If you haven’t been to Balabac yet, you should really be planning a trip soon! In my opinion, Balabac has the best beaches in the country — fine, white sand and blue water. Here’s guide to island hopping in Balabac, Palawan!
P.S. For complete info about Balabac, read our Travel Guide to Balabac.
An overview of the islands
You can find a total of 31 islands in Balabac. Many of these are home to local communities, and some are uninhabited but privately owned.
In my opinion, the best islands to visit are: Camiaran Island, Onuk Island/Onok Island, Patawan Island, Candaraman Island, Mansalangan sandbar, Punta Sebaring and Tangkahan Island.
Take note that the islands in Balabac are mostly privately owned, so public access may change.
As of 2019, visiting Melville Lighthouse in no longer allowed. Candaraman Island is also closed but it is still possible to visit the sandbar.
Patunggong Island (also spelled as Patonggong Island) is one of the first islands you will pass by via Buliluyan Port (along with Patawan Island and Tangkahan Island). The island has cottages so you can stay here for breakfast.
Patunggong Island has a decent beach. You can still see shells and pieces of corals among the sand — a testament that it’s still relatively untouched. Accordingly, this is a good snorkeling spot and it’s possible to see various fishes and even baby sharks here.
Patawan Island offers one of the best beaches in Balabac. To be honest, it’s difficult to describe it in words. It looks like a paradise in the Carribean, but really it’s just one of the islands you can visit here in the south of Palawan. It has alluring baby-blue water that will invite you to swim in.
There are also cottages here where you can leave your things at when you swim.
Tangkahan Island is the biggest island among Patunggong and Patawan islands. Its shore features different shades of blue water.
In my second visit in Balabac, we left this off as our last stop before going back to Buliluyan Port. There are cottages where you can have lunch and fresh coconut is available for P50 each.
There is an entrance fee of P50 per person.
Onuk Island/Onok Island
Onuk Island (also spelled as Onok Island) is the most sought-after island in Balabac, Palawan. I daresay that it is also the best island you can find here.
It is privately owned and it officially opened to the public in 2017.
It’s easy to recognize Onuk Island thru photos: it has a distinctive light-blue cottage on stilt, set over a blue beach. During low tide, the surrounding area is a sandy beach; during high tide, going down the walkway stairs will lead you directly to the sea.
It is possible to stay overnight in Onuk Island. You can set up a hammock in on of the open cottages or pitch a tent in the camping ground.
Activities here include swimming, snorkeling and wildlife encounters. You can snorkel to see fishes and giant clams. The island is also beside Roughton Reef, which is a snorkeling area. During high tide, you can see sea turtles swimming around the island — unlike the sea turtles in places like Apo Island, the ones here are elusive and glide away when you approach. At night, you can also see light-blue bioluminiscent plankton by the beach.
Onuk Island is one of my favorite stops in Balabac. It is simply breath-taking, especially the way the water rises up over the walkway. I recommend staying here overnight if you can.
Read about our experience in Onuk Island in Balabac.
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 due to crushed red corals sprinkled among the sand.
There used to be sea turtles living in the island. If you’re lucky, you might still be able to see one for yourself.
There used to be residents in the area, but now the island merely serves as a stop for regular fishermen. Camiaran Island is one of the farthest islands in mainland Balabac, so most island hopping tours skip it. However, as there are only a handful of pink beaches in the country, you may consider including it in your island hopping itinerary.
Like other islands in Balabac, Canabungan Island has white, soft sand and inviting blue color. It also has a sandbar.
There are cottages in Canabungan Island. As such, it’s often visited as a lunch stopover. The shore here is filled with seaweeds so it’s not ideal for swimming. However, you can snorkel here and see lots of starfishes underneath. There are only a few corals near the island.
When we visited here in 2016, the island wasn’t very clean and there was a lot of sandflies at night. However, on my second visit in 2019, things have improved. As per Ate Lorna, there is now a caretaker managing the island so it’s cleaner.
