Zambales is only three to four hours from Manila by land. You can either drive your own car or commute to get there. If you opt to go on a road trip with your friends, take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) route. For commuters, there are many bus lines in Cubao and Pasay that can take you to Zambales. Victory Liner, Genesis, and Five Star are just three of these bus lines that serve some destinations of this province.
How to Get Around
There are public utility jeepneys (PUJs) that roam the main roads and highways of Zambales. They're the most common mode of public transportation among locals. Riding the jeepney is also a good option, especially if you're traveling on a shoestring budget.
You can also find taxis serving some areas of Zambales, especially around Subic. Riding a taxi may be costlier but it helps if you want a more comfortable mode of getting around or if you're not very familiar with your destination.
Tricycles are another mode of transportation in Zambales. You can ride a tricycle to get to a certain point in town or to another town or city. A tricycle is a good option if you want to reach a destination that is not served by jeepneys.
What to See
Zambales' rich historical and cultural heritage is reflected in its many landmarks.
One of the best known is the ancestral house turned museum of the late President Ramon Magsaysay. It is located in the town of Castillejos. In addition, a monument and historical marker can be seen in the provincial capital of Iba, his town of birth.
If you want to know where Olongapo City's name was derived, you can visit the Ulo ng Apo Monument. It is the depiction of the legend wherein a severed head of a wise old man (Ulo ng Apo) was found by a young boy.
When you go to Capones Island, make sure to visit the historic lighthouse there. It was established in the 1890s and features a remodeled tower.
Of course, Zambales also features two Spanish-era Roman Catholic Churches. These are the San Andres Church in Masinloc and St. Augustine Church in Iba.
Zambales is also the perfect destination for nature lovers. The province is home to a rich variety of natural wonders.
Zambales is fast becoming a favorite beach destination by visitors from Metro Manila because of its wondrous islands and coves. The municipality of San Antonio is visited for its beaches whose white sand-and-ash shores were the result of Mt. Pinatubo's eruption in 1991. These are the Anawangin Cove, Talisayin Cove, and Nagsasa Cove. There's even a waterfall in Nagsasa if you want to bathe in fresh waters. If you want a beach with natural sand, you can head to Silanguin Cove. In addition to these beaches, you can also visit Capones Island, with its famous lighthouse, and Camara Island which is famous for surfing. Make sure to avail of an island hopping tour if you want to see all of these tropical wonders of the town.
More than the amazing beaches and islands of San Antonio, you'll also be amazed with the beauty of Potipot Island's white sand shore in the town of Candelaria and the underrated beach in Magalawa Island in Palauig. Its peacefulness and beauty are sure to captivate beach bums. Just a boat ride away from Magalawa Island is San Salvador Island, the location of a giant clam or taklobo sanctuary.
Mountaineers would be glad to know that Zambales has some mountains that offer trekking like Mt. Tapulao, Mt. Cinco Picos, and of course, Mt. Pinatubo. Mt. Pinatubo is famous for its cataclysmic eruption in June 15, 1991, which is considered as the second-largest eruption of the 20th century.
Other natural wonders in Zambales that are worth a visit include the waterfalls of Barangay Sta. Barbara in Iba and Bunga Cave in Candelaria.
Unknown to some, Zambales also has some well-known destinations for surfing. These include the beach in San Felipe's Barangay Liw-liwa and Crystal Beach in San Narciso. These places are great alternatives to the other surfing destinations in the country like La Union and Baler.
Meanwhile, for those who are looking to try some watersports, there are plenty of them in Subic Bay. You can go water skiing, parasailing, kayaking, scuba diving, wreck diving, and even flyboarding. Of course, while you're in Subic, make sure to visit two of its family-friendly attractions—Zoobic Safari and Ocean Adventure.
If you are in San Antonio, don't miss a visit to Casa San Miguel. Apart from its lovely nature surroundings and quirky decor, its Museum of Community Heritage houses some important artifacts and memorabilia that will provide you with some insights about the culture and history, not only of Brgy. San Miguel, but also of the whole town of San Antonio.
Events and Festivals
Zambales is also known for its yummy mangoes, which is why it celebrates the Dinamulag Festival, also known as the Zambales Mango Festival in Iba. The feast is held usually every March or April and features street parades and lots of competitions like mango-eating and mango decorations.
Meanwhile, the Pundaquit Arts and Festival is an annual event that aims to help the local fishing community through musical and dance performances and art exhibits by the students of the Casa San Miguel Foundation.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
Your favorite fast-food chains are most likely available only in Subic like Jollibee, KFC, and McDonald’s. There are also some fast-food chains in Iba and Olongapo.
As diverse as Zambales' sights and attractions are its restaurant choices and the cuisine they offer. The province presents a gastronomic experience to all guests since there are various one-of-a-kind dishes to discover while there. Aside from local dishes, all tourists can get to taste American, Asian, and European dishes to name a few.
For pizza lovers, there are branches of Yellow Cab, Shakey's, and Pizza Hut in Zambales. But if you want to enjoy a local favorite, there's Sam's Pizza in Olongapo. This place is famous for serving square pizzas. You'll also find Max's Restaurant and Aristocrat Restaurant if you want to enjoy Filipino comfort food. Bigfoot Restaurant’s menu also consists of some Filipino favorites along with a handful of international dishes which you are sure to enjoy when in San Antonio.
