Every beach have its own unique story and Nagsasa Cove in San Antonio Zambales is no different.
Formed from the violent Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 from which ashfall, lahar and other pyroclastic materials flowed and covered the boundaries of Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga and Bataan, Nagsasa, including the neighboring coves of Anawangin and Silanguin which was then a dense tropical rainforests were all practically destroyed. Some of the coves got smaller as volcanic materials got piled up. Lahar had covered most if not the entire area erasing old shorelines and creating new but shallower beaches in the process.
The Aetas, the indigenous people that lives in scattered and isolated mountainous parts of Luzon are the original settlers in the area. They moved back after a decade and find that the coves that was once lifeless are now habitable. Life always has its own way of making a comeback.
These pristine coves was once a secret hideout to mountain climbers and trekkers who rediscovered it after the eruption by traversing Mt. Pundaquit. Immediately, word of mouth spread among mountaineers and backpacker communities the beauty of these “pine trees”-clad beaches until it became one of the popular destination in Zambales. Today, non-trekkers can now easily get to Nagsasa by renting an outrigger boat from Pundaquit Bay.
Mt. Pundaquit on the background
Stream at the mouth of Pundaquit Bay- the jump off point to the islets (Capones and Camara) and the coves (Anawangin, Nagsasa and Silanguin)
Personally, I would choose Nagsasa anytime over the more popular Anawangin Cove. Anawangin is bigger compared to Nagsasa but its the privacy and the location of the latter that won me over. Plus aside the fact that the locals have power generator at night is a big plus.
One can easily fall in love with the place. At the back of the cove you can see rows of magnificent mountain ranges. These mountain ranges has some of the country’s most stunning geological formations. Apex peaks, rolling hills and the multiple mountain ridges, creek, river and waterfalls makes it a nature lovers haven. The kind of place that one can return a hundred times and fall in love in its beauty, every single time.
You can never run out of anything to do in and out of Nagsasa. Trek the nearby mountain slopes on both ends of the cove and wait for the sun to set to see everything wrapped in a golden glow.
Walk, wade and trek the fresh water river that leads to the Wild Horses Creek and treat yourself for a swim
Get a local guide and hike for two hours or so to reach the cool and clean waterfalls at the foot of the mountain range. Too bad last time we went to Nagsasa, the falls had dried up. Ask the locals when is the best time to go there.
Taken on my first visit to Nagsasa November 2012
Enjoy the beach life by lying on one of the hammocks and sleep under the Agojo tree shade. Contrary to the common belief, the “trees” that actually grow on these areas are not actually pine trees. They are Agojo of the Casuarina family. Agojo is strikingly similar to pine, especially their needle-like leaves. But it is a flowering tree and a hardwood, while pine is a conifer and softwood. Agojo and many other Casuarina species thrive in seashore conditions – poor soils, brackish water, strong winds. They reproduce fast and are now considered invasive species in some countries.
Nagsasa is run at night by power generators and lights are out by 2am. This is the best time for stargazing and if you’re into astrophotography you are in for a real treat!
This trip was extra memorable for me because I finally managed to catch the galactic bulge of our own Milky Way Galaxy which I’ve been tirelessly searching for over a year now. Been scouting locations from Pagudpud to Sagada with no luck until I remember the conditions in the cove is perfect for it- moonless night, pith black, devoid of all the light pollution.
Another item crossed out on my bucket list
You can huddle up your buddies and lit a bonfire! Share stories, drink, laugh and have a great time. A night dip on the calm warm waters at night is highly recommended as well!
Ideally, you can stay for a day or two in the cove and check all the great vista the cove has to offer. You can also arrange to have you and friends on an island hopping adventure to the nearby island- Capones Island.
Capones Island Located 30 minutes on outrigger boat from Pundaquit Bay, the place is legendary for its lighthouse built during the Spanish era around the year 1890. It raises high over the cliffs like a cinematic picture right from the movies and lures people to marvel both at the structure and the enchanting panorama of the sea and the sky.
The Capones Lighthouse.
Photo credit to Mr. Rodrigo Yap
Capones Island is an uninhabited island alongside Camara Island that is ideal for sidetrip when visiting the coves. One side of the beach is good for swimming but most of the shoreline have slippery boulders of rocks that have seaweeds growth on them making it extra slippery and hard to step on as you wade yourself from the boat to the beach, vice versa.
The shortest route to the lighthouse
The quickest, but not necessarily the easiest way to reach the lighthouse is by going to the beach littered with slippery boulders of rounded stones. Then some 50+ concrete steps and another 10 minute hike to the bushes and the entrance of the lighthouse will just appear in front of you
Reward yourself with a fantastic panoramic view of the island and the nearby environment by going up on the watchtower. Be careful on those rusty spiral staricase! Release the camwhore inside of you by posing till you drop on the breathtaking location.
Can you see the crocodile’s head?
This summer, reward yourself by going to Nagsasa Cove in Zambales. Nothing can be more envigorating and recharging than to bask in cool calm sea, lie on the sand and hear the nature’s heartbeat and commune with nature!
Getting there and Away
Ideally, travel early in the morning to avoid traffic. Best way to go to the coves is via Victory Liner terminal in Cubao. From Cubao, take Olongapo buses (that leaves every hour) and change buses from Olongapo terminal to Iba (Iba bound buses at Cubao first trip is 6:30am) travel time from Cubao to Olongapo (127km) is almost 2hrs. Fare: 207php
To go to San Antonio, ride a bus bound to Iba or Sta. Cruz, Zambalez. Tell the driver to drop you off at San Antonio. Travel time from Olongapo to San Antonio (39km) is around 1 hr. Fare: 59php
Or you can take the direct trip from Cubao to San Antonio via Iba. Earliest trip leaves at 6:00am (there are 6 trips to Iba everyday) travel time is 3 hrs. Fare: 290php
Tricycles from San Antonio Municipal Hall to Pundaquit is 30php per head which can accomodate up to 3 persons. Travel time is 30 minutes.
road leading to Pundaquit Bay
From Pundaquit Bay, rent an outrigger boat that will bring you to the coves and islands. A small boat can load up to 4 persons with bags while a big boat can accomodate up to 12 persons. Island hoping rate for all 3 tourist spot (Anawangin, Nagsasa, Capones/Camara) varies. It is advisable to transact with the boatman before hand regarding the price and the arrangement of schedule for the island hopping and pick up. Tent rental (2 persons) is 250php, 350php for 3 persons. Utensils, pots, pans, ice chest can be rented on a seperate charge. Food that you will bring on the island can be bought on the market beside San Antonio Municipal Hall.
Note that theres environmental/entrance fee (50php daytrip/ 100php overnight per head) when you go to Anawangin and Nagsasa. Cottage rental is 100php and lights can be requested for 100php charge. Same goes to firewood if you like to set up bonfire.
You can contact Mr. Rodel Villanueva +639394139000 / +639328695408 if you youre planning a trip there so he can arrange a nice package for you. Hes very accomodating and offers his place if you want to have a quick shower before you head back to the city.