A popular weekend escape from Manila, Subic Bay was once the base for a huge US naval fleet. Today it’s reinvented as a family-friendly tourist destination, with attractions from theme parks and safari parks to jungle trekking. Most foreign travelers visit to dive the magnificent wrecks, trek the jungle, and tour the abandoned base.
Whether your tastes run to wrecks or theme parks, it’s possible to visit Subic Bay as a day trip from Manila or spend a few days here. You don’t need a tour to visit Subic Bay but, unless you’re confident driving in Manila’s gridlocked traffic or piecing together jeepney routes, it certainly helps.
Some of the most unique Subic Bay tours have a military theme. These include visits to the former US naval base, abandoned after Mt. Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption; courses at the Jungle Environment Survival Training Camp, which teaches survival skills; and diving the many World War II wrecks that dot the bay. Other Subic Bay tours cover attractions such as Zoobic Safari and Ocean Park marine park.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Subic Bay’s military attractions will appeal to adventurers; its theme parks and safari parks are family-friendly.
- Bring closed shoes if you’re planning on jungle trekking—don’t expect larger sizes to be available in town.
- While the sex trade that once dominated Subic Bay is significantly reduced, it’s still present. Pick the bars you visit carefully.
How to Get There
Subic Bay lies around 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of downtown Manila—around a 2- or 3-hour drive depending on the time of day. Victory Liner express buses run from Sampaloc to Olongapo, a 10-minute jeepney ride away, and there are slower buses direct to Subic Bay. Many travelers prefer the ease of a tour that includes door-to-door transfers.
When to Get There
Subic Bay fills up on weekends, when Manilans make the mass exodus west for beach and jungle fun. For shorter lines at rides and much less crowded wrecks, visit during the week. As with other popular domestic tourist destinations, don’t even think about visiting over the Easter period, when Filipinos take to the roads en masse.
Diving the Wrecks of Subic Bay
A US naval base since 1898, when the US made the Philippines its only colony, Subic Bay is home to seven World War II wrecks that are regularly dived. These include the Oryoku Maru, a Japanese cargo ship sunk in 1944 with many Allied POWs aboard, and the USS New York, a battle cruiser sunk by the Americans in 1941. Visibility is poor compared to locations such as Coron but is at its best between February and April.