After days of rain and gloomy weather that hampered our activities in the mainland, the sky finally cleared on the last day of our trip. Just in time too, since our destination for the day was the beautiful island of Palaui, just off the coast of Sta. Ana in Cagayan.
The first time I set foot in Palaui was back in 2011. I remember the roller-coaster like waves that propelled our boats towards the island where the ruins of an abandoned lighthouse sat atop a hill. There were a few rumors from locals that the hit reality show Survivor was going to be filmed there. Fast forward six years later, when I found myself one again with the tempestuous waves heading towards the island.
Except for a few structures on the shore of Engano Cove and the presence of organized community-based boat and tour operators, the place looked exactly as I remembered it. Raw, rugged and remote.
Palaui Island is not that easiest place to get to. The long land travel from Manila has kept away only the most persistent of travelers, and for that I am glad. Despite its increased popularity as the location of two seasons of Survivor (Survivor: Blood vs. Water & Survivor: Cagayan) in 2013, the locals have managed to keep the place preserved.
WHERE EXACTLY IS PALAUI ISLAND:
Palaui Island is located off the northeastern extremity of Luzon Island, the largest island in the Philippines. The jump off point is lies off the northwestern part of a large promontory in San Vicente, in the municipality of Santa Ana, Cagayan province. The Port of San Vicente in Santa Ana, Cagayan, situated between Palaui Island and the coast of Luzon, is the jump-off point for crossing the channel to Punta Verde (Point Verde) on Palaui Island, or heading to Engaño Cove, a little further to the north.
HOW TO GET TO PALAUI ISLAND:
- From Manila, ride a bus bound for Tuguegarao City. Bus lines like Victory Liner have daily trips to Tuguegarao. Travel time is roughly 12-14 hours
- Alternatively, you could also book a flight to Tuguegarao via Cebu Pacific. Flight duration is about 1 hour.
- From Tuguegarao, ride a bus or van to Sta. Ana, Cagayan. Travel time is 3 hours.
- From Sta. Ana, get another tricycle to bring you to San Vicente Port. Travel time is 15-20 minutes.
- From San Vicente Port, Palaui Island is about 20 minutes away by boat.
NOTE: Boat fees range from P500-P1,800 depending on the destinations to be visited and their respective travel times. For combination tours (ex. Anguib Beach + Cape Engano) it will cost P3,000. There was a maximum of 6 people being imposed per boat when we visited.
WHAT TO DO / WHERE TO GO IN PALAUI ISLAND:
Contrary to recent reports that Anguib Beach is closed, there are actually three sections of the beach, and only one area has been privatized. In the section open to the public like Anguib Beach Club, you can enjoy the creamy white sand beach, swim in the cool waters, or just take a nap on one of the many colorful hammocks hung up in the pine-like agoho trees.
Anguib Beach Club also offers glamping packages, with tent accommodations where you can experience the comforts of home right on the beach. They can also arrange ferry trips, meals, joiner tour packages, intimate dinner set-ups, pre-nup and debut shoots, wedding packages and more.
Photo courtesy of Anguib Beach Club
Entrance fee to Anguib Beach is P100 per pax. P150 for overnight stays. Daytime: 7:00 am – 5:00 pm. Overnight: 5:00 pm to 7:00 am. For bookings and reservations in Anguib Beach Club, contact 0917-6520581. Email: email@example.com. Facebook : Santa Ana Camping and Glamping Resorts
Punta Verde is a residential village in Cagayan with its own small white sand beach, but is not really popular for swimming since boats dock here. From Punta Verde, you can trek to a small waterfall hidden in the village. For the more adventurous, this can also be a starting point to the trek to Cape Engano. The hike from Punta Verde, the southeast tip of Palaui to Cape Engaño takes about 3.5 to 4 hours through beautiful scenery.
We took a short but scenic ride through a mangrove forest before proceeding to Cape Engano.
Engaño Cove is a small cove southwest of the lighthouse where supplies for the station were previously landed. Today, small vessels can find good anchorage in this protected cove, except by northwesterly and westerly winds. Palaui Island is a Marine Reserve under the category of Protected Landscape and Seascape.
The northern point of the island is called Cape Engaño, where you can find the ruins of Cape Engaño Lighthouse on the summit of the hill. Also known as Faro de Cabo Engano, this historic lighthouse lies 92 meters above sea-level and provides a 360-degree view of Babuyan Island and the the Dos Hermanas Islands (Two Sisters) on the North, Pacific Ocean on the West and Engaño cove on the East. Visitors need to follow a trail passing 229-step concrete steps, which turns into a dirt trail about halfway up. The lighthouse has been named a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum.
Palaui Island contains several hiking trails including Lagunzad’s Trail, Leonardo’s Trail and Siwangag Trail. There’s a standard guide fee of P300 per guide for all eco-tours. Ratio of 1 tour guide for 1-4 visitors, 2 tour guides for 5-8 visitors, 3 tour guides for 9-12 visitors.
WHAT / WHERE TO EAT:
There are a few stores now in Cape Engano where you can buy chips, drinks and cup noodles. The best place to eat while island-hopping would be Jerolynda’s White Beach Resort and Restaurant in Mapurao, Brgy. San Vicente, Santa Ana. We really enjoyed our delicious seafood lunch of local specialties including lobsters, prawns, lato, lumot (a type of seaweed), fish, sinigang and adobo.
Jerolynda’s White Beach Resort and Restaurant is located in front of Palaui Island and near Crocodile Island. For inquiries & reservations, contact 0915-5161584 or 0927-3225769. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
BOAT RATES FOR ISLAND-HOPPING:
The SAMOBA (Sta. Ana Motorize Boat Association Inc.) cooperative has fixed mandated guide fees and other boat rental fees:
- Cape Engano – P1800
- Anguib Beach – P1500
- Siwangag Cove – P1500
- Puzurubo – P1800
- Punta Verde – P1000
- Crocodile Island – P500
- Pugo Moro – P500
Combination tour rates are available if you plan to visit more than one site. For example, a special trip to Punta Verde, Cape Engano, Anguib Beach and Crocodile Island will cost P3,500. Plan your trip beforehand depending on the sights you want to visit.
TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO:
- Boat trips from San Vicente port to Palaui Island may be cancelled should the coast guards deem the waters unsafe for sea travel.
- You need to register at the Tourism Office located at the Port area before going on your trip.
- There’s a limit of 6 passengers per boat. Solo travellers may want to find other people to join their trip to lower costs of the boat rental.
- If you’re in Cagayan for a few days, schedule island-hopping on your first available day, so you have back up days in case trips get cancelled.
- The waves in this part of the Philippines can be really wild. Get ready for an action-packed boat ride!
- You will most definitely get wet on the boat ride going there. Secure your gadgets in a dry bag to be safe.
- Bring drinking water and light snacks/trail food for the trip, especially the hike to the lighthouse.
- There’s a basic public restroom in Cape Engano before you climb up to the lighthouse.
- Camping on Cape Engano Beach or near the lighthouse is not allowed.
- You are not allowed to take bring out anything from the island and the beaches including sand, shells and corals.
NOTE: This trip was part of Lakbay Norte 6, a media familiarization tour organized by the North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB) in partnership with the Manila North Tollways Corporation / NLEX-SCTEX, Victory Liner, Inc., the Cagayan North Convention and Visitors Bureau (CNCVB) and SAMOBA (Sta. Ana Motorize Boat Association Inc.)
Unwatermarked photos by Martin San Diego courtesy of NPVB.