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Zambales Travel Guide: Beaches and Island Coves Near Manila

Zambales Travel Guide: Beaches and Island Coves Near Manila

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Beach in Anawangin Cove, ZambalesExplore the natural attractions and exciting activities in Zambales. Find the best time to, how to get there, top things to do and places to visit, where to stay,  and how to plan your itinerary in this travel guide. 

Zambales holds a lot of adventures and natural wonders for travelers. It's surrounded by gorgeous beach coves, waves you can ride, an inflatable waterpark, a nearby safari, and lush views. 

If you're considering going here, then there's a high chance that you've read or heard about the beaches in Zambales. This destination is a three-hour drive from Manila, making it one of the most accessible beach getaway destinations for those in the city.


  • Check Subic tours that you can add to your Zambales itinerary

The famous Anawangin Cove, Nagsasa Cove, and Capones Island reside in this beautiful slice of paradise. Plenty of Zambales beach resorts can give justice to the breathtaking scenery this place has to offer.

Zambales is also the home to the popular town of Subic. This area alone is largely responsible for tourism in the province, as they promote ecotourism through guided treks, wreck diving, and jungle tours. It's also common for people to drop by outlet and tax-free stores here for shopping.

Read on to find out everything about Zambales so you can plan your trip soon!

Best Time to Go to Zambales

Island-hopping to Anawangin Cove in Zambales

As with any location, you'd want to consider the weather and peak conditions before you go. Since the province covers a large area in Central Luzon, the weather in Zambales varies on which town you visit.

Generally, it follows the same seasonal patterns as the rest of the Philippines, with wet months and dry months. Make sure you check weather forecasts to avoid any potential storms or heavy rainfall that could fall on your planned trip dates.

November to May is typically the dry season, where it's enjoyable to go island hopping and do all sorts of water sports and activities. December might be densely crowded due to the holidays. The breeze is a bit cooler around January to February, which also means the sun doesn't feel as harsh during this time.

April and May are peak summer seasons, which also spell out large crowds. If you're not a fan of having a lot of people at the beach on your trip, consider booking an exclusive resort or go on a different month.

May to October is the wet season. Although, it doesn't rain every day, so it's still worth checking out forecasts for a more accurate picture of weather conditions around this time.

If you want to go surfing, however, you should visit during these months. The waves are much better at San Narciso, Zambales, which is good news for beginner to pro level surfers anywhere.

Crowds are thinner too, and hotels sometimes lower their rates during the so-called "off-peak" season.

If you have the flexibility to spare, check the weather a week before your intended stay during off-peak season to score lower fees on hotels.

How to Get to Zambales

Bus going to Zambales

Zambales is located in Central Luzon, Philippines. Thanks to booming tourism and road developments, commuting has become increasingly accessible now more than ever.

From Manila

If you're coming from Manila or the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), take the options below:

By Private Car

One of the most convenient ways to reach the Zambales proper is via a private car or hire a van. You can use the Waze app to guide you through the best roads to pass by for the least amount of time possible.

It usually takes around three hours to get here from Manila. Expect an extended drive if the traffic is heavy, or if you're going to a further part of the province.

You can also stop by to ask the locals for directions, or get yourself a Zambales map to get a better overview of your trip.

By Bus

Catch Victory Liner buses from Manila and research the closest terminals near you. The two most popular ones are Cubao, Quezon City (northern part of Metro Manila) or Pasay City (closer to NAIA).

Take the one that's bound for Olongapo. The trip will last around four hours. If you're going to San Antonio, you can take a 40-minute bus ride from Olongapo when you alight.

From Clark

Toll gate on the way to Zambales

If you're coming from the Clark International Airport (CIA) from other parts of the Philippines or the globe, these will be your preferred travel options:

By Private Car

Similar to driving from Manila, you can check the Waze app to help you get to the Olongapo or Subic town proper. It should only take you a 45-minute drive as Clark Airport is already in the northern part of Zambales. You may also get by with the help of locals since you're already in their territory.

