When the weekend comes, don’t you want to just drive away from the city, shake off work and enjoy the sun, sea and sand? Rewarding yourself with some much-deserved rest and relaxation after a toxic week isn’t a bad idea. Enjoying fun bonding moments with your family completes the picture.

Luckily, there’s no need to travel far for a relaxing weekend getaway. Only about a two-hour drive away from SM Mall of Asia is the beach resort destination Pico de Loro Cove at Hamilo Coast in Nasugbu, Batangas a place that is full of beautiful surprises.

Cocktail food served during the tree lighting.

Best of land and sea

From Manila, taking the CAVITEX and Ternate-Nasugbu Road route is the better option. When we reached Ternate, lush greens and fresh air welcomed us. Just another 25-minute scenic drive from Kaybiang Tunnel and we reached the entrance to Hamilo Coast, a private leisure getaway that sits on 5,800 hectares of land with a 25-kilometer coastline.

Pico de Loro is one of the 13 picturesque coves inside Hamilo Coast. Upon entering Hamilo, we knew we are in for a great seclusion and relaxation experience.

Getting around the complex is easy and convenient. Pico de Loro provides several open-air multi-seat shuttles available daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

HAVE your sangria by the beach during sunset.

Family-friendly ambiance

Pico de Loro is one of the best places for family bonding, we found out. It is where you can rekindle your love for nature while enjoying time with your family. There are just so many things to do. You can spend the day swimming at the beach and indulge in some fun under the sun — from kayaking to riding a banana boat to playing beach volleyball and football. If you are adventurous and want more action-packed activities, you can try their aqua bikes, paddle boards and jet skis.

Want to have a break from the sun? You can enjoy some indoor sports activities, too. Pico de Loro has six badminton courts, a basketball court, a covered tennis court, a squash court and table tennis located at the ground floor area of the Country Club. There is also a playground where your kids can play to their heart’s content.

When you get tired, sleep in the comfy rooms at Pico Sands Hotel and then wake up to the fresh, clean air as you open the balcony door. Feast your eyes on lush greeneries and explore the beautiful beaches. Unwind if you must and bring your family to a cove tour or yacht cruise and visit the five amazing coves of Hamilo Coast.

Deluxe lagoon room.

Private sanctuary at Santelmo Cove

Who would have thought that only two hours from Manila is a place where you can enjoy the beach in total privacy? Santelmo Cove, which is accessible via a five-minute boat ride or about a 45-minute trail hike from Pico de Loro Cove, was the best part of our weekend getaway.

Excited to reach the cove immediately, we opted for the speedboat ride. The moment we jumped into the boat, we knew it would be a one-of-a-kind experience. With the sea breeze fanning our hair and the boat slicing the azure waters, we enjoyed the brief ride. Five minutes later, we reached the mini paradise. Its white sand beach, lush greens and unexploited beauty make it a perfect spot for relaxation.

This exclusive hideaway is one of Hamilo Coast’s marine protected areas and is an important site for marine biodiversity where preservation programs such as giant-clam seeding and regular reef monitoring are being sustained. We also saw a protected turtle nest at the shore, a place identified by the Pico team where sea turtles hatch.

After an hour or so of swimming followed by a festive boodle fight, we went snorkeling for an underwater adventure. Swimming with and bumping into dozens of colorful fishes is a spectacular experience.

A few hours at the secluded Santelmo Cove was a time well spent.

Ham leg, puto bumbong at bibingka served at the residential resort village.

Christmas tree lighting with a message

The sound of soft waves crashing gently on the shores of Pico de Loro Cove filled the air while we lounged lazily on the soft sand. With our toes in the sand and cocktails in our hands, we all stopped in awe to watch the majestic sunset.

At sundown, vacationers gathered towards the Pico Beach Plaza near the giant Christmas tree. The cool air replaced the afternoon’s warm breeze, almost telling that the Christmas season has finally arrived. It was time for the awaited Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

President for Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club Rita Dy and general manager for Pico Sands Hotel Maggie Garcia led the ceremony with a warm welcome followed by the lighting of the tree. The homegrown talents of Pico de Loro regaled the guests with a dance parade as they served the night’s cocktails. The Himig Batingaw Choir, a choral group from Imus, serenaded everyone with classic Filipino carols.

Mostly organic materials such as twigs, branches and coconut spathe fibers found in the property’s verdant trails adorn the 30-foot tall Christmas tree. Abaca ropes, silk flowers, and reused Christmas balls were entwined to create garlands adorning the tree which was illumined with 3,000 LED bulbs and blue accent lights.

“It is the most festive and largest tree we’ve put up, by far,” said Garcia. “And it is such a sight to see when you are heading over to the beach. But I’m even more proud to share that this tree is also a showcase of our staff’s handiwork and artistry.”

Garcia’s message was simple, “Let’s celebrate mindfully and truly focusing on what’s important our families and loved ones; build more happy memories with the kids and enrich your own family traditions.”

Award-winning dishes

After the Christmas Tree lighting, Nichie Torres, Pico Sands Hotel director of Business Development, and Jennifer Bagus, Pico Sands Hotel and Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club’s Members Engagement & Communications manager, invited us for dinner at Sun Coral Café.

Little did we know that award-winning dishes awaited us at the cozy restaurant!
We started with Star Gazing for appetizer, a dish of green papaya ukoy (fritters) with ensaladang kangkong (water spinach salad) in miso vinaigrette. This dish bagged first prize in the appetizer category at the Pico de Loro Market Basket Competition in August 2018.

We then had New Moon, a roasted pumpkin and carrot soup drizzled with cilantro pesto. One of the best-tasting pumpkin soups I ever had!

Next came Low Tide, a plate of seafood in honey-citrus coriander with infused carrot and green pea puree. It tasted so good; no wonder it won a gold medal in the main course category at the National Food Showdown in October 2018.

The Food and Beverage team thoughtfully prepared another winning main dish, the Shooting Star. It is a stuffed soy chicken leg with spiced ginger homemade fresh noodles and vegetables. Like Low Tide, it also garnered the Gold Medal Award in the same category and competition.

We ended the meal with Constellation, a fruity and nutty chilled cheesecake.

With everything we experienced, we will definitely make another trip to this pristine paradise.

For more information about Pico Sands Hotel and Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club, visit hotel website www.picosandshotel.com and club website www.picodeloroclub.com.

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