Subic Bay is a natural deep harbor surrounded by mountain ranges to the west covered with lush tropical forest. It is located some 120 kilometer north of Manila in the Bataan Peninsula and connected to Manila via the North Luzon Expressway.
In the end of the 19th century Spanish military built a naval base in Subic to protect Manila against invaders from the North. The US continued the use of the base and expanded its facilities to service the 7th fleet in the Vietnam War. During this time, Olongapo the city adjacent to the naval base turned into a popular Rest and Recreation area for US Marines.
In 1992 the Philippines senate decided to no longer extend the lease of the land. After the Americans left the area was converted into a duty free zone to attract investors and stimulate the local economy which had taken a hit, due to the forced exit of the American forces.
The former US Navy base is now the central business district and all the high-end tourist facilities are located here. The base is connected via a number of gates to Olongapo City to the east. A few kilometers north are the Barretto and Baloy area with fine beaches and middle-class accommodation.
Today tourists are flocking in to Subic for the cheap duty free shops, although the area is no longer completely duty free and prices not as good as they were before. Great bargains can be found in the factory outlets stores that are offering quality brands at cheap prices.
In the immediate vicinity of Subic are numerous WWII wrecks at diveable depths and several dive stores are offering multiple trips to the wrecks. Most notable is the battle cruiser USS New York, which was scuttled in the beginning of WWII to prevent it from falling into Japanese hands. Unfortunately the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1992 left behind a thick layer of ash that destroyed most of the underwater life and resulted in poor visibility.
Best time to visit
The climate of Subic is like the rest of the country dominated by trade winds of the north east and is divided into a dry and hot season. The dry season runs from November to May and the rainy season occurs from June to October. The coolest time is around Christmas when daytime temperatures reach 30 (°C) or 86 (°F) and at night the temperature goes down to 23 (°C) or 73 (°F). The hottest months are April and May when temperatures can get as high as 35(°C) or 95 (°F). Typhoons can hit the area in the summer months from June to September and they usually shut down all transport services a couple of days. Best time to visit is from December to February, when the probability of precipitation is small and temperatures are comfortable.
There is no need to bring a lot of cash with you, if you have an debit or credit card connected to the international payment network of Cirrus (MasterCard) or Plus (Visa) as ATM’s are abundant. Banks levy a small ATM surcharge per transaction to guest users.
Visa extension can be arranged at the field office of the Bureau of Immigration located at 7th, 87 West Tapianac in Olongapo City. You will need to bring your passport and two photocopies of it, a return ticket and pay a fee of 3050 Php. A dress code applies and applicants wearing shorts, sandals or T-shirts will not be allowed to enter.