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As with many other destinations in The Philippines, the cost of pre-booking nice accommodation online was too high for a GRANDPAcking Budget.
PHP2400 / day is my total GRANDPAcking Daily Budget! As a rule, I try and keep accommodation costs to no more than 50% of my Daily Budget; this is what a GRANDPAcking couple can afford (and still have enough money left to exist on). In The Philippines, my target price is, therefore, BELOW PHP1200 / night.
WHAT’S ON THE INTERNET / HOTEL SEARCH ENGINES:
Have a look for yourself. You will find that most of the cheap options are Dorms and / or in Backpacker Hostels:
Now and again, you will be able to get 50-70% discounts on (what look like) GRANDPAcking Standard rooms… but, make sure that you research the hotel and read the reviews.
If you couple one of these discounts with the information that I provide in this post … you should end up with a very good accommodation solution.
Please Note: That, on AGODA.COM you usually have to pay a 12% Hotel Tax and 10% Service Charge IN ADDITION TO their published rate (i.e. an additional 22%).
I am sure that it won’t take you long to realise that you have to pay PHP1300+ to get anywhere near GRANDPAcking Standard. If you want the extras (like Cable TV and in-room Wifi), start looking at PHP1500+.
THE SPIRIT OF NORWAY:
I had done my ‘usual thing’ and pre-booked my Panglao accommodation.
I decided to book 2 nights so that I was looking for new accommodation starting on the Tuesday night (once everyone had gone back to work).
I paid a 50% discounted rate of PHP950 / night.
The Spirit of Norway is near the Circumferential Road 1 km from Panglao City and 3 kms away from Alona Beach.
Alona Beach was my target area but online hotels were too expensive … the Spirit of Norway would allow me time on the Monday to go around on a rental scooter and find something within my price range.
The Spirit of Norway is in the middle of nowhere.
There are no minimarts, restaurants nor bars around it. It took us 10 minutes to find it in the dark.
The Spirit of Norway is a new-build hotel and the rooms are very clean and modern.
It came with a kitchenette – but there was no water in the tap and there were no kitchen utensils and no kettle, etc. There was, strangely, a rice cooker – which I used to heat up water for my coffee the next morning.
The room was very comfortable and one of the best value for money rooms that I have had in The Philippines.
It was spacious and came with good aircon, cable tv, in-room wifi, kitchenette, seating area, a big bathroom with hot water shower, and balcony.
They rent scooters for PHP400 / day – which, on The Philippines islands, is a reasonable price … they, probably, have to be reasonable because they are so isolated.
I arrived at 7:30pm. I asked the receptionist where the nearest Minimart was. She said that the nearest one was too far to walk and that I would need to catch a Tribike. I walked 30m to the end of the hotel driveway and found a small store across the road.
I returned to my hotel and asked to see the food menu. She said that they only did breakfast. I asked where the nearest restaurant was. She said that the nearest one was too far to walk and that I would need to catch a Tribike. I returned to the small store and bought some biscuits.
When I returned to the hotel, the receptionist was eating chicken and rice. The hotel staff made no attempt to offer me a meal.
I went down for breakfast the next morning and found the menu … there were Lunch and Dinner items listed on the menu.
I don’t know about you but, if a hotel is so isolated, I think that providing meals to guests is a necessity. The Spirit of Norway is an enigma.
WHERE TO STAY ON PANGLAO:
I rented a scooter from the Spirit of Norway. I toured the whole of the West, South, and East coast. I drove down almost every road and track that I could find to a beach. The whole trip took 7 hours.
From there, I headed north west to Doljo Beach.
The circumferential road is good and sealed all of the way around: it is easy driving.
There are plenty of resorts around the island. I will provide typical examples of what you will find.
Some are found down ‘OK’ roads but most are found down dirt tracks – the exception is the main tourist beach: Alona Beach. Otherwise, you may need to get there by Tribike of Taxi.
This is what I found …
DOLJO BEACH AREA:
I didn’t spot anything worth looking at but, I met an expat that night who told me that there is a reasonable hotel with Studios for PHP1,200 / night. It is not on the beachfront, but from it you can walk through another resort to an ‘OK’ beach.
I didn’t spend long in the Doljo area. The resorts were isolated … 5-6 kms away from Alona Beach … and that is not what I was looking for.
SOUTH EAST / ADDICTION BEACH AREA:
I started here.
I was here to check out what sort of beach you get for that money … what I found was an average beach with average swimming.
The Linaw set the tone for the rest of the day.
