Nowadays, we’re spoiled for choice. Drive a few hours in any direction and you’re sure to find a place, an activity, a vibe to suit all your travel moods.
But today, let’s focus our attention on Central Luzon: Zambales to be specific. With 13 municipalities and 1 city, it takes anywhere from 2 to 5 hours to get there from Metro Manila, depending on which area you’ve set your sights on.
Retaining the province’s local charms while opening itself up to more modern trappings, Zambales has proven itself a true destination. A place of contradictions, you can find anything from a growing city to a deserted beach to an Inflatable Island to a sleepy town. It doesn’t yet have the partying crowds or hipster tastes of La Union, but comb the province end to end and you’re sure to land on a place of interest. What are you waiting for? Take the barkada’s temperature, take your pick, and take off.
For the adventurers
One look at you together and people know: these are the athletes! If your group photos feature more than one person flexing, these are the places for you. Hiking, surfing, camping, diving—ain't no rest for the weekend! Get the group together and divide into teams, because you have your pick of physical activity here. Feel free to choose your own adventure!
Crystal Beach Resort (San Narciso, Zambales)
If La Union’s coast is getting a little too crowded, bring your friends and your boards to Crystal Beach Resort in San Narciso, Zambales instead. The 8-hectare resort along the South China Sea might be just the break you need. Accommodations depend on your mood and group size, ranging from beach party cabins to attics to towers to huts to campgrounds. And if you tire of surfing—unlikely, but possible—you can take a 10-minute walk from the resort to the PawiCare Pawikan Hatchery nature preserve to see Mother Nature in all its shells.
Crystal Beach Resort
(047) 252 9978
Camayan Divers (Subic Bay Freeport Zone)
Boasting a marine sanctuary and rainforest setting, this 5-star PADI-licensed dive resort is perfect for a group intro dive. You have your pick of reef or wreck dive for your first time. Licensed divers are welcome to try out a night dive, too. If you’d rather stay on land, you can pop on over to their next-door neighbor, the Ocean Adventure Marine Mammal Theme Park to salute a sea lion, swim with a dolphin, and wave to a whale. Still not enough wildlife? Make every romance novel cover a reality and go horseback riding in the beach. Fabio not included.
Camayan Wharf, West Ilanin Forest Area
Subic Bay Freeport Zone
(047) 252 8319
Subic Bay Peninsular Hotel (Subic Bay Freeport Zone)
One of the most visible hotels in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, the Subic Bay Peninsular Hotel is also one of the most well-connected. Easily accessible and an institution in Subic, the staff here can hook you up. They’re the top recommended hotel by Subic’s newest attraction, Inflatable Island, the perfect place to test your group’s mettle. If you’re meant for the likes of Wipeout and American Ninja fame, slip and slide along Subic’s Inflatable Island obstacle course. Set mini-contests and records within your group. When you get back to the hotel, let the victors have their choice of bed and massage, losers’ treat. But lest you get too competitive, remember: this vacation’s all in good fun!
Subic Bay Peninsular Hotel
Bldg. 489-491 Burgos Center, Canal Road
Central Business District, Subic Bay Freeport Zone
(047) 250 7274
Capones Vista Beach Resort (San Antonio, Zambales)
Pine trees on the beach sound like you have to see it to believe it. But check it out at the Capones Vista Beach Resort and you’ll wonder why there aren’t pine trees in all beaches. Stay a few days and rent a bangka for an island hopping tour. Look for the Spanish lighthouse, Faro de Punta Capones, which was built from 1890 to 1897. Take lots of photos and make sure to tag @accidentallywesanderson for those straight out of Moonrise Kingdom stills.
Capones Vista Beach Resort
Brgy. Pundaquit, San Antonio
(047) 603 1382 / (0920) 918 3668
For the luxe and leisure-seekers
No scrimping or saving when it comes to your group vacations. On your barkada trips, you guys are the high-rolling type, so pamper yourselves in these luxe locations. You work all year-round for this, and you know you deserve it! Relax and release. Rest assured, rest is assured!
