Review by Philippa Langrish
Why you’ll love the Awesome Hotel
The Awesome Hotel San Juan is a four-storey hotel located on the beachfront in the town of San Juan, La Union. The property is just meters from the surf and you’ll find that a lot of the guests here have come especially for the waves. We visited in the low season, just after a typhoon had ravaged the area, and found the beach deserted.
David and Grace, the owners of the hotel, have five kids themselves so understand what it takes to create a great family getaway. The couple are in the process of building a huge extension which will incorporate over 100 new rooms, as well as play areas, a new restaurant, a gym and a spa. These grand plans will take the hotel to a new level and should be completed within the next 1 – 2 years. In the meantime we were more than happy with the hotels current facilities and their “can do” attitude. The staff at Awesome Hotel are willing to accommodate any guest requests and offer a flexible service to adapt to individual needs.
We were taken on a fascinating tour of the area by David, who is passionate about the area and introduced us to little known places of interest hidden along the coast and inland. We visited the stone sculpture park of Bahay Na Bato, the stone harvesting pebble beach and Baluarte Tower, followed by a drive through the paddy fields and a short hike through the jungle to Occolong falls. At the end of the day the hotel staff even made a bonfire on the beach for us to toast marshmallows once the sun had set.
For me the highlight of the trip was surfing. I am a beginner so the gentle waves, quiet beach and patient instructors made it much easier for me to catch a wave or two. I hired an instructor for a one hour lesson at 400php. This is possible to do with kids as the hotel offers an on call 24 hour baby-sitting service which charges 500php for 3 hours(min) and then 100php for every additional hour.
I found the layout of the hotel very parent-friendly as I was able to watch the kids play on the lawn from the comfort of my cabana. The lawn overlooks the beach making it an ideal spot for an aperitif at sunset. They also offered much needed shade after a few hours in the sun. Likewise the hotel itself has tables and chairs surrounding the pool area which meant we could play cards, sample the delicious “Crazy Californian Maki” and catch up on a few emails while watching the kids having the time of their lives in the fountains surrounding the pool.
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Why the kids will love the Awesome Hotel
Going on holiday with tots can sometimes be challenging, but the layout at the Awesome Hotel is fantastic for little ones, which makes for a relaxing experience for us parents too. The well-kept lawns, cabanas, proximity to the beach and fountains surrounding the pool all make the Awesome Hotel a little paradise for kids.
Our daughter Maya (age 4) had a swell time body boarding, while Gillan (16 months) amused himself digging in the sand. Maya and I played for hours in the waves, jumping over them, catching them on the body board and letting them roll underneath us while perching together on a surf board. Maya loved the visit to Bahay Na Bato, which is a pebble beach filled with stone sculptures. It’s a really unique spot and ideal for kids of all ages to play with the pebbles and explore the magnificent stone carvings. I would have liked to stay longer here and had lunch in the old stone house overlooking the sea. Next time!
From Bahay Na Bato we headed deeper into Luna La Union where we took a 20-minute trek to the Occolong Falls. This was an easy trek with a 4-year-old and there was even a monkey to great us upon arrival. Maya enjoyed watching the monkey, playing in the falls, jumping over the rocks and taking a little dip.
At sunset we had a fire on the beach and toasted a whole packet of marshmallows! If you can remember to buy a few packets before you set off on your road trip then this is a great way to spend an evening.
The hotel has 26 rooms in six categories. The rooms are neutrally painted in cream with red accents on the bed linen. There are charming traditional native paintings on the walls, chocolate brown curtains and throws, large mirrors, beautiful wooden parquet flooring and blonde wooden furniture. The rooms are furnished with an upholstered chair and a sofa in neutral beige tones. The bathrooms are wet-room in style.
The room categories are as follows:
The Executive 3 Bedroom Suite (3 beds 2 bathrooms)
Superior Sea and Mountain View (2 Queens)
Standard Poolside (3 single beds)
Standard Ground Floor (3 single beds)
Deluxe Room with Sofa (1 Queen and 1 single)
Deluxe Family Pool View (3 Queens) There are no interconnecting rooms.
Best Rooms For Families: This depends on your family’s needs, however the Suite is a great option as well as the Family Pool View.
