When I inquired with Bridgeway Travel and Tours about their Bolinao/Hundred Islands tour, they presented me with three package options: Promo (Php 3,850), Standard (Php 3,950), and Special (Php 4,200). The only difference I could see was the accommodation; promo joiners would be housed in a transient property within Alaminos, and standard and special joiners would be booked at Island Tropic Hotel and Vista De Las Islas Hotel, respectively. Oh, and hotel guests would get complimentary breakfast, too.
I read up on Island Tropic and saw reviews calling it “a basic hotel,” that’s “OK for the price.” That was fine with me. I didn’t feel like staying in a transient room and I wanted to save a little bit, so I chose the standard package.
Upon getting there, I found out I had been booked into Vista De Las Islas. According to the tour policy, hotel booking would be based on availability, so I assume I was transferred because Island Tropic was full. I felt a bit elated thinking I’d gotten a good deal, having only paid the standard rate.
I didn’t. My room, which came with a double bed and a twin, was old and looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a while (there were cobwebs and soot in every corner). The side of the door where it was attached to the wall had a gap about half an inch so I felt uneasy standing near it for fear that anyone peeking in would have a looksie. The door to the balcony had a curtain for privacy, but I had to fix it with tape myself just so the damn rod would stay in place. The bathroom was… there are no words. Oh wait, yes there are: dirty, cramped, non-flushing toilet, and needs upgrading. In fact, the whole room needed upgrading. The shower and toilet occupied the same space (no divider) which I hate, and the water pressure was for shit.
I wish I were making this up. I mean, I’m all for traveling on a budget and making sacrifices especially if I’m traveling alone, but my expectations were raised because of the aforementioned package rates. And while you might say “You don’t have the right to complain; you didn’t even pay for the Special package,” just imagine how it felt for those who actually did.
That’s not to say there weren’t any positives about it. The air conditioning worked well, so I did get some decent shut-eye. The TV, although decades old, had cable. There was a fridge to keep your food and beverages cold (granted I had to plug it in myself and it smelled like it hadn’t been used in months). The shower had a hot/cold setting. A handful of the staff was at least polite (the rest were just watching TV or sleeping in the lobby), and there’s a restaurant on site that served a pretty decent breakfast. (By the way, don’t order the club sandwich. Had one as a late lunch. Cost me Php 170 and wished I had some instant noodles at one of the sari-sari stores outside instead.) It’s also within walking distance of Lucap Wharf, where you could watch the sunrise, eat, or take a stroll.
I spoke with two of the people I was on the tour with who got to stay at Island Tropic. One of them showed me pictures she took of the room. Island Tropic seemed waaaay better than Vista, and they confirmed it.
If you’re thinking about heading to Alaminos anytime soon, see if Island Tropic or any of the other nearby hotels or inns have any available rooms. But if you decide to ignore this and book anyway, keep in mind, you’ve been warned.
Overall rating: ★★☆☆☆
Vista De Las Islas
Lucap, Alaminos City, Pangasinan
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