Balai Sa San Juan Resort

By February 10, 2018 ,

Batangas is quite known as home to some of the finest beaches outside the Visayas and the Mindanao islands in the Philippines, with its front-runner destinations - Calatagan, Nasugbu, Anilao and San Juan. It offers the best of both worlds for beach fanatics, depends on the budget, and the mode of travel

It’s closer to Metro Manila. With so many options of beach resorts to choose from, ranging from boutique-style villas to luxurious residential beach properties, and from plain cottages to affordable casitas. The beaches are perfect for every fun getaway activity with its sun-kissed shorelines beacon amusement to outdoor thrill-seekers and ball game lovers. So whether it’s a water sports adventure you’re looking for or just want to chill with friends along the rugged coastlines, Batangas seaside has plenty to offer.

Photo credit: Tere Hilis

Last February 3, my friends and I took a well-deserved break from work and hopped-in to a beach trip in San Juan, Batangas. It was a chill weekend rather than a fun-filled beach escapade. We didn’t embark into amusing water sports activities but just did what stressed-out people supposed to do on weekends  – relax, eat, sleep, talk, take a slow dip into the swimming pool and wait for the sunrise along the seaside while holding a cup of coffee. Chill!

But getting there wasn’t easy, in fact it was a little tiring. We left Buendia in Makati at 9:30 in the morning and arrived in Lipa City at 11:00. Heavy traffic greeted us along the busy street leading to Robinsons mall so we disembarked before reaching the traffic light intersection. It was already 12:00 noon so we decided to drop by at KFC inside the Robinsons for lunch before catching a jeepney ride to San Juan.

While on the road bound for San Juan, traffic jam seemed hitting in every corner of Lipa City. Vehicles of all sorts crammed along a single lane street, in a very disorganized highway where all types of vehicles jam-packed the already crowded route, making our travel a punishing adventure. 

Photo credit: Tere Hilis

But the moment we got out of Lipa, the smoothness of the Saturday afternoon washed off my disappointment. And had a terrific moment, basking at the soothing view of the Batangas countryside where life seems just taking a slow turn. The weather was subdued, almost cloudy, and the greenery on both sides of the road provided relief to tired senses!

We arrived at San Juan before 2:00 in the afternoon. It was a strenuous travel from Lipa City because we're not able to stretch our legs. And my pelvic joints seemed cramping. We just came out from our night shift and we'd only an hour sleep during the travel. But we're too excited for this weekend trip to be distracted with weariness. So we carried it well and still all smile.

Well, if you're someone who dislikes long road trips with nothing to amuse your sight but hinterlands and farm villages, this San Juan sojourn might be a boring affair, but if you're someone who loves the off-the-beaten track adventure, this long route is an exciting journey. 

From San Juan, we took a tricycle ride to our ultimate destination, barangay Abung, about a 30 minute-drive from the San Juan town market, and where we booked an overnight stay at Balai Sa San Juan resort. It's a lone and exclusive beach farm resort in barangay Abung where tendrils of the modern world seem all forgotten. Mobile signal is weak. No wifi and television provided in the room. But such a very relaxing vacation haven.

When we got there we’re rewarded with a unique silence and comfort in the environment. Tranquility at its best! And all rooms are built above the water facing the wide fishing ground and surrounded with mangrove trees, very  far from the beach line. Each room has an open-space airy veranda. 

No television and wifi in the room so that guests can have a well-deserved rest. And perhaps because the theme of this resort is country living and vintage so, naturally modern technologies are out of the deal. But all rooms are air-conditioned equipped with hot and cold showers. Free toiletries and towels are also provided. 

But don't worry, there's a free wifi connection in the club house.

The swimming pool area is smacked between the mangrove trees and the fishing village. A few distance from the club house 


Such a languid tropical environment. Breeze rolling from the wilderness is perfect for a warm night, so no need to switch on the air-con at early dawn to whisk off the heat. 

All rooms are built along the mangrove trees, so guests need to pass across the narrow wood bridge to reach the club house, the swimming pool area and the beach side. The bridge, though a little worn-out, is fairly secured with bamboo supports on both sides.

Balai is not your typical beach resort where loud noises from other beach trippers reverberate across the place, or where water sports activities tear the calmness of the sea, but it’s a unique place where the softness of the day and the relaxing silence of the surrounding can be truly felt. Quiet and calm. As though the resort is a retreat sanctuary of monks that is so remote from the world.

View of the club house in the early morning
Nobody's home except us on that beautiful weekend 
 Photo credit: Chin Dizon

Photo credit: Nemie Macaya

Everything was so tranquil! We heard nothing but the chirping of the birds, the whistling of the afternoon air from the wilderness and the rushing of the  breeze from the mangrove trees. The wide stretch of the fishing village reflects a serene country life, reminding guests of the old days in a forgotten time. 

