Travel has suddenly become mainstream that everywhere we go, the crowd seems to follow. Not that we find it a bad thing. Let’s just say we prefer to play in places with nobody else or less people to share it with. You know that thing when you’re getting old. You easily get tired of noisy parties and rowdy crowd. Instead you want a place where you can share your epic stories with the people closest to you. So in our quest to avoid the crowd in hopes of discovering totally off the path and more serene destinations, our journey had taken us to this otherworldly paradise situated north of Sta. Ana Cagayan that was Palaui Island. This jewel is a protected landscape and seascape and has been a Natural Reserve since 1994. Home to some of the most abundant ocean waters and captivating views, Palaui Island is set to leave you in awe for the rest of your life.
OUR PALAUI ISLAND STORY
I was kind of having second thoughts of going to Palaui Island to meet Ian, my boyfriend-slash-moody-travel-buddy and the rest of the squad since I wanted really bad to see Apo Whang Od. If only my bestie Rhea has one more day to spare for our adventure, I would have chosen to continue the fun in Kalinga to conclude our 5DAY Baguio-Sagada-Batad Adventure than in Cagayan but I guess heavens did have other plans for me which eventually turned out into something wonderful.
I left Banaue at 8PM via GV Florida bus then I alighted in Bagabac Juction in Nueva Vizcaya at 10PM. I was trying to sync my trip with Ian and the squad who left Manila at 8PM Friday night. If everything goes smoothly, they’ll be in Sta. Ana at 10 the following morning which gives me enough time to rest as I expect to arrive there at 6AM riding the bus. Fast forward the next morning, I woke up to the gentle tapping of someone on my hoodie. We had safely arrived in Sta Ana and all passengers except me have already alighted the bus. I was still half asleep while I trace my steps to the local eatery where I had “papaitan”, a local soup dish made of pig’s insides seasoned with spices and lemon for breakfast.
After recharging for the day, I took a quadcycle going to San Vicente Port. Although I had no idea as to what exactly did Ian and his friends have in mind, I just thought it would be nice to do me some research about Palaui Island and the corresponding cost in case I’m able to sway them to go on an adventure. Besides, a 15-hour road trip from Manila to Cagayan would mean nothing and only retards would endure that painstaking journey just to get drunk and wasted at a bar or a friend’s house so they probably have something going on. I hoped.
I arrived in the ghostly port of San Vicente 10 minutes after a scenic road trip in Sta. Ana’s highways. The port was eerily quiet. Offices were closed. Outtrigger boats were docked at the bay with not a single soul in sight which I found unusual given it was a Saturday and if I were somewhere near Manila, it would have been a bloodbath. But it was empty which got me thinking whether or not I was in the right place. The quadcycle already left and the highway was a long walk away. I looked around nervous. I took a step forward to search for any sign of life although my nerve was bothering me with my mind shouting to just go back. First was at the local tourism office.
Before I can even touch my knuckles against the door and open my mouth to utter a word, a voice coming from behind startled me. I quickly turned my head to its direction and found a woman, maybe in her 40’s suppressing a laugh probably at my being so stupidly jumpy. She introduced herself as Ate Ivy, the point of contact for the boat association in San Vicente Port. She was surprisingly cheerful that she made it so easy for me to bring down my walls and ease out my nerves. She escorted me to their office where the other members of their association await.
Before we cut to the chase of discussing the prices, the first thing they asked of me was why I was on my own? To them my being a 20-something female traveling alone in a far away place where people speak a different tongue is a complete mystery. In normal days, this type of inquisition would have ticked off every fiber of my being but that day, I was in the mood for a bit of chitchat. And to be fair, they seemed to have their intentions at best so I let my normal self who usually storm out the door when asked about my being a SOLO traveller in check. They seemed to relax when they learned I have friends coming to meet me at any hour.
We’ve finished discussing the cost with the rest of the squad agreeing to it and all we were waiting for was for the rest of us to be there. If everything goes smoothly then they would arrive at 10AM. It was 7AM when I first checked with Ian where they were. Ate Ivy confirmed they were only 3 hours away. Then the clock hit the hour of 10. I checked back on them but got no response whatsoever. The last text read they were in Ilagan. The locals said they were going out of way and quickly gave instructions where to go. This time Ate Ivy felt the need of setting my expectations so she told me it might take Ian until 1PM to arrive in San Vicente Port. I was slowly losing it so I asked if there was some place I can take a nap while we waited.
