Travel Guide: Calayan Island, Cagayan

My trip to the Calayan group of islands in Cagayan was an unexpected surprise. I’m really thankful for the invitation of Lakad Pilipinas to visit the elusive island along with other bloggers Juanderful Pinoy, Blissful Guro and the family of photographers we traveled along with.

Calayan is really something special. The peaceful town is home to some of the most unspoiled beaches in the country, rugged cliffs that tower over the water, breathtaking waterfalls reachable only by clambering through slippery rocks and dense forests, and dramatic seascapes where the waves crash against the coast.

Crime rate in Calayan is zero. Everyone knows everyone else in town and the doors are just left open with no fear of theft. The experience of going to such a beautiful off-the-beaten path destination, with no pretensions was just refreshing. I’ll be writing about the different activities we did there, but in the meantime, here’s a rough “walkthrough” or travel guide for those who want to know the basics.

WHERE EXACTLY IS CALAYAN?

The town of Calayan is composed of 4 islands: Calayan proper, Camiguin Island, Dalupiri and Babuyan Claro in the province of Cagayan, located in the northeastern corner of the island of Luzon. Most people refer to it as Babuyan, because of its location within the Babuyan Channel, though locals say the proper term is Calayan Group of Islands because Babuyan is a separate island. Though relatively near it, the island of Fuga is considered part of Aparri. [MAP]

HOW TO GET THERE:

1) From Manila, ride a GV Florida bus to either Claveria (P730, 13-14 hours), Aparri (P600, 14 hours) or Sta. Ana (16 hours) in Cagayan.

2) From the fishing port in Claveria or the Aparri port, ride a lampitaw (motorized outrigger boat) to Calayan. Boats only leave between 5 to 7am in favorable weather conditions or if there’s cargo that needs to be shipped. Boat rides cost P500/person and can last 5-7 hours. It helps to have a local contact in Calayan or Claveria to arrange ticket reservations & advise you on weather updates beforehand.

3) Alternatively, ride the MV Eagle Ferry, which is supposed to travel 2x a week (P700/trip) from Santa Ana (San Vicente Port) and Calayan passing Camiguin Island (P350). I never saw the ferry during our stay there and the booking office in Calayan was closed.

WHERE TO GO/WHAT TO DO IN CALAYAN: (*separate posts on these coming soon)

BEACHES: Camp out overnight on Sibang Cove or walk along the shores of Caniwara Beach & Cababaan Beach.

HIKING: Hike up Nagudungan Hills and marvel at the amazing rock formations.

WATERFALLS: Take a hike to Bataraw Falls and Caanawan Falls or swim in a secluded pool and cave underneath Malangsig Waterfalls

BIRDWATCHING: Visit the wildlife sanctuary to see the Calayan Rail (locally called piding) a species endemic to the island (seasonal) or just watch out for other birds.

SWIM/ SNORKEL: Snorkeling is great just meters from the shoreline in the poblacion. (Bring your own snorkel gear.)

GETTING AROUND:

Lampitaw (motorized outrigger): Because of the rough roads and long land travel inland, some spots are best reached by boat, which can be hired from the port in poblacion area. Rates vary depending on the destination. Ex. From the Port to Sibang Cove – P2500; renting for day to go around – P3000. This works best with big groups.

Kuliglig: Very noisy hand tractors traditionally used in farming are attached with a cart for transporting cargo, bags and groups of people. An alternative to a tricycle if you’re traveling with a big group. While this can take you around town, it can not pass the steeper, elevated mountain roads.

Bicycle: Bicycles are widely available around town. Most homestays lend their bikes to guests for free or charge a minimal fee of P25/hour to non-guests. Plans are underway to offer mountain bike rentals in the future. Hardcore bikers can also bring their own mountain bikes to explore the island.

Habal-Habal (motorcycle): Aside from going on foot, single motorcycles are the only way you can reach certain areas like Sibang Cove. You can hire one for about P200-250 to bring you to Sibang and back. It will cost roughly P500/day for you to hire the habal-habal (with driver) plus gas for a day to go around to other spots. Motorcycle rental for those who want to drive on their own is not yet available though prices can be negotiated if you just want to use one around the town. I was able to borrow a Honda Wave scooter from San Jose Inn to go around.

WHERE TO STAY IN CALAYAN:

There are 2 homestay options in the Calayan town proper, both walking distance from the port where boats dock. There are 15 other residents who are in the process of registering their houses for homestays in the near future.

1) San Jose Inn & Mini Grocery Homestay

San Jose Inn is owned by the very pleasant couple Conie and Francis Agudera, with their kids Jemar and Aldrin, who became our tour guide for the trip. There are 3 rooms with a max capacity for 16 people located on top of the mini-grocery which sells a good supply of toiletries, dry goods, and fresh bread which kept us well-supplied during our stay. Ate Conie is very accommodating and a great cook and she served us a variety of home cooked meals in the inn’s snackhouse which also serves very good halo-halo and saba con yelo.

