Sunday, April 12, 2015

Comprehensive List of Balesin Island Club Activities (Things to do, activities, food, w/ prices!)

Balesin is such a beautiful island -- a 500-hectar tropical island with 7.3 kilometers of white sand beach, and the fact that it is less than half an hour from Manila attracts a lot of people to avail of their membership. It's an island where you can country-hop within a few hours and experience each city through their food, as well as their unique ambiance. Aside from well-designed and themed interiors, the food is top class as well, blending in to the village you are in.

Upon checking-in, there is a folder guide in the room indicating all the activities you can do and other information about the island. The problem is, when you are already there, more often than not, you do not have time to read it as you are very excited to start your exploration. You'll only know the activities available based on what you saw in the main clubhouse and the ones that you pass by. This is why I wrote this comprehensive guide with price list so you can plan your activities ahead.

Information updated as of April 2015
Food Trip
From Filipino favorites such as tapa and lechon kawali, you can find those and more in the main Balesin village club house. Since there are no Japanese or Korean villages at present, there's a well-known Japanese restaurant (Sakura) in that same club house, as well as a newly opened Korean restaurant called Han Gang. If you are not yet a member, head on over to Alphaland tower (EDSA cor Pasong Tamo Ext) and try out Sakura there.

If you had tapa for breakfast and feel like having some Nasi Lemak, head on over to Bali village and taste more unique Balinese dishes there and if your storage can still handle it, get to know and try some Greek food in the nearby Mykonos village so the next time you visit the real "Mykonos", their food won't sound greek to you.

If Spanish is your thing, Costa Del Sol is the place to be. I was there a few years back when the restaurant was newly inaugurated (RVO, Chiz and Heart was also there). Their paella is a must try and so is their other spanish dishes. If you will only have 1 meal in the island, this is a must try restaurant.

If Italians are romantic for you (think Venice and the other Italian countryside). Try dining in Toscana and savour one of their many authentic Italian dishes. I know I now sound like I am a commercial promoting them but believe it or not, after having my dinner here on my recent visit, I ordered some pizza and pasta to-go to bring to my villa for my midnight snack. But before heading back to your villa, why not have some of their famous crepes in St. Tropez? It's also a favorite amongst our relatives as their crepes are really something else.

For those who wants fun and dine, try out fish fun at the Aquatic center. There, you can fish for your own meal and have them cook it for you! If you simply want to eat there without fishing for your meal, you can also do so! Try their seabass, lapu lapu, or even crabs and lobsters (seasonal)!

If you think all that is too much already, don't forget that there is still Phuket village and a newly discovered place called Rico's Hideaway where you can have some BBQ/Mongolian fun while listening to some reggae tunes (bring your own tunes).

Island Tour
For first timers, this is a highly recommended activity as you get to go to each village with a tour guide explaining what to expect and what you can see. The tour guide will also inform you about the sustainability efforts of the island and activities you could do or restaurants you can try. The tour usually starts around 9am in the morning while the afternoon session starts around 2pm. Meeting place is at the main Balesin clubhouse and prior sign-up/ schedule is needed. A private tour can also be arranged for a minimal fee of P3,000 pesos.

Transportation for rent
Golf Carts
Other than using it as means of transportation, Golf carts can be rented self-driven on a daily basis on weekdays only. This can be used to drive around the island for fun or used as a private transport so you won't need to wait for a ride. Golf cart rates are as follows: 2-seater P3,000 ; 4-seater P3,500 ; 6-seater P4,000.

You can either rent a mountain bike, kiddy bike or tandem bike for fun. The mountain bike and kiddy bike can be rented out for 300pesos per day while tandem bike costs P400 for the first 4 hours and +P100 pesos per succeeding hour. Bikes were previously free of charge when I first went there. Some of the guests were irresponsible (leaving the bikes anywhere etc) so they had to charge to make guests accountable. I'm okay with charging so they can maintain the bikes well.

Obviously, this is a 1-seater variant. This can only be rented and used in the main Balesin clubhouse. Not sure what or where the route will be but it's fun to try! It costs P1,500 for 30 minutes while an hour costs P2,500 pesos.

Woodwork made by locals residing in the island
There's really not much to buy except for the "convenience store" type located in the main Balesin clubhouse which sells some basic necessities like chips, swim wear, basic medicines, hygiene related products, magazines, disposable cameras and others.

By the departure terminal is where you can buy Balesin Island souvenirs like shirts, caps and more. I haven't visited this yet but the next time I go back to the island, I'll make sure to snap some photos of the available items.

Last is the Ifugao village located somewhere near the sports center. There, you can buy authentic Ifugao-made woodworks that is artistically handcrafted (see photo above). Just as an added information, they are also responsible for many of the artworks and furniture all throughout the villages in the island. All profits directly go to them.

This is one of the most well-known activity on the island because each village has their own swimming pools and some even have jacuzzis on the side. The biggest pool can be located in the main Balesin Club House but the other pools are not that far off from being interested as well. Mykonos has an infinity pool, Phuket is famous for having a black tiled pool, St Tropez will make you feel like you are swimming near the French Riviera with the colorful umbrellas all around you and even inside your own room, you have your very own Jacuzzi (Selected villas: Bali, Phuket, Mykonos, Balesin)

Yes, there are beaches here. The best stretch of beach is along Balesin's eastern side but there are also small beaches in most of the villages. Reminder: Do not swim after dark. Some of the beaches are unmanned and might be dangerous as no one can hear you if you need help.

This is the best spa I've ever tried so far, ever. Although I don't usually go to expensive spa places, I cannot resist to try out their spa on my last night during this year's trip. I am not regretting spending every single centavo there. Although not cheap, it is not that expensive as well compared to other 5-star spa places. The masseuse are also well trained! During peak season, they do get extra help from the nearby island -- hiring extra wait staff, extra drivers etc. BUT, they do not hire extra masseuse. They are really mainstays and are well-trained to keep up a certain high standard quality. Spa is open from 8am to 9pm.

Balesin houses some retired race horses and local breeds. Guests can enjoy riding it around the trail or even through waters or just learn some basics around the bullring.

Sports Center
As almost all village clubhouses has a sports facility, Balesin Island Club also has one with a plethora of choices to make sure it caters to a guests of all ages.
- Basketball court
- Tennis court
- Badminton Court
- Fully-equipped fitness center (Gym)
- Airsoft target range
- Rock climbing wall
- Dartboard
- Table tennis
- Dance and yoga studio
- Mixed martial arts studio
- Foosball tables
- Paintball range
- Golf driving range
- Putting green
- Football and rugby pitch

Aquatic Center
Similar to sports center, this is where you can find all sorts of activities -- water related.
- Water skiing
- Wake boarding
- Stand-up paddle boarding
- Surfing (seasonal)
- Deep sea fishing
- Paraw sailing
- Hobie bravo sailing
- Scuba diving
- Snorkeling
- Boat rentals
- Sunset cruises
- Beach volleyball
- Frisbee
- Windsurfing (soon)

Picnic Grove
You can also have your own picnic at the Southpoint Picnic Grove. Located at the south side of the island, have picnic in one of the nipa huts and even eat fresh greens by harvesting them on your own at the adjacent greens farm.

Activities in the Main Clubhouse
- Billiards
- Ping pong
- Darts
- Mahjong / Poker room
- Nintendo Wii / Sony Playstation room
- KTV rooms
- EL Tordesillas library
- Screening room (movie)
- Children's playroom
- Hair salon & Barbershop
- Coral bar (Internet corner)

As you can see, even those that get bored easily can find a lot of things to do in this island. The basic things to do if you only have limited time (first-timers) are the island tour, food trip and swimming. I did try scuba diving here but the coral reef's status is still "recovering". Those who go to the island often should have a spa at least once per trip! It's that good! What's interesting is that you can try to eat at each of the restaurants available in the island per meal. Going there for a 3d/2n trip gives you a chance to eat 8 meals and with that, you can try to eat at a village each meal!

For me, the top activity to do here is to -- do nothing. Yes, it's the perfect getaway and a relaxing place to recharge and reflect. It's an island where there would be over a thousand guests and you wouldn't even feel it. A quick jog before sunrise, a hearty breakfast at one of the villages, read a book or lounge away under the sun without distraction (and hawkers like in Boracay or Palawan!) This is why I consider this the best island destination to visit even among other top islands like El Nido or Boracay.

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