Bataan is recognized in Philippine history as one of the places where Filipino and American soldiers regrouped for a last stand against the Japanese during World War II. It was also the location of the start of the Bataan Death March, which was the forcible transfer of the Filipino and American prisoners of war from Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga. These days, however, the only thing exploding in Bataan is its tourism industry because of the natural wonders and historic places that travelers will enjoy.
When the Japanese arrived in Bataan, they must have noticed how beautiful the shores are. The coastline of the province has beaches with gleaming white sand and waters in bluish, aquamarine shades. Some of the towns where you can find the nice beaches are in Mariveles, Limay, and Bagac. The town of Morong also has a sanctuary for the endangered sea turtles. A visit to the Pawikan Conservation Center will be a great opportunity to learn more about these gentle sea creatures.
Bataan is also popular among mountain bikers because of the rough trails all over the province. Though there are no bike rentals in Bataan, it has stores where you can purchase a bicycle, equipment, and the gears you will need like knee pads and helmet. Both experienced and beginner mountain bikers are more than welcome to literally hit the rough trails in Bataan.
For those who want to pay their respects to the heroes of the war in Bataan, the Shrine of Valor or Dambana ng Kagitingan is a beautiful and imposing monument to visit. Located on top of Mt. Samat, the shrine features a huge white cross, which towers at 92 meters. The arms of the cross have a viewing gallery where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Bataan Peninsula.
The province of Bataan is just a three-hour drive from Manila via the North Luzon Express Way (NLEX) and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). Travelers can bring their own transportation for a fun weekend getaway in this province away from the hustle and bustle of the metro.
For those taking public transportation, Bataan Transit Co. Inc. offers daily trips from Manila to either the town of Mariveles or the city of Balanga. From Cubao in Quezon City, Bataan Transit buses depart for Balanga as early as 1:00 AM, while the Mariveles-bound buses leave as early as 12 midnight. From their Avenida terminal, Balanga-bound buses depart at 2:00 AM, while the Mariveles-bound buses leave by 3:30 AM.
For those traveling from the other places in the Philippines or from other countries, the best option is to fly to Clark International Airport. It is located in Mabalacat, Pampanga, and is the closest airport to Bataan. From there, you can head to San Fernando, Pampanga, where you can find Bataan-bound buses under Bataan Transit Co. Inc.
How to Get Around
Once you arrive in either Mariveles or Balanga, you can ride jeep or tricycle to the various places around town. When traveling from one town to the other, taking the bus is also another option.
What to See
Bataan is a place full of history. After all, the province was where the famous Battle of Bataan took place. During this historic battle in World War II, both American and Filipino soldiers fought bravely to repel the invading Japanese forces. The Bataan Death March is also one of the most notable events in Philippine history, which started in the province.
Upon arriving in Balanga, you will be captivated by the grand Plaza Mayor de Balanga where the Balanga City Hall stands. The magnificent Hispanic-themed architecture of the plaza is a sight to behold especially at night when sparkling lights illuminate the area. Right across from the plaza is the Balanga Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Balanga.
The Fall of Bataan Marker in the Capitol Compound is another landmark built to remember the Filipino and American soldiers as well as the civilians who defended the Philippines during the Second World War. The Filipino-Japanese Friendship Tower, on the other hand, serves as a memorial tower and a symbol of renewed friendship between the Philippines and Japan.
The Mount Samat National Shrine, better known in Filipino as the Dambana ng Kagitingan, is perhaps the most notable landmark in all of Bataan. Located in Pilar, the shrine is both a monument and a museum which houses various artifacts and historic pieces that date back to the Second World War. The shrine also features a large white Memorial Cross made of steel and reinforced concrete and a viewing gallery in its arms.
The Zero Kilometer Death March Marker in Mariveles stands on the spot where the Bataan Death March began. The marker was built to honor the thousands of lives lost during this event.
Another landmark in the province is the infamous Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. It was built during the term of the late President Ferdinand Marcos to meet the energy needs of Luzon. While the facility was built, it was never commissioned because of numerous controversies. Today, it serves as a notable tourist attraction in the province. Tours are by appointment only.
