Hermana Menor Island has been in the social media spotlight recently, proof that the island’s charm really captured every island goer’s hearts. Having a wide expanse of sandbar made it unique among the islands of Zambales. I was wrong into thinking that the province is just about coves, wonderful sunsets, beaches, and surfing. Little did I know that such beauty that usually exists in farther places from Manila (e.g. Leyte, Cebu, Antique) also exists in Zambales!
Another thing that made it stand out is that the sandbar is surrounded by coral reefs. Just few steps to the water and poof!—you’ll instantly witness a colorful marine life! You don’t need to pay an extra fee for a boat that would bring you to the snorkeling site, you just need to have your goggles or snorkeling masks and dive in for free!
The actuality that How She Wanders’ Facebook post was shared 16.8k+ times (with 25k+ tag comments) and reached 3.5million+ people only proves that the island’s charm really caught everyone’s attention (including those—I’d hate to say this—irresponsible tourists who only want to show-off). Such event resulted to a massive influx of tourists, hence the temporary closure of the island.
The island is still under rehabilitation as of writing, but I’ll share our itinerary anyway so that once they opened the island again you’re all set 😉
*UPDATE: The island is still closed as of March 2, 2020. Will update this blog once we get announcements.
09:00pm – Departure from Bulacan to Cubao
11:00pm – Departure from Cubao to Monumento
11:30pm – Arrival @ Victory Liner Caloocan Terminal (Monumento), wait for boarding time
11:55pm – Boarding time
As you can see, we went from Bulacan to Cubao, then Cubao to Monumento. There’s actually a shorter route: Bulacan-Balintawak(via nlex)-Monumento. But shorter route doesn’t always mean easier.
Victory Liner Terminals in Caloocan (Monumento), Pasay, and Sampaloc have direct trips to Sta. Cruz, Zambales. How I wish their terminal in San Fernando Pampanga has direct trips to Sta. Cruz as well. That would be a lot easier for those coming from Bulacan and Pampanga.
You may check Victory Liner’s fares and schedule here.
Staying overnight in the island is not allowed that’s why you really need to depart from Manila at midnight (or earlier) so you could at least arrive in the island at around 8am. I bet you don’t want to arrive late and spend lesser time in the island. The island closes at 5pm. You need to leave the island on or before 5pm.
12:15am – Departure from Caloocan to Candelaria, Zambales
05:45am – Meet up at Uacon Petron Gas Station, preparation, breakfast, waterproof belongings, buy food and drinking water
07:10am – Departure from Uacon mainland via 6-passenger boat (though we were only 2)
We passed by Potipot Island along the way. Witnessing the island being illuminated by the morning sun while we were sailing on a very calm water was such a great appetizer. We just savored the moment because it’s not everyday that you’ll experience such bliss. We were completely in awe and forgot to take some photos!
Still, nothing beats the sight of the lively corals that are clearly visible above the waters while approaching Hermana Menor!
07:45am – Touch down Hermana Menor!
08:00am – Set-up tent under the shade of a tree, Breakfast Part2
09:00am – Explore Sandbar (yes 1hr kami dun para sulit pagset-up ng kawayan drone )
To save a few bucks, we brought our own tent, there’s no tent pitching fee! We also preferred sitting on the sand while eating to save ourselves from additional fees for table, chairs, and cottage rental.
Note: We did this because we were on a tight budget. But I encourage everyone to patronize their rental services as a way of helping in the local economy, especially to those who can afford. Spend more if you can. Treat yourself and enjoy as much as you can.
We spent an hour or so exploring the sandbar. The sandbar was WIDE and it’s quite a long journey walking from the tent area to the far end of the sandbar and vice versa. So better bring all your important belongings for security purposes, as well as everything you need
for photo ops because walking back and forth to the sandbar requires much effort (tamad lang). 😜
The sandbar was clean, maybe because it was Friday and the crowd was just about to arrive. Sino pa nga bang magkakalat dyan diba? Thankfully, we get to enjoy the tranquility of the island before it gets too crowded.
