I felt both nervous yet excited getting on the bus to Batangas Pier early on a Monday morning. The last time I went to Puerto Galera was over 10 years ago, and I wasn’t very happy with the standard of the hotels and the crowd that loitered around White Beach during my weekend trip there – dubious-looking women clinging to old, white men, aggressive vendors trying to hustle you for your cash, and lady boys selling their “company” for a couple of hundred pesos and maybe a bag of crack or smack. To imagine a picturesque luxury resort amongst the cheap hotels and dive bars in the area was almost impossible! So when I was invited to pay Infinity Resort a visit for a few days, I was very curious to see how much of the Puerto Galera landscape had changed – hopefully for the better.
To say that I was surprised is an understatement. Stepping off of the boat, I found myself on the quieter side of the island, surrounded by verdant mountains and lovely beaches, with the resort tucked into a quiet, windy cove – this was the total opposite of the filthy, rubbish-strewn image White Beach I pictured in my head.
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Diving at Giant Clams with Marco Vincent Dive Center
The Brae at Infinity Resort Meets Manila’s Queen of Thai
Tranquility Hides Within Malasimbo Spa at Infinity Resort
The Iraya-Mangyan Village of Talipanan, Oriental Mindoro
I left South Station Terminal in Alabang at around 7 o’clock in the morning, taking a Batangas bound bus (around Php 137/ticket) that was passing through Batangas Pier. It’ll take around an hour and a half to two hours for the bus to get to the port, and from there one should take the Minolo Shipping Lines (MSL) to Muelle Port (around Php 230/ one trip). I discovered the hard way that the Minolo line is the fastest and most efficient boat to take out to anywhere in Puerto Galera. I ended up on the Father & Sons line that was scheduled to leave the port terminal at 9:10, but I left at around 10:30, and we took a side trip to Sabang before finally docking at Muelle at around a quarter to 12.
I met a few ‘tapon barya‘ kids that hopped onto the beams of the boat, asking the passengers to throw change into the water for them to dive for. While some people may find this entertaining, I find this degrading for the kids of Mindoro – please just give them food instead.
If you’re booking your stay at Infinity Resort through Agoda or another online booking engine, it would be best to give them a call before leaving the Batangas terminal so they could arrange to have a van pick you up once you dock at Muelle. Otherwise, you will have to pay an exorbitant Php 300 to get a tricycle from the port to the front gate of the resort.
Located in Talipanan, Infinity Resort is situated in the quieter, less frequented part of Puerto Galera, giving guests a lot more privacy to relax and soak in the sun, sand, and surf. Driving up to the resort, I marveled at just how different the place it really was from the rest of the hotels around the area. If I didn’t know where I was, I’d think I was checking into a hotel in Cancún, not Mindoro Oriental. The façade was beautiful – with its high roofs and big glass windows, as well as the big wooden beams and cool stone floors, making the building blend into the scenery.
I was met at the front desk by the resort’s Resort Manager, Manny Dumlao, an efficient man with a very sweet deposition, and he escorted me to the villa my friends and I would be calling home for the next three days. Manny would check in on us every now and then during our stay, but for the most part he left us to our own devices, which consisted of us lounging by the pool and working on a tan for the most part.
It’s interesting to note that instead of the resort consisting of one big building with rooms, the resort worked with the lay of the land and created two-storey villas instead. Infinity is very family-friendly in this regard, and guests can book an entire Villa (starts at Php 32,000/ night) that could comfortably house six grown adults. My two friends shared the Premier Suite (starts at Php 14,000/ night) on the ground floor of the villa, which also came with a little patio outside as well as a living room and dining room inside, aside from the usual bed and bath. I got the Executive Suite (starts at Php 11,400/ night) on the second floor. The suite has an adjoining door that leads to the smaller Deluxe Suite (starts at Php 9,800/ night), the only room with two single beds instead of a king.
Although the rooms are set up for families to enjoy, the overall ambiance of the resort is very, very romantic. There were a few couples staying at the other villas, everyone mostly keeping to themselves. I noticed that a lot of them spent most of their days our snorkeling – the equipment being provided by the good folks at the front desk.
The Executive Suite is cozy and just the right size for a smitten couple, with the king-sized bed taking up much of the room, with a writing desk behind it, and two side tables, an iPod dock, a tea tray, and the mini bar on the sides. Also, just how cute are those towel animals at the foot of the bed?
