Serendipity in Zambales: The Bacala Sandbar and Rest House

Leo likes to do a lot of research before going on a trip but no amount of scrutiny will cover everything there is to discover about any given destination. Many of the highlights we’ve had in our travels over the years belong to the categories of the unplanned and the unsought. Those are some of the things that make a journey truly exciting, pleasurable and meaningful.

San Salvador Island as viewed from Magalawa Island
San Salvador Island in the background, viewed from Magalawa Island

Four years ago we visited Magalawa Island in the town of Palauig, Zambales, another off-the-beaten track destination in our bucket list at that time. On the second day at Magalawa the resort caretakers offered a ride to the giant clam farm just off San Salvador Island. We actually expected this after reading about it a few times in other blogs about Magalawa.

San Salvador Island seen from a passing boat
Our boat passes by turquoise waters and the white sand beaches of San Salvador Island

San Salvador Island is adjacent to Magalawa but is part of the town of Masinloc. It probably took us less than 30 minutes to cover the distance and we were soon bobbing up and down amidst the bed of corals and giant clams like kids. The snorkeling wasn’t too spectacular but since we haven’t snorkeled in a while it was a decent enough treat for us.

snorkeling at the clam farm off San Salvador Island
Snorkeling at the clam farm

Snorkeling over we prepared to head back to Magalawa but our boatmen said that we should have a stopover at the Bacala Rest House in the middle of the sea on our way back to our resort. We had passed by this rest house on our way to the giant clam sanctuary and thought there was nothing really interesting about it. The earliest articles about Magalawa on the blogosphere at that time hardly mentioned it but we decided to go with our boatmen’s suggestion. And fortunately so.

the Bacala Rest House and Sandbar
The Bacala Rest House sitting in the middle of a sandbar.

The Bacala Rest House, it turned out, was right in the middle of a sandbar on this side of San Salvador. It was high tide when we first passed this rest house on our way to the giant clam farm and didn’t notice that it was actually sitting in the middle of a beautiful white sandbar. The sun’s position had also prevented us from getting a proper view of the sandbar.

wading at the knee-deep water, Bacala sandbar and Rest House
Knee-deep water at the Bacala Rest House

Approaching noontime, however, low tide had begun to creep in revealing a pretty carpet of white sand, now easily visible under crystal-clear water that was ankle to knee-deep. In some parts of the sandbar the water was so shallow that we could lie on all fours and enjoy the waves gently massaging our bodies. Schools of tiny fishes were swarming all over the sandbar, playfully teasing us.

outrigger boats at the Bacala Sandbar
Outrigger boats

The rest house in the middle of the sandbar provided shade and accommodations for picnickers and a vantage point for observing nearby San Salvador Island. It was a pity we didn’t bring any food with us – lunch would be served at our resort back at Magalawa. The rest house would have been a nice spot for a picnic.

view of San Salvador Island and remains of a burned down rest house from the Bacala Rest House
View from the Bacala Resthouse of the sandbar and the remains of the foundations of a burned-downed older rest house

A few years later, the sandbar and the rest house would form part of an eco tour in Masinloc. The tour includes the giant clam farm that we visited and the marine protected area in San Salvador (San Salvador Island is the first community-run marine protected area and has been cited as a model for coastal resource management in the Philippines.) That rest house however, the shallow, crystal-clear waters, the creamy white sand and the lively schools of tiny fish still remain fresh in our minds.

8 thoughts on “Serendipity in Zambales: The Bacala Sandbar and Rest House

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    1. Thanks for visiting our blog Kate. Hope you enjoy your visit to Zambales. We’re posting a story about a very recent visit to Potipot Island also in Zambales hopefully within a week or so.

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