Nature At Its Best: 9 Best Things To Do In Sablayan, The Philippines

things to do in sablayan philippines

Sablayan is a little-known town in Occidental Mindoro, in the south-central Philippines. However, it is home to the second largest coral reef in the world, Apo Reef. If you love diving and snorkelling, Sablayan is definitely the place for you. For a more enjoyable visit, we recommend these 9 things to do while you are in town.

1. Undersea exploration at Apo Reef Marine Natural Park

Apo Reef Marine Natural Park or Apo Reef for short, is the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world, next to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It covers an area of 34 square kilometers (13 square miles) off the coast of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. The park includes three islands: Apo Island, Apo Menor or Binagaan Island and Cayos del Bajo Island. Apo Island is the largest island at 22 hectares (54 acres), and features a shallow lagoon surrounded by a mangrove forest which serves as a safe haven for migratory seabirds.

The park rangers’ quarters are found in Apo Island, as well as some amenities for divers and visitors except for potable water and electricity. Visits must be arranged with the Sablayan Tourism Office, as these are regulated. Apo Reef is a two-hour boat ride from the port of Sablayan.

Apo Reef Marine Natural Park

Address: Apo Island, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Price: from 220 USD per person for a 4 person day trip dive (3 dives); from 380 USD per person for a 4 person overnight dive (6 dives); from 80 USD per person for a 4 person day snorkeling trip; from 150 USD per person for a 4 person overnight snorkeling trip; environmental fees are also charged: foreign nationals-divers 50 USD per person; foreign nationals -non-divers 13 USD

Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm. Closed on public holidays.

Duration: around 8 hours (day trip) required but overnight trips are allowed.

Access: Take a motorized boat to bring you to Apo Island and the nearby reef area.

Website: Apo Reef Marine Natural Park

2. A piece of history on Apo Island: Apo Reef Lighthouse

Apo Island of the Apo Reef
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ervin Malicdem used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The geographical significance of Apo Reef has long been recognized. In the latter part of the Spanish colonial period, Spain made arrangements for a lighthouse to be erected on Apo Island. The lighthouse was not erected until after the Spanish-American war and the Philippine Revolution. It was completed by a group of Filipinos and Americans in April, 1906. The original tower at 118 feet (36 meters) was the tallest lighthouse ever built in the Philippines. It was built with an iron skeletal tower with a central cylinder. The lantern tower had two gallery levels. It was however replaced by a more modern tower with solar-powered lights at 110 feet (33.5 meters). You can climb up the tower to have a 360-degree view of the island and the rest of the reef.

Apo Reef Lighthouse

Address: Apo Island, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Price: no admission fee

Duration: around 1 hours required.

Access: Once on Apo Island, you can walk to the lighthouse from the beach.

3. Explore Apo Island's inland lagoon

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

If you tire of diving or snorkeling, you can go for an inland adventure on Apo Island. All you need to do is walk towards the lighthouse and find the path to the island’s inland saltwater lagoon. To reach it, you will walk along a wooden path among the mangrove trees. When you get to the ramp, you can ride a raft that takes you across the lagoon. Since the lagoon is teeming with baby sharks and sting rays, no swimming is allowed. The raft can accommodate a limited number of people at a time.

Apo Island Lagoon

Address: Apo Island, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Price: no admission fee

Opening Hours: daylight hours

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: Walk from the beach towards the lighthouse and look for the path to the lagoon.

4. Inland adventures: Libuao Lake and the Siburan forest

White Lotus in Lake
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rajenver used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Libuao Lake and the Siburan forest are located inside the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm. Libuao Lake was so named because of the abundance of white lotus or “libwa” that grow on the lake. It is also said to be the cleanest inland body of water in the country. Some of the activities you can do here are fishing, picnicking, canoeing across the lake and fishing.

The forest, on the other hand, is the largest remaining old-growth forest in the province. Bird watching is a recommended activity in the forest, part of which is accessible near Libuao Lake. Visits to both areas can be arranged with the Sablayan Tourism Office.

Libuao Lake and the Siburan Forest

Address: Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Price: depending on the complexity of the itinerary

Opening Hours: 8am - 5pm. Everyday.

Duration: around 4-5 hours required.

Access: Depending on arrangements with the tourism office, you will either take a jeep or a car to the Penal Farm.

