Summer is officially here! Where will you go? (or what beach you’ll be heading to?)
Did you know that last year, CNN shortlisted this popular island getaway as one of the most Googled local travel destination? I wouldn’t be surprised, with its crystal clear, calm and cool waters, good driving distance from Metro Manila, it’s non-commercialized, unspoilt appeal and proximity to mainland Zambales makes it a very popular getaway place all year round.
Potipot is a rice-grain shaped island situated within Uacon, Candelaria Zambales, a good 251km northwest of Metro Manila.
I think part of its charm is in its very simple, laidback and unspoilt appeal. There are no decent accommodation on the island itself except for some nipa huts that are lined on the northern side of the island. If you would like to spend the night, sleeping in tents is the way to go. Aside from the absence of electricity, there are no potable water on the island itself (there are few faucets that are scattered all over the place, but they are not drinkable) so make sure you have enough supplies when you do a daytrip or an overnight excursion. This should not discourage beach goers and tourists alike, as for the lack on the island itself, it makes up for all the resorts with complete amenities (including swimming pools and parking spaces to those who would like to bring their own ride) scattered on Uacon Bay surrounding Potipot, which is just a good 10 minute boat ride from its black sandy beach.
The island is perfect for bumming around, catching up on your book, sleeping on hammock or strolling lazily the entire stretch of the beach, which can take you a good 30-45 minutes to circumnavigate it. The island have plenty of shade thanks to the camachile, coconuts and other fruit bearing trees scattered all over the place.
You cannot leave Potipot without posing for photos on the imposing drift tree at the back of the island that has become one of the iconic spot in Potipot. The drift wood, was washed ashore one strong typhoon early 2000 and refused to leave the island ever since.
Travel notes to Potipot
• leave early in Manila to arrive in Uacon Candelaria Zambales before day break. Travel time is 5-7 hrs depending on traffic and mode of transport.
• from Uacon Bay, resorts like Dawal Beach Resort and Sunbloom Resort will arrange your boat transfers to the island. 400php per trip (good for up to six people per boat) is the minimum rate.
• first trip to the island begins at 6am, the last boat leaves Potipot at 6pm. Inform the boatman what time you will leave the island as soon as you reach Potipot so they will know when to fetch you and your group.
• There’s an entrance fee of 100php per head on the island. If you plan to go for an overnight stay, it’s 300php per head.
• You can rent tents at 300php good for two persons, nipa huts are 500php good for your entire stay and the tables with long benches are free.
• You can test your haggling skills by directly look for motorized bancas on Uacon beach itself that will drop you to the island. Ultimately, cheapest way is to swim it from the black sandy beach (I never heard anyone done this though).
• water, food and other supplies can be bought from the neighbouring resorts so dont worry if you will go to Potipot without anything other than your smartphones, cameras and a days worth of changing clothes.
Getting there and Away
The quickest way to go to Potipot is via Victory Liner buses at Caloocan City terminal that leaves Manila and goes all the way to the northern most tip of Zambales. Last trip going to Sta. Cruz Zambales leaves at around 11:55pm. One good thing on travelling at this hour is that there’s no traffic. Travel time is between 5-6 hrs. Fare is 450php one way. The bus will make few stops along the way including one at their terminal at Olongapo. Inform the conductor that you need to alight at “Dawal” in Uacon, Candelaria. From there, the beach is just a good 10-15 minute walk from the main road. Prebook your tickets so you have a guaranteed seat as most of the time the bus leave the terminal full.
From Manila, other options include going to Olongapo first, then change buses bound for Sta. Cruz Zambales. To those who are familiar going to San Antonio, Zambales (Anawangin/Nagsasa/Capones jump off point) Uacon, Candelaria is a good hour and half more of travel time.
Going back, you can take a tricycle (50php per head/150php per trip) and head to the Victory Liner Sta. Cruz terminal or just wait for the non-AC buses bound to Olongapo on the national road. From there, buses leaves on hourly interval bound for Caloocan, Cubao and/or Pasay.
If you have anything that have 4 wheels that could hold up at least 5 people, driving going to Potipot is not a bad option. Gas consumption would be around 1,500php going to Zambales and back.
From Manila, just head up north and traverse NLEX and SCTEX passing Olongapo and Subic then follow the national highway and pass towns named after saints – San Marcelino, San Antonio, San Narciso, San Felipe before reaching the towns of Botolan, Iba, Palauig, Masinloc then finally Candelaria. Travel time is 4-5 hrs if you will leave Metro Manila by midnight.
• Dawal Beach Resort +63 919 5730952 / +63 920 6651577 / http://dawal.com.ph/2011/
• Sunbloom Beach Resort +63 906 2793607 / http://sunbloomresort.com/
• Puerto Del Mar Beach Resort +63 917 4093230 / +63 918 3170478 / +63 919 5016395 http://www.puertodelmarbeachresort.com/
• La Trinidad Bay Resort +632-4211817 / http://www.latrinidadbeachresort.com/ https://www.facebook.com/pages/Trinidad-Bay-Resort/316676855312
For two persons, below is the suggested budget for an overnight trip in the island:
1,000php – transportation roundtrip (x2) = 2,000php
400php – boat transfer back and forth = 400php
300php – overnight entrance (x2) = 600php
1,500php – food = 1,500php
300php – tent rentals 300php
1,000php – incidentals 1,000php
An ideal budget should be 3,000php per head for an overnight excursion. Of course, the more that would tag along, the lesser would be the shared expenses.