The secret to a Tan-tastic vacation

We are the kind of family that likes to take their vacations in a relaxed, unhurried manner. It was something we consciously decided on beginning with our first out-of-the-country trip as a family for Akira’s 1st birthday.

Dream come true. J and I are huge Japanophiles. We couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate our daughter’s 1st birthday than a first-time trip to Japan.

We were travelling with seniors (J’s parents) and a baby. We agreed that if most people could fit 3 or more stops for a day’s itinerary, ours would be 2 sites max, or 3 if they were really conveniently located. As much as possible, we didn’t want to go on a trip that would disrupt her normal routine too much, so that meant ample time for naps and coffee breaks for us. Everybody is more comfortable if we’re not on a rush.

The baby is now a three-year old toddler. She can run as fast as Ponyo, she has stopped wearing diapers since last year, and she no longer needs ‘special’ baby food. Yet our travelling style remains the same, and we learned that we like it that way.

The secret to a memorable vacation

We kept it local this year for Akira’s birthday at Pico De Loro in Nasugbu, Batangas. I’ve been here last year with my parents and Akira. She loved their pool, I found the place beautiful, and I was confident it was a place that J would also like. I know for most people an overnight stay would suffice, but for us 2 nights is just right.

Pico De Loro 2015. Where of all things what I forgot to pack was my swimsuit and had to contend with whatever fit me from the souvenir shop (hence the tackiness of the suit!).

In my experience, the key to a memorable vacation is one where everyone involved is clear with their non-negotiables. I actually picked that up from my friend Macon. It’s her plan of attack when it comes to group trips. It’s effective!

Everyone has a mission or an objective with every vacation, whether it’s something as simple as getting a lot of sleep, or having something to share on Facebook and Instagram, or getting to do something exciting for the first time like scuba diving or exploring a cave. Unless something unfortunate happens, such as when it rains the whole day, I believe that when vacation objectives are met is when the vacationer feels satisfied and happy.

My non-negotiable for this trip

For this trip, what I was intent on doing was trek. I thought Mt. Pico De Loro was something accessible or connected with the resort, and it turned out it’s not. I also thought it was a mountain climb that’s beginner-friendly, but people in the resort told me otherwise.

With that, I decided to make do with the resort’s existing hiking trail (thank goodness they had one!). I was at the beach at 7 am with a small bottle of water and an empty stomach. I realized a little too late that I looked more like I was going to a weekend market instead of a hike.

Yay, back in time for the breakfast buffet!

This is the meeting point with my super nice guy guide, Bryan (or Brian). He’s helpful and courteous and just a pleasant person to go on a kind of hike that would turn your legs into jelly. I also appreciate that he didn’t seem too judge-y when I kept asking him to repeat what he just said because I couldn’t hear him over the deafening pounding of my heart with every rest stop.

I made it until the highest peak, but not until the very end of the trail. It was only one way through and back, and the last leg of the trek just seemed a little too much for my beginner legs (and lungs). I’m down for another Pico visit just to conquer that trail, really. But for this trip, I was able to do what I wanted to do, and I could go home happy.

The husband’s requirements

J’s sole requirement for holiday outings is that he gets to do his laps in peace. He is not particular with swimming pool sizes, or with having to share the pool with a lot of people – but if need be, he would wake up extra early to have the pool to himself and do some laps. Then he’s happy.

Pico De Loro has three pools – a lap pool, a kiddie pool, and a kind of wading pool in between the two where the partially submerged lounge chairs are. If it sounds perfect for somebody like him, it is – the kids and non-swimmers are automatically corralled in a different pool.

If the sea is nice and clean, we would both choose to swim in the sea. Pico De Loro’s sea cove also met the husband’s standards. Like what I told him, the beach isn’t white sand, but it is fine and the water is clear. With the water up to my chest, I can still clearly see my toes below.

Having been here twice already, I can also say that what’s nice about visiting Pico De Loro in summer is that the sea is pretty calm. When I was here around June/July last year, the life guards would tell swimmers to get out of the water as early as 4-ish or 5 pm. The waves weren’t scary big, but I guess it’s the undertow that they are looking out for.

So J is fine with watching Aki for the rest of the day, as long as he’s had his proper swim (and brewed coffee in the afternoon). He also takes advantage of Akira’s naps to read or would go right ahead and take a nap with her. And that’s all he really needs for an enjoyable holiday.

It’s nice to be with someone with simple needs like that because I can get pretty specific with my wants in a trip. Plus – and this has got to be the best part by far – J takes beautiful, beautiful pictures.


What about our princess imp? She knew this was a swimming trip, so she was happy spending time in the pool with us and splashing about in the sea.

Pico De Loro’s secret attraction

The surprise we had in store for her though, and the other reason why I chose Pico for this celebration is they have a horse trail. Since our trip to Baguio this December, she is enthralled with horses and would ride them any chance she gets.

That’s the activity we reserved for our last day. It turned out to be a wonderful surprise even for us who just tagged along, walked behind them and took photos because the horseback riding trail is beautiful. It goes into the forest with a scenic view of the woods and of Mt. Pico De Loro. I even spotted a kingfisher in this trail. Now, I wouldn’t mind riding a horse with my kid here next time, and even going for the full hour instead of just 30 minutes.

So, for all of us to be happy and satisfied with this trip, it has to be a 3-day-2-night stay. It’s an extra expense but worth it. Nobody is cranky or feeling bad, and it felt just right to be heading back home by that time.

It also helped that the destination is worth it. Sure, we had a few problems over dinner, when food took long to arrive and certain dishes didn’t come out at all, but all in all, the entire place is clean, maintained well, has good staff, and is just naturally beautiful.

I tell J, it’s one SM development that’s exemplary, and doesn’t look and feel like your typical SM development. They really did well with this one, we all don’t mind going back here again.

Pico Sands Hotel is in Pico De Loro Cove, Hamilo Coast, Barangay Papaya, Nasugbu, Batangas

Call them at +632 464 7888 or +63917 809 1289

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4 thoughts on “The secret to a Tan-tastic vacation

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