A little further north is the Bita-Ug.
Parts were under construction and the beach was average at best.
I didn’t stop to enquire about costs.
The Calypso is about 50m walk from the beach. The beach is the same as that at Bita-Ug.
The Calypso offered more of a ‘small community’ feel. The rooms and chalets surround a small ‘dipping’ pool in the centre. There is a restaurant / bar. They offered me an upstairs Fan Room (over the restaurant) with cold water shower for PHP850 / night including a free scooter. However, the room was occupied so I could not see it; they asked me to return later in the day to view it. The place is borderline GRANDPAcker (which is why I wanted to see the room first) but I liked it. I also liked the idea of a free scooter to get out and about on. With a scooter each day, you can come and go to any beach you liked. You can also find your ‘favourite’ restaurants … If I had seen the room, and it was half decent, I probably would have taken it there and then … but I decided to wait until I could see the room.
The KALIPAYAN has a small, average beach. They have a SCUBA dive shop on the waterfront. The resort grounds are large and it comes with a pool.
ALONA BEACH AREA:
The 150m road down to the beachfront (from the Circumferential Road) is riddled with shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, and hotels. The beachfront is lined with hotels.
Turn left when you hit the beach and you will find more beachfront bars and restaurants. There are plenty of places to spend your evening. The area is ‘pricy’; you will be hard-pushed to find a meal anywhere for less than PHP200.
The Aquatica is the cheapest resort on the beachfront. The cheapest room was a Fan room with in-room wifi (which they do not, actually, have) for PHP950 / night.
When I enquired at the Aquatica, I was told by the receptionist that they had no rooms. The Aquatica looked like it could be an option but, without being able to see a room, I was reluctant to book it. I decided to check it out online later. After all, it was the only beachfront resort that I had found so far that I could afford …
I walked about 50m back up the road to check out some off-beach options. The first place that I found was the Beach Rock which is tucked behind a shop. I was shown a Fan room up some stairs with a small table and chair outside the front door. They wanted PHP900. The room was below Standard.
This is about 150m from the Alona Beachfront set back behind a restaurant / bar with a pool table. I was offered an ‘average’ Fan room with hot water, tv, and in-room wifi for PHP950. The room had no wardrobe – so, once again, my clothes would need to be hung on the curtain rail. I ate dinner there on my first night: the worst value Chicken Adobo that I have had in 4 months in The Philippines (PHP195). But, on a happier note, I did beat all of the local boys on the pool table. 🙂
DUMALUAN & WHITE & LABAONG BEACH AREA:
That was Alona Beach done. So, I headed north towards Dumaluan & White & Labaong Beaches.
Dumaluan Beach to Labaong White Beach are the best beaches; this is where all of the ‘locals’ go.
However, the ‘problem’ with this area is that there are no restaurants or bars to choose from at the end of the day … you are ‘resort-bound’.
Please note that this is an isolated area so I wouldn’t trust the wifi in these resorts.
On the way, I found Bananaland. This resort is not on the beachfront. You get a ‘free pass’ to walk through another resort to get to a beach. I was offered a reasonable Duplex with fan, hot water, in-room wifi, and balcony for PHP1,300.
Nova Beach Club:
The Nova Beach Club is exclusively for Japenese tourists. They would not let me have a room. But, I included it here because I got a shot of the beach. This is the same beach that the Bananaland has access to. It is ‘average’ to say the least.
The Bolod is found on Dumaluan Beach.
They offered my a Fan (or, perhaps, aircon?) room for PHP1,600 but, it was occupied and I could not see it.
It came with balcony, hot water, in-room wifi, and breakfast (for 2).
Whites & Greens:
This is a bit further north from the Dubay. They offered me an average aircon Twin Room with hot water for PHP1,800. No free breakfast.
BIKINI BEACH AREA:
Bikini Beach is a poor beach. I found one (unnamed) resort worth a look. I was shown a poor Fan room for PHP1,000. The same room with aircon was PHP1,500. The rooms were in such poor condition that she struggled to open the door as it scraped on the floor.
There is no doubt in my mind that, if I had turned up with ‘folding cash in hand’ and put it on the table, I could have discounted all of these places down further. Some more than others. As a rule, if you are staying 1 week, offer cash up-front 30% below the asking price (accept 25%). If you are staying 3 weeks or more, offer 50% below the asking price (accept 40%).
The beaches on Panglao Island are average and so is the swimming. In most cases, the beaches are stony and there are stones underfoot as you wade out in the water for a swim.