When at any beach resort, I tend to nit pick over the bathrooms – I want them spacious, with neutral tones, and lots and lots of light. And that is exactly what I got here. Come to think about it, I think the bathroom is just as big as the bedroom! Fitted with a large sink, a soaking tub and rainfall shower, this became my little sanctuary after a long day out in the sun or after an afternoon of diving.
Mornings are my favorite time of the day at the beautiful resort. I would step out onto the balcony to just take in the view of the azure blue sea or the various shades of green making up the sacred Malasimbo mountains while I do my sun salutations before heading downstairs for breakfast.
Infinity Resort’s in-house restaurant is The Brae, which serves up a variety of local and international favorites as well as a separate Japanese menu for those wanting a sushi fix. I kept ordering the Spicy Tuna Maki (Php 285)my whole three days there, looking for the mild spice and comforting crunch of this Japanese staple.
The Philippines is known for its sweet mangoes, so when traveling around the country, a cold, tall Mango Shake is always a nice thing to enjoy when basking under the hot, tropical sun. It would be best to ask your server for the mango shake without the milk – it tastes better on its own rather than with the additional dairy.
Initially, I thought the prices on the menu was on the high side, but looking at how much food I get, its quite affordable. Take for example the Cordon Bleu (Php 400) I ordered for lunch my first day there – it was practically good for sharing. I couldn’t even finish half of the chicken and even though I love French fries as much as the next person, I feel like I didn’t even make a dent with the pile on my plate.
Being so near the sea, grilled seafood is something you’d never want to pass up on, and one gets their money’s worth with dishes like their Grilled Prawns (Php 450) and Stuffed Squid (Php 350). The grilled dishes come with rice, but you can always request to swap that out with fries or mashed potatoes, too.
For kids (or kids at heart), the Infinity Beef Burger (Php 295) is always a hit, and what’s more can also be shared with a sibling or mum and dad since it really is bigger than your typical McBurger. We found that we couldn’t finish half the stuff we were served with, and by day three, opted to just share the plates of food rather than ordering a dish per person instead.
For dessert, the resort has your usual Filipino favorites like Caramel Custard (Php 85) and Halo-Halo (Php 200) as well as harder-to-find desserts like Vacherin Glace Chantilly (Php 185), a kind of pavlova, and a Filipino take on Eton Mess (Php 225) which is made with mangoes instead of English strawberries.
What to Do
Puerto Galera, one of the oldest settlements of the religious missionaries in the Philippines, was founded by the Spanish in 1574 as the provincial capital of Mindoro Island. However, the history of the locale goes way back into the metal age and probably beyond. Artifacts found at ancient burial sites at Lalaguna and Minolo suggest that a thriving culture existed here for many millennia before the Spanish arrived. Occasional Chinese records from as far back as the 10th century suggest frequent trading with the indigenous Mangyan people: exchanging glazed porcelains for gold, jade, corals, shells, birds, rattan and other forest products that were abundant on the island. The Mangyans still live in the surrounding forested hills and can occasionally be seen in the town selling woven abaca items and gold recovered from the rivers and streams that cascade down the towering mountains behind.
Ok. So you made it to Infinity. Now what? While most visitors to Puerto Galera go to White Beach to get completely hammered, I prefer Muelle, the quieter side of the island, to lay out and work on a tan by the pool or catch up on my reading instead. Each room at Infinity Resort also comes with an hour’s complimentary use of their kayaks or paddle boats if one feels like puttering about the water – this is great for kids to spend an hour enjoying the sun and the sea.
If you want to channel your inner Yoncé and Jay-Z while staying at the resort, ask Billy at the front desk about renting a yacht for a day or two for some extra privacy. Lounge out by the deck, go snorkeling at some of the shallower dive spots, or spend the day island hopping instead.
For the more adventurous at heart, Billy can also assist in wrangling in some para-sailing hours with one of the local establishments affiliated with the resort. Take advantage of the sights with the salty sea breeze caressing your face (and giving you a faster tan to boot!).
For guests who are more interested in exploring the flora and fauna of the island, ask about taking a visit to Tamaraw Falls which starts as a series of little cascades that culminates in a 460-foot man-made pool where one can take a plunge. There is also a challenging hiking trail that tracks along the river as it descends through the mountain. A few more miles along the road to Calapan one can also find a sandy beach as well as the heritage fishing village of Villa Flor.
