Most people are familiar with Jomalig, but for those who are looking for a place that is a little more off-beat, there is the humble island of Polillo. Here’s our island hopping trip to Polillo Island in Quezon Province!
Just a quick background: Polillo Island is located about 2-3 hours away from the mainland (Ungos Port in Real) in Quezon Province. It’s is divided into three municipalities: the similarly named Polillo, Burdeos, and Panukulan. The island isn’t highly developed yet, but there are numerous resorts and other establishments. It’s a great place for a sea & nature adventure, since it offers lots of activities including island hopping, trekking, caving, and more.
- Our trip to Polillo Island
- How to get to Polillo Island
- Where to stay
- 2 Days Itinerary to Polillo Island
- Travel Tips
- Budget and expenses
- What to read next:
Our trip to Polillo Island
Hali and I went here on a weekend in December 2021. We availed of a 2-day packaged tour by Gala PH. Initially, I was unsure about going because it was peak season and it seemed everyone was itching to go out, but I was assured that it is off-the-beaten tracks so this shouldn’t be a problem.
We met up in Greenfield District and from there drove for about 3 hours to Ungos Port. It was about 3AM when we arrived, so we had breakfast at one of the eateries there first.
We were supposed to take the first schedule of the fastcraft to Polillo Island, but the coast guard didn’t allow the fastcraft to go due to a gale warning. So after a 1-hour delay, we transferred to the regular roro. The sea journey took longer than usual and we were already pressed in time.
From there, we rode to Burdeos Port.
Island hopping in Burdeos
It was raining intermittently when we arrived in Burdeos Port. Fortunately, we were still allowed to island hop! Here are the places we’d visited.
It’s similar to other “Luli” sandbars in the Philippines. Luli means “lulubog, lilitaw.” This is a bare sandbar that can be visited during low tide. It disappears during high tide.
The sand here is filled with pebbles and broken corals, so it’s best to wear sandals.
It was raining when we got here, so we took pictures quickly and then left.
Anilon Island and May Butas Cave
Anilon Island is a 15-hectare island with a beautiful, white-sand beach and a sandbar at the edge. There are open cottages for tourists, as well as casual toilets.
We were already starving by the time we arrived here, so our priority was to eat haha. Then one of the guides approached us to say that if we wanted to visit May Butas Cave, we would have to go now because it would not be possible to reach it during high tide. He only referred to it as “May Butas”, so we didn’t really know if it was a rock formation or an actual cave system. He said we could walk there and that “Malapit lang yun.”
As expected, it wasn’t close. Haha. We trekked from the cottage area to the beach on the other side and then through the middle of the forest. The dirt trail was visible but sometimes there would be multiple trails, and the trail we were following eventually disappeared from overgrown bushes and leaves. After about 20 minutes or so, we reached a wide beach and, across it, May Butas Cave.
May Butas Cave is a rock formation with an opening in the middle. It turns out, it’s one of the landmarks of Polillo Island and it’s often used in tourism campaigns. Atop the rock formation is a nice view of the surrounding ocean.
It was high tide when we arrived. So we simply sat down on the beach and enjoyed the strong winds and the salty smell of the ocean.
By the time we got back to the cottage area, the weather had turned for the better. The beach looked really beautiful in proper light. I noticed that the sand looks pinkish, similar to others like Sta. Cruz Island in Zamboanga. I haven’t read about others referring to it as a pink beach though.
Some people in our group went for a swim, while the rest of us proceeded to our next island hopping stop: Isla Puting Bato and Coral Garden.
Isla Puting Bato
Isla Puting Bato is an island with white limestone cliff formations, similar to that in El Nido and Coron in Palawan. The island is home to small isolated beach coves, Burdeos Cave and other unexplored cave areas, and a coral garden.
We stopped in the coral garden and snorkeled there for a bit. Hali went in the water, but I opted to stay in the boat because of the strong waves and the fact that our boat didn’t have a ladder to climb back up on, so getting back would be difficult. I hope that in the future the boats would have this for ease and safety, especially since the coral garden seems to be a popular spot in the itinerary.
