Monday, August 26, 2019

When in Puerto Princesa: Dos Palmas

Dos Palmas has been one of the most popular spots in Puerto Princesa for decades. Just the idea of basking under the sun in a rather secluded island makes anyone smile from ear to ear. It grew into an international headline when a kidnapping incident happened in 2001 which led to the abduction of 20 guests and staff. Though it has been a long while since the unfortunate event, many are still scared to stay here and question the island's security. I was uneasy too but we pushed through with our reservation and spent a few days here. And I was so happy that we did.

Hello, Dos Palmas
We spotted Dos Palmas while searching Agoda for resorts in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The aerial view of the island won us over as we like the idea of being far from the city proper. And it didn't take long before we clicked the book button. 
Dos Palmas is a small island about an hour and half away from Puerto Princesa Airport. It offers complimentary airport transfers which made everything a breeze for us. We did have to make a few stops to pick up other guests, mostly for day tour. Note that the complimentary van and boat transfers have specific schedules and additional fees will be charged if you wish to arrange a different time for arrival and departure.
It was drizzling a bit when we got to the island but we were warmly welcomed by the staff who ushered us to the reception and gave us welcome drinks. 
After signing a few forms, we were off to our room. 
Electricity in the island is limited so they have a mandatory shutdown every 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.. It was fine with us though as it wasn't even sunny when we were there. And since we were so tired from our early morning flight, all we wanted to do was take a nap. 
I requested for a newly renovated Beach Villa (PHP7,500-8,500/night) after reading the reviews on Dos Palmas suites. Most noted that the rooms are huge but extremely old. Luckily, the one we got was okay. I'm not too sure if it was newly fixed but it was not falling apart. 
Equipped with one twin and one king size bed, sofa, mini refrigerator, spacious bathroom and outdoor lounge bed, even its smallest room could comfortably fit four guests! I was just alarmed when we spotted a questionable short and rather frizzy hair on the bigger bed. I wanted to play it safe and requested for housekeeping to change the bed sheets. And they did within 15 minutes! I couldn't help feel icky after seeing that though and closely checked all sheets and pillows.
We decided to lounge by the beach on our first afternoon and it was a great idea! The breeze was nice and there were not a lot of guests around. It was also the spot with the best signal so we were able to get some work done too. (Note: Dos Palmas has wi-fi but it doesn't seem to work when we were there.)
Dos Palmas has three pools with the lap pool by the Paranarian Spa as its newest. The one near the restaurant is bigger though and it has a jacuzzi as well.
Taking a dip in the bigger pool makes you feel how old the resort has been around as the tiles have been discolored and due for renovation. If you are very particular to cleanliness, it's best that you stick with the lap pool instead. I was impressed though with the staff when they turned on the water jet of the jacuzzi when they spotted us using it.
There's a game area for those who love to play darts, table tennis and billiards.
I was also pleasantly surprised with the reasonable prices of Dos Palmas' food and drinks. R and I were expecting crazy prices considering that we're somewhat trapped in an island. But most dishes are within PHP200-350 range with drinks no more than PHP150.
We ordered tomato soup, seafood pasta, fresh local greens, fish sticks and two fruit shakes for dinner. The serving sizes of the dishes were good for sharing and we ended up having too much food. 
I found my watermelon shake not worth it though as about a third of my drink was just foam. 
We also noticed that our glasses are always smaller compared to the foreign tourists. I'm not sure if that's a subtle discrimination as we get about a quarter less of our paid beverage.
I barely slept on our first night in the island as I couldn't shake the thought of what happened here before. I finally gave up on the idea of sleeping when R woke up around 3 a.m.. We decided to just stay up and head to the restaurant at 6 a.m. thinking that there would be something for us to eat. We were told that early risers can have their meals before the breakfast buffet opens. We didn't know though that a special arrangement is required for this. The staff was accommodating though to give us some toast and jam while we wait for the buffet. 
The breakfast buffet was small yet good enough to fill one up. There are the basics such as eggs, bread, cereal, fruits and a few breakfast viands such as bacon and beans. 
We walked by the beach after breakfast and we spotted some baby shark! We were so thrilled to know that marine life seem to be blossoming here. However, they only seem to show up early morning as we couldn't find one past 10 a.m.. 
Our room rate includes non-motorized water sport activities, snorkeling and island tour. We went for a quick kayak ride while waiting for the island tour. It was cut short though when it started to rain. 
We were told that the island tour is a great activity for us to spot some fish. Unfortunately, the waves were too choppy that we didn't stay long. Only one guest who went near the corals spotted a lot of fish. (I heard from one of the staff that the best place to snorkel is at its snorkeling site which is about 5 minutes off the island. We didn't go for this anymore as we opted to sleep in the next day.)
The resort started to become a bit more packed when we got back. Thankfully, the island was big enough that it still didn't feel crowded, except at the restaurant. 
During dinner, we noticed that dinner buffet was being offered at about PHP600 per head. We were tempted to avail of this rate but we didn't really like any of the dishes part of the buffet except for the Yema Cake which was not on the a la carte menu. It was a good thing though that we asked as the staff got us a slice and simply charged us the same rate as the other cakes in the menu. 
On our last night, R couldn't sleep so he opted to take a stroll outside around 2 a.m.. He tried to wake me up to watch the star-filled sky but I was far away in dreamland and signal in the room was so bad that we have to be near the door to get at least Edge signal. He also bumped into some island security and found out that there are 10 roaming security at any given time ever since the terrible incident. 
Check out was a breeze. All we had to do was leave our bags in front of our villa and someone will pick it up to bring to the boat. We opted for the 1:30 p.m. ride back to the airport so that we get to the next resort by around 4 p.m.. 
Overall, it was a nice short trip to Dos Palmas and I'll be back for sure. 

Dos Palmas is located at Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Click here to book.

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