I’m sitting at a bar. Hardly surprising I know. But, it’s the location of this particular beer that’s worth talking about. I’m in Puerto Galera south of Manila on the island of Mindoro. Behind me I’m watched over by giant volcanic peaks, trying to pierce through the tropical fog that circles their summits. Between the peaks and me, there’s an almost vertical landscape of dense tropical vegetation. Palm trees fight for space, trying to burst through the uncultivated green mesh that clings to everything in sticky, vivid-green entanglement.
In front of me is the ocean. It’s gorgeous as it flaunts its bright blue beauty between palm trunks that line the shore. The breeze carries the sound of the ocean up to where I’m sitting. A regularly timed whoosh and rumble of breaking waves with absolute silence in between, only interrupted by a laundry liquid ad that flickers on an old TV near the bar – “breeze liquid detergent…” – why are all ads in the Philippines for either laundry detergent or shampoo? Anyway, the fog’s beginning to descend the mountain for the sea and a light misty rain begins to fall as I wet my lips with a cold San Miguel beer… What a place.
Everyone talks about ‘Puerto’. Being only 4 hours travel from Manila, it’s considered an easy getaway option. However, the way people talk about it is as if it’s just a place to go to when you don’t have the time to go to any of the ‘real’ beaches.
I realise now that this is a load of crap. Puerto Galera is simply stunning and underrated.
The beach here is stunning and I could be a million miles away from Manila for all I know. There’s also activities. The blue horizon of the ocean from where I sit is occasionally interrupted by a jet ski towing an inflatable dragon. Tourists sit on its ‘body’ and fly across the water screaming with joy before tumbling off in an awkward flurry of arms and legs. Further in the distance, clouds blend with parasailing parachutes and I’m sure there’s one of those guys on the water jet things, somewhere. However, like most places in the Philippines, you can either stay in a resort that’s ‘amongst it’ or stay close by the action but far enough away that it’s completely silent.
I’m staying at ‘Bamboo House Beach Resort’ on Talipanan Beach (not to be confused by another resort on the also named ‘Bamboo Beach’. This is Bamboo House on another beach – confused?). Like the name suggests, the accommodation is built from bamboo and wooden materials, giving it a real provincial feel. I’m not talking about those dodgy Bamboo huts in places like Phuket where backpackers crash among the constant sand and grit between binge drinking nights. These rooms are done well, clean, and great value for money (see ‘Details’ section below).
The trip here was easy. 2 hours on the South Luzon Express Way (SLEX – pronounced “ess-lex”), about 30 minutes at the Port of Batangas buying tickets and chowing on some MSG-laden instant noodles, then 1 hour and 10 minutes on the ferry to Puerto Galera and another 20 minute van ride to the resort. All in all… Easy. Especially by Philippines standards!
Day 2, we head over to ‘White Beach’. As the name suggests, the sand is indeed white which gives the water that classic azure, emerald look. Like everything here, the beach and water look as if they’ve been Photoshopped but I’m viewing it through my own eyes. It takes about half a second before we’re approached by a ‘salesman’ waving a cardboard laminated sign. It boasts faded photos of smiling faces jet skiing, parasailing, banana-boating (is that a verb?) and parasailing. We ask prices and initially, we do our ‘react in horror’ routine until he lowers the price slightly (see below for prices).
We start with Jet Skiing. At first, I’m thinking 35 minutes is not long enough, especially considering we’re sharing the time with family and plan to relay tag team in turns… However, once out on the open ocean, I’m reminded just how exhausting it is and how 15 minutes feels like a long time. It’s a great experience and better than when we went jet skiing in Boracay. In ‘Borra’ they only let us follow a circle that involved a series of right turns again and again and wasn’t overly exciting. Today, I’m allowed to fly out into the open ocean in any direction I choose and it’s liberating cutting up sea spray as I punch through the bright blue-emerald waves.
After this, we go on an inflatable contraption named the ‘crazy UFO’. It’s essentially a giant inflatable disc that you hang on to whilst getting towed along by a jet ski. Every now and then, the wind catches the bottom of the craft and we do indeed fly (and scream).
Next is lunch, and on White Beach, you’re spoilt for choice. Bars line the sandy strip with alfresco fronts capturing the sea breeze and setting sun as market stalls sprawl behind them on improvised walkways that cut between souvenirs, hammocks, ‘Puerto’ T-Shirts and knickknacks. I’m ready for a beer and order my beer of choice – extra strong ‘Red Horse’.
With a belly full of seafood and beer and the sun setting, we head out in a small yellow speed boat for parasailing. It’s a magical experience as the crew wind the rope out and I rise silently above the waves below. What, moments ago, were rough and choppy waves, now appear like rippled blue silk that moves in slow motion. I glide higher and I begin to take in the incredible landscape of jagged mountains and white sand beaches as a setting orange sun slips slowly into the sea.
Puerto Galera is simply stunning. It’s on the doorstep to Manila (by Philippine standards) yet you feel like you’re a million miles away in a tropical oasis. If you’re stuck in Manila but you need a short beach fix, head to ‘Puerto’. No airports, no planes, no hours upon hours of travel. Just nearby paradise that rejuvenates the soul!
This post is not sponsored and all recommendations are my personal unbiased opinion.
How to get there
Hire a car / Uber / Grab / Van or take a bus south from Manila down SLEX to the Port of Batangas. We hired a van from this company in Manila for 2000 PHP + gasoline. Very friendly, reliable and professional service.
Take a boat from Port Batangas to Puerto Galera. We took Minolo Shipping Lines.
Cost: 600 PHP pp return plus 30 PHP Terminal Fee at Batangas and 10 PHP Terminal Fee from Puerto on the way back.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Bamboo House Resort – highly recommended (this post is NOT sponsored). Talipanan Beach is just beautiful and very peaceful and quiet. From here it’s a 10-minute shuttle ride or 15-minute trike into White Beach.
What to Do
- Jet Ski – 1000 – 1500 PHP total for 35 mins
- Banana Boat – 1500 – 2000 PHP total for 25 mins or 200 pesos per person when joining other people
- ‘Crazy UFO’ – 1700 PHP total for 25 mins
- Parasailing – 2000 PHP per person.
- Relaxing on the beach – Free!