As promised, here is a written Calayan Island travel guide and sample 5-day itinerary. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Calayan Island, it’s an island that can be found in the north of the Philippines (just below Batanes). It’s part of the Babuyan Group of Islands. Along with Babuyan Claro and Camiguin Norte, it’s one of the rarely visited islands in this part of the country.
Hali and I joined a DIY group tour to Calayan Island. As such, we’d like to credit our organizer Kuya Jolo for most of the information posted here — the rest are from our previous research.
How to get to Calayan Island, Babuyanes
From Manila, going to Calayan takes about 20 hours of land and boat travel.
First, ride a Florida or RCJ bus in Sampaloc, Manila, en route to Tuguegarao and then a van to Claveria. Head to the port in Aparri or Claveria and get aboard a passenger boat (locally known as lampitaw) bound to Calayan Island. The boats normally leave in the morning, at about 6:00 AM. The boat ride takes 5-6 hours or more, depending on the sea condition.
An airport in Calayan is currently in the works. The airport was slated to be completed last 2015, but as of our visit it is still not operational.
Summer is the best time to visit Calayan Island. Please read because this is important. The boat ride to Calayan Island during ber-months is risky, and there had been incidents when passengers have died. With rough sea conditions, boat ride can extend up to 7-9 hours.
During summer, sea conditions are manageable. There’s also a chance, albeit slim, of seeing dolphins and humpback whales in the open sea during the boat ride.
Calayan Island itinerary
Here is our original 5-day itinerary in Calayan Island.
3:00PM Meetup in EDSA
5:00AM Arrival in port in Aparri
6:00AM – 12:00NN Boat ride to Calayan Island
12:00NN – Lunch
2:00 – 3:00PM Trek to Sibang Cove
3:00PM – Set camp in Sibang Cove
3:30PM – 6:00PM Explore Nagudungan Hill
Day 3 – 4
Explore Tawakan rock formation, Bataraw and Malansing Falls, Lusok Cave
Explore Caniwara and Cababaan beaches
05:00AM Call time, pack up
06:00AM – 12:00NN Boat ride back to Claveria
12:00NN – 1:00AM Back in Manila
This is at best an ideal itinerary. We weren’t able to strictly follow it. Many places require a boat ride, and with varying sea conditions, we had to change our itinerary as safety demands.
In our first day, we planned to ride boats from Villa Inocencia Inn to Sibang Cove but ended up walking instead. It took a 10-minute kuliglig ride (1 hour on foot) from the jump-off point and then about a 45-minute trek to Sibang Cove (15 minutes according to our guides; but by now we all know that guides live in a different time-space continuum).
On the second and third day, we also waited for calm sea conditions to visit Malansing Falls. We missed visiting it altogether.
Places to see in Calayan Island:
- Sibang, Caniwara and Cababaan coves
- Bataraw and Caanawan falls. Malansing cave and falls
- Lusok Cave
- Nagudungan Hill
- Bangaan Hills, Tapwakan cliff diving site and beach
To see more photos of this lovely paradise, check out the full photo gallery of Calayan Island here.
I’ve mentioned all places we’re aware of in this list. If you have any further questions, it’s best to direct it to your tour guide.
I didn’t know about Caanawan falls but apparently you can trek there after visiting Bataraw Falls. Meanwhile, Bangaan Hills is the one above the Tapwakan cliff. Similar to Nagudungan Hill, it’s a grassland offering good views and a leisurely spot for goats. You can find a cross in Bangaan Hill.
You can watch our summer video in Calayan Island here:
Planning your own Calayan Island itinerary
Our 5-day itinerary to Calayan Island is just a rough guide. As I said previously, I personally think Calayan Island is a place for unwinding and taking things slow. Just go where your feet leads you. For one, I could spend a whole day just bumming in Sibang Cove and then another picnicking and chasing goats in Nagudungan Hill. A friend who’s been there twice feels the same.
Tip: While in Aparri, drop by Ten-Ten’s pancit cabagan restaurant and order their pancit specialty. It’s just a few-minute drive from Aparri port.
Babuyan Islands triangle tour
If you have more time, at least a week for instance, you can also visit the rest of the islands in the area: Babuyan, Dalupiri, Fuga and Camiguin Norte.
A short but convenient way to explore these islands is through a chartering a private boat for a Babuyan Islands triangle tour.
A Babuyan Islands triangle tour includes Calayan Island, Babuyan Claro and Camiguin Norte. The island hopping fee is P8,000-10,000 as of this writing, depending on your haggling skills. It’s expensive because boats don’t normally go from Calayan Island to Camiguin Norte. I was told by a resident that some fishing boats do, and you can ride along if you’re lucky to chance upon one during your visit. Otherwise, you’ll have to get back to the port in Claveria where there are daily boat trips to either location.
