“It was a game of life and death. The most thrilling, yet unforgettable, life vest-free 30-minute boat ride of my life”.
It’s summer! The sun is knocking on our doorsteps as we feel the intensity of the increasing temperature day by day. Rushing sweats and unimaginable cravings from halo-halo and cold shakes lingers within our bodies, and even a drop of ice in a glass of water feels like a necessity.
During this time of the year, every Filipinos would wish to experience an excellent adventure. Instagrammable photos, beautiful and creamy-white sands, clear skies and of course an unforgettable experience. All of these can be achieved and be grasped by your hands in Hermana Menor, Sta. Cruz, Zambales, Philippines.
Hermana Menor (little sister) a.k.a Makatira Island and Hermana Mayor (big sister) can be located in the northern part of Zambales which are not very popular with the public. To be honest, I didn’t even know about these islands until I’ve read it in a Facebook post. I’ve only known about Anawangin beach resorts, Nagsasa and Potipot peninsula on which I haven’t set my foot on… yet. But let’s tackle about the ultimate travel guide about Hermana Menor and Hermana Mayor beach resorts in Zambales with white sands.
What to Do in Hermana Menor (Makatira Island)
Hermana Menor is a beautiful island to relax, and sunbathe while you drink your favorite mojito. But there are only a few things that can be done on this gorgeous Zambales beach resort with white sands.
It would be fun to island hop if Hermana Mayor is open to the public, but during our stay, it wasn’t. The little sister, on the other hand, has a long and gorgeous stretch of a sandbar which is open to all tourists. A few starfish and corals can be seen underwater, so don’t forget to bring your snorkeling gears!
Another notable thing that can be done on the island is surfing. When we visited the island, the waves were so angry that it wanted to suck us up below the ocean. You can use those angry waves to your advantage.
There are no stores or groceries on the island, so it is better to bring your necessities before going in. You also won’t be able to find a restaurant or a cafe within the premises. But worry not if you’ve forgotten this important detail, the tricycle driver that will bring you to the port will most likely remind you to buy a packed lunch before departure.
It is also not allowed to camp overnight on the island as well as set a campfire.
Travel Guide Content (Last Update March 30, 2018)
Private Service (From Manila)
- A. Manila Intl Airport – Olongapo (3-4 hrs)
- B. Olongapo – Sta. Cruz (3-4 hrs)
Public Transport by Taxi and Bus (From Manila Intl. Airport to Olongapo/Iba/Sta. Cruz)
1. Ride a taxi, Uber or Grab from MIA to Victory Terminal Pasay. Estimated Cost (110-130 PHP)
Taxi Tip: It is very common in Manila, especially in Pasay to overprice a taxi ride from the airport going to any destination and vise versa. I’ve heard stories that taxi drivers charged 2000 PHP for a 100PHP ride. It was a story from a foreigner.
2. Buy a ticket at the Olongapo booth. It would be better to ride a bus going to IBA or Sta. Cruz because it’ll cost you less compared to an Olongapo-only bound bus. (Est cost: Pasay-Olongapo: 260-280 PHP, Pasay-Sta. Cruz: 400-500 PHP)
- :If IBA and Olongapo bound, you can ride another Victory bus going to Sta. Cruz. If you have chosen to ride an Olongapo bus, you may visit a few tourist spots and malls there for a side trip. Read more here: 10 Things to do in Zambales this Summer
3. Assuming that you have arrived at Sta. Cruz, Victory Terminal. You can ride a tricycle going to the port. (Est cost: 15-20 PHP per person)
- Another way is to drop you off at Lipay Petron Station, Sta. Cruz. Ride a tricycle and ask to bring you to the port. (Est cost: 10-15 PHP per person)
4. From the port, you can ride a boat going to the Hermana Menor for 1300 to 1500 PHP. But in our case, we paid 1000 PHP (to be updated for contacts)
- 0430 – (Meet-up) McDonald’s near Victory
- 0500 – (Depart A/C Bus) Victory Terminal Olongapo (Paid 200+PHP/head)
- 1015 – (Arrived) Victory Terminal, Sta. Cruz
- 1040 – (Depart Tricycle) Victory Terminal (25 PHP, two pax)
- 1050 – (Food) Bought Lunch (130 PHP)
- 1105 – (Arrived) Port and waited for boat preparations
- 1120 – (Depart Boat) Port without life vests
- 1155 – (Arrived) Hermana Menor (Paid 100 PHP per head, 1000 PHP cottage)
*lunch, swim, lie down, sunbathe, swim, eat, eat and eat*
- 1740 – (Depart Boat) Hermana Menor with the same boat
*insert extreme boat ride here*
- 1805 – (Arrived) Port (Paid 1000 PHP for boat rental)
- 1835 – (Depart Tricycle) Port going back to Terminal (Paid 30 PHP)
- 1845 – (Arrived) Magic Mall Sta. Cruz
- 1900 – (Food) Dinner at Mang Inasal (I don’t recommend)
- 1940 – (Depart Walk) Magic Mall Sta. Cruz
- 1945 – (Arrived) Victory Sta. Cruz Terminal
- 2010 – (Depart A/C Bus) Victory Terminal to our next destination Liw-Liwa San Felipe (3 hrs Travel)
- Entrance Fee – 100 PHP/pax
- Boat Rental – 1000 – 1500 PHP/boat back and forth
- Cottage – 500 (8-10 pax), 1000 (12 pax)
There are no restaurants or even a simple karinderya (cafe) inside the island. All you have to do is to bring a couple of packed lunch or foods that can be grilled such as fish and barbecue. Fresh fruits and lots of water are also encouraged. They can easily be bought at a local market at the back of Magic Mall Sta. Cruz.
