If there’s one piece of advice that I’ve been getting a lot ever since I got pregnant, it’s this: “Sleep as much as you can now because when the baby arrives, you won’t be getting any sleep!” Great! Looking forward to it already!
Since Mike and I know that our hands are going to be full once this little person in my tummy comes out, we thought it would be nice to go on a BABYMOON – a relaxing holiday that will let us have some time off before we get too busy with changing diapers!
Since I’m pregnant, an exhausting and strenuous trip isn’t advisable. The perfect solution? A staycation! Luckily, I won a 3D/2N stay at Astoria Palawan in Puerto Princesa when I attended their event last year! (Read about how I bagged these vouchers simply by wearing a crazy headdress.) Mike and I have always wanted to go to Palawan, and although we couldn’t explore the more popular and pristine places like Coron and El Nido due to my pregnancy and our budget constraints, just getting a chance to go to one of the world’s best islands was more than good enough for us!
We took advantage of the promo fare by AirAsia, which cost us only PHP 3,141 per person. Since it was only a 3-day staycation, Mike and I packed light. I’m NOT AT ALL a light packer but miraculously, I was able to survive with just one small luggage and a tiny handbag! NOTE: AirAsia only allows one hand-carried luggage weighing 7kg or less.
LOCATION AND GETTING TO ASTORIA PALAWAN
Astoria Palawan is about an hour and a half away from the airport and the main city center. It’s quite close to the Underground River but pretty far from where the action is and everything else. However, since all we really wanted to do was to laze around in the hotel for all of our three days, the remoteness actually served as an advantage for us! Its distance from the city gave us the peace and quiet we were looking for.
Guests of Astoria Palawan can reach the place either by public transport (tricycle, bus, or public vans) or by taking the hotel’s private shuttle which costs PHP 2,800 per way. Since I have a bun in the oven, a bumpy commute was not an option for me, and taking the hotel shuttle would put a huge dent in our budget. I really think that the hotel shuttle should be offered for free to guests, or if that’s too much to ask, at least the price should be lower, if only to cover for gas!
Thankfully, just days before our trip, I found a cab driver who was willing to drive us from the airport to the hotel and back for only PHP 1,400 per way (PHP 2,800 round trip)! That’s half of what the hotel was charging us! His name is Gerry and he can be reached via his mobile numbers, +63-915-8608988 or +63-929-6355071. (If you do book him, please tell him I referred him to you and do say hi to him from me! :))
The moment we arrived at Astoria, we immediately felt that “home away from home” feeling. The staff greeted us with a huge smile, a cold towel, a refreshing welcome drink, and yummy miniature bibingkas as a welcome snack. They also wore a cool beaded necklace over our necks.
As a former hotelier, I know that Deluxe Rooms are usually the most standard and basic rooms in a hotel. When Mike and I were escorted to our room, which was a Deluxe Room, we were surprised to see that it was far from standard and basic!
Wow! Our room was huge! At 56 sqm, it had two double beds, a dining table, a wide kitchen area, and even a few seats outside. It was humongous for just the two of us (three, if you count the baby!) but it would be the right size for a family or a group of four.
The rooms in Astoria are different, so you can tell that the interior designers really put a lot of thought in each one. What we love about the rooms – ours included – is that the vibrant tones and the pops of color instantly make you feel happy. It’s so fun, chic, unique, and different from the usual neutral shades you usually see in most rooms. I also love that our room is nestled within a mango orchard, so it felt like we were really close to nature. Actually, we were so close to nature that we could hear the frogs having a nightly concert just outside our room!
For me, the coolest part of our room was the wall lamps. They’re literally lamps that are part of the wall, but you wouldn’t know that they’re lamps until you actually yank them! What a brilliant and space-saving idea!
Like I said, the plan was to sleep as much as we can, and with a spacious and gorgeous bedroom such as this, we sure didn’t have a hard time doing just that! It helped a lot that the beds were really comfy, though one more layer of blanket or a spare blanket in the room would have been great, especially for when it gets cold at night.
The room had all the amenities we needed for a comfortable stay: an electronic safe, a personal refrigerator, tea & coffee maker, slippers (I’d suggest you bring your own though, in case they’re too small or big for you), and an LCD TV with DVD. We watched a lot of TV during our stay – NatGeo, Bolt of Talent, and some news show featuring Bonnie Tyler struggling as she belts out “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in line with the solar eclipse that day. Surprisingly, for such a big room, the TV was a little small!
