Snugly set between Luzon and Palawan is Mindoro, the backpacker/hiker/diver/beach bum/foodies’ dream island! Most of the action for travelers you’ll find in on the northeastern tip of the island where there is fantastic diving, chilled-out beach bars, and a variety of upscale and laid back accommodation. Move inland and you’ll find Mt. Halcon and Mt. Baco- destinations for avid hikers.
Mindoro’s economy has always thrived on the trade of produce. With heavy agricultural roots, you’ll find that this island is rich in mangos, coconuts, bananas, citrus, and plenty more fruits and veggies that contribute to some fantastic local cuisine.
Fun Fact: Mindoro is home to the rare Mindoro Dwarf Buffalo. Ask a local where to see them!
From Manila, you can fly to Mindoro’s airport in Puerto Galera, or take a bus/boat transfer straight from Manila which takes just a couple hours. For a real local experience, take a Jeepney down some bumpy back roads while you’re packed like sardines with local people carry fruit and sometimes livestock. This option is much cheaper and way more memorable.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Mindoro:
1. Puerto Galera
Puerto Galera is a popular little beach town on Mindoro where you’ll find the best of both worlds.
For you busy bodies, this vacation destination has lots of food, entertainment, and activities. There is both incredible western food and super cheap Filipino eats. You’ll also find a golf course, karaoke spot, and plenty of tour kiosks selling day trips. It’s a popular spot for both western’s and locals where a comfortable medium is met.
For the wildlife lovers, you’ll be pleased to learn that the nature here is spectacular. There is a sublime white sand beach, hidden waterfall via a forest trail, and marine life waiting to be explored.
2. Bikini Floating Bar
What’s better than a bar next to the water? A bar on the water, of course! This floating houseboat has been converted into a vacationer’s dream bar! To get there, hop on a small dingy for free. The driver will sail you to alcohol heaven where you can sit with a reclined chair looking out onto the water while the waves gently rocks the boat side to side. You’ll enjoy a colorful view of the mainland with brightly painted houses nestled into the greenery.
Happy Hour is from 3-5pm where you can take advantage of drink specials such as buckets, beers, and cocktails.
3. Pebble Beach
The name doesn’t lie. Pebble Beach offers you something outside the realm of soft white sand. Instead, it provides smooth pebbles that give your feet a massage with every step. This crescent-shaped beach is a popular spot for locals to come and have a picnic in the private huts for rent, or to sing karaoke on Saturday and Sunday (feel free to join in).
As with many popular Filipino spots, there is a religious shrine to the Virgin Mary which gives your camera a break from the tough job of capturing exquisite scenery and fascinating wildlife.
4. Tukuran Hanging Bridge
If you’ve ever watched an adventure movie where pioneers go deep into the jungle only to meet a rushing river that must be crossed via a handmade hanging bridge- that is what this looks like! Tukuran Hanging Bridge might seem a little bit scary to some people, but to others, this bridge represents all that is wild and free about the Philippines!
Each step will give you a little sway back and fourth, especially if other explorers are crossing at the same time. Don’t be afraid, however, as this hanging bridge has been made with sound engineering.
Nearby, you’ll find huts in the shallow water area where you can have a rest and dip your toes in.
The people of Mindoro like to party! This is reflected in a handful of festivals they have going on year-round.
The Bahaghari Festival, held every 25th of April, celebrates a colorful rainbow which the Mindoro people believe was once sent down from god to guide them to the land where they settled after a terrible storm. Expect to see lots of colorfully dressed people dancing in the streets with costumes, music, and huge smiles. There will be cultural performances and handicrafts for sale.
Banana Festival is another wonderful festival to catch every March 18-19. This festival sets to honor the gifts the island receives in the form of produce- specifically the banana! Farmers come from all over the country to celebrate their harvests and hard work. There are parades, dance exhibitions, and banana delicacies to try!
Located at the end of the Verde Island Passage is the magnificent area of Sabang. The small district of Sabang is home to 3 beaches: Sabang Beach, Small La Laguna Beach, and Big La Laguna Beach. They are all connected but each have very different vibes and offer different activities.
Sabang Beach is the party beach. Here you will find lively bars, lots of alcohol, and to put it nicely… many “ladies of the night”.
Small La Laguna Beach offers a collection of seaside hotels and resorts.
Big La Laguna Beach is the place to go for pristine swimming and sun bathing as it offers the cleanest water and more tranquility than the others.
7. Scuba Diving
If you want to explore marine life on Mindoro, Sabang is the best place to do it. There are lots of dive spots for you to choose from that are suitable for divers of all levels.
There is The Hill- a dive site home to a coral reef teeming with odd sea creatures such as the Blue Ringed octopus, cuttlefish, Blue Mandarin fish and more. Go for a night dive and you’ll even see some shrimp.
