Puerto Galera, the future of Philippines Tourism

Everything Puerto Galera 2015

Beyond White Beach’s buzzing sandy shores, Puerto Galera teems of tropical wonders that inspire artists, locals, expats, and tourists to preserve, protect, and promote this still gloriously hidden gem of a destination.

At a glance, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro’s world-renowned tourist destination that has one of the most diverse dive sites in Asia and one of the most beautiful bays in the world, is a vibrant resort community with stunning beachscapes and thrilling island adventures to rival top beach draws like Boracay or Phuket any scorching summer day. At sundown, Puerto Galera’s thumping—oft times sleazy—party scene can easily trump both.

With its proximity to the metro (only three to four hours away, depending on your driving) it’s not uncommon to find backpacking or flashpacking urbanites trooping to White Beach (Galera’s famed tourist hotspot) on a whim for a two-day, one-night beach party escapade. With its proximity to nearby southern provinces like Batangas, Laguna, and Cavite, it’s not uncommon to find groups of families going on a quick “boat trip” for a refreshing seaside weekend. And then there are the foreigners, the White Beach mainstays lazing by the shore with a beer, guitar, or a date in hand. Some of them have been to Galera more than most Filipinos have. Most of them love the place so much they have never left.

Puerto Galera Bay, named as one of the most beautiful bays in the world.

According to Puerto Galera Mayor Hubbert Dolor, the once sleepy coastal town was “discovered” by European backpackers in the early ’70s. But centuries back, way before shoestring travelers reached its powdery white coastline, the landlocked picturesque coves of Puerto Galera (which means “port of galleons” in Spanish) has been a favored docking area for seafaring trade vessels from China and Spain. Today, Galera’s coves remain a favorite anchorage of yachts and sailboats of visiting and long-staying foreign and local visitors.

Children walk on the white sands of Talipanan Beach.

I’ve been to Puerto Galera during its very busy high season. White Beach was awash with shirtless, sunburnt bodies. The gentle lapping of the waves drowned out by a Pitbull song blasting through giant speakers. Definitely not the right time to hang out on the beach if you plan to read, sleep, or sip on Mindoro Slings (Galera’s signature drink) in peace. But that’s probably just me.

Galera’s main tourism hubs White Beach and Sabang, be it high or low season, are blockbuster hits to travelers of any persuasion. Last year, 233,226 tourists visited Puerto Galera. A month into 2015, 16,070 tourists arrivals were recorded and the numbers are expected to triple during the peak tourists months of March to June, and November.

But if it’s the real Puerto Galera you want to explore—the Puerto Galera that inspires artists like French-Filipina Olivia d’Aboville to imitate marine life (that in turn ultimately promotes marine life’s conservation), the Puerto Galera that now attracts countless artists from all corners of the globe to perform and revel in the magic of Mt. Malasimbo, the Puerto Galera that is a man and biosphere reserve, the Puerto Galera that boasts of one of the most beautiful bays in the world, the Puerto Galera that affords you a majestic view of nature (on land or underwater) at its rawest, simplest form—skip the tourist traps and be pleasantly surprised by all the things you thought you’d never see and experience on the other side “port.”

Two days. That’s all the time you need to cover all the basics, to complete your real deal Puerto Galera adventure, or to rid yourself of all the seedy commercial fluff you’ve persistently savored (or suffered) on your past trips.

Take a leisure nature walk amid a lush mangrove forest at Dulangan Mangrove Trail, the most vast mangrove conservation area in Puerto Galera, spanning four kilometers.

Learn basket weaving from the Iraya Mangyans and learn a thing or two about the indigenous groups and the mountain culture at Iraya Mangyan Village.

Climb the spiral staircase of the old lighthouse at Escarceo Point and take in the panoramic view of rolling hills, limestone cliffs, azure coves, and nearby islands.

Tee off, sip a cup of hot cocoa, or try the mountain zipline at Mt. Ponderosa, Puerto Galera’s own little Baguio enclave. Enjoy a cool dip in Tamaraw Fall’s man-made“infinity” pool while enjoying the sound of water gushing over giant rocks.

Explore an underwater cave in Long Beach, San Antonio Island. Dive into an otherworldly marine paradise swarming with schools of Moorish idols, trumpet fish, frog fish, lion fish, leaf fish, neon-blue Pacific starfish, corals in all colors of the rainbow, and giant clams in Coral Garden.

Share a sunset kiss at the white pebble beach of Aplayang Munti.

If you must go to the beach for your much deserved R&R, escape to the secluded Talipanan Beach—same powdery white sand, same clear blue waters, and absolutely devoid of tourists. This beach is an expat haven, most of the small resorts are owned by expats married to Filipinas. The marinara pasta (topped with a very generous serving of the freshest mussels and clams) at Luca Cucina Italiana is to die for and is super cheap.

Only after you have ticked all that off your Puerto Galera to-do list are you allowed to party it up at Sabang or get wasted on White Beach.

You’re welcome.

Reproduced from http://www.mb.com.ph/the-other-side-of-the-port/