Puerto Galera is undoubtedly the most popular tourist attraction in all of Mindoro. Given its world-class dive spots such as the Verde Island Passage, a region thought to be the “center of the center” of marine biodiversity, its excellent beaches, amazing waterfalls, crazy nightlife, thrilling water sports, and most importantly its proximity to Manila, it’s no wonder why many people head to Puerto Galera for their vacation.
Yet unknown to most visitors in Mindoro, there are still plenty of other beautiful places that make up the big island, especially if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of its lively northern town.
The 7th largest island in the Philippine Archipelago with the inclusion of smaller islands such as Lubang and Ilin, Mindoro is divided into two separate provinces, Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro.
Formerly known as “Mai” by Chinese traders, Mindoro got its name from the Spanish “Mina de Oro” or Gold Mine. Obviously the colonizers branded the island with a name that speaks about its prime commodity in the old days: gold. These days, however, gold mining and other forms of mining is being discouraged in the island. Instead, the locals have found gold somewhere else.
Aside from agriculture, tourism is also becoming a major contributor to Mindoro’s economy. And it’s not just Puerto Galera.
While planning a vacation to well-known destinations like Puerto Galera is not necessarily a bad idea, but here are 10 other places to consider. They will certainly change the way you look at Mindoro, and hopefully, also persuade you to add them to your travel itinerary.
1. Mount Calavite Wildlife SanctuaryPaluan, Occidental Mindoro
Forming a small peninsula at the northwestern tip of Mindoro Island, Mount Calavite Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area that serves as home to endemic animal species including the famous Tamaraw, Mindoro Hornbill, and the critically endangered Mindoro Bleeding Heart bird.
It is one of the two areas in Mindoro where wild tamaraws can be found (the other one being Mounts Iglit-Baco), foraging through the forests and grasslands of the mountain together with wild boars and deer. From the summit 1,521 meters above sea level, a 360-degree view of the West Philippine Sea, Verde Island Passage, Lubang Island, and the mountains of northern Mindoro can be seen.
Directions: From Abra de Ilog, transfer to a van going to the town of Paluan (about 2.5 hours). Register and secure a climbing permit at the municipal hall. Hire a tricycle to go to the jump-off point (about 30 minutes) in Sitio Ulasan, Brgy. Harrison. The hike to the summit takes around 5 to 6 hours.
2. Apo Reef National ParkSablayan, Occidental Mindoro
Apo Reef National Park is a marine protected area located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) off the coast of the town of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro. Covering an area of about 34 square kilometers, it is the largest contiguous coral reef system in the country and among the largest in the world, making it a popular dive site for scuba divers.
A big chunk of the marine park is underwater, but for those who don’t dive, there are three uninhabited islands which are also worth exploring: Apo Island, Binangaan Island, and Tinangkapan Island.
A lighthouse stands on Apo Island, the biggest island among the three, to warn passing ships of the nearby shallow coral reefs. To clear up any possible confusion, Apo Island and Apo Reef are two separate geomorphologic forms. Apo Island is above the sea surface while Apo Reef is beneath the surface.
The double triangle-shaped Apo Reef, where hundreds of marine species thrive. is separated from Apo Island by a narrow, deep channel.
Directions: The town of Sablayan is between Abra de Ilog and San Jose, approximately a 3-hour bus ride away from either town. The price of a two-way boat rental to Apo Island is ₱7500 for a boat that can accommodate up to 12 people.
Contact Sablayan Tourism Office (+63 928 465 9585) ahead of your visit. There is an entrance fee of ₱250 per person and for scuba divers the diving fee is ₱1,350, not including the dive master fee and rental of diving equipment. Join a large group to save on costs.
3. Mounts Iglit-Baco National ParkCalintaan, Occidental Mindoro
Located in the interior of Mindoro Island, Mounts Iglit-Baco National Park covers about 75,000 hectares of mountainous land within Mt. Iglit and Mt. Baco. It is the primary habitat of the Tamaraw, a small hoofed mammal endemic to the island. It is also possible to climb to the summit of Mt. Iglit (1,430+ MASL) although the trail can be difficult.
If you came only to see the tamaraws in the wild, hike to the Magawang side of the mountain. Hiring a guide and securing a permit from the DENR office (+63 918 338 6135) in San Jose is required prior to visiting the protected area.
Directions: Upon securing a permit in San Jose, transfer to a jeepney or tricycle and proceed to Barangay Poypoy (about an hour) in the town of Calintaan to start the hike.
