The province of Bataan is best known for its historical and cultural attractions. The Battle of Bataan is famous for being one of the last stands of American and Filipino soldiers before they were overwhelmed by the Japanese forces during World War II. The Bataan Death March, where the infamous march started, was also named after the province.
But aside from its historical sites, Bataan is a rising eco-tourism destination with beaches, mountains, turtle sanctuaries, bird-watching sites, springs and waterfalls. Bataan lies within two major peaks, Mount Natib and Mount Mariveles, which are ideal destinations for adventure-seekers. If you’re a mountain biker or hiker, you’ll want to check out the natural trails that Bataan has to offer.
WHERE EXACTLY IS BATAAN:
Bataan is a province in the Philippines located in the Central Luzon region. Occupying the entire Bataan Peninsula on Luzon, Bataan is bordered by the provinces of Zambales and Pampanga to the north and faces the South China Sea to the west, Subic Bay to the north-west, and encloses Manila Bay to the east. Despite its proximity to Manila, the province isn’t commercialized or as “touristy” as some other popular destinations, making it a good choice for weekend warriors who want to get away from the crowds.
HOW TO GET THERE:
By private transportation/car:
- If you’re driving from Manila, you can take the North Luzon Expressway and take either the San Fernando toll exit or the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).
- Upon exiting San Fernando, proceed to Jose Abad Santos Ave, (formerly Olangapo-Gapan Road) all the way to Lubao Pampanga and Dinalupihan Bataan.
- At the Layac junction, take the road leading to Roman Super Highway on the left (right turn leads to Olangapo City) all the way to the City Center of Balanga, Bataan.
- Via SCTEX, take the Dinalupihan exit and turn right at Roman Super Highway.
- Travel time is 2-3 hours by car depending on the traffic. It’s best to leave Manila early morning or after lunch to avoid the rush hour.
By public transportation/bus:
- From Manila, the easiest way to get to Bataan is by bus.
- Bus lines include Genesis, Bataan Transit, Sinulog and Victory Liner (the last two pass only Dinalupihan and go to Olongapo rather than Balanga.)
- Genesis has terminals in Pasay (beside the MRT Terminal) and Avenida (at the back of Philippine Rabbit terminal).
- Bataan Transit has terminals in Avenida (beside Genesis) and in Cubao (same terminal as 5 Star buses).
- Travel time by bus is about 3 hours. The bus fare is about P200 per person.
By sea / ferry:
- There used to be a ferry from Manila to Bataan that cut travel time down to 45 minutes.
- The Manila-Bataan Ferry Boat traveling from Roxas Boulevard to Orion Port is not yet operational. They conducted a dry-run in May 2017, but there are no rates, rules and regulations, and schedules available yet according to the Bataan Tourism.
WHERE TO GO:
Shrine of Valor at Mt. Samat
Bataan’s major icon is the Shrine of Valor, a 92-meter high concrete cross on top of Mt. Samat in Pilar town, 555 meters above sea level. The cross is the country’s national memorial for the defenders of Bataan and site of the annual Araw ng Kagitingan Rites. Below the cross is a shrine, colonnade with an altar, esplanade and museum. Within Mt. Samat complex, there’s a Treetop Adventure, ATVs for rent and a zipline that ends in Dunsulan Falls.
The center of the cross contains an old elevator from where you can ride to the top to get a windy view of the mountain landscape. Last year, we were still able to ride up but effective January 7, 2016, the elevator leading up to the viewing gallery is temporarily closed due to ongoing renovations. RATES: Entrance fee is P30 per person for the museum. For other activities, check this site.
An open air museum and heritage park complex made up of reconstructed ancestral houses from different parts of the country. There are currently 27 heritage houses that recreate the ambiance of a colonial village. There have been debates in the travel community regarding the violation of conservation principles (since heritage houses are physically transplanted from their original location).
Despite this, there’s no denying that Las Casas is an extremely photogenic place that has become very popular with tourists. Just think of it as a theme park for heritage houses. The resort is open for day trip visits, overnight stays and special events like pre-nup pictorials and weddings. RATES: Day tour entrance fee ranges from P999-P1999 per person (depending on meal and transportation packages)
Mountain Biking Trails
There are various mountain bike trails around Bataan catering to different rider levels. Karagatan Bay View Peak is a short but challenging 5-km circuit with breathtaking views of Mariveles Valley, Corregidor Island, Manila Bay and Mt. Mariveles (Tarak Ridge). With a service road to the peak, this place is also a playground for downhillers. This is the venue for the annual Padyakan sa Bataan held every April in time for Araw ng Kagitingan. For non-bikers, the area is ideal for picnics and camping.
Meanwhile, the infamous Killer Loop Trail is a 34-km trail for advanced/experienced riders that takes 3-5 hours to complete. The trail passes old WWII guerilla roads and tracks which circles around Mt. Samat that contains everything from dirt roads, extended climbs with grades up to 35 percent, roots, single tracks, double tracks, rolling hills, rock gardens, technical ascents and descents, ravines, switchbacks, river crossings and more. The route itself is challenging, but the views are just amazing!
San Miguel Rock is 110-meter high rock in Sisiman Bay, a swimming spot for locals. There’s a lighthouse and beach area where you can watch the sunset. Apparently, you can also try rappelling from the rock!
It’s an easy downhill ride to the beach from Karagatan Bay View Peak. RATES: Entrance is free
Pawikan Conservation Center
The Pawikan Conservation Center aims to protect marine turtles which are highly threatened by extinction due to human activities such as poaching, egg gathering, slaughter, illegal fishing and pollution. The center contains a hatchery and sanctuary for injured turtles. RATES: Entrance fee is P30 per head
Balanga Wetland and Nature Park
One of the country’s birdwatching havens. The area contains thick mangrove forest, wetlands, grasslands and mudflats that have provided a natural food basket for migratory and endemic bird species an houses at least 35 species and 15 families of birds. RATES: Entrance fee is P20/per person
For mountaineers and hikers, Bataan’s rolling terrain offers different hiking trails ideal for day trips or camping. The most popular hikes include Tarak Ridge in Mt. Mariveles*, Mt. Natib, Mt. Malasimbo in Dinaluphian.
