There’s going to be a long weekend—a full three days and two nights for you to go where you want to. You want to travel and thoroughly enjoy yourself. What to do and where to go?
I highly suggest Puerto Galera.
Indeed, if you’re into nature, there’s one place where you can enjoy your vacation to the hilt: Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro.
From white sand beaches and mountains, great views above ground and underwater, there are so many things you can do in Puerto Galera that you’ll find yourself not wanting to leave after your vacation is up!
In brief, here’s my suggested Puerto Galera itinerary for three days and two nights:
Day 1: Town tour, Tamaraw Falls
Day 2: Swimming, snorkeling, and other water sports
Day 3: Trekking to Aninuan Falls, souvenir shopping
The beauty of choosing this top tourist destination for your holiday is its proximity to Manila. If you leave early in the morning, you’ll be there way before lunch time. Note that this itinerary does not include Sabang, as it’s not exactly a place I would call fun.
Where to Stay in Puerto Galera
There are many kinds of accommodations in Puerto Galera, ranging from budget to luxurious. There are a lot of places to stay in White Beach (I don’t recommend Sabang, especially for family travelers) and prices range from PhP1000 per room, higher if it’s peak season.
White Beach is a party place, so if one needs more quiet, there are more places to stay in Tamaraw, Aninuan, and Talipanan, one tricycle ride away from White Beach.
Going Around Puerto Galera Town
One of the things you will see when you arrive in Puerto Galera is its beautiful natural harbor. A number of yachts can be found in the cove, as it is safe haven especially when there are storms. Most bancas (outrigger boats) dock in Muelle, the town’s main pier, and people going to White Beach, Sabang, or Coco Beach are brought to their resorts by a shuttle service provided by the shipping line.
The center of the town itself (called bayan or Poblacion) is not so big. One of the things you can see there is the Muelle Cross, a historical landmark commemorating the sinking of the Canonero de Mariveles battleship in the 1800s.
Walking distance from the pier as well is the town church, the bell tower of which can easily be seen while approaching the harbor. If you go there, you can also visit the excavation museum with its collection of Chinese porcelain and shells.
Want to have lomi (egg noodle soup) for lunch? You won’t have it anywhere better than in Puerto Galera. There’s a lomi house in the center of Poblacion, near Candava Store. Just ask the tricycle drivers where it is and you can walk there from the pier or from the church. For around P70 per order, it’s more than big enough for you, no matter how hungry you may be.
Right after lunch, take the jeepney to Calapan and ask to be dropped off at Tamaraw Falls, around 40 minutes from Puerto Galera. If you can manage it, take the seat right next to the driver so that you can see the falls from afar, as it is just a few meters from the highway.
As the largest waterfalls in Oriental Mindoro, it draws a large crowd on Sundays when admission is free. If you go during the weekday, however, you can enjoy it even more as there are not so many people there. If you want to enter the picnic area and use the facilities, there’s a minimal fee of P20. You can also just stop along the road and take pictures.
From Tamaraw Falls, just hail jeepneys going back to Puerto Galera, and from bayan, you can take tricycles going to White Beach. Fare is P30/person, while special trips cost P100-120, depending on your haggling powers.
White Beach comes alive at night. On Fridays and weekends, there are fire dancers on the beach. Most of them are ladyboys (gays, homosexuals, or in the Filipino language, bakla), and when you get to see them dance, spinning around with a fire poi or meteor, or handling fire hoops with ease, you can only be filled with admiration at their skill, and the hundreds of hours they must have spent practicing their craft.
There are single performers, as in the woman in the photo, but there are duos and groups as well. On a clear, moonless night, seeing these fire dancers weave their magic can indeed make your stay in Puerto Galera all the more memorable.
There is live entertainment on White Beach, too. For the best seat, grab a table in front of Mikko’s Bar, order a pitcher of Mindoro Sling (an alcoholic mix of Tanduay rhum and juice, among others) for P300, and wait for the gay performers to do their routine.
Swimming, Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, and Other Water Sports in Puerto Galera
Puerto Galera is best known for its rich marine life. For Day 2, take the tour that includes snorkeling at the Coral Garden, a peek at the so-called underwater cave, and a look at the giant clams.
While rates are standard (P1500-2500 per trip), you can haggle if it’s not peak season. If there are only a few of you, you can even ask to tag along with other groups to bring the cost down.
