Puerto Galera used to be a familiar place I associate with sublime white beaches almost devoid of structures – where me and my buddies from UST Mountaineering Club would pitch our tents over a stretch of fine sands with only a lone house standing in the middle. “A German owns that house” I remember a friend telling us. Our campsite then, situates on a beachhead that leads to the foot of Mount Malasimbo – where we would day trek before we retire back to our tents. For three to four days, our group and nobody else would exist in sheer delight on a place everyone calls as Talipanan beach – which those days back in the late 1990’s, was a picture of isolation. I would come back many years later only to see numerous new resorts erected all over rendering the place almost unrecognizable. Since then, I see Puerto Galera as that distant friend, who once possessed a benevolent silence meant for listening to one’s thoughts, while offering a haven for nature lovers – but has now grown into a wild child catering to a more party atmosphere.
|The well landscaped grounds of Utopia Resort and Spa|
Enter Utopia Resort and Spa | A throwback to the good ole’ Puerto Galera Vibe
After docking at a small port at Muelle bay, we rode a van that snaked through a number of turns until it took us to an elevated part of Puerto Galera. Resting on top of Palangan Hill, Utopia Resort & Spa immediately captured my attention at the way it is surrounded by a set of spectacular scenery; the gleaming blue waters of Varadero Bay in the south and Muelle Bay on the west, plus the rolling greens of distant hills in the east.
|View from the Veranda of Sampaguita Suites|
Wasting no time, we were quickly ushered to our assigned rooms. Although every suite are spacious and offer a distinct set of amazing scenery, the keys were dangled in front of us to randomly select one. Lo and behold, Karla and I ended up getting the Sampaguita Suite – the biggest of all six villas at the resort. (2 more are currently under construction).
Sampaguita aka The Honeymoon Suite
Known as the honeymoon suite because it screams of a romantic setting, being perched on the edge of the property that overlooks the tranquil waters of Varadero Bay and the mountain slopes of Baclayan – the lush forest that expands into the heart of the land of the indigenous Iraya Mangyans.
|180.00 php shirt from Kenny Kengkoy Clothing / 250 php shorts from Rip Curl and Shades borrowed from Karla|
A roomy living room with glass windows leads to an upper bedroom and at the middle of the stairs, a door takes you out to a spacious veranda that showcases the beautiful scenery of the bay and the distant mountains. “I could sit here for hours with a cold beer on hand and I’m solve” I said to Karla.
“Same here but with a cup of coffee” said a smiling Karla. Waking up for two mornings at this suite was one for the books. Imagine stretching out your hands and feet over such magnificent set of nature backdrop consisting; of the sea, the mountains and the clear blue skies, while breathing the morning wind.
The Food, the Hospitality and Owner Mr. Bruce’s Stories
What made our stay more special was the genuine hospitality displayed by the staff and even by Kevin Bruce himself – the Englishman who is behind Utopia Spa & Resort. Our first meal was set up in the vast outdoor garden of the resort. Walking barefoot over the well maintained lawn, I joined the others as we huddled together around a table, while the comely views of Varadero Bay once again engages us with a visual feast.
|Lunch with a view|
Laid out on the table are another kind of feast waiting. Utopia Spa & Resorts serves a variety of world cuisines from local favorites, to American to European and even to other Asian dishes such as Indian and Chinese as well.
On our first night after chilling by Encenada Beach (where Josh Stone famously played a few songs to a number of lucky beach goers after the Malasimbo Music Festival a few years ago) which is located a 10 minute downhill hike from the resort (and around 15-20 minutes hike back up), we lounged around the swimming pool while Kevin Bruce umped up the karaoke.
Over bottle of San Miguel Beers and a sumptuous dinner of chicken, fries, fish fillet and pizza, we’ve gotten to learn the colorful life story of Mr. Bruce as he engaged us with his animated way of conversing.
|Karlaroundtheworld enjoying a Spa-time. Photo Credit: Pancake|
This is the Puerto Galera I’ve come to know in my younger day; chill-down in a nature-heavy location that is perfect for having an intimate talk with your friends. Finding a place like Utopia Spa & Resort that situates in the quiet part of Puerto Galera, allows you the best of both worlds – as the lively and revelry-filled part of Galera is always a short tricycle ride away.
|Even the pool is surrounded by lush greens. Photo credit: Karla Ramos|
In here though, I savored every hour of our sweet low-down weekend.
Bonding with new-Friends
Thanks to the wide open space of Utopia, the many walking paths that leads to the pool, the garden and to the beach – everything conspired to present us with heaps of things to do and and an opportunity to get to know better our new friends who went with us.
|The Utopian gang|
Brigitte Neilsen and her husband Jovin forms the travel website Wandering Waffleheads – where they document their year-long honeymoon through impressive photographs and kick-ass drone video footage of their travels. There is also Mary Jane who prefer to be called as Pancake and of course the person who invited us; Rizal Underground frontman; Stephen Lu.
Utopia retains the Puerto Galera I know
Utopia Spa & Resort reminded me that the Puerto Galera I know still remains despite of the continued tourism boom in the island. Adjacent to the hill where Utopia is located, another property called Kalaw also provides the same charming vibe perfect for those who prefer to relax in the silent part of the island.
|The Restaurant of Utopia Resort|
I asked Karla, Brigitte, Jovin and Pancake if they all want to return to Utopia and their answers are in unison; a big YES. I guess, we will be having a reunion trip back to Utopia in the near future.
Utopia Resort & Spa Address
Location: Barangay Palangan, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro 5203, Philippines.
Contact Number: 0918 5555720 (Smart) 0926 6002554 (Globe) / 043 2873681