Subic is a seaside area on the west side of Luzon Island in Zambales Province in the Subic Bay region. Subic Bay is a former US naval base that was converted into a beach town in the greater proximity of Manila. The main industry is the free port and the airport which is used by transport companies.
This guide covers an area known as the Subic Special Economic and Freeport Zone which is commonly known as Subic or Subic Bay. The relatively developed portions of the Subic area are referred to as the Subic Freeport Zone, although the whole Subic economic zone covers portions of Bataan and Zambales provinces; specifically the city of Olongapo and the town of Subic in Zambales and the towns of Hermosa and Morong in Bataan. Olongapo, often associated with this area, is covered separately. Portions of Subic town in Zambales outside the Subic Freeport Zone is likewise not covered in this guide.
The area's history began as a shipbuilding facility by the Spaniards in 1885. After Spain handed over the Philippines to the United States at the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, Subic became a major naval outpost which existed until 1991. Volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo also affected many buildings and facilities inside the naval facility while the American forces started to leave. Since the United States forces left, it was converted into a mixed-use area with industrial and retail zones.
Public transportation methods such as jeepneys and motorized tricycles plying in areas around the Subic Freeport Zone (SFZ) such as in downtown Olongapo, are not allowed to go inside the SFZ.
From Manila, Subic is connected by expressway, the Subic Freeport Expressway (SFEx, formerly Subic-Tipo Expressway); it connects with the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) onward from Pampanga.
From Bataan, you can enter from Morong, which is connected through a winding road that passes near the airport.
Vehicles entering Subic Freeport are subject to inspection at entry points. Traffic enforcement is stricter. Being a former U.S. Navy base, there are many three- or four-way stops and center two-way left-turn lanes that are otherwise rare or unusual in the Philippines. Signage is otherwise the same as in most of the Philippines, with speed limits at kilometers per hour on red circles and red triangles with a symbol for warnings.
- 1 Subic Passenger Terminal, Alava Wharf. The Alava Wharf accommodates passenger cruise ships docking in the Subic Bay area.
- 2 Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA, SFS IATA). The gateway to Subic Bay Freeport-, a modern, international airport with a 10,000-m² passenger terminal. It's capable of handling 700 passengers at any given time and meets international standards. There are few regular flights to Subic other than random flights by South East Asian Airlines.
- Taxi - Taxis are available at the main SBMA/SFZ gates with Olongapo. They can also be booked by telephone for pickup anywhere inside Subic.
- Le Mans Go Kart (Beside Bicentennial Park, Rizal Highway, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Zambales), ☏ +63 47 252-2272. 10AM-7PM.
- 1 Ocean Adventure. See dolphins and tropical fish.
- 2 Zoobic Safari, Group I, Ilanin Forest, ☏ +63 917-8351111. An attraction you will find at Subic Bay Freeport's Forest Adventure Park. Embracing 25 hectares, guests can expect an astonishing sight of diverse exotic animals roaming and frolicking in their natural habitats. It features a wide range of habitats representing the major habitats of varied exotic animals.
- 3 Magellan's Landing Museum, Argonaut Highway, ☏ +63 47 252 2230.
- 4 Fort Wint, Grande Island. Ruins of an American Fort in Grande Island.
The tourism office for the area calls Subic Bay the "Pearl of the Orient" and much like a pearl inside an oyster, its true value is hidden unless you know where to look.
Subic Bay offers some of the world's best shipwrecks, all within recreational diving depths, as well as tranquil coral and artificial reefs that explode with marine life. Unlike Coron, and other wreck diving locations, where you ride for hours to get to a wreck site, the majority of Subic Bay dive sites are a quick 15 minutes trip from the dive centres.
The bay is a unique "wreck heaven" because its sheltered waters allow calm year-round diving (except in the strongest typhoons), with short duration transits to the dive sites and a fantastic collection of exceptionally well-preserved historical wrecks.
