Travel Subic Bay: A Comprehensive Guide to a Philippines Hotspot
Welcome to Subic Bay, a beautiful gem located in the Philippines that boasts good beaches, rich history, and historic wartime shipwreck diving. Subic Bay was once a US naval base, but now it is a thriving tourism destination with numerous attractions, activities, and adventures for travelers.
Whether you are a nature lover, a thrill seeker, or a history buff, Subic Bay has something to offer for everyone. In this guide, I will take you on a journey to discover the best things to do, places to stay, and food to eat in this beautiful destination. I have lived in the area for 15 years, so this article should help you find the most exciting and unique experiences that will make your trip unforgettable. So pack your bags, and let’s explore the wonders of Subic Bay.
Where to Stay in Subic Bay
Subic Bay offers a variety of accommodations to suit every traveler’s needs and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious stay or a more budget-friendly option, Subic Bay has it all. Some of the best places to stay in Subic Bay include:
- The Lighthouse Marina Resort – This luxurious resort is located right in the heart of Subic Bay’s waterfront district and offers stunning views of the bay. The resort features an infinity pool, spa, and several dining options.
- Camayan Beach Resort – This beachfront resort is perfect for travelers who want to be close to nature. The resort is nestled within a protected forest, and guests can enjoy a range of outdoor activities, including kayaking, snorkeling, and jungle trekking.
- Subic Bay Venezia Hotel – This budget-friendly hotel offers comfortable rooms and excellent amenities, including a swimming pool, restaurant, and fitness center.
- Treasure Island Resort – Located on Baloy Beach, Treasure Island Resort offers guests a tranquil and secluded retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. The resort boasts a private beach area, an outdoor pool, and lush gardens. Rooms are spacious and air-conditioned, and guests can enjoy a variety of water sports and activities.
- Kokomos Beach Resort – Kokomos Beach Resort is a cozy and intimate beachfront resort that offers guests a range of comfortable and affordable rooms, as well as a beachfront restaurant and bar. The resort is located on Barrio Barretto Beach and provides easy access to local attractions and activities.
- Wild Orchid Beach Resort – Wild Orchid Beach Resort is a luxurious beachfront property that features a large pool, private outdoor area, and poolside bar. The resort offers guests a range of rooms and suites, each decorated in a contemporary style with modern amenities.
- Mangrove Resort Hotel – Mangrove Resort Hotel is a stylish and modern property located on the beachfront of Baloy Beach. The hotel features an outdoor pool, spa, and fitness center, as well as a beachfront restaurant and bar. Rooms are spacious and feature contemporary decor and amenities.
- Arizona International Resort – Arizona International Resort is a beachfront property located in Barrio Barretto, offering guests a range of comfortable rooms and suites with modern amenities. The resort features an outdoor pool, restaurant, bar, and PADI dive center.
- Blue Rock Resort – Blue Rock Resort is a beachfront property located on Baloy Beach. The resort offers guests a range of comfortable rooms and suites with modern amenities, as well as a restaurant and bar, outdoor pool, and diving center.
- By the Sea Resort Hotel – By the Sea Resort Hotel is a charming and intimate property located on the beachfront of Barrio Barretto. The hotel features a range of comfortable rooms and suites, as well as a restaurant and bar, outdoor pool, and gardens. The property is located near the main highway and is close to the nightlife.
Whether you’re looking for a cozy and affordable retreat or a luxurious beachfront getaway, Barrio Barretto and Baloy Beach have a variety of accommodation options to suit your needs.
Where to Eat in Subic Bay
Subic Bay offers a wide range of dining options that will cater to every palate. Whether you’re looking for local cuisine or international dishes, Subic Bay has it all. Here are some of the best places to eat in Subic Bay:
- Meat Plus Cafe – Meat Plus Cafe is a well-known restaurant located in Subic Bay Freeport Zone that serves delicious steaks and grilled dishes. The restaurant has a cozy and rustic atmosphere and offers indoor and outdoor seating.
- Texas Joe’s House of Ribs – Texas Joe’s House of Ribs is a casual restaurant located in Subic Bay Freeport Zone that serves mouth-watering ribs and barbecue dishes. The restaurant has Western-themed decor and offers indoor and outdoor seating.
- Sit-n-Bull Bar and Restaurant – Sit-n-Bull Bar and Restaurant is popular with tourists and local expats. It is located in Barrio Barretto that serves American-style pub food, including burgers, wings, and pizza. The restaurant also has a pool table and live music performances.