I was pleasantly surprised by the delicious food on offer at the Awesome Hotel. I did not expect such an assortment of my favourite Japanese sushi and sashimi. The Awesome Hotel are lucky enough to have a Japanese trained chef who produced delicious Maki which would give Little Tokyo a run for its money. The chef has had 14 years’ experience in 5* hotels in the Middle East and knows how to create and present a truly delicious meal. I had the Tuna Nicious Salad twice which was a gorgeous mix of cured Tuna Sashimi, veggies and dressing.
Indian cuisine is also available.
For Kids: There is no kids menu as yet but it is in the pipeline. However, my two were satisfied with the pasta, rice and chicken dishes.
Activities for the Family at the Hotel
Activities at the hotel include: Swimming, Surfing, Kayaking, Banana Boat, Jet Skis and Motor Bike Hire. Surf lessons are offered at the hotel for 400php for one hour. You can hire a surf board for 200php per hour. The hotel can organise an in-room massage. Kids can enjoy all these activities as well as toasting marshmallows on the beach!
Tours, these can all be organised by the hotel
Heart of La Union Tour: This includes a visit to the Macho Temple, Pagoda and Pindangan Ruins all in nearby San Fernando. This is a great tour for culture lovers and culminates with a stop for Halo Halo (local dessert) and an opportunity to harvest your own grapes at the Gapuz Grape Farm in Bauang. Tour price – 3,500php
Exploring the North: Visit the honey and silk making farm, Our Lady of Namacpacan historic church, and discover the art of Philippine weaving. Take a trip to the wonderful stone sculpture park of Bahay Na Bato followed by a trip to the pebble beach and baluarte tower to watch the pebbles being harvested for international cargo. Tour price 4,000php
Unique Adventure: Visit the historical Basilica in Agoo, visit the Museo de Iloko and take a trip to the Pugad adventure park. Tour price 4,500php
Baguio Adventure: Visit the official summer residence of the president of The Philippines, take a trip to Wright Park, take a stroll through Baguio botanical gardens and the Mines View Park. Bring home Baguio’s famous Ube Jam, squeeze in some retail therapy and relax with a memorable dining experience at Oh My Gulay. Tour price 5,500php
Invading Baguio: Pick your own strawberries at the farm, visit the cathedral, visit Lourdes Grotto for meditation, buy some local souvenirs from the Hangar Market, take a walk or a jog through Camp Hay & PMA or hire a boat or bike from Burnham Park Tour price – 6,000php
Northern Escapade (Vigan): Visit Bantay Church, Bantay Bell Tower, Vigan Cathedral, and Burgos Museum. Take a peek at the Jurassic park of Ilocos and discover the art of traditional pottery making at Pagburnayan. Tour price – 7,000
A/C in all rooms, Babysitting (available on request), cots, heaters and floor heating, doctors & hospitals nearby, swimming pool and kids’ swimming pool, laundry service, pushchair friendly, swimming pool, travel desk, wheelchair access (this hotel is recognised by the disabled association of The Philippines), WiFi.
Environmental measures and social responsibility: The owner, David, knows a thing or two about energy efficiency and has put this to task about the resort. The hotel recycles all its grey water, it has treatment plants for the laundry which comply with international standards. Everything is recycled in the area. The air conditioning is powered by VIV efficient systems. The hot water is solar heated and they plan to do away with plastic bottles and implement water filling stations on each level.
When to go:
The best time to visit the Philippines is between December and February in the cooler months. The wet season is from June onwards. Be careful travelling in the months from September to December as this is when the typhoon season is. However, I often travel in these months and it is OK as long as you don’t mind a bit of a downpour in the afternoons and you check the weather for Typhoon warnings.
Temperatures range from 27 – 40C+. Avoid travelling in the busy holy weeks of Easter and Christmas.
Location & Travel:
The Awesome Hotel is located La Union, a province of The Philippines located in the Ilocos Region in the island of Luzon. It is approximately 300km from Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport.
For international travel fly to Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport then hire a car and driver to take you to La Union. Travel through the night to avoid Manila traffic.
You can catch the bus from Cubao Station in Manila. This is not for the faint-hearted however as it can take anywhere between 5-12 hours depending on the traffic! The buses depart hourly and arrive at San Fernando in La Union. You then take a tricycle from San Fernando to San Juan (about 30mins).
1) Take a Surf Lesson from 9am – 10am when the surf is at its best
2) Ask the hotel to make you a fire on the beach for some late night marshmallow toasting with the kids.
3) Try the Crazy Californian Maki cocktail!
Disclosure: We received two complimentary nights at The Awesome Hotel in a Superior Room. All opinions are entirely my own.