Just how many wrecks are there in Subic Bay? That is a difficult question. Unlike Coron or Truk, whose wrecks occurred over a relatively short period, Subic’s World War II wrecks covered almost the entire war period. No fewer than 25 Japanese ships were reported sunk during the war years. Some of these may have been removed in the late 1950s as salvage operations were conducted to open up the bay for shipping. Additional ships were sunk after the war either as targets or victims of mother nature. It is widely believed that an additional ten large ships may lie within the bay. The area is not limited to World War II wrecks. At the entrance to the bay alongside Grande Island are the remains of the Spanish–American War wreck, San Quintin. Outside the bay in deep water lie the remains of a Spanish galleon as well as a 16th-century Chinese junk (beyond diving range).
The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 did an enormous amount of damage to Luzon and the Zambales/Subic Bay area was hard hit. A meter of ash covered the area, including homes and businesses. Within days, a typhoon entered the area, turning the ash into mud. Many homes and businesses collapsed under the weight. One resident stated that the river looked just like the cement coming out of a cement mixer. A large percentage of coral was killed lying under the ash.
When the navy occupied the naval base at Subic, many of the wrecks were closed to diving. However, divers had the advantage of diving in water that was crystal clear with 40 m or more of visibility on the wrecks that were open. The bay was the home of different varieties of sharks, dolphins, and turtles. While a few turtles still nest on the beaches, sharks and dolphins are no longer here. The visibility is returning slowly and the coral is recovering. Perhaps the turtles, sharks and dolphins will return in abundance also, but this is not likely. Populatios of turtle, rays and sharks just outside the bay seem to be on the rise.
There have been increasingly more common sightings of bull sharks around the deeper wreck sites, along with Eagle Ray around the USS New York, LST, and El Capitan, and black tip reef sharks around the outside of Grande Island.
Underwater photographers have been reporting success with macro critters, such as harlequin ghost pipe fish and many species of nudibranch.
There are more than ten full-time dive operators in the bay area. These dive operators serve a variety of scuba training agencies, including PADI, SSI, ANDI, PSAI, BSAC and DSAT. They provide a collection of entry-level and specialist scuba training courses, including (of course!) basic and advanced/technical wreck diver training.
- Boardwalk Divers (At the free port). Run by George AngDyPay, an experienced TDI and PSAI technical rebreather instructor. Set up to cater to both recreational and technical divers it has quickly become the dive center of choice for most tech divers. Guiding is done by local staff members who are all trained as divemasters and technical wreck guides. Accommodation is at the nearby hotels, Herbie's Mansion, Boardwalk Inn, and Mango Valley.
- Scuba Tech Philippines. Runs PADI and TecRec technical courses from a luxury dive boat based in Subic Freeport Zone. The instructor, Andy Davis, is a highly qualified and experienced UK-trained instructor with PADI, SSI, BSAC, and DSAT TecRec. Daily scuba diving trips are offered to the wrecks and reefs of Subic Bay. These trips can be tailored to fulfill diver requirements at any level. Accommodation can be booked at any hotel inside SFZ, with pick-up/drop-off included.
- El Capitan - A 3,000-ton freighter, about 130-m long that sunk near the mouth of Ilanin Bay. 5m below the surface.
- Landing Craft Utility (LCU) - Triboa Bay. 5-20 m (25-60 ft).
- Landing Ship Tank (LST) - Between Grande Island and the southern tip of the runway. 32 m deep.
- Oryoku Maru- 400 m off Alava pier. 20 m (60ft) deep.
- Patrol Boat - In Triboa Bay at a depth of 20-25 m (60-75 ft).
- San Quentin - The oldest known wreck in Subic, a wooden gunboat scuttled by the Spanish in 1898.
- USS New York - A 120-m long hull. 27 m of water between Alava Pier and the northern end of Cubi Point runway.
- Kamayan Beach - Adjacent to Ocean Adventure. Admission: ₱275.
- 1 JEST Camp (Jungle Environment Survival Training Camp), J.E.S.T Camp, Upper Mau, Cubi-Triboa, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, ☏ +63 917-796-4668, email@example.com. Jungle survival training. Learn how to survive the harsh jungle environment through the courses that they offer.
- 2 Subic International Golf Club, 6900 Binictican Drive.
- American Hardware. Carries lots of useful things. All their products are imported from the US. They have lots of items that are very rare in the Philippines. American Hardware also runs the only car wash in Subic Bay.