5. Ride the longest zipline at Parola Park

Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Parola Park, also known as Presing Park, is situated on top of a mountain in the village of Lumang Bayan. It was the site of a watchtower during the Spanish period, where townsfolk would watch out for Muslim attacks and other intruders. To this day, a lighthouse and the old cannons used to defend the town can still be found there. Nowadays, people flock to the park for a different kind of adrenaline rush, the kind you get when you ride a 1.4 kilometer (.9 mile) zipline. The zipline is operated by the municipal government and is the longest zipline in the country, taking you from the mainland to a nearby small island. The zipline originates from the highest point in the park - a tower that is 68.8 feet (21 meters) off the ground. It is motor operated so you do not need to worry about getting stuck.

Parola Park and Sablayan Zipline Adventure

Address: Lumang Bayan, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Price: from 10 USD plus 1 USD for the boat ride back to the mainland

Opening Hours: 8am-11am and 1pm-6pm everyday.

Duration: around 3 hours required.

6. Eat local: Try seafood dishes at Camalig Restaurant

Adobong Pusit
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jorge Díaz used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

You can never go wrong with seafood unless you’re allergic. But if you’re not, you must be sure to eat at a local restaurant called Camalig Restaurant. The restaurant serves mainly Filipino food but has pasta and burgers as well. Seafood dishes are priced between 100 Philippine pesos (2 USD) to 300 Philippine pesos (6 USD) which are good enough for two people. Their best seller is the Adobong Pugita or Adobo-style Octopus which is cooked in a spicy sauce.

Ian Jole's Camalig Restaurant

Address: Buenavista, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Price: from 2 to 6 USD per seafood dish

Opening Hours: 8am - 9pm everyday.

Access: Take a tricycle from the town center.

Contact: +63-9129611465

Facebook: Camalig Restaurant

7. More inland adventures: Cabacungan Falls

Kalatungan falls
Source: Photo by user Kleomarlo used under CC BY-SA 3.0

  • Not an actual image of the Cabacungan Falls

These falls are not yet popular among tourists, but the Municipal Tourism Office is planning to include it in its list of local wonders. Located in Sitio Cabacungan, it is about a 15 to 20-minute ride to the falls. The waterfall itself is a sight to behold because of its curtain-like flow down the rocks. The pool at the base of the falls is shallow, so visitors can only wade in it, but you can still partake in the cool spring water from the mountain. The falls then flow into Cabacungan Lake. The Sablayan Tourism Office will be able to help you arrange a visit.

Cabacungan Falls

Address: Cabacungan, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Price: no admission fee

Opening Hours: The best time to go is early morning to early afternoon.

Duration: around 3 hours required.

Access: Take a tricycle from the town center. Best to arrange the visit with the tourism office.

8. Chill on the beach: Pandan Island

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

North Pandan Island is one of the nearest islands to Sablayan, on the mainland of Mindoro. The other one is South Pandan Island. However, it is North Pandan that houses a local resort that also has a dive shop that arranges trips to Apo Reef. But you don’t need to go diving or snorkeling to come here. Since this is a resort, you can pretty much laze around the whole day, sunbathe and swim all you want.

The resort’s restaurant offers buffet dinners of Filipino and European dishes. From Sablayan town, take a 30-minute boat ride to Pandan Island for about 3 USD each person.

Pandan Island Resort

Address: North Pandan Island, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Price: from 36 USD per night for a standard double occupancy bungalow

Opening Hours: 24 hours.

Access: From Sablayan port, take a boat to North Pandan.

Contact: +63-919 305 78 21

Website: Pandan Island Resort

9. Get to know the locals: The Mangyans

A Mangyan woman
Source: Photo by user The Bureau of Sci... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

The original settlers of the island belong to the indigenous Mangyan group. Although originally coastal inhabitants, they have been driven to live up in the mountainous areas of the island and they now live on subsistence farming, in the mountains. To get to know the Mangyans, ask the local tourism office to talk about Mangyan culture and traditions. Better yet, ask them if you can arrange for a visit to a nearby Mangyan village to meet them in person.

Come and be amazed

Sablayan certainly lives up to its tagline “Amazing Sablayan.” The town offers quite a mix of attractions, from the natural kind that will leave you in awe, to the man-made, that will make your heart race. Come visit Sablayan and be amazed.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our privacy policy for more information on how we use your data

I am a freelance writer living in the summer capital of the Philippines, Baguio City. I am passionate about writing and living and anything in between.

 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Explore Sablayan
Good things are meant to be shared!