I rested my head against my backpack lying awkwardly in a bench inside the association’s office. I didn’t want to think of anything else. I closed my eyes and let the hours slipped by. At 2PM I felt the wind blew a little colder against my skin. I checked back on Ian but he was not responding. The last text he sent at 1:30 PM read they were still in the middle of nowhere trying to trace their way to Tuguegarao then he was gone. He was out of reach. His friends were also not picking up. I was slowly getting too worked up. I missed lunch as I was saving to spend it with Ian. It was a week ago since I last saw him so I was thinking of catching up over a meal to somehow make up for that time we were apart. I was exasperated and it showed given how wary were those eyes staring in my direction. I sent another text informing them they would need to be at the port before 5PM so we could still go to Anguib Beach to camp overnight.
3PM and still no sign of Ian. I was becoming anxious. I was angry, worried but more so, frustrated as I received no single text and still had no idea of where they were. I walked out of the association’s office to hunt for food. Headache was already kicking in. As I traced my way to the nearest eatery, a motorcyle passed by abruptly stopping in front of me. It was one of the young guys in the association. I recognized him as one of the guys who will be manning one of the boats we were to use on our trip to Palaui Island. I felt guilty of their kindness and patience for waiting with me without a single idea of what’s happening next. He offered me a ride to which I didn’t feel the need to decline. He sure didn’t look like someone who sells human organs and I was certain I don’t look too healthy of a donor so smashing me with an iron pipe while I was not looking would probably do him more harm than good, sort of that stuff. Haha
4PM and finally Marie, one of Ian’s friends answered my call. I learned they were still in Tuguegarao since 2PM and had stopped over for lunch. Ian was not around as he went to the market to buy our camping supplies. There was not much I could squeeze out of Marie. She too was exasperated and sounded unsure of whatever was happening next. I kept my cool although I was at the peak of my anger. I was about to cry out of frustration. It would have been something I wouldn’t really mind if only Ian was giving me the slightest idea of what was going on. But there was no text, no nothing and the only sign he was doing good was a photo on his Facebook Timeline uploaded a little past 2PM that day. Wow! I thought. Just Wow. . .(Sighs)
5PM and still no text nor call nor whatsoever. I texted Marie everything I have going on in my mind. It was not meant for her but for my goodie ole’ boyfriend. You know that moment when you have too much of everything that all you wanted was just to let it all out? That’s exactly how every word on that text message felt.
6PM and everybody in the association had gone home except for those boatmen who were assigned to man the boats for our trip, Ate Ivy and the association’s president. I didn’t know what to tell them nor did I have anything planned as alternative. I was simply hoping Ian and the group would arrive soon. I had probably dialled Ian’s and his friends’ numbers a hundred times with not one of them caring to pick up. Then I gave up. Left my dying phone to charge in one of the outlets there. I sat at the same bench I had stayed on since 7 that morning. Six pairs of wary eyes were on me. I suppressed the urge to cry as they tried to offer me choices with not a single word they said making it through my scattered thoughts. Several moments of silence later, my phone rang…
It was Ian and as much as I wanted to be calm, my anger got the best of me. I was too furius. My voice raised a little too loud. I had cussed, yelled and probably utter too many awful things which I realized I should apologize for later on but I probably won’t because I was too damn proud. Everything I had said might have hit home a little too hard that he wanted to get off the phone but I told him to stay on the line to savor the wrath of the infuriated monster he created. Yes! I was selfish at best and if you were there listening to me while I rant, you’ll certainly say I am such an awful person but I would probably care less of what you think much less of your distaste of me.
And we got off the phone…
I quietly sat back at the bench. The silence screaming against my ears. Several minutes passed came Ate Ivy doing her own rant in Ilocano, their local dialect. I came from Mindanao but a fair number of Ilocano neighbors got me acquainted to their local tongue. She knew I can understand full well although I couldn’t bring myself to speak in their manner. I laughed as they laughed. She was so animated and I loved her for that. She understood and that meant everything.
8PM and there went 2 SUVs circling in the port, probably looking for a parking space. I went out to meet them together with the members of the association. Ian sent Marie to my direction to comfort me which he didn’t really need to. Seeing him looking all great was enough but he chose to avoid me and send someone instead to console me on his behalf. What a dick I thought when all he needed to do was say sorry but none came.
