The Philippines is a country of over 7000 islands, peppered with white sand beaches boasting calm emerald-blue water as clear as glass. There’s no other country in the world that can boast thousands of secluded beaches like something out of a Jason Bourne or James Bond movie. As you sail into hidden limestone coves you can’t help but pinch yourself to make sure it’s real.
But, last weekend, I discovered something entirely new. Something that I hadn’t seen in the Philippines and something that made me feel like I was back home in Australia… a surf beach with decent waves! You see, as beautiful as all the beaches are in the Philippines, sometimes I miss the rolling swell as the waves lift you off your feet before gently placing you back down. I miss feeling the fizz and pop of whitewash from a breaking wave and the silence between breaks while you wait for that one perfect wave to catch.
Crystal Beach Resort in Zambales has this and, it’s only 4 hours from Manila on the west coast of Luzon. The resort offers camping as well as hut-style accommodation. We chose to camp and enjoyed strolling from our tent, across the sand and into the blue waves. The resort is huge with a mix of open sand, shaded areas amongst pine trees as well as a bar and restaurant. The whole place has a relaxed vibe and draws on the surf culture with ‘Quicksilver’ and ‘Roxy’ banners everywhere as well as board hire.
One of the highlights is the sunset. Watching the sun drop into the ocean beyond the waves, where the sky meets the sea is just magical. Even after sunset, the sky glows turquoise and orange as the sound of crashing waves fades into the darkness. Bonfires are then lit around the property and the bars and restaurant swings into action.
We were lucky enough to catch ‘acoustic night’ which was like a relaxed beach party. The band played while people sat on the sand with drinks as the bonfire roared and the stars twinkled above… We could have been a million miles away from anywhere!
If you do plan to camp, try to get there as early as you can. We arrived after lunch on a Friday and there was plenty of space. However, by Saturday afternoon we were surrounded by other tents and they were turning people away as the place was full. It’s beautiful camping on the beach however, it’s also the most popular spot. If you want somewhere a little quieter, you can go for the campgrounds back from the beach as these were less crowded. During the day, it’s relentlessly hot so try to get a spot under the shadiest tree you can find, or you can camp under one of the open huts near the beach.
The staff at Crystal Beach Resort were friendly and very accommodating. They do a good job to try to cater for everyone. No matter what type of camper you are, you will enjoy Crystal Beach. However, if you’re looking for true off-the-grid camping, you’d be better off heading for the nearby Anawangin Cove. Crystal Beach is beautiful but also a controlled environment. You’re not allowed your own bonfires or BBQs. Instead bonfires are lit by the staff in designated areas and there’s a kitchen area with BBQs for cooking. This makes everything easy as there’s running water, showers, bathrooms, electricity and even WIFI in the reception area. All in all it makes for a super easy getaway from Manila. No boats required!
There are water pumps all around the resort where you can pump water for washing (not drinking), and there are also sinks with taps available at the main BBQ area. You can use the water here for cooking. There are many bathrooms with showers around the property so if you find yourself queueing, you can simply walk to another nearby toilet block which may not be as crowded. The resort was at capacity the weekend we stayed however, we never had a problem accessing the facilities. The WIFI from the reception area stretches out to the bar and restaurant so you can update you Facebook status and upload your beach photos to make all your friends jealous. If there’s something you need that the resort doesn’t have, there are a few sari sari stores over the road that sell snacks, beer, ice and more. The closest town of San Narciso also has many shops and is only a 15 minute trike ride from the resort.
If you don’t want to cook your own food, you can dine in the restaurant which has good meals. They offer local Filipino food such as BBQ meat and rice as well as snacks like Nachos. It does get crowded on weekends so if you’re hungry or in a hurry you may be waiting a while. But really, you’re at the beach so, relax… what’s the hurry? You can sit there and charge your gadgets in one of the many sockets! If the restaurant is too crowded, you can go to the small bar opposite which also serves snacks, drinks and shakes. If you ask nicely, they will also charge your gadgets for you behind the bar. They have all local beers – San Mig Light, Pale & Red Horse, as well as some ‘ready to drink’ mixers like Smirnoff Mule. The bar plays chillout beach music so it’s nice to sit there in the ambience sipping on a cold beer and watching the people go by.
