Fire up Google Earth and scour the Philippine map for small white rimmed islands - thats what a friend and I did before that led us to Cagbalete Island. Nobody was really blogging about this small gem in Lamon Bay back in 2006-2007. Off the coast of a small town in Quezon province called Mauban, its fine white sand is clearly visible in Google Earth.
I had a blast on my first visit and I vowed to return. But over the years other small islands and beaches took its place from my to-visit list. With Philippines’ 7107 islands (give or take a few depending on tide), it hard to keep the list small.
But then some destinations are really meant to be re-visited. I got a few friends to agree on a schedule, a itinerary was quickly drafted, and off we went for a weekend on the island.
Weather was perfect and the sea was relatively calm. We sat on an extended part of the boat - practically part of the outrigger structure of the boat already, and enjoyed an uneventful 50 minute ride from Mauban to the island.
Not much has changed, the island is still as postcard-perfect looking as the first time I saw it. There is a noticeable increase in the number of tourists, but that could probably just be attributed to the fact that it’s already summer and vacation time.
My resort of choice was Villa Cleofas on the eastern part of the island. The choices for resorts before was limited to Pansacola on the southern tip (near Sabang - the public part of the island that serves as the port) and Villa Cleofas. But nowadays there is a good number of resorts on the eastern part. I still prefer Villa Cleofas for the following reasons:
- Wide range of accommodation options to chose from. If you want to rough it out they have a nice shaded area for tents.
- Facilities are not too fancy, but not shabby either. Staff are helpful and the owner(s) are always there. They have roving security to make sure everyone is safe, especially at night.
- You can opt for other activities like kayaking and horseback riding.
- Its comfortably isolated, yet not too remote either. Plus from there you have access to a seemingly endless white sand shoreline. Its not a boring shoreline either, there are mangroves on the far end.
We got to Villa Cleofas an hour before low tide. Had low tide beat us, we would have been forced to walk quite a distance. Cagbalete has this surreal low tide where the water recedes to almost 800 meters from the shore!
I am excited to share other photos from the trip, but I figured I'd start first with some details to help you organize your own trip to the island.
- To Lucena/Mauban: There is now a good number of bus lines that has trips to Lucena. JAC Liner (Kamias and Buendia stations) has buses that leaves every hour (24 hours during Fri-Sun). Note as well that bus leaves as soon as its full, and not necessarily on the hour. JAC liner also has trips direct to Mauban (twice daily, one at 4AM and another one at 2PM, though the schedule may change). Travel time from Manila to Lucena is 2.5 - 3 hours. Manila to Lucena fare is 210 pesos. Wifi is available on board JAC Liner buses
- To Mauban: From Lucena Grand Station, you may take the mini buses to Mauban (fare is 60 pesos). Travel time is 1 - 1.5 hours depending on how many stops the minibus takes, which could be a lot when the driver sees passengers waiting by the road side. Another option is to take the vans (14 and 18 seater vans) in SM Lucena.
- Back to Lucena/Manila: There is a JAC Liner bus that leaves Mauban at 2PM. On weekends this bus usually gets filled earlier thus leaves before 2PM. If the tricycle driver insist on bringing you to JAC Liner terminal and its already close to 2PM, don't bother. You'll most likely miss it and end up paying the driver more for the return trip to town. There are vans bound for Lucena near Mauban church.
boat to paradise: all aboard!
- To Cagbalete: There are two commuter boats that service Mauban-Cagbalete route. The boats GENERALLY leave Mauban at 10AM and at 1PM. However, if the boats get filled up before 10AM, then they leave earlier. On weekends, seats can get taken as early as 7AM. The boats can leave later too, specially if someone reserved a seat and is still taking his/her sweet time running errands in town. Fare is 50 pesos.
- From Cagbalete: There is an 8AM trip and another one at 1PM. If you miss both then you'll have to charter an outrigger boat.
- Options: An option to is arrange for a boat to pick you up in Mauban. Resorts like Pansacola and Villa Cleofas have their own boats (20-30 person capacity,4000-5000 pesos for the round trip, good for large groups). There are smaller boats you can rent in Mauban port, but the waters between Mauban and Cagbalete can get pretty rough, so its not really recommended unless you love to get tossed around by the waves
- Mauban’s port now collects a 50 pesos “environmental fee” from tourists headed to the island. Whether or not this fund is really used for what it is intended for is a different story
supplies, water, electricity, cellphone signal
- Better buy your food and water in Mauban if you don’t mind the extra weight. You can buy stuff in Sabang as well (expensive) and in your resorts (priced like gold!). Almost everything has to be brought by boat to the island thats why its expensive. During the boat ride you’ll see everything from livestock to cement to plants or whatever the community needs.
- Water - most resorts have fresh water supply
- Electricity - the community and the resorts have their own generators. Usually electricity is available between 6PM to 6AM
- Cellphone signal - Globe and Smart have coverage. Globe has decent 3G signal