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Palaui Island: Cagayan’s Untouched Paradise

Dos Hermanos Islets
PALAUI

Palaui Island is one overlooked paradise located off the northeastern tip of Luzon, specifically Sta. Ana, Cagayan. It was declared a National Marine Reserve in 1994 making it a haven for different species of plants and birds. There are no resorts or hotels on the island and camping or home stay are the only options. The island, being 10 kilometers long and approximately 5 kilometers wide, offers breathtaking scenery of tides coming from the Pacific, rolling hills and undisturbed rich forests. If you truly want to escape far away from the city and experience raw beauty of nature, Palaui Island is definitely a must-visit.

Hues of blue and green in Palaui Island

Getting lost in Palaui Island, Cagayan

A photo posted by thelostkidsph (@thelostkidsph) on

GETTING THERE
  1. Ride a bus to Tuguegarao City. Bus lines like Victory Liner and GV Florida have daily trips to Tuguegarao. Travel time is 10-14 hours depending on the traffic. An alternative would be booking a flight to Tuguegarao through Cebu Pacific. Flight duration is only 1 hour.
  2. From Tuguegarao, ride a bus or van to Sta. Ana, Cagayan. There are multiple van terminals in Tuguegarao who have trips to Sta. Ana. From the bus terminal, you can ask a tricycle drive to bring you to one of the van terminals to Sta. Ana. Van trip will take 3 hours.
  3. From Sta. Ana, get another tricycle to bring you to San Vicente Port. Travel time is 15-20 minutes. Ask your van driver if he’s going to San Vicente; get off there instead so you won’t need to ride another tricycle.
  4. From San Vicente Port, Palaui Island is only 20 minutes away by boat. San Vicente Port is also the location of their tourism office where you can arrange your tours.

Other options: Victory Liner has direct trips to Sta. Ana, Cagayan. If you can’t get tickets to Tuguegarao, another route is via Tabuk. From St. William’s Cathedral, ride a jeepney to Tuguegarao.

View of Palaui Island from Sta. Ana Port
ACCOMMODATION

The only place where tourists can camp/stay overnight is at Punta Verde, Palaui Island. You may contact Nature Village; they have overnight tent accommodations for only P250/head. They will provide the tent that comes with mattresses and pillows. You may also bring your own tent and camp there, but charge is the same. They also have cottages for P1000/night. As an alternative, you may also contact Ate Elsa, she has rooms for only P250/head just outside Nature Village.

If ever you need accommodation on your way back, here’s a list of hotels in Sta. Ana, Cagayan. We stayed here for one night before heading back to Tuguegarao the following morning.

Big tents of Nature Village for only P250/person
ITINERARY

DAY 0

  • 2200 Depart for Tuguegarao City

We managed to get tickets for a Super Deluxe Bus from GV Florida. Our bus departed at exactly 10pm from Manila. Victory Liner has trips to Tuguegarao as well from their Manila and Cubao terminals. They also have direct trips to Sta. Ana, Cagayan; which, we think, is the best option when taking the bus. If you have cash to spare, you may also book a flight to Tuguegarao through Cebu Pacific. For a Super Deluxe bus, travel time should only take 10 hours but due to Manila traffic and some slow down in Nueva Ecija, our trip took almost 14 hours.

North of Luzon: Sta. Ana Port in Cagayan

DAY 1

  • 1130 Arrival at Tuguegarao City. Take Lunch.
  • 1300 Departure to Sta. Ana Port
  • 1600 Arrival at San Vicente Terminal
  • 1640 Departure to Punta Verde, Palaui Island
  • 1700 Arrival at Punta Verde, Palaui Island. Stay at Ate Elsa’s Homestay
  • 1900 Dinner
  • 2000 Lights out. Prepare for next day hike.

We arrived in Tuguegarao City before lunch. Go down at the main intersection where you can see Chowking, Jollibee and McDonald’s. You could take your lunch here before heading to the van terminal. Ride a tricycle and ask to be dropped off at the van terminal with trips to Sta. Ana. Take note that there are a lot of van terminals in Tuguegarao, majority can be found along Balzian Highway. The terminal where our tricycle driver dropped us off didn’t have a trip to Sta. Ana at that time. We were then transferred to a different van terminal just a 2-minute walk away, and found a Sta. Ana-bound van. There are also bus trips to Sta. Ana but we do not recommend this because the schedule is irregular and the trip takes longer. Travel time to Sta. Ana takes roughly 3 hours.

Once in Sta. Ana, go down at the town center (where the public market is) and hire another tricycle to San Vicente Port only 20 minutes away. Luckily enough, our van was also heading to San Vicente so we asked him to drop us off at the port. From the port, you may visit the tourism office or PASAMOBA and arrange your tours to Palaui Island.

Touring Palaui Island is easy because they have fixed tours and boat rates. They also have mandated guide fees and other rental fees. As of posting, here’s the posted PASAMOBA cooperative boat rates:

Long Distance (8 passengers allowed)

  1. Cape Engano – P1800
  2. Anguib Beach – P1500
  3. Siwangag Cove – P1500
  4. Puzurubo – P1800

Short Distance (8 passengers allowed)

  1. Crocodile Island – P500
  2. Punta Verde – P1000
  3. Pugo Moro – P500

They also have combination tour rates if you plan to visit more than one site. We got our boat for only P3800 inclusive of Punta Verde, Cape Engano, Anguib Beach and Crocodile Island. You may contact Kuya Edwin. As a summary, the boat will bring us to Punta Verde, since our homestay is located there. Then, they’re going to pick us up from Cape Engano Beach (3-hour hike from Punta Verde, guide fee for the hike not included in the boat rate) at the northern tip of the island and bring you to Anguib Beach, then Crocodile Island, and back to San Vicente Port.