By Bus

At Clark, head for the Dau bus terminal in Angeles City. It's 15 minutes away from Clark Airport. There are buses there that are bound for Olongapo as well.

It should take roughly one to two hours, depending on the traffic. If the buses are full, there are vans available to take you to the same destination. The travel time is roughly the same, if not faster since it won't have as many multiple stops.

By P2P Bus

If you're going to visit Subic in particular, or if your hotel will be located there, you can go here straight from Clark. Victory Liner has a schedule of bus rides that will take you right from the airport to Subic or Olongapo.

It will take approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. These buses leave on time regardless if it's full, so make sure to catch the ride at the time most convenient for you.

Where to Stay in Zambales

Many Zambales resorts are overall an affordable place to stay in. They fight for the attention of tourists as they all have different advantages to offer, such as location, amenities, size, and views.

If you're planning to stay overnight at the coves, you could try camping for free. If you're not about that camping life, here are the options you can choose from depending on your budget. Note that most of these are located in Subic.

Budget Accommodations

Zambales has a lot of hidden gems that will allow you to enjoy everything it has to offer at affordable price points. If you're traveling on a budget, you don't need to worry about it--the following hotels will do the trick.

Johan's Beach and Dive Resort

Beach area of Johan's Beach and Dive Resort

Photo by Johan's Beach and Dive Resort

Experience quality air-conditioned rooms and a hotel near the beach when you stay at Johan's Beach Resort. The hotel serves European and Asian meals, along with a Belgian bakery and ice cream shop.

The staff can easily hook you up with tours and guides for watersports or wreck diving near the area. It only has 24 rooms, so you won't need to worry about too much noise or bumping into too many guests during your stay.

Viking Resort

A cozy bed and breakfast in the Olongapo proper, Viking Resort is a bit far from the city center. This means more silence, relaxation, and tranquility for your vacation.

It's situated near the beach as well, which means you won't miss any of those views that you may get from other budget hotels in the area. Bonus: There's a swimming pool, too!

Treasure Island Resort

If you're traveling with the kids and your partner, you might have your eyes set in somewhere that's more family-friendly. Treasure Island Resort can give that kind of experience to you with a price that won't break the bank.

Their amenities include 24-hour front desk services, friendly concierge, and room service. Rooms are also air-conditioned, complete with a small fridge and minibar.

There's also a swimming pool and resto that you can enjoy in the vicinity! Free parking space is available to those who will arrive by car.

Mid-range Accommodations

Have a bit more room to splurge? These mid-range options offer more amenities, room, and views to boot! Here are some splendid options for a bit more comfort during your stay.

By the Sea Resort Hotel

Facade of By the Sea Resort Hotel

Photo by By the Sea Resort Hotel

As the name suggests, this hotel is right by the sea! The modern-looking resort has garnered awards for its hospitality and service.

It's just about the perfect middle ground resort that can cater to all kinds of guests, whether you're on a solo or couple's trip, summer family outing, birthday celebration, barkada road trip, business meetings, international conferences, and so much more.

Mango's Beachfront Resort

With a near-perfect rating on TripAdvisor, Mango's Beachfront Resort is another great contender for the mid-range budget hotel seekers. It's designed like a condo unit, so expect modern infrastructures and clean facilities.

It's great for those who want intimate hotels as there are only fifteen onsite, including three that have ocean views. Plus, one of the highly-rated restaurants you should try out is in this resort!

Luxury Accommodations

It's totally within your rights to go all out and have the best time ever in Zambales! Match the breathtaking nature views with top-notch service, the softest beds, and other recreational activities within the comfort of these resorts.

Kamana Sanctuary Resort and Spa

Get ready to have your mind blown with one of the most stunning resorts you can book in Zambales! Located in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, the Kamana Sanctuary Resort and Spa will genuinely transport you to a different place.

