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Monday, March 16, 2015

Henann Lagoon Resort, Boracay




At the risk of revealing my age, the first time I went to Boracay was way back in the late 90’s, which I think was probably the best time to enjoy the island paradise at its most “pristine” condition.
Back then the beaches were a lot less crowded, the sand whiter and finer, and the entire island was just so much quieter. The accommodations, however, left a lot to be desired.



It would take almost a decade (2009) before I finally got the chance to go back to Boracay. My former officemates had found a good deal on both airline tickets and a promo on one of the beachfront hotels near station 3 so I decided to go with them.

I was excited to see how much has changed and to experience Boracay at a different age and with friends this time, (I was with my parents and relatives the first time). The experience was both shocking and fun.

Shocking since I never thought the beaches were going to be that crowded even after the summer season. Some of the locals I had talked to told me there was actually no more off peak season in Boracay and tourists from all over the world would visit Boracay all year round. There were months when the majority of visitors were from Russia and Europe, months where there are mostly Americans and of course a lot of Koreans who seem to be all over the island.



Fun, because we went island hopping, helmet diving and we also got to swim alongside the fishes (which was an awesome experience by the way). During the nights we got to check out some of the bars, and watch all the people have fun. Four days (and our pocket money) were surely not enough to try out all the activities available.

I promised myself I’d come back again, and hopefully it wouldn’t take another decade.
I never expected I’d be visiting Boracay this year though.



I was standing in the crowded MRT when my partner texted me if I wanted to join him in Boracay as his plus 1 and I almost dropped my phone in excitement. This was going to be one of the Media Fam Trips he often writes about, and that guaranteed a totally different experience.

He’s been to Boracay Garden, and Boracay Regency (now Hennan Regency) and now he was going to complete the first trio of Hennan operated hotels in Boracay as we were going to be staying at the Hennan Lagoon Resort.



It was a dream come true to say the least as I’ve read a lot of good things about the Hennan Group about how much they pamper their guests with their world class and very friendly service. Oh not to mention the 5 restaurants they manage! This was after all going to be a FOODTRIP!



Our flight to Kalibo was scheduled at around 11am and by 2pm we arrived at the Welcome Center of the Hennan Group of Resorts in Caticlan. The Welcome Center gave us a glimpse of the kind of service to expect as we were welcomed with cold towels and some refreshments to prepare us for the private speedboat ride to Boracay, it was very different from my previous trip where we had to wait quite a bit in the crowded public seaport of Caticlan.

We finally, arrived at the Hennan Lagoon resort at 3pm and to our surprise, the Hotel prepared a late lunch buffet just for us!

The Lagoon Café provided the best view of the hotel with the large pool almost teasing us to quickly finish our lunch and take a quick dip in the pool. There was also a Bar in the middle of the pool, so you even have to go outside the hotel if you want to have some cocktails.



I got small portions of each dish and went directly to the oysters tray. I swear I could live on oysters alone. If you have the sweet tooth, they also have a good chocolate moist cake for dessert although I chose to fill it with some fresh fruits instead! Their pineapples, mangoes and watermelon were ripe and sweet.









So be warned. It’s going to be a series of cheat days if you are going to stay at Henann Lagoon.
After lunch, we proceeded to our room, where a gorgeously carved fruit basket was waiting at the table. Our balcony had a good view of the giant pool, although I suggest you get one of the rooms with pool access to get the best view as you could literally roll onto the pool!



As much as I wanted to go directly to beach, the room was so relaxing we decided to stay in for a couple of hours just to relax on the King Size bed and take pictures of our room and the various art decors along the hallways.






Checking on the kit they provided us, I learned that the Boracay Regency Group was now called Henann Group of Resorts and that it manages some of the most luxurious establishments in Boracay Island as well as in Bohol, namely the Boracay Regency Beach Resort and Spa, the Henann Lagoon Resort and the Henann Garden Resort in Panglao Island, Bohol, and the Henann Resort Alona Beach.  Henann got its name from its owners, Chairman Henry Chusuey and wife Ann.




Our hotel, Henann Lagoon Resort, has 120 rooms, and has one of the biggest swimming pools in the island measuring up to 1,200 sqm.

