A Guide to Island Hopping in Balabac, Palawan

Balabac island hopping - Candaraman Island
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Balabac has so much to offer in terms of island hopping experience. There is a total of 31 islands in Balabac, Palawan. Many of these are home to communities that constitute the 20 barangays in this municipality, and many still that offer pristine beaches for those seeking off-the-beaten summer destinations.

Hali shot too many beautiful photos of our Balabac island hopping experience, and honestly it’s very difficult to choose just a few. I would post everything here if I could.

Island hopping in Balabac

Of the islands in Balabac, Onuk Island is probably the most sought after. It is a private property of the politician, Mr. Shuaib.

During our visit in 2016, we were not able to visit it since we were not given permission. As of 2017, Onuk Island is now open to the public. Read about it in our Balabac travel guide.

Melville Lighthouse, Balabac Island

Getting to Melville Lighthouse takes a 2-hour boat ride from Balabac mainland. We passed by a dreamy farm land with towering coconut trees and carabaos lazily grazing in the open pasture. We stopped by the caretaker’s house to log in our names. We flipped through the logbook and there were just several names listed. It seems there haven’t been many tourists in this area for the last years.

We also bought fresh coconuts from the caretaker. It was a refreshing respite from the sunny weather.

The lighthouse in Melville is an 1892 Spanish piece. It is declared as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. It’s perhaps the most beautiful lighthouse I’ve seen, looking as if it jumped right out of a fairy tale story. Creeping vines cover the exterior of the century-old lighthouse. And this is coming from someone who, a few posts back, wrote that she wasn’t fascinated with old lighthouses.

Top of Melville Lighthouse in Balabac, Palawan
Here is my beloved Hali with his long, wavy hair blowing with the wind. At the top of the Melville Lighthouse. (Photo by Hali)

Up in the lighthouse, there’s an overview of the Balabac Island and beaches beyond. You can also see a portion of Sabbah, Malaysia from up the lighthouse.

The Melville Lighthouse no longer functional. Instead there’s a newly constructed tower visible from where the Melville lighthouse stands. There is also another one being built beside the Melville Lighthouse, but taking photos is prohibited for security purposes.

Update 2019: Melville Lighthouse is no longer open to the public.

Camiaran Island

Red corals in Camiaran Island
Red corals found in the shores of Camiaran Island. (Photo by Hali)

Camiaran Island is dubbed as Palawan’s Pink Beach. Similar to Sorsogon’s Subic Beach, the sand in this island turns a light shade of pink when wet. As the country only has a handful of pink beaches, Camiaran Island is a favorite island hopping destination in Balabac, Palawan.

I’ve been told that there used to be a number of pawikans taking shelter in this island. If you’re lucky, you may still be able to see one for yourself.

Camiaran Island, Balabac, Palawan

Camiaran Island's pink beach
Camiaran Island features a pink beaches, one of the handful that can be found in the Philippines. (Photo by Hali)

There used to be residents in the area, but now the island merely serves as a stop for regular fishermen.

Canabungan Island

When we were nearing Canabungan Island, Hali commented how the waters near the shore look clear as that in a pool. True enough, the water was an inviting green and then turned a light aqua color when our boat docked at the shore. The white sand is soft to the feet.

Canabungan island in Balabac
Doing a series of personal photo-ops in Canabungan Island. (Photo by Hali)

Our boatmen collected woods and cooked our early dinner for us here. It was nice gorging on crabs while watching the sunset give beautiful colors to the sea. See? This is what vacation is like.

We originally planned to stay here overnight, but as the night took over, white fat sand flies started coming out. We took out repellent oils and lotions and requested that our boatmen take us to the island across, Bancalan Island, and that’s where we stayed through the night on our first day of Balabac island hopping tour.

Authenticity and travel blogging
(Photo by Hali)

Unfortunately though we don’t have that many photos in Canabungan Island because we spent quite a while taking photos of me, which I specifically requested from Hali for my Facebook profile picture. :p

There is a residential community in Canabungan Island. As such, the beach isn’t as clean as would be expected.

Punta Sebaring, Bugsuk Island

Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island
“Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair.” At Punta Sebaring, Bugsuk Island. (Photo by Hali)

A large portion of Bugsuk Island is under private ownership and off-limits to travelers. (Actually, it seems that many of the islands in Balabac are privately owned, in particular by politicians.)

Still, visitors can stop by a part of Bugsuk Island: Punta Sebaring. Just make sure to ask permission from the barangay captain first and log your names in the register.

Houses in Punta Sebaring
Houses on stils seen in Punta Sebaring. (Photo by Hali)
Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island, Balabac, Palawan
The still flora in Punta Sebaring. (Photo by Hali)
Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island, Balabac, Palawan
The powdery-white sand and low waters in Punta Sebaring. (Photo by Hali)
Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island, Balabac, Palawan
Powder-white sand at Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island. (Photo by Hali)

Punta Sebaring has a quiet ambiance and powder-white sand. There’s also a multitude of small starfishes hidden in the sands. We walked around the beach in sandals and observed the starfishes. Some of them are on top of each other. I was going to make a joke but nah. :p

The main beach for travelers is just across the house of the barangay captain. There are houses in stilts nearby, and white katala birds land on patches of sand where there are no people.

