Most people think of Puerto Galera when planning a trip to Mindoro, but beyond the raucous night bars along White Beach there is another, quieter island hopping destination: Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro.
Bulalacao is a municipality in Oriental Mindoro. It features islands which you can explore on a weekend. These are divided into two portions; boat operators commonly refer to the trips as “North Tour” or “South Tour”.
Hali and I visited here on a long weekend, along with a DIY tour group led by our acquaintance Gene. There was a low-pressure area during our trip so our schedule got skewed, but we were blessed with a wonderful weather on our last day. Writing this immediately after our trip, I can confidently say that our tour in Bulalacao is one of the best island hopping experiences I have had here in the Philippines.
Here is our weekend trip, as well as a complete travel guide to Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro including How to Get Here, Sample Itinerary, etc.
Our Weekend Trip in Bulalacao
We commuted from Manila to Batangas and then to Mindoro. We landed in Bulalacao the next day.
Our boat fetched us from the port to Tambaron Green Beach Resort in Tambaron Island, where we would be staying overnight. It was rainy, so we had to cancel our island hopping tour for the day. Instead, we enjoyed a staycation in the island. On the second day, the sea was calmer so we were able to go island hopping.
On our second day, the sea was already calmer. We took off at about 9 in the morning to go island hopping.
Tambaron Island is home to Tambaron Green Beach Resort, a casual private resort. It’s built on a small beach cove, with calm green water. It’s one of the nicest resorts I’d been to. People who are looking for a quiet island getaway will especially appreciate it.
The resort has family rooms and open-air cabanas. There are also hammocks facing the beach. You can swim in the refreshing water or wait until it’s low tide to pick up clams and shells for eating. On the other side of the island, you can find a pebble beach and snorkeling area.
Hali and I spent the day napping in the hammocks, reading and playing mobile games on our phone. Even though we were technically stranded when we stayed here, we couldn’t complain. We couldn’t find a better place to settle for the day.
Buyayao Island is a pristine island in the southern area. It features a dark-emerald beach lined with tall coconut trees — which is undoubtedly one of the clearest beaches I’ve seen. It actually reminded me of the islands in Dinagat Island.
There are caretakers in the island, so you can find bamboo cottages for overnight stay and even a sari-sari store selling basic necessities. Cooking utensils are also available for rent.
We stayed a little bit here to enjoy the clear water. The current was a little strong though, so non-swimmers in our group were careful not to get swept away. If our trip were longer, I would love to spend a night here. It’s beautiful but well managed — which fits the bill for my perfect beach staycation ideas.
Suguicay Island is a family-managed beach resort. This is the most commercialized island we’d visited in Bulalacao. Based on the number of visiting families, it’s easy to tell that it’s a local favorite. There are regular and floating cottages, as well as sari-sari stores.
Here you can swim, play volleyball or do any of the available watersports, including banana boat ride, fly fish and jet ski.
There’s a sand bar at the end of Suguicay Island, which seems a more inviting part of the island for a visit. Our boat couldn’t come close though because of the low tide.
After our stop at Buyayao Island, I was deeply underwhelmed with Suguicay Island. The beach water was blurry and there were floating sea plants and small pieces of trash. It wasn’t terrible, but it’ll certainly benefit from more clean-ups.
Target Island is a privately owned island. Here you can find a huge house overlooking the ocean, limestone formations and a few beach coves.
I don’t know the story behind the island, but it seems to be a recreational project abandoned mid-development. It seems like theme park, almost.
Most tourists stay in the pebble beach area to swim and snorkel. We explored the island and had a really good time.
At one end of the island, we found a set of cemented steps that goes up and around a hill. One route leads to nice ocean views, while the other goes straight to the back of the hill where there is an overlooking view of a small lagoon surrounded by mangroves.
The trails seem fairly undisturbed. There was a route where we literally had to push overgrown branches to the side to pass through. We also saw at least three black-violet crabs on the trail.
We ended walking up near the lagoon. From afar, we saw the limestone cliffs where our boat was docked. There is a huge house that looks like a miniature castle from our viewpoint.
We walked towards the house. Beside it is another cove with clear, light-green water surrounded by small cliffs ideal for cliff jumping. We spent the rest of our time here swimming. It like it here better than the other islands we’d visited in Bulalacao because the water temperature was the right cool and there was minimal current, perfect
From afar, we saw the cliffs beside which was our boat. The houses atop look like a miniature castle from this viewpoint.
We walked toward the houses. Beside them, there’s another cove with clear light-green water and one or two small cliffs where you can dive from. I liked swimming here better than the rest of the islands we’d visited in Bulalacao because the water temperature is the right cool and current is minimal, perfect for modest swimmers like me.
Again, we had a good time here in Target Island. If you’re including this in your island hopping tour, ask your boat operators if you can explore the island as well.
Aslom Island is known for its long sand bar. If you’re a fan of picture-perfect sand bars like that in Kalanggaman Island, you’ll like it here.
It was high tide when we reached Aslom Island, so the sand bar wasn’t visible. In a way it was good for us because we were able to discover its biggest secret.
What we didn’t know — and what other tourists seem to be miss out on — is that Aslom Island has really nice snorkeling areas. Just about 2-3 meters from the shore, we goggled at clumps of big soft corals and schools of small fishes. I was elated and reminded of a similar experience in Apo Island.
However, I was bothered that boats dock on the snorkeling area. Some corals close to shore looked somewhat damaged. Also, since no one told us about the coral area, a few of us inadvertently stepped on some soft corals before we realized what they are. I hope the local tourism does something to protect this underwater garden.
Travel Guide to Bulalacao, Mindoro
Bulalacao is a municipality in Oriental Mindoro. It’s overshadowed by more popular spots such as Puerto Galera and Apo Reef.
Bulalacao is an ideal destination for travelers who love discovering off-beaten destinations or going on island hopping trips. It’s also ideal for families who are looking for a beachside resort to spend quality time together.
This place offers beautiful islands, including activities such as snorkeling and diving, and even several waterfalls for exploration.
How to get to Bulalacao
There are different ways to get to Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro.
- Take a local flight to to San Jose Mindoro Airport in Occidental Mindoro.
- Then ride a van that will take you directly to Bulalacao.
By land and sea
This is the easiest way to get to Bulalacao. Travel time is around 5 hours.
- From Manila, ride a bus to Batangas port (P130-170, about 2 hours).
- From the port, ride a ferry to Bulalacao (3 hours).
This is a common option for backpackers since there are regular ferries from Batangas to Calapan, which is ideal if you want to do the commute overnight. Travel time is around 7-8 hours.
- From Manila, ride a bus to Batangas port (P130-170, about 2 hours).
- From the port, ride a ferry to Calapan (P220-240, 2 hours).
- From the port of Calapan, ride a van en route to Bulalacao (P250, 3 hours). If there are no vans in the port, you can either (a) ride a tricycle to bayan or (b) ride a van to Roxas. Doing either option, transfer to a van heading to Bulalacao.
There are buses in Alabang (DimpleStar) and Cubao (Alps, Ceres) with a direct route to Bulalacao (P800, 10 hours).
Bulalacao is also connected to Boracay and Caticlan via ferries. Travel time is 2 hours.
Island Hopping Tour in Bulalacao
The islands are divided into 2 groups. I read another blog referring to them as Eastern or Western, but my initial research said North or South so I will go with that.
Ideally, you will need 1 day to visit each island group, so you can have ample time to enjoy yourself. It’s also possible to cram everything in 1 day if you start early, as we did. (We were supposed to go on a 2-day island hopping tour, but due to the bad weather, we had to do it in one day.)
Here are the islands you can visit:
- North tour: Target Island, Silad Island and Aslom Island (Optional: Tambaron Island)
- South tour: Buyayao Island, Suguicay Island and Maasin Island
Island hopping rates
There are no standard rates for island hopping in Bulalacao. It depends on the size of the boat and which islands to visit.
(Updated as of 2020) In general, a boat for a large group will cost you P6000-9000.
Where to book tours
Boats for island hopping are available in the port. You can also ask your booked accommodation for recommended boat operators.
Here is our boat operator:
Contact details: Gemar – 0948 267 5751
Where to Stay in Bulalacao
There are several accommodations available in Bulalacao. You can stay in the mainland or in one of the islands.
Tambaron Green Beach Resort
We stayed in Tambaron Green Beach Resort, which is about 30-40 minutes from the port.
The resort offers different types of rooms as well as open cabanas. Guests have the option to order meals (P250 each) or to bring their own food.
As I said above, this is one of the nicest beach resorts I’d been to. The resort offers only the necessities, but it makes up for charm. For groups, there are family rooms available. If you bring your own food, you can use the kitchen facilities for a minimal fee (P500). Dining utensils can be used for free.
Contact details: 0920 339 2595 / Facebook
Simple cottages are available for overnight stay. Guests need to bring their own food. You can ask the caretakers to cook for you.
Current rate is P1000 for 5 people.
Contact details: Marjorie, 0946 314 6268
Here are the available accommodations in the mainland:
- South Drive Inn & Grill: Facebook
- San Rosa Inn: 0918 385 1433
- Felipa Lodge and Beach Resort: Facebook
- Thelma’s Paradise: 0907 440 1299
Sample Weekend Itinerary to Bulalacao
Here’s a sample itinerary for a weekend trip to Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro.
|Day 0||9PM Ride bus from Manila to Batangas port|
|Day 1||12PM – 2AM Roro to Calapan, Batangas|
2AM- 5:30AM Van ride to Bulalacao
5:30AM – 7AM Breakfast, buy food supplies from the market
7:30AM – 5PM Island hopping
|Day 2||9AM – 5PM Island hopping|
Wash up in the port
Travel back to Manila (ETA: 3AM the next day)
Reminders and Tips
Here are some useful travel tips before you go:
- The best months to visit are January to June. Don’t visit in the summer if you want to avoid the crowd. The islands are still accessible during ber-months, but make sure to monitor the weather before your trip.
- Bulalacao is an off-the-beaten destination, so adjust your expectations accordingly. That saying, you can find decent resorts especially in the mainland.
- Follow the LNT principle. Make sure to bring your trash with you.
- Budget-wise, it’s best to go with a group since island hopping can be expensive for solo or couple travelers. Also, make sure to ask your boat operator if the rate already includes island fees.
Budget and expenses
We took this trip in 2017. We were 10 in the group, and our budget was P2500-2600 per person. Here are the major expenses on our trip:
- Island hopping tour: P8500
- Overnight accommodation (Tambaron Green Beach Resort, family room): P3000 + use of kitchen facility P500
- Commute fare (round-trip): P1300 per person
- Plus food and miscellaneous expenses
(Updated as of 2020) For a group, a safe budget for a weekend trip itinerary to Bulalacao is 3000-3500 per person.
”Til I see you again, Bulalacao! Thanks Gene and co for taking me and Hali with you on this wonderful trip. 🙂 I promise I’ll do a little cooking next time. *peace sign*
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What to read next:
Looking for fun, affordable summer getaways near Manila? Check these out:
- Alibijaban Island and Burias Island (Quezon & Masbate)
- Jomalig Island (Quezon)
- Maniwaya Island (Marinduque)
- Bulalacao (Oriental Mindoro)
- Tambobong Beach and Cabongaoan Beach (Pangasinan)
Other destinations in Mindoro:
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