It may be touristy and the importunate hawkers can frazzle your nerves, but Puerto Galera on the northern coast of Mindoro has become one of the Philippines' most popular tourist attractions, and rightly so. It has a stunning natural harbour, countless coves and beaches, a good range of affordable accommodation and excellent scuba diving, with around thirty listed dive sites. There are dozens of accredited dive operators in the area, making it a good place to strike a deal and get yourself a discount on the going rate.
Puerto Galera's extensive and diverse coral reefs have been declared a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Marine Reserve, an environment of global importance. The direct protection that comes from this is minimal, but local people, hotel owners and dive operators are co-operating to ensure the undersea riches are not frittered away. There's plenty on offer in addition to diving, including excellent snorkelling, trekking into the mountains and beach-hopping by banca, perhaps with a packed lunch so you can picnic in the deserted cove of your choice.
Puerto Galera is actually the name of a small town (poblacion), but is generally used to refer to the area between Sabang, 5km to the east, and White Beach, 8km to the west. Most visitors head straight for Sabang and the nearby beaches of Small La Laguna and Big La Laguna. Between them, these three locations offer the best choice of accommodation, diving, restaurants and nightlife. Sabang is the busiest beach, with a mind-boggling variety of accommodation dotted haphazardly along the shoreline and some above-average restaurants. It also has a couple of go-go bars, whereas Small La Laguna and Big La Laguna are rather more laidback and family-oriented, with accommodation to suit all budgets, a few beach bars and pleasant seafront restaurants. Also suited to families are a number of mid-range resorts which sprouted up near the village of Palangan, about halfway along the road from Puerto Galera to Sabang. Northeast of Palangan there's a small, isolated cove at Sinandigan with a handful of very peaceful resorts. In the other direction, to the west of Puerto Galera, the nearest beach is the picturesque White Beach, where accommodation is strictly of the bamboo-hut variety and restaurant menus are more limited than at Sabang. Beyond lie Aninuan Beach and Talipanan Beach, which have affordable, comfortable places to stay, though no nightlife or diving.
Many visitors come to Puerto Galera for the excellent diving, but there's plenty to do besides. There are many secluded beaches and coves around Puerto Galera and a number of islands close by that are worth exploring. The beaches west of Puerto Galera provide quick access to the foothills of Mount Malasimbo and make good bases for trekking.
Power failures are a regular occurrence in Puerto Galera, so it's worth asking resorts if they have a backup generator before committing yourself to staying. In and around Sabang most restaurants have European cuisine, with quite extensive menus at the larger resorts, but elsewhere in the Puerto Galera area eating is often a simple affair, usually revolving around whatever fish happens to have been brought ashore that day. Most areas have their own sari-sari stores, so you probably won't need to go into Puerto Galera to do your shopping.