The SPOT.ph Guide to Zambales
Whether it's swimming, surfing, or food tripping, Zambales has a lot to offer.
(SPOT.ph) Zambales boasts diverse flora and fauna, coves, islands, and surf spots, as well as delicious dishes. It's become a go-to place for being closer to nature—and it’s just a few hours’ drive away from Metro Manila. From the artistic to religious; from lying under the sun to paddling after the waves, and even just skimming the surface of a river—you'll discover there’s much more to Zambales beyond Subic. After you’ve tried the sun-kissed, fragrant, sweet-sour mangoes, there will be no doubt in your mind that Zambales mangoes are the best in the world.
Here's all you need to know for your trip to Zambales:
Ramon Magsaysay Ancestral House
National Highway, Castillejos
Open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Tuesday to Saturday)
President Ramon Magsaysay was actually born in nearby Iba (only a bust remains at the spot) but grew up in this modest two-storey house. It is an interesting showcase of the great “Champion of the Masses”’ life, with various barong Tagalog, furniture, photographs, medals, as well as a Cadillac limousine and Willy’s Jeep.
Dambana Eucharistic Hermitage: Benedictine Hermits of the Holy Eucharist
Sambali Beach Farm Annex, Sitio Baba, Danacbunga, Botolan (visits by arrangement through Sambali Beach Farm)
The Camara family donated a part of their property to house the hermitage and it is now home to a chapel and small retreat house, as well as fields of green. Here, you can spend time in nature in quiet reflection, or do a bit of learning from the nuns.
Ina Poon Bato
Barangay Loob Bunga, Botolan
An image of the Blessed Virgin Mary called Ina Poón Bató ("Mother of the Lord Rock") is said to be miraculous and draws many pilgrims. The belief dates back to the 17th Century, when local Aetas discovered a carved wooden statue on a large rock, and called her Apo Apang ("Little Queen"). After the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991, the image survived and more people came to worship at the location.
ARTS AND CULTURE PITSTOP
Casa San Miguel
Evangelista Street, Barangay San Miguel, San Antonio
Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Tuesday to Sunday)
Casa San Miguel is an ancestral property that is composed of a cultural hall, bed and breakfast, café, and museum. Internationally trained and acclaimed violinist Coke Bolipata has been training talented children from the area in music and visual arts since 1993. The B&B has various accommodations, while the café serves freshly prepared meals in the lush garden. The museum, meanwhile, is a haven of material and cultural artifacts.
Must-tries: Backstage Cafe's Skillet Ala Mode, a chocolate chip cookie topped with homemade Vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup (P140) and Julian’s Dream Polvoron with different flavors, like langka, avocado, mango—depending on fruits in season (P40/piece)
WHERE TO EAT
34 Magsaysay Drive, Olongapo City
Contact: (047) 222-3213
An Olongapo favorite, the fast food spells nostalgia for those who grew up visiting the city. The interiors are reminiscent of '50s diners. The food goes beyond just burgers and fries and, in fact, the very affordable rice meals continue to define comfort food.
Must-tries: Pork chop or fried chicken meal with potato salad, rice, and iced tea (P120)
Playa Papagayo Beach Inn & Restaurant
National Highway, Olongapo City
Contact: (047) 224-1002, 0929-661-4891, 0943-921-8383
Open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Monday to Friday); 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday)
For some good Mexican fare that you can enjoy seaside, head to Papagayo. They don’t scrimp on the ingredients and the servings are meant for sharing. Load up here with friends or family.
Must-tries: Chimichanga, Enchilada, or Burrito with your choice of fish, pork, chicken, beef (P250); the Plato Mexicano is a beef or chicken taco, which comes with enchilada, chili con carne, rice, and beans (P430)
Bon’s Restaurant and Takeout
Rizal Street, Iba (near Municipal Hall)
Open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
Bon’s Restaurant is a simple, no-frills, cfamily-run eatery. There are always people either eating in or buying food to take home. The servings are huge and meant for sharing—so prepare to eat family-style. Favorites are Filipino-Chinese food, especially different kinds of pansit, as well as goat meat dishes.