But while in transit, you can eat at a few restaurants in Olongapo like the Razon’s just at the Victory Terminal, Jollibee, Chowking and McDonald’s.
If you have booked a hotel and stayed in Olongapo for a night, you can visit a couple of notable restaurants and cafe that can entice your taste buds listed below:
An above average restaurant where you can enjoy local dishes at an affordable price ranging from 150-300 PHP. It is just 10 minutes away by foot from the Victory Liner Bus Terminal and just beside an affordable hotel, Microstar Inn.
Just along the highway and in front of a hospital lies an affordable but quality restaurant. Their services are top notch, the ambiance of the cafe is superb and their dishes are well catered. I recommend this cafe for lunch or a dinner date.
Fortune Hongkong Restaurant
Do you love fresh sea foods? Well, who doesn’t? Fortune Hongkong is a high-class restaurant that can satisfy your sea food cravings. They serve it fresh and sometimes taken from the aquarium. They also have VIP rooms where your group can have a fun party while dining in their hall.
Texas Joe’s House of Ribs
Just near the bay walk of Subic Bay lies an awesome restaurant that offers the best baby back ribs in town. The restaurant houses a lot of foreign and local costumers that favors the ribs.
The restaurant is a bit father from civilization but foreigners, especially Koreans find this place amazing. They probably serve the best Samgyeopsal but a bit pricey compared to other Korean restaurants in the vicinity. Be ready to make your shirt smell like Korean!
Tourists are now allowed to camp in Hermana Menor or on her big sister. At around 6 PM, tourists should have already left the island. But there are couple of inns and hotels where you can stay before going and after your adventures on the island.
Jade Hotel and Restaurant
An affordable hotel which also houses a restaurant just on the first floor of the establishment. It is perfect fora budget travel for two to three persons.
Cherry Midtown Hotel
Just 5 minutes away from the Victory Bus Terminal by foot, the Cherry Midtown Hotel can easily be spotted because of its high rise building and colorful lights. The hotel room is card activated, well-maintained, spacious and has a good ambiance. A 10-hr stay overnight for a thousand pesos will be more than enough to cater your needs if you plan to travel by dawn.
Finished with white colors that soothe the eyes of their guests, Win Hotel also racks up on the list of affordable and quality hotels. They offer different variety of stays from 3 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours and overnight. They are very close to the bus terminal and fast food restaurants.
West Corner Hotel
Dyed with the red of love, WCH is just a minute away from the terminal. You won’t even get lost just to find this quality hotel. It is much affordable compared to other hotels with fan and air-conditioned rooms. Free wifi can also be afforded if you have boarded their inn.
- Dri Bag
- Rash Guard
- Underwater Action Cameras
- Life Vests
Inflatable Island Subic
Inflatable Island is currently the largest floating playground in Asia with 17 different sections where you can enjoy the beach like a child.
An open marine theme park where you can dance with the dolphins and sea lions. The theme park houses animals that has been abandoned, maltreated and affected by the pollution caused in the ocean which are all family friendly.
An awesome beach where you can learn to surf because of the strong waves generated by the sea. It is also recommended to camp in Liwa to see the beautiful stars at night.
Anawangin Beach Resort Zambales and Nagsasa Cove
Two of the most popular destinations in Zambales can be reached through a boat ride just like in Hermana. It is allowed to camp in the cove and see their beauty at night. Tourists can also swim at the crystal clear waters in the morning, but always be careful as the underwater current are dangerous.
Before going to Hermana, you need to check if the weather would be fine to maximize your stay on the island. Unfortunately, during our stay, there was an incoming typhoon that made the waves so harsh and the tides so high.
You can check the little sister’s weather update in several websites such as AcuWeather, and World Weather Online. We even checked the possible speed of the wind at Windy.com. These websites will be very beneficial especially to those who want to surf because it’ll guide you if the wind and waves are durable enough for your sport.
I have used the Globe broadband using our stay, and it showed a little signal strength. But most of the times it can send and receive messages. But please remember that internet data might be a big problem to connect. Sun cellular is also the same.
Smart, TM and other sim cards connectivity were not tested though.
(to be updated)
- Plan your trip ahead with contingencies. During our trip, we planned well, but a typhoon followed our path, and experienced a few hiccups while in the beautiful Zambales beach resort with white sands.
- Bring your necessary travel gears listed above especially the DriBag or if you don’t have one, at least a large plastic bag that can protect your luggage.
- Buy foods before going to the port. Bring water for your lunch and snacks.
- Stay hydrated and bring sunblock.
- The boat travel might be extraneous to some people, be sure that you have consulted your doctor before going on a crazy trip.
- Don’t forget your medical kit.
- If you can, bring a life vest. We didn’t had a life vest for a roller coaster boat ride.
- Visit other places near the vicinity. We went to San Felipe afterwards and enjoyed a beautiful set of falls. Going a to a few more stops won’t hurt as long as you have the time. It actually helps a lot in your body, you may read here the 25 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Traveling.
- Visit Hermana in a big group to lessen the expenses.
Hermana Menor and her big sister are not very popular to the public. But their beauty can rival other islands and tourist attractions. It just happened that we went there at the wrong time because of the typhoon that visited the province of Zambales. The island herself is beautiful but too far from Manila if bound by land. It’ll be better to add additional travel itineraries to enjoy more of Zambales tour packages.