This countryside landscape evoked so many surreal childhood memories in me, back to the days when I still lived in the farm with my family. Exactly the same atmosphere, the same farm landscape where I grew up. Oh, the sweet sounds from the valley. I still remember those days. I'm always a country girl by heart. 

The name of the resort itself reflects calmness and serenity. And offers warmth and relaxation. In the visayan term, Balai means home. Indeed, this place beacons a homey atmosphere. A perfect place for people who are seeking moments of privacy and stillness amidst the chaotic life in the city. A place away from the crowd and the noise. In Balai, you're seem a civilization away. Something worthy to savor. Very relieving.

But don’t expect too much. 

The amenities are not really what you’re expecting. In fact, there was nothing in there except swimming pool. The beach side is not inviting, shoreline is rugged and the sand is brownish. Water isn’t crystal clear, in fact it can be harsh and rough during high tide, with billowing waves rushing to kiss the seashore.


The beach side has a long coastline with no water break and its spacious 
ground is an ideal venue for team building and some fun activities

The rugged shoreline with its chocolate-colored sand

However, this place offers the best of respite for a tired soul, weary mind and over-stressed body. Cozy, serene, smooth and quiet. Not crowded. In fact, during our visit, except for the two couples, we’re the only guests frolicking around the area as though we rented the entire place. The experience was a little more of a private vacation in an exclusive farm rental home than being in a commercial beach resort.

Food choices are terrific, as though everything is prepared by a great chef! Staff are attentive, warm and very accommodating. They’re always on call, providing service to guests at every turn. And they’re very courteous. 

In fact when we arrived, someone greeted us in the entrance area and courteously took our bags. He guided us to our room and left instructions where to proceed to present our booking confirmation. Unlike other resorts where guests needed to drop off first at the information desk to confirm the booking, at Balai we jumped off directly to our room. And took more than 30 minutes before we went to the office.

While presenting our booking form, another staff handed us a welcome drink, a glass of tamarind juice which really tastes great. It was my first time to drink a tamarind juice and I love the spike of its sourness!
 Photo credit: Nemie Macaya

Photo credit: Nemie Macaya

It was close to 5:00 in the afternoon when we pranced to the beach. The afternoon sun was fading south, and the cold wind was roaring from the open sea, lapping on waves to create a crushing lurch. But we still managed to enjoy the windy atmosphere, taking pictures, poking fun at each other, and having the best of our lives finding some angle for a picture-perfect pose.


 Photo credit: Chin Dizon

  Photo credit: Chin Dizon
 Sumptuous breakfast as if we're taking our meal at a Cafe Shop 
in the metropolis 

As the twilight fog slowly covering the earth, the late afternoon breeze was also getting colder so we decided to move to the swimming pool area. But by this time, the evening air was also spewing an almost frosty February mist that when I took my first dip into the pool, it was as if my muscles were frozen and my jawline locked up. Still, I enjoyed the water and had so much fun with my friends. Our laughter was tearing the silence of the raw evening and rolled down to the mangroves. Liberating, indeed!

We returned to our room at 6:30 and had our dinner at 7:00. After an hour of belting tunes in the karaoke with lots of laughter and conversation in-between, we slumber to bed, feeling relieved. And we’d the best sleep ever. Bed was comfortable, and the room was cozy. Outside, the soothing evening air rustled smoothly through the wide glass sliding door, providing us a conducive moment of a long night rest. Now, I understand why the management didn't put wifi and television in the room.

  Photo credit: Chin Dizon
Photo credit: Nemie Macaya

We woke up very early to witness the dramatic sunrise at the seaside. And while getting ready for the day, we bragged at each other how liberating it was to have slept that long and how relaxing being billeted in a very quiet resort with no one around creating a fuzz. 

Breathe! Such a fascinating day ahead.

As we headed to the club house and looked around, we're amused with the unique quietness of the place. As though the world stood still. As we took a cup of coffee, we looked at each other and confided how much we longed for an extended stay. The softness of that Sunday morning seemed like a priceless therapy that it already felt like home. Everything was so relax.

After calling the staff and relaying our order for breakfast, we thronged to the beach with so much thrill. We’re so excited to see the ascend of the morning sun at the seaside. So we rushed to the shoreline with some of us still holding a cup of coffee!

It was low tide, and the wide shoreline enticed us to make the most of our time while the sun still behind the morning fog. We cavorted across the mini-sand bar, and freely moved around with our mobile cameras, taking snaps at the vast horizon and everywhere. 

