Vacation rentals in Zambales
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Your guide to Zambales
Welcome to Zambales
Zambales may be located just 80 miles from the dense crowds of Metro Manila, but this province on the central-western coast of Luzon presents a dramatic vibe shift: horseshoe-shaped coves with sandy beaches, colorful waterfront resorts, craggy chains of mountains draped in mossy rain forests. Needless to say, the South China Sea is a major draw. Subic Bay and Olongapo, the province’s biggest city, are prime destinations for Manilans seeking relaxation and international travelers alike, and you’ll find plenty of restaurants, waterparks, and attractions to entertain.
But if you’re craving a more serene stretch of the coastline, head north to the smaller towns. Charter a boat to explore the tropical islands that freckle the Zambales coast, or rent a surfboard for a week to ride the swells, which range from gentle and reliable to thrill-inducing depending on the spot. Zambales is famed throughout Luzon for its sugary gold mangos, and you’ll find markets stocked with local tropical fruits of all kinds to snack on.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Zambales
Does it ever get cold in tropical Zambales? Only if you climb Mount Tapulao and stay on the peak overnight. Along the central western edge of Luzon, temperatures remain constant between the 70s and the 90s Fahrenheit, and the humidity ranges from the comfortable to the oppressive — unless you’re on (and in) the water. During the wet, monsoon season, from June through September, it pours — frequently and copiously — and the cloud cover can seem endless.
The dry season lasts from late fall through early spring, which coincides with peak travel, and is a popular time to stay in a private beach house with pool for rent. Surfers flock to the coast from October to February, when the South China Sea’s easy swells grow more dramatic. In late October, the streets of Olongapo fill with dancers and music acts for three days during the city’s Mardi Gras, and in April Iba celebrates the sweet joys of the dinamulag mango, one of the Philippines’ best varieties, with sports, sand sculpture contests, and of course mango costumes.
Top things to do in Zambales
Pundaquit Beach is located in the relaxed town of San Antonio, 25 miles northwest of Olongapo. You can spend all day lounging on its fine ash sands in your swimwear, taking frequent dips into the warm blue waters of the South China Sea. But Pundaquit is also a central point for exploring the surrounding coves and islands. Rent a boat to visit nearby Capones Island, with its picturesque lighthouse, or the secluded Anawangin and Nagsasa coves, where you can camp overnight.
Mount Pinatubo made international news in 1991, when the volcano erupted, spewing miles into the air and sending flows of mud and ash roaring down the valleys. The eruption changed wide sections of the Zambales coastline and created a crater lake 1.5 miles across. You can access the peak via the tourist office in Santa Juliana, due east of Iba, where you can rent a 4 x 4 vehicle for a bumpy trip up the mountainside to reach the trailhead for a three-hour hike to the shore of the clear, blue-green lake.
If your ideal vacation day is split between beach time and cocktail hour, the cities that ring Subic Bay — long home to a U.S. naval base — are set up to satisfy both sides of your personality. Manilan families flock here for the resorts, nature parks, and activities, and Olongapo is home to restaurants, shopping malls, and thriving night markets. But on the outer reaches of the bay, you can find quiet stretches of sand and underwater coral reefs to explore.