- Pier One Bar and Grill – Pier One Bar and Grill is a beachfront restaurant located in SBMA that serves a range of seafood dishes, as well as burgers and sandwiches. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating and live music performances.
- Hops & Brews – Located in Barrio Barretto, Hops & Brews is a popular British-style pub that serves a variety of international and Filipino dishes. They are also known for their selection of beers and cocktails, have live music every night in the covered beer garden.
- Arizona International Resort – Arizona is a well-known resort in Barrio Barretto that offers delicious food in a beautiful setting. They have a restaurant that serves Filipino and international cuisine, including seafood dishes, steaks, and Mexican food.
- John’s Sushi Bar and Steakhouse – John’s is a popular restaurant in Barrio Barretto that serves some of the best sushi and steak in town. Their menu also includes other Japanese dishes and salads.
- Shamboli’s Pizza – Shamboli’s is a pizza joint located in Barrio Barretto. They serve delicious American-style pizzas with a variety of toppings. They also offer burgers and pasta dishes.
From casual cafes to beachfront restaurants, Subic, Barrio Barretto, and Baloy Beach have a range of dining options to suit any taste and budget.
Things to do in Subic Bay
Beaches of Subic Bay
Subic Bay is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines. The beaches are clean, uncrowded, and perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. Some of the popular beaches in Subic Bay include:
- Camayan Beach
- Dungaree Beach
- Grande Island Beach
- All Hands Beach
- Baloy Beach
- Barretto Beach
Subic Bay is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. The crystal clear waters of the bay offer numerous water sports activities, including:
- Jet skiing
- Scuba diving
- Banana boat ride
Jungle Survival Training
For adventure seekers, jungle survival training is a must-do activity in Subic Bay. You can learn how to survive in the jungle by building a shelter, making a fire, finding food and water, and navigating through the wilderness. It’s an experience that you will never forget.
Ocean Adventure Park
Ocean Adventure Park is a must-visit attraction in Subic Bay. It’s a marine park where you can interact with dolphins, sea lions, and other marine animals. You can also watch dolphin and sea lion shows and learn about marine conservation.
For adrenaline junkies, Treetop Adventure is a must-visit attraction in Subic Bay. It’s a zipline and adventure park where you can experience thrilling activities like:
- Canopy walk
- Superman ride
- Silver Surfer ride
- Roller coaster zipline
Travel Subic Bay – Barrio Barretto and Baloy Beach
The main areas for western-orientated resorts and diving are Barrio Barretto and Baloy Beach. This is a prime beach-front tourism area, close to Olongapo City and adjacent to SBMA. It is within walking distance of many restaurants, resorts, hotels, and nightlife.
The easiest way to reach these areas from Olongapo City is via a 10-minute taxi or trike ride. There are resorts along the Barrio Barretto beach (between the National Highway and the beach) or along Baloy Beach (turn left along the coast road just after Barretto). Your taxi or trike driver will probably know of your intended resort and the route is direct. Expect to pay approx 500php (taxi) or 150php (trike) – but also expect to be quoted much higher initially… negotiate a fair price! (see my Philippines Travel Advice page for advice on over-charging).
Alternatively, you can catch a local ‘Jeepney’ from outside Olongapo Bus Station. The blue-colored jeepneys all run a standard route that passes along the Barretto resorts and past the top of Baloy Beach Road (you can catch a trike from there to any of the Baloy resorts..20-40php). The jeepney costs 15php but is cramped if you have luggage.
Travel Subic Bay – Flying into the Philippines:
You can fly into either Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), in Metro Manila, or Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA), known commonly as “Clark Airport”, near Angeles City, from a wide range of global and regional locations.
DMIA / Clark Airport
DMIA/Clark airport is much closer to Subic Bay (<1 hour) and serves many regional economy airlines, including; Air Asia, Cebu Pacific, Tiger Air, and Philippines Airlines – offering cut-price flights from locations like Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuala Lumpur.