For the most panoramic views of Puerto Galera you simply must not miss a trip up the mountains to the Ponderosa Golf Club where, with very modest green-fees, you can play one of the world’s most dramatic 9-hole golf courses and challenge your short game or check out the long zip-line for aerial views of the island.
If its history and culture you’re looking for, you can ask for a guided tour of the Mangyan Village located 2-3 minutes from the resort. The Mangyans are the real natives of Mindoro whose features are a little different from the Tagalogs. They are a very nomadic people, who however, try to avoid outside influences in order to protect their own culture have gradually moved away from new settlers. Although they used to be coast people, they now have little tribes that occupy the mountains of Mindoro.
The waters around Puerto Galera is teeming with exotic and colorful marine life and coral gardens, and the variety of species found here outnumbers those of the Great Barrier Reef. With over 30 dive site available to explore, it’s no wonder that this place, especially Sabang, is a year-round diving destination for beginners looking to try the sport out or work on getting certified, as well as experienced divers. Infinity Resort and its affiliate dive shop, Marco Vincent Dive Center, puts together fun, private dive trips for guests, exploring one of the many dive spots near Muelle.
I’m not a morning person, but the gorgeous view of the ocean and the foggy top of Malasimbo mountain at dawn is just too beautiful to pass up. And the complimentary breakfast isn’t half bad, too! The set breakfast starts with your choice of fresh fruits or a glass of fresh fruit juice. I say, stick with the fruit platter, you get more vitamins to kick start your day that way, and you can enjoy this by the pool while you wait for the rest of the food to be served, too.
There is the all dependable bread basket for the folks who enjoy their jam on toast or pandesal with coffee in the morning. The tea and coffee is refillable so one can drink to their heart’s content either at the restaurant, poolside, or at the villa. I find the most satisfying view to be in front of the pool, looking out at the water to where the sea touches the sky.
Pick and choose from an International or Filipino breakfast, or have a bit of fun and mix up the two! Both dishes are served with two eggs done sunny-side up, boiled, or scrambled, and a grilled tomato topped with mozzarella cheese. Choose between your choice of stodge: plain or garlic rice for the Filipino breakfast, and hash browns, pancakes, or home-style potatoes from the International selection. The Filipino breakfast has a small variety of tapa, bangus, chorizo, and footlong hotdogs to choose from, while the international selection offers the usual hotdogs, bacon, and corned beef.
The complimentary breakfasts at Infinity Resort aims to fill you up for a day of exploring the island or physical activities like snorkeling, diving, or para-sailing, giving you more than enough energy to tide you over ’til your next meal.
The Spectacular Views
I keep going on and on about the breathtakingly beautiful landscape one is privileged to bear witness to when staying at Infinity Resort. And let me just tell you, I’m not exaggerating. Like the view of the sacred mountains of the island, for example. The villas look tiny against the lush, green backdrop.
Right in front of the resort is the beach, and although it isn’t as powdery white as that of Boracay or Palawan, the sight of the vast blue sea is enough to make travelers relax and take it easy whilst enjoying the laid-back island life.
I felt really sad when we finally had to say goodbye to the place we had come to call home for the last three days – I still have trouble coming to terms with a resort as beautiful as Infinity Resort being in the middle of Puerto Galera! Not only is the property absolutely stunning, but what made my stay even more special was the attentive staff. Everyone, from the owners of the resort down to the servers were very kind, chatty, and accommodating – they really go out of their way to make sure you are relaxed or have as much fun as you possibly can while being under their roof. At the end of it all, I felt more like being a guest in someone’s home rather than staying at a resort and couldn’t help but give Michelle, one of the owners, and Manny, the resort manager, a big hug before leaving for the port of Muelle.
Puerto Galera is infamous for its crazy party scene, the ladyboys that would rival the ones at Pattaya, and a quick escape for divers who don’t mind slumming it in a dingy hotel room with bad lighting and a tiny bathroom. I hope visitors to the island find the hidden gem that is Infinity Resort which, for me at least, is a gateway to realizing that there is a lot of elegance and a rich culture in Oriental Mindoro, if only one were to take a closer look.
Infinity Resort is located at Talipanan in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. For inquiries or to book a room, please call +63 917 792 6353 or +63 919 993 3449 between 8am – 9pm daily.