It actually looks like the sandbar in Antique’s Seco Island, but the water surrounding it is clearer and more vibrant, because it’s deeper and have lots of corals underneath, plus a very pleasant weather!
Be extra careful though when swimming around the sandbar because the water gets deep quickly. There are no lifeguards in the island. Better swim at the “main beach” (just in front of the cottage and tent pitching area), it’s safer there.
Do take note that flying of drones is strictly not allowed. The aerial shots in the following sandbar photos were taken using long bamboo pole 😉 With just a little bit of resourcefulness and creativity, you’ll have IG worthy sandbar shots
10:00am – Explore other parts of the island; swimming time!
12:00nn – Lunch at the island’s only store
01:00pm – Siesta
02:30pm – Wash-up, prepare for departure
03:30pm – Bye for now Hermana Menor!
The island has 2 beaches accessible. The first one is the “main beach” (where boats dock, I don’t know its official name) and as for the other one, forgive me for I don’t know how to call it, for the mean time I’ll just call it “the other beach” (if you know the names please kindly message me or share in the comments!). The rest of the beaches are off-limits to the public for there are wild animals roaming around.
The “main beach” has off-white sands. Probably one of the best beaches in Zambales. It looks golden during early morning, and looks so white during noon (this is common sense, but I stated it anyway so people would stop accusing me that I edited the sandy part to look white 😅). The sands are not that compact compared to the sands at the sandbar part. If you are to swim with kids, swim here because the water is calm and not too deep. Unlike the water around the sandbar, though it’s calm too, but it gets deep quickly.
The “other beach” is more peaceful as it is not too crowded. This is where you’ll experience your much needed solitude. The rocky part produces an exotic backdrop. The sandy part is clean and powdery white. It’s also safe to swim here.
Both beaches have vibrant blue waters, thanks to the very pleasant weather! Again, this is CS, but allow me to explain for those who need enlightenment. Okay. The color of the water is just the reflection of the sky, so even if I don’t edit the photos it’s still blue! Saka tayo magtaka kung makulimlim ang langit tas blue parin yung dagat 😅
Okay, enough of rants…
After few hours of roaming around the island, our tummies started begging for nourishment, and that’s when we realized it’s already lunch time! We almost lost track of time. Good thing, our tummies don’t! 😁
Half of the food that we bought from mainland for lunch (chicken adobo with rice) was already consumed during our Breakfast Part2. Thankfully, there’s a sari-sari store in the island where we bought itlog na maalat and corned beef.
We had the guts to use their table and chairs because we bought something from their store. But if you haven’t bought anything, have the initiative not to use their facilities. It would be more embarrassing when you’re asked to leave. Put yourself in the shoes of the owner. Huwag po tayong masyadong makapal….. OR AT LEAST ASK FIRST the owner if you can use their facilities in case you badly need it. That would only take a few seconds and a little amount of words.
And having bought something from their store doesn’t give us a license to leave our trash on the table, especially when there’s a trash bin available and disposables were used. Manners are not meant to be set aside, they are meant to be exercised, folks.
We took a nap after finishing our lunch because admit it, it really feels so good. And there’s a science behind it! Digesting the food requires a lot of energy in our body that’s why we feel groggy during digestion. And it’s not because we’re lazy! Or maybe I was wrong, and being lazy could be a factor 🤣
After an hour or so, we feel recharged and prepared ourselves for departure. There are comfort rooms and shower area available, as well as fresh water, but only for rinsing that’s why you need to bring drinking water. The showers and faucets are not functioning well and you need to fetch water outside the comfort room first. Usual scenario when you’re in an island.
After rinsing, we organized our belongings with slightly broken hearts because we knew we will be leaving the paradise in a few minutes. Medyo bitin. But we need to respect the policy. The island is privately owned and overnight camping and setting up bonfires are not allowed.
But wait, there’s more! Since we didn’t have a chance to snorkel for we forgot to bring our goggles and snorkeling masks and there are no snorkeling masks available for rent, we asked our boatman if he could slow down the boat while sailing above the coral reefs so we could at least capture the beauty underneath. And he gladly said yes!
