Tired of the hustle and bustle of city life? Luckily, you have a lot of great vacation spots to choose from if you’re coming from Metro Manila. If you want the best that nature has to offer, then it’s time to take a trip to the province of Occidental Mindoro.
Referred to by many as the “Marine Wonderland” of Luzon, the province is well known for its white-sand beaches, lush forests, and clear waters. It is bordered on the east by Oriental Mindoro and by the Mindoro Strait to the South. A popular snorkeling site, the province offers an abundance of marine life, including eagle rays, sea turtles, sharks, and even dolphins. If you’re more interested in hiking, however, then you may want to check out Mt. Halcon, located to the north of the province. Occidental Mindoro is an especially attractive tourist location, as it’s easily accessible by sea and air.
The fastest way to get to Occidental Mindoro is to book a 45-minute plane ride from Manila to the municipality of San Jose. Two popular airlines provide—PAL Express and Cebu Pacific Airlines—provide these flights on a daily basis.
If you prefer traveling by sea, then you could also take a two-and-a-half-hour ferry ride from Batangas Port to Abra de Ilog. Roll-on-roll-off (RoRo) ferries are also available, in case you’d like to bring a personal vehicle on your trip.
If you’re on a strict budget and don’t mind long travel times, a cheaper alternative is to travel by land. To do this, you’ll want to get on a Dimple Star Transport bus en route to Batangas Port. They have various terminals in Metro Manila, specifically Cubao, Pasay, Santolan, or Sampaloc. Afterward, you’ll need to ride a ferry going to Abra de Ilog.
The best way to get around the different towns in Occidental Mindoro is by boarding one of the many Dimple Star Transport buses. Jeepneys are another common option, as are tricycles. Minivans are a great way to get around quickly as they don’t stop at every single town, though they may not leave exactly as scheduled.
History buffs will want to check out Parola Park in Sablayan, where one can find old church ruins and an old cannon. In the center of the park is a watchtower that was erected in 1896. To learn more about the province’s rich culture, visit the ancient burial caves and fishing villages in San Jose, Ilin, and Cabra Island. For a scenic tour, you’ll want to go to Besay Falls in Ambil Island. The road to these waterfalls passes through rice plantations as well as carabao pastures.
In the mood for scuba diving? Then you absolutely have to pay a visit to Apo Reef National Park, a 34-kilometer reef with hundreds of unique species of coral and marine life. If you aren’t much of a sea lover, you could opt to do some bird watching on the islands of Binangaan and Cayos del Bajo instead. Trekkers and climbers can explore the Mt. Iglit National Park in San Jose, a sanctuary for endangered species of tamaraws. Those who love relaxing on the beach have tons of options to choose from, including Pandan Grande Island in Sablayan, Tayamaan Beach in Mamburao, and Ilin Island in San Jose.
In Occidental Mindoro, seafood is much cheaper than chicken, so try out as much of the local cuisine as you can. Many travelers recommend the adobong pugita (octopus) or the crispy shrimp at Camalig Restaurant in Sablayan. You can also try the sweet and sour lapu-lapu (grouper) from Kusina ni Lea in San Jose. If you’re in the mood for something grilled, drop by Alfa’s Special Barbecue Restaurant in Mamburao.
While Occidental Mindoro’s sleepy little towns do not have that many nightlife options, you can still get your fix if you know where to go. If you’re in San Jose, you can try out Pilot’s Lounge, a restaurant and bar that can be found next to the El Mora Hotel. Staying over at Pandan Island? You can get a few drinks and play some board games with the owners of Pandan Beach Bar. Should you be looking for a bar with a live band, Jopay Place in Mamburao is a good place to start.
A few veteran travelers swear that the best way to experience Occidental Mindoro is by pitching your own tent. However, there are plenty of traditional board and lodging options for those who much prefer comfort and convenience. For a unique hotel experience, try Barangay Poblacion’s Villa Ocampo, the façade of which looks like a medieval castle. Plan to do a lot of diving? Book a room at Pandan Island Resort, which has its very own dive shop. For tourists on a budget, you can try Sikatuna Beach Hotel and Restaurant because of its affordability and proximity to the city center.
Wear the right clothes so you can enjoy your trip to the fullest. If you’re going to Occidental Mindoro anywhere from November to April, it’s best to wear light casual clothing, as those are the driest months of the year.
For those who want to do some trekking, you might want to invest in some durable but lightweight sandals or hiking shoes. Make sure to pack a jacket, too, as it can get very cold at night, especially if you’re nearing the summit.
Make sure to put your important gadgets in ziplock bags to keep them from getting wet. Better yet, purchase a waterproof case for your camera or smartphone if you plan to take lots of travel photos near the water.