4. Devil’s MountainSan Jose, Occidental Mindoro
On the outskirts of San Jose, close to the boundary of the towns of Calintaan and Rizal, a rugged circular mountain juts out from the vast rice fields. Characterized by dozens of sharp, pointed triangular peaks, the so-called “Devil’s Mountain” of San Jose is definitely a sight to behold.
The view is marvelous at any angle, decorated by tropical trees which dot along its lower slopes. A possible reason of why it’s called Devil’s Mountain is due to its rough Mordor-like appearance that resembles the realm of demons often depicted in movies.
Directions: From downtown San Jose, proceed to the tricycle terminal located beside the RoRo Bus Terminal. There are tricycles here going as far as Barangay Manoot in the town of Rizal. The route to Barangay Manoot will pass by Devil’s Mountain (takes about 45 minutes).
5. Tamaraw Gene Pool FarmRizal, Occidental Mindoro
At the end of the dusty road beside Devil’s Mountain, a hanging bridge leads to the Tamaraw Gene Pool Farm in Barangay Manoot in the town of Rizal. Established in 1980, the 280-hectare protected area functions as a breeding facility for the tamaraw. It is also a venue for research and public education. Currently though, there is only a single tamaraw (named Kalibasib) housed in the facility.
Directions: Prior to visiting TGPF, a permit must be secured from the office of the Tamaraw Conservation Program located near White House Resort in San Jose.
With the permit, proceed to the tricycle terminal beside the RoRo Bus Terminal and from here hire a tricycle to Barangay Manoot and tell the driver that you are going to the Tamaraw Farm (1.5 hour ride). Excellent views including that of Devil’s Mountain can be seen along the way.
6. Ilin IslandSan Jose, Occidental Mindoro
The biggest among all the islands of San Jose, Ilin Island is full of magnificent beaches. Only 45 minutes by boat from the capital of Occidental Mindoro, it is a quick getaway to those looking for a place to unwind. It is home to Inasakan Beach, considered to be the best beach on the island and a perfect jump-off point to the dive sites around Ilin.
Directions: From Aroma Beach in San Jose, rent a boat to transport you to Inasakan Beach or any other part of Ilin Island. Resorts in San Jose can also arrange an island hopping trip for guests.
7. Grace IslandSan Jose, Occidental Mindoro
One of the farther islands of San Jose, Grace Island is a perfect place for meditation. There are plenty of floating cottages off its coast, linked by wooden bridges that provide great views of the resort, the nearby Ambulong Island, and the turquoise waters surrounding the tiny island.
It has a mini zoo and a narrow concrete walkway encircling the island, perfect for a relaxing stroll during sunrise and sunset. The healthy coral reefs that surround the island are also amazing spots for diving and snorkeling. If you are looking for a retreat away from the noise and modern conveniences, Grace Island is just the right place.
Directions: Grace Island is a private island with the whole island converted into a resort. Day trips and overnight trips may be arranged at their office along Aroma Beach in San Jose. Please contact Grace Island at +63 939 917 8507 or check their website.
8. Bulalacao IslandsBulalacao, Oriental Mindoro
Situated at the southernmost end of Oriental Mindoro, the town of Bulalacao is rapidly gaining popularity for swimming and picnic gatherings because of its many islands that are surrounded by gorgeous beaches. The main island attractions include Tambaron Island, Suguicay Island, and Aslom Island.
Bulalacao is also a cultural hotspot in Mindoro as the town hosts a great population of inhabitants who belong to the Hanunuo Tribe, a branch family of the bigger Mangyan group. They have preserved their old ways of life, including their own form of writing. which is very much similar to the Baybayin.
Directions: The town of Bulalacao is just a quick 45-minute jeepney, van, or bus ride from San Jose. Buses and vans bound for Calapan from San Jose will pass by the town. If you’re coming from Calapan, Bulalacao is 5 to 6 hours away by bus or van. One may rent a boat along the coast facing Bulalacao Bay for a day of island hopping (₱1,000-1,500).
9. Naujan LakeSoccoro, Oriental Mindoro
The fifth largest lake in the Philippines, Naujan Lake and its surrounding lands are host to a healthy population of flora and fauna, many are endemic to Mindoro. Philippine hardwood trees such as Ipil-ipil and Acacia border the lake while a variety of fruit-bearing trees including durian and lanzones are also present.
The lake also serves as home to wild ducks, herons, hawks, and on the marshes a dwindling population of Philippine freshwater crocodile. Mammals such as fruit bats, deer, and civet also find habitat in the forests encompassing the lake.
