Sitting along the West coastline of Luzon is Zambales, one of the more accessible beach provinces to Metro Manila.
Known for its sweet mangoes, various hiking spots, and perhaps most of all, for the energy of the young travelers and backpackers who frequent its relatively uncrowded beaches, Zambales can be as short as a 3-hour drive or as long as a 7-hour drive away, depending on which part you’re heading to and what time you leave the city.
But no matter where in Zambales you end up, there’s something unique about each beach that makes the province worth exploring. Less developed than the likes of Baler and La Union, Zambales is a place you’d want to visit for a laid-back trip when you’re trying to escape the loud party scene of Manila.
Not yet familiar with the province? Start with these spots for your dose of sun, sand, and surf.
Anawangin Cove is one of the most popular places in Zambales, and is a great choice for thrill seekers. The cove can be reached via a boat ride that takes less than an hour from Pundaquit Beach, the jump-off point for many of these destinations. Anawangin is ideal for those who want to disconnect from the modern world since they have no electricity and poor cellular service, so you can build a bonfire under a canopy of stars and carry out constant conversations instead. You can plan your camping trip in a DIY fashion or book a tour package that will provide you with tents, cooking gear, and even food. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can get there by hiking through Mt. Pundaquit.
Think of Nagsasa Cove as a level up on Anawangin in terms of adventure. The cove is more remote than Anawangin, requiring a 1-hour boat ride to reach. The available hikes are also much longer and more intense, with 3 popular routes: make your way through Mt. Nagsasa or Mt. Balingkilat, or traverse through Mt. Cinco Picos-Mt. Dayungan. These routes are no joke, especially during the summer when it is extra hot and extra dry, so we’d only recommend them for seasoned hikers—but the payoff is worth it for a dip in the secluded sanctuary of Nagsasa. There is also a nearby small waterfall that many visitors frequent. Both Anawangin and Nagsasa Cove are famous for their pretty sea-pine trees, forming a majestic backdrop against the pure shores.
Liw-Liwa might be one of the destinations comparable to the likes of La Union and Baler, but in a much smaller and more modest scale. Many Manila residents visit the surf spot for the weekend and for extended periods, making it a bit more lively at night than the other spots on this list. Liw-Liwa doesn’t require a boat ride to get to, so those with motion sickness can relax. Sunny Side Up, Circle Hostel, and Liwalize are just some surf resorts that were founded by Manileños who fell in love with the friendly town, and you can hit them up for rooms, beds, hammocks, or camping space.
Potipot Island is a small, private, and remote island off Candelaria, Zambales, that opened to the public for an entrance fee—though any of these beaches do require a fee for maintenance. Famed for its white sand and turquoise blue waters, the island is relatively untouched, with only a few (hard to book) cottages scattered here and there. There are kayaks for rent, or you could hop to nearby Hermana Menor Island via boat if you find yourself itching for more movement beyond the small island. If you’d rather set up post under one of the trees lining the shore and forget that the rest of the world exists, that’s completely fine, too.
Magalawa Island is one of the furthest points of Zambales, well past the surf spots and famous coves—in fact, 3 hours away from them. But the further distance from the city means more seclusion and a more peaceful setting, its natural beauty remaining undisturbed. Here, you’ll find one of the most picturesque sandbars this side of Luzon.
Magalawa Island has simple resorts you can stay in if you want to take a break from camping, as there is limited space to pitch a tent and few available spots. Just like with the coves, you’ll want to stock up on everything and be well-fitted with gear before leaving the mainland—though one plus is that they offer grilling stations, so you can prepare a feast for a special starlit dinner.
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