If it wasn’t for the smiling presence of the service staff, the charming bungalows, or the swimming pool, Tom Hanks would most likely feel like he was back on the filming set of Cast Away if he was to arrive on the shore outside the Coco Beach Island Resort. With the coconut palm trees playfully conversing in the wind, and with the peaceful beat of the clear, blue ocean, it doesn’t take many moments to shake off the tedious 3-hour drive south from Manila and the 1-hour boat ride that it took to get there.
Once checked in to your bungalow – or your room in the main building, if you prefer air-condition to a soothing ocean-view – the relaxation can really begin. Contained within the resort’s 10 hectares of land is an 800 square-meter lagoon-shaped pool, a stunning beach stretch, four restaurants, a tennis court, a basketball court, a hiking trail along the palm tree covered hillsides, and an outdoor bar overlooking the cove.
Yet, one of Coco Beach’s most addictive features is the second-to-none Philippine friendliness and hospitality, which manifests itself in the local staff. It is one of the reasons why many visiting families – mostly from Denmark, Germany, and Norway – come back to this place more than 5-8 times. Any resort or hotel with respect for itself will always claim and train to be strong in its service department, but in addition to its trained staff Coco Beach proudly sports the unique and informal concept of the so-called ‘host families’.
These are 11 local families who permanently live among the guest bungalows, which they have been assigned to service. Each guest bungalow has a string wired to the nearest ‘service family bungalow’, so when the guest needs anything – be it drinks or plumbing assistance – you pull the string and a bell rings in the host family’s bungalow and a member of the family will come running.
The informal, yet incredibly friendly approach of the host family members – who all speak English – has charmed many guests over the years. They have not received any service training, but instead they apply genuine, Philippine hospitality. In some cases, returning guests have become such close friends with some of their host family members that they have later invited them to visit in Europe.
Owned by a Dane
With a new building added to the resort in February this year, Coco Beach now has 106 rooms and an ability to serve a maximum of 300 guests. Prices vary from 38 USD to 118 USD per night (1st night price). The busiest season is usually from December through February, but no matter the season, guests normally stay for a couple of weeks, in order to explore the historic region of Puerto Galera.
The natural beauty of this mountainous island region made it a popular stop on the Spanish galleons’ trading routes between Europe, Mexico, and the East in the 16th to the 19th century. Today, many resorts operate around here, recognizing the area’s pull on tourists from all over the world – even from the Philippines. Coco Beach Island Resort has been operational since November 1986, when it was established by the owner of the Danish C&C Travel, Enrico Harrasser.
Thus, many of C&C Travel’s customers visit Coco Beach. While there, they also often spend at least a few days on C&C Travel’s cruise ship, the Coco Explorer (soon to be Coco Explorer II, see related article), which takes them around the region.
Among the many other off-island activities available when staying as a guest at Coco Beach are water-skiing, one-day speed boat trips, scuba-diving – with a Danish instructor, permanently living at the resort – and fishing.
On weekends, the resort management will often have lined up special entertainment for the restaurant guests – such as Philippine dancers and musicians. But on most evenings the well-acclaimed Coco Beach band will wander around and play acoustic versions of modern and classic rock- and pop tunes to the enjoyment of the dining guests, adding exotic richness to an already wealthy atmosphere.
You might hear the Coco Beach staff members – even the C&C Travel agents in Manila – refer to themselves as part of the so-called ‘Coco Beach family’. As a guest, that feeling rubs off on you through the interaction with those ‘family members’ and you learn by experience that there surely is a vast difference between the professional politeness that most hotels extend and the informal friendliness that you encounter at a place called Coco Beach.