The bathroom is also lovely, with its dim lights and pebbled flooring. The toiletries provided are of superior quality, although I wasn’t able to use the body wash, shampoo, and conditioner because they contain ingredients that aren’t very baby-friendly, such as parabens and salix alba (willow) bark extract. A note for pregnant women: best to bring your own pregnancy-safe bath essentials!
Our only beef about the bathroom would be the cramped tub area and the funny stench when we first got there. When we arrived, we noticed a weird septic tank smell in the loo. The efficient staff were very quick to solve the problem, though. They just placed a diffuser in the bathroom, and it smelled great for our entire three days!
With its exclusive ambiance, attentive staff, and a good view of the pool and the trees, The Reserve – Astoria Palawan’s main restaurant – was a lovely place to enjoy our meals any time of the day.
For a hotel restaurant, the price isn’t bad at all. Food isn’t cheap but reasonably-priced, though the portions could be a little bigger. Our advice would be to stick to the best-sellers. We tried the Bistik Palawan and the Fisherman’s Basket, which, according to the servers, were their best dishes, and they were pretty good, although we noticed that the latter had too many veggies on the side to offset the meat. Sadly, the Bicol Express, which was not in the list of best-sellers, felt like a chore to eat. It was too chewy for our liking, and didn’t really taste like Bicol Express.
For the breakfast buffet, they had soup, breads and pastries, waffles and pancakes, rice, a couple of main dishes, eggs cooked on the spot the way you like them, fresh fruits, and other desserts. We were so full from breakfast that we didn’t even need to eat lunch anymore because our morning meal lasted us throughout dinner time! What was also good about the breakfast spread is that the dishes we had were different on our first and second day, so we didn’t get sick of the food. We feel that one or two more main dishes or viands would be great though! And we wish that they didn’t mix the muesli with milk! It looked a little yucky… no wonder no one wanted to touch it!
If you still have room for dessert, DO NOT leave the hotel without trying their Bibingka! But also make sure that you have PLENTY of room for it because IT. IS. ENORMOUS. At only PHP 165, it’s probably good for three or four people! This is the giant version of the miniature bibingkas they gave us as welcoming snacks, and both Mike and I agree that this is the best bibingka we’ve ever had in our entire life! It comes in three flavors: Original, Ube, and Dulce De Leche. We had the Dulce De Leche variant, which has leche flan chunks inside, a drizzle of dulce de leche, and shredded cheese and brown sugar on top. Are you drooling yet?!
The Reserve also has a wide selection of drinks and they even have a Buy 1, Take 1 promo on beers and cocktails! Unfortunately, this pregnant lady had to lay off the booze!
One of the most fun parts of our staycation was our visit to the Palawan Waterpark!
The 1-hectare water park is truly well-designed. You can tell that every corner of the place was carefully planned, from the layout of the attractions to the creative touches like the statues of the pirates and the gigantic figures of the Batak Tribe Misters, one of the last remaining aboriginal tribes in the Philippines. If you listen closely, you’ll even hear tribal music playing throughout the water park. It’s a very multi-colored water wonderland, complete with bamboo water canons, wave pools, and slides, and it and will surely be fascinating and stimulating for the little kids. I’d say that this is a fun activity for families with little ones. I was already thinking of the next time that we go back here with OUR little one!
We only wish that there would be more seats and lounge areas closer to the attractions where people can just hang out when they’re not swimming. There were cabanas where you can probably rest, but they’re found somewhere at the back of the attractions. How are parents and guardians meant to watch their kids from there?
Towels are available for borrowing in the water park at PHP 100 (although for some reason, we weren’t charged), and for your valuables, you can also rent a small locker for PHP 150, like what I did. If you are a guest at the hotel and you don’t want to bring cash with you, you can have the locker rental fee charged to your room. And if you get hungry, there’s also a restaurant inside the water park. They even serve a one-time buffet lunch between 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM. Bringing of food and drinks is not allowed.
Like I said, this place is really more for small children but Mike and I still enjoyed being big kids here anyway! It’s a great place for picture-taking because for sure, the photos are going to come out nicely because of all the bright colors and interesting life-size statues of sea creatures like a huge whale, turtles, jellyfish, and crocodiles!
