"We were cruising in our yacht in Batangas when we saw a beachside lot. We fell in love with the place and decided to put up a resort," Vistamar owner Fely Leobrera fondly reminisced while enjoying her tea in the morning.

More than 20 years later, the lot that was originally supposed to become a vineyard, is now one of the oldest resorts in Anilao, Batangas.

Considered one of the premier resorts in the area, Vistamar’s unassuming entrance gives way to a sprawling 2 hectare complex that can easily accommodate 3,000 guests.

For day trippers, there is also a 2-storey picnic area just in front of the beach where families and friends can eat and enjoy the crystalline waters of Anilao.

The resort also has a restaurant with a spacious balcony overlooking the sea which is perfect for individuals looking to enjoy a snack or a cup of coffee while enjoying the view.

The food, with its mix for Filipino and Chinese cuisine, does not disappoint as well.

Being a pebble beach, people looking for pristine sand similar to that found in Boracay would be in for an uncomfortable surprise.

However, Anilao is not known for its beaches, but rather, as one of the best and most diverse dive spots in the Philippines and Vistamar does not disappoint.

A mere 25 meters off the shore lies the "steps" a 140-foot descent teeming with marine life.

Bringing your own diving gear is not needed as Vistamar has a fully-stocked dive shop complete with open-circuit regulators and rebreather kits.

There is also a number of snorkeling gears, complete with fins and life vests which can be rented for a small fee.

The resort also offers kayak rentals, as well as jetskis for the more adventurous guests while families and groups of friends can opt to rent a boat to visit the numerous uninhabited islands that dot Anilao.

However, what sets Vistamar apart from other resorts in Anilao is not what is found in the waters, but rather, a small building which is home to one of the Philippines’ most extensive shell museum.

A pair of avid shell collectors, Fely and her husband Carlos decided to share their love of seashells to the public by putting their collection on display for Vistamar guests.

From fluted clams, to razor clams, different scallops, bivalves and univalves of different colors and sizes can be seen in the Vistamar shell museum.

The crowing jewel of the shell museum, the Golden Cowrie collection, also serves as a testament to Carlos’ love for Fely.

A total of 45 of the most sought-after shell are on display, one for each year of their marriage.

Proof of the couple’s extensive knowledge on sea shells came when Fely and Carlos, along with their friend Foster James Springsteen, published a book in 1986 which is now used as a reference book on Philippine seashells by serious collectors.

Vistamar’s longevity despite their numerous competitors is an indication of its popularity.

According to Fely, there were years that the entire hotel would be booked by whole departments of different companies.

"It was fun but it wasn’t easy. Could you imagine have to fit 10 or more buses in the parking lot? It was chaotic at times," she laughed while recounting the past.

Nowadays, Vistamar is catering to a different crowd.

Instead of corporate outings, most of their guests are locals wishing to enjoy a day away from home and divers both Filipino and foreigners.

Though 2 decades have passed since it was opened, Vistamar still remains a popular destination for guests in Anilao.

The resort has aged gracefully over the years, evoking that faint feeling of nostalgia that only age can bring.

Despite its age, Vistamar still retains the sense of vibrancy it had in the beginning as it continues to update itself.

Not bad for a place that was originally planned to be a vineyard by its previous owner.

Not bad at all.

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