Our visit to little Potipot Island in Zambales was supposed to be just a side trip on our way back from our stint at Cabongaoan Beach in Burgos, Pangasinan. We were not even supposed to spend a night at Zambales but originally planned to stay at Cabo Beach for two nights before proceeding to Zambales and on to Metro Manila and home the following day. We’ve been to Potipot Island in 2012 so we weren’t exactly dying to see the place. But since our friends haven’t been there we offered to accompany them to the island.
As it turned out we would spend only one night at Cabo Beach and ended up driving to Zambales one day earlier than planned. We reached our home for the night – Dawal Beach Resort in Uacon, Candelaria town – late in the afternoon. Viewed from the beach just at the back of the resort, Potipot Island looked like a mere stone’s throw away.
The following morning three of our friends and us boarded a small motorized outrigger boat for the island. The ride took about 7 minutes and we were soon greeted by clear turquoise waters surrounding a white sand beach. After paying the entrance fees we were soon exploring the island.
One of the nice things about Potipot is the abundant shade provided by plentiful trees inland. Having been to the island more than 4 years ago we took our friends down south to the area of the driftwoods for some interesting photo shoots. These driftwoods are located in a slightly rocky portion of the beach and have become an icon of sorts for the island. Coming here we were worried that they might have been removed or altered during the past 4 years but they were still proudly standing there.
Leo spent a considerable time exploring the southwestern section of the island near a large driftwood and noticed a considerable number of fishes and other marine life in the clear, shallow waters and among the coral rocks. The rest of our group wandered off into the northern part of the island which was the best swimming area. Potipot Island is so small – 7.5 hectares total land area – it is possible to walk around it in less than 30 minutes.
Several things haven’t changed at Potipot after 4 years. There are still no resorts on the island, just small native-style cottages that may be rented for overnight stays and a tree house in the center of the island. There are dining tables and chairs under the excellent shade of the trees and just basic toilet and shower facilities.
We didn’t notice it right away but a few minutes into our swim at the northern beach, we realized that the waters at Potipot seemed clearer and cleaner than it was back in 2012. Maybe it was because we were practically the only visitors on Potipot that morning (the island was bristling with tourists back in the summer of 2012). Or maybe, as one of the caretakers suggested, social media feedback got management into seriously looking after the cleanliness of the island. Whatever, we simply enjoyed our moment at our private beach until it got close to noon and our boat arrived to bring us back to the mainland and to our resort.
To get to Potipot Island you need to rent a boat at Uacon in Candelaria town, the nearest spot on the mainland. There are many resorts in the area that will offer a boat ride (Dawal Resort where we stayed is one of them.) Boat fees are P400 for a boat that can take 4 people and P500 for larger ones that can take 7 (two-way). There is a P100 entrance fee (the island is privately owned, by the way). To our surprise these were the same rates back in 2012. There is a small store on the island and some vendors that sell foodstuff but it’s best to bring your own food and water if you intend to stay on the island over lunch or overnight.
As we mentioned earlier, there are no resorts at Potipot although you can rent the small cottages for an overnight stay or set-up your own tent. Some folks prefer to just stay at one of the resorts at the mainland in Uacon, Candelaria and make the boat trip to Potipot – which is what we did.
By private vehicle: To get to Uacon, Candelaria by car from Metro Manila, take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) then continue on to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). The route through San Fenando – Lubao in Pampanga is shorter but passes through a narrower road and congested town centers so we decided on using the SCTEX instead for speed and ease of travel. Travel the length of SCTEX to the Tipo Exit, pass through the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and on to Subic Town. Then take the national road all the way to Candelaria. Avoid going into the town proper of San Antonio and Palauig towns where you can get bottled up in traffic. Travel time is around 5-5.5 hours assuming no stopovers.
By public vehicle: Ride a bus bound for St. Cruz, Zambales. Victory has buses that regularly ply this route. Get off at the Uacon Barangay Hall in Candelaria (Candelaria is the town just before Sta. Cruz). You can take a trike from there or even walk to the nearest resort or the beach where you can get a boat to Potipot Island.