I walked out as soon as they were settled in the association’s office. They decided to camp in the port until morning whereas for me everything was just too much that I wanted some place I could speak to Ian. I told them I was heading out and will be going back to Manila in the morning which was a complete bullshit. I couldn’t let them down. Not when they traveled for a whole 24 hours and were as equally exhausted physically and emotionally as I was. I just wanted some place I could be alone with Ian and have a talk..
Ate Ivy accompanied us to the nearest hotel in the area. As soon as we were settled, I confirmed to her that we were still pushing through with our plans early the following morning. We talked about the final touches to our terms and it was a go. Ian excused himself to go back to the port where his friends were, saying he left some of his stuff there as his alibi but I knew full well he was just too excited to tell them the news. I let him. Aware that I had the entire night to give him a piece of my mind and enough of my foul mouth.
Morning came. We woke up to the nonstop ringing of Ian’s phone. It was Marie and her worried voice asking where we were brought us to our feet. We hurriedly went to the port. At exactly 4:30AM, off we went to journey the waters to Cape Engaño amidst the pitch black darkness of the ocean. The first 10 minutes of our journey was calm then after that we were swaying with our boat to each relentless pounding of the waves against it. The cold of the morning intensified by some drizzles didn’t help ease the tension I felt during that 45 minute near death boat ride. The only thing I was holding on to is the promise of a paradise at the end of it all.
After what must have been thirty good minutes since we started our roller coaster like boat ride, Cape Engaño Lighthouse came into view atop one of the hills in the northernmost tip of Palaui Island. Its light travelling in a circular motion illuminates everything it could reach. Somehow seeing the lighthouse brought me a sense of peace. It eased out my nerves. Ten minutes more and the first light of daybreak was already peaking at the horizon. At that same time, the waves became less menacing as we turned into a cove leading to Cape Engaño.
As soon as we were in the embrace of the cove, I felt the same calmness as the water. It still drizzled but it no longer sent shivers and fear into me. Instead, it felt as if the heavens were smiling on us, sending us a special promise. We reached the shore shortly after another 10 minutes. In plain sight, I thought there was nothing really special about this cove. The beach wasn’t anything I love about a beach. No long stretch of white powdery sands and turquiose water, instead it was of rough white coral and pebble stones. I refused to judge it too early knowing what we really came there for was not the beach but the magnificent view of Cape Engaño Lighthouse.
We wasted no time and headed to see the lighthouse. It was a 20-minute easy ascent along an established path but it took as a little longer as we couldn’t help but be in awe with how breathtakingly stunning the scene was while we inched closer to the top. The lush greenery, the intricate rock formation and the calmness of the bay as the ocean kissed the shores looked so heavenly. On the east was an equally stunning view of the entire cove. Blue waters kissing the long stretch of white sand shores. It was just perfect.
Twenty minutes and over a hundred photos after, we reached Cape Engaño Lighthouse. We spent another worthwhile hour getting ourselves enough of the ravishing beauty of the lighthouse. Its being old and rusty with the barracks empty and falling apart was its most redeeming quality. And from the windows of the lighthouse were two little islets referred to a Dos Hermanas. Seriously! It was insanely beautiful.
Going down the lighthouse was swift and easy. Down there at the cottages, breakfast awaited. We took over an hour savoring on the very first meal of the day. At 8PM we headed out to see the other treasures of Palaui Island. We were supposed to see Punta Verde and Crocodile Island but decided to skip both and head straight to Anguib Beach instead as we were a little pressed with time. A busy Monday awaits us in Manila so we needed to head out at 1PM so we won’t have to miss work.
We started the journey to Anguib Beach tracing the same waters we passed through going to Cape Engaño. The eastern waters surrounding the island were a little wild hence to be on the safe side, our boatmen decided to take the longer route. It seemed useless though since the waters near Anguib Beach were far from friendly and rose to as high as 10-15 feet. I thought I’ve never seen such monstrous waves before. Gladly our boatmen were so skillful in navigating our boats that the yet again another near death boat ride seemed like a simpler roller coaster ride.
We reached Anguib Beach after over an hour of swaying with the unforgiving waves of the Pacific. Few meters from the shores, this rarely talk about beach wowed us with its waters so clear and pristine. The seabed dotted with some corals and rocks was visible from where I sat in our boat. When we finally reached the shore, the powdery sands felt so satisfying against my feet. Not only that the sands were fine and white but the long stretch of beach boasted of a refreshing and alluring turquoise green waters. And the best part was, we have the beach all to ourselves! Amazing right!
