I’m a big fan of using the internet to plan trips. I can spend hours upon hours just googling destinations, reading through forums, comparing one hotel with another based on tripadvisor reviews. I also like reading restaurant reviews and discovering secret hideaways close to Manila. I’ve found, however, that most of these websites that feature these secret hideaways and charming destinations provide directions that assume you have a car. Every so often, I plan to feature on my blog travel haunts and getaways that can be reached without a car, and give commuter-friendly advice to people like me — driven by wanderlust but without wheels.
Last weekend, we went to San Pablo, Laguna, one of the towns that I pass through every time I go to Quezon but which I don’t know a lot about. I’ve heard about Viaje del Sol (way of the sun) over the net, and it apparently is a list of must-visit destinations along the Laguna-Quezon route. Casa San Pablo is a charming hideaway prominently featured in Viaje del Sol. We paid P2,100.00 per person, inclusive of buffet lunch, dinner and breakfast.
It’s easy to get to Casa San Pablo via commute. You just take a Jac Liner bus (In Kamuning-EDSA beside DILG) and ride the bus going to Lucena. Go down at San Pablo Medical beside Chowking and hop onto a tricycle. Ask the trike to take you to Casa San Pablo inside Kay Inay Resort. You should expect to pay P50.00 for one trike. A guard will meet you at the front and direct you to the reception. It should be a hassle-free process.
The first thing you’ll notice about Casa San Pablo is how it’s so quiet. There are hammocks scattered around a vast field of green, resting underneath swaying pine trees. The main room or hall in the center is noisy only during mealtimes (where meals are served buffet-style); at any other time, it looks like a quirky house in the province from a bygone era. A touch of whimsy is everywhere, from the wrought iron plantsahan prominently displayed to old and rickety mailboxes in the garden.
The rooms are equally quirky, with each room looking completely different from the other. We stayed at the Casita room, a stand-alone room for two with glass windows all over overlooking the pretty garden.
At night, the place becomes even more magical. They put out candles in the garden and the whole place lights up. More romantic lovebirds can choose to walk around hand in hand, or gaze into each other’s eyes while seated on mats by the candlelight. My partner and I, however, being the competitive nerds that we are, got out a box of SCRABBLE (board games can be borrowed for free) and engaged in one rowdy game after another.
In the morning, we played basketball and then had breakfast. Afterwards, we decided to check out early and take a tricycle ride to Sampaloc Lake, one of the seven lakes of San Pablo. While the lake is pretty, the surrounding environs are quite disappointing. There aren’t enough trash cans to go around, so people throw their trash anywhere. The vendors are arranged in a haphazard manner, and you sort of miss the charm of Dumaguete’s famous Boulevard where there are vendors selling all sorts of stuff but everything is orderly and clean. Trike to the Sampaloc Lake is around P50.00 as well.
Afterwards, we went to Kusina Salud, which is also featured prominently as a must-go destination in San Pablo. We loved it so much! The place is owned by Patis Tesoro, and like the designer and her legacy, it is distinctly Filipino with pride of place written all over. You can get to Kusina Salud via trike also by telling the trike driver “Barangay Santa Cruz Putol” and just look out for the Kusina Salud sign. They have a spa inside, where you can get a 30 minute back massage for P100.00, we did and I really enjoyed the ministrations of my masseuse.
The restaurant has fantastic ambience. You eat overlooking a thick foliage, with Filipino ornaments and artsy decor all over. Every Sunday, they have a buffet and the buffet we had on that day was a yummy spread of Pako Salad, Fish Tempura, Binagoongan, Bulalo, Asian Curry and other food I can’t recall now but enjoyed. You have to call them for reservations, and while you’re at it, ask them for the menu for Sunday. I also sent messages to their multiply site www.kusinasalud.multiply.com and they were very accommodating and answered all my queries promptly. Lunch is around P400 per person. To go back to the highway where you can take a bus back to Manila, just hope onto a trike once again.
If you’re still up for more adventure and have more time on your hands, you can proceed further south and visit Kinabuhayan Cafe. We didn’t do it for this weekend, but we did it a few months ago. Kinabuhayan is in Dolores and you can go to it by taking the same Lucena bus, going down at Tiaong Market, and taking the jeep that goes to Dolores. Kinabuhayan is famous for its gourmet food, so if you want the complete foodie adventure, you can start off at Casa San Pablo, proceed to Kusina Salud, then wrap it off with Kinabuhayan Cafe.
- For more details and instructions (like if you decide to take a car), you can visit the websites at www.casasanpablo.com and www.kusinasalud.com .
- Sorry, both of us forgot to bring a camera. The pics of Casa San Pablo were taken from their website, already mentioned above. The pic of the signage of Kusina Salud was taken from www.sanpablocity.net.