I kid. Fort Ilocandia is a resort and hotel, but it may as well have been a university, given its campus-like architecture and lush greenery where one has to walk a few minutes to and from each area.
The only 5-star hotel in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, Fort Ilocandia has 77 hectares of land sprawling with facilities such as a shopping arcade, golf and country club, casino, mini zoo, swimming pool, beach front, sports complex, kiddie park, and five restaurants that include the popular Café Ilocandia. It’s the perfect place for a luxurious staycation.
But we weren’t in Ilocos Norte for a staycation. We were on-the-go travelers with three days’ worth of out-of-town itineraries. The problem centered on our mode of transportation. Except for the free airport shuttle, the hotel doesn’t provide free transportation for guests. We had to shell out thousands of pesos if we wanted to hire the hotel van for an entire day. There were zero cabs frequenting the area, so we had to ask the hotel security to help us hail a tricycle or public jeepney, which would come every 30 minutes or so. To get to the main town where all the good restaurants and tourist spots are, we had to travel 10-15 minutes via jeep or 20-30 minutes via tricycle.
Day 1 was as a struggle, especially when we couldn’t find a ride back to the hotel by midnight. But thanks to some friendly folk that we met outside the resort, we were able to book an affordable tourist van for our remaining days.
There’s also a dire need to upgrade the hotel rooms and clean up their mini zoo. PETA would have a field day if they saw the terrible living conditions of the caged monkeys. Watching them slip ‘n slide in puddles of their own urine in a crowded cage was depressing. The small sign that said: [sic] “Please bear with us as we move our animals to its new haven. Rest assured that they are handled with care,” was not reassuring at all.
While Fort Ilocandia’s extensive amenities, friendly staff, and good Ilocano food make up for their shortcomings, I can’t give it an overall positive feedback. For backpackers planning a trip to Laoag, I suggest you try other accommodations.