Anguib Beach is simply one of the best beaches of our land. It is so hard to get enough of. You can bathe all you want in its waters, frolic under the sand lying in its white sandy shores, and bask at its beauty for as long as you want but it will take more than that to rid yourself of the desire to spend more days bumming in this stunning beach. They didn’t call it “The Boracay Of The Far North” for nothing. In fact calling it such is a complete disrespect of the unspeakable charm and uniqueness that Anguib Beach poccess. Boracay my have been the standard but make no mistake, this quiet beach in the north is one hell of a stunner in itself.
After struggling between staying longer or leaving with hopes of going back another time, we finally decided to head back to the port. It was 30 minutes past 11 in the morning. Too short of a time to enjoy the richness of Anguib Beach which is why thoughts of her lingered for days after we’ve returned to the real world from that one awesome weekend.
HOW TO GET THERE
Going here is no easy peasy as you have to endure up to 15 hours of painstaking land travel by bus or a rented van or your own car through a long and winding road if you are to come from Manila. If you are a little well off and money is no biggie then booking you a flight to Tuguegarao is the easier route. Lucky for me, I was going there from Banaue after my 5-Day Baguio-Sagada-Batad Adventure cutting my trip to Sta. Ana to just 7 hours. So how specifically can you get here? Allow me to share you some of your options. Please note that Tuguegarao City is the main access to Palaui Island. Once there, everything is so much easier.
- From Manila By Bus – I only know 2 bus companies plying Manila-Tuguegarao route and that’s Victory Liner and GV Florida.
- Victory Liner – From there station in Kamias, ride a bus to Tuguegarao (12hrs). Fare is P647 for the regular air-conditioned bus. Alight the bus once in their station in Tuguegarao then go to the van terminals bound for Sta. Ana, Cagayan Valley which is just a few walks away. Ride the van all the way to Sta. Ana (3hrs ; P250). From the drop off point, ride a trike or a quadcycle going to San Vicente Port which should only cost you P15. Once at the port, you can charter an outtrigger boat to take you to Palaui Island or hopping on the nearby islands and beaches. Check here for the updated trip schedule or book your trip.
- GV Florida – From their station in Sampaloc, Manila, ride a bus going all the way to Sta. Ana. Travel takes 15 hrs. via Roxas and should take you back P750. Once in Sta Ana, ride a tricycle going to San Vicente Port for P15. There at the port, you can charter an outtrigger boat to take you to Palaui Island or hopping on the nearby islands and beaches. Check here for the updated trip schedule or book your trip.
- From Manila via plane – Fly via Cebu Pacific to Tuguegarao. Once in Tuguegarao, ride a tricycle to take you to the van terminal bound for Sta. Ana (P15). Ride the van all the way to Sta. Ana (3hrs ; P250). Once in Sta Ana, ride a tricycle going to San Vicente Port for P15. There at the port, you can charter an outtrigger boat to take you to Palaui Island or hopping on the nearby islands and beaches.
- From Baguio – Ride a Victory Liner bus to Tuguegarao (10hrs; P450). Follow remaining instructions above.
- From Banaue – Ride a jeep to Bagabac Junction (2hrs ; P130) then ride either a Victory Liner bus to Tuguegarao (2hrs ; P295) or a GV Florida bus straight to Sta. Ana (5hrs ; P525). Follow remaining instructions above.
WHAT TO SEE IN PALAUI ISLAND
- Cape Engaño Lighthouse – In the northernmost tip of Palaui Island lies a century old lighthouse of Cape Engaño that offers a panoramic view of the vast ocean waters of the Pacific and of West Philippines. Two beautiful islets also come in full view while at the lighthouse and at the eastern part are the coastal waters kissing the luscious greenery that resembles he ever coveted view found in Batanes which is why it was also dubbed as the “Mini Batanes”.
- Punta Verde – One part of the island where the amazing trekking adventure offered in Palaui Island begins with the end point being Cape Engaño. If trekking is not your thing then the beach is always there ready to serve you. And did I mention anything about a waterfall? Yes, one if safely hidden in the forest trails of Isla Verde.