The towns of Bagac, Limay, Morong, Mariveles and Orani are home to the pristine beaches of Bataan, which are perfect for beach lovers who crave a lovely vacation in a tropical paradise. These lovely coastal towns boast striking shorelines where guests can go swimming, diving, snorkeling, and enjoy other beach activities. Various resorts are also located in the area, which makes for a perfect weekend getaway especially for the city dwellers in Metro Manila.
Mount Natib in Orani is considered the highest peak in all of Bataan. Mount Silangan in Morong is another natural attraction worth seeing. Both mountains offer many climbing opportunities that trekkers and mounting climbing enthusiasts will surely look forward to.
The Balanga Wetland and Nature Park is ideal for ornithologists and bird enthusiasts. A tour inside this ecological park includes an introduction about the different species of migratory birds as well as bird watching onsite. Meanwhile, the Pawikan Conservation Center in Morong is another eco-friendly tourist attraction where guests are taken on a guided tour of the center to learn about the life cycle of the different species of marine turtles.
On the other hand, history buffs will surely have a grand time visiting the World War II Museum and Surrender Site Monument in Balanga. The museum is full of artifacts, infographics, and dioramas that depict the struggles of the people of Bataan during the war. A brief video documentary introduces the guests to the features of the establishment including what they can expect during the tour.
Las Casa Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac is a heritage village that is composed of dozens of heritage houses that will make you feel like you’ve been transported back to the Spanish colonial period. Along with its historic structures and cobble-stoned streets, there are also various establishments for entertainment, relaxation, and recreation that can be found in this heritage village—a marvelous place where the old meets the new.
For adrenaline junkies, the Mount Samat Tree Hopping Adventure provides a challenge, especially for those who want to conquer their fear of heights. The attraction features a six-stage activity where you must hop from one tree to another in order to complete the challenge. This place is suitable for thrill-seeking travelers as well as for team building activities for companies and organizations.
Another ideal activity for group travelers to Bataan is airsoft. The province is home to about 13 airsoft areas where you and your friends can challenge each other to a fun, exciting, and tactical game of paintball.
Events and Festivals
The town of Morong celebrates the Galunggong Festival every April and the Pawikan Festival every November. Both feasts are held to increase awareness on the importance of the resources that come from the town's seas and the protection of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles. These festivals are marked with colorful festivities and fun activities, which include parades, contests, clean-up drives, and street dance competitions.
Where to Eat
Bataan certainly has quite a number of restaurants that are perfect for all types of appetite, craving, and food budget.
A visit to Bataan is never complete without stopping by Loleng’s Hu Tieu-an. The owner, Loleng, is a Filipina who has mastered the art of creating Vietnamese dishes. The hu tieu and the bahn mi are some of the delicious and affordable must-tries.
For those who love Japanese food, Café Kyoto at The Plaza Hotel is the place for you. The restaurant, with a kitchen manned by a Japanese chef, prepares your food on the spot from the freshest ingredients. Their mixed tempura, big sashimi platter, tonkatsu ramen, and spicy tuna maki are the recommended choices to satisfy your craving for Japanese food.
And for some local flavor, try the dishes served at Ima’s Pamangan like steamed okra, beef bulalo, lechon kawali, pako salad, and fried daing na bangus. You’ll find plenty of food options in this quaint and pocket-friendly restaurant in Morong.
For delectable desserts, Geno’s Ice Cream and Stregato Gelateria serve ice creams and gelatos that will delight anyone with a sweet tooth. Geno’s taro ice cream comes highly recommended.
Fare: PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00
The bus fare from Manila to Bataan costs around PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00 for a one-way ride. When going around town, the base fare for jeep is PHP 7.00, while a tricycle ride ranges from PHP 50.00 to PHP 100.00. A 30-minute boat ride to certain destinations around Bataan will cost roughly PHP 300.00 per person.
Food: PHP 150.00 to PHP 500.00
You don’t need a big budget when it comes to dining in Bataan. On average, a budget of PHP 150.00 to PHP 200.00 per meal should be more than enough.