Going to Punta Sebaring costs an additional fee and it’s 3 hours away from Balabac mainland. It’s not usually offered on a 2-day Balabac island hopping tour because of the distance, but I suggest not missing this island.

Candaraman Island

If there’s any island among those listed here that will convince you to visit Balabac, it’s Candaraman Island. Candaraman Island has a wide stretch of sand bar that exposes itself during low tide. It has very clear waters, and tons of large starfishes can be found in the sand.

Candaraman Island in Balabac, Palawan
No houses in sight. We rode a boat to reach the caretaker’s hut on the other end of the island. (Photo by Hali)

Travelers usually stay in the sand bar. The water near the shores in Candaraman Island is full of sea weeds, but the sand is still powdery soft.

Candaraman Island, Balabac, Palawan
Candaraman Island. (Photo by Hali)

Balabac island hopping - Candaraman Island

We stayed in an open cottage in Candaraman Island while our boatmen grilled fishes and cooked shrimps and large prawns for our lunch the traditional way — by gathering sticks for wood. We also made a detour at the farthest end of the island to buy fresh coconuts from the caretaker for P10 each.

I recommend spending at least half a day in Candaraman Island. It’s also less than an hour away from Balabac mainland, so if you want to go back the next day it’s easy to do so.

Sicsican Island

Sicsican Island was the last one we visited in our 3-day Balabac island hopping stint. We asked our boatmen about the origins of the island’s name, but as they have answered, “Ganyan na ang pangalan niyan nung pinanganak kami.” I’m just going to assume that Sicsican Island is named as such because it is teeming with corals.

We snorkeled in Sicsican Islands and saw small groups of fishes, young jellyfishes called sperms (transparent in color and apparently immediately die when held) and sea urchins squeezed in between corals (possibly waiting for unaware victims). Where we stayed, the water was only hips to chest high.

We decided to ditch our life vest and just swim free-style. It was easier this way because the waves will pull you away when wearing a life vest, and you really have to watch where you’re going lest you want to step on some rock-hard pieces of corals.

As said, the corals in Sicsican Island are hard or stony and can easily graze the skin.

Practical Info: Island hopping in Balabac, Palawan

Islands to visit in Balabac, Palawan

Balabac, Palawan, offers more off-the-beaten islands than listed here. The full list includes:

  • Bancalaan Island
  • Camiaran Island
  • Onuk Island (or Onok Island)
  • Candaraman Island and Sicsican Island
  • Ramos Island
  • Canabungan Island
  • Nasubata Island
  • Punta Sebaring
  • Patonggong Island
  • Patawan Island
  • Mansalangan sandbar or Angela’s sandbar
  • Bobby’s Island
  • Secam Island
  • Cabcabun Island
  • Balabac Island – Melville Lighthouse

The most recommended islands to see are: Camiaran Island, Candaraman Island, Punta Sebaring, Mansalangan sandbar and Onuk Island/Onok Island.

Again, most of these islands are 1-2 hours apart. Prepare for a tiring boat ride for a whole day of island hopping.

Island hopping itinerary in Balabac, Palawan

Here was our itinerary for 2 days:

Day 1: Melville lighthouse in Balabac Island; Camiaran, *Onuk, Candaraman, Sicsican Islands
Day 2: Ramos, Canabungan, Nasubata Islands

Of these, my favorite Balabac island hopping stops are the Melville lighthouse in Balabac Island, Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island and Candaraman Island.

In our case, we stayed for 3 days in Balabac. On our first day, we island hopped to Melville lighthouse in Balabac Island, Camiaran Island and Canabungan Island. Our boat operators (Kuya Boboy and Kuya Onyok) have relatives in Bancalan Island, and we were welcomed for the night. On our second day, we went to Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island. On our third day, we spent the whole day swimming in Candaraman Island and snorkeling in Sicsican Island.

Since our visit, more islands have opened for island hopping. Here’s an updated itinerary for 3 days:

Day 1: Patonggong Island, Patawan Island, Starfish Island, Candaraman Island
Day 2: Onuk Island, Sicsican Island
Day 3: Mansalangan Sandbar, Braggie Mangrove, Punta Sebaring

Since there are now packaged tours to Balabac, you don’t need excessive planning on island hopping anymore.

Well, hope this has triggered enough of that beach and wanderlust. 😉


P.S. Don’t forget to read about related posts we have about Balabac:


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Balabac Palawan travel guide | Island hopping in Balabac Palawan | Onuk Island Balabac Palawan travel guide | Island hopping in Balabac Palawan | Onuk Island

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  1. Hi! Where did you stay in Balabac proper? Do you have a list of places to stay in Balabac proper & their webpage? Thank you.

