One of the many things I love about the Philippines is the abundance of destinations—both near and far. Whether your transportation of choice is by air, sea, or land, there is an endless amount of places to get away to. A few months ago I was tasked with going to Lake Caliraya for work (I know, I love my job). The truth is I get anxiety over trips no matter how near or how short they are but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. For one night I was transported to a floating escape in the middle of a lake and had an exhilarating time trying out all the amenities of Aquascape Resort—from kayaking, to riding the ATV, right down to paddle boarding (and failing that a manong had to steer me towards the right direction). Fun times.
Read on to see more of what went down during this trip. Original article (edited) below was written for and published in Explore Philippines Magazine’s November 2017 to February 2018 issue.
In my opinion, here are the key ingredients that make a vacation one to remember: laughter, a sense of calm, a sense of adventure, and, sometimes, even tears. Our recent trip to Lake Caliraya had all of those. I can’t decide which memory takes the cake—a four-hour karaoke session, riding the banana boat and all five passengers falling off in a straight line in the middle of the lake that we ended up kicking each other (unintentionally, of course), or our associate editor crying a minute into her chosen water sport—some variant of an inflatable ride attached to a speedboat.
It’s rare to find a spot that boasts of a myriad of activities yet also offers a serene respite from the trappings of the city, but Aquascape Caliraya was exactly that. A hidden gem in the heart of Laguna, Aquascape is a family-owned resort established by a father and daughter tandem who were always in search of a place to camp and have fun in the water. When the opportunity to buy the area presented itself, they grabbed the chance and built a haven for adventure seekers and provided jobs for the locals who maintain and run the place.
Aquascape offers seven lakefront cottages, a floating cottage, and a bigger, more premium floating suite. Despite the optional solitude, the resort offers a long list of activities based on guests’ chosen terrain: rocky paths, an open field for archery, or the vast expanse of the water.
A fan favorite is the ATV. Whether driving skills are existent or not, the buggies are rather easy to navigate and badass to take photos with. The trail is straightforward—there’s absolutely no chance of getting lost in the forest—but keep in mind that the path isn’t perfect, so humps care of fallen logs, dips care of the lay of the land, and necessary maneuvers to avoid certain trees are part of the 15-minute ride and the fun. Any four-wheeler of choice will do the trick. For those who prefer a more sustainable and active option, there are e-bikes for rent as well. Tread the same path carefully and with a little more energy for #LegDay.
For the brave souls who want a few tries at being Legolas, there is an archery area near the trail. Don’t be fooled—slinging these bows is much more difficult than the commercial options in shopping malls.
The water sports are the bread and butter of the resort. Kayaks, paddleboards, jet skis, and speedboats are all available for rent but the real winners are the inflatable rides. Groups schedule slots during the day to try out the many rides on the water. After all, seeing the floaties lined up by the shore draws intrigue and stirs a sense of adventure. The banana boat is probably the most famous option, popularized by Boracay. Five to ten people ride a cylinder-like floatie shaped like a banana, hence the name, and hold on for dear life as the speedboat races with the sole intent of having the passengers fall off. And fall we did.
There are other variants too. One is lovingly called the Tsinelas by the owner because it’s shaped like a slipper. Two people lie down on the flat surface and one person stands in between them holding on to the top, or the “strap”, so to speak. Another ride is called the Swordfish, where two guests sit on the ride and hold on to the sides while being dragged along in circles. Guests have the option to ask the driver to go slower or faster depending on their tolerance. I kid you not when I say one of us cried and they had to end the ride. There are a lot more variants and they definitely aren’t for the faint of heart but they are absolute must-tries for any stay.
REST AND RELAXATION
While Pinoys do love a multitude of activities to choose from, we as a people are also known for leisurely spending time just chilling out. Just imagine sleeping in a motorized floating suite and waking up in the middle of the lake to the most glorious view of the water, with curtains billowing and the sunlight streaming. Nothing beats that level of serenity and that’s exactly what Aquascape offers. Guests have the option to have the floating rooms docked by the shore near the lakeside general area or somewhere more private.
The rest of the lakeside cottages are all designed differently but all evoke a rustic, homey ambiance. There’s a tree house, a bungalow, and other room options depending on the number of guests. Each room is equipped with—get this—a karaoke, and there is a special karaoke room if you want more privacy and a set up that resembles having an audience. Each room even has disco lights to boot to guarantee performance levels. Even the floating cottages have disco lights. Of course we tried it in the middle of the lake and, of course, it was to Justin Bieber’s “Despacito”.
The experience of having to choose your own adventure was the real winner. Even a meal can be an adventure in itself. There are no nearby restaurants, stores, or commercial establishments so guests are highly encouraged to bring pre-marinated or pre-cooked food. Pre-ordering meals is also an easier, more hassle-free option.
When I do head back, which I most definitely will, I’ll try the paddle board again—sans the manong this time, my biceps be damned.
Green two-piece swimsuit, SOAK SWIMWEAR (local brand)
Sports bra and joggers, IVY PARK via ZALORA
Striped pants, NEON ISLAND (local brand)
Photography by JISA ATRERO