This is another island closed to Analon Island. It features a beach with fine, powdery sand.
This is part of our itinerary, but we weren’t able to go here due to ocean swells. Our boatman said we should go back during summer, that way we could visit all the islands in Burdeos.
Beach stay in Polillo
We finished the island hopping tour in Burdeos at around 5:30PM and then went back to Burdeos Port. It had started raining again and the residential houses and even the port was flooded. It was an eerie sight.
We drove for over an hour to Sonny’s Beach Resort in Polillo, where we would be staying for the night.
Sonny’s Beach Resort is a casual family-owned resort with a brownish-sand beachfront. It has tables and seats along the shore and an in-house restaurant where you can order everything from meals to snacks and pulutan. There are colorful signages and displays all over the resort, which I think are efforts to cater to the younger crowd.
Our room was quite bare with floor mattresses and an electric fan. But it was clean and it was cool even without the fan. To be honest, I was expecting more. I guess I had been pampered lately, since we’d been staying in nice resorts. Haha. Anyway, there wasn’t any harm in going back to my backpacker roots.
There were live acoustic performances that night and the ambiance was perfect for drinking. We ate dinner on the outdoor tables. The food that the restaurant prepared for our group was good, so later on we ordered other ala carte items with alcoholic drinks, but it was just so-so.
My only complaint about the resort is that the music went on past midnight. The bass reverberated across the walls. Otherwise, it was okay.
In the morning, Hali and I took a stroll along the beach. There were swings and hammocks submerged in the water — it was very IG-worthy. I wish we had more time to spend here, but we had to adjust because of the weather. We had breakfast outside and then we took a boat to visit other nearby spots.
Lan Aw Floating Cottage
This is a floating cottage in the middle of the sea, a few minutes from the Sonny’s Beach Resort. There is a nice spot for picture taking.
Bato Beach and Ruins
Bato Beach is a long stretch of caramel-colored sandy beach in Barangay Agta. At the end of the beach are old ruins. The ruins were part of an abandoned pier built by the Japanese in the 1940s.
We lined up to take pictures in the ruins. The middle wall features a short set of stairs that lead to an open door. With the backdrop of the ocean, it looked perfect for a photo-shoot. It reminded me of a photo of a broken wall window that Hali took in Jomalig.
The spot also offers an overlooking view of Bato Beach.
This is the last stop for our tour. Afterwards, we went back to our resort and packed up and then headed back home to Manila.
I think that Polillo Island has a lot of potential. The islands we’ve visited were nice — I particularly like Anilao Island and May Butas Cave, as well as the ruins in Bato Beach.
To be honest, this wasn’t the best island hopping trip we’ve had, but it wasn’t the worst either. But I attribute this to bad timing since the weather wasn’t favorable when we visited.
We also experienced a series of misadventures. The first is the delay in Ungos Port, which set us back a few hours, and then the rains during island hopping that afternoon. The day after, the weather was sunny but our boat broke down in the middle of the sea and another boat had to tow us back to our resort. The ferry ride back to Ungos Port was rough — I woke up with the ferry swaying and an urge to vomit. I’m not stranger to sea traveling during ber-months and had even encountered dire situations at sea, but this is the first time I got nauseous on board. I’m taking these in good grace though since things happen when you travel. 🙂
I’d like to give Polillo Island another go on a summer.
How to get to Polillo Island
From Manila, it takes 3-4 hours to get to Ungos Port in Real and then another 2-3 hours from the port to Polillo Island.
Here are the commute directions:
- Head to Legarda Terminal in Manila. Ride a bus bound for Infanta and get off at Real, Quezon. Night schedules are at 11:30PM and then 1:00AM. Morning schedule starts at 4AM. Travel time is 4-5 hours. Fare is around P200 per person.