Bataan also has waterfalls you can hike to including Kairukan Falls, Limutan Falls, Ambon-Ambon Falls and Dunsulan Falls.
READ MORE: Outdoor Adventures in Bataan by Jovial Wanderer
Took an exciting shortcut to get to the basin of Ambon Ambon falls, where we did some scrambling and a bit of rapelling down a mountain cliff. By taking slow, sure steps and listening to our guides, we survived with minimal scratches. 😃 Best part, was bathing in its icy pool and eating #biko after, a local #delicacy made out of sticky rice and coconut! #waterfalls #adventures #Bataan #Philippines #BeholdBataan
There are numerous swimming pool and beach resorts around Bataan including Mt. Tarak Resort, Villa Amanda’s and the membership only Anvaya Cove in Morong.
The controversial Bataan Nuclear Power Plant sits on a 389-hectare government reservation at Napot Point in the coastal town of Morong. BNPP was completed in 1984 but never fueled due to anti-nuclear movements in the country and numerous issues raised against it. Highlights include the Steam Generator Building, the Reactor Building and the Control Room. RATES: Entrance fee is P100 (student), P200 (non-student); open only during weekdays
Bataan has a number of historical landmarks around the province including two Death March markers (KM 00 and KM 0 in Bagac and Mariveles), the First Line of Defense Monument in Layac Junction in Dinalupihan town), Flaming Sword in Pilar, Diwa ng Bataan (World War II Surrender Memorial), and Philippine-Japan Friendship Tower.
WHERE TO STAY:
The Plaza Hotel is an architectural icon with an impressive façade inspired by Spanish colonial architecture, and elegant and classy interiors. The hotel is adjacent to the City Hall, Galleria de Victoria Mall, and across the 18th century Balanga Cathedral. Room rates start at P3,200/night. www.theplazahotelbalanga.com
Located inside the Freeport Area of Bataan in Mariveles, The Oriental Hotel Baaan is a beautiful four-star Asian inspired hotel with luxury accommodations, swimming pool, cliff lounge and Cocoon restaurant. Ideal for business, leisure travelers, families and couples. Promo rate starts at P3,800 per room. www.bataan.theorientalhotels.com
Crown Royale Hotel offers basic accommodations for regular travelers who need a base conveniently located in the city. Double standard room starts at P1,700 a night (good for 2 pax). http://crownroyalehotel.com/
For luxury travelers looking for a unique experience, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar offers a getaway where you can stay overnight in recreated ancestral houses.Rooms and suites range from P10,000 (good for 2 pax) to P17,000 (good for up to 6 pax) per night while whole houses range from P12,000 to P75,000 (yikes!) per night. The latest addition to the resort is the Hotel de Oriente, a replica of a Binondo hotel built in 1889. www.lascasasfilipinas.com.
WHERE TO EAT:
The Food Project is a hip hangout in Orion, Bataan that serves pretty good meals like steak, ribs and pasta meals which all cost under P100 each! They specialize in fusion comfort food, with Pinoy favorites and Western dishes. The resto has a nice vibe & friendly service too. Great for barkadas!
Loleng’s Hu Tieu-an is a budget-friendly roadside eatery run by a Filipina who used to work at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center. Try their Hu tieu (rice noodle soup in pork broth), banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich with meat and fresh basil), Bun Tit Nuong (rice noodles w/ grilled meat) and spring rolls.
Mt. Tarak Restaurant in Mariveles serves Spanish fusion dishes like Paella, Prawns Thermidore, Beef Salpicao and Pollo Iberico (Iberian chicken that requires 3 hours prep time; pre-orders required). Beer, wine and cocktails available.
Villa Amanda is a popular swimming pool resort with its own restaurant that serves very good savory dishes including inihaw na tilapia stuffed with herbs, pesang tilapia, crispy dilis, ensalada, sinigang na tilapia, crab relleno, and crispy pata.
The Beanery is a hip homegrown coffee shop where you can enjoy all-day breakfast meals, cakes, pastries and coffee. They have 2 branches in Balanga and 1 in Orani.
Espada Grill is a bar/grill restaurant that serves affordable Filipino meals like grilled tilapia, pork liempo and chicken bbq/inasal. They have an Eat-All-You-Can promo every Monday in their Balanga branch ranging from P145 (superior meal) to P195 (executive meal). Buffet hours are from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm for lunch and 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm for dinner.
Joyous Tangway Grill is another homegrown restaurant that serves Filipino food like sisig, crisy pata and sinigang na manok sa ayo (type of leaves used as a souring agent).
WHAT TO BUY:
For all your souvenir needs, be sure to stop by the Bataan Tourism Center. It houses the provincial tourism office, Bataan World War II Diorama and a Bataan souvenir shop and Pasalubong Center that showcases some of the province’s products, souvenirs, handicrafts and delicacies.
Products include coffee, cashews, capiz products, souvenir t-shirts and handicrafts. Dried fish like tinapa and danggit are also delicacies of Bataan.
NOTE: This travel guide was compiled from several trips to Bataan including The “Out and About” media tour sponsored by Osprey Philippines in 2015, the 11th Padyakan sa Bataan 2016 organized by Bataan Tourism; and Tarak Ridge Climb sponsored by BaseKamp.
For more information, please contact the Bataan Tourism Center. Roman Super Highway, City of Balanga, Bataan, 2100 Philippines