Last December 2014, a total of 70 new rooms were already opened and the remaining 32 new rooms will be opening soon, Henann Lagoon Resort has a total of 222 rooms to date.



The resort also offers numerous function rooms and provides complimentary shuttle service to the beachfront of Boracay Regency. If you’ve been to Boracay, I’m pretty sure you noticed and probably had some pictures taken at the stairway of Boracay Regency.



Boracay Regency is the biggest Triple - A rated beachfront resort in the long beach of Boracay, the highest rating in the resort category in the Philippines. The Regency features 302 rooms, a 125 meter beachfront (the longest in the island), three state-of-the-art swimming pools, seven food and beverage outlets, 1,000-seater convention center and the Kai Regency Spa.



The third property, Henann Garden Resort, Boracay is also Triple A rated which features 273 rooms, four stunning swimming pools (the most in the island), largest open space within the group, and a spacious restaurant called the Garden Café.

I took a nap after uploading our initial photos, and by 6pm we took the shuttle service to Boracay Regency where we were scheduled to have our dinner at the Sea breeze Café.
Instead of heading directly to the Sea Breeze Café, we decided to take the scenic route and toured the premises of Boracay Regency with my partner showing me their VIP lounge gym and the several pools of the resort.



We worked up quite the appetite, but sadly it wasn’t enough for the glorious buffet spread that awaited us. Sea Breeze Café is known as one of the best buffet restaurants in Boracay, and it has the reputation of having almost everything you could possible crave for. A fresh seafood section where you can ask them to grill shrimp, crabs oh and the almost nonstop refills of the oysters!





Sea Breeze Cafe is located at the beach front of Boracay Regency in Station 2. The restaurant has recently undergone renovations to accommodate more guests. With the construction of a second floor, it is now the biggest buffet restaurant in the island which seats  up to 200 at the main dining area, 80 at the indoor dining room, 30 at the swimming pool area and as much as 200 diners at the beachfront.




The new design of Sea Breeze Cafe has a clean and modern look with a coastal feel. it pays homage to its natural surroundings by depicting on its walls and furniture the stunning blue and green hues of the ocean, sparkling white tone of the pristine sand, and the earthen brown color of the palm trees. Though it has ramped up its menu with the introduction of new dishes, Sea Breeze Cafe retained its popular grilling station which features the best-selling chuck eye steak.



”You name it, we got it. We have the most extensive buffet in Boracay. We offer different dishes daily using only the freshest ingredients we source from local markets,’ said the very friendly Dindo Salazar, resort manager of Boracay Regency Beach Resort and Spa who took time off his busy schedule to join us and assist us during our dinner.



The restaurant also has separate pasta, carving, bread, salad, fresh fruits and dessert stations.
"We are not your run-of-the—mill buffet restaurant. Over the years, Sea Breeze Cafe has built its reputation as one of the best buffet restaurants in Boracay. We are now a tourist destination as guests from all over the world line up to try our food," added Dindo Salazar.

At around 8 pm, Dindo warned us to take a break as something special was about to happen. And soon enough the live band performing at the adjacent al fresco area took a break from their set  and invited diners to check out the chefs who have now lined up in front of the café.



“Oppa Gangnam Style!” began to blare out from the speakers and the Chefs began dancing to the very popular Korean tune. Turns out the Sea Breeze Chefs aren’t only talented inside the kitchen but also on the dance floor. A big group of onlookers and passersby began to crowd in front of Sea Breeze, clearly in awe of the Dancing Chefs, taking photos of their performance.

Dindo said the dancing chefs, waiters and waitresses was their way of providing unique entertainment to diners and likewise invite those people walking along the beachfront who are probably looking for a great dining place.

The Dancing Chefs perform twice every night and invite even non-diners to have their pictures taken with them in front of the grill station.

The restaurant prides itself with its mouth—watering array of seafood. It also serves a variety of fishes depending on what the market has in store for the day. Its F&B places daily orders to local suppliers to ensure freshness of ingredients.



To keep up with the demands of more discerning guests, Sea Breeze Cafe has come up with a "Live Cooking Station" with different themes every night. On Mondays it's Asian Stir Fry, Salpicao and Salpicado Tuesdays, Moki-Moki (Hawaian) Wednesdays, Grilled Fish Thursdays, Sambal (Hot Chillie) Fridays, Savory Sizzling Sisig Saturdays and Pasta Frego Sundays.