It says on the Rules and Regulations Board that pregnant women are not allowed in the water park, so I don’t know how I was able to get in! Either the staff didn’t notice my baby bump or they knew that I can take care of myself. Based on experience, I think it’s safe for pregnant ladies to enjoy the water park. (Also, swimming and the water is good for us expectant moms!) That being said though, do exercise caution. Watch your step, try not to slip, and as tempting as they look, DON’T go on the big slides!
RATES FOR THE WATERPARK:
FOR HOTEL GUESTS:
- Adults – PHP 350
- Kids – PHP 300
FOR NON-HOTEL GUESTS:
- Adults – PHP 800
- Kids (4 ft. below) – PHP 650
- Senior Citizen / PWD – PHP 640
The rates for hotel guests are just right, considering that it’s for a whole-day use. However, we find the rates for non-hotel guests a little overpriced. We’re just really lucky that we got to try this for free!
With so many fun things to do at Astoria Palawan, is it even possible to get bored?!
SWIMMING POOL (THE POD)
(Open from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM)
I could spend an entire day in this beautiful infinity pool which Astoria calls “The Pod”! In the two times we went swimming, the water temperature was always nice. I particularly love the wooden chairs in the pool – they’re just the right height and are great for when you want to relax in the water. On our first swim, we had the pool all to ourselves. On the second day, considering that it was a long weekend, we only shared the pool with seven other people. We’ve never seen it crowded during our entire three days, so the privacy, as well as the surrounding trees offered a serene atmosphere.
If Mike and I could make some changes, we would probably either make the pool a little bit bigger or add a second pool or a Jacuzzi. More pool chairs are recommended too since there are only six at the moment. Mike also thought that it was unfortunate that the trees were blocking the view of the beach, but I guess they can’t really just cut them down.
Bummer! There was an ongoing beach nourishment when we visited so we didn’t get to enjoy it. 🙁
(Open from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM)
A foosball table, an Xbox, a desktop computer, books, magazines, and board games are just some of the things you can amuse yourself with in Astoria Palawan. It’s a little small but still a nice feature, especially for people like us who just wanted to spend all our time in the hotel. I love how the hotel added all these fun things to do to make their guests’ stay more pleasurable! For those who want to play board games though, there is no table to play it on inside the game room, so they might have to transfer to the videoke room and just hope that there’s no one there, singing their lungs out! As for the foosball table, according to Mike (who proudly claims to be an undefeated Foosball Champion), it was a little crooked.
(Open from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM)
Guests can use this room and sing their hearts out for free for a maximum of two hours! It can get a little loud in here though, so if you’re in the game room or the main lobby, expect to hear people belting out! It’s probably wiser for Astoria to switch the location of the Videoke Room with the Billiards / Table Tennis room, which is more secluded.
(Open from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM)
We didn’t use the gym (We didn’t go all the way to Palawan for a holiday just to work out!) but Mike was impressed with it. He mentioned that it looks modern, sophisticated, and well-designed, and said that it must be awesome to exercise here because it was so quiet. There was only one person using it when we checked it out.
BILLIARDS / TABLE TENNIS
(Open from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM)
On our last day, we had to check out at 2:00 PM (which was the late check out), but our flight was late at night so we asked our driver to just pick us up at 4:00 PM to bring us to the airport. We had two hours to kill, and thankfully, even though we’ve already checked out, we were still allowed to use the hotel’s facilities. We decided to check out the Billiards Room. Mike and I had fun playing, though we had to go back after two rounds because we were already feeling hot! Unlike the game room which was cool and cozy, the Billiards / Table Tennis Room looked and felt more like an old warehouse. There was no A/C and there was no shade from the sun, so we were sweating a lot! Even though it’s in a more concealed area away from the lobby and the rooms, we wish that the management could make it a more relaxing environment. Better ventilation or air conditioning, more comfortable seats, curtains or blinds, and refreshments or a vending machine would all make this a cooler and better spot to hang out in.
BICYCLE, KAYAK / PADDLE BOARDS, AND BEACH VOLLEYBALL COURT
(Open from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM)
We didn’t get to try these too. For one, I don’t know how to ride a bike. Sad, I know. Second, I would’ve wanted to kayak but Mike didn’t want me to take a risk in case we capsized. By the way, these all free to use!