  2. Hello Katherine,

    You’re blog helps a lot ! First of all the description and the details you give to get there are perfect !
    I was just wondering if I could set a tent on one of those islands and fish there ?

    Thanks for your answer 🙂

    1. Yes and yes. For overnight stay, I’d still ask what locals/boatmen would say. In some islands, sand flies come out at night and insect repellent helps only a little.

  3. Could you consider discussing about safety and any issues on your visit in that prestigous island? Do they have any cultural occasions during summer?

  4. Wow, photos look amazing but some of them really look like they were taken on Zanzibar. specially the Candaraman Island, identical to Prison Island.

  5. I am ashamed to say that i have never heard of Balabac! But it looks amazing. I really liked the lighthouse and the pictures of the starfish! I would definitely consider going island hoping after reading your post.

  6. Wow! Congrats for having toured some of Balabac’s islands. I wish to be able to go there one day soon too. It’s good that these places get exposure but it would be even better if we constantly remind our readers regarding responsible tourism. 😉

  7. Punta Sebaring, Bugsuk Island looked absolutely incredible! I so much wish I joined you! (next time extend the invite? 😉

    I also adored how you have written at the end of your article how to plan for a island hopping tour; it’s tips like this that lack from so many travel blogging websites! Well Done, I’m looking forward to more of your work! 🙂

  8. WOW! Thank you for taking me to this very wonderful spot in Palawan. I’ve been planning a Palawan trip for ages but this time I will give it a go. It is very nice of you to put all the details beneficial for 1st time traveler like me. Nice photos too.

  9. Such an awesome destination! I’ve only been to Coron in Palawan. Never heard of this place before. I’ll definitely add this in my list of must-visit places in Palawan because I’ll definitely be back there!

  10. OMG!!! Ang ganda!!! I’m just waiting for my plane ticket and I was so lucky to open this. We’ll be there on May 21-25. I am so exciteeeed to experience it, too! To see this majestic island and be able to promote Philippines.

    1. Enjoy your vacation! There are other islands in Balabac that we haven’t explored yet, I hope you get to visit them. Nasubata Island, for instance, is a must-visit for those who want to see different species of birds. There’s also one called Mangsi Island, if I’m not mistaken, that our boatmen suggested but it’s too far from the usual Balabac island hopping route. Ask your boatmen which islands are best to visit na lang. 🙂

  11. Oh wow! I’m so envious! Palawan is my ultimate local travel destination! I hope this island will remain as clean as it is in your pics when I visit!

  12. I’ve been to Palawan twice but obviously there’s still much to explore including Balabac. I’ve never been there but one of my friends did and she’s really raving about it. I can see in your photos. My god it’s absolutely breath-taking!

  13. What a beautiful place! There’s so many great places in PH to visit talaga. It’s quite alarming though that some of the islands were owned by politicians

    1. I thought so, too. But then again I don’t know much about the background of the islands in Balabac so I can’t comment. Hopefully in the future these islands will still be available for tourists. 🙂

  14. Wow! I’ve never heard of the islands you’ve mentioned until now. Philippines is truly amazing! Anyway, I’m wondering how to go to Balabac. What commercial flight did you take to get there? Is mobile signal for major networks i.e. Globe and Smart available in that area?

    And by the way, we envy you guys that you can travel without any chaperone We’re also couple bloggers not married yet, but we’re not allowed to travel alone. How we really wish… Hahaha! We’ll stay tuned for your other posts.

    1. Hi Me-an, we took a flight to Puerto Princesa. I wrote directions on how to get to Balabac here, including expenses:

      My network is Smart and I was having intermittent signal. Our friends with Globe sims didn’t seem to have any problem, if I remember correctly.

      I guess I’m lucky with my parents that way. 🙂 Oh and I’m glad to have found another pair of couple bloggers! I only know of a few, seems couple blogging isn’t really that widespread eh.

  15. Everything looks so beautiful in the Phillipines!!! But I’m so scared of boats, so I’m not sure this kind of tour is one I could stomach – literally. I find it fascinating that people live on these tiny islands so far from a big city. There’s just nothing like this in the US.

    1. Thanks for dropping by Michelle! It fascinates me as well. When we were in Candaraman Island, I asked one of the caretakers about their lifestyle. They harvest food from their own farm, apparently, and has a small solar panel to light up the place at night. Other items they need they buy from the mainland.

  16. Your post is very good for the tourism in the Philippines, as well as awareness. Until this post, I never knew about these southern Palawan. These are very beautiful beaches and seem to be untouched by too much commercialism that has soured Boracay.

    1. I’m hoping to promote Balabac since I think it is also deserving of some tourism love and it’ll be of great help to the locals. As you said in a comment I hope that the local government will be able to keep commercialism at the minimum if the place is to be developed. 🙂

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