NAIA / Manila Airport
NAIA/Manila airport is in the south (Pasay) of Metro Manila, so any trip from there involves negotiating the infamous Manila traffic. Getting through Manila to the northern expressway can take anywhere between 1-4 hours (avoid rush-hour traffic!). Once you reach the expressway, the trip to Subic is painless and takes a further 2-3 hours. Stick to the expressways (NLEX-SCTEX) rather than venturing on the smaller roads via San Fernando city (which can also be congested and many road works in progress)
Travel Subic Bay – From Manila:
By Private Car / Taxi
You can self-drive, negotiate a taxi or hire a private car/van with the driver through most hotels or resorts. The cost to hire a taxi/driver should be approx $100/4200php each way. Getting to Subic Bay should take 2.5 to 4 hours, entirely depending on the traffic in Manila (which can be grid-locked). Proceed north through Manila via the EDSA primary road, until you reach the junction with the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). Follow the NLEX directly to Clark/Angeles and then turn onto the Subic-Clark-Tarlax Expressway (SCTEX), which leads directly to SBMA.
By Public Bus
Catch a taxi from the airport, or your hotel, to the Victory Liner bus station on EDSA Pasay. There is a direct bus service from Manila to Olongapo that leaves every 30 minutes from early AM to late PM. The journey takes approx 4 hours and costs ~230php. Buses are air-con (can be too cold – bring a sweater!), have on-board WIFI, often play DVDs, and are generally comfortable. There are no toilets on-board, but there is a rest stop mid-way.
On arrival in Olongapo City, you will encounter numerous taxi and trike touts. Negotiate the short trip to your resort/hotel in Subic Bay with them. The connection trip to Baloy Beach/Barrio Barretto areas should cost approx 500php (taxi) or 150 (trike).
If adventurous and traveling light – you can also catch a local ‘Jeepney’ from outside the bus station. These are blue-colored and travel along the National Highway through Barrio Barretto. A single-way trip costs only 15php… but the jeepneys are cramped and crowded.
Travel Subic Bay – From Clark / Angeles:
By Private Car / Taxi
You can self-drive, negotiate a taxi or hire a private car/van with the driver through most hotels or resorts. The cost to hire a taxi/driver should be approx 2800php (car/taxi) to 3200php (van) each way. The journey should take less than an hour, via the Subic-Clark-Tarlax Expressway (SCTEX), which leads directly to SBMA.
Most resorts/hotels can arrange private cars or vans – contact them in advance to book.
By Private Bus / Mini-Van
There are several private bus services to/from Angeles City to Subic Bay. These are quite reliable and run with foreign tourists in mind:
Southern Cross Shuttle (Bookings: 0906-326-2146 or 02-521-2013)
- ANGELES – SUBIC: Departs Orchid Inn (8:45 am) & Brass Knob (9:00 am)
- SUBIC – ANGELES: Departs Wild Orchid Resort, Baloy Beach (11:00 am)
Southern Cross also run an Angeles – Manila route, enabling travel between Manila – Subic.
Wild Orchid resort is at the ‘corner’ of Baloy Beach road (hard to miss – and the only ATM on that beach)
Fly-The-Bus / Swagman (Bookings/Info: +63 2 523-8541 to 44)
- ANGELES – SUBIC : Departs Swagman Resort on Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun (1o:00 am) Drops at any Subic Resort.
- SUBIC – ANGELES : Departs Swagman Travel Office*, Olongapo, on Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun (12:30 pm)
Swagman also runs an Angeles – Manila route, enabling travel between Manila – Subic, along with routes to Puerto Galera, Baguio, and La Union.
*Swagman Travel Office Olongapo is on Magsaysay Street. Catch a trike/taxi there from your resort/hotel or ride the yellow jeepney into Olongapo, then change for a blue jeepney to Magsaysay Street.
By Public Bus
Catch a taxi from Clark airport, or your hotel, to the Victory Liner, Mabalacat bus terminal, at Dau. There is an hourly bus service from Dau to Olongapo/SBMA – it is best to confirm the schedule in advance. The journey takes approx 1 hour. Buses are air-con, often play DVDs, and are generally comfortable. There are no toilets on-board and no rest break en-route. The cost is approx 100php each way.
On arrival in Olongapo, you will encounter numerous taxi and trike touts. Negotiate the short trip to your resort/hotel in Subic Bay with them. The connection trip to Baloy Beach/Barrio Barretto areas should cost approx 500php (taxi) or 150 (trike).
If adventurous and traveling light – you can also catch a local ‘Jeepney’ from outside the bus station. These are blue-colored and travel along the highway through Barrio Barretto. A single-way trip costs only 12-15php… but the jeepneys are cramped and crowded.