How I really wish we had the chance to snorkel. I’m sure it will be another remarkable experience. Definitely another reason to come back!
04:00pm – Arrival at Uacon mainland, settle payments for boat rental, little chit-chat
04:45pm – Arrival at Victory Liner Sta. Cruz Station via tricycle ride
05:00pm – Stroll around looking for food to eat for dinner near the terminal
06:00pm – Dinner! Pork barbeque and dilis, and rice!
07:00pm – Boarding time
07:30pm – Departure from Sta. Cruz
12:00mn – Arrival at Caloocan
02:00am – Home sweet home Bulacan
If you want a less hassle DIY trip, you may opt to stay overnight at Potipot Island after day-touring Hermana Menor. I know going home right after the tour and roughing it all out is not everyone’s thing. This itinerary is applicable only to those who do not mind sleeping in the bus for hours.
Summary of Important Facts
- Entrance fee is 100 per person
- Day tour only. Overnight Camping not allowed.
- Bonfire not allowed
- Strictly no flying of drones (aerial shots in this post were taken using long bamboo pole )
- The island is privately owned and we should respect the rules (kung ayaw nyo ipasara ulit)
- There’s a sari-sari store in the island
- Table rental is 350
- Cottage rental 500-1000
- No fees for tent pitching (which was what we preferred para tipid)
- There’s a comfort room and wash area available with fresh water
- Only 2 beaches accessible. The other beaches are off-limits to the public for there are wild animals roaming around
- There’s an expanse of coral reefs that surround the sandbar
- No lifeguards. Swim at your own risk
How To Get There
- Take a Victory Liner Bus bound to Sta. Cruz, Zambales. Tell the conductor to drop you off at Petron Gas Station in Uacon.
- Ride a tricycle going to the port.
- Ride a boat to Hermana Menor Island.
You may book you transportation to Sta. Cruz, Zambales here:
Budget Breakdown for 2 Pax
- Victory Liner Bus (Caloocan-Uacon) = 432
- Drinking water (5gal) = 100 divided by 2 = 50
- Boat rental = 1,200 divided by 2 = 600 per head (Boat is good for 6pax but we were only 2, the more the cheaper)
- Entrance fee = 100
- Tricycle to Sta. Cruz Terminal = 150 per tricycle divided by 2 = 75 each
- Victory Liner Bus to Caloocan = 456
TOTAL = 1,713 per person (food not included because it varies kung gano ka katakaw)
Our food expenses (BF+L+D) = 285 for 2pax = 143 each (pandesal, hotdog, egg, chicken adobo, corned beef, itlog na maalat, rice, pork barbecue, dilis)
- BOAT RENTAL fee ranges from 1,500 to 2,000. But we got ours for only 1,200. Contact Ate Maricris Dayto @ 0909-067-1869. Friendly, accommodating, and quick to reply
- Recommended side trip: Potipot Island. Ate Maricris’ rate is 1,500 for Hermana + Potipot. Boat is good for 4-6pax. Entrance fees not included. Potipot Entrance Fee = 300 daytour, 500 overnight.
- WE SPOTTED FEW TRASHES during our visit. Please throw your garbage at designated trash bins. If you can’t find a trash bin, bring your garbage when you get back to the mainland and dispose them properly. Please?
- WHEN GOING BACK TO MANILA, I recommend you to ride a tricycle going to Sta. Cruz Terminal of Victory Liner so you could secure your bus seat. If you will wait for the bus along the highway of Uacon, chances are you’ll be standing at the bus. Victory Liner bus schedule from Sta. Cruz Zambales to Caloocan is 7PM (but better arrive before 7). Tricycle from Uacon to Sta. Cruz terminal is 150.
And that’s it. I hope everyone gets a chance to visit this paradise and we all know that wouldn’t happen if we won’t be responsible individuals. I’m sure the island will be healed from the damage people caused, and I can’t wait for it to happen. And when that time comes, I hope it won’t be closed again for the same reason. We are all stewards. Not just me, not just the government. All of us. We all live in the same planet, so we should all be responsible in taking care of it.
More about this here.
Thank you for reading. God bless and shalom! 😊