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Need a break from the urban jungle? You don’t need to venture very far to reach paradise. All you need is to hop on a boat heading to Oriental Mindoro.
Located on the eastern portion of Mindoro Island, Oriental Mindoro is known as one of the most biodiverse areas of the Philippines. After all, it is bordered by the Verde Island Passage to the north. This area, home to almost 3,000 species of marine life, is considered one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world. Hence, it’s no surprise that the area is a popular spot for snorkeling and diving, with Puerto Galera—the province’s northwester most municipality—serving as a jump-off point.
But its natural wonders don’t end there. There’s also Mount Halcon, a popular challenge for climbers, and also where the peace-loving Mangyan people reside. Then there’s also the province’s collection of beaches. So whether you want the summit or the sands, when it comes to ecotourism, Oriental Mindoro is a great place to be.
Those who want to splurge can book a flight on a seaplane direct to Puerto Galera. This service is offered by two airlines: Airjuan and Subic Seaplane Inc.
Regular ferry trips to Oriental Mindoro are available at the Batangas Port. RoRo services are also available; as such, travelers can also bring their vehicles to the island.
To reach the other parts of the province, simply board a bus in Calapan. For bigger groups or more convenience, you can also rent a van to tour the entire province for the entire day.
Ask the average Filipino about Oriental Mindoro and the first thing that comes to mind is Puerto Galera, the province’s top tourist draw. With its white-sand beaches, many dive spots, and the fun, fun parties, it’s the place to stay in if you want to have a fun-filled vacation.
However, it’s not the only reason to visit the province. A good number of other towns and municipalities in Oriental Mindoro also have pristine beaches, such as those in Pinamalayan and Bulalacao. While they’re less developed than the ones in Puerto Galera, this also means less of the crowds.
Meanwhile, those who want a break from seawater can check out Tamaraw Falls in Puerto Galera or Hidden Paradise in Baco.
It’s not all about the sea and the sand, either. Since Mindoro is the home of the Mangyan—a collective name for eight indigenous groups on the island—it’s important to learn more about their culture. Start by visiting the Mangyan Heritage Center. Located in Calapan, it offers an extensive library of works on the Mangyan, exhibits, lectures, and even a shop where you can purchase goods made by the Mangyan.
With the abundant marine life in the seas surrounding it, Oriental Mindoro is a diver’s dream come true. Full PADI courses are available at the many dive centers in Puerto Galera. But if that’s a bit too advanced for you, you can simply go snorkeling at the Coral Garden, said to be one of the best spots in the country.
There are also a range of other activities on Puerto Galera’s beaches. You can play beach volleyball, ride a banana boat, or simply relax and have a massage. If you want more, travel south to the municipality of Bulalacao for some island-hopping.
But if you’re a serious mountaineer looking for a challenge, there’s only one thing to do in Oriental Mindoro: summit Mount Halcon. This mountain, the 18th tallest in the Philippines, is known as one of the toughest peaks to climb.
Those who want to combine a trail trek with an immersion in Mangyan culture can check out Da Pirmeda Paraoyan, also in Puerto Galera. This mountain village, the only one of its kind in the area, offers guests several trails, plus lessons in traditional Mangyan crafts, cooking, and even survival skills.
Last but not the least, you can enjoy the province’s biggest music event: the Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival, which is held every March. This festival, which features up-and-coming local and international acts, is held in an open-air auditorium on the slopes of Mount Malasimbo in Puerto Galera. Sure, tickets to this event may be a bit expensive. However, with the many on-site activities during the festival plus the proceeds going to community projects in Oriental Mindoro, it’s money well spent.
Since most travelers to Oriental Mindoro head straight to Puerto Galera, it’s not surprising that many of the province’s popular restaurants can be found here. And it’s not just Filipino food on offer—several establishments offer international cuisine. Some top picks include Bella Napoli for Italian food and Resto Veranda, which has a Swiss chef at the helm.
That said, halo-halo at Isel Ian’s Restaurant in Calapan is not to be missed. After all, it offers this sweet, iconic Filipino dessert with a twist. Instead of the halo-halo already served as a ready-made treat, diners can choose which ingredients go into their bowl. Hence, in a way, no two halo-halo from this place is exactly the same!
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the night, Puerto Galera has it. The town’s White Beach has a good number of bars and restaurants. It’s definitely tamer than nearby Sabang Beach, which is quite notorious for its string of girly bars. And while you’re there, don’t forget to try the Mindoro Sling—a cocktail made from rum, Sprite, and fruit juices.
Most tourist accommodations in Oriental Mindoro can be found in and around Puerto Galera and Calapan, which offers everything from luxurious digs to backpacker hostels. Options include the four-star Infinity Resort and Coco Beach Island Resort. For other parts of the province, expect more B&B-style accommodations and smaller, budget resorts.
When scheduling a vacation during low season, be prepared for trip cancellations or postponements. After all, the low season corresponds to the monsoon season in the Philippines, the time when most typhoons swing by. As such, ferry trips may get canceled due to rough sea conditions.
Make sure to bring more than enough cash. While there are ATMs in Oriental Mindoro, they’re not as many as in urban centers. On top of that, not all establishments accept credit cards. So if you want to avoid running out of money, bring extra!
Bring some anti-motion sickness tablets. You may get seasick on the boat trip from Batangas to Mindoro, so make sure to drink or chew a tablet before boarding.