- Freeport Exchange. Similar to Royal Subic. However, they also carry some electronics (all 220 volt). Freeport also carries Subic's largest supply of candy (but it's a close competition with Royal Subic).
- National Bookstore. Books, magazines, and a cafe. Popular for school supplies.
- Royal Subic. The biggest department store in Subic. They carry imported and local housewares, cooking items, snacks, and branded clothing. Most of are surplus so they're actually cheaper. Has an extensive selection of cigarettes and perfumes.
- Seahorse Tours & Souvenirs (Next to the cinema). The majority of items have been selected from livelihood programs and sole artists. T-shirts as low as USD8.
- Uncle Ed's. Close at 11PM. A small convenience store in Binictican (where most FedEx people live). They have a lots of basic things and are useful if you suddenly run out of cold soft drinks, milk, or some other must-have item. Lot of good sweets and candies, such as M&Ms, Dr Pepper, Tootsie Rolls, and lots of other American treats.
- Value City. Has a lot of things that other stores don't: a lot of quick snacks, and an extensive supply of cat food.
- 1 Ayala Harbor Point Mall (Harbor Point or HP or Ayala Subic), Rizal Highway, CBD, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo, ☏ +63 47 250 8888. 11AM-9PM. Ayala Harbor Point Mall is a regional-sized shopping, dining and entertainment center that services Subic Bay Freeport, Olongapo City and other outlying areas. It's the first Ayala Mall development in the province of Zambales. This sprawling mall offers a wide variety of shopping, dining and entertainment choices. It also has its anchor stores such as Puregold Supermarket, Timezone (gaming arcade), Abenson Appliances, and four Ayala Cinemas. VIP lounges are available to special members so they could take a quick rest in the middle of their shopping or while they wait for their movie schedules. The Riverwalk area is a green park concept where people could enjoy the riverside park along with a dancing fountain. Shops and restaurants also dot this area. The mall has both indoor and outdoor activity areas where special exhibitions, shows, and bazaars are held. The mall also offers weekend and holiday sales usually extending up to the wee hours of the night.
- Royal Choices, Canal Rd, Subic Bay Freeport Zone (walking distance from Harbor Point Ayala Mall, go there by taxi, or private vehicle). 9AM-8PM. A mini version of Royal Duty Free which is a stone's throw away from Harbor Point, this store offers duty free grocery items, clothing/apparel and other imported goods.
- Blue Rock Resort. Good for Western food. Great prices, quantity and quality.
- Texas Joe's House of Ribs, Waterfront Rd, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, ☏ +63 47 252 3189. 11AM-10PM. Smoked meats and ribs. Numerous barbecue sauces. Attentive service.
- Xtremely Xpresso Cafe Restaurant, #1 Dewey Avenue,, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, ☏ +63 47 252 3681. 6AM-midnight. A casual bistro style restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner The cafe is known to serve Italy's no. 1 coffee, Lavazza, and is famous for its unique collection of Italian menu. ₱144-578.
- Cocolime Restaurant, Harbor point mall, Subic Bay Freeport Zone. 11AM-2PM and 5PM-10PM. Subic Bay's beloved restaurant that offers a variety of Filipino and international dishes. Famous for its Pineapple Rice. The place is always full so always be ready to go there early to save a seat.
- Sakura Japanese Restaurant, Lot 5 Time Square Bldg.Corner Sta.Rita Rd. Subic Bay Freefort Zone and a branch at Harbor Point Mall, ☏ +63 47 252-2666. 11AM-2:30PM and 5PM-10:30PM. Known by the locals as the authentic Japanese restaurant in Subic. They serve fresh sashimi and a variety of sushi choices.
- Magic Lagoon Restaurant, 716 Bincentenial Park, ☏ +63 47 252-1475. Magic Lagoon Restaurant is near a man-made lagoon where you can catch your own fish and ask the staff to cook it for you. An ideal place for family outings and group activities.
- Baguio Craft Brewery Subic, Riverwalk, Harbor Point Ayala Mall, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, ☏ +639177997072. Offers draft beer and beer on tap (Stella Artois or Heineken). This concept originated in the northern city of Baguio and features local beer brews and international selections. ₱289-433.
