San Jose is a municipality in Occidental Mindoro, Philippines. San Jose offers an off-the-beaten-path charm for tourists who shun the crowded and over-commercialized spots in the country. The major attractions of San Jose are its three offshore islands - Ambulong, Ilin, and White Island (also called Manadi). San Jose is also a favorite jump-off point to the world-class diving site - Apo Reef Marine Park.
Even with its considerable tourism potential, San Jose has yet to turn into a more popular destination at par with other parts of the Philippines. Among the challenges the town faces are coastal pollution, illegal settlers, and a lack of an effective ecotourism plan. Brownouts caused by a lingering power supply dispute have negatively affected local businesses and tourism.
However, a modest number of visitors continue to explore this quaint town on the southwestern tip of Mindoro.
- 1 San Jose Airport (SJI IATA formerly known as McGuire Field). With regular scheduled flights from Manila by Cebu Pacific. Flights take approximately 30 minutes from Manila.
Dimple Star, RORO Bus, and Philtranco has a direct bus route from Cubao in Quezon City, Sampaloc in Manila and Alabang in Muntinlupa) to San Jose that includes a roll-on/roll-off (RORO) ferry that operates between Abra de Ilog and Batangas City which passes through Verde Island Passage which takes about three hours. Only RORO Bus and Philtranco served this route as of 2018, after Dimple Star's operations were suspended after a deadly crash on the winding roads to this town.
San Jose is linked to all towns of Occidental Mindoro via a mostly-dusty provincial highway that runs from north to south. Roads in and around San Jose are well-paved on mostly flat terrain. Local bus and jeepney operators ply the route from the northernmost town of Abra de Ilog all the way south to San Jose.
Vans run from the bus terminal all the way to Calapan (6 hr, ₱500) along the eastern coast of Mindoro.
Most roads in the Poblacion area and nearby barangays are either paved with concrete or asphalt. The major thoroughfares are Rizal Street, Liboro Street, Bonifacio Street, Mabini Street, and the streets in and around the public market. Motored tricycles are the common mode of transportation around town. Jeepneys provide the main mode of public transportation between San Jose and other towns of the province. Pump boats can be chartered to provide access to nearby island resorts and diving spots.
- 1 Ambulong Island. Ambulong Island is a 30-km² island with fine beaches, cliffs and abundant coral formations. It is characterized by white sand beaches, cliffs along pillars jutting out of the water, and underwater caves. Coral gardens and tropical fish are abundant in several coves. An islet called Grace Island is located at a limestone cove at the southern tip of Ambulong. A fisherman's village is located at the sheltered side of the island. Ambulong Island is also a jump-off point to some of the dive spots in the area, such as the Iling Point, Baniaga Reef, Ambulong Bank, Dungan Reef, Sardines Reef, Apo Reef, and Manadi Island. These dive sites are about an hour away by pumpboat from the Caminawit Port.
- 2 Ilin Island. Ilin Island has a village of shell divers, being abundant in shells and coral reefs. There are ancient burial caves of early Chinese traders, ethnic fishing villages, and numerous dive sites from which to view many tropical fishes. Lush foliage encircle the clear blue waters of the South China Sea. There are scuba diving facilities, a 6.8 CTM compressor, seaport facilities, diveboats, and PADI and NAUI-certified instructors. Kweba Cansubong is a popular destination in the island apart from its white beaches, estuaries, rock formations, etc. Inasakan Beach, located at the far side of Ilin, is a small stretch of powdery white sand. It has been proposed to declare the island's timberland a conservation area for its natural fauna and flora. The Philippine teak, an endangered Philippine tree, is found only in Ilin and Batangas. Meanwhile, an endangered fauna called the cloud rat (or cloud runner/Ilin Island cloud runner) is found only in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro particularly in the island of Ilin. The cloud rat is the biggest and one of the most beautiful rats in the world.
