Puerto Galera, although a town in itself, encompasses a 15 km stretch of coastline where clusters of resorts have sprung up along the numerous beaches. Accessed from Batangas, the area is less than a four hour bus and boat ride away from Manila. The main hotspots are:
Sabang: Just a sleepy fishing village some 30 years ago, Sabang is now the major resort town. 24-hour bars, clubbing, diving, and some seedy nightlife make Sabang a noisy and rambunctious scene. The adjacent bays of big and small La Laguna offer a more relaxed vibe with better beaches.
Puerto Galera Town: This is not the place to stay for a backpacker but you will inevitably pass through on your way to the other resorts. There are two ATMs here so stock up on cash, take in the market and peruse the cheap clothes stores. If you want to stick around, there are also a number of bars and restaurants along the pier where it’s easy to while away a few hours listening to stories from ex-pats.
White Beach: Long and wide, this is arguably the best beach in Puerto Galera, but certainly not the quietest. Plenty of bars right on the beachfront mix sand, sea and alcohol. This is lady boy central.
Talipanan Beach: End of the road! This is the furthest west you can travel overland. A picturesque tranquillity awaits but due to its orientation and a high headland, offers little sunshine in the late afternoon.
Getting around is easiest by motorbike and they can be hired for less than 300P per day. For the more faint hearted, jeepneys operate between Puerto and Sabang but for trips further afield, hop on a tricycle, which is far less expensive than hiring your own bike. Of course, as everything is along the coast, bangkas operate during the daytime and give the best views while you sit back and relax with a San Miguel!
Things to do:
- Take a dive! Puerto Galera or ‘Port of Galleons’ has been a natural harbour for centuries and has a number of WWII and other wrecks to explore. Single dives cost as little as 1000P in Sabang. Try Edgar at Tropicana or the more militant Capt’n Greggs, which is the longest established dive centre. All are PADI certified.
The colourful corals of underwater Puerta Galera
- Explore the native village in Talipanan: The Mangyan were the first colonisers of Mindoro and the style of settlements hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years. Definitely worth visiting whilst you’re on the island.
- Trek: Take a trek through the jungle to Aninuan’s swimmable waterfall or go in search of the larger ‘Hidden Paradise’, a good hours bike ride east of Puerto Galera. Take some food to stick on the barbecue!
- Have a game of volleyball: Head to White Beach for an afternoon of sandy volleyball.
- Party with the locals: For a night out on the town, hit Big Apple in Sabang, before moving onto The Venue where locals and foreigners mingle on the dance floor till the early hours. Alternatively, if you prefer to sing then Cheap Charlie’s Bar offers karaoke with a friendly atmosphere and pool table too.
- Cycle to the Falls: Hire a bike for a trip to Tamaraw Falls, an impressive 30-metre drop. Easy to find as it is right on the road. Go after heavy rains for the full spectacle.
- Eat traditional…Italian: Indulge in a giant pizza at Luca’s Italian restaurant, found at the western most point of Talipanan Beach.
- Spot of golf anyone? High in the hills, Ponderosa Golf and Country Club offers a good round for 1000P. If you are of Mark Twain’s opinion that golf is a ‘good walk spoiled’ then put down the club and take in the panoramic views of Puerto Galera’s harbours, bays and islands. There’s also a great restaurant there in case you get peckish.
- Delve in to the fray of a cockfight: Attitudes towards this controversial sport vary among travellers but to watch the betting alone is quite a sight. If you want to get involved, tag along with a local who can organise bets for you. Puerto Galera town’s arena holds regular matches on Sundays.
- Snorkel: For a cheaper way to explore the underwater world, just hire a snorkel and mask and charter a bangka to take you to Coral Garden.
DON’T FEED THE FISH! Although we very much understand the urge to want to experience fish as close as possible, luring them in with human food is a very big NO GO in a sustainable snorkeling/diving practice. First of all, the fish digestion system aren’t made for human food, and even though it is not as bad as plastic, it can still make them sick. Secondly and probably most importantly, when fish are feeding on human food, it means they will eat less of their normal food source: The algae that grows on corals. The long term effect of this is dead corals, and an ecosystem with more algae and jellyfish, which makes for very boring
snorkeling and diving!
Where to stay:
- Try Tropicana, the towering castle resort visible from almost any point in Sabang. The Austrian owner understands the mantra of ‘a full hotel is better than an expensive hotel’, so you may get a four star bargain for around 1000P.
- The western end of Sabang bay harbours the cheaper resorts, and rooms go for a few hundred pesos if you’re happy without air conditioning.
- Staying a while? Jack Daniel’s apartments offer weekly rentals for less than 400P a day, made cheaper still by self-catering facilities. Availability varies.
- At Talipanan beach, Mengies has a selection of fan-cooled rooms for travellers on a strict budget, plus Margie will treat you like one of her own.
The most common route is from Manila where there are a number of coach companies operating at all times of the day down to Batangas, a three hour ride. Enquire at your hotel for the nearest terminal, but ensure the driver is going to Batangas pier. Upon arrival head straight for the ticket office ignoring the many touts as you go. From here you can go to either Sabang, Puerto Galera town or White Beach.
Where to go next:
Boracay (Caticlan) can be accessed either by ferry from Batangas or a more adventurous (or possibly troublesome!) route. Catch a Jeepney to Calapan, a coach to Roxas in the south of Mindoro and then a ferry to Caticlan. This latter journey takes about 10 hours and can be done on a far tighter budget.
As Puerto Galera is so easily accessed from Manila, head back there and jump on a flight to Palawan, Cebu, Bohol or elsewhere.
Written by Alistair Dymock