The beach does have lifeguards so, if you’re not a confident swimmer, you can know that you’re being looked after. This can, however, be slightly annoying if you’re a good swimmer and want to get out past the breaks and body surf (I was told to go back to the shore). I guess it’s real surfer’s territory! The beach is beautiful with a deeper trough near the shoreline and a sand bar further out where you can easily stand among the breaking waves. The sand is grey with some rocks closer to shore. Because the sand is not pure white, it does get REALLY hot during the middle of the day so always use slippers when you’re crossing the wide stretch of sand between the camp ground and the ocean.
They do offer surfing lessons at Crystal Beach so if you’ve never tried, it’s a great spot to learn. The waves are big enough to catch with a board but not too big that you’ll find it daunting. If you’ve surfed before and just want to catch a few waves, you can hire a surfboard or bodyboard from the Quicksilver hut on the beach. When we were there, the mornings seemed to be the best time to get out in the surf with nice clean rolling breaks.
The main beach is lined with cabana style huts which provide much-needed shade during the day. These are very popular so best you set yourself up under one first thing in the morning if you can. Asides from the huts, there’s also wooden chairs and benches along the beach where you can sit and watch the surf. If you’re camping or staying back from the beach, it can be a fair walk to and from the resort to the ocean, especially across hot sand. So, it’s best to take all you need to the beach and set yourself up with everything rather than going back and forth.
So, if you’re looking for a quick and easy getaway from Manila where you can beach bum, surf or just get amongst the waves, then Crystal Beach Resort is perfect. Pack your tent, your guitar, your hammock and head down to Crystal Beach and rejuvenate your soul… You won’t regret it!
How to Get There
For Private Transportation:
Balintawak exit to NLEX, exit on SCTEX on the last tollgate of NLEX.
From SCTEX take route going to Subic/SBMA, at SBMA tollgate turn right on Rizal Highway, go straight till you reach the dead end then turn left on the right tollgate to Olongapo City. Turn right on the first intersection (Canal St.). Exit to Kalaklan gate turn left going to Zambales, Subic town, Castillejos, San Marcelino, take shortcut see shortcut signage in the middle of the road. Town of San Narciso, turn left after Municipal Hall, follow road signs going to Crystal Beach.
Go to any of the following VICTORY LINER stations: Cubao, Caloocan, Pasay, and Sampaloc. Take the IBA-bound bus and ask to be dropped off in San Narciso, Zambales (nearest landmark: San Sebastian Catholic Church). Once there, take a tricycle going to Crystal Beach Resort.
For bus schedules, visit: www.victoryliner.com
- Camping (BYO tent) is 550 pesos per person, per night & includes 250 pesos worth of consumable vouchers for food and drinks at the resorts bar and restaurant.
- Camping (Hire a Tent) is 750.00 per person per night
*inclusive of tent, mat, pillow and entrance fee also with Php 250 consumable of food and drinks
- Click here for rates on hut accommodation with and without A/C
What to bring
- Mosquito repellant
- Battery operated torch / lamp with spare batteries
- ‘Hurricane’ lamp and kerosene
- Do not keep kerosene in a water bottle! Store in a child-proof container.
- Battery powered fan
- Cooler boxes
- Something to sit on – mats, beach chairs, hammocks etc.
- Drinking water – also available from restaurant on-site or sari sari stores over the road from the main entrance.
- Rope (to make a clothesline)
- Sachets of washing powder/soap/shampoo
- Tissues (dry and wet)
- Inflatable mattress and pump
- Tent (or hire a tent from the resort)
- Sand pegs – the normal pegs that come with tens do not work in the sand.
- Music – guitar, portable speaker, someone who can sing?
- Camera, power banks, batteries, cables (USB, Micro USB etc), waterproof smart phone cases.
- Frypan and utensils
- Plastic cups and cutlery
- Candles to keep away flies
- First aid kit
Contact Crystal Beach Resort
- SUN: (0933) 850-9144
- GLOBE: (0917) 8892476, (0915) 6023636
- Manila Tel: (02) 514-2117, (02) 941-9004
- Zambales: (047) 222-222-7, (047) 603-1475