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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Too Broke for a Beach Get-away? Try Puerto Galera

Banner at the beach - Vacation Puerto Galera Oriental Mindoro Philippines, the heart of Asia
Like many working professionals, I’m often worried about money. I work overtime and spend as economical as possible to make ends meet. But I wanted to travel. It was somehow a passion - so I find ways to do it even if my wallet is a little too light to take that quick getaway. 

Traveling can cost us little or as much as we want it to. But for budget conscious and cowboy-style traveler like me, I always want it to be cheap but triple the fun. 

So when my backpacker office-mates had this crazy idea over lunch - of suddenly escaping the heat and spend a night on a nice beach just to drink vodka – we immediately make plans and list down potential beaches to explore.

Any type of beach would appeal to us, but the emphasis should be on sunshine and thrift. We fancy going to Boracay of course, but paying substantially just for sunshine and booze is a dumb idea. It’s incredibly expensive – for backpackers like us whose standards are way more flexible. It’s not a big deal for us to stay on cheap resort and sleep over additional bed on the floor. 

As soon as we finished lunch, we all agreed for a quick beach get-away at Puerto Gralera in Oriental Mindoro. 

Poor man’s Boracay 

Two children building sand castles at the beach.
This paradise is our playground: Local children having fun building sand towers.  

We ask some friends who have been in Puerto Galera and they all have one common conclusion - it is one of the most budget-friendly destinations there is for beach get-aways. 

From Metro Manila, it is entirely possible to enjoy the beach with only 1,000 pesos budget for a day and an overnight stay. 

We quickly googled for cheap rooms and there are plenty of options. Accommodation standards are generally pretty low which we normally didn’t expect on this beautiful island. Basic rooms with dormitory beds are available, but luxury resorts are also available if this is what you’re after.

Cheap resorts offering cheap and affordable rooms at Puerto Galera White Beach.
Resorts offering cheap room accommodation at White Beach in Puerto Galera

Most of these resorts require advance payment if you want to make reservation but this is a major turn-off for us, so we decided to just look for a cheap room when we get there.

While waiting for our boat at Batangas Pier, we are approached by resort marketers offering room accommodation. Of course this is the best opportunity to haggle! My office mates are experts on this so they immediately strike a bargain. We inform all of them our cheapest budget for a room, wait while they contact their resort manager and of course there is always one who is willing to compromise.

Getting there

Rain approaching the coastline in White Beach Puerto Galera.
Here comes the lovely rain

Puerto Galera is really an accessible beach paradise for backpackers. From Metro Manila we took a two-hour bus ride going to Batangas Pier.

Spacious passengers waiting area at Terminal 3, Batangas Pier
Spacious passenger waiting area at a terminal in Batangas Pier
Then for about an hour, we took a boat ride which bounced its way between islets on Verde Passage – glimpse of picturesque long stretches of white sand occasionally appeared with palm trees and lush rainforest in the background and an eerily still expanse of sparkling blue waters around us.

Motorized boat transporting tourist from Puerto Galera to Batangas
Boat transporting tourists from Batangas Pier going to Puerto Galera

Small pier going to White Beach in Puerto Galera
The scenic pier as entry point going to White Beach, Puerto Galera.

We soon docked at a quaint pier and took a jeep going to White Beach where long line of beach front restaurants and resorts are located. Of course there are the usual commission-eager locals greeting us and offering us their guest house or to try diving, island hopping and tours - which is common to any popular tourist destinations in the Philippines.

We immediately unpacked; change into beach outfits and head-on to the beach. 

Beach bumming

Tourists enjoying the white beach at Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro Philippines
Cloudy day beach bumming at the White Beach
We are ready and quickly set our mood dials to beach bumming. A crowd of predominantly Pinoys, some Koreans, Japanese and few Westerners spread themselves along the beach. Congested restaurants and resorts are trying to outdo each other along the beachfront - this unfortunate but perhaps inevitable development is particularly noticeable.

View of the white beach coast line of Puerto Galera
PUERTO GALERA: White sand beach, clear blue waters, rich reefs for diving, to lush mountains. Tagged in 2005 as one of the most beautiful bays in the world by Paris-based Les Plus Belles Baies Du Monde club. 

Many of the beach front restaurants share almost identical menus and tasty local Filipino dishes such as inihaw na isda and pusit, barbecues, silog and other local foods for a very cheap price. We end up having early dinner at food-court-style set-up located in the middle of the beachfront restaurants. There you can choose to have Pinoy favorites or have some western food such as pancakes, pasta and burger.

Boat cruising against a romantic sunset and rain at Puerto Galera white beach.
Sunset and romantic rain - a surprise welcome upon our arrival at White Beach.

It was almost sunset after we finished our food-tripping so we immediately enjoy the beach and soak ourselves in cold salty waters while waiting for Puerto Galera’s legendary night party scenes.


Stretch of scenic coast line of the famous White Beach in Puerto Galera
Scenic coastline of the White Beach against the blue sky.

Beware of the nostalgic night life

Puerto Galera is a very liberal and exciting place. Calm usually ensue as soon as the sun sets in, but here, bright disco lights suddenly explode, band repeatedly blast out hit dance songs over a crackly sound system. It was like the place suddenly just woke up from a bad dream, gasping for air and not wanting to go back to sleep.

Eastgate backpackers souveinr photo with the fire at Puerto Galera
Souvenir Eastgate backpackers photo with the fire
You can also watch this video I took: Amazing Puerto Galera Half Naked Fire Dancers 

Half-naked fire dancers magically appear. You can hear a waterfall of booze and beer. The sweet and inviting smell of the famous Mindoro Sling mixed with the salty air fills the whole beach.

Easgate backpackers enjoying the night life of Puerto Galera
Group photo before we get wasted. 
We can’t resist this. We hastily abandoned the waters and scanned the bars. We end up on a beach front bar party - first offering a comedy-bar type of entertainment, then a disco party afterwards.

The long night goes on and on with booze and bright lights and dirty-dancing with other weird and highly liberated party animals we just met and barely even know.

Hours after midnight, we joined those few party animals fueled by Mindoro Sling - to cool down and ease up the booze and head down the beach - walk a little farther down the “darker side” and then just let the night take over and see where the night takes us.

If you're drunk, Don't swim
WARNING: If you're drunk, Don't swim!

We woke up late the following day, nursed our hang-over at the beach had early lunch, quickly get our things and leave.


Oh well

The scenic rockies at end part of white beach Puerto Galera
End portion of the White Beach cove, perfect for photo souvenirs

Puerto Galera is really a paradise, a thrifty-backpackers’ nirvana and a bored-barkada’s hangout all rolled into one. A very accessible, hassle free beach filled with sociable tourists and friendly Mindoreños perfectly relaxing and awesome for some quick good time, what more could you ask for? 






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About the Blogger

Yodi Insigne
Yodi de Veas Insigne is one of those delusional sorts who imagines himself a useful contributor to the greater blogosphere (Well, that's what he's trying to accomplish).

He started blogging for three reasons:

1. He always felt he has something important to say,
2. Books can make him cry,
3. He want to sleep at night.

He is a certified bookworm, travel junkie, shutterbug, movie freak, Mangyan freethinker who sleeps a lot and think a lot. He got a little vice, which is black coffee and cashew nuts. He got colorblindness on yellow and green - and he freaking loves it!

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