Must-tries: Pansit Miki Bihon small bilao (P300) and Kalderetang Kambing (P260)
WHERE TO STAY
Zambales-Pangasinan Road, San Narciso
Contact: 941-9004, 0922-841-9004, 0917-545-2791, 0939-939-3153,0917-832-8050
Open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
Learn to surf and make the most out of the wonderful waves that you can catch from October to January. Surf lessons are conducted by Quiksilver Surf School and there are a variety of accommodations for a range of budgets. Just note that lifeguards clock out at 6 p.m. Don't worry, there are still other beach activities you try out after sunset.
Fernandez Compound, Purok 1B, Barrio La Paz, San Narciso
Contact: 0915-991-4715, 0919-923-0988
A sprawling house with a cozy swimming pool and not too far from the beach, Zambawood is a home away from home. It is surrounded by pine trees and on one side, there is an organic farm, from which most produce are harvested and cooked. But really, the best times here are spent lounging at the many comfortable seats, hammocks, and sofas. The farm is actually maintained by the owners' differently-abled son.
The Circle Hostel Zambales
Liw-Liwa, San Felipe
Surf, celebrate, slumber, repeat. If a few days of this appeals to you, then book a hammock or dorm bed at the Circle Hostel. The very affordable and eco-friendly hostel is conducive for meeting like-minded individuals from anywhere in the world—and planning your next adventures together. There are treks you can take in between surf breaks, too.
Sambali Beach Farm
This eight-hectare seaside property is not only a peaceful retreat for up to 25 persons, but also an educational venue for organic farming—whether you’re an enthusiast or uninitiated traveler. Proprietor Ching Camara enthusiastically shares the sustainable practices that make this location healthy—with produce even offered at the weekly Legazpi Market in Makati.
Mango Grove at Bancal River
Barangay Palanginan, Iba
A river runs through the Mango Grove at Bancal River, so still that you can ride a kayak or stand-up paddleboard with ease. The community benefits from the revenue of the guesthouse, as all of the workers live there. They also run a 1,000-square meter organic farm that lets guests appreciate how a family can benefit from a well-planned farm for its nutritional needs throughout the year.
WHERE TO ENJOY NATURE & ADVENTURE
Anawangin Cove near Barangay Pundaquit, San Antonio
To get to the white-sand coves of Pundaquit, you need to go to the San Antonio tourism office near the market to pay a minimal environmental fee. From there, you can make arrangements for a tricycle to take you to the port where boats can take you island-hopping before you camp at your chosen cove. Anawangin is the more popular stop, as it is just over half an hour’s boat ride away.
Pundaquit, San Antonio
Since it is about 45 minutes farther than Anawangin, many skip Nagsasa. The upside is that it is less crowded and more quiet, with a beautiful sunset view. Aside from hours of swimming, you can also trek up a mountain at sunset and enjoy the waterfalls. When we were there, a guy even proposed to his longtime girlfriend mid-trek!
Magalawa Island Armada Resort, Palauig, Zambales
Off the coast of Palauig, via the Masinloc route, Magalawa Island is a five-minute placid boat ride from the mainland. The island has a seven-kilometer stretch of white sand. Aside from walking on the beach and swimming, you can also do some snorkeling. There are cottages or tents for rent and electricity is limited to specific hours.
Potipot Island is accessible from Uacon via a 15-minute boat ride. It is a sliver of a white beach—but one that will possibly take you all day to swim around and take selfies in. Entrance fee is P100 for daytrip; P200 is the overnight camping fee.
Scaling this mountain at 2,037 meters above sea level, is an adrenaline-pumping high that encompasses various kinds of ecosystems. From the summit, you can see around as far as Lingayen Gulf and the West Philippine Sea. It is not an easy climb—suggested for an overnight trek—but the vistas will more than satisfy.
156 National Highway San Marcelino-San Antonio Boundary
Contact: 990-5604, 0916-315-2223
During summer months, the mango trees hang low with fragrant, almost-yellow fruits ready for the picking at Rosa Farms—and which you can do with their Pick&Pay program. The annual Farm Fiesta Day lives up to its name, with a host of food and activities (entrance and participation fee applies). The rest of the year, guests can walk in, order some food at the Rosa Café, walk between rows of decade-old mango trees, and buy out the inventory at the Country Store.