Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hundred Islands

A trip to Hundred Islands National Park and its home, Alaminos City, is a great diversion from the hustle and bustle of the busy, urban life.  Definitely one of the highlights of Philippines’ ecotourism, it is about 7 hours away north of Manila. The long drive was definitely worth it by the time we got there.  On our way to Lucap, we passed by the San Jose drive to view the old colonial houses in the area.  We booked a room at the Maxine by the sea lodge which I can say is rather decent with air conditioning, two queen-sized beds and cable tv.  We arrived around 1pm and spent that first day enjoying the view of the islands from a far while relaxing by the sea deck at Maxine's.  We bought some souvenirs by the Lucap Wharf and visited the Pantalan lighthouse; "pantalan" meaning pier or port.  While we sit by the port talking, I was able to capture the amazing sun set view.  We had dinner at Maxine and I must say I was disappointed because I was expecting much from the good reviews about the place and the food turned out a little bland and much too pricey basing on the lack of taste and flavors.  The next day, we got up before dawn to capture the sun rise and partook of our free breakfast.  The breakfast was a big improvement as compared to dinner since we chose the Filipino style breakfast consisting of one viand (longganisa, bangus, tocino, etc..), 2 eggs, rice and juice.  We boarded our rented boat around 7am to start our tour of the islands.  The nearest islands from the Lucap Wharf are Sulpot Island, Monkey Island, Abad Santos Island and Hernandez Island, which are all 15 to 20 minutes away. The major (and developed) islands, Children's, Governor's and Quezon can be reached after a 25 to 45-minute boat ride.  Our first stop was the Quezon Island. It is one of the most developed islands and is known to have the best swimming beach.  (personally, I would prefer the more fine sand and secluded beach of the Governor's Island) Quezon Island is the best destination for families as there are two dining pavilions and grilling areas.  There is a bridge that leads to a viewing deck on the other side of the island and a giant clam and coral nursery close to one of the dining pavillions.  We snorkeled near the island where giant clams can be seen and it was remarkable!  We passed by the Children's Island and Turtle Island on our way.  Children's Island was amply named because of its shallow waters mostly knee-deep, making it safe for children.  It is also mostly for budget travelers as it consists only of screened bedrooms with electricity, fresh water and linens. Kerosene lighting is provided for after 12 midnight. We continued on and went spelunking on Cuenco Cave which is also ideal for campers as it provides big spaced shelter where travelers can pitch their tents.  Of the 3 major islands, my favorite was the Governor's Island.  It is the only island there who keeps a guesthouse ideal for family use. We took the hundred or so steps up to the viewing deck where you can behold the majestic view of the hundred islands...  It was breathtaking.  There is also the popular Pinoy Big Brother house situated at the middle of the island giving a great view of the shoreline and nearby islands as well.  The beach at Governor's island was like a dream.  Very secluded and picturesque with fine white sand and great rock formations.  You could also have a shot at scuba diving since Alaminos houses great marine life and equipments and lessons are being offered on the governor's island  It was a trip really worth the effort and money.  No doubt about it, Hundred Islands is truly an awe-inspiring beauty to the ones who experience it.

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