(“Tara lets” is a Filipino slang for “Let’s go.”)
by Katherine Cortes
Candaraman Island is another favorite island hopping stop in Balabac. The beach is filled with seaweeds, but the sand is powdery soft.
Candaraman Island is usually visited for its sandbar, which is called Starfish Sandbar or Starfish Alley. During amihan season, the sandbar is dotted by numerous starfishes. For the rest of the year, you can still see starfishes but they are relatively few. Nonetheless, the sandbar is still a worthwhile place.
There is a resort in Candaraman Island, which also serves as camping ground for those who want to stay overnight.
Patawan Island offers one of the best beaches in Balabac. To be honest, it’s difficult to describe it in words. It looks like a paradise in the Carribean, but really it’s just one of the islands you can visit here in the south of Palawan. It has alluring baby-blue water that will invite you to swim in.
There are also cottages here where you can leave your things at when you swim.
Tangkahan Island is the biggest island among Patunggong and Patawan islands. Its shore features different shades of blue water.
In my second visit in Balabac, we left this off as our last stop before going back to Buliluyan Port. There are cottages where you can have lunch and fresh coconut is available for P50 each.
There is an entrance fee of P50 per person.
Onuk Island is the most sought-after island in Balabac, Palawan. I daresay that it is also the best island you can find here.
It is privately owned and it officially opened to the public in 2017.
It’s easy to recognize Onuk Island thru photos: it has a distinctive light-blue cottage on stilt, set over a blue beach. During low tide, the surrounding area is a sandy beach; during high tide, going down the walkway stairs will lead you directly to the sea.
It is possible to stay overnight in Onuk Island. You can set up a hammock in on of the open cottages or pitch a tent in the camping ground.
Activities here include swimming, snorkeling and wildlife encounters. You can snorkel to see fishes and giant clams. The island is also beside Roughton Reef, which is a snorkeling area. During high tide, you can see sea turtles swimming around the island — unlike the sea turtles in places like Apo Island, the ones here are elusive and glide away when you approach. At night, you can also see light-blue bioluminiscent plankton by the beach.
Onuk Island is one of my favorite stops in Balabac. It is simply breath-taking, especially the way the water rises up over the walkway. I recommend staying here overnight if you can.
by Valerie Wheatley
Are you planning a visit to the Philippines and dreaming about lounging on pristine beaches, jetting around to untouched islands, and not having to share any of it with anyone else? If so, skip the over-crowded areas of El Nido and Coron in the north of Palawan Island and instead head south, to the Balabac Islands.
Balabac is a group of 31 islands, many of which are totally uninhabited. You’ll find pink-sand beaches, vibrantly colored coral, a wide range of marine life, endemic mouse deer, and welcoming locals. But what you won’t find are many other foreigners. This means that this off-the-beaten-path island paradise will be yours to enjoy, all by yourself!
You’ll be spending your days cruising in a boat to the various islands around Balabac in the hot sun. Be sure to pack a swimsuit, a quick-dry beach towel, something to cover your shoulders or a foldable hat in case the sun gets too intense, and plenty of sunscreen.
Evenings are warm but you’ll likely want to cover your arms, legs, and feet due to sandflies and mosquitos. Choose lightweight, breathable pants, a comfortable long-sleeve top, bug spray, and a rechargeable fan to keep you cool when you’re trying to fall asleep.
Your tour guide may or may not run a generator at night and offer to let you charge your electronics. Ask them ahead of time and if they don’t, be sure to pack a battery pack so you never run out of juice. And if you plan to bring any expensive camera gear on your boat tour, be sure to bring a dry bag to keep everything dry.
Other Packing Essentials:
Your tour package will be all-in, meaning that all of your meals, coffee, snacks, bottled water, accommodation, island entrance fees, and boat tour will be covered in the price. Expect to pay around $50 USD per person per day.
We booked our tour through Balabac Island Safari and paid 20,000 PHP (~$380.00 USD) for a 5-day, 4-night tour.