- Pier One Bar and Grill, Moonbay Marina, ☏ +63 47 252 7097-98. 9PM - 4AM. Entertainment and dining. They have live bands, a dance floor and sports bar. They also offer a wide variety of dishes and beer food. Order beers by the bucket or try and get those beer towers. Located in the waterfront, sea breezes keep the place cool and airy.
- All Hands Beach Subic, All Hands Beach, San Bernardino Rd, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, ☏ +63 47 250-2270. Air-conditioned beachfront rooms and cottages. Bamboo huts, function rooms and pavilions are also available for family, business or special events. ₱3500.
- Arizona International Hotel, 47 National Hwy, ☏ +63 47 224 4557. Minutes away from Subic. From ₱1562.50.
- Bayfront Hotel, Blk. 19 Lot 1 Moonbay, Marina Waterfront Road, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, ☏ +63 47 252-3148-49, fax: +63 47 252-2591, firstname.lastname@example.org. Mediterranean-inspired hotel with villa set-up. Clean, comfortable accommodations. From USD51.
- Casablanca Hotel Subic, Lot 14 Agronaut Hwy, Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Fully furnished condo-hotel that has a pool side bar, Jacuzzi, and restaurant that serves international cuisine. ₱2100.
- Court Meridian Hotel, Waterfront Road, SBMA, ☏ +63 47 252-2366. Air-con rooms equipped with cable TV, private toilet and bath with hot and cold running water. Business center, jet ski, bar, and restaurant. From USD72.
- Elmolina Beach Resort, 135 National Hwy, Barrio Barretto. Budget beachfront accommodation. Kayaking, banana boating, snorkeling, and jet skiing. ₱2100.
- Grand Hoyah Hotel, Lot Nos 5B and 6, Block B, Manila Ave, Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. In the central business district of Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Deluxe accommodation.
- Hotel Interpark, Bldg 663 Dewey Ave Corner Santa Rita Rd, Subic Bay Freeport Zone (1 block from Waterfront Rd and Oriental Paradise Casino). Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. ₱2500.
- Lighthouse Marina Resort, Moonbay Marina Complex Waterfront Rd, CBD Subic Bay Freeport Zone, ☏ +63 2 8711 0019. Three-floor, 34-room boutique hotel capped by a lighthouse.
- The Pub Hotel Subic, National Hwy, Barrio Barretto. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. Amid the nightlife district of Barretto. Seconds walk away from beachfront restaurants and bars as well as the famous go-go bars of Subic. ₱1080.
- RK Hotel, SBIP Phase 1 Commercial Complex, Subic Bay Gateway Park Rizal Hwy. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. The hotel has 64 well-appointed rooms, private KTV rooms, a sports bar, swimming pool, conference and meeting facilities and its own Oriental spa. The hotel is near duty free shops, spas, and restaurants that serve international cuisine. ₱2500.
- Subic International Hotel, ☏ +63 47 252-22-22, fax: +63 47 894-55-79. Labitan and Sta Rita Roads, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, This hotel used to be naval barracks. From ₱2000.
- Subic Oceanview Hotel, 202 Purok 6, National Hwy, Calapandayan. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. All the guest rooms are equipped with a work area. ₱1800.
- Subic Park Hotel, Moonbay Marina, Waterfront Road, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, ☏ +63 47 252-2092, +63 47 252-2093, +63 47 250-2039. 30 comfortable rooms offer views of the bay and the forested mountains surrounding it. From USD33.
- Terrace Hotel, Blk 1 Lot 2 & 3 Moonbay Marina, Waterfront Road, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, ☏ +63 47 250-2730, fax: +63 47 252-2733. Rooms equipped with TV with cable channels, coffee/tea maker and mini-bar. It also has a business center, rooftop patio, and swimming pool.
- Vista Marina Hotel and Resort Subic, Waterfront Road, Block 3 Lot 2, Moonbay Marina Area, Subic Bay Freeport Zone. A Mediterranean-inspired hotel on the beach.
Olongapo, geographically in Zambales, but is politically Independent of it, is just to the north. Part of Subic Freeport lies under its jurisdiction; the rest, including the airport, belongs to Subic also in Zambales, and Hermosa and Morong in the province of Bataan. As like with entering, vehicles leaving Subic are subject to exit inspections.