Panoramic views of clear waters and mountains, infinity pools, and cabanas and lounges, all await you in this magnificent place. You might even get tempted never to leave.

The Lighthouse Marina Resort

View of the Lighthouse Marina Resort, Zambales

Another great hotel option in Zambales, The Lighthouse Marina resort is also located in Subic. Its beachfront views give vacationers a beautiful look at Subic Bay, and its strategic location for getting around the province is excellent as well.

Enjoy full-service amenities, spacious rooms, and just about anything you can ask for and think of when staying in a premium hotel.

What to See and Do in Zambales

Island-hopping in Zambales

There are plenty of tourist spots in Zambales! There's something for everyone. Since the area is huge, it's probably safe to say that you'll be coming back more than once.

Go Island Hopping

Zambales is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines. For this reason alone, you can dedicate a day in your itinerary just for island hopping. If you're doing so, make sure to dedicate ample time for Anawangin Cove, Nagsasa Cove, Capones Island, and Camara Island.

Visit an Inflatable Water Park

If you're up for a half-day of thrills and excitement, you can head over to Inflatable Island. It's the Philippines' first water park that floats on the sea. Be warned that you do have to use a bit of strength as you climb up the inflatable park when you slide or jump down! There will be guides and life jackets for all participants involved.

Check Out Picturesque Waterfalls

The El Kabayo Waterfalls are a sight to behold--and not one you should miss! There are two waterfalls in the area, one 4 feet high and another 15 feet high. You can bathe and swim here when you visit, too.

Shop at Duty-Free Centers

This is an excellent idea if you have a private car with you! On your way back, make it a point to stop over a couple of duty-free shops to take advantage of lower prices on food and souvenir items. It never hurts to do a bit of shopping after a trip!

See the Capones Lighthouse

View of the sea from Capones Island

If you want to see more stunning views in Zambales, don't miss heading out to the lighthouse at Capones Island. A short trek will lead you to a tower that you can enter. Catch the stunning sunset here or take beautiful photos against the backdrop.

Surf at San Narciso

San Narciso, Zambales is a favorite surfing spot for all levels. You have to visit the place from May to October to catch bigger waves. There are instructors here that offer lessons for newbies as well.

Camp Out at the Beach

Camping in Zambales

Don't miss out on the experience of pitching a tent by the shore in one of the Zambales islands. If you're not sure that you want to do this for the whole of your stay, checking out from your hotel one day early and camping on your last day before you leave, alternately, you can camp at the beginning of your trip.

Hike Mount Pinatubo

Hiking Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales

There are several mountains you can hike in Zambales, but Mount Pinatubo is probably the most popular. You can carve out a day in your itinerary entirely dedicated to this if you have the stamina for it.  You can also check out other mountains for shorter day hikes if you wish.



What to Eat in Zambales

Trying out Filipino food can make or break a trip, and so it's in anyone's best interest to look for the top-rated places to eat when traveling. Don't miss out on the following:

Sit-n-Bull Bar & Grill

If good food and drinks are what you're after, you'll find it in Sit-n-Bull! They've been in business for a decade now, and they're famous for preparing American dishes like barbeque ribs, spicy buffalo wings, and corned beef sandwich, with huge servings.

Their wide range of imported beers will surely make happy hour fun and exciting. They also have selected Filipino, Italian, and Mexican dishes you should try. You may request for vegetarian-friendly meals if preferred.

Mango's Beach Bar and Restaurant

Mango's Beach Bar and Restaurant at lunch time

Photo by Mango's Beach Bar and Restaurant

Barbeque grills are the specialty of Mango's Beach Bar and Restaurant. This is a hotel restaurant, so if you happen to stay at Mango's Beachfront Resort, you can enjoy meals from them whenever you wish. They mostly serve grilled food, seafood, pizza, Filipino dishes, and some international favorites.