Your tour operator will most likely also be the owner of their business. As such, the price you pay will go directly to them. However, they may employ a boat hand who would most definitely be excited by an extra tip of 200 PHP per day.
There are rumors circling around the Philippines that pirate terrorists are kidnapping tourists in the Balabac Islands region. We never felt concerned for our safety. Also, we never actually found any information regarding past offenses against tourists in the area.
There have been outbreaks of malaria on some islands so bring bug spray and cover-up around sunset when they are the worst. You can request that your doctor prescribe you antimalarial medication although the side effects can be quite severe.
The best time to visit the islands south of Palawan is March through May when the water is calm, the rain is infrequent if ever, and the weather is sunny and pleasant.
Be sure to check the weather before you visit as you won’t have as much fun if rain is on the horizon. You’ll encounter very rough waves and possibly even typhoons from November to February so it’s not an ideal time to visit.
The Balabac Islands are located off the south end of Palawan Island. The closest international airport is in Puerto Princesa. That is a bustling city so pick up snacks for your journey, sunscreen, bug spray, and any alcohol that you might want to consume over the next four days here.
You’ll need to arrange a shuttle van from Puerto Princesa to Rio Tuba. They leave at 4 am and the journey will take you around five hours. The van will stop once so you can get breakfast and use the toilet. Your hotel can help to arrange the van or you can call Jeremie Dorig directly at 09126067994. He does the trip back and forth daily. The price is 500 PHP per person.
The van will drop you off at the Petron gas station in the town center and you’ll need to take a tricycle to the pier. There will be plenty around and the price is 100 PHP total for the trip.
Once at the pier, you’ll be directed to sign the manifest at a small stand and buy a ticket for your boat.
If you’re headed to Balabac, then you’ll want to board the RE Express. However, if you are getting picked up by your tour guide in Bancalaan you have the option to take either the RE Express, the MB Lady Loy, or the Charlie. The price for any boat is 250 PHP per person to Bancalaan or 370 PHP per person to Balabac.
The boats depart daily (weather permitting) and leave when the boat is full any time between 10:30 am-12 pm. Make sure you arrive at the pier by 10 am at the latest so you don’t get left behind!
TIP: Get on the boat early to reserve a seat. Locals tend to use their bags to save seats early and then go sit in the shade. So even if the boat doesn’t look particularly full you may be surprised how many seats have bags sitting on them when you go to pick your seat.
Several boats depart from Balabac Islands daily but are sure your captain calls ahead to reserve you a seat.
The boat leaves from Balabac Poblacion at 6 am-6:30 am with a stop at Bancalaan around 7:30 am-8 am. Lady Loy and Charlie leave directly from Bancalaan at 7 am.
When you get dropped off at the Rio Tuba pier you can either board a shuttle back to Puerto Princesa there (it will be packed). Another option is to take a tricycle back to the Petron Station where (less crowded) shuttles leave every few hours.
Once you’re back in Puerto Princesa, you can catch a shuttle north to El Nido or fly to Cebu, Suquijor, or one of the other islands in the south.
TIP: The pier is swarming with men who will want to carry your bag both onto and off of the boat for you. Plan on tipping them around 10-20 PHP per bag if you choose to enlist their services.
The Balabac Islands are incredibly underdeveloped so don’t expect to be staying in lavish accommodations. The easiest way to explore the islands is to hire a tour guide. The price of your tour will include some kind of tent, hammock, or mattress to sleep on. Don’t expect to have air conditioning or a fan to keep you cool after dark.
If you choose to spend the night in the city of Poblacion on Balabac Island you have a few choices – MLK Lodging or JD Lodging (Sing and Swing). Both offer a fan room for 2 people for 400 PHP.
If you choose to book a tour guide in advance of arriving on the islands, there are several to choose from. Keep in mind that Wi-Fi in the area is minimal so it may take up to a full day for them to respond to your request. We booked our tour with Balabac Island Safari which is owned and operated by Captain Andong and his wife. Their “base camp” is located on Canibungan Island and is currently in mid-construction. Accommodations include a bed with a mattress, a roof over the bed (but no walls), a mosquito net hanging over the bed, a toilet, and a bucket for showers.
