The truth behind the selfies: Is Lakawon Island really worth a visit?

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Lakawon Island
Picture perfect: But how does Lakawon Island shape up on closer inspection?

I had been planning a trip to Lakawon Island Resort and Spa, a popular destination in the northern regions of Negros Occidental.

Last year, we reported (here) how the 32-acre banana-shaped island now features The Tawhai Floating Bar, said to be the largest of its kind in Asia.

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Lakawon Island
The Tawhai Floating Bar is the largest of its kind in Asia.

So of course, I did some research. First off, I did a google image search to get a general impression of the place. Impressive stuff. Lakawon does seem a real tropical paradise, with charming beachside huts and lots and lots of people taking selfies.

But does it have anything to offer other than as a backdrop to self portraiture?

So, I looked at some customer reviews of the place, and it seems the answer to that question is “no, not really”.

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Common complaints

Common complaints included high prices and unnecessary charges, trash (including broken glass) on the beach, poor facilities, worse service, and a general sense of crushing disappointment.

Writing on TripAdvisor, “Jean G” from the nearby city of Bacolod expressed shock at the number of charges. She wrote: “There is an entrance fee, a conservation fee, a boat ride fee… Then, they inspect your belongings for any drink or food and charge you 40 pesos per person for corkage!”

“Aaron B” agreed, writing: “There are costs everywhere. 200 for the boat, 100 for entrance fee, 10 terminal fee, 600 for nipa hut, food is overpriced and not good. Service is awful and they had no ice. You can see what they’re trying to do with all the building but frankly the island is ruined.”

“EmmaK52” from Sweden said she was unimpressed by the cleanliness of the place. She wrote: “Dangerous rubbish and broken glass on the beach and very expensive food! The comfort room was dirty and there was no toilet paper to use.”

I should stress that there are also many positive reviews, but while 10 people gave it the top ranking of “excellent”, 12 pegged it as “terrible”.

Reviews for the floating bar are more favourable, but many customers complain of poor service, missing menu items and a general shoddiness. Several reviewers said that they had run out of seafood, which seems quite an accomplishment.

Lakawon divides opinion

Opinion about the island is sharply divided among “professional” travel bloggers.

Lakawon Island
Relaxing in the floating bar. Picture from Nomadic Babe’s blog.

On the one side are those who tend to build their websites around pictures of themselves. They all love the place. Among them is “Nomadic Babe”, whose report on her visit included a whopping 19 selfies. She described the island as “another Instagram worthy place to add to your bucket list.”

However, the “explorephblog” was somewhat more critical, writing: “The water stinks during low tide. It smells like a rotten egg. Dead algae and seaweeds are everywhere. There are no corals to see. A bit crowded for a small place. Service is terrible. Accommodation is very inconvenient. Boat service not on time. I can go on like this all day but I bet you now get the picture.

“Don’t ever book a reservation unless you want to piss off someone by sending them there are your expense. The island has ‘disaster’ written all over its banana shape.”

In the light of what I’ve heard so far, I’m now considering rethinking my travel plans. With so many thousands of beautiful beaches and wonderful resorts in the Philippines, it seems daft to make such a long trek to a disappointing place.

It’s a shame though, as I really fancy chilling out at the floating bar, so can anyone persuade me that it actually is worth a visit?

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