Visit from Monday to Thursday for their BBQ Steak Nights, and Friday to Sunday for their Mongolian BBQ Nights, that's customizable grilled barbeque favorites for you! Vegetarian options are available.

Shamboli's

If you're craving for some good old pizza, you should head over to Shamboli's! This restaurant has received lots of raves and praise from their tasty pizzas--allegedly the best in town. Grab a box (or two, or three) for the road going home or have a fun pizza and drinks night with your friends if you decide to drop by.

The restaurant also takes into consideration different diets as vegetarian pizza flavors are available. They have other Italian dishes available too if you'd like something else served with your pizza. Try their burgers, chicken wings, or spaghetti.

New Feng Huang Seafood

Overlooking view of the sea in New Feng Huang Seafood

Photo by New Feng Huang Seafood Restaurant

Craving for some seafood cooked Chinese-style? New Feng Huang is one of the most beloved seafood restaurants in Zambales. If you’re a big group, you can score lower prices by choosing from packages in their menu.

You won’t just walk away with a happy tummy but with lots of great pictures too. The restaurant overlooks great views, which makes a sight for both the eyes and the appetite.

Sample Itinerary in Zambales

View of Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales

Here's a fun itinerary you can draw inspiration from on your upcoming trip to Zambales! The first day begins after you've settled in your hotel and ends on your last activity before heading back to either the Clark International Airport or Manila.

Day 1: Arrival + Falls tour + Water Park

  • 06:00 AM - Arrive in Zambales. Prepare for waterfalls tour

  • 08:00 - 10:00 AM - Visit El Kabayo Waterfalls 

  • 10:00 - 11:00 AM -Go for a swim 

  • 11:00 AM - 12:00 NN - Head back to Olongapo City proper 

  • 12:00 NN - 01:00 PM - Lunch at Mango's Beach Bar and Restaurant 

  • 02:00 - 04:00 PM - Visit the Inflatable Island Water Park 

  • 04:00 - 05:30 PM - Enjoy the beach 

  • 06:00 - 07:00 PM - Dinner at Sit-n-Bull Bar & Grill 

  • 08:00 - 09:00 PM - Bonfire 

Day 2: Sightseeing + Island and Cove Hopping + Stargazing

  • 07:00 - 07:30 AM - Breakfast at hotel 

  • 08:00 - 09:00 AM - Begin island hopping in Zambales. Visit Anawangin Cove first

  • 09:00 - 10:00 AM - Swim at the beach

  • 10:00 - 11:00 AM - Light trek to hilltops 

  • 11:00 AM - 12:00 NN - Head to Capones Island for an exciting day

  • 12:00 NN - 01:00 PM - Lunch 

  • 01:00 - 02:00 PM - See the Capones Lighthouse, take photos

  • 02:00 - 03:00 PM - Head for Nagsasa Cove

  • 03:00 - 04:00 PM - Have an afternoon swim 

  • 04:30 - 05:30 PM - Head back for the hotel 

  • 06:00 - 07:00 PM - Dinner at Shamboli's 

  • 11:00 PM - 02:00 AM - Stargazing 

Day 3: Swimming + Departure

  • 09:00 - 09:30 AM - Breakfast at hotel 

  • 10:00 - 11:00 AM - Have a relaxing morning swim by the beach 

  • 11:00 AM - 12:00 NN - Pack up to leave 

  • 12:00 NN - Check out

Hit the Beaches in Zambales!

Aerial View of Potipot Island in Zambales

Whether you're looking for a peak-of-the-summer beach getaway or you want to escape for a few moments in a tropical paradise, you won't go wrong with choosing Zambales as your destination.

With several beaches, world-class resorts, and tons of water activities, it's the perfect place to go to for that balanced blend of relaxation and adventure.

Plan your trip without a hassle by checking out some of the top Zambales tours and packages the island has to offer. Enjoy getting a healthy dose of Vitamin Sea!