Text and Photos by Karen Bermejo
My first visit to Carabao Island was in 2014, and then sometime in 2015. Both visits were short and I never really had the chance to enjoy enough of the island. But third time’s the charm, they say. Last June, I finally had the opportunity to see the hidden beauty of Carabao Island–Boracay’s pristine neighbor.
The island is often compared to what Boracay was like – a quiet haven– before it became a busy tourist destination. With its verdant environment, stunning long white beaches and numerous enchanting spots, Carabao is another destination that’s hard to miss.
The island got its name because of its abundant cattle and carabao products. More known as Hambil to the locals, the island comprises municipality of San Jose. It is actually a part of Romblon province but the island is much closer to Aklan, particularly to Malay.
A daily boat schedule to and from Carabao leaves at 9:00-9:30 AM daily from Sambiray Port which is about 10 meters away from Caticlan. The fare is PhP100 per person. There are usually two boats servicing to Carabao – one going to the Poblacion and another to Lanas. But on habagat (southwest monsoon) season, boats just usually dock at Said Port in Poblacion.
Boat to Carabao Island leaves daily at 9-10AM from Sambiray Port in Malay
After an hour smooth boat ride from Sambiray, we reached Said Port. We are welcomed by the lush environment of the island and its inviting white sand beach. Tourists have to pay PhP40 environment fee, and then you’re free to explore the island. The main transportation on the island is the habal-habal or a motorcycle.
Three years since my last visit much has changed in Carabao. Roads leading to the other side of the island are now paved but has a retained lush surrounding. From Said Port, it was an almost 30-minute ride to Barangay Lanas considered as the main tourist area of the island. It is located at the west side of the island facing Boracay. It has pebbly white sand comparable to Boracay’sPuka Beach. Before heading for a day tour, I headed first to Lanas Beach Resort to leave my stuff and for a quick lunch.
Where to go in Carabao Island?
After taking a short rest, ManongYolly served as my driver and tour guide around Carabao Island. Our first stop is the newly-opened Cathedral Cave and Cliff Jumping site. A PhP100 entrance fee is being collected upon entering the area. Then you will be guided for a quick spelunking experience inside the cave. The cave is easy to navigate and you’ll really have a closer look at the stalagmites and stalactites inside. One of the highlights inside is the rock formation of a baby Jesus, the reason why it was named Cathedral Cave.
Outside the cave is the pathway towards the cliff jumping and diving area. There are small cottages on the area where guests could sit and have a picnic. All materials are also made of bamboo and wood to preserve the limestone rocks. Despite the habagat, the weather was calm that day.
There are several diving boards as high as 20ft where guests could jump from. But for those who prefer more adrenaline, they can jump from the topmost rock area which is about 40ft high. Jumping on the turquoise blue water of Carabao is worth a try after all. For those who are not so extreme, there’s also a bamboo raft where you could still enjoy the water.
Aside from the Cathedral, another famous cliff jumping site in Carabao is KudingKuding Point. For more spelunking experience, both Ngiriton and Dingle cave are worth visiting.
Following our cliff jumping and spelunking adventure, we head back to the Poblacion to see the island’s white sand beach. Along the way, we also passed by numerous beaches.
But our main destination was the long stretch of San Jose white sand beach. Adorned with coconut trees along the shoreline, it looks like Boracay’s White Beach sans the business establishments. The beach only has a few native cottages. With flat and crystal clear water, you can never leave the place without swimming.
The San Jose White Beach
After the beach, we also visited the highest point in the island –the TagaytayPoint. From the main road, it is a challenge to climb to the area with our motorcycle. Upon reaching the peak, you’ll forget the struggle for the view is really rewarding. There, you will see the rich lush environment of Carabao Island and on the other side, you will see Boracay and Aklan from afar.
There are cottages on the area for picnics. There are also hammocks if you just want to take a rest and enjoy the fresh air of the island. There are also tents for those who want to spend overnight or you can bring your own tent. You just have to pay the PhP70 entrance fee.
After Tagaytay Point, we head back to the resort just in time for the sunset. The relaxing colors of the sky as the sun sets coupled with a cooling sea breeze is just perfect to cap a hectic but fun day.
Why stay at Lanas Beach Resort
My visit to Carabao Island was made complete with my stay at Lanas Beach Resort. It is one of the earliest resorts in the island which have been there since 2010. Now, the resort is being managed by Oceans 11. With the new management, a more exciting stay in Carabao Island can surely be expected by its guest.
Lanas Beach Resort is one of the earliest resorts in Carabao Island.
The resort has two villas – Villa Bo and Villa Sol, and then the Lighthouse. Villa Sol has three rooms while Villa Bo and the Lighthouse building both have two rooms each. Each room is spacious and can cater to couples or a family.
Lanas Beach Resort also has its own all-day dining restaurants serving ala carte menus, for sharing and even offer “paluto” or cooking services for walk-in guests. The restaurant serves an array of sumptuous dishes of Filipino and international cuisine. Having its own organic garden, ingredients for the dishes served at the resort are assured fresh. They also have special menu each day depending on the catch of the day, delivered by the local fishermen. The restaurant also serves as a bar in a case you need some alcohol fix.
Seafood marinara and cioppino especially made by Executive Chef James Altas. Chef James also manages the resort.
To bring more entertainment to its guest, the resort will also soon have live bands to perform at the resort.
For easy access, the resort also has its own transport coordinator to assure smooth travel to the resort. They also offer private boat service to and from Lanas.
Portofino Oceans Edge: The next big thing in Carabao
Meanwhile, another exciting development to watch out for in Carabao is the Portofino Oceans Edge, a 4-star luxury resort. If privacy is what you value the most, then the place is perfect for you for it can only be accessed through private boat or a helicopter.
Portofino Ocean’s Edge Resort is a private boutique hotel with luxury facilities with a private cove and white beach. The resort will have 14 cliff rooms, 44 studio rooms, and two 2-bedroom villas. The resort will also have its spa and wellness center and an infinity pool. It will also have a cliff edge clubhouse with restaurant and bar.
With big development underway, now is the best time to experience the natural grandeur of Carabao. So before everyone starts flocking to this tranquil paradise, pack your bags now.*