Make sure to try out the famous jumbo tacos of The Coffee Shop Restaurant in Olongapo and enjoy the Asian, International, and American dishes served at Trader Ric's beachfront restaurant along Baloy Beach in Subic. Of course, Rico's Restaurant in Olongapo is the place to go if you're looking for yummy and affordable Pinoy dishes.
For those who are on a strict budget when it comes to food, there are some carinderias all around Zambales where you can get great-tasting food without the expensive price tag.
Bars and Clubs
Subic and Olongapo are the places to visit if you're looking for a fun time in Zambales. There are many bars and dance clubs around the area where you can enjoy cocktails and dance all night. You can also have some drinks in some of the bars and resorts the line up some of the beaches in the province.
Where to Shop
If you want to have a lot of options when it comes to food, shopping, and entertainment, you can head to SM City Olongapo or Harbor Point Mall in Subic.
Markets and Street Vendors
The markets are also a good place to visit if you need to buy some fresh ingredients for your camping trip as well as pasalubong like Zambales' famous mangoes. Aside from having access to the freshest produce of the province, you can also haggle when shopping in markets. Apart from the public markets, you can also buy from pasalubong items from street vendors. There are some makeshift stalls along highways where you can buy mangoes and other food products.
ATMs and Money Changers
There are banks and ATMs in most of the main highways and town centers in Zambales where you can withdraw some cash. There are also pawnshops, remittance shops, and money changers are located in some of the shopping centers.
Fare: PHP 250.00 to PHP 500.00
If you are heading to Olongapo from Cubao on board an air conditioned bus, the fare costs less than PHP 220.00. Meanwhile, if you're going to Iba, the fare ranges from PHP 350.00 to PHP 400.00. If your destination is Sta. Cruz, make sure to set aside about PHP 500.00.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 500.00
Carinderias and fast food joints are the budget options for food in Zambales. You can spend PHP 50.00 for something very affordable to PHP 100.00 for a full meal. Meanwhile, if you're eating at restaurants, it usually costs about PHP 300.00 to PHP 500.00 for a full meal for two to three people.
Shopping: PHP 100.00++
Your PHP 100.00 will already go a long way when you're shopping in Zambales. A kilo of its delicious mangoes cost less than PHP 100.00. Make sure to also buy some yummy pastillas from Miclat's Pastillas in Iba. One pack will only cost you less than PHP 50.00.
Accommodation: PHP 600.00 to PHP 8,000.00
There is a wide variety of accommodations in Zambales. There are some budget inns, resorts, and hostels for backpackers, while luxury lodges and hotels are available for those who want to spend their vacation in style. Meanwhile, camping is also available for those who want to sleep under the stars. You can opt to bring your own tent or you can rent. Rental for a two-person tent costs PHP 400.00. Some tour packages are also already inclusive of tent rentals.
Activities: PHP 50.00++
Anawangin Cove charges PHP 50.00 for a day tour and PHP 100.00 for an overnight stay. And if you're availing island hopping tours to Anawangin, Camara Island, and Capones Island, be prepared to shell out PHP 1,500.00. Meanwhile, if you want to visit Subic's theme parks, Zoobic Safari's entrance fee is PHP 500.00, while Ocean Adventures' is less than PHP 800.00.
||Arrive in San Antonio. Have breakfast at a carinderia then buy some fresh ingredients at San Antonio Public Market.
||Ride a tricycle to Pundaquit Beach. When you arrive, board a boat and enjoy island hopping to Camara Island and Capones Island before heading to Anawangin Cove. Visit Capones Island's lighthouse and take photos.
||Arrive in Anawangin Cove. Pitch your tent.
||Explore the surroundings before taking a dip in the pristine waters.
||Prepare and enjoy your lunch by the beach.
||Head to Nagsasa Cove.
||Arrive in Nagsasa Cove. Go swimming and enjoy bonding with your friends.
||Head to Nagsasa Falls. Enjoy bathing in fresh waters.
||Prepare and enjoy your dinner by the beach.
||Socialize with fellow campers at a bonfire. Enjoy stargazing.
||Break camp and fix your things before heading back to Pundaquit Beach.
||Board a boat to Pundaquit Beach.
||Arrive in Brgy. Pundaquit. Head to Casa San Miguel.
||Arrive in Casa San Miguel. Explore the surroundings and marvel at the artifacts found in the Museum of Community Heritage.
||Enjoy a sumptuous lunch at the in-house restaurant.
||Go pasalubong shopping at the San Antonio Public Market.
||Hop on a bus and depart for Metro Manila.
||Arrive in Metro Manila.
For those who are planning on a visit soon, take note that Zambales, just like the rest of the Philippines, only has two seasons—the dry season (from December until May) and the wet season (from June until September). Of course, it is best to schedule your visit during the dry season, especially if you'll be going to the beaches and coves.
Make sure to bring some medicine for your trip and some insect repellent if you'll be outdoors a lot. In case you need medical attention, there is also a good number of health centers and both private and government hospitals around Zambales.
There is no customary tipping practice in the Philippines. Most would just leave small bills like PHP 20.00 and PHP 50.00, while some just leave loose change. For restaurants that already include service charge in their bill, there's no need to leave a tip.
Safety and Security
Of course, practicing vigilance, not only in Zambales, but also in all of the places you visit is a must. Make sure to survey your surroundings and keep your valuables in a safe place.