Just now, I checked the reviews for Aewol Sea Palace Pension on Google and was sad to find average, unremarkable reviews. I think I did find some excellent reviews on Agoda, which led me to book this Jeju accommodation in the first place.
I stayed in three hotels in Jeju, and Aewol Sea Palace Pension was the best for me.
Okay—Aewol Sea Palace Pension probably looks better in pictures. The room in the photos looked a bit more spacious and newer and brighter. The nighttime façade photos in long exposure, especially, gave it an extra appeal.
In person, the rooms somewhat have a rustic vibe, which gives away the age of the pension. You could guess it has been around for some time, a tireless spectator of the ocean it faces. The bathtub in my room has lost its clog. The mirror and the tub foster a few stains from the lingering past. The details on the wall tiles and the dark red color of the bathtub reveal a nostalgic, outdated taste.
My room was on the third floor, and the stairs were the only option. The pension has no elevator, which was quite a challenge for my aching legs when it was battered from a climb at Hallasan.
Moreover, the pension is located in a fairly remote village called Yeondae Village [연대마을], which is 45 minutes away by bus from Jeju International Airport.
Perhaps these points would count as a minus for the nit-picky guest. Do I just have a poor taste? Hmm… I don’t know, maybe? LOL, but I benefit from not being too fussy about little shortcomings and focusing on the good side of things, which Aewol Sea Palace Pension has a lot.
Photos sure can’t show sounds—although you could probably imagine your own tune by looking at a photo of waves breaking on the rocky shore. You could create the sound. But you would not be able to replicate the feeling of actually hearing the sound of the waves and inhaling the distinct briny scent of coastal Jeju.
This is the experience that Aewol Sea Palace Pension makes available to you 24/7.
Your room faces the ocean, with a screened sliding door that opens up to a balcony with a welcome view of the quay. You could sleep with the sliding door open to welcome the lulling sound of the waves, and then wake up to the same sound accompanied by the tickling rays of sunshine.
The whole room is amply spacious, even though it was a bit smaller than what I expected (but definitely still spacious! I could lie flat on the floor and do the snow angel dance and not hit anything).
The bed was big and comfortable. The room is fitted with a small refrigerator, a wide dressing table, a flat-screen TV, an air conditioner, and an underfloor heating system. A small round coffee table with two stools stand next to the balcony, a perfect spot in the morning for watching the ocean and, closer by, early risers—who are mostly middle-aged and older adults—who seem to be purely content with jogging or fishing by the harbor. At night, the view of the ocean is dark but its sounds remain everpresent.
The pension requires a short walk from the bus stop, which is right at the entrance of Yeondae Village. The distance is a healthy stroll, totally bearable except when your bladder is about to burst after a long bus ride (which happened to me once, LOL). The walk only takes about 5 minutes.
The owners, who apparently are also the caretakers themselves, are adorable and genuinely sweet. I don’t think they have any helper as I never saw one. I even saw the wife doing room-cleaning and laundry herself.
For the purpose of indulging fond memories, I am hereon going to refer to the husband as abeoji (father in Korean) and the wife as eomeoni (mother in Korean).
It seems, abeoji is in charge of customer relations, management, and the kitchen, while eomeoni is more on household care, the “household” being the whole 4-story guesthouse.
They live with a grown-up daughter, who seems to have her own full-time job as I only saw her in the evening. They also have a cute white-fur dog, possibly a Pomeranian (or could be a mix).
Abeoji speaks adequate English, enough for him to assist you on the check-in and catch on the food you would like to eat. Eomeoni, sweet eomeoni, does not speak English at all. She gets by with smiles and sign language.
One time, I wanted to do laundry and came across her on the stairs. She stopped and asked me through sign language if I was going to do my laundry and—even though clearly she was heading upstairs—led me back down to the basement to teach me how to operate the washing machine and where to dry my clothes. She was also washing room blankets and bed linens at that time.
In the basement, there are also dining tables, cooking equipment, and dining utensils for guests to use.
