Being an archipelago of 7,107 islands, the Philippines has been blessed with a diverse marine life. The country's sparkling seas have numerous dive sites that have fascinated underwater enthusiasts all over the world. Anilao in Batangas is at the center of the history of scuba diving in the Philippines. It is known as the birthplace of diving in the country, which officially began during the 1960s. Today, it remains one of the favorite destinations for divers, especially those who are coming from Metro Manila.
Only 3 hours away from Manila, Anilao is situated on the Calumpang Peninsula in the municipality of Mabini in Batangas. Because of its surrounding bodies of water, the area is known for its exquisite marine life. It has beautiful coral gardens and different kinds of sea creatures like the popular clown fish, frogfish, ribbon eels, sea turtles, octopus, and many more. Anilao has been a popular destination for both divers and snorkelers. The area is also teeming with dive resorts, dive shacks, and schools. Both beginners and experienced divers will appreciate what Anilao has to offer.
Aside from Anilao's unique underwater world, the surrounding areas are also ideal places to explore. Sombrero Island is a lonely island off the coast with a short stretch of white sand surrounded by azure waters. With only a few cottages lining its shores, the uninhibited island is great for those who want to breathe in the fresh sea air, snorkel in shallow waters, and lounge in the rocky shores away from civilization.
Anilao is easily accessible via land transportation. From Manila, there are several Batangas City-bound buses that can bring you to this diving haven south of the metro. Some of the bus lines that serve this route are Alps the Bus, Jam Liner and Tritrans. They have terminals in Cubao in Quezon City and Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue in Buendia in Pasay City. Travel time is about two to three hours. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Batangas City Grand Terminal where you will take a 40-minute jeep ride to Anilao.
Driving to Anilao is also possible if you have your own car. You can ask your resort to provide you with the easiest route to get there.
How to Get Around
The tricycle is the surest way to go around Anilao. There are plenty of tricycles all over town that can take you to the different attractions. However, if you are planning to go to Tingloy Island to visit Masasa beach, you need to take a boat from the Anilao Port. After docking at Tingloy Port, a tricycle can take you to Masasa Beach.
What to See
Anilao has nothing but pure unadulterated beauty. You’ll find no shopping malls, cinemas, and extravagant man-made structures to keep you occupied. Instead, you have the breathtaking shores and the vast sea and its underwater world all to yourself.
Anilao is said to be the birthplace of diving in the Philippines. The place is truly a diver’s haven, full to the brim with amazing marine life that will leave divers and even non-divers spellbound with its surreal beauty. There are more than 20 diving sites in Anilao that are waiting to be discovered. Most frequented by tourists is the Cathedral Rock, a marine sanctuary where you can find soft corals, nudibranch, angel fish, surgeon fish, and clown fish to name a few. A crucifix is also found underwater, which was planted in between two rocks. This cross was laid by former President Fidel Ramos and was even blessed by Pope John Paul II.
Another favorite dive spot is the Koala, perfect for amateur drivers. Binukbok dive spot is also home to some colorful tropical fish and crustaceans.
Island hopping is another favorite activity on the island, which will take you to Sombrero Island, Maricaban Island, and Tingloy Island. Sombrero Island is named as such because of its hat-like shape when viewed from up above. It also has a shallow reef that you can explore by snorkeling. Meanwhile, Tingloy Island is where you can find Masasa Beach if you want to have a quiet shore where you can chill. Another place to check out where you can relax is Maricaban Island. It has mesmerizing marine life and calm shores that tourists crave for in an island paradise.
Anilao’s terrains also possess impressive wonders. For instance, a climb up Mount Magasawang Bato is highly recommended for those who want to take a good aerial view of nature. The climb is easy and ideal for beginners; the summit can be reached in about two hours.
Another stunning highland in Anilao is Mount Gulugod Baboy. It flaunts rolling hills, expansive patches of green, and the striking view of the West Philippine Sea. The mountain is also ideal for beginners; just like Mount Magasawang Bato, the hike to the summit can be done in two hours or less.
You can do an act of “voluntouring” when in Anilao and be a scubasurero for a day. Join this group of volunteer divers who helps in picking up trash underwater to the diving sites in Anilao clean and pristine.
Events and Festivals
Since 2012, the Department of Tourism has helped boost tourism in Anilao by holding the Anilao Underwater Photo Competition Festival. It is an annual event where international underwater photographers join a five-day competition and attend various seminars about underwater photography.
Where to Eat
What’s a tropical paradise without great food? For incredible dining in Anilao, you can try L’Atelier in La Chevrerie Resort and Spa. This restaurant serves an array of international dishes made with fresh organic ingredients. They also have a fine selection of imported wines from France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, USA, and Australia.
There is also the restaurant at the Anilao Beach Club that offers both international and local dishes that can tickle the palate of even the pickiest eater. Some of their recommended dishes are their cordon bleu and nachos with chili con carne. The Anilao Beach Club Giant Burger is also worth trying: take note that one serving is already big enough for four people!
The Z Café at Vivere Azure also provides mouthwatering dishes that are surely worth every penny. You can have their grilled seafood for a taste of the ocean or your usual favorites like pasta and chicken dishes.
Fare: PHP 150.00 to PHP 200.00
The bus fare from Manila to Batangas City costs about PHP 150.00 to PHP 200.00, depending whether it is just an ordinary bus or air conditioned.
Once in Batangas City, the fare for the jeep ride that will take you to Anilao Port is about PHP 50.00 per person. Afterwards, the tricycle to the resort costs PHP 60.00 to PHP 100.00.
If you will be staying in Tingloy Island, the boat ride from Anilao port to Tingloy port costs PHP 70.00 per head.
Food: PHP 100.00 to PHP 500.00
There are a carinderias around town so you can treat yourself to inexpensive meals ranging from PHP 50.00 to PHP 100.00. If you’re up for some fine dining, be prepared to shell out about PHP 300 to PHP 500.00 per meal.
Shopping: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
Souvenir shops are full of items to take home to remind you of your vacation in Anilao. Grab a keychain, ref magnet, coin purse, or pen for only PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 apiece. Souvenir shirts are sold at PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00, depending on the quality and design. There are also Batangas products like panucha, balisong, or kapeng barako that are sold by vendors around the resort or while you’re inside the bus.
Accommodations: PHP 1,250.00 to PHP 4,500.00
There are many resorts in Anilao that fit any requirement and any budget. For budget travelers, there are basic fan rooms available starting at PHP 1,250.00. Air conditioned rooms with complete amenities and services start at PHP 2,500.00
Activities: PHP 2,500.00 to PHP 8,000.00
Going island hopping will set you back around PHP 2,500.00, which you can split amongst your friends if you’re traveling with a group. For those who want to try diving, beginner courses are offered for as low as PHP 2,500.00 as well. The more advanced diving courses, however, can cost as much as PHP 8,000.00.
Other Fees and Activities: PHP 50.00 to PHP 100.00
When dining in restaurants, a service charge is almost always already included in the bill, so tipping is no longer necessary. But if you insist, leaving a PHP 50.00 bill would be enough. You can also tip the same amount (or more) to your tour guides, instructors, and the boatmen as well.