Five things to do and see in Zambales, Philippines
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Zambales is a Philippine province known for, well, lots of things! It’s blessed with brilliant beaches, parks, hiking trails, mountain ranges, seafood restaurants, seaside hotels… and the list goes on. It’s short three to four-hour travel time from Manila further makes Zambales a favorite tourist destination.
There’s so much to do and see here in Zambales that one might be at a loss with making an itinerary for a vacation in this province. But worry no more, for I’ve created a list of 5 simple things to do and see in Zambales, that will pretty much give you a glimpse of the province’s real beauty.
1. Plunge underwater to see shipwrecks, or get on a yacht
Zambales, being a province directly facing the sea, is blessed with plentiful dive spots. Subic Bay, for one, is one of the most known diving spots in the province for its picturesque views of the open sea and the most unique diving sites.
Subic is a first class municipality with an active military history during the American Period in the country. It was a functional military base even after the end of the Second World War. The accumulation of shipwrecks in Subic Bay have now turned into hot diving spots, and, a favorite hangout place for various schools of fish! There are plenty of diving resorts along Subic Bay. Arizona Dive Shop in Olongapo City is one of the most well-known. SCUBA Tech Philippines in the same city also offers diving lessons for beginners.
Subic Bay is also known for hosting national regattas. Subic Sailing, the “home” of the Saturday Afternoon Gentlemen Sailors (SAGS), holds races annually and also hosts sailing lessons as well. Watch others set sail or learn to do it on your own.
Also Read: Spoiler Alert to Subic Bay’s Ocean Adventure
2. Beach hop and hike a trail… at the same time!
Having the perfect diving spots isn’t the only thing that Zambales is proud of. Having beautiful seas also means having beautiful beaches. Potipot Island and Anawangin Cove is just some of the most visited beaches in Zambales. The white-sand Potipot Island and its peaceful atmosphere of open skies and driftwood make it a famous island getaway. Meanwhile, Anawangin Cove’s hills and cream-sand beaches are perfect for relaxation. Generally, people visit Zambales’s beaches because most of them allow beachside camping, and some, cooking as well.
If that’s not enough, you’ll be surprised to know that some of Zambales’ beaches aren’t just seaside, tanning, swimming, paradises. Some beaches, like Capones Island, has a rocky trail that is visited more often than its small pocket of a cream-sand beach. This is because at the end of the trail, at the highest peak of the small island, is an abandoned Spanish Lighthouse that looks like it’s taken from a vintage postcard. If you don’t fancy taking pictures of antique buildings, then you’ll definitely appreciate the view of the open skies and deep blue waters.
3. Hike to Mt. Pinatubo, and see nature’s wrath and love
Considered as one of the most destructive natural calamities in Philippine history, the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 has taken kilometers of houses, farmlands, and even lives. Today, Mt. Pinatubo in Botolan, Zambales, has turned into a hiking destination.
There are plenty of tour packages being offered, but you may also organize your own tour. The roads are suitable for heavy-duty four-wheeled trekking vehicles so hiking time can be reduced. The trail that needs to be trekked on foot is just half an hour’s hike at most.
The aftermath of the 1991 eruption is still visible in some parts of the trail, such as the gloomy, grey-colored lahar deposits that you’ll most likely encounter in your trek. However, above the trail is the Crater Lake, an oddly beautiful lake that was formed after the volcano’s eruption. The Crater Lake, sometimes called Mt. Pinatubo Lake, stands proudly in the center of the grey environment, an oasis in the grey desert. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the lake at the end of your tiring trek and witnessing nature’s ability not only to destroy but also to create.
(Tip: For beach or island hopping adventures, hiking, and seaside relaxing, make sure to visit Zambales during the dry season, which generally occurs from October to June. Avoid the wet season as hiking may get difficult or impossible.)
4. Get away from the crowds, and closer to nature
If you plan to have a quieter vacation in Zambales, there are some tranquil destinations that you can go to.
Anghalo Falls in San Felipe is a less visited place and is the ultimate, pot of gold for trekkers. The trail to Anghalo Falls starts out with mostly flat grassland before turning rockier and steeper. Nevertheless, the 15 to 20-minute trek to this wonderful water world shouldn’t be a hindrance for anyone who wants to chill out in Anghalo Falls’ cool water.
If you plan to be more hands-on with the wild, Wildlife In Need (WIN) in Subic Bay can be another destination. WIN is a California-based non-profit organization that expanded in the Philippines. The staff would be more than happy to accommodate guests who want to see rescued monkeys or birds or learn a thing or two about Philippine biodiversity.
5. Buy a kilo of mangoes after partying
Did you know that Zambales’s mangoes were once listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as one of the sweetest mangoes in the world in 1995? And, in 2013, the country’s Department of Agriculture declared Zambales’s mangoes as the sweetest of its kind in the country?
Mangoes are one of Zambales’s primary produce. That is why in 1999, the locals decided to spearhead the Dinamulag Festival, or the Zambales Mango Festival, to celebrate the province’s yellowest and sweetest produce. The festival is usually held during the first week of April. The schedule varies.
There are plenty of things to do in the Zambales Mango Festival. There are plenty of food stalls, colorful dancers, souvenir shops, and, well, mangoes. A kilo of sweet mangoes can be bought for less than Php 100 (approximately 2 US dollars).