Tagaytay is our default option for short road trips. It's only a few hours from Manila, the weather is a cool break from the steamy city heat, and the drive is pretty fun - as long as you choose your route wisely.
Unfortunately, it seems to be everyone's default as well. We've been burned more than once by the hellish traffic along the counterflow-clogged ridge road, the hour-long waits at all the popular restaurants, and the annoyingly disruptive crowds of friends, families, and entire barangays sharing rowdy stories over their over-commercialized bowls of bulalo.
It gets 10 times worse during holidays and long weekends, but we'll be brave (or foolhardy) and suggest that a quick getaway to this resort may just be worth it.
Escala Tagaytay brings back the romance of the Tagaytay road trip. Aiming for a five-star hotel feel without the five-digit price, it's not exactly inexpensive, but it's good value.
Hidden away on a small side road before SM Sky Ranch, it's just far enough to feel isolated from the crowds, but close enough to be accessible. No driving down steep narrow slopes (unless you count the parking ramp) or rocky dirt roads, or getting lost along unmarked trails. Location-wise, it strikes the perfect balance between the loud, crowded places along the main road and the off the beaten path establishments in the middle of nowhere.
The highlight of the hotel is a long infinity pool set in a courtyard between the building's wings. This is Instagram gold for most people, so be prepared to wait for a turn hanging out at the infinity end of the pool which overlooks Taal Lake. Or you could skip the water (while it's climate-controlled, the air isn't) and just lie back and take in the view from one of the deck chairs.
The hotel's compact design packs in a surprising number of rooms. There are family rooms and couple rooms and barkada rooms and team-building rooms (and conference facilities for said team, too). All the rooms have a balcony, with premium rooms getting the best lake view, and the others with mostly pool views (which can be a good or bad thing, depending on who's in it). Bottom line: Even for last-minute trips, there's a fair chance of snagging a room on all but the busiest of seasons. (But do the responsible thing and book ahead, to prove you're an adult.)
While Escala's location makes it easy to pop in and out for meals in its restaurant, the whole point of a getaway weekend is to get away, so we prefer staying in for meals. Escala's kitchen serves a mean sisig and crispy pata (and the requisite bulalo, of course), as well as dessert and coffee (and a limited selection of drinks). They have a fairly extensive buffet breakfast, too, so you can save the hassle of jostling for parking and tables for the drive back to civilization.
Our favorite part about staying here is stepping out onto the balcony in the wee hours of the morning, when even the most foolhardy bather has fled the pool, to enjoy the quiet stillness and chill night air. There's a level of silence you just don't get in the city, and that really recharges our batteries.
So, if the stress of the season is starting to get to you, but the promise of the holiday break is a distant mirage, do yourself a favor and go on quick road trip to recharge. Tell yourself you're worth it. No, really, you are. You're welcome.