A Romantic “Roughing It” Getaway at Nagsasa Cove
A camping trip to one of the lesser-known coves in Zambales turns out to be a perfect destination for some undisturbed couple time.
Nagsasa Cove in Zambales offers a tempting and completely satisfying alternative to the more well-known (and thus more populated) Potipot Island and Anawangin Cove. Tisha Alvarez shares her own experience 'roughing it' at Nagsasa.
Ghost stories around a campfire, yummy s’mores, a cramped tent… I missed out on being a girl scout, so I have never had a legit camping experience. (Pitching a tent in our front yard doesn’t count, does it?) I was raring to go, so my husband and I planned an overnight trip, and finally found time on (of all weekends) Valentine weekend early this year. While the rest of the metropolis was all dressed up and having pricey dinners, I looked forward to wearing shorts and a tank top, eating a marshmallow roasted over a campfire. Mmmm.
First up was deciding where to go. Potipot and Anawangin were options, but I had heard that these places could get pretty crowded. I wanted a quiet, relaxing camping experience, not a jamboree! Upon a friend’s recommendation, we settled on the lesser-known Nagasasa Cove, an Anawangin neighbor in Zambales.
The original plan was to go with a bunch of friends, but no one could make it—whether they were all truly busy or were just daunted by the prospect of a bathroom-less two days, I’ll never know. Safety was our primary concern, so I asked a previous Nagsasa visitor if it was okay for just two people to go. He assured me that it was “VERY safe,” and even suggested a boatman who could get us to the cove from the jump-off point.
We decided to take a bus to Zambales, being unsure about parking options. After checking bus schedules, negotiating with the boatman over text, and shopping for 'essentials' (Canned goods? Check. Water? Check. Hammock? Check. Marshmallows? Check!), we packed and hit the road at an ungodly hour.
We took a cab to the Victory Liner bus station in Caloocan, which I recommend over Cubao as Caloocan has buses leaving for Iba every hour or half hour (call to check). We left at about 4:00AM. Bus fare: P251, plus voluntary insurance of P5.
Thankfully, we packed a blanket because that bus was FREEZING! After a couple of hours, we were finally able to thaw—we got off at San Antonio, Zambales, not too far from Olongapo. From there, we took a tricycle to Purok 1 in Pundaquit. Trike fare is around P30 per person.
When we got to Pundaquit, our boatman, Mang Vic, was waiting for us. You could probably hire a boat on the spot, but our guy was highly recommended online, and we wanted to be absolutely sure that we had a ride. Boat fare was P1,700 for a round trip. (We negotiated this down from P2,000 since there was just two of us. The overall cost of the trip would be cheaper with more people sharing the boat.)
Note: Be sure to tell your boatman exactly what time you want to be picked up if he’s coming back for you the next day—you can’t text or call because there is absolutely no signal in Nagsasa! (Kind of a good thing, if you ask me.)
It’s a pretty long boat ride—about an hour—so make sure you slather on sunscreen. You’ll catch sight of the popular Anawangin en route to Nagsasa. When you finally get there, you’ll be greeted by Mang Ador, one of the few residents on that part of the island. He has made Nagsasa Cove more comfortable for campers by adding picnic tables and a good-enough bathroom (there’s a toilet in there, but the kind with no flush; there’s also a faucet with running water from the nearby freshwater stream). He doesn’t charge anything, but it’d be nice if you give him a little something before you leave.
Pitch a tent under the many pine trees growing out of the lahar-infused sand. It’s said that pine trees only started sprouting in these parts after the Mount Pinatubo eruption; the seeds were supposedly carried over by the ashfall. It’s pretty amazing seeing these trees—normally associated with the cooler climes of Baguio—growing right by the beach!
You can take a dip in the calm, turquoise waters of the cove before sitting at one of the picnic tables for lunch. We packed canned goods and bread, and our mouths watered after seeing some neighboring campers (there were just a few of them) with a bucket of fried chicken.
After lunch, I hung my hammock between two trees and read, relishing the solitude. After taking a nap, I did a bit of exploring with my husband. Behind the campsite, we found a stream running through a little forest. Then there was a calm lake at the foot of some hills. We walked farther from camp and met some residents. One accompanied us on a 15-minute walk to the waterfalls—or at least, what would have been waterfalls if it had been the rainy season. There was a bit of water tricking into a little swimming hole. I jumped in and enjoyed the cool, clean water, which had the tiniest hint of soap. (I’m guessing someone was doing their laundry way upstream.)
On our way back, we stopped by a little shack which sold junk food, alcohol, and the perfect merienda: halo-halo! Once we got back to camp, we washed up (best to do this before sunset as there are absolutely no lights in Nagsasa) and prepared for dinner (more canned goods!). Mang Ador built a campfire for the other campers, but since they didn’t seem to be singing songs around it just yet, I snuck in and roasted a marshmallow on a perfect branch that my husband found.
It was getting chilly, so we went into our tent and read by the light of our flashlights before drifting off to sleep. Hours later, we woke up shivering—that was when I knew exactly what people meant by 'howling winds!' Thank goodness we brought a blanket!
The next day, we breakfasted on the last of our bread before packing up. Mang Vic was waiting for us as we said goodbye to Mang Ador, and to the cove where sand and sea meet pine trees, and streams and waterfalls flow through picturesque forests and hills.
On the boat ride back to Pundaquit, we were quiet, a hangover from our 24 hours of tranquility. Once in Pundaquit, we took a trike to San Antonio and waited for a bus bound for Olongapo; from there, we got on a bus back to Manila, back to reality.
It’s been months, and I still often think about Nagsasa. When I think of a happy place, I imagine this cove. It’s where my spirit felt most at peace in a very long time. A bathroom-less existence was a small price to pay for that.
Go to list of Zambales resorts and hotels