Motet Sanson is another popular tour guide in the area. His base camp is on Candaraman Island.
If you don’t book a tour in advance, you can take the boat straight to Balabac Island and hire a boat and guide once you arrive. The local coast guard can give you information on what licensed boats are available based on how large your group is and what you want to see and do. Regardless of the route you choose, you’ll need to bring your passport and check in with them during your trip. If you don’t do it at the beginning, your tour guide will bring you here during your stay.
It is not advised to organize a do-it-yourself tour as most of the islands are privately owned and require prior coordination to visit.
If you book an all-inclusive tour, then the price you pay per day will include meals, coffee, snacks, and bottled water. Most meals will include rice and fresh fish. If you have any food allergies or avoid meat products you may have a challenging time figuring out what you can eat. Be sure to tell your guide ahead of time and bring plenty of snacks, just in case.
The sandbar here is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! As you walk you’ll find that suddenly you’ll sink up to your knee in the fine, white sand. Spend your time lounging in the water and laughing at the bubbles that emerge from the sand. This was one of our favorite stops along our tour!
The portion of the island that is open to visitors is privately owned by a friendly family. They have a few covered areas for lunching, a nice sandy beach for lounging, and plenty of leaning palm trees for climbing!
Red coral mixes with white sand to create the beautiful pink colored sand on this island. It won’t take you long to wander around the entire island, admiring the enormous shells laying on the picturesque sand.
If you choose to visit Onuk Island, you’ll need to pay an additional 3,000 PHP per person for a day tour or 5,000 PHP per person to spend the night (includes accommodation and meals). Be sure you select a guide who can take you there as it is not offered by all.
Don’t plan anything! Relax, you’re on vacation. You’ll wake up early every morning to make the most of your day and your tour guide will take care of all of the planning. Just sit back and enjoy this beautiful landscape!
Here is a couple of ideas on where to stay:
How to get to Palawan?
Horizon Sun Charters Corporation
Seaplane Base in Puerto Princesa
Palawan Van Transport & Services
by Huub Lakerveld
With thousands of kilometres of coastline and a year-round tropical climate, it’s no wonder that the Philippines is considered to be one of the best beach destinations in the world. Some beaches are already well known in the international travel scene, whilst others keep flying under the tourist radar.
Often, this Asian nation is overlooked due to its inconvenient location, but real beach bums should not hesitate to pack their bags and dip their toes in Philippine sand.
So if you’re wanting to hang out on powdery beaches and see magnificent sunsets on this island state then see our recommendations below. Here are 10 of the best beaches to visit in the Philippines.
Mainly due to its location and limited access, the Balabac island group hardly receives any visitors. But for those who are willing to make the long journey by bus and boat from mainland Palawan are in for a Maldives-like beach experience.
Few beaches in the Philippines and abroad can compare to the pristine beach on Onok Island, one of the smaller isles of Balabac. The wooden houses on stilts, the floating sea turtles in the transparent water, picturesque palm trees and the silky soft sand make for a perfect spot to unwind.
If you feel like hanging out in paradise a little while longer, Onok Island offers a couple of basic accommodations. Balabac has more untouched islands, and boatsmen can drive you to beaches that are about as perfect as Onok Island’s beach.
Boracay has been a tourist favourite for many years. This would be mostly due to perfect sand, thriving nightlife and splendid accommodations. After excessive partying and pollution, the government decided to ‘close’ the island in 2018 for a 6-month clean-up. This detox has restored the beauty of Boracay and especially White Beach, that lives up to the hype like never before.
In addition to the natural beauty, there are many facilities and activities on offer on White Beach. You can enjoy jetski rides, sailing trips, and scuba diving, while the strip behind the beach is dotted with restaurants and bars.