Travel Around Subic Bay
There are three main ways to get around the Subic-Olongapo area:
Jeepneys are ubiquitous around the Philippines. There are two main, color-coded, routes around Subic Bay:
The YELLOW painted jeepneys run from Olongapo Town to Subic Town (to the west). They follow a route along the National Highway, taking them through the Barretto and Baloy beach areas. They depart from the side street next to Olongapo bus station (next to the 7-11 store) and will drop-off on demand (simply ask ‘parah’ = stop). The typical cost from Olongapo to Barretto/Baloy is 12php.
To get from Baloy/Barretto to the waterfront/boardwalk area of SBMA, simply ask the yellow jeepney to drop-off at the ‘Kalaklan‘ gate/bridge. Cross the bridge on foot. It is only a 4-minute walk to the seafront area from there. Alternatively, there is a taxi stand on the SBMA side of the bridge. It is also a 10-minute walk from the gate to the new Harbor Point mall, which is next to the Olongapo vehicle gate (north SBMA).
The BLUE-painted jeepneys run through Olongapo City to the main gates with SBMA (adjacent to the large SM Mall). You can catch these on the main road in front of the bus station (where the roundabout/rotunda is). The typical cost from outside the bus station to the SBMA gate/SM Mall is just 8php.
There is no jeepney service allowed inside of SBMA / SBFZ.
Trikes are plentiful in any urban area in the Philippines. You can catch a trike anywhere in Olongapo, Barretto, or Baloy. There is always a queue of them touting for passengers – especially when you arrive at the bus station in Olongapo. Trikes are ‘supposed’ to charge about 7php per km, but tourists are unlikely to ever get that rate (or even close). It is best to always tell the trike driver what you will pay for a given journey. If you ask, then you may get quoted a ludicrous amount and they will then remain inflexible in that figure.
- Olongapo Bus Station – Barretto = approx 150php
- Along the Barretto Strip = approx 25-40php
- Baloy Beach to Barretto = approx 50php
There is no trike service allowed inside SBMA / SBFZ.
Taxis are plentiful around the Olongapo bus station and inside SBMA / SBFZ. They are significantly more expensive than trikes/jeepneys and often over-charged. There is no meter requirement for taxis in the Subic Bay area – so you have to negotiate charges in advance.
The US Navy agreed on a table of set rate pricing with the local authorities, to prevent scams and rip-offs to visiting military personnel. You can use this to your advantage to get a reasonable cost from the taxi driver (and to give you an indication of what is fair). See below:
Travel Subic Bay FAQs
Is Subic Bay safe for tourists?
Yes, Subic Bay is generally safe for tourists. However, like any other tourist destination, it’s advisable to take necessary precautions and stay aware of your surroundings.
Are there any historical sites in Subic Bay?
Yes, Subic Bay has a rich history, and there are several historical sites that you can visit. These include the Subic Bay Naval Base, the Spanish Gate, Grande Island, and the St. Joseph Church.
Is scuba diving popular in Subic Bay?
Yes, scuba diving is a popular activity in Subic Bay, thanks to its crystal clear waters and diverse marine life. You can explore various dive sites, including wrecks and coral reefs.
What is the weather like in Subic Bay?
Subic Bay has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons – dry and wet. The dry season is from November to April, while the wet season is from May to October. The temperature averages around 28°C throughout the year.
Are there any eco-tourism activities in Subic Bay?
Yes, Subic Bay offers several eco-tourism activities that allow you to explore the natural beauty of the bay while minimizing your impact on the environment. These include jungle trekking, birdwatching, and tree planting.
What is the best way to explore Subic Bay?
The best way to explore Subic Bay is by renting a car or a motorcycle and exploring at your own pace. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour that covers all the popular attractions.
What souvenirs can I buy in Subic Bay?
Subic Bay has several souvenir shops where you can buy gifts for your loved ones. Some popular souvenirs include locally made handicrafts, dried mangoes, and traditional Filipino clothing.
Currently residing in Subic Bay, Philippines; he has amassed more than 10,000 open-circuit and CCR dives over three decades of challenging diving across the globe.
Andy has published numerous diving magazine articles and designed advanced certification courses for several dive training agencies, He regularly tests and reviews new dive gear for scuba equipment manufacturers. Andy is currently writing a series of advanced diving books and creating a range of tech diving clothing and accessories.
Prior to becoming a professional technical diving educator in 2006, Andy was a commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force and has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Belize, and Cyprus.
In 2023, Andy was named in the “Who’s Who of Sidemount” list by GUE InDepth Magazine.