Directions: Naujan Lake is bounded by four Oriental Mindoro municipalities: Naujan, Victoria, Socorro, and Pola. The easiest access to the lake is along its south side in Barangay Pasi in the town of Socorro (1 to 1.5 hours van/bus ride from Calapan) since a portion of the national highway winds along the lake’s edge.
10. Mount HalconBaco, Oriental Mindoro
At a height of 2,586 meters (8,500 ft), Mt. Halcon forms a natural boundary between the provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro. According to mountaineers, it is one of the most difficult to climb in the archipelago requiring at least 4 days to reach the summit.
Despite the hardships involved in processing the hiking permit and the physical climb itself, many mountaineering groups still dream of reaching its summit, not only to see the amazing view from the top but also to gain pride in reaching one of the country’s toughest peaks.
Directions: Mt. Halcon is only open for climbers between February and May every year. To process the hiking permit, you have to submit a medical certificate declaring you’re in good health, a basic mountaineering course certificate, and one valid ID.
From the terminal beside Calapan Public Market, a jeepney ride to the town of Baco takes 45 minutes. You need to drop by the Baco Tourism Office (+63 919 882 1442 or +63 908 893 5769) found at the municipal hall to get a permit, then to the local police station to register.
So when it comes to visiting Mindoro, it’s not just about Puerto Galera. There are plenty of other wonderful places to see. You circle around the island either clockwise or counterclockwise, create your own adventure, learn new things, meet new friends, and most importantly have a lot of fun!
How to Get to Mindoro from Manila
Take a ferry to Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro.
If your itinerary focuses on exploring the west side of Mindoro Island, then entry via the town of Abra de Ilog in northern Occidental Mindoro is the easiest and most affordable option.
From the Jam Bus Terminal in Cubao or Pasay, ride the bus with the route “Batangas Pier Direcho.” There is no stopover along the way (passing by SLEX and CALABARZON Expressway) and the ride will take about two hours with fare costing around ₱175. Once at Batangas Port, proceed to Terminal 2 and find the booth of Montenegro Shipping Lines.
The departure time of ferries from Batangas Port to Abra de Ilog varies. But there are often trips at 4 AM, 12:00 NN, 8 PM and 12:00 MN. Fare is around ₱260 and travel time is about 3 to 4 hours depending on the weather. Once in Abra de Ilog, there are buses available going to San Jose and to the other towns in Occidental Mindoro.
To ensure that you have a seat on the bus going to Sablayan or San Jose, it’s best to ride the Dimple Star Bus bound to San Jose from Manila. The bus company has terminals in Sampaloc, Cubao, Pasay, and Alabang.
If your destination in Mindoro is San Jose, you may choose the route via Abra de Ilog or via Calapan. Either way, the last stop will be San Jose.
If you’re going to the towns of Paluan, Sablayan, and Mamburao in the Occidental side, make sure to ride the bus with the signboard “San Jose via Abra de Ilog” as this route will pass by these towns.
The fare from Manila all the way to San Jose is around ₱950 either via Abra or Calapan. Total travel time from Manila to San Jose is at least 10 hours including the RoRo ferry transfer to either Abra or Calapan.
Ride a plane to San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.
Take a ferry to Puerto Galera or Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro.
If your itinerary primarily focuses on Puerto Galera and the rest of Oriental Mindoro, then it’s best to enter via Puerto Galera or Calapan.
At the Terminal 3 of Batangas Port, there are booths for various private shipping companies going to Puerto Galera and Calapan. The earliest trip to Puerto Galera is around 6 AM and last trip is around 4 PM while there are ferries departing from Batangas to Calapan 24 hours a day. The travel time from Batangas to Puerto Galera is about an hour while Batangas to Calapan takes between 1 to 3 hours depending on the ferry type.
Fast crafts such as Supercat and Oceanjet are available in the Batangas-Calapan route from 5 AM to 5 PM (sometimes up to 7 PM) and takes just about an hour. RoRo vessels such as Montenegro Shipping Lines, Fast Cat, and Besta Shipping Lines ply the same route but take longer between 2 to 3 hours.
The fare to Puerto Galera is around ₱250 per person while the fare to Calapan again varies depending on the type of ferry and seat class, from around ₱190 in Montenegro to ₱300 in Fast Cat’s business class. Fast crafts like Supercat and Oceanjet charge between ₱150-250 depending on the seat class.
There are passenger vans and jeepneys traveling between Puerto Galera and Calapan so it’s easy to transfer between the two places. Travel time is about 1.5 hours. If you are going to the other towns of Oriental Mindoro such as Naujan, Pinamalayan, Bulalacao, etc., there are terminals located inside Calapan Pier and beside Calapan Public Market.