They say the cure for everything is Saltwater: Sweat, Tears, and the Sea. After our collective cabin fever, I figured it’s about time for the ‘sweetest’ kind of the three — The SEA. So off I went to Break Free at Pico Sands Hotel for a quick Valentine-slash-pre-summer getaway with friends. One highlight of the 3-day travel package at Pico de Loro is a Private Island Tour to Santelmo Cove.
About Santelmo Cove
Santelmo Island is one of the thirteen (13) exclusive coves located within Hamilo Coast in Nasugbu, Batangas. Hop on a quick speedboat ride from the Pico de Loro Country Club to the mile-long stretch oof Santelmo Cove. Now legend has it that the island has been named as such because locals attest to seeing St. Elmo’s Fire in the area. Myth or not, any guest can aptly feel the ‘good omen’ the island brings, any day.
IMAGINE THIS: a serene island blessed with powdery white sand, coconuts scattered for shade, a dramatic rock formation on the side, all enveloped in clear turquoise waters. It’s no Boracay or what have you. But the peace surrounding the whole cove was enough for us to ask our boatmen to stop from afar just so we can see Santelmo in its full, untouched glory. It was simply majestic!
We instantly fell in love with how our feet softly sank into the pristine sand as soon as we docked. We saw beach beds a few meters away, just begging to be basked under the sun on.
You can also carelessly slump yourself into the hammocks and beach mats nestled under the mirage of coconut trees. Hungry? Take a few more steps to the IG worthy bamboo picnic spot, complete with a kitchen and a wash area. Everything was just well thought of, literally.
Exploring the Rich Marine Diversity at Santelmo Island
Before embarking on our 3-day Break Free Travel at Pico Sands Hotel, we were asked to bring our own Snorkeling and/or Diving Gear. I, of course didn’t bring any as I had a foot injury. Which, actually turned out to be the biggest loss for me. Because Santelmo Cove is just about every sea lover and diver’s dream!
Good thing we brought some bread as bait onboard. Because even from the surface, I was able to get a glimpse of the ocean’s abundance: fish of different colors, sizes, and species. Including Nemo! Hehe
Snorkeling at Santelmo
Karla and Marky on the other hand went down our boat to try their hand at snorkeling. As they splashed in, they immediately noticed how much saltier the water was. It made their bodies more buoyant so frolicking about without life vests on was a total breeze! Just be mindful about swimming too close to the boat as you might bump your head!
Diving at Santelmo Cove
Divers and freedivers alike can explore Santelmo’s rich marine diversity. Anne was accompanied by our guide Kuya Jojo down to about 8 meters deep. After about an hour in, they came up to the surface with big, happy smiles! While no Olive Ridleys and Green Sea Turtles (Pawikans) were sighted that day, they were however able to see a myriad of species in the deep. Including giant clams (Taklobos) that can measure up to 4 feet wide. As well as schools of Jackfish, mackerel, giant batfish and more!
As of date, the MPA ordinance has already been passed and Santelmo Cove is now considered a marine sanctuary and a no-take zone. So any kind of fishing activity is strictly prohibited and punishable by law.
Other Activities at Santelmo Island
No beach trip is complete without food. The thing we love most about the Break Free Package of Pico Sands Hotel are the hefty meals that come with it. As we headed back from our quick swim, we were warmly welcomed by our butlers for the day, Jerry and Joana. It was finally time for our lunch at Santelmo!
How apt that ours was set under the shade of the picturesque coconut trees. They served us each our personal bilaos of pancit, fresh ensalada, grilled chicken and fish, shrimps, and fruits. For drinks, we were served Pandan Iced Tea and a box of mineral water. (Wishful thinking: Fresh Mango Juice, Buko Juice, or a Pina Colada would have been THE BEST!)
Alas, our favorite memory on Santelmo: Paddleboarding. No, not because we went well full pro on it. But more so because of the carefree amusement we had!
There’s only one paddle board island goers can use. So Karla and I started navigating our way to do a tandem ride. Karla stood up to paddle. While I sat quietly in front to balance the weight and act as secondary steer. It worked, surprisingly!
Anne and Karla then took turns doing yoga poses on top of the board. I can’t even stand up properly, much more do a headstand? Amazing!
Then there were three! I finally joined them relaxed on our bellies. We balanced our weights across the board all the while singing our our anthem for the day: PART OF YOUR WORLD! Yes, we literally sang on top of our lungs as if we were actual mermaids. We must have gone 3 to 4 times around while Marky of NomadicExperiences (our IG Boyfriend for the trip) patiently took candid shots.
Of course, we couldn’t help but take on the challenge to have all three of us on the actual board. The game plan? I sit in front, Karla kneels down, while Anne stands up to paddle. BAD DECISION! We rolled, tumbled, and even got scraped! Nonetheless we just laughed our hearts out with so much FUN!
Hike to the Viewing Deck
Santelmo Cove is also famous as a nesting ground of Black Tip Reef Sharks. And you don’t even need to snorkel or dive to see them. You can just simply hike 10 minutes up to Santelmo’s viewing deck and spot them by the cove. True enough, we did see a school of baby sharks floating about near the shore. Too cute!
How to Get to Santelmo Cove
Santelmo Cove is just a quick 5 minute boat ride from the Pico de Loro Country Club. While the public can technically ‘visit’ its waters, the island cove itself is only accessible by booking a trip with Pico Sands Hotel.
Meaning, you can only bask in the island’s beauty if you’re a registered guest. Tours are limited and there are only two groups scheduled per day. One in the morning, usually from 8AM-1PM. And the other from 1PM-5PM. Talk about ultimate exclusivity!
True enough we did spot a few boats in the quiet distance that morning. But they were not allowed to dock at Santelmo. The second tour group from Pico on the other hand arrived shortly after we had our lunch picnic in the island.
Honestly, when I learned we were going to be in a remote island for 5 hours without signal, I was a little apprehensive. The ADHD person in me couldn’t imagine how to kill that much time. But I was proved wrong. I actually found the time too short Santelmo Cove. (How about some glamping next time, Team Pico Sands Hotel?)
Ahh… how could I have survived 2 years without living the beach life noh? Oh well, till we meet again Santelmo! For more information on the Break Free Tour Package of Pico Sands Hotel, visit http://www.picodelorocove.com/.
*Group Shots Courtesy of The Queen’s Escape.
SEA LA VIE!
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