Lakbay Norte 2: Hotel-hopping in the North
Six days, five hotels
During the six day tour in Lakbay Norte 2, we got to stay in five different hotels, often arriving late at night from a long drive just ready to crash on the bed with our backpacks and souvenir bags/media kits in tow.
Here’s a quick rundown on the inns where we refreshed our HP/MP during the Lakbay Norte 2 adventure (sorry, gaming reference).
Night 1: Sun CitySan Vicente Naval Operating Base, Brgy. San Vicente, Sta. Ana, Cagayan Valley
We got our own villa with two bedrooms – a master’s bedroom and another room with two double beds. Each Asian-inspired villa came luxuriously decorated with its own sala and had two bathrooms. In the living room area, there were a couple of olive green couches, heavy dark wood furniture, Zen touches like a bowl of potpuri, paintings of lotus flowers, stylish woven basket-like lamps and customized amenities in cute bottles. Recessed lighting over specific spots like over the bed and hallway made the place look more cozy.
While we were given the standard rooms, the most expensive villa in the resort (a two-story house with its own private pool) costs about HK$ 3000 (almost P17,000/night). According to Sun City receptionist Jernalin Cabildo, despite its geographic location, Sun City is popular for family reunions, conventions, destination weddings and other special occasions. A courtyard at the back of the restaurant leads to the infinity pool, gym and a small lounge area, and the water sports area for jet skis and kayaks. Food in Sun City was excellent, especially the fresh mushroom soup, and dessert, but most of us were too full to eat dinner because we had stopped for another hosted seafood dinner in Sta. Ana.
- Room cost: HK$ 680 (P3,796)
- Ideal for: families, couples, conventions
- Bonus points: free wifi in lobby (the LAN connection in the room didn’t work for me), classy interiors
Night 2: Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co.Cagayan Economic Freeport Zone, Sta. Ana, Cagayan
Though the rooms were less luxurious than Sun City, the service at Eastern Hawaii Hotel was top-notch. We were welcomed with a tray of what we thought was fresh “lumpia” (actually some rolled-up facetowels for us to freshen up with) and a welcome drink after our rainy island-hopping tour to Palaui. The hotel apparently also had an infinity pool, across the street where we had dinner, but the cold weather caused most us to just sleep the whole afternoon instead of swim. Rooms also came with a bonus of two hours of free wifi. Kudos to the cheerful and attentive staff who refused to let us carry our own bags and accompanied us all the way to the dining area instead of just pointing out the way. Dinner here consisted of good old Pinoy classics you look for when you’re at the beach – liempo, grilled prawns in butter, sisig, and fish.
- Room cost: (updated!) P2,000/night for twin and king sized beds; P4,000/night for suite with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with sala
- Ideal for: large groups, conventions, families
- Bonus points: all guests get a free 15-minute massage
Night 3: Kapuluan Vista ResortSitio Baniaran, Barangay Balaoi, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
After a long rainy day on the road (passing through Buguey and Claveria from Cagayan), we checked into Kapuluan Vista Resort, owned by Mike and Alma Oida, avid surfers. Beds were covered with white sheets and gauzy net fabric over the beds, with fresh flowers strewn on the bed for good effect. The bathrooms had a mini garden with a sun roof on the side ensuring they got good light. The reception/dining area was decorated with several wooden tables and a cozy gaming area, with a surfboard hanging over the reception desk. There was also a small swimming pool at the center of the courtyard. From the deck overlooking the pool, you can get a good view of the ocean, which unfortunately was just raging waves and howling winds during our brief stay. Surfing gear and bicycles are available for rent and according to owner Mike Oida, they also have yoga retreats and will be offering photography retreats at the resort. Food was wholesome and detoxifying, starting with kilawin, seafood sisig, cilantro soup, salad greens, and the main course of dinakdakan (grilled pork) and blue marlin capped off with homemade ice cream.
- Room cost: P2,700 for standard room (w/Queen sized bed good for 2 +P500 for extra person)
- Ideal for: couples, those looking for a healthy vacation
- Bonus points: a couple of friendly poodles (Drew and Julia) like to curl up guests; game area, organic food
Barangay 41, Balacad, Laoag, Ilocos Norte
Clean, effortlesly elegant, and practical, the Ilocos Norte Convention Center (INCC) seems to know how to cater to businesspeople. Suites were simply decorated but were very fresh, clean and comfortable. Balconies, lined with a trellis of plants and flowers looked over a large swimming pool which fronts a nearby Chapel. The breakfast food, which was served buffet-style was typical of hotel food, with the exception of the the Ilocos longganisa. While it didn’t have quite the same character as the other hotels we stayed in, it was still a very pleasant place to stay.
- Room cost: P3,000-7,000 for Suite rooms
- Ideal for: businesspeople, conventions
- Bonus points: right across the street from Malacanang ti Amianan (Malacanang of the North), roundtrip airport transfers
- www.ilocosnortehotel.com (reservations/booking site only)
Night 5: Playa Tropical Resort HotelBarangay Victoria, Currimao, Ilocos Norte
Though we checked in really late at night after our sandboarding/4×4/videoke socials, we get to enjoy the resort in the fishing town of Currimao fully the next morning. Hallways were decorated with carved wooden details similar to the headboards, while the lobby, dining and gaming area have aged hardwood furniture and quirky touches, like a Foosball table. Outside, lush plants and flowers surrounded four gorgeous villas decorated with spirals (signifying self-discovery). The villas, which are good for max. 8 people have their own private pool. Towards the back of the resort, the infinity pool overlooks the wide beach where fishermen’s bright red and white boats dock on the shore. As for activities, Playa Tropical offers skimboarding lessons and arranges tours to Vigan and Pagudpud, as well as an overnight tour to nearby Badoc island where guests can camp out for the night.
- Room cost: P3,800 for deluxe double rooms (good for 2 max of 4)
- Ideal for: couples, families
- Bonus points: cool gaming room, one free massage per night