Polillo Island

Polillo is the main island of a group of islands with the same name. Its biodiversity is impressive and you will find it a must, especially if you enjoy hiking and birdwatching. Island hopping is also recommended if you have the time. We paid ₱200 for a ticket and an additional ₱10 for the terminal fee to go from Real on a passenger boat. These boats leave (at the time of writing) at 5:15, 6:15, 9:00 and 10:00 (all in the a.m.); and return to Real from Polillo at 5:00, 6:00, 11:00 and 13:00. Please make sure to double check with the port as schedules in the Philippines tend to change without notice.
The arrival in Polillo island is a good boost to the morale, with a bunch of tricycle drivers cheering and welcoming you to the island without being too insistent in trying to sell you the ride to the resort.
We paid ₱50/person to get to Isla Polillo Beach Resort, a 15 year old resort where the lack of manpower seems evident at times, but where Tita Piens, Tito Bayani and their son Vani will go out of their way to accomodate and make your stay as pleasant as possible.
We stayed in their aircon bungalows for ₱2600/night. The rooms are located in a large garden, filled with coconut trees, healthy looking dogs (uncommon in the Philippines), chickens, geese and a beautiful view of the sea. They need a little maintenance, but are generally clean and comfortable.
Shortly after our arrival, we were served some amazing crabs (caught by the resort) with coconut (also from the garden).
The pool was where we chose to relax and rest till the sunset (a beautiful one, by the way) before another delicious meal for dinner.
Day 2 started off with a simple breakfast before heading down to Bato, a beach in the southern part of Polillo. If you want to go island hopping, the trip is 4 hours by boat each way.
The beach was perfect for a dip, although a little to rough for snorkeling. We had some food prepared by the resort, which was nothing short of fantastic and ended up spending a good 5 hours roasting in the sun, soaking in the water and taking a few pictures of the area.
The road to and from the resort is a rough one, but worth the trip. It is important to know that 10km in Polillo, translate to approximately 30-40 minutes by van/tricycle, so going to Burdeos may take a good 3 hours. We left this one for a future trip.
All in all, Polillo was a hidden reward behind a long rollercoaster ride of ups (beautiful Marilaque Highway on a custom motorcycle) and downs (limited or non existent decent food and lodging options for a reasonable price in Real and Infanta).
To sum it all up, we would say that if you choose to ride Marilaque, you should do this during the week, leave in time to get to the ferry to Polillo and spend at least to nights there before heading back to Manila.

Infanta & Real, Quezon Province

The Philippines is one of those ultimate holiday paradise locations; Beautiful beaches, mountains, rice paddies… It is the ideal place for divers, surfers, hikers, backpackers and for those who look for the most exclusive experiences.
We chose to head over to Infanta and Real mainly because we could not wait any longer to ride through the Marilaque highway. We were promised beaches, surf and beautiful nature, and encountered a very different idea of what a beach resort is, rocky beaches with no waves (best surf is supposed to start late September or October) and indeed a beautiful lush green spectacle of nature.
This part of Quezon can be considered one of the less traveled areas among tourists visiting the Philippines (especially foreigners), and whilst the beaches don’t look anything like those white sandy beaches with crystal clear water that look amazing on our Instagram feed, it would be unfair to say that they are anything else than absolutely beautiful.
Real is also the jump off point to the Polillo group of islands, which, if you are looking for off the beaten track or love nature and hiking, this is your place.
The downside to Infanta and Real is most likely caused by the lack of tourism. Finding a clean place to stay with food was quite an ordeal to say the least. Information on the internet is limited and going in person to almost every “beach resort” we saw, was extremely frustrating.
We stayed at the Blue Pavilion Beach Resort, in Infanta, for the first 2 nights. We were the only guests on the first night, we arrived late (9pm ish) and had to go to town to get some dinner, as there was nothing available in the hotel, where we were promised breakfast the next morning. Food options in Infanta at night were limited but we found a good lechon manok and liempo shop about 6km from the resort.
Next morning came and we were faced with surprise when we asked for breakfast. After a little negotiation we managed to convince the staff to prepare some coffee, juice and toast (which took around an hour and a half to prepare).
Most beach resorts in this area do not have a restaurant or any food service as most guests bring their own food and either cook it in their own portable stoves or grill it in the resorts bbq pits.
The food situation in Infanta, made us spend our day looking for alternatives, so we started off by riding down to real and stopped at every resort/hotel we could find along the coast.
Our findings were the following.
Most “beach resorts” we found in and around Infanta and Real, are extremely overpriced, offering badly maintained dirty rooms (in the ₱3000 range) with cockroaches, or/and cabanas (4 wooden poles with a roof, curtains instead of walls and a hard floor) for more than ₱1500.
Then there was Real Coast & Surf, a very new, clean and unfinished resort with 14 rooms for ₱8000 with breakfast or ₱10000 for full board. A couple hundred meters down the road, this hotel has a surf camp with cabanas for ₱1700/night and a restaurant with a good selection of comfort food dishes.
We had their fish & chips (which was small but very tasty), calamari (which did not live up to our expectations), very good longsilog (longaniza with egg and rice) and a very delicious buko (young coconut) shake. Unfortunately we did not get to try the mango shake, even though we ordered it, but it is not strange to get your order messed up in the Philippines, so make sure to have the staff repeat your order every time to avoid disappointments.
We did find one place (Real Star & Beach) on our way back to Blue Pavilion Beach Resort that had 3 very clean and new rooms clean with a very nice view of the sea for ₱3000.
Unfortunately, their older rooms were not in good shape and again they had no food. So if you don’t mind preparing your own food and are looking for a clean place, this is probably your best option at the time of writing.
In the end, having spent one whole day going to every single resort and having had no time to explore any of the fun activities in Infanta and Real, we decided to park our bikes and head over to Polillo Island to try our luck.

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