- 3 White Island (15-minute pumboat from Camanawit Port). White Island has a long powdery beach where buried turtle eggs are occasionally found. It has an almost mile-long beach with smooth and powdery white sand. The tranquil and peaceful island is an ideal place for swimming, scuba diving and fishing. Turtle eggs are occasionally found buried in the sand, and visitors are cautioned to keep them undisturbed.
- 4 Aroma Beach, Bubog Rd.. A favorite sport for local residents near San Jose Airport. The beach is named after aroma trees in the area.
- 5 Second Landing Marker, Bugbog Rd.. World War II Marker commemorating the second landing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines in December 15, 1944 which led to the Liberation of Manila and mainland Luzon from occupying Japanese forces. The granite marker is complemented by three murals.
- 6 San Jose Municipal Plaza, Rizal St.. The town center and the destination, locals and tourist alike. Also has a park. Town festivities and events are also held in this area especially in the grandstand area. A handful of souvenirs and merchandise can be bought here especially during the annual town fiesta in May or Christmas season.
- 7 Old Mangarin. Ruins of a Spanish coastal colonial fort. It contains four cannons which was used as defence against pirates during the colonial era. The area is connected by a wooden hanging bridge.
- 8 Inasakan Beach, Ilin Island.
There are other destinations in the area like the extraordinary landscape and rugged peaks of the Chocolate Mountains (more popularly known as the Devil's Mountain), the Linaw Baboy Falls in Brgy. Murtha and Mangarin Ruins.
Cultural events in San Jose include Indak Pandurukan, a street-dancing festival, and other activities during the town fiesta which is celebrated on May 1.
- Mt. Iglit National Park. Mounts Iglit-Baco National Park is located in an area shared by the municipalities of Sablayan, Calintaan, Rizal and San Jose. The latter is also the main gateway there. It is a sanctuary for the 'tamaraw' (Bubalus mindorensis), an endemic species of buffalo found only in Mindoro. It provides a nice eco-tourism, trekking, or mountaineering alternative to beach/dive resorts. However, a part of the tamaraw genepool which is also a part of the national park is at the boundaries of Rizal and San Jose, more or less 50 hectares are in the territorial jurisdiction of the municipality.
Most of the dining options in San Jose are found in the town proper. The San Jose Municipal Plaza also hosts a number of food kiosks and stands.
- 1 Baybees Coffee Shop, Aroma Beach, San Roque 1, Brgy. San Roque, ☏ . Daily 4PM-midnight. A local coffee shop along near the beach
- 1 Grace Island Resort, Ambulong Island. A beach resort in a secluded pristine cove in Ambulong Island. About 2 hours boat ride from the San Jose town center.
- 2 Sikatuna Beach Hotel, Airport Road Brgy. San Roque, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A.c. double room with own bathroom and cable TV. ₱1000.
- Sikatuna Town Hotel, Sikatuna Street, ☏ . Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. Fan single/double rooms with own bathroom. ₱400.
- 3 Four Ace Lodge, P Bugus Street, ☏ . Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Single/double room with own bathroom.
- 4 Jazmine Royale Hotel, Sikatuna Street. Check-out: noon. Single/double rooms with own bathroom.
- Mindoro Plaza Hotel, P Zamora Street (close to the corner of Rizal and Zamora Street), ☏ . Check-out: noon. Simple rooms with fan or AC and private bathrooms, WiFi in the lobby. Nothing fancy but probably good enough if you are waiting for the boat to Coron. From ₱350 per person.
- 5 Seasons Hotel & Convention Center, Airport Road San Roque 1 (3 minutes away from San Jose Airport, close to Aroma Beach), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Rooms include a private bathroom with a bath, bidet and free toiletries provided. Standard room & deluxe room rates include breakfast. Guests can dine at an on-site Pan Asian restaurant with free Wi-Fi and parking. Free shuttle service at the property. Seasons Cafe serves breakfast (6-10AM), lunch (10AM-2PM) and dinner from 6-10PM. Lobby Lounge serves light snacks and beverage from 2-6PM. ₱1888.
There are numerous local internet cafes in San Jose, especially in the town proper.