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Always turn every disaster into an opportunity – and opportunity it was!
The province of ZAMBALES faced its greatest tragic back in 1991 when its highly notorious volcano, the Mount Pinatubo, shook and squeezed the earth’s crust at a magnitude of 7.8 which brought upon to what was considered as the second-largest volcanic eruption in the century. It was strikingly catastrophic that it left 722 fatalities, displaced 200,000 of its people including the primitive Aeta tribe, damaged about $250 million of properties, and changed the land features of Zambales to a large extent.
The cataclysmic event was then thought of a disaster until an opportunity showed up. The land started to breathe new life as its barren hills slowly transformed into a lush terrain of vegetation. Bushes and the pine-like Agoho trees grew in an unbelievably rapid state. In the same manner, the once rocky shores were splattered with tons of ashes that overtime turned into crystal, grey sands. Zambales blossomed into a wide vista of magnificent landscapes which did not escape the attention of travelers. Thousands upon thousands of tourists traveled to Zambales. Tourism took a major turn, and the rest is history.
Zambales is located in central Luzon in the Philippines, a 3-hour drive from Manila making it one of the nearest weekend hideout to escape the bustling metropolis. Of the many beautiful landscapes it is famous for, what draws travelers the most is its sweeping coves and islands. The most known of them are Anawangin cove, Nagsasa cove and Capones island, which are concentrated at Pundaquit, San Antonio – a laid back, provincial, fishing village.
The coves sit beside the West Philippine Sea and are tucked away at the outskirts of San Antonio behind its mountain slopes. To get here, one can either trek through the mountains of Anawangin – the nearest among the coves – or go by an outrigger boat. Timing is everything to successfully get to the coves. Seas can get rough in some days and the mountains can prove to be challenging for the unfit. The best months to go are January through March when the waves are calm and boats can easily cross the sea.
QUICK TIPS AND FACTS ABOUT ZAMBALES
Here are few facts and tips to consider when traveling the top attractions in Zambales.
- The beaches in Zambales are one of the nearest from Manila. During summer time, tourists flock to its shores which leave little to no room for relaxation, especially in Anawangin since it is the most accessible among the three coves. Avoid the summer months of April and May if you are not fond of crowd.
- Anawangin, Nagsasa and Capones can be covered in one day. If you plan to go overnight, you may stay in a cottage or hut in Anawangin and Nagsasa. It’s important to know that there is no fancy accommodation available in the three spots. Camping is king while here! Bring a tent or a hammock, a blanket and a mosquito repellent, food supplies and cooking tools, and gallons of water. You can buy your camping supplies at the market in Pundaquit before heading out.
- And oh, there is no electricity! Bring a flashlight or a headlamp, and a powerbank to charge your gadgets.
- Mobile network has weak to no signal. You will be totally off the grid!
- There is a public toilet in Anawangin, but it’s poorly maintained.
- Check the weather. If there is a good chance to rain during your trip, waterproof your gadgets and secure a raincoat.
- During habagat or the rainy season from June to August, sea swells can be large and rough if you go by boat. Pack your belongings properly to avoid getting wet.
- If you have the stamina for it, trekking can be a good option in getting to the coves. Anawangin is a 5-hour hike over Mt. Pundaquit while Nagsasa is a 6-hour walk through the trail from sitio San Martin in Subic.
- Bring a footwear. The sands, because of its volcanic properties, can be too hot for your feet when the sun is at its zenith.
- The attractions are in a secluded place, but don’t wary. The locals are trustworthy and put so much value to the safety of the tourists.
HOW TO GET TO ZAMBALES
Here is the information on how to get to Anawangin, Nagsasa and Capones. Remember, these 3 attractions are found in Pudaquit, San Antonio, Zambales.
- By public transport from Manila – There are two options in getting to Pudaquit from Manila. First option is from Cubao, take a bus bound for Olongapo city. Once there, transfer to another bus that goes to San Antonio, Zambales. Travel time is around 3 hours, total bus fare is P250. In San Antonio, take a tricycle and head out to Pundaquit. Travel time is roughly 20 minutes, fare is P20 per person. Second option is from Cubao, Pasay and Caloocan. At their designated bus terminal, take a bus that goes to Iba, Zambales. Tell the driver to drop off in San Antonio public market. Travel time is roughly 3 hours, bus fare is P250. At the public market, take a tricycle to Pundaquit.
- By public transport from Clark – From the airport, take the shuttle service to Dau terminal. Fare is P100, travel time is close to 20 minutes. At the terminal, ride a bus to Olongapo city. Travel time is roughly 2 hours, fare is P140. Once at the city, transfer to another bus bound for San Antonio. Travel time is 1 hour, bus fare is P60. Then take a tricycle from San Antonio to Pundaquit for P20 per person. Travel time is close to 20 minutes.
Once at Pundaquit beach, rent a boat that will take you to the three attractions. Below is the 2-way rent per boat type:
- Small boat with a capacity of 4 people – around P2,500.00
- Big boat with a capacity of 15 people – around P6,000.00
Apart from the three attractions, there are also other coves and islands near the area that you can visit. You have the option to only visit 1 attraction. Boat rent will range from P500 to P1,500 per attraction, depending on its distance.
- Talisayen Cove
- Silanguin Cove
- Camara island
Note: A P20 environmental fee will be collected upon entering Pundaquit, and a separate entrance fee for some of the attractions.
TOP ATTRACTIONS IN ZAMBALES
Here are 3 top tourist spots that you can cover in a day tour or with an itinerary for 2 to 3 days while in Zambales.
Anawangin cove is a sight to behold. The verdant Agoho trees clustered along the ridges of its mountain range employ a far-reaching backdrop to its strip of uniquely light gray fine sands which make for a perfect view as you approach the cove. A few walk from the beach is a creek behind a treeline that goes to the sea. Over it is a wooden bridge that leads to the main campsite with tall trees in assembly around its area.
Anawangin is smaller compared to Nagsasa, but is often the most visited because of its close proximity from Pundaquit. (Drawback: The cove can get too crowded during summer.) Getting here would take for about 30 minutes by boat and 5 hours on trek. Entrance fee to the cove is P50 for day use and P100 for overnight stay. Huts and cottages are also available in the area which can be rented for P100 to 200 depending on its size for a day use, and P350 to a thousand depending on the type for an overnight stay. Tents are available for rent for P300 in Pundaquit.
Few of the activities that can be done around Anawangin cove are:
- short hike up to its hilltop
- beach camp
- bonfire and stargazing at night
- Surfing and skim-boarding during 2nd to 3rd quarter of the year (You can rent a surfboard in Pundaquit at Malong Surf school.)
Twice the size of Anawangin, Nagsasa cove is a beauty of its own. It offers an arresting scenery of grassy mountains that turn sepia during summertime, contrasting to a foreground of a long stretch grayish sand. It hides a waterfall on its mountainside and nestles a lake that dispenses a mirage of its beautiful terrain on a bright day.
At the forefront of Nagsasa cove are tent villages that serve as campground for travelers. One may rent a tent for P350. Entrance to the cove is P50 for day use and P100 for overnight. There are public toilets around the area, as well as small stores that sell basic supplies for camping.
Some of the top things to do around Nagsasa cove are:
- side trip to the waterfall
- beach camp
- watch the sunset, it is dramatic and full of life with its expanse of beautiful landscape covered in grass
- bonfire and stargazing at night
The glorious appeal of Capones island lies not only on its surface among the gorgeous rock formations that clump together on its white sand beach, but more so with the rich marine life and coral reefs underneath.
Here are few of the best things to do in Capones island:
- short trek up to its light house in a steep, rocky yet walkable trail. As of late, entrance to the lighthouse is no longer allowed due to its waning structure
- beach bum
- diving and snorkeling activity
- side trip to the nearby island of Camara which is only a stone throw away
Capones island is free of entrance and is about 30 minutes away from Anawangin cove.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN ZAMBALES
Here are top picks in the list of activities in Anawangin, Nagsasa and Capones aside from scampering around its beaches.
- dive at the top diving spots of Capones and Anawangin
- surfing and skimboarding on the rough seas of Anawangin and Capones
- visit the least known coves of Silanguin and Talisayin
- stargazing and constellation naming with the use of a stargazing app like Night Sky and SkyView
- bonfire and marshmallow roasting!
- climb the hilltops and await for the sunset
- trek up to the waterfall of Nagsasa
ZAMBALES SAMPLE ITINERARY
Here is a suggested 2-day Zambales itinerary ideal for a weekend trip which covers Anawangin, Nagsasa and Capones with an estimated budget of P2,200.00+ per person for a party of two. The budget can still be reduced if you will travel in a group of 4. For this sample itinerary you will need to bring a tent.
|ETA San Antonio||08:00AM|
|Trike to Pundaquit||08:30AM||P30|
|Boat to Nagsasa||09:30AM||P2,500|
|Rent a Cottage||10:00AM||P100|
|To the Waterfall||11:00AM|
|Stroll along inlet||02:00PM|
|Trek to hilltop||03:00PM|
|Bonfire and Stargazing||09:00PM|
|Trek to Hilltop||09:00AM||P10|
|Swim or Surf||10:00AM|
|Swim or Dive or Stroll||2:00PM|
|Back to Pundaquit||4:00PM|
|Back to Manila||5:30PM||P280|
Here are contacts of boatmen that offer a tour covering the three attractions:
- Randy +63 916 273 2887, +63 909 312 0345
- Johnny +63 920 222 4687
- JR +63 917 380 9104
WHERE TO STAY IN ZAMBALES
If camping or sleeping in a hut is not your cup of tea, the next option is to stay in Pundaquit. Below are some affordable inns and basic resorts that can be found in the area.
- Sir William’s Cottage and Lodge Check rate and availability here
- Lalyn’s Home Check rate and availability here
- DG Paraiso Restaurant Check rate and availability here
English is widely understood in Zambales. But in case you want to speak the local tongue, here are phrases from 2 different main languages in Zambales that proved to be useful.
English to Ilocano
Thank You – Agyamanak
Good Morning – Naimbag a bigat
Good Afternoon – Naimbag a malem
Good Evening – Naimbag a rabii
How Much? – Sagmamano daytoy?
Where is… – Sadino ti…
English to Tagalog
Thank You – Salamat
Good Morning – Magandang umaga
Good Afternoon – Magandang hapon
Good Evening – Magandang gabi
How Much? – Magkano?
Where is… – Saan ang…
BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER
Lastly, have fun and don’t forget to be awesome! 🙂
EXTEND YOUR TRIP
Visit other top places in Luzon:
- Baler Budget Travel Guide
- Pagudpud Budget Travel Guide
- Vigan DIY Budget Travel Guide
- Laoag Budget Travel Guide
- Sagada Budget Travel Guide
- Baguio Budget Travel Guide
- Palaui Island Budget Travel Guide
Or, go to Visayas and visit these fascinating islands:
Or, try surfing at Siargao, the surfing capital of the Philippines. Budget Travel Guide here
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