A slice of paradise near Manila

Potipot Island is located in Candelaria, which is a third class municipality in the province of Zambales. Like a few of the other places I have been to in the Philippines, this was one of those places where when I first saw pictures of it, I threw it straight on the bucket list. However, after a little bit of investigation, I could see it was a 285km journey from Manila which involved a frustratingly indirect route around the Zambales mountains, home to Mt. Pinatubo.

With estimated travel time of 5 to 6 hours from Manila, my enthusiasm for visiting Potipot Island quickly waned. Thirteen years later, I decided it was about time to visit. When we arrived, I was absolutely kicking myself that I didn’t do it sooner!

Why didn’t I come here sooner?

I went with a group of expat and local mates and we were all shell shocked that none of us had really considered coming here earlier. Facing westward across the South China Sea, the cove housing Potipot island (funnily enough called Uacon Lake) had extremely calm waters. This looked extremely inviting and immediately had us excited.

Although the mainland sand of the beach was a greyish/brown volcanic sand, it was very powdery and sensational to walk on and compacted well. The water was crystal clear with no rocks or seaweed and looked an absolute treat.

From the resort we stayed at, it was literally only a five minute speed boat ride to Potipot Island. You can actually see the island sitting on the horizon with its white sand glistening in the sun. The Zambales mountain range is an awesome back drop and adds to the scenery.

Potipot Island shines

The island itself is quite clean and well maintained. The water is very clean and an absolute sensational temperature to swim in. The northern side of the island is definitely the best part to swim in. There are no rocks in the water, and the sand is smooth and the water is an amazing turquoise colored.

The island itself is very small. You can actually walk the whole way around it with a casual stroll in less than 30 mins. We had a fantastic afternoon relaxing with a couple of beers in the water. The beautiful and peaceful scenery made the beers taste that much better.

Don’t let the long drive there put you off, as the roads driving up there are great and the traffic is reasonable. If it makes you feel more justified, then spend a couple of nights up there. Either way, you just have to get up there. As I mentioned earlier, I’m kicking myself I didn’t go up there earlier and I will definitely be going back!

Potipot island Zambales Philippines

The Kawit River is a lovely river that makes its way out into the ocean from the Zambales Mountains.

Potipot island Zambales Philippines

The sand on the mainland of Candelaria isn’t the most beautiful to look at. However, it is certainly very smooth with no rocks and is great for walking on.

Potipot island Zambales Philippines

The boat ride out to Potipot Island only takes about 5 mins and the water is virtually dead calm.

Potipot island Zambales Philippines

The southern side of the island as you make the approach by boat.

Potipot island Zambales Philippines

The northern side of the island is the better place to swim with no rocks and very little seaweed.

Potipot island Zambales Philippines

This photo looks like a postcard. Amazing white sand with the Zambales Mountain Range in the background.

Potipot island Zambales Philippines

One of the local fishing boats taking a break from fishing.

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Sensational sunset shot taken from the water. Where we stayed didn’t quite face due west, so we had to venture up the beach to get a full glimpse of natures masterpiece.

Costs: Speed boat to Potipot Island P350/head

Entrance Fee to Island: P100/head for day trip, P300/head for overnight camping. They also have a fairly large kubo (hut) which can accommodate about 20 for the price of P1500 which is an overnight rate. With some bartering, you can get this down to P1,000. There isn’t anything in the way of bedding though, it’s purely a roof over your head.

They also sell beer and snacks on the island at reasonable prices. However, to be sure, we took our own food and drinks and had a nice picnic lunch on the beach.

How to get there

From Makati to Sinabacan area is 285kms drive in a car via Subic, and takes about 5 and a half hours.

You can take a Victory Liner bus from either Pasay or Cubao terminal bound for Iba, Zambales or Sta. Cruz Zambales. The cost for this is less than P400 one way and should take less than 6 hours. Then depending where you are staying, you can take a tricycle to the resorts in the Sinabacan area. Cost for tricycle will be less than P50.

Dezza´s Tip

As mentioned, it is a fairly long drive but if you leave early in the morning, you can easily be up there by lunch time and spend the afternoon out on the island and head back the next day. However, being such a long drive, I would recommend to spend two nights there and just absolutely chill out and relax.

Another option is to tie in one night as part of a western coast road trip. Read my write up under the Illocos region about Bolinao, Tambabong, Agno and One Hundred Islands for more ideas.