Puerto Galera due to its many diverse attractions and close proximity to Manila is the Wizard's family favoured summer destination in the Philippines. This popular tourist destination located on Mindoro Island, approximately 130 kilometers south of Manila and 14 nautical miles from Batangas is a welcome and pleasant contrast to the congestion and mayhem of Manila.
Puerto Galera has a great advantage over places like Boracay or the resort towns of Cebu in being close to Manila. After 2 hours by bus, a stopover at Batangas and about 1½ by ferry, the tourist from Manila comfortably reaches his destination. Those who decide to go to Puerto Galera save the cost of expensive air fares and avoid the problems of being wait-listed on flights, and still they are rewarded with one of the most fascinating seashore countrysides that the world has to offer. It's also a misconception that because of its closeness to Manila, Puerto Galera can't be far enough away from the so-called civilized world. As a matter of fact, Mindoro is one of the most savage of Philippine islands with the highest percentage of virgin jungle and it certainly has much more breathtaking natural settings than Panay which has the offshore island of Boracay. Therefore, tourists who want more than a beach, and want to make jungle excursions as well, should choose Puerto Galera over Boracay.
The ferry trip from Batangas to Puerto Galera already is an attraction in its own right. Shortly after departure from the pier in Batangas, the impressive mountain chain of Mindoro appears before the eyes of the traveler. Crossing the Verde Island Passage, one passes Verde Island (in the east) and Maricaban Island (in the west). Often, dolphins accompany the ferries.
Puerto Galera has one of the most fascinating natural harbors in the world. Medio Island in the north and Boquete Peninsula (at low tide, at high tide Boquete Island) keep the harbor of Puerto Galera almost enclosed. Therefore the harbor basin appears like a palm fringed lake.
As the Spanish conquerors had earlier discovered, the natural harbor of Puerto Galera provides a perfect protection from typhoons and storms. In 1574 the Spanish founded Puerto Galera as one of their major trade centers in the Philippines, and soon after made it into an important base. Through the centuries, the Spanish used Puerto Galera as a safe harbor for their galleons (the Spanish name Puerto Galera means simply harbor of galleons). Even before that time, as early as the 10th century, the area of Puerto Galera was a strategic point in the sea trade among India, China, Indonesia, and Japan. And even today, Puerto Galera serves as a safe harbor for fishing boats, yachts, ferries and cargo ships when a typhoon sweeps through the central Philippines.
The center of Puerto Galera has numerous restaurants and inns, plus a thriving t-shirt and flour-sack clothing industry. Other attrractions are the small museum in the compound of the Catholic Church which displays valuable Chinese artifacts and porcelain dishes excavated from nearby Bayanan, and an impresive collection of shells. The marble Cross at Muelle is a landmark in memory of the crew of a Spanish warship which sank in 1879.
For the more adventurous traveler, the hinterland of Puerto Galera offers some interesting attractions. You can visit a Mangyan settlement located in the mountains, approximately 1 km behind White Beach. Look for gold with the locals in the river near Dalungan, about 6 kms from Puerto Galera towards Calapan. After visiting the river continue for another 9 kms towards Calapan and visit Tamaraw Falls, the largest waterfall in the province with a natural swimming pool at its base. Another worthwhile place to visit is the Ponderosa Golf and Country Club located at about 600 metres above sea level and 5 kilometers from the village of Minolo. There is a tremendous view of Puerto Galera and surroundings. To reach Ponderosa you can either take a one and a half hour hike, or transport can be requested at the Ponderosa pick-up station in Minolo.
The beaches on the peninsula northeast of Puerto Galera, Sabang Beach, Big La Laguna, Small La Laguna are sandy but occasionally with some stones. Encenada Beach and Coco Beach are privately owned and well maintained with clean sand. Of the beaches south of town, Hondura Beach should be given preference over Balete Beach. The beaches to the west of San Isidro are larger and good bathing beaches with clean white sand and no stones, although - unlike some of the beaches mentioned above - snorkling and diving is not particularly interesting.
Brown outs are frequent but pose no major problem as most resorts and restaurants have generators.
Want to party the night away? Then bustling Sabang Beach is for you. Actually, it's a very short strip of rocky beach, plus a maze of narrow side streets crammed with tourist inns and for rent cottages. It's a lively area with a few go-go bars, a disco, an open air karaoke joint, and the usual beer gardens.
Small La Laguna Beach
Situated next to Sabang Beach is a very quiet beach if you want to escape from the noisy night life of Sabang. This beach is excellent for snorkling and diving, or just relaxing after sampling the nightlife of Sabang. Plenty of reasonable priced accommodation and restaurants.
Big La Laguna Beach
Another good beach with a beautiful coral reef for the snorkling and diving enthusiasts. However, some of the cottages are too close together.
This is the beach where you will find the webmaster during his visits to the Philippines. White Beach is located west of San Isidro and is one of the better stretches of sand, offering inexpensive accommodation. There are rows of small resorts, with tropical style restaurants and bars opening to the beach. Some entertainment and during Holy Week concerts are held on the beach.
Located in the next bay is rather quiet with limited accommodation.
Another excellent beach for swimming and relaxation.
From the pier in Batangas, the Puerto Galera-bound tourist will encounter so-called recruiters who offer various accommodations in and around Puerto Galera, insisting that everything else is fully booked. And when the ferry docks in Puerto Galera, a large number of them will approach the tourist again. When dealing with recruiters, the tourist pays their commission as part of the rent.
However, there is no need to deal with the recruiters. The tourist visiting
Puerto Galera can find a wide range of accommodations on his own, from
a simple cottage for 400 pesos per night to a most luxurious room in a
romantic beach-and-jungle resort. But in spite of Puerto Galera's popularity
as a tourist destination, there are no hotel towers as for example in Pattaya
(Thailand). The immense natural beauty of all Puerto Galera remains undisturbed
as the big resorts are in lovely natural settings.
HOW TO GET THERE
This is certainly the cheapest option if you are a seasoned traveler. However, it is not convenient or easy if you have too much luggage. Carry only the bare essentials needed for your stay in Puerto Galera. Most hotels have luggage security facilities for travelers wishing to leave excess luggage. Also, beware of pick-pockets on public buses and ferries, they are very experienced in their trade and ussually operate in teams.
Regular BLTB, JAM and Tritran airconditioned buses depart from the major bus terminals in Pasay City near Manila Airport to bring you to Batangas Port. Depending on traffic conditions the trip will take approximately 3 hours and the fare is approximately P100 per person one way.
Once in Batangas Port proceed to the air conditioned Terminal (P10 entry fee) to board one of the following ferries: