Beyond Surfing, Zambales’s Charm Is In Its Mountains And Beach Coves
Now that Boracay is on official hiatus as tourist draw, Palawan finds itself on top of the Philippine tropical destination lists. But to those exploring beaches nearer the capital, Central Luzon’s coastal province of Zambales could be a great choice. Zambales is only a four-hour drive from Metro Manila. One may also take the buses from the Victory Liner terminals (Cubao, Caloocan, Sampaloc and Pasay; the roundtrip fare is around P800). It is renowned for its majestic mountains and seas, and for being a surfing destination. It offers many resort options—even color of sand: grey or white, take your pick. Zambales’s proximity to Olongapo City is also a plus since city life is never that far away.
Where to Stay
Zambales isn’t dominated by five-star hotels but you have a lot of options when it comes to beach resorts. If you’re seeking fancier accommodations, you will find well-appointed hotels in Subic and Olongapo. But if you want a more local and rustic experience, booking a room at a beach resort would be a good option. Here are a few suggestions:
Crystal Beach Resort
This is probably one of the most popular surfing resorts in Zambales. Located at San Narciso, the resort offers different accommodation types and services. Enjoy communing with nature, taking a surfing lesson or swimming. www.crystalbeach.com.ph.
Zambales Tropical Paradise
One of Zambales’ best kept secrets. For a rustic, simple and laidback yet memorable beach experience, this Botolan, Zambales resort is filled with pine trees, you will be reminded of Anawangin Cove in San Antonio, Zambales—except there’s no need to take a boat ride. The resort is along the highway. Look for Zambales Tropical Paradise in Facebook.
Potipot Island Gateway Resort
For a more convenient way to enjoy Potipot Island in Candelaria, Zambales, book a stay at Potipot Island Gateway. It offers comfortable rooms and facilities, access to the beach, swimming pool, spa services, dining, and a boat ride to its famed neighboring island. www.potipotgateway.com
Where to Eat
Nothing completes a vacation like having the best food experience. Zambales isn’t a remote place so you can still have your usual fill of favorite fast food items but there are restaurants equally popular not just with tourists but also with the locals.
Rico’s Fastfood and Restaurant
A buffet of meal choices await at Rico’s. Don’t be fooled by the words “fast food” in the restaurant name. Its specialties are lutong-bahay with Filipino dishes as the star. Enjoy pansit palabok, bagnet ensalada and bulalo after enjoying a day out at the beach. For variety, Rico’s also serves beef lasagna and Pinoy japchae, its version of Korea’s japchae with a Filipino twist. #421 4th St., West Tapinac, Olongapo City
Whenever there’s a special moment to be celebrated like a birthday or a graduation, locals usually head over to Bon’s to feast on good food. For an affordable price, you can enjoy lechon kawali, lumpiang shanghai, sisig, kalderetang kambing, various seafood dishes and different kinds of pancit (bihon, miki, canton, Malabon, palabok, sotanghon). You can mostly spot families and friends dining here. Rizal Street, Iba, Zambales
04/03/2016 From Olongapo to Iba, we went here just for this. Kalderetang Kambing, Papaitang Baka, Kinilaw na Blue Marlin then mom ordered Calamares coz she doesn't eat this kind of food. Zambales has the best Papaitan in the Philippines. ????????will buy Pastillas later for pasalubong. #foodporn #food #lunch #pinoyfood #asianfood
Where to Go
There’s no shortage of places to explore in Zambales. It is a treasure trove of beautiful beaches, majestic mountains and interesting spots.
Located in Botolan, Zambales, the municipal tourism department is assisting those who are interested in climbing up the historical volcano. After a 2.5-hour trek, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the crystal blue crater lake.
Considered the tallest mountain in the Zambales mountain range, Mount Tapulao is located in Palauig. From the summit, enjoy the fresh air and pine forest as well as the beautiful scenery that include the mountains, the lowlands, and the ocean.
Anawangin, Nagsasa and Talisayen Coves
All you have to do is book a boat ride from Pundaquit in San Antonio to be able to reach the amazing Anawangin, Nagsasa and Talisayen Coves. Being in these coves is like being transported to a setting of The Lord of The Rings or somewhere in New Zealand. The scenery is that dramatic.
You can never miss Capones Island when you decide to do island hopping in San Antonio. With Pundaquit as the entry port, explore the mysterious island of Capones and aim to reach the historic lighthouse—the island’s centerpiece.
A beach lover’s favorite, Potipot Island is for everyone—from kids to elder folk—all will be able to enjoy the crystal clear waters, white sand and Instagrammable spots of Potipot. Located at Candelaria, Zambales, it’s so easy to reach as the island is a mere 15-minute boat ride from the mainland shores.
Palauig, Zambales isn’t only for Mount Tapulao enthusiasts, it is also for beach lovers. The town is home to Magalawa Island which is famous for its clear blue waters, beige sand and a number of starfishes.
For those seeking more adventures, visit Camp Kainomayan to experience its zipline, paintball and ATV ride features amid the backdrop of Botolan’s “lahar desert” and majestic mountains.
What Pasalubong to Buy
Pastillas (milk candies)
Get the pastillas made of carabao’s milk from Palauig or Iba for a creamier taste.
Linga (sesame candies)
A specialty of Botolan, packs of linga can be bought at the town’s Agora or public market.
Photo by Rebecca Siegel via Wikicommons
Zambales is famous for its sweet mangoes and the tastiest Indian (green) mangoes as well. It would be a sin to visit the province without eating a mango.