea throughout the day. Not bad actually.
The stairs leading up to the restaurant.
The main restaurant is located at the second floor of a circular open-air structure that's built around two trees. They've also set up two mini aviaries that house a bunch of love birds. It's a nice setup although the tables are too close to each other in my opinion. In between meal servings, you can always order food from the bar along the beachfront.
The restaurant. Notice how close the tables are to each other although the addition of the birds is a much welcome touch.
The beachfront bar. Here you can also play table tennis, foosball, or darts.
Chicken sisig in shot glasses. Instead of sizzling, they served it salad-style with mayo.
When there was no more buffet, this was what we had for lunch before checking out.
Just to get it out of the way, there's no swimming pool here despite the huge space. If you want a pool, book Acuatico instead. What they have are a couple of games at the bar, a mini-playground for kids, beach volleyball, kayaks, jet skis, facilities for day tours (including cabanas and shower and lockroom facilities), ample parking space, and an elevated, under-the-canopy venue for events. WiFi is also free across the resort although it was weak inside our room.
Kiddie playground with that open-air events venue in the background.
Nice event venue: open-air, under the canopy shade, sea view -- just hope it doesn't rain.
There's already a buffet area and bar on standby at this facility.
Might I add that the resort is well-maintained. Everything was clean and paint jobs enjoyed frequent touch-ups from workers.
As with checking in, checking out was a breeze.
Acuaverde Beach Resort is a great alternative to the mostly concrete resorts of Laiya. With all that space and all that shade, it's a fantastic place to just sit back and relax. There's really not much happening here, so those looking for rowdiness and partying will be disappointed.
The rooms are clean and the place is really well-kept. The food may not be top-notch but overall, service is great except that they need to work on speeding up their short orders. Acuaverde is definitely a place I recommend to those looking for a place to stay in Laiya, at least to those who just want to have a nice, quiet time.
Despite the change from Balai sa Laiya to Acuaverde, My Bibe and I both approve.
For more information, including room rates and driving directions, you can check their website acuaverderesort.com.ph.