Palawan makes it to our list twice for good reasons; this southwestern province is blessed with flawless shorelines, and Nacpan Beach is no exception to Palawan’s golden rule. The palm trees reach for the sky on this beach, which is shaped like a half-moon. There’s no better way to enjoy Nacpan Beach than to sip on fresh coconut juice while soaking up the views of fishing boats and the turquoise colour of the Pacific Ocean. Shelters with grassy rooftops provide some space to chill out and escape the afternoon heat.
You can rent a kayak here to see the shore from a different perspective or climb to the limestone hill to see the incredible shape of the beach and the shades of the water.
Many people who visit the island of Panay go straight for the praised island of Boracay, but Panay has actually more in store for beach lovers. The province of Antique has beautiful rainforests, waterfalls and most of all a bunch of striking beaches.
Duyong Beach is a near-perfect seashore, thanks to views of Culasi Island and the mountain range of Panay further inland. Apart from Filipino tourists and locals, you won’t bump into a crowd here.
Facing the west, Duyong Beach is an excellent spot to see the sun drop under the horizon as well.
From high up in the sky, Kalanggaman Island is only a tiny strip of sand surrounded by wooden fishing boats, coral reefs and translucent water. Located between Cebu and Leyte, this atoll is quite hard to reach but rewarding to visit. This retreat is nothing more than a sandbar specked with coconut palm trees.
As the reefs around the island are teeming with marine life, diving trips can be organized from Leyte or Malapascua Island in Cebu. Thanks to the shallow depth where the corals and fish live, snorkelling is also possible. Swimming is safe everywhere, except near the narrow part of the sandbar where strong currents occur.
Centrally located within the Visayas island group lies Isla de Gigantes, an archipelago where life seems to be lived at a slower pace than elsewhere. Although Cabugao Gamay translates to “small pomelo”, the signature fruit here must be the coconut. This tiny group of islands is quite unique for its grey limestone rocks and emerald green water, that contrast beautifully with the deep blue skies.
Although Mahabang Buhangin Beach lacks the crispy white sand you’ll find elsewhere, this shoreline didn’t remain unnoticed among beach bums. It sits on Calaguas, an island that’s blessed with gorgeous volcanic rocks and rolling hilltops.
An amazing feature is a fact that camping on the beach is allowed, and it only costs 2 GBP to put up a tent. The relaxing rhythm of the waves and sunsets over mainland Luzon are obviously included in the rate.
Luzon – the largest island of the Philippines – is loved for its mountains and culture, but it certainly has beaches that can rival the ones in the Visayas and Palawan. Pagudpud on the northern tip of Luzon has some scenic oceanfronts, and the Blue Lagoon stands out with its cute nipa huts and vistas of mountains in the distance.
Don’t expect calm water to swim in; waves can be high, and therefore Pagudpud is a haven for surfers, especially during the monsoon season from April to January.
It’s hard to believe that Samal Island is only a short boat ride away from the horns and congestion of Davao City, the largest city in Mindanao. Peace, a transparent blue ocean and comfortable resorts provide people from the city and elsewhere a welcome getaway. If you wish to stay near the beach in luxurious accommodation, Samal Island and its brilliant seaside resorts might be one of the best bets in the Philippines.
The lush greenery all around the island provide enough shade, and the fine white sand quickly makes Samal Island one of the best beach destinations in Mindanao.
This hidden cove in the archipelago Batanes proves that not all great beaches include waving palm trees and sand that sinks under your feet. From the viewpoint above the beach, you’ll be able to admire the rocky cliffs, wild roaming cows, and waves crashing on the coast in the deep. This is not what the travel brochures will show, but it’s worth flying to the northernmost frontier of the Philippines for.
This area is perfect for hiking, as the coastline of Sabtang has more cliffs, rolling hills and trails leading to stunning viewpoints.
The Philippines is home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet and is therefore a top destination for those looking for coastal nature and scenery. For more ideas and inspiration for the Philippines why not check out our Philippines Travel Itinerary: What to Do on a 1-2 Week Trip.
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