Room 1: Good for 2-4, private bathroom (1 double bed with pullout)
Room 2: Good for 2-4, shared bathroom (1 single bed with pullout)
Room 3: Good for 6-8, shared bathroom (3 single beds with pullout)
Rates: P200/head per night

Address & Contact info: San Jose Inn & Mini Grocery. J. Madella St. Poblacion Calayan (very near the church). Contact person: Conie Agudera: 0921-5349231

2) TPS First Homestay of Calayan

TPS is the first homestay in Calayan owned by Tessie Pimentel Singun, a long-time kagawad and now tourism head of Calayan. Tessie is very thankful to travel bloggers who have stayed with her like EAZY Traveler, Journeying Pinay and Langyaw, since their guides have led people to stay at her place. TPS says she can accommodate a maximum of 40 people since she has dorm rooms plus extra rooms in her house. Though we didn’t stay here, she was nice enough to show me around the rooms and I enjoyed chatting with her over a bottle of Banayuyu wine, which she brews and sells in a store beside the house.

Room 1: Good for 2 (1 double bed with aircon)
Room 2: Good for 8 (2 double deck beds with bathroom)
Room 3: Good for 8 (2 double deck beds)
Dorm room: Good for 14 people (double beds & 3 double deck beds)
Rates: P200/head per night

Address & contact info: TPS Homestay, JP Rizal Steet, Poblacion, Calayan
Contact: Tessie Pimentel Singun : 0939-9158667 (new number), 0929-8375737 (old number). Email: asingun@yahoo.com.

WHERE TO EAT:

There are no restaurants yet in Calayan, though there are plans to put up some carinderias in the future. ”Paluto” (homecooked) meals at San Jose Inn cost P50-60 for breakfast, P80-100 for lunch and dinner depending on the viands. Meals at TPS Homestay are in the same price range. TPS homestay has a network of local caterers who can also prepare food if you are checked in there. They also have a kitchen where guests can cook their own meals. Fresh fish generally costs P70-80/kilo while lobster costs P500/kilo. Red Horse Beer costs P42 per 500 ml bottle.

WHAT TO BUY:

  • Banayuyu Wine – A fruit wine made from banayuyu, a wild berry from the grape family that only grows in the mountains of Calayan. Unlike most native wines which are on the bitter side, Banayuyu wine is very sweet, making it a good dessert wine. It’s said to help lower cholesterol and be good for the health. Alcohol percent: 10%. Best when chilled. Available at TPS Homestay for P75, P120 and P225 per bottle depending on size (Calayan prices, more expensive in mainland).
  • Organic Wild Berry Vinegar – Also made from the same banayuyu berries, this organic vinegar is good for grilled seafood dishes. P100/bottle.
  • TPS also sells a range of other products including Bagoong (made from Galungggong), Mango Wine, Banana Vinegar, Coated Peanut Honey and Forest Honey (from Camiguin Island) though not all were available during my visit.
  • Calayan Keychains and shell handicrafts
  • Fresh seafood like lobster (which can be packed in styro boxes) – *subject to availability/pre-orders required

USEFUL INFO:

  • Bring enough cash as there are no ATMs or banks in Calayan.
  • While traveling, dry bags for your gadgets are a must. Waterproof everything in garbage bags.
  • During our stay, Calayan only had electricity from 12:00 nn to 12:00 midnight (or earlier) with generators used only for special occasions. Use the time wisely to charge your camera batteries and phones.
  • Only SMART and Sun networks are available. There was no Globe signal during the duration of our stay.
  • There is no internet shop in town.
  • Smart Unli wifi was very slow and only seemed to work at certain times (at night and early morning). I was still able to check mail and post Instagram photos occasionally but connectivity was lost when I turned my phone into a mobile hotspot for others. The Smart Bro plugin was likewise very slow.
  • The best time to go to Calayan is in the summer months of March and April. However, weather in Calayan is very unpredictable, with sea conditions greatly affected by shifting wind patterns.
  • Trivia: Calayan’s Town Fiesta is held every August 25. Their patron saint is St. Bartholomew.
  • Boat trips are indefinite and unpredictable so prepare to be stranded for several days. Just go with the flow and enjoy the place!

44 thoughts on “Travel Guide: Calayan Island, Cagayan

  1. I am form Cagayan Valley and I must say that I’m so envious you already visited this very unspoiled paradise of the North. The Picturesque view of Calayan Island that you have captured are just surreal and simply majestic. I’d love to visit the Island soon. Thank you for this post, you inspired me.

    • Hi Poi, wow, thanks for the comment. Am always glad to visit beautiful places like this in the country. Palaui Island in Cagayan was also great! I actually feel the same way about Bicol (my home province) because there are so many places there that I have yet to visit and I feel envious whenever other people discover places there that I haven’t been to. :) Thanks for dropping by.

