The Spaniards discovered Puerto Galera in the early 16th century as a safe haven for their trade ships during heavy squalls and typhoons; the words literally mean ‘Port of the Galleons’. Legend has it that once sailors arrived on the island; they never wanted to leave without a promise to come back…
Puerto Galera, one of the oldest settlements of the religious missionaries, was founded in 1574 as the original capital of Mindoro. Originally, the town was located at the Lagundian, now a "sitio", chosen by the Spanish authorities as the provincial capital due to its excellent harbor and natural beauty. But due to its susceptibility to moro raids, the Spaniards were forced to transfer the town from the Lagundian to the present site, which they named Puerto Galera. The town was popularly known as "Puerto Galera" (Port of the Galleons). Spanish galleons coming from Mexico and Spain used the presence of an excellent port or berthing place to take refuge during stormy weather before proceeding to Manila. The mountains and the good harbor nearby served the Spaniards well as shields from the moro pirates and other marauders. Several guard houses and watch towers were built at the top of the surrounding mountains. The biggest was constructed at Dampalitan Point, north of the town facing Batangas Channel. Public and Military headquarters, hospitals, warehouses and a convent made of stone were also erected through the efforts of both the church and the state. A wharf was also built at Muelle Bay. Adjacent to this stood a warehouse for rice, which caught fire one night. It is widely believed that the charcoaled grains, popularly known as "black rice", till remain scattered at the shores of Muelle up to this day.
In 1837, the seat of government was transferred to Calapan due to the suitable agricultural plains and the Spaniards opted to stay there. When Puerto Galera was no longer the seat of the government, the Spanish government officials left the town and only the friars remained. A "cabesa" or "capitan del pueblo" was then appointed by the "governador" to collect the tributes or taxes from the people and to maintain peace and order. Among the heads of the town called "gobernadorcillos" who became famous were Jose Salamat, Juan Quinto, Aguido Cobarrubias and Hilarion Axalan.
Guarding the coasts of Puerto Galera was a Spanish warship, named "Cañonero Mariveles". However, on November 18, 1879, the ill-fated battleship was hit by a powerful storm, which caused it to sink outside the West Coast of Muelle. As a tribute to the lost ship and its crew, a wooden cross was erected right at the center of Muelle with the following inscription: "Ultima tierra que pesaron los tripolantes del Cañonero Mariveles el 18 de Noviembre de 1879, Memoria de sus campañero". As one of the greatest relics of the past century, this cross was renovated in 1938 by a Spanish national named Luis Gomez y Sotto.
Revolutionaries from Puerto Galera participated in the overthrow of the Spanish Government in Mindoro in 1898 -1900 under the leadership of brothers Miguel and Estanislao Cobarrubias Sr. During the American regime, a military governor by the name Captain Robert Offley was appointed. On November 2, 1902, Puerto Galera was again made the capital of the province until 1903. It was annexed to Calapan in 1905 as a barrio represented by Hilarion Axalan in the Calapan town council in 1916. In 1919 it was made a municipal district with Isidro Suzara as "municipal president".
On February 21, 1928, Under Act. No. 3415, it was organized into an independent municipality with Anacleto Atienza as first "municipal presidente". Estanislao Cobarrubias Sr. was the last "municipal presidente" of the civil government and the first municipal mayor of the commonwealth government.
On February 27, 1942, the Japanese air force and naval auxiliary occupied the town. Leoncio Axalan, who was supposed to end his term as mayor in 1942, was made to extend his term until 1946 because of his courage and integrity. It was indeed a great test for a man to run the affairs of the municipal government amidst the warring parties, the guerrillas and the Japanese. After the liberation in 1946, then Governor Arturo Ignacio appointed Rafael Garcia as the municipal mayor of Puerto Galera. In 1948, Estanislao Brucal, an officer of the guerrilla unit in Mindoro during the Japanese occupation, became the first elected municipal mayor of Puerto Galera under the Republican form of Government. In 1972, during the third term of Mayor Rogelio Cataquis, the sitios of Sto. Niño and Villaflor were created and organized into regular barangays together with the recognition of Poblacion as a duly organized barangay. On December 26, 1973, PD 354 was issued by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos making Puerto Galera a reservation area under the Man and Biosphere Program of the UNESCO. Today, the beautiful and scenic Puerto Galera is the center of tourism in this province, making full use of its long line of white beaches and its abundant flora and fauna.