- Anguib Beach – Dubbed as the “The Boracay Of The Extreme North”, this beach is not just your typical beach. It is pristine, serene and beautiful all a the same time. Frolic under the sun along its white sandy shores and simply head your way to an amazing tropical holiday in the one of our country’s most beautiful beaches.
- Crocodile Island – A small island bare and devoid of trees but has a long stretch of white creamy sand and rough corals for a beach and crystal clear waters.Another feature is the limestone rock formation with its shape resembling a crocodile hence the name.
THINGS TO DO
- Island Hopping – Set sail on a motorized outrigger boat and explore the entirety of Palaui Island and the other nearby islands and pristine beaches.
- Trekking – Discover what the landscapes of Palaui Island has to offer by exploring its rattan forest trails.
- Diving – Palaui Island isn’t a natural reserve for nothing which is why probably the most quintessential part of your visit is to do some diving in its rich underwater paradise.
WHERE TO STAY
There are no resorts in Palaui Island. Your option is to camp at the beach which would require you to bring with you camping essentials such as tents, camping lamps, earth pad, a sleeping bag or hammock. If camping is not your thing, then you can stay in Elsa’s Homestay in Punta Verde for P250/night. There are limited rooms available so reservation is encouraged. You may contact Elsa Lagdaran at 0905 283 2559.
Tip: If you would decide to stay in Palaui Island, please note that there is no electricity available. Bring with you power banks. Insect repellent would also come in handy while camping to avoid bug bites.
If you don’t feel spending the night on the island, then you may check-in in the following hotels and resorts in Sta. Ana.
Country Inn Hotel And Restaurant
Address: Dugo-San Vicente Road, Centro, Sta. Ana, 3514
Phone: 0917 791 0354
Check Availability & Rates
Edens Lodging House
Address: 29 Arellano St., Centro, Sta Ana, Cagayan, Santa Ana, 3514 Cagayan
Phone: (02) 858 1025
Check Availability & Rates
Costa Carina Beach Front Resort
Address: Palmera St, Santa Ana, Cagayan
Phone: 0915 378 6901
Check Availability & Rates
SAMPLE ITINERARY, BUDGET & OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION
|SUMMARY OF EXPENSES (11 Pax on private car)||Gas And Toll (Estimated) P6000 - P545
Food - P500
Boat @ P3300 x 2 - P600
Guide Fee @ P300 x 2 - P55
Entrance Fee - P80
TOTAL <<>> P1775
|SAMPLE ITINERARY (2D1N over the weekend)||Day 0: Friday
1930 ETD Sta. Ana
Day 1: Saturday
0500 ETA Tuguegarao. Breakfast.
0800 ETA Sta. Ana
0830 San Vicente Port. Hire Boat
0900 Start Island Hopping
1000 Cape Engaño. Trek. Explore the Lighthouse. Photo Ops.
1300 ETD Punta Verde
1400 Punta Verde. Trek.
1500 Waterfalls. Photo Ops
1600 Crocodile Island
1700 Anguib Beach. Set up camp
1800 Dinner & Drinks
2200 Lights Out
Day 2: Sunday
0600 Wake Up. Prep Breakfast.
0800 Explore Beach. Swim. Snorkel. Take Photos
1000 Break Camp
1100 San Vicente Port. Wash Up
1200 Lunch in Sta. Ana Town proper
2000 Dinner in Bagabag Junction
Day 3: Monday
0300 ETA Manila
|TOURS, BOAT & OTHER FEES||BOAT TARIFFS (8 Pax/Boat Capacity)
P1000 - Punta Verde only
P1500 - Anguib Beach only
P1800 - Cape Engaño only
P3000 - Cape Engaño + Anguib Beach
P3500 - Cape Engaño + Anguib Beach + Punta Verde + Crocodile Island
Additional P500/boat fee for overnight in Anguib Beach and P300/boat for Punta Verde
Cape Engaño - P30
Anguib Beach - P100
GUIDE FEE (Trekking) - P300/guide (Mandatory and is for 4 pax capacity)
|CONTACT PERSON||Boat: Ate Ivy - 09261880213
OUR PHOTOS DEPICTING AN EPIC STORY OF AN AWESOME WEEKEND
Sometimes the most difficult of roads lead to paradise. Some journey may start slow and uneventful but you will never know what adventure awaits unless you keep going.
There you have it lovelies. I hope you enjoy reading our adventure as much as I had fun writing it for you. Give me a shout on the comments box below. Until next time. Ciao!