Practically everyone has set foot on its beaches looking for a cheap alternative to Bora. A lot of people actually describe Puerto Galera as a "poor man's Boracay." One day, I came across the Pinoyexchange thread dedicated to PG and people had so many good things to say. The reviews hyped me up so much I suggested to my boyfriend that we spend our 6th anniversary there.
This post will be divided into two main parts:
1. The technicalities - guide on how to go there, itinerary, activities, budget
2. My review - my personal experience and thoughts
How to Go to Puerto Galera
1. Take a bus bound for Batangas pier. Bus terminals are in Kamias, Buendia and Ali Mall. There are hourly trips to Batangas and I suggest you catch the earliest one, which departs the terminal at 02:00AM. ETA in Batangas pier is 05:00AM.
2. Head straight to Terminal 3. This is where the outrigger boats dock. There are plenty of ferry companies and you just have to go to their respective ticketing booths. We chose Father 'n Son Lines when we went to PG. Earliest departure from the pier is at 06:00AM and latest is at 12:00NN. Check the complete schedule here.
3. ETA in White Beach is 08:00AM.
Father 'n Son website
3D/2N Itinerary with Expense Breakdown (Based on our trip last Jan 2011)
Day 1 (Saturday)
08:00AM Arrival in Tamaraw Beach Resort, unpack, rest
09:30AM Beach bumming, playing frisbee, table tennis
01:00PM Rest, afternoon nap
03:00PM Beach bumming, playing frisbee, table tennis, camwhoring
04:30PM Stroll in White Beach
07:00PM Back to Tamaraw Beach, dinner
08:00PM Play cards, table tennis
09:00PM Off to sleep :)
Day 2 (Sunday)
07:00AM Breakfast in White Beach
08:00AM Island hopping tour. Starts in the Coral Garden
09:00AM Tour around the Coral Garden via a smaller outrigger boat (categorized as Hidden Charge)
10:00AM Giant clam garden
11:00AM Underground cave
12:30NN Lunch at Sandbar
Rent of the kubo where we ate (categorized as Hidden Charge)
02:00PM Back to White Beach. Kuya's tip
02:30PM Back to Tamaraw Beach Resort
03:00PM Beach bumming, playing frisbee, table tennis, cards
09:00PM Off to bed
Day 3 (Monday)
11:00AM Beach bumming
01:00PM Preparation. Playing cards while waiting for our boat
03:30PM Boat ride to Batangas pier
05:30PM Arrival in Batangas. Bus ride to Manila
09:00PM Arrival in Kamias. Taxi ride home
Pasalubong from Puerto Galera (bracelents, trinkets, etc.)
Chicharon, buko pie, water bought in the bus from Batangas to Manila
Total Expenses for 2
Cost for 2
One more thing to note when deciding on your hotel. Puerto Galera is a long strip of beaches. The major destinations are:
1. White Beach - the busiest area in PG. This is where most hotels and restaurants are found.
2. Tamaraw Beach - just a few minutes away from White Beach. It's definitely more quiet here but the beach is really rocky.
3. Sabang Beach - tip of the beach strip. This is where most diving enthusiasts go.
4. Muelle Beach - the other tip of Puerto Galera, a little upscale compared to the other beaches. Yacht owners stay here.
The First Impression
I felt totally dumb for believing everything that was said on the internet and I also felt a little bit "betrayed." I told myself that this was not what I expected. I knew that Puerto Galera was quite famous so I was expecting it to be breathtaking. By breathtaking I meant fine, white sand, beautiful hotels, and amazing above and underwater scenery. Everything, in my opinion, was average. Passable but not wonderful. When we first arrived there, I even overheard the Koreans in our boat murmur "It looked so luxurious on the internet." I guess we shared the same sentiment. The hotels in White Beach seemed like they were constructed without good aesthetics in mind. The owners and investors probably thought, "Hey! Puerto Galera is starting to get quite famous. Lemme insert my own hotel in between the older ones." It looked like an ugly patch of puzzle pieces that didn't fit in together. Probably some kind-hearted fella warned about that but the excited me overlooked those warnings.
The Ordeal With Puerto Galera Touts
Under the table, I mean, waters of Puerto Galera (F*ck hidden charges)
And so we continued to the garden of giant clams. We excitedly put on our snorkeling mask and gear to be dismayed in the end. What did we see? Three lonely giant clams in what was dubbed as a clam garden. Yes, only three. And kuya of the smaller boat even wanted us to pay an additional fee of P300/person for that?! Heck no. Next stop, the underground cave. Nothing amazing either. It's not underground and it's not a cave to begin with. I was already pissed off with our tour guides and boatmen for overcharging us and it was becoming clear to me that the tour spots were not that beautiful, as opposed to what was written on the internet. Finally, we reached the sand bar. It was another disappointment. No fine sand and no clear waters. No snorkeling spots either. So we headed to the only kubo there and we chatted with the old guy while preparing our lunch. We were almost done with our food when the old guy said that the fee for the kubo was P300.00. And I thought it couldn't get any worse than being overcharged for touring overrated spots. And here's a guy asking us to pay P300 for a 15-minute stay. In my mind I was already like "@#$%#$!!!! This can't be happening to me!" In the end, we still had to pay him P200.00 and he insisted that the P200 for a kubo was already cheap. Some people actually charge P400 or more. Oh yeah? Cheap my ass. P200 for an old, poorly maintained nipa hut? Cheap for you? Tell me more about it, sir.
Beyond the Negativity
Highlight of our trip: parasailing and windsurfing! :) We went to Puerto Galera without anything on mind aside from island hopping. It was a quick decision to try parasailing and we're happy to say that we didn't regret it. The cost was P1,000 per person for a 20-minute parasailing ride. Windsurfing was also a decision made on impulse. We just learned that the resort offered windsurfing lessons for P500 fr 2 hours or P750 for unlimited hours. It was a little bit scary at first because it had to be done in the open ocean, as in far from the beach like 100 feet away, but it was an exhilarating experience nonetheless :)
Will I Go Back to Puerto Galera?
My recommendations and pieces of advice:
1. Take the earliest bus to Batangas
2. Go to Tamaraw Beach if you don't like crowded places. Otherwise, you'll probably enjoy White Beach.
3. Avoid the pitchmen (respectfully).
4. Scrutinize every tour that is offered to you. Ask about any additional charges.
5. Bring your own frisbee disc or volleyball. Or you can bring a book.
6. The afternoon waves during our boat trip to Batangas were scary as shit! Certainly not for the faint hearted. I heard stories about people already crying in the boat because of the meters-high waves but during our trip, everyone was cool and was even laughing about it.
7. Tag along your closest friends.
Ciao for now! If you have questions about my experience in PG, please don't hesitate to ask me :)