Because we’re the only guests having our moments in the beach side, we enjoyed the privacy. We savored the fun at the long coastline without interruption. It was still early morning and the weather was fine. The sun seemed hiding beneath the clouds and the sea water was calmed. Perfect for a leisure swimming.

Far across the beach line, two golden retrievers pranced back and forth, running after each other and seemed enjoying the morning breeze. Such a wonderful sight to behold, watching dogs freely frolicked across the area. Boy, I'd an amazing morning!


                                          Photo credit: Tere Hilis

We moved to the swimming pool after almost an hour because waves are started getting harsh. And since no one was there and the place appeared more like a private home than a vacay spot, I dared to wear my two-piece. Who cares anyway? After all, it's an appropriate attire for swimming, and I don't want to wait to become 50 years old to wear a skimpy bikini. 😂😝

Balai has two kinds of room accommodations. The hotel room type called the Kawayan rooms, with open verandas, and the single detached bungalow type  called the Aroma.  The Kawayan rooms, which are not really built from bamboos but from wood and concretes, can accommodate up to six persons for only Php3,300 per night. It has two queen-sized beds and a single bed. This is where we stayed.

While the Aroma villa can accommodate at least 3 to 4 persons for only Php3,300 per nightIt has its own living room and private terrace. All rooms have views of the wide fishing ground and the vast mangrove plantation.

The resort has no entrance fee and no corkage fees on food except on drinks. Guests can bring cooked food. For more information visit Balai Resort website. Check-in time is at 2:00 PM and check-out time at 11:00 AM.

Among the must-try dishes is pancit guisado. I'm not really into pancit but this one in Balai is really terrific with crisp vegetables. It only costs Php150.00 per serving and already good for 3 to 4 persons.


We left Balai on the following day, February 4, at 11:00 in the morning. An hour before our check-out I texted our contact, the tricycle driver named Mang Felix, the one who brought us to the resort. It's necessary to make an arrangement with tricycle drivers in San Juan because no permanent route of public transports going to barangay Abung.

Mang Felix brought us to the pasalubong store in San Juan and had lunch there before heading to the bus station. This time we took a bus from San Juan bound for Buendia. Travel time was shorter compared to the Lipa route. We departed San Juan at 12:30 in the afternoon and arrived in Buendia at 3:00.

Good Things about Balai:

Ø  Privacy is assured
Ø  More of an exclusive resort rather than a crowded commercial beach
Ø  Affordable room rates
Ø  Calm and very quiet
Ø  Rooms are clean with hot and cold shower
Ø Each room has a veranda facing the fishing village and surrounded with mangrove trees
Ø  Customer service is great with accommodating staff
Ø  Food choices are great!
Ø  A retreat haven where relaxation and smoothness of the day are guaranteed.
Ø  Beach is private with no neighboring resorts
Ø  Long coastline. Ideal for team building and fun activities
Ø  Free Coffee and Tea, available in the club house 24 hours a day.

The Not-So fascinating side:

Ø  No modern facilities, even the swimming pool looks vintage.
Ø  Sea water is not clear and can be very harsh during the day.
Ø  Sand is chocolate brown and rugged
Ø  Rooms are far from the swimming area.
Ø  No food available unless you place an order ahead of time. But the good side of this is, you can be assured of a freshly cooked food.

Must-try Dishes :

Ø  Pancit guisado (good for 3)
Ø  Suman with coco jam
Ø  Breaded pork chopped and fish fillet
Ø  Fried Tilapia 

Amenities/Activities:

Ø  Billiard hall
Ø  Karaoke (Php100/hour)
Ø  Volleyball
Ø  Kayaking
Ø  Fishing

How To Get There:

1. From Buendia in Makati or Cubao in Quezon City, take a bus bound for San Juan, Batangas (avoid the Lipa route, it's very tiring)
2. Alight at the San Juan town proper and look for a tricycle that would take you to barangay Abung.
3. Negotiate for a reasonable rate with the tricycle driver. Sometimes they'll ask for a higher price, but negotiate fairly. In our case, we're lucky to meet Mang Felix. He only asked Php150.00 for the 3 of us. You may contact him the moment you arrive in San Juan. He also agrees to bring visitors to Laiya beaches. Contact me through this site so that I can give you his mobile number. 

Individual expenses:

Bus from Buendia to Lipa Php124.00
Jeep from Lipa to San Juan Php58.00
Tricycle from San Juan to Balai Php50
Room Accommodation 1 night Php550
Ecological fee (this can be paid at the resort) Php20.00
Dinner at the resort Php110
Breakfast at the resort Php200
Tricycle back to San Juan Php65.00
Bus bound to Buendia Php198.00

Bring extra cash for some souvenir shopping in San Juan.

For more stories of my travel and budget traveling tips, like this FB page 

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