Even if you have heard about Puerto Galera as one of the top beach destinations in the Philippines, you have still not heard enough. Puerto Galera, simply referred to as Puerto by locals, is indeed famous for its beaches. However, it has many other natural attractions (thus far unsung) to offer, including the mystical Aniuan Falls.
The hike to Aniuan Falls is quite an experience itself. Foreign tourists taking this hike will get a better understanding of life in rural Philippines. What visitors see in the Puerto Galera area is pretty much what goes on in most rural areas in the Philippines: laid back life, exoticism, and with very little development. Puerto Galera is in Oriental Mindoro, an island not very far away from Manila, the capital city. It is a popular island for its beaches and tourist destinations (Puerto Galera is just one of them), and yet there has not been significant development or modernization of the island. If not for the pull of tourism, the locals would not have many opportunities for livelihood.
Puerto Galera is an old town, dating back to when the Philippines was a colony of Spain. The town was used as a safe harbor for their galleons. This explains the Spanish name “Puerto Galera”, which means harbor of galleons. In all, the town offers many tourist attractions such as mountains, jungles, beaches, and historical spots.
Going back to Aniuan Falls, from the beach to the waterfalls is a humid hike through concrete road, a village and a tropical forest. Oriental Mindoro is home to many virgin jungles, which are also tourist attractions. Walking to Aniuan Falls would take about 45 minutes at normal pace, through a host of friendly locals greeting tourists with big smiles and offering to guide them to the falls—for a fee, of course. But getting there is no problem. A tourist would just need to follow the stream.
The waterfall itself is not really spectacular. It is just one streak of gushing water from a not-so-high elevation. What makes the spot so special is its over-all atmosphere, which has been described as mystical. However, you should avoid going there on Saturdays and Sundays when it is crowded with locals taking a relaxing dip in the pool. Aniuan Falls is popular to the residents of Aniuan, who love to splash in the waters of the natural pool at the bottom of the falls. Indeed, the pool’s water is remarkably cool and refreshing. It’s a relaxing swim in a freshwater pool, a welcome break from the saltwater beaches.
Other frequently visited waterfalls in Puerto Galera are the Talipanan Falls and Tamaraw Falls. You can check these places as well as other tourist attractions, such as the nearby Aniuan Beach, a number of caves, Escarceo Point Lighthouse, and a Mangyan tribal village with the help of a local guide. A popular spot in Puerto Galera for Western tourists is Sabang Beach for its many forms of night entertainment. If you are ever in need of some object or assistance quickly, guides and vendors walk around the stretch of White Beach and are most certainly not difficult to find. It is a plus to tourists that Filipinos, including the local guides and vendors, speak good English.
So, when in Puerto Galera, do not forget to visit Aniuan Falls, if only to take a break from the sun, sand, and saltwater. Your spirits will be revived by the freshness of the area as well as its departure from the usual raging activity associated with tourist destinations.