The caveat is that some of you may find the triangle tour too short for visiting all three locations in a single day. A good acquaintance recommends staying longer in each island instead.
Accommodations in Calayan Island
There are a few homestays and resorts where you can stay in Calayan Island. I’ve listed some of them here, but if you want to know other options, you can contact Calayan’s tourism officer (see Contact Section below). Your selected accommodation can also help you arrange getting rides for land and boat travel.
We stayed in Villa Inocencia Inn, a two-story house with three rooms on each floor. I’d say it’s okay but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it if there are other choices available for the reasons below.
One of our bathrooms had no running water, another had no functional door lock. We had an electric fan in our room that disappeared on the second day. The bed mattresses looked dirty and weren’t covered with bed sheets. Among the things listed here, this was the one that really bugged me. I supposed we could’ve asked for clean sheets, but we’d always arrive exhausted or had other things in mind.
Like other accommodations in Calayan Island, the rent overnight is cheap.
Here are the list of accommodations in Calayan Island, with contact information. If you see a number that is outdated, please inform us in the comments or through private message. 🙂
- TPS Homestay: 0939-915-8667, P200 per head
- Pagdagusan Homestay: 0998-510-0621, Pagdagusan Facebook Page, P1500 per head per day (including meals)
- Villa Inocencia Inn: 0949-600-1931, P250 per head
- San Jose Inn: 0907-544-7692
Aside from these listed here, we also passed by another resort owned by the mayor of Calayan Island, though I wasn’t able to jot down its name. It was dark, we were walking for about 1.5 hour from our visit in Nagudungan Hill, and we entered the resort by mistake. Our event in Facebook was named “Lost in Calayan” and Hali kept making puns about this.
Budget and expenses
For the budget, we spent about P6000 each for this 5-day Calayan Island itinerary.
We chipped in P2500 each for a private van rental, which served as our round-trip transfer from Manila to Claveria and back. If you’re going to commute, the transportation cost is about P1000 one way (P850 for the bus, P170 for the van). This is cheaper, but with the on-going road construction in Sta. Fe (which has been going on for forever, as of this writing – 2016), there’s a chance you’ll get stuck in traffic for hours.
We paid P1000 each for a round-trip boat ride to Calayan Island.
The rest — accommodation, food, land and boat transfers and tour guide fees — were divided evenly among the group. Our boat costs P1500-P2000 each and each tour guide has a daily rate of P500.
Note that the boats do not actually have a standard rate. It depends on your group size and how many boats you’ll require. You can haggle the island hopping rate but I suggest not to especially if the rates offered to you are reasonable. This is to support our locals who benefit from tourism, especially in Calayan Island where visitation is normally limited during summer. The same goes for land transfers, via habal-habal or kuliglig.
For the meals, we had a cook that delivered our food, and we paid for the dishes per plate. My favorite home-cooked dishes were kinilaw and spicy buttered lobster. For the latter, we’d contributed P50 each for one large piece to go along with our main meal. Lobsters are incredibly cheap in Calayan Island.
If you’re going on a 5-day Calayan Island itinerary as we did, whether via commute or private van, a P5500-8000 budget is safe. I’ve read that, exclusive of tour rates, an estimated daily budget in Calayan Island would be P500.
Add a little extra to your overall budget in case you get stranded, which is a possibility even during the height of summer.
Must-read reminders before your trip
Here are a few basic reminders you need to know before setting off to this northern island in Babuyanes.
- Waterproof your hand-carry on the boat ride; you may also bring a raincoat if you wish.
- During our visit, there was no signal from Globe network; Smart and SUN are fine.
- There is no ATM machine in the island; make sure to bring all the cash you need and a little more in case you get stranded.
- No electricity in the island from 12 midnight to 12 noon.
- We were told there wasn’t any market but there’s a store that sells refrigerated meat. If you want to eat fresh seafood, inform your hosts ASAP so they can buy from fishers in the morning. I’m not sure if it’s the same all over the island or only in Barangay Dadao where our inn was located.
- Prepare for the possibility of being stranded for a few days. Schedule your trip when you can afford to take a longer leave at work, for instance.
For safety purposes, always get updated on the weather conditions and watch out for gale warnings.
You can also contact Calayan Island’s tourism officer for any other questions. The other numbers here I haven’t personally contacted but had listed for reference early on, before deciding to joined a do-it-yourself organized event. So I’m leaving it up to you guys to contact these people.
Eric, Calayan tourism officer: 0947-893-9619
Kuya Sonny, tour guide: 0998-324-9288
Kuya Cesar, tour guide/boatman: 0918-617-0327
Ate Connie, Calayan Island-Babuyan Claro-Camiguin Norte tour: 0921-534-9231
Do you find this Calayan Island itinerary and travel guide helpful? Have anything else to add? Feel free to post in the comments section below. 🙂
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