When you are at the Coral Garden, you have a choice of either just swimming by yourself, or paying P100 (per person) to have a smaller boat take you around. You’re going to hold on to the boat’s outrigger while snorkeling so that you can cover more areas. However, it’s not necessary as you can see more than enough on your own.
One word of warning: do not stand on the corals. There are so many sea urchins there that you can get stung if you’re not careful. Don’t forget as well to bring bread. It will draw hundreds of fish to you, and if you stay still on the water, you can feel them biting softly. That’s instant (and free!) fish spa!
The best time to do this is in the morning. For lunch, just choose any of the numerous restaurants along White Beach.
If you’re a scuba diver, there’s a lot of excellent dive sites too! You can either dive the house reef (P900 including equipment rentals) or do boat dives (from P1500 per trip). There are a number of dive shops along the beach, just choose one.
In the afternoon, you can just go swimming along the beach, or go banana boat riding (P200/person) or kayaking. If you have a lot of spare cash, you can also go parasailing (P1500/20 minutes) or jetskiing (P2000/30 minutes). You can also go windsurfing, but not in White Beach. You’d have to go to the Sandbar for that (near Poblacion).
For dinner, hire a tricycle to take you to Luca’s, an excellent place for pizza and pasta in Brgy. Talipanan. My favorites are the Margarita and Romana, though the other flavors are also good. It’s very reasonably priced (P350 onwards). Just make sure to ask the driver to come back for you! It’s a special trip, so one way fare is P100.
Hiking to Aninuan Falls
On the third day, you can opt to go hiking. There are two waterfalls in Puerto Galera itself, Aninuan and Talipanan, located in the barangays for which they were named. While it’s easier to trek to Talipanan, the falls there is much smaller. If you’re in the mood for a longer trek (and a bigger and more beautiful falls), go find your way to Aninuan Waterfalls.
From White Beach, take a tricycle to Aninuan. If there are other passengers, it will only cost P10 per person. Ask to be dropped off where you can start trekking, just right before the Aninuan bridge. If it’s a special trip, the tricycle can go further in.
Ask the locals where the trail is and just follow it. The hike is around an hour for a moderate pace. If you can hire a local to take you there (~P100, depending on who’s going to accompany you), you can ask them to take the other trail when you go down so that you’ll end up in White Beach instead of back in Brgy. Aninuan.
You can spend the rest of Day 3 just walking around, either from White Beach to Tamaraw Beach resort and back, or just chilling in White Beach. There are a lot of souvenir shops, and they are cheap too! A white shirt can cost as low as P75 per piece, and bracelets are less than P10 each. You can have your hair braided, have a henna tattoo, or have a massage on the shore.
Just don’t forget to buy your tickets going back to Batangas (I recommend the Minolo Shipping Lines). The last trip is at 4pm on weekends. To make sure you get a seat, buy a round-trip ticket in Batangas and confirm your reservation when you arrive. Be there at the booth designated for the shipping line you’ve chosen at least 30 minutes before your scheduled trip.
How to go to Puerto Galera
The Buendia bus terminal in Manila and the Cubao/Kamuning bus terminals in Quezon City have buses going to Batangas (a two to three-hour ride). There are a number of bus liners going there, namely Jam, Ceres, Alps, and Batangas Express. The sign board should say that it is going to Batangas Pier via the Calabarzon/Balagtas/Tambo exit (don’t take the one passing by Lipa, as it is the longer way). Tickets from Quezon City is P175, one way. From Manila, it should be around P168.
Once in Batangas City, there are small boats from the Minolo Shipping Lines and Father and Son Lines going to Muelle (Puerto Galera’s main port), White Beach, and Sabang. It is recommended to arrive in Batangas City in the morning (earliest boat is at 7am), as the sea is a bit choppy later in the day. During peak season, there are boats going to PG as late as 4pm.
For those who don’t like small boats, there is a RORO (a big ship which can accommodate cars as well) which leaves Batangas at 12nn and Puerto Galera at 4pm daily. This has to be confirmed with Montenegro Lines though, as they sometimes cancel trips when there are not enough passengers.
At the Batangas pier, visitors will have to pay the environmental fee (PG residents are exempted) and the terminal fee. Going back to Batangas, there is also a terminal fee.
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