    • Hey Melo, we also wanted to go to Babuyan Claro or Camigin Norte, but mahal talaga yung boat if you charter it and resources ran out. I didn’t know Fuga was restricted though.

      • before fuga was really restricted but now ok na po pumunta don,problema lng po dapat may kakilala kau kz mas mahirap ang buhay ng fuga compare to calayan.wala pong ilaw doon unles yung stayan mo eh may generator.as of sasakyan papunta dun sa claveria lang po kau makakasakay….

  2. One of the things I miss most from the island is the food. It was a wonderful experience and Aldrin is just one of the best guides there as if we have a choice :D I enjoyed the laid back atmosphere, the landscape, the seascape, the people and the whole experience. Kakamiss :D

  3. What camera are you using mam? I like all your pictures and how you describe your travel..it’s like me being there. :)

  4. Hello Madam!

    Remember me the guy you interviewed at the Calayan Municipal Cemetry?Curios then, I thought you were looking for a long lost relative that could have been buried in Calayan…or scouring for a buried treasure. There may be several saints who had already gone to the ‘other side’ but no ‘Santoses’ wandered over here yet – until you came…heheh.

    You told me you work for Bulletin Today. That’s close to my heart since one of your columnists then happen to be my professor at the Lyceum of the Philippines, Mr. Ben Lara in the late 70′s. Were you born then?

    If you want to know more about Calayan, try to visit http://calayan.shutterfly.com

    If you or your friends intend to visit Calayan someday, try to check in at Calayan Inn – a two room house owned and managed by my mother located a hundred yards east of TPS Homestay. Expansion is undergoing construction right now to accommodate bigger groups.

    Just call me arman.

    My Contact Number: 0928-438-1234

    • Hi Arman. Yes, I remember. :) Glad you tracked down my site and thanks for the info. For some reason, I can’t access the shutterfly site. I contribute to one of the magazine supplements of Bulletin, but I never got the chance to meet Mr. Ben Lara. Sibang Cove and Nagudungan Hills are among the most beautiful places I’ve seen in the country. Hope I get to visit Calayan again before the crowds discover it!

  5. Hi! Nice adventure in Calayan! Is the food generally cheap? How is the sea condition from mainland Cagayan to the main Calayan island? Did you make a tour of the other 3 islands as well? Thanks

    • hi Vismarc,i am from Calayan Island,visit in Calayan during Summer time March to April,and yes seafood are extremely cheaper compare to mainland prices,fishes are around 70 pesos per kilo for those first class fish such as Tunas,you can also buy Lobster at around 120 to 500 per kilo.

    • Hi Vismarc. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go around to the other islands of Fuga, Babuyan, Dalupri, and Camiguin Island. Yes, the fresh seafood is generally cheap there. See the section on “where to eat” for the prices of food during the time of my visit and see LadyIslander’s reply below :)

  6. hi kara!this is a very nice blog.detailed must have and what to expect in calayan. we also went there last may and stayed w/ tita conie’s place. napakabait ng mga tao dun.:) hope to get back next april!

  7. so happy to see this blog….i am from this island…and i was there last Aprill too..too bad di tayo nag kita…TPS is my lola…..

    so proud i grew up in a paradise..
    and thank you for appreciating it

    • Hi LadyIslander. Oh wow, TPS is your lola pala. Hanggang ngayon we’re still using the wild berry vinegar I bought from her for our grilled meals. Yung wine, matagal na naubos. :) You’re welcome and thanks for dropping by my blog.

  8. Hi Kara, I love your photos. Calayan will surely be in our list of places to visit. May I just ask, is it ok to visit Calayan during December?

  9. Hi Kara! I’m a new visitor, I think I googled Tawi-tawi and saw your post or I can’t remember na nga what I was searching earlier I just hit on one of your articles. I read 3 of your blog posts na in an hour. Yay! Nice photos and very informative.

    I would love to go to Calayan! Thank you for sharing your experience. Keep it up! :)

  10. Hi! Thank you very much for the very wonderful feedback of your stay in Calayan. My parents were raised there. I’m glad you enjoyed the place. Thank you very much for sharing it! This would be of great help for Calayan’s tourism growth. More power and again, thank you very much! :)

  11. Wow naman ….hayys namiss ku tuloy calayan….kelan kea aku makauwe run….thanks poh ms. Kara…

  12. I’m going to Calayan for vacation this month and I’m already so excited. I enjoy reading your posts as they are helpful and not boring to read. Thank you!

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  15. anong oras po kaya ang byahe sa calayan pabalik ng cagayan? Ganda. Target kong puntahan next year. thanks for posting!

    • Hi RV, morning yung alis ng boats from Calayan to Cagayan. I’m not sure of the exact time, and baka nag-change na rin since I went there. Schedules there aren’t really fixed, so it’s best if you check as soon as you get there to plan your trip back :) Enjoy.

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