Shopping: PHP 30.00 to PHP 300.00
When shopping for souvenir items or pasalubong, a budget of PHP 30.00 to PHP 300.00 per item would be enough. Key chains, ref magnets, and other small trinkets cost about PHP 30.00 per piece Souvenir shirts, depending on the design and quality of material, are priced starting at PHP 250.00
Accommodations: PHP 900.00 to PHP 2,500.00
Bataan has quite a number of accommodations that cater to different specifications and budget. Basic rooms can go for as low as PHP 900.00 per night. Rooms with full amenities are around PHP 2,500.00 per night.
Activities: PHP 50.00 to PHP 1,000.00
The entrance fees to museums are priced at an average of PHP 50.00. Other activities like zip-lining, treetop hopping, and paintball war games start at PHP 450.00 per activity.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
A 10% service charge is usually added to the bill when you dine in restaurants so leaving tips is no longer necessary. But if you insist, around PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 should be okay. You can choose to leave bigger tips for tour guides and drivers.
This sample itinerary covers the city of Balanga and the towns of Bagac and Morong. Feel free to interchange the itineraries as you wish.
||Depart Manila for Bataan.
||ETA in Balanga, Bataan. After arrival, head over to The Beanery in Capitol Drive where you can order a slice of their Almond Caramel Cake or their White Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake. Pair it with your favorite brew, be it a cappuccino, Americano, or latte.
||Ride a jeep or a tricycle towards your resort or hotel. If early check-in is not possible, request for your bags to be deposited for safekeeping at the front desk or concierge.
||Start your tour with a visit to Balanga Cathedral and Plaza Mayor de Balanga.
||Visit Mount Samat.
||After the descent from Mount Samat, head back to the Plaza Mayor de Balanga to have a Japanese lunch at Café Kyoto. Order pork tonkatsu or the tonkatsu ramen for a hearty lunch.
||Depart Balanga for Bagac.
||Arrive in Bagac and head to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
||Visit the Zero KM Death March Marker.
||Visit the Philippine-Japanese Friendship Tower.
||Depart Bagac for Balanga.
||ETA in Balanga
||Have dinner at Stregato Gelateria and go for their best seller—chicken valdostana, which is pan-seared chicken fillet topped with mozzarella cheese and smoked ham and served with spinach and potato pancake. Cap this lovely dinner with a scoop (or two) of their gelato.
||Visit the Balanga Wetland and Nature Park.
||Visit the World War II Museum and Surrender Site Monument.
||Check out of your hotel and depart for Morong, Bataan.
||ETA in Morong
||Check in at your resort. Head to Loleng’s Hu Tieu-an for lunch. Order their hu tieu and bahn mi for a satisfying Vietnamese meal.
||Visit the Pawikan Conservation Center.
||Head back to the resort and enjoy swimming by the beach.
||Have dinner in the quaint Sandilicious Eatery at Mayor Street and enjoy Filipino comfort food.
||Go for an early jog by the beach.
||Have breakfast at the hotel.
||Go for one last swim in the beach.
||Pack up and get ready for check-out.
||Check out of the hotel. Head over to LM’s Place where you can enjoy homemade pizza, burger, pasta, pancit, and even Vietnamese fares too.
||Depart Morong for Manila.
||ETA in Manila
Bataan experiences two seasons: wet and dry. The wet or rainy season begins in June and ends in October. The rest of the year remains dry but with occasional rains. It’s best to pack light clothing when going to Bataan. Bring a light jacket or scarf to keep you warm on cooler periods from November to January.
Healthcare facilities are available in Bataan. The province has about eight private hospitals and six public hospitals. The Bataan General Hospital is located in Balanga City.
There are plenty of pharmacies in the province, and some of them are even open 24/7. But to ensure a safe and hassle-free stay in Bataan, it’s best to pack your own medicine, especially for certain medical conditions that you may have.
Jeeps, tricycles, and mini buses will be your main modes of transportation when going around Bataan. The jeeps and tricycles are open air vehicles so it’s best to bring a handkerchief or facemask to protect yourself from dust and pollution.
Bataan has very friendly and accommodating residents so it is generally a safe place to visit. But don’t let your guard down, and always be alert and vigilant when going around the crowded places.
In planning your vacation, it is advisable to avoid Holy Week (late March or early April) because of the crowd of tourists from Manila and various parts of the Philippines present in Bataan. In addition, be wary of typhoons if you're visiting from June until September.