- Then ride a tricycle to Ungos Port. Fare is P10 per person.
From Ungos Port, you can take a fastcraft (2 hours) or regular roro (3 hours) to Anawan Port in Polillo Island. Fare is about P300 per person. Schedules are 5AM, 6AM, and 12NN. Schedules may change without notice, so I suggest confirming this ahead of your trip.
Once you arrive in Anawan Port, you can charter a habal-habal or tricycle to take you around. If heading directly to Burdeos, you can ride a public jeep. Travel time is about 45 minutes. Fare is about P130 per person.
Here are some things to note:
- There are 24-hour eateries in Ungos Port, so you can have breakfast before your trip. There are also toilets and ATM for your cash needs.
- If you’re bringing a car, you can leave it overnight at the port or take it across via roro. The disadvantage of the latter is the roro takes an additional hour longer than the fastcraft, so you have to adjust your schedule accordingly. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re staying at least 3 days and you have more time to spend in the island.
Where to stay
There are various accommodations in Polillo Island — campsites, resorts, and homestays. Take your pick! We stayed at Sonny’s Beach Resort in Polillo, which is several minutes away from the port.
2 Days Itinerary to Polillo Island
This is our 2 day itinerary to Polillo Island in Quezon Province, covering Burdeos and Polillo municipalities. Credit to Gala PH for the original copy.
|Day 0||11:30 AM ETD from Manila to Ungos Port|
|Day 1||3-4 AM Arrival in Ungos Port|
4 AM Breakfast
5-7 AM Sea travel from Ungos Port to Polillo via fastcraft
7 AM Polillo Welcome Marker and Municipal Hall
7:30 – 8:30 AM Travel to Burdeos
9AM – 5M Island hopping tour:
– Luli Sandbar
– Isla Puting Bato and Coral Garden
– Anilon Island and May Butas Cave
– Anawan Island
5: 30 – 6:30 PM Travel to Polillo
7 PM Check in at Sonny Beach Resort
|Day 2||7 AM Breakfast / free time on the beach|
9 – 11 AM Tour Polillo:
– Lan Aw Floating Cottage
– Bato Beach
11 AM Check out / head back to Polillo Port
12 – 2 PM Sea travel back to Ungos Port
2 – 7 or 8PM Travel back to Manila
Take note that this is a jam-packed itinerary, but it’s a decent guide if you only have the weekend to go here.
In my opinion, it’s best to stay in Polillo Island for at least 3 days so you are not rushed in time. Spend 2 days in Burdeos to explore the islands and then 1 day in Polillo. The beaches in Polillo are ordinary, but the ruins is worth visiting.
Here are the islands you can visit in Burdeos. These are close together and are just a few minutes apart:
- Luli Sandbar
- Isla Puting Bato and Coral Garden
- Anilon Island and May Butas Cave
- Anawan Island
- Kukok Sandbar. Sand bar with a distinct rock formation. It’s home to walo-walo or sea snakes.
- Kabalo Sandbar. Another white sand bar.
- Minasawa Island. Known as a bird sanctuary.
- Anibawan Island
- Malaguinoan Island
- Buguitai Island
There are other islands in Burdeos than listed here.
- It’s best to go in a group to save expenses. If you’re a solo/couple traveler, book a joiner tour.
- The best time to go here is during summer. During ber-months, the sea conditions can be rough and may not be ideal for island hopping. We went on a December and there were delays — we also didn’t get to see one spot in our island hopping itinerary.
- I suggest asking your guide(s) to prepare your food instead of cooking on your own, so you can spend more time on island hopping.
- If you like snorkeling, bring your own snorkeling gears.
Budget and expenses
We booked this tour via Gala PH for P4500 per person. You can contact Gala PH in Facebook.
For inquiries about Polillo Island, you can contact Facebook – Polillo Tourism.
Did you like this post about island hopping in Polillo Island in Quezon? If you have comments or questions, post them at the comment section below!
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Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).