Another great dive spot is the Sabang Wreck, which is ideal for beginners. Over the years, this shipwreck has turned into the perfect place for a new reef to form. The structure is covered in vegetation and surrounded by colorful fish!
There are at least 10 awesome dive sites to discover in Sabang.
8. Tamaraw Waterfalls
These superb falls located in the Barangay Villaflor near the city of San Teodoro of Mindoro Island are absolutely worth a visit.
Tamaraw Waterfalls are picture perfect and embody exactly what you hope a waterfall would look like. Set deep in the jungle, these falls cascade down 423 feet of rock, twisting, winding, and falling into a couple sets of cool pools. The falls come down in such a rage that the sound is beautifully overpowering.
To get there, you can take a Jeepney, hire a tricycle, rent a motorbike, or if there are enough of you, hire a private van.
9. Hemingway’s Bistro
Are you a seafood fanatic? If so, Hemingway’s Bistro in Sabang is the place where your seafood dreams will come true.
For incredibly reasonable prices, this Austrian steakhouse lets you eat like a king. Order dishes such as red lobster, tuna maki rolls, fish and chips, shrimp pasta with scallops and more. The chef and owner are both western so you can trust that these dishes will be made just how you like them.
You’ll enjoy a beautiful beachside view while listening to the waves crashing along the shore. The staff are lovely and always greet you with a smile.
10. Talipanan Beach
A perfect sandy beach next to turquoise water and surrounded by large rock faces and stunning greenery- does it get any better than Talipanan Beach?
This beach is much more calm than the others. It’s small size means there isn’t an abundance in entertainment or bars. You will, however, find a quaint Italian restaurant with fabulous service and an ideal view.
This is the perfect place to bring your kids to play with pebbles along the shore or to come and get some peace and quiet for yourself.
Stick around for sunset and you’ll be rewarded with romantic orange skies.
11. Apo Reef Natural Park
The largest coral reef system in the Philippines in located off the shores of Mindoro. This 34-square kilometer stretch of reef is protected by the government, which means no large ships coming in and out damage the coral or disturb the wildlife.
By this regard, you can imagine that Apo Reef makes for a spectacular snorkel spot and is also a beloved dive site in the country. Here you will see the most abundant collection of wildlife which, you might not see else where including the Giant Napoleon Wrasse fish, lots of sea cucumbers, a cushion star, and more. Just watch out for the Trigger Fish who like to chase you away from their nests!
12. Mount Halcon
2,586 metres high, Mt. Halcon is an impressive site to be seen in Mindoro. While it may only be the 18th highest peak in the Philippines, it still offers quite a challenge for hikers and climbers. The trails are steep with rocky ridges, intense slopes, mossy forests, and pristine river crossings.
To hike this mountain, you’ll need at least 4 days, a permit, and a guide. You can find tour companies in the area to set you up or do a quick search online! It will be an invigorating experience with memorable views and commendable achievements.
13. Pandan Island Resort
A mixture between a deserted island and luxury comfort, Pandan Island Resort is where you come to get away from it all. Pandan Island is a private island resort established by a French man with a passion for peace. You’ll find plenty of hammocks, tropical huts, and fruity drinks, but what you won’t find is electricity, fans, or nightlife (there are solar batteries if you need to charge).
When you stay on this dream-like island, you’ll spend your days wandering the sandy paths, sitting down for beer, playing beach volleyball with new friends, and kayaking to a nearby jungle river. It’s quite intimate and everyone gets to know each other quickly.
There are plenty of bungalow options to choose from that can fit up to 6 people.
14. White Beach
On the coast, just west of Puerto Galera, is White Beach. As this beach is tucked away from the tourist path, you can expect an area catered more towards Filipinos than westerners. This means you’ll get a totally different experience outside of Aussie bars and booze buckets. It’s a welcomed change of pace.
This beach offers the perfect conditions for swimming and lying out in the sun! There are cute little resto-bars lining the beach where you can grab a bite to eat with your toes in the sand.
From Puerto Galera, you can take a bus or hire a van. From Sabang, you can hire a Banca boat and take a breezy 30-60 minute ride over.
15. Sto. Nino Cathedral
What’s a Filipino island without a Catholic Church, right?
Sto. Nino Cathedral is a beautiful Roman Catholic house of worship with high vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, quite a bit of history, and of course, a loyal following.
It’s always a cultural experience to stop by a Catholic Church in the Philippines if you want to get in touch with the people. Religion is the center of their story and so, the people-watching teaches you a lot.
While you’re in the Calapan area, have a walk around the neighborhood where you’ll find a local market with food and clothing to add a little more dimension to your day.