Kamana Sanctuary and Spa (Subic Bay, Zambales)
Stretch out on a lounge chair and enjoy infinity pool views as you wait for your massage. Sip on a fruit shake or a cocktail and watch the endless blue of pool, ocean, and sky meet in the middle. The most difficult choice of the day? Whether to order in or head downstairs for dinner. If that sounds appealing, book a room at the Kamana Sanctuary and Spa. Nestled between a rainforest and the Nabasan Bay, you’d be hard pressed to hear anything but your own thoughts.
Kamana Sanctuary and Spa
Ilanin Forest West, Subic Bay Freeport Zone
Subic Bay Yacht Club (Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Zambales)
For a change, why not stay right by the water? Get a room at the Subic Bay Yacht Club and spend the day cruising on a yacht! Sipping champagne while sailing around Subic Bay? Sounds like a dream and looks like an Instagram post waiting to happen. Have a barkada dress code or a theme for even more IG story points. Your followers will all be commenting “😍😍😍😍 #goals”. You can even dock at certain points, jump off, and snorkel away.
Subic Bay Yacht Club
Rizal Highway cor. Burgos Street
Subic Bay Freeport Zone
(0917) 554 6411 / (047) 252 5211 / (02) 844 5777
Segara Suites (Subic Bay, Zambales)
If you’re looking for a more intimate, personalized experience, consider this boutique hotel. They’re “clean, simple, modern, and chic”, and with just 18 luxury rooms, you’re sure to get the attention you deserve. The hotel’s quirky façade is guaranteed to make you smile, but wait ‘til you see the rooms—you won’t even bother checking for outside activities.
Bldg. 12P Rivera Pier SRF Compound
Subic Bay Freeport Zone
(047) 252 9978 / (02) 404 4784
ZEN Beach Resort (San Narciso, Zambales)
Calling themselves “the new standard”, ZEN Beach Resort’s modern and contemporary interiors soothe and relax. Steps away from the beachfront and water, you’re free to spread out on the shore or on your comfy, soft bed. It’s hard to do anything but relax here. Try the pool deck if you’re in the mood for a dip, or enjoy a drink and the view from the top on the roofdeck. Touting themselves as the place for the discerning traveler, you’re sure to be in a ZEN state of mind the whole time.
ZEN Beach Resort
Bactad Street, Lapaz, San Narciso
(0909) 333 8484 / (0915) 946 0081
Club Morocco Resort and Country Club (Subic Bay, Zambales)
With Filipino expertise and Moroccan design influence, Club Morocco feels like home but with an exotic twist. Enjoy picturesque views without the trouble of a language barrier. Get that foreign feel with significantly less travel time. As Moroccan culture is a blend of French, Spanish, and Arabic tradition in itself, you’ll feel immersed in a truly different world. The diverse menu and plush amenities make for a truly memorable, glocal vacation.
Club Morocco Resort and Country Club
(047) 645 7096
Macampao Beach Resort and Leisure Farm (Cabangan, Zambales)
What was once a family home and fish pond passed down from generation to generation since the 1900s has turned into a resort and leisure farm with full-board meals. Brimming with old-world class, it retains a sense of heritage but with a sustainable edge. All food served is from their own harvest, surely a nod to the health-conscious and eco warriors. Located in the small, sleepy town of Cabangan, Zambales, enjoy an idyllic paradise complete with sand dunes, rainforest, and firefly sanctuary.
Macampao Beach Resort and Leisure Farm
Sitio Macampao, Barangay Arew, Cabangan
(0917) 526 7520
For the families
For friends that feel like fam, you just need space to house your barkada and all your stories, and you’re pretty much set. Getting together is the plan in itself; no itinerary, no problem! You ain’t picky. After all, you bring the party with you. The fun starts wherever you stop by.
