Hamilo Coast is a sprawling seaside sanctuary located near the southwestern tip of Luzon, one of the three main island groups of the Philippines and lies at the entry of the Verde Island Passage which form part of the global Coral Triangle.
The Coral Triangle is the world’s center of marine life—a vast, colorful coral nursery covering 5.7 million square kilometers of ocean, encompassing the islands and waters of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Timor- Leste, and beyond.
In the Philippines, the Verde Island Passage is one of the most significant links to the global ecosystem of the Coral Triangle. Located between Batangas and Oriental Mindoro in Luzon, the Verde Island waterway is the “center of marine biodiversity”.
I woke up bright and early after a day of just exploring the vast property of Pico de Loro Cove – from the country club to the beach club – tanning on the beach, watching the sun set behind the mountain from the chapel on top of the cliff, and tucking into some of the delicious dishes the restaurants had to offer.
Joined by Celine, the Area Marketing Communications Manager of Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club and Pico Sands Hotel, Jericho and I were treated to a Cove Tour (Member Php 5,500/hour | Guest Php 6,500/hour) of Hamilo Coast, and climbed aboard one of their speedboats, sun tan lotion and snorkel in hand, excited for the boat ride we were going to take.
There are 13 coves in total at Hamilo Coast – Santelmo, Subli, Baybay, Etayo, Balibago, Arkaya, Dorado, Bucanita, Limbones, Neela, and Patungan – with Pico de Loro Cove being the first one to be developed. Our guide pointed them out one by one as we passed them by, as well as some interesting-looking islands like Turtle Island, which reminded me of that giant turtle-cum-island in Dragon Ball.
Balibago Cove is named after the Sanskrit word for “small semicircle” to describe the coast’s topography. I was just pretty chuffed that the rock formations made it look like a big elephant from Jungle Book chilling by the water.
Etayo Cove is coined from the Sanskrit term for “of the two” pertaining to the two smaller coves within Etayo, which share a common shoreline. This is believed to have been a refuge of pirate vessels and a popular berthing place of ships because of its thick foliage. Much like Pico de Loro Cove, it is a marine protected area and does not permit fishing, making it a preferred diving spot due to the endemic sea life.
Lastly, we paid Papaya Cove a visit. Inspired by the fruit it resembles when viewed from above, this is also the site of mangrove reforestation efforts between Hamilo Coast and the WWF. The largest mangrove forest in the Nasugbu area, covering an area of 10 hectares, the little saplings are one of the most recent additions, have a long way to go before they reach full maturity – a step in the right direction.
Since 2007, Hamilo Coast has been working with the World Wide Fund for Nature in the Philippines (WWF Philippines)to promote environment sustainability. WWF assists Hamilo Coastwith coastal resource management, renewable energy, and ridge-to-reef management. It is also in partnership with and the SM Foundation to help promote environmental and social sustainability.
The SM Foundation on the other hand, helps to implement social sustainability programs such as livelihood and skills development programs like fruit picking, mushroom culture, training in housekeeping, food and beverage culinary service, and landscaping and grounds maintenance; health and outreach programs like day care centers, medical and dental missions, and medical checkups; values formation activities like the Hamilo Coast Fun Run and their annual Christmas program, Pistang Pinoy; and lastly, job placement in Hamilo Coat’s Property Management Group, the Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club, and the Pico Sands Hotel.
Before heading out to lunch, the speedboat docked a few meters away from Santelmo Cove, and Jericho and I snorkeled around the area, taking in the underwater view of colorful fish that liked to follow us around, at awe at the giant clams that resided a couple of feet below us. One of the boatmen even swam down to pick up some of the smaller clams to show to us, which although made for a great photo-op, is a big no-no in the diving community. Let the marine life be and just look. The clams didn’t appreciate it either, squirting out seawater.
According to urban legend, local residents attest to seeing St. Elmo’s Fire in the area and aptly named the cove after the strange weather phenomenon. With its pristine white sand and turquoise waters, it offers one of the best beachfronts in the entire development.
The beach is a Private Marine Protected Property, and the day use of Santelmo Cove can be arranged at the Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club with a minimal environmental fee (Member Php 1,120/head | Guest Php 1,350/head). The beach is maintained by one groundskeeper that is dropped off and picked up every day, and there is no electricity on the island, allowing us to live out the ultimate #islandlife.
We docked the little boat and unpacked our lunch of giant burgers and soda, enjoying the peace and quiet of the island while tucking in to our picnic. There was a light breeze that lulled us to sleep after lunch, and I curled up under the shade of a coconut tree for a kip, exhausted from my two-hour snorkel earlier that day.
Santelmo also welcomes Olive Ridley and Green Sea Turtles as an occasional nesting ground, and we were lucky enough to see the little buggers off, hatching from their shells and crawling out of their little holes, making a mad dash for the water.
We packed up our stuff and boarded the boat after spending most of our afternoon lying out on the beach and said goodbye to our little slice of borrowed paradise. It truly was a magical experience, and definitely something I’d want to repeat soon.
Whether you’re just out there living the good life or have something extra special planned for the love of your life, be one with nature when at Pico de Loro Cove and go cove hopping, and snorkeling, ending your adventure by renting a private beach all to yourselves. It really is worth it.
The Pico Sands Hotel is located at Pico de Loro Cove, Hamilo Coast, Barangay Papaya, Nasugbu, Batangas. For inquiries or to make a reservation, please call +63 2 464 7800.