TBJ TRAVELS: Balai Isabel + Hiking at Taal Volcano
Hello everyone! Summer is almost here (well, with the way the weather feels nowadays, I could say that it's here already!) Do you have a summer destination already? My BF and I might hit El Nido this year (if all else fails, Boracay!); are you thinking of escaping to somewhere unique, relaxing, and accessible this summer? Try Balai Isabel!
Club Balai Isabel is a famous family resort located in Talisay, Batangas, right beside the iconic Taal Lake; just a mere 2 1/2-3 hours away from Manila, this is a great place to be in for those who want to explore a non-beach, summer destination, especially for those in large groups.
Club Balai Isabel offers 3 pools for you to take a dip, exercise, or just chill; there's a medium- sized one by the restaurant, an olympic- sized one near the church, and a smaller one beside the lake. This is the olympic- sized pool.
While this is the pool by the restaurant, which, by far, has the best view in my opinion. The restaurant serves pretty good Filipino food with sizable portions, but they reaaallly take a while to serve; management should do something about this; if they won't allow guests to bring in outside food inside the resort premises, they should find a way to accommodate large orders and deliver quickly!
Btw, place has WiFi, but it does not work properly most of the time. I won't recommend it as a place for conferences, but for vacations and weddings, it's okay because for moments like these, it won't hurt to let go of technology for a while.
The place can accommodate a group of 4-5 people; there's a small kitchen, but I don't think you can just bring in food and cook to save money; in fact, the resort will not allow guests to bring in food from the outside because they're protecting their restaurant business; I think the kitchen is for reheating food from the restaurant only and you have to ask permission from the management to use it.
Here's the view of our Superior Room; what a lovely view of two, full grown Coconut Trees; LOL! Btw, we have a view of the landscape garden at the veranda at the back of the room.
Our room is spacious and despite its age, it's quite clean and everything was working just fine.
The nice thing about Club Balai Isabel is it's really the perfect place for group outings and large family gatherings because they have houses and rooms with loft for rent.
Club Balai Isabel is ripe with nice locations for any special occasion that you might have; here's Tagong Gubat, a forest- themed event area; you can also stroll and chill in this area if there's no event going on.
Even if there's no beach around, Club Balai Isabel offers a lot of fun activities to keep you entertained and enriched during your stay; on our first day, I went Kayaking at the lake; it was such a relaxing experience and it was so nice to meditate and reflect in the middle of the lake, and just be one with nature! You can also ride a banana boat, go parasailing, and go jet skiing around the lake for a fee, or go hiking at Taal Volcano, which what the BF and I did the next day.
Around 8 A.M., we rode a boat to Taal Volcano for the hike; it was a 15- 20 minute ride atop dark blue waves; while crossing Taal Lake, I realized how gigantic it truly is; I would only see the lake from Tagaytay and it has always looked cute and small to me, but when I was finally crossing it, I felt so small in the middle of it all of a sudden!
When we reached the dock at the foot of Taal Volcano, a friendly local tour guide welcomed us, gave us time to freshen up and take a leak, and briefed us for a bit about the hike.
Taal Volcano hike is a beginner's entry point to the wonderful world of Hiking; with an almost straight trail that can be accomplished in 45 minutes to an hour and with a difficulty level of 1 according to hikers and hiking sites, this location is ideal for anyone who wants a quick, easy, and affordable excursion in nature.
We passed by a small town at the foot of the volcano before getting to the actual trail to the summit. The trail was 80% straight; it wasn't that challenging, but it gave me a good sweat.
I think the only challenge in the hike was trying not to step on horse poo; there were a lot because there are horses in the place and you can rent one as ride for the trek.
TIP: Bring water, umbrella, and towel; wear footwear with good traction as there are muddy and slippery parts.
After 45 minutes, we got to the first summit...
Tadah! Taal Volcano up close! You're seeing here the crater of the world's smallest complex volcano. Isn't it a beauty? It felt so surreal to be inside a volcano, but the feeling was very much welcome! When I laid my eyes on this scenery, my jaw literally dropped open and my eyes widened in amazement; the Philippines is indeed a rich country! You just have to go around more to see it and this is a perfect example!
The smallest volcano in the world humbled me by its vastness and size. Taal's crater houses a lake with warm water; apparently, the water in this lake can cure some skin conditions, perhaps due to its sulfur content. It takes three hours from where I took this picture to get to the lake and if you want to trek down to it and take a swim, it's another charge. There is also another summit in the area; it's like one of the edges of the volcano with a mountain- like height and from where I stood, it will take another 30 minutes to reach its top.
Taal Volcano is still an active volcano and when there is abnormal activity, the locals evacuate the area and tours are postponed until further notice. To save yourself from the hassle of cancelled tours, read about the latest on Taal Volcano before booking a hike for this area.
Our trip back to Club Balai Isabel took longer than the usual because the waves were pretty strong; took us about 40 minutes to an hour to get back to the resort.
TIP: Most resorts offer land and boat arrangements for the Taal Volcano hike tour. At Club Balai Isabel, trip is P3,000.00 (includes boat and guide) for a maximum of 6 people; rate will still be the same even if you won't complete the 6 pax so I suggest this: Ask the concierge to notify you on the upcoming scheduled hikes and tell them to include you in groups that still lack or can still accommodate members so you can bring down the cost per person to P500.00.
So that's my Club Balai Isabel + Taal Volcano Hike experience. Despite the restaurant service and wifi issues I had with the resort, I still deem this a wonderful experience because it had the right mix of greens and water to refresh my mind and relax my then tired soul. Most of all, the locations were affordable, accessible, and didn't require meticulous planning, but everything was worth it!
Have you been to Club Balai Isabel and experienced the Taal Volcano hike? How was it? Let me know your thoughts. :)
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