Have you heard of Mindoro?
Most travellers in the Philippines head straight from Manila to the pristine beaches of Boracay, Cebu or Palawan. Many overlook the lesser known isles in favour of the wild nightlife and dramatic scenery of islands firmly on the travel path. Here are five reasons you should consider Mindoro if you are short on time in the Philippines and want an authentic island experience.
Mindoro is one of the nearest islands to the mainland, and a bus/boat combo takes less than four hours from Manila. Admittedly you can fly to Boracay and Palawan in less time, but if you are on a budget, flights cost considerably more than the boat tickets.
We paid just 240 pesos for the bus from Manila to Batangas and the boat was 460 pesos. This converts into around £11 for two people with no worries about how heavy your bags are! The cheapest flight I spotted for Boracay was £24 plus bags.
WARNING: there is only one airport on Mindoro. It takes around six to eight hours to get there from Puerto Galera so boats are your only really transfer option. Leave plenty of time to return to the mainland in case of stormy weather. If the coastguard announces a signal one, all boats are grounded and your only option then is the seaplane. This also gets cancelled if the weather reaches a signal three.
Whilst everyone raves about the tropical beaches of Boracay, the jungle clad mountains which rise sharply from the emerald green coves of Puerto Galera are breath-taking. As your bangka slowly putters into Muelle, you could be forgiven for thinking you had arrived on the set of ‘Lost.’ Towering, mist-covered peaks, and endless deserted coves dwarf the smattering of shacks around the port.
These may not be the long beaches for which Boracay is renowned but nor do they come packed to the rafters with bronzing holidaymakers. On the northern strip of Occidental Mindoro are several small, deserted beaches which would not look out of place in any tropical holiday brochure.
Aninuan is particularly remarkable, untouched by development it is backed by jungle and coral reefs. There’s no ladyboys or pumping bars with visiting Asians singing out of tune karaoke. Take your pick and watch some of the best sunsets I have ever seen from these shores.
Perhaps not the quality of diving in Egypt or the Great Barrier Reef, but diving in the Philippines is some of the nicest diving we have experienced in recent times.
Numerous dive sites litter the bays around the Sabang peninsula. Just minutes from shore, there’s several wrecks and shallow dives with colourful corals. We were fortunate enough to see giant turtles, a free swimming sea snake, nudibranch and lionfish. Beware, the currents can be quite challenging but we dived with Badladz and were incredibly impressed by the divemaster to diver ratio and the professionalism of their staff.
They have great quality equipment and an especially nice touch is the hot towel you receive after every dive. No more rudely wiping snot off your face!
If you thought island life was going to be quiet, think again. The areas around Sabang and White Beach are crammed full of pumping discos and bars offering happy hour specials, entertainment and ladyboy watching opportunities.
Avoid staying in central Sabang unless you sleep like the dead. Most hotels offer free transport from accommodation into town giving you the best of both worlds.
There are many options for accommodation but don’t expect western five star standards unless you stay at the Infinity resort which has an incredible spa.
We stayed at some great boutique properties at reasonable prices where the service was fabulous and free transport included. I particularly loved the Tribal Hills resort for breath-taking mountain views, panoramic balconies and the pool built into the hillside. Another favourite was the Utopia Resort and Spa which has incredible views over two bays from its perch on top of a clifftop on the road to Sabang.
Have your say
Perhaps you visited Mindoro or other lesser known islands in the Philippines and would like to share your thoughts. Which are your favourites and where would you recommend people visit?