A balikbayan’s guide to Subic
One thing we truly take pride in as Filipinos is our wealth of beautiful beaches. But what’s even better is that a lot of these beaches are easily accessible. If all you have is a weekend, spare a few hours for a road trip to one of the nearby beach destinations from Manila: Subic Bay.
Formerly a US naval base, Subic Bay is now a freeport zone thriving with a number of must-visit establishments. In just three to four hours from Manila, you can get access to ocean views, good food, and a few fun experiences for the family, too.
If you’re coming home to Manila and are in need of a quick itinerary, here are some ideas.
Leonardo’s Pizza Tradizionale
Address: Rotonda Food Park, Moonbay Marina, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo
Operating hours: 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays to Sundays, closed on Mondays
Why visit: Excellent Neapolitan-style pizza, made with a specially crafted brick oven
What to order: Tartufo e funghi and diavola pizzas, grilled octopus, bruschetta
Address: Wow World Complex, Rizal Highway, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo
Operating hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Why visit: Great specialty coffee with locally sourced ingredients. Collaborates with local bakers for pastries and farmers/suppliers for other ingredients
What to order: Honey oat latte, sea salt latte, dirty horchata, ube madeleines
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Address: Malawaan Park, Argonaut Highway, Subic Bay Freeport Zone
Operating hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Why visit: Offering French bistro classics and Italian and Spanish dishes, the restaurant is widely visited for its extensive menu and seaside views. (They also have wines and cocktails!)
What to order: smoked salmon tartine, ribeye
Address: Corner of Waterfront Rd. and McKinley St., Subic Bay Freeport Zone
Operating hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Why visit: They call themselves as the original real American smokehouse in the Philippines. Dishes are slow smoked with hickory wood
What to order: Baby back ribs, hickory smoked spare ribs
You may also like: The essential Poblacion bar guide: Balikbayan edition
727 Coffee & Co.
Address: Bldg. 727 Dewey Ave. cor. Manila Ave., Subic Bay Freeport Zone
Operating hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays to Sundays
Why visit: Good coffee with a hefty selection of rice meals, pasta, sandwiches, and pastries
What to order: Iced caramel con crema for the sweet tooths, peanut butter oat latte, avocado and tomato toast
As a freeport zone, Subic is also home to various outlet stores and duty-free shops. You can probably spot a tax-free grocery or a factory outlet at every other corner if you drive around the area. For duty-free grocery shopping, there are Royal Outlets and Duty Free Superstore. Branded outlet stores include Nike, Adidas, Guess, and Lacoste, among others.
Address: Lot 14, Argonaut Highway, Subic Bay Freeport Zone
Operating hours: Open 24 hours
Why visit: This resort has a museum and restaurant. For a great sunset view, check out the restaurant (which is filled with various marine artifacts found from shipwrecks in the area!)
Inflatable Island Beach Club
Address: R7W9+M57, Olongapo – Bugallon Road, Olongapo City
Operating hours: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Why visit: If you’re looking for some fun water activities, Inflatable Island offers—as their name suggests—an inflatable playground over the waters of Subic Bay. They claim to be the biggest floating playground in Asia, spanning 4,500 sq.m. If you’re not up for playing at the inflatables, they also have a swimming pool and various tiki huts to relax.
El Kabayo Stables
Address: 1411, El Kabayo Road, Subic Bay Freeport Zone
Operating hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Why visit: If you’re up for some guided horseback riding or even want to take lessons, visit El Kabayo Stables. Their horseback riding routes lead to the El Kabayo Falls. It’s run by the NGO Wildlife In Need, which specializes in animal welfare and care.
The Nest by the Sea
These Airbnb listings run by a Subic-based cinematographer and director couple have cozy coastal vibes and are located near key places around Subic Bay. Prices per night are affordable but depend on the listing. Each place is also pet-friendly.
Another popular Airbnb listing is 59B Swordfish, which boasts modern, mid-century interiors. The sleek and cozy space can accommodate up to 16 people, making it apt for big family gatherings or outings.