PUTTING GREEN, BOAT HOUSE PLAYGROUND, AND MINI PLAYGROUND
(Open from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM)
WELLNESS / SPA
If you need to soothe those tired muscles, there’s also a spa inside the hotel. We didn’t use it though because just being in the resort was relaxing enough for us!
WI-FI AND MOBILE SIGNAL
Upon check-in, we were given a Wi-Fi ticket, which was good for two devices, valid within the duration of our stay. If you have more than two devices, be prepared to pay up. I thought that since we were in such a remote location, the signal would be weak, and I wouldn’t be able to post my photos on Instagram! #priorities. Haha! Surprisingly, the connection was actually pretty strong, especially in the common areas! Mobile signal was weak inside the rooms though. I struggled to send text messages while inside the room.
Every single person we encountered at Astoria Palawan was kind, friendly, courteous, and proactive. Every time we passed by them, they always smiled at us and greeted us. When it rained after we had dinner at The Reserve, one of the waiters offered to walk us back to our room while holding an umbrella for us. When I was carrying a bowl of soup in the restaurant during breakfast, a waitress came up to me so she can bring it to my table. When we went swimming and forgot to bring towels, the lifeguard placed clean and fresh towels on our pool chairs without us even having to ask. When Mike left his sunglasses and passport in the Billiards Room, one of the staff gave it back to him. Astoria Palawan is such a warm and happy place, and that has a lot to do with its people. Their genuine happiness to help is unmistakable. The service here is excellent!
WEDDINGS AND EVENTS AT ASTORIA PALAWAN
On our way to the Waterpark, we passed by the Mangrove Conference and Convention Center, which is a venue within the resort where meetings, conventions, exhibits, and other special events are held. Being in the wedding and events industry, I immediately said to Mike, “This would be a great place to get married!” No, I wasn’t hinting on a second wedding. Haha! Think about it: a wedding ceremony by the beach, a wedding reception held in the Mangrove, big and beautiful rooms for the couple and their guests, fun facilities for guests to use, and lots of great spots for a wedding photo shoot! Hmm… now that I think about it, a second wedding here isn’t a bad idea after all! Just kidding! 😉
A BLISSFUL BABYMOON
We had a blissful babymoon at Astoria Palawan! It was the perfect way for us to have our pre-baby R&R before becoming parents. We really appreciated the tranquility of the place, coupled with the friendliness and exceptional service of the people working here. We wish we could have stayed for another night!
With the ongoing beach nourishment and some construction going on, it seems that the resort is still unfinished. Hopefully, we could go back one day when everything is already polished off. If and when we do come back, we’ll already be a family of three, and I bet our little girl is going to love this family-friendly place as much as we did!
OUR BABYMOON VIDEO
3 days of fun compressed in 4 minutes! Watch our babymoon video here:
BUDGET BABYMOON BREAKDOWN OF EXPENSES (in PHP):
- Airfare – 6,282
- Fare going to/from the airport (2-way)– 500
- Hired cab to/from Astoria Palawan (2-way) – 2,800
- Tip for driver – 100
- Lunch (Day 1) – 555
- Dinner (Day 1) – 860
- Dinner (Day 2) – 775
- Locker rental at the Waterpark – 150
- Terminal fee at Puerto Princesa Airport – 400
- Accommodations – Free (Sponsored by Astoria)
- Palawan Waterpark Entrance Fee – Free (Sponsored by Astoria)
TOTAL: PHP 12,422 for 2 persons OR PHP 6,211 per person
Address: Kilometer 62 North National Highway, Brgy. San Rafael, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines
Phone Number: +63-2-687.1111 local 8302
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
How to get there:
– (1) Via the Hotel’s Private Shuttle: PHP 2,800 per way. (To be arranged and reserved in advance)
– (2) Hire a cab driver to take you there.
– (3) By public transport: From the airport, take a tricycle (around PHP 150) or cab to the San Jose Terminal. From the San Jose Terminal, take a bus or UV Express going to Astoria Palawan (around PHP 70 – 100)
– (4) Ride a van that takes people to El Nido and tell the driver that you will get off at Astoria Palawan (less than PHP 1,000 per person)
Big thanks to Astoria Palawan’s management for this fantastic treat! Special thanks to Ms. Jackie Ng (Digital Marketing & Business Development Executive of Astoria Palawan) and Ms. Julie Deano (Reservations Officer) for organizing our stay so well!
Disclosure: Our accommodation was sponsored by Astoria Palawan. All opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.