On the night of my arrival, I actually arrived a bit late, which was around 9 pm. I hadn’t eaten, so I asked if they offer dinner. I remember abeoji saying they only serve Korean snacks, but they do have ramyeon, which, for me, already qualified as a meal. Also, when I checked the written menu on the blackboard above the counter, it seemed they also offer some meat. Meat for snacks? Hmm.
I am not sure if they simply mistranslated their menu to me, or if it’s true they only offer Korean “snacks” and they were simply nice enough to cook something off the menu for me, their only dining guest.
On my first night at Aewol Sea Palace Pension, abeoji served me a big pot of ramyeon. And it was not just ordinary ramyeon like I expected. It was special. Vegetables were mixed in, as well as robust and healthy-looking lobsters, which I thought at first were huge shrimp. I couldn’t tell the difference; the only lobsters I knew were the bigger-than-shrimp ones.
Thinking they were shrimp—huge shrimp—I was fiddling with them for a while, deliberating on how to properly eat them without looking like a noob. But I couldn’t conceal it. Abeoji approached me with his hands in plastic gloves. He took one of the “huge shrimp,” and gently, fatherly demonstrated how to crack it open and take the meat using the stainless chopsticks. This kind of lobsters, he said, is called “ddak” in Korean.
I dived into the ramyeon, despite being spicy, as if I were his daughter who missed his home cooking for a long time. It felt as if I was home.
I stayed at Aewol Sea Palace Pension for 4 nights. On the day before my check-out, I made it a point to head home earlier than usual so that I could ask abeoji to cook dinner for me again. I don’t remember exactly how we came to the selection, but he ended up cooking stir-fried pork for me. I think he asked me if I liked meat and rice. He asked me if I liked spicy, and I said yes—which would come to haunt me later.
While abeoji was cooking, I and their little furry doghter looked on longingly from across the counter.
It probably took me more than an hour to finish the fiery hot stir-fried pork, pretending to take the time while enjoying the Korean show on the TV in the dining area. I told them I liked spicy, after all. I just didn’t expect it to be that hot. LOL.
Spiciness aside, the dish was delicious. The meat was okay, not too stiff but not really tender either. I enjoyed the sweet, thick and savory sauce that drenched the meat and the vegetables.
I was depressed at the time of my check-out, and I wanted to bid farewell to show to them how much I was sad to leave them, but I decided they did not need it. I know I wasn’t probably memorable to them. They welcome countless guests every day, every week, and throughout the year, which would make it difficult to remember everybody. They probably did not feel the same attachment I felt with them. They were simply naturally warm and gracious.
They probably wouldn’t remember me, but I still look forward to ”going home” to them again and feel their parental warmth.
See, I had a lot of sweet memories from Aewol Sea Palace Pension, which would make me rate them 10/10 and 5 out of 5 stars despite a few blemishes.
These “blemishes,” which are the most commonly pointed out in reviews, are its accessibility (distance from Jeju city center), its plain old-fashioned room design, and its lack of an elevator. BUT—first of all, I like the location of the hotel. It’s far and isolated enough from the city center to achieve peace. It has an incredible view of the ocean. Accessibility is, in fact, not an issue. Its village has its dedicated bus stop, and it places you in the middle of Jeju city center and another tourist spot, Aewol town, with many beautiful coastal attractions.
The room is clean, cozy, and homey. If you veer away from your image of a classy modern hotel room, Aewol Sea Palace Pension actually provides a cozy, home-like accommodation. The rooms may be old, but they are clean, comfortable, and generally well-maintained. The absence of an elevator is forgivable—homes don’t have elevators, anyway.
Duration of my stay: 5 days, 4 nights
Cost: 156,343 KRW / Approx. 32 USD per night (booked on Agoda)
Aewol Sea Palace Pension’s official website (in Korean): www.seapalace.co.kr
Aewol Sea Palace Pension on Agoda: www.agoda.com/aewol-sea-palace-pension/hotel/jeju-island-kr.html