Zambawood Boutique Resort (San Narciso, Zambales)
Zambawood was born of couple Rachel and Keith Harrisson’s need for a relaxing place for their special needs son. Finding none up to par, they made their own. Surrounded by woods and fronting a beach, it’s just what any group is looking for. The homey, friendly vibe and comfortable furniture is conducive to conversation. The hammock outside lends itself well to afternoon naps. And the pool? Best experienced post-nap with an ice-cold beer and a close friend. A popular destination for pre-nup shoots and the like, you might want to book ahead because it fills up quick.
Zambawood Boutique Resort
Fernandez Compound, Purok 1B
Barrio La Paz, San Narciso
(0915) 991 4715 / (0919) 923 0988
Lighthouse Marina Resort (Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Zambales)
Duty-free shopping and restaurant-hopping by day, beachside partying by night? You’re welcome to do both when you stay at Lighthouse Marina Resort. It’s right in the heart of Subic Bay Freeport Zone, a quick drive or leisurely stroll away from everything. A popular destination for events and parties, you’ll never want for fun.
Lighthouse Marina Resort
Block 4, Lot 1, Moonbay Marina Complex
Waterfront Road, Central Business District
(047) 252 5000 / (0917) 512 3364
Zoobic Logde (Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Zambales)
It’s time for a barkada field trip! Leave the urban jungle and seek actual wildlife for your trip. Pet a tiger, converse with a bird. Dress in khaki and pretend you’re in the wildlands of Africa. Just follow the do’s and don’t’s and remember to keep distance and stay respectful. Book at the Zoobic Lodge for easier access and the full safari experience.
Tiara Building, Upper Cubi, Subic Bay Freeport Zone
(047) 252 8638
By The Sea Resort (Subic Bay Freeport Zone)
It’s always ourselves we find By The Sea, as the saying goes. This resort’s seclusion and private access to the beach makes it a perfect playground for your group of friends. Grab your beach blankets and sunblock or just take in the view from your room’s balcony. By The Sea’s friendly and informal vibe is so infectious, the whole group will be letting loose to the crashing waves and soft sand in no time.
By The Sea Resort
99 RH 5 National Highway
(047) 222 4560
Mangrove Resort Hotel (Subic Bay, Zambales)
Just a three-minute walk away from Baloy Beach’s many eateries, this might just be the perfect place for a barkada looking to eat, sleep, and chill. Grab multiple meals at all times of day. We won’t judge you for having more than one merienda—the bay air does wonders for the appetite, we hear. Anyway, you can burn those calories when you take a seaside stroll or leisurely lap in the pool.
Magrove Resort Hotel
Baloy Long Beach Rd., Olongapo
(047) 252 9978
ACEA Subic Bay Hotel and Resort (Subic Bay, Zambales)
One of the newest resorts to pop up along the Subic coast is ACEA Subic Bay Hotel and Resort. Somehow, the sand is lighter, finer, and softer than on other Subic beaches, which goes well with its manicured lawns and pristine facilities. Get a head start on the crowds and be one of the first bunches to break in its facilities. Post your pics and have the freshest feed—they’ll surely be asking for a location tag.
ACEA Subic Bay Hotel and Resort
San Bernardo Road
All systems go
Zambales is an unparalleled paradise. Though development is mostly concentrated in Subic, there’s a lot of room to branch out in smaller towns like surf hotspots San Antonio, San Narciso, and the like. Lesser known towns like Cabangan and Iba are coming into their own as well as word of mouth and word of listicle spreads. These small spots for fun won’t stay in the realm of secrecy for long, though. It's getting easier and easier to get out of town, so crank that road trip playlist up and carpool karaoke when you make the drive. You already know that part of the fun of a barkada trip is getting there.
If no one’s willing to drive, make sure everyone gets a seat on the same bus. There’s sure to be a bus line catering to your destination: Victory Liner has regular routes to Iba, Sta. Cruz, and Olongapo.
Buckle up, because it’s the best time to be a millennial with itchy feet and insider information on all the best locations. You have all that you need: pick a date, pick up your mates, and start working on that Zambales trip hashtag!
For exclusive deals and stories about local travel, sign up for Deal Grocer!
More stories from this section
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Be the first to know our latest stories and exclusive offers