Panglao is NOT an idyllic beach holiday destination.
Accommodation in Panglao is over-priced; but, this is true of all of The Philippines. But, in Panglao, this especially true.
Outside of Alona Beach, the resorts are spread out and isolated – you are not part of a ‘community’; in most resorts, you are resort-bound with no choice of restaurants or local eateries to go to and no nearby shops to keep your costs down.
It is worth spending a few hours searching to find a good place at a good price: THEY ARE THERE AND YOU CAN FIND THEM.
Once again, hiring a scooter pays for itself in the savings that you will make on your accommodation; accommodation which is, usually, better and cheaper than you would otherwise find.
If you like to be on a decent beach, to swim every day and to sit on / near the beach with a beer at night … for that ‘privilege’, you will need to compromise on your GRANDPAcking accommodation standards. You have very few choices if you want to keep to a ‘minimum’ GRANDPAcking standard.
The best beach stretches from Dumaluan Beach to Labaong White Beach. This is where the locals go. But, accommodation here is expensive with very little to be found for under PHP2000 / night.
The next best beach is Alona Beach: the main tourist beach. Again, there is almost nothing on the beachfront for less than PHP2000 / night. The cheap places on the beach (like the Aquatica Beach Resort) are basic and poorly run. You have to go back at least 150m to the main road area to find GRANDPAcker price range accommodation.
In the end, I felt that my choice was to either:
- Go ‘backpacker’ / ‘mimimum standard’ on Alona Beach; or
- Get better quality accommodation on the main road (and lose the benefit of being on an island); or
- Find somewhere more isolated and rent a scooter each day
I decided on option 3 … at least, then, I would also have a scooter to go on day trips and to find the best value for money places to eat.
However, I returned to the Calypso to book a room but they said that they were now booked out until the 7th of May (it was Monday the 2nd). I returned to my hotel and checked online … they still had 3 rooms available on Agoda.
I suspect that they told me that they were ‘full’ because they had offered me too low a price. Online, with Agoda, I could book the same room for PHP1,035 … PHP185 more than they offered me at the resort.
The idea of staying at the Calypso was for me to enjoy a small resort ‘community’ and have freedom of movement.
I could have booked the room on Agoda … with a free scooter, it was still good value for money … but, I did not feel that I could get what I was looking for there after they had lied to me about having no rooms. A cloud would hang over the place. So, I decided against it.
I booked a Fan room with cold water ensuite, in-room wifi, tv, and balcony for PHP930 / night. I booked 6 nights.
I arrived at 12:30pm and I was checked straight into my room.
There was no tv. I asked about the tv and was told that only the more expensive aircon rooms came with tv. OK, I don’t really care about a tv …
I asked for the wifi password and tried to connect. There was no signal inside the room. There was no signal on my smartphone either. There was no in-room wifi. I told them that I must have wifi (because of my blog) and asked for another room. They said that they could not guarantee wifi in another room either!
In the end, they gave me the wifi password for the dive shop next door! I was able to get ‘sporadic’ wifi using their connection.
Just as well really … even at their restaurant (common area) I couldn’t get an internet connect on their wifi!
There was no mirror over the ensuite sink; but, there was one in the room. I needed my travel mirror for shaving.
The toilet seat had broken off and was leaning up against the wall behind the toilet.
The ceiling fan was working but no longer rotated. They had a floor-standing fan to back it up. This worked out well because I could connect the floor-standing fan to power through the window and use it whilst working on my balcony.
The beachfront was busy with lots of people in the bars and restaurants; there was plenty ‘going on’.
I ended up at Trudis.
They had a live band playing and I watched my first sunset.
The next morning, I went to the Aquatica restaurant for breakfast.
But, all-in-all, whilst I was sitting at the restaurant looking out over the beach, I concluded that I had made the right decision.
Let’s hope that you do too.
Away from Alona Beach and without transportation, you are resort-bound and forced to pay inflated resort food & drink prices. The cheapest breakfast will cost about PHP180 (with a coffee). The cheapest lunch the same. The cheapest dinner PHP200. Budget PHP560 to PHP700 per person per day for meals.
This doesn’t leave you much money for beers or cocktails and, on that basis, I do not recommend Panglao as a GRANDPAcking Holiday Destination … there are better and cheaper places to go: such as the Aglicay on Tablas Island, Carabao Beach on Carabao Island or, in fact, Station 3 on Boracay.
Read about Panglao GRANDPAcking Costs for the details.