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I made my own way from Coron to Tablas Island.
I had looked online for Tablas Island hotels but there weren’t many options; and, there were very few within my GRANDPAcking Budget. I decided not to book in advance and take a chance…
WHAT YOU FIND ONLINE:
I started my search about 1 week before my arrival.
My search on BOOKING.COM returned only 2 results for my dates: the cheapest was US$42 / night (PHP2000).
My search on AGODA.COM returned more properties but only one of those properties was less than US$30 / night (PHP1400).
PHP2400 / day (US$51) is my total GRANDPAcking Budget! As a rule, I try and keep accommodation costs to no more than 50% of my daily budget; in the Philippines, my target price is, therefore, BELOW PHP1200 / night (US$25).
WHERE TO STAY:
On the way I asked a few locals which was the best beach and place to stay in Tablas. They both said Alcantara (I did not realise at the time that they were pointing me at the AGLICAY BEACH RESORT).
I made my way to Alcantara Town. The beach was not good and there were no accommodation options. A kindly policeman told me to go to the Aglicay Beach Resort.
I went Around The Island By Scooter for 2 days. I covered about 350 kms and checked out every bit of the coastline that I could find, every beach that I could find, and every resort that I could find.
The big towns (like Odiongan and Looc) have some Filipino hotels.
If you stay in town you do so out of necessity because you are either stuck or in transit. You wouldn’t want to base yourself in a town for more than 1 night. After all, why come to a paradise island and not stay on the beach? I mark these hotels in red (a no go).
If you can get Filipino rates, reasonable rooms (but do not, necessarily, expect GRANDPAcking Standard) should cost between PHP600-800. However, sometimes, their asking price can be as high as PHP1300 for foreigners.
THE EAST COAST:
The Aglicay is the only nice resort on the east coast.
I found another resort between Santa Maria and San Agustin but it was not a nice beach and the resort looked very average. I did not bother stopping to enquire about the price.
The scenery in the north is the best on the island (IMHO).
Again, this area is more about beautiful bays than it is about beaches. There are a couple of nice beaches but they are not very accessible and they do not have any accommodation. Many of these bays and beaches are only accessible by boat.
There is one resort that may be worth considering: the Paksi Cove Resort. There is no road to it. You have to catch a boat from Calatrava.
The online price for the Paksi is too high for our GRANDPAcking Budget. BUT, these Australians said that, once you are there, you can rent a Double with Fan & Cold Water Ensuite for PHP1000 / night or a Double with Fan & Shared Cold Water Bathroom for PHP500 / night. Those prices are in GRANDPAcker range.
For that reason, I mark the Paksi in orange (a possibility). You either need to keep an eye on it online and wait for a ‘special’ at these prices or ‘walk in off the boat’ and take a chance that they have rooms.
THE WEST COAST:
The west coast is very much like the east coast: beautiful bays – but not good beaches.
For this reason, I mark the Agpudios Farm in red (a no go – there are better places to be).
The first good beach is just north of Odiongan.
You could stay in Odiongan and take day trips to this beach (by Tribike or rented scooter).
This would be a good option if Odiongan was a nice picturesque town with a good selection of restaurants and bars – which it is not.
BINUCOT & SUNSET COVE:
Many travellers choose the BINUCOT BEACH RESORT because it is the most convenient for coming and going from Odiangan ferries. This is also where SCUBA divers go.
Next door to the Binucot is its ‘sister’ resort – the Sunset Cove (not on the internet).
These resorts sit on a beautiful beach. I have marked them as green (you should definitely consider them). If you can afford them!
The fact that the Sunset Cove includes breakfast is important as the ‘cheapest’ GRANDPAcking Breakfast with coffee will cost you about PHP100 each. This brings the room cost down to PHP1600. It may be possible to get this down to PHP1200 at a ‘long term stay’ rate.
The Sunset Cove is not online but the Binucot is. Keep an eye out for their online rates… if you see a ‘special’ that drops a Double room price down below PHP1400 / night including Breakfast – take it. But, I would say that your chances are slim to none… when I was there, the Binucot was booked out at their full rate. Only the Sunset Cove had spare rooms and, given that they were automatically getting the over-flow from the Binucot, they were not very interested in discounting their rooms.
One more thing to be careful of though… I looked at the menu prices… you will need to budget PHP150-200 each for Lunch and PHP200-250 each for Dinner.
A few kilometers further south from the Binucot is the Buenavista.
The Buenavista is near a small village where you can get some supplies and, possibly, some ‘cheaper eats’ to keep costs down.
The Buenavista has 4 or 5 nice bungalows with hot water ensuites on a hillside setting overlooking the sea. The cost is PHP1500 / day including breakfast; you have to stay for a minimum of 3 nights.
There are steps down to a small (but average) beach.
The south has more ‘bays’; many only accessible by boat.
There are 3 resorts. By The Sea and Morel’s are totally out of GRANDPAcking range. For this reason I have marked them in blue (because it’s sad that we can’t afford them!).
Santa Fe is one of the nicest towns on Tablas Island but, again, it is a ‘bay’ not a ‘beach’.
You wouldn’t, normally, come this way to Aglicay – you would take the main road to Alcantara and, then, the 4km dirt track south to Aglicay from the main road turn off.
The best place for GRANDPAckers to stay on Tablas Island is the AGLICAY BEACH RESORT – hands down.
If you ‘walk in off the street’ their ‘rate card’ is PHP1400 for a Deluxe Beachview room (2 people) and PHP1000 for a Standard Hillview room (2 people). I recommend a Deluxe Beachview room.
You can negotiate discounts once you are there but I found the receptionist ‘reluctant’ to negotiate and that you got better discounts by booking online. For instance, the Receptionist would not ‘match’ an Agoda offer even though I had already stayed there for 4 nights and was standing in front of her… she told me to book on line!
In the end, I booked using AsiaTravel and got an even better rate (PHP940 / night for single occupancy)! To top it off, the room that I booked had ‘satellite TV’ (which they don’t have anymore), so I traded the TV for a free breakfast!
The beach is good and so is the swimming (wear watershoes).
There are some stunning views from the walking tracks around the resort.
They advertise Satellite TV – but they don’t have it. There are no TVs in the rooms (they are all broken).
If you need WiFi, bring your own. You can see the transmitter from the resort, so you have a good signal – even in your room.
The restaurant food will not win any culinary awards.
Some of it is very average for the price. Their vegetarian dishes all seem to be exactly the same thing but with different sauces; not good value at PHP150.
I strongly advise that you bring some snacks with you. You can take a 15 minute walk to the local village to buy items if you need to. Otherwise, the Aglicay is very isolated and the nearest town, Alcantara, is 4kms away down a dirt track road and another 1-2kms down the main road after that.
The Daily Maid Service doesn’t exist. Nor does the ‘free bottle of water’. Nor do the ‘free toiletries’. You have to ask them to clean your room – and they do not always manage to do that right… sometimes you have to go back and ask them to change your towels or to provide the ‘free’ items.
The resort needs more people – like you! Sometimes you and 2 others may be the only people in the restaurant in the evenings. With a few more people to talk to and enjoy a beer with, it would have a much nicer atmosphere – more conducive to our ‘western’ tastes and lifestyle.
BUT, IN THE END:
If you come expecting a relaxed atmosphere with ‘relaxed’ service, you will enjoy yourself at the Aglicay.
There aren’t many places left in the world like this that a GRANDPAcking couple can afford.