Punta Sebaring, Bugsuk Island
Punta Sebaring (also spelled as Punta Sibaring) is the long beach found in Bugsuk Island. It boasts the finest white sand in Balabac and it’s easily compared to the sands of Boracay.
The sand here is so soft that your feet will sink a foot in every step. In our first visit, we alao saw small starfishes hidden in the sand and katala birds resting on patches of sand.
You can find a resort with a sari-sari store in Punta Sebaring. It’s possible to stay here overnight in a cottage or tent. However, take note that Punta Sebaring is known for niknik (sand flies), so make sure that you bring an insect lotion or repellant when you visit here.
Punta Sebaring is about 2 hours away from mainland Balabac.
Candaraman Island is another favorite island hopping stop in Balabac. The beach is filled with seaweeds, but the sand is powdery soft.
Candaraman Island is usually visited for its sandbar, which is called Starfish Sandbar or Starfish Alley. During amihan season, the sandbar is dotted by numerous starfishes. For the rest of the year, you can still see starfishes but they are relatively few. Nonetheless, the sandbar is still a worthwhile place.
There is a resort in Candaraman Island, which also serves as camping ground for those who want to stay overnight.
Sicsican Island is located minutes away from Candaraman Island. You can stop here to snorkeling, though you have to be careful during low tide since there’s a lot of hard corals and sea urchins underneath.
In our first visit, we saw small groups of fishes, young jelly fishes called sperms (transparent in color and apparently immediately die when held) and sea urchins squeezed in between corals. Where we stayed, the water was only hips to chest high. We decided to swim without vests because the waves would pull us away and it was difficult to navigate in the water, lest we estep on rock-hard pieces of corals.
Mansalangan sandbar is one of the longest sandbars in the country. It’s also one of the highlights in an island hopping tour in Balabac.
Mansalangan sandbar reminded me of Kalanggaman Island, but whereas the latter has coarse sand, Mansalangan’s is pure and fine. It’s beautiful in photos and in person.
Melville Lighthouse, Balabac Island
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 is accessible by boat or habal-habal (2 hours). If you opt for the latter, you will also pass by 2 waterfalls on your way.
We visited this back in 2016 as part of our island hopping tour. From the shore, we trekked across a nice farm with towering coconuts and carabaos grazing in the field. We reached the caretaker’s house and registered our names and then bought fresh coconuts after the tiring walk. I flipped through the logbook and there were just several names listed over the last years. It’s interesting to think that few people have been here.
Melville Lighthouse is perhaps the most beautiful lighthouse I’ve seen. It looked as if it jumped right out of a fairy tale story. Vines covered the exterior of the lighthouse, creating a whimsical effect. Up in the lighthouse, there’s an overview of the Balabac Island and beaches beyond. You can also see a portion of Sabbah, Malaysia.
This lighthouse is no longer functional. Instead, there’s a new lighthouse built beside it.
Update 2019: Melville Lighthouse is no longer open to the public.
Other islands you can visit in Balabac
Here are other islands you can visit in Balabac:
- Bancalaan Island
- Matangule sandbar
- Ramos Island
- Nasubata Island
- Bobby’s Island
- Secam Island
- Cabcabun Island
- Timbayan Island (rock formation)
Things you need to know
- It takes at least 2-3 days to explore these islands in Balabac.
- There are now packaged tours covering island hopping, meals and accommodation in Balabac. For updates, read about our Travel Guide to Balabac, Palawan.
Has this guide to island hopping in Balabac been helpful to you? Let us know in the comments below!
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Visiting Palawan? Check out the rest of our guides in Palawan:
- Ultimate Guide to Palawan
- Top Things to Do in Palawan
- Puerto Princesa: Guide to Puerto Princesa Underground River and Island Hopping in Honda Bay
- Coron: Travel Guide to Coron
- El Nido: Travel Guide to El Nido
- Balabac: Travel Guide to Balabac, Island Hopping in Balabac and Onuk Island
- Port Barton: Port Barton: Guide + 3 Days Itinerary, Top Things to Do in Port Barton and Island Hopping in Port Barton
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