After arranging our tours with Kuya Edwin, we rode a boat to Punta Verde at the eastern part of the island, only 20 minutes away, where we stayed the night. Nature Village and Ate Elsa’s Homestay are the only places you could stay and camp overnight on the island. Meals are available at Ate Elsa’s for P150/P250 per meal inclusive of rice, drink, viand and vegetable.

Cape Engaño

DAY 2

  • 0600 Breakfast
  • 0730 Start Hike to Cape Engano, sidetrip to Baratubut Falls
  • 1030 Arrival at Cape Engano Lighthouse. Take pictures. Enjoy the view of the Dos Hermanos Islets
  • 1130 Lunch at Cape Engano Beach
  • 1215 Depart for Anguib Beach
  • 1320 Arrival at Anguib Beach
  • 1445 Depart for Crocodile Island
  • 1510 Arrival at Crocodile Island
  • 1600 Depart for San Vicente Port
  • 1620 Arrival at San Vicente Port
  • 1700 Arrive at Eden’s Lodge, Sta. Ana Cagayan

We started our hike at 7:30 in the morning. Hire your guides at Punta Verde. Ate Elsa provided us with one. Guide fees range from P300 – P350 (with sidetrip to Baratubut falls). From Punta Verde, there are two trails leading to Cape Engano, one is the easy Lagunzad trail and the challenging Leonardo’s Trail. We took the Lagunzad Trail. You can do a sidetrip to Baratubut Falls, which is just near Punta Verde.

The trail starts off in this 25m long foot bridge

The trail is fairly easy. You will be passing by Mabolbol Shore which is a long stretch of beach at the northeastern part of the island. There are quite a few assaults in this trail especially on the latter part. Remember to bring lots of water since the hike can be really dehydrating and most of the time you’ll be under the sun. Don’t forget to take pictures of the rolling hills. As you go higher at the last steps to the lighthouse the view definitely gets better. You will get to see the lush green rolling hills, Cape Engano Beach and the cliff facing Dos Hermanos Islets.

View from Cape Engano Lighthouse. Dos Hermanos Islets
View from Cape Engano Lighthouse. Dos Hermanos Islets
Another view from Cape Engano Lighthouse

After exploring the lighthouse we then headed down to Cape Engano Beach where our boat was waiting for us. We took our lunch here before heading to Anguib Beach. Don’t forget to arrange your lunch with Ate Elsa so the boat could bring it to Cape Engano.

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Cape Engano Beach
Boats slowly tread the shallow waters near Crocodile Island

Anguib Beach is 40 minutes away from Cape Engano. It is actually not located in Palaui Island anymore but on mainland Cagayan. Don’t forget to take photos during the boat ride. You will pass by the Dos Hermanos Islets and multiple rock formations. You will have an overview of what the island looks like from afar. Among all the beaches we’ve seen so far (Punta Verde, Cape Engano Beach, Mabolbol Shore) in this trip, Anguib beach is most ideal for swimming. It boasts a long stretch of fine white sand and clear waters. Staying overnight in Anguib beach is also possible, just bring your own tent. There’s also an entrance fee.

After swimming, we headed to our last destination, Crocodile Island. The island is only 30 minutes away from Anguib Beach. Crocodile island is a massive rock shaped like a crocodile’s head hence the name. Swimming on the Island is also possible. Don’t forget to take a picture especially on your approach. It turns bright and yellow when the sun is out.

Tip of Crocodile Island facing mainland Cagayan

After Crocodile Island, we headed back to San Vicente Port, got a tricycle to Sta. Ana and got a room to stay the night, rest and get ready for our trip back to Tuguegarao. There are a number of hotels and inns in Sta. Ana. You may contact Eden’s Lodge at 09167904177. Ask your hotel to call a van to pick you up so you wouldn’t need to go to the terminal in the morning.

DAY 4: CALLAO CAVE ADVENTURE (Read: Callao Cave: Exploring the Caving Adventure Capital of the Philippines)

BUDGET
  • Transportation: P900 Super Deluxe Bus to Tuguegarao, P180 Van to San Vicente Port, P1500 Cebu Pacific flight from Tuguegarao to Manila
  • Boat: P3800 Punta Verde, Cape Engano Lighthouse, Anguib Beach and Crocodile Island
  • Accommodation/Meals: P250/head at Ate Elsa’s Homestay, P250/head Tent accommodation at Nature Village, P1000/night cottages at Nature Village, P150/P250 meals available at Ate Elsa’s Homestay, P700/night aircon room at Eden’s Lodge
  • Guide and Fees: P350 Guide to Cape Engano Lighthouse with sidetrip to Baratubut falls, P300 if no sidetrip to the falls, P100 Entrance fee at Anguib Beach

There are different transportation options to Tuguegarao. You can opt not to get a Super Deluxe Bus. Bus fare ranges from P650 – P900 depending on the type of bus and bus line.

TIPS
  1. The peak season according to our guide is during summer months and the Holy Week but make sure the weather is good if you plan to visit. Waves can get really rough. The Philippine Coast Guard may not allow you to go to Palaui Island.
  2. Signal is good at Punta Verde but inconsistent to none at Cape Engano.
  3. If you are not into hiking, you may visit Cape Engano directly via boat. It will only take you 40 minutes to reach Cape Engano Beach. Of course, PASAMOBA will charge you more.
  4. There are decent restrooms and shower rooms in Ate Elsa’s Homestay and Nature Village. Ate Elsa provides electric fan for their guests if you ask for one.
  5. There’s limited electricity in the island. Locals use generators or solar panels so make sure to bring power banks.
POSSIBLE-SIDE TRIP

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