In some respects, Puerto Galera is similar to many other beach and dive resort towns around the Philippines and SE Asia. Boatloads of Westerners ply the girlie bars lining the beaches while locals and Filipinos from the city lounge around the beach or go swimming in their clothes (yes, that’s what many of them do). Puerto Galera differs in a sense because it’s made up of three communities, each with a distinct personality: Sabang, White Beach, and Puerto Galera proper. Sabang and White Beach are both approximately 6 km from Puerto Galera. Where you decide to stay depends on the type of experience you are looking for.
The main dive centers seemed to be collected around Sabang and the adjacent Big La Laguna and Small La Laguna. Diving can be done from the other locations as well, but Sabang is ground zero. Hotels, resorts, and guesthouses are available for every budget. Most of these are clustered in a long arcing strip adjacent to the narrow, almost non-existent beach with many over-priced restaurants and bars essentially right at the waters edge. Of course, over-priced is relative; by Western standards the food is still a bargain, but by Filipino standards it’s expensive. We didn’t spend much time in Sabang because it wasn’t really our cup of tea.
Sabang is obviously no stranger to nightlife but the more ‘interesting’ establishments we saw were located in White Beach. White Beach had the feel of a mini Phuket, complete with the requisite girlie bars and tattoo parlors. We never managed to get to it, but apparently several nights a week there is a fire dancing show on the beach followed by a lady boy show. Now that’s entertainment! You’re probably out of luck if you are looking for a ping pong show, though. White Beach is also the place to be if you want to actually spend time on the beach and have a decent place to swim. During the day the beach is crowded with sunbathers and volleyball players and kids splashing in the water. If you’re looking for something a bit quieter, a short easy hike around a rocky headland at the west end of the beach will bring you to Aninuan and Talipanan beaches. They’re just as nice as White Beach but without as many people. The further westward you go along the beach, the more you’ll have the beach to yourself, and maybe a few locals. For a more laidback experience and possibly a better opportunity to interact with the locals, staying in Puerto Galera town proper is probably a better option. Primarily centered around and between Muelle Pier and the public market, the street is lined with little businesses selling household items, as well as other useful things like bootleg DVDs and lottery tickets. A few small gringo bars and restaurants are located around the pier but most of the food outlets cater to locals. At lunch time during the week, you’ll be fighting through mobs of uniformed school kids to order a meal.
There’s much to do in Puerto Galera, which means port of galleons in Spanish. As one of the few typhoon-safe harbors in the Philippines, it is still popular with yachters. Although most of the diving shops are located in Sabang, there is some diving and snorkeling available out of Puerto Galera. And if you’re looking to get out and do some hiking or walking, there are several waterfalls in the area. Tamaraw Falls is right on the main road about 9 km out of town and requires only a jeepney or tricycle ride. Near White Beach, Aninuan Falls and Talipanan Falls require some hiking to get to. Your choices for places to stay in Puerto Galera town are more limited than in Sabang or White Beach. Near the pier there are only two or three choices, including Badladz Adventures Resort where we stayed. There are a few more options on the road at the east end of town heading toward Calipanan as well as a little further out on the road to Sabang.
Although we didn’t care much for the vibe around Sabang or White Beach and therefore didn’t spend much time in either place, overall we did enjoy our month stay in Puerto Galera and there’s something there for everyone.