The restaurant also caters to guests with dietary restrictions by serving a la carte, pre- ordered dishes. Its F&B staff can accommodate requests which are not in its usual menu.

With such a diverse selection, their buffet is very competitively priced. It costs 400++ per person for breakfast, 450++ per person for lunch and 620++ per person for dinner. They also have promos for big groups, returning guests and early reservations, all you have to do is call Sea Breeze Cafe at (36) 288-6111 to 17 email rsvn@boracayregency.com or visit www.boracayregency.com or www.henann.com

With our stomachs full and all our cravings satisfied, Mr. Dindo invited us to the Wave Bar and Lounge right beside Sea Breeze Café where guests can spend the rest of the evening having drinks or partying away at the spacious dance floor of the Wave Bar.



It’s been months since my cocktail drinks, so I decided to try two of their bestselling drinks—the ' Wave Frozen Margarita and 007 James Bond, which was supposedly the chairman’s favorite. The Frozen Margarita was fruity delicious with a tinge of tequila, triple sec and lemon juice. 007 on the other hand was a combination of Kurant and Vermouth. While we were having our drinks a big crowd wearing yellow shirts entered the Wave Bar and began to party, which I later found out was part of the Boracay Pub Crawl a recent addition to the night activities in the island. For P990 you get 5 shots from five different bars and discounts on their other drinks. Not bad. Although I think we were a bit to late to sign up for it.



We decided to call it an early night and headed back to the Lagoon, and because the beds were so comfy, we were off to dreamland in no time.


For Breakfast we headed to Christina’s which is also at Boracay Regency. Named after Mr. Chusuey’s only daughter, the restaurant serves a fusion of international cuisine and provided a more relaxed ambiance as compared to the very lively crowd at the nearby Sea Breeze café. I ordered the Scandinavian Breakfast which consisted of grilled salmon fillet on crisp potato rosti, char-grilled asparagu, baked beans and hollandaise sauce. The pink salmon was freshly cooked just right and the special sauce complimented its taste.


The restaurant also has a mini breakfast buffet style where you can create your own congee with several choices for toppings and seasonings. For those who want a healthier breakfast there is a complete salad section with fresh greens. They also have freshly baked bread and an assortment pastry but my favorite has to be their mini ensaymadas.









After breakfast, I suggest you take your coffee outside to read the newspaper, check out your social media feeds or do some people watching.





It was a truly enjoyable dining experience at Cafe Christina, with the view like this and some international cuisine to choose from their menu.






At around 10 am we went back to the Lagoon for our tour of the premises and check out the various types of rooms. From the DeLuxe rooms to their very spacious Presidential Suite, there’s a perfect room for you and your family. Like I mentioned earlier, if I had my choice, I’d probably get one of those with pool access although you may forget all about the beach if you do, and that’s why you went to Boracay remember?






Lunch was again at Sea Breeze, and just like the previous night, the buffet was equally impressive, and with an even bigger crowd. Looking at both local and foreign guests, everybody seems to be overwhelmed by the choices, opting to get small portions and lining up again to try everything. I suggest you come early before the big group of diners which arrive at around 12:30.





Mr. Dindo told us that even guests from different hotels make reservations and there were even times that they had to turn down because they were always fully booked. So, I suggest you book early and make dining at Sea Breeze part of your itinerary.

To burn off the super heavy lunch we had, we decided to walk from end to end of the beachfront from station 3 to station 1 and back again to station 2 making stops at Willy’s Rock, DMall and checking out some of the newer establishments that weren’t there before.




Despite my repeat visits, Boracay still excites me. It may be 10x more crowded as compared to my first trip, and the number of vendors and pop up stores have somewhat destroyed the beauty of the beachfront, I still want to visit this island paradise again and again.  Maybe it’s because of the people, the beautiful instagrammable sunrise and sunsets, the night life, the food, or maybe because I know that despite the often frenzied tourists, there will always be the Henann Resorts to provide me the ultimate bliss I’ve come to associate with Boracay.



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