Thursday, March 12, 2009

Survival Guide to Puerto Galera

After a long absence, I'm so glad to be back.

Summer's fast approaching and people can't help but shed some skin for some good old time in the water.

Puerto Galera is one of those "ooooohhh" "aaahhhh" places for summer. Though originally a foreigner's tourist destination, it has long bloomed into one of those to-visit places for Philippine locals. Still, though many are called, few are chosen. There are only a few first-timers visiting Puerto Galera, though you'd be able to encounter a lot of repeat visitors. As they say, Puerto Galera's one of those places that once it catches your eye, you're hooked. But why is it that few have the courage to take on Puerto for the first time and alone (alone being not accompanied by someone who has been to the place before). One answer is the lack of information on how to get on with the visit.

The essentials of every vacation planner are the following:
1. How to get to
2. Where to stay
3. What to do there
4. Cost
And we'll answer each of those throughout this article. Costs of course would depend on the time that you're reading this article. Since the prices may change due to peak season rates and such.

Puerto Galera is situated in Oriental Mindoro. And yes... it is on a different Island as Manila. This may be intimidating, but it's actually really easy to get to.

First, you would need to get on a provincial bus going to Batangas Pier. There are several of these passing through EDSA everyday so you won't find it difficult at all. Just to be sure though, you could get to Cubao and find one of these buses' terminals. COST P150-180 one way. Around P 300-350 back and forth.

Next Stop is Batangas Pier where you would need to ride a ferry boat to Puerto Galera White Beach. This would cost around P 270 + some taxes and fees, around P 60 pesos one way. And there you are on White Beach! By the way, at the Pier, they'll ask you if you're going to White Beach or Sabang Beach. Both's in Puerto Galera and both has its own perks. Haven't tried Sabang yet, but White Beach is the bomb! So make sure you're getting on the right ferry boat. :)

Once you land on White Beach a dozen or so people will approach you to offer you a place to stay at. Remember to ask for IDs since the authorized tour guides on Puerto Galera have these IDs and licenses. This ensures you don't get conned or anything. Now the prices of the places there would range from P500 to P5000. Though the P1500 place would already be a dream! The prices are cheaper for places farther from the beach. As with almost anything you can buy.

Snorkeling - Visit the vast coral reservations around the beach. Rentals for this would be around P1500 or P 100-200 per head in the boat. The fees would include the use of snorkeling gear (goggles and such). When you go snorkeling you can also ask you boatman if they could bring you island-hopping or take you on an island tour. Most of them would say yes to this request so don't be afraid to ask. I would also recommend that you drop by Bayanan beach, which is a beach away from the beach. It's on a separate strip from White Beach where you could swim in peace. Again, this is just a request away since most boatmen would happily oblige.

Another fun getaway in Puerto Galera are its bar strips on the beach itself. You could drink, eat and enjoy the mood and music with friends and family alike. The prices for the drinks and food range around the same as the bars here in Manila with beers at around P40 - 60 a pop. If you love to drink, youshouldn't miss out on the chance to try the famed Mindoro sling. This is quite alcoholic so be weary in taking in this sweet draught. You can also purchase drinks at a cheaper price in stores that are farther from the beachfront and conduct a party of your own.

Now speaking of food, Puerto Galera is also a melting pot of various cuisines. You would think that the beach would sport nothing but the usual "inihaw", but not in this case. Enjoy a host of international cuisines as well as a wide array of well-loved Filipino delicacies.

Another great place to visit would be Tamaraw Falls. Now mind you, this is roughly a 45-minute jeepney ride from White Beach, or if you choose, a 2 and a half hour trek on foot. This trip would take you to a grand waterfall and a chance to swim in cold river waters falling from one of Mindoro's lush mountains. It was really a sight to enjoy. The travel to the place could cost you around P1000 or P150/head for a rented jeepney ride to and from the falls. Entrance to the falls is just P 20. Believe me, it's well worth it. The falls' picnic area closes at around 5PM so make sure you have ample time to enjoy Tamaraw Falls.

Other things you can do at Puerto? Henna tattoos (for around P50-thousands depending on the size and design), souvenirs (you could find the real cheaper ones while moving away from the beach front), banana boats (P150 per head, minimum of 6 riders), Jetskis (at around P3,000 an hour), water cycling (not sure on the price for this), videoke, discotheques, and a whole lot of others.

Rule of thumb if you're on a budget is, if it's easy to get, then it's probably more expensive.

I would suggest that you have contacts in Puerto Galera. Let me share you mine. Ate Benny's a very nice host and is licensed by the local government to conduct tours. Her family is also into the family business. Alvin, her son, is a boatman who could arrange for your snorkeling and for all other tours. Just tell him your budget and they'll make something out of it. Here's Ate Benny's number, 09295278924. Drop my name "James de Leon" and she'll make sure you'll enjoy your stay.

As with all travel guides, my final words would be, pack completely, forget half of it at home, and bring double your money :) ENJOY!