A Guide to Island Hopping in Balabac, Palawan

Balabac island hopping - Candaraman Island
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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!

For other info (including how to get here, expenses, tips and more), please refer to our travel guide to Balabac.

Islands you can visit in Balabac

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

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/Patonggong Island in Balabac, Palawan
Patunggong Island.

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

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.

Patawan Island in Balabac, Palawan
World-class beach in Patawan Island.

Kat in Patawan Island, Balabac

There are also cottages here where you can leave your things at when you swim.

Tangkahan Island

Tangkahan Island is the biggest island among Patunggong and Patawan islands. Its shore features different shades of blue water.

Tangkahan Island in Balabac, Palawan
Tangkahan Island.

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.

Boat approaching Onuk Island, Balabac
Approaching Onuk Island.
Onuk Island/Onok Island in Balabac, Palawan
Onuk Island.
Onuk Island during high tide
Onuk Island during high tide.

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.

Giant clam in Onuk Island
Giant clam in Onuk Island.

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 everything about Onuk Island here.

Camiaran Island

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.

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

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.

Canabungan Island

Like other islands in Balabac, Canabungan Island has white, soft sand and inviting blue color. It also has a sandbar.

Canabungan Island in Balabac, Palawan
Canabungan Island.

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.

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

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.

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)

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.

Starfishes in Punta Sebaring, Bugsuk Island
Small starfishes making love in the shores of Punta Sebaring. (Photo by Hali)
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)

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.

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 is about 2 hours away from mainland Balabac.

Candaraman Island

Candaraman Island is another favorite island hopping stop in Balabac. The beach is filled with seaweeds, but the sand is powdery soft.

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

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.

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

Balabac island hopping - Candaraman Island

There is a resort in Candaraman Island, which also serves as camping ground for those who want to stay overnight.

Sicsican Island

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

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 in Balabac, Palawan
Mansalangan sandbar.

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 via boat. From the docking area, we trekked across a picturesque farm with towering coconut trees and carabaos lazily grazing in the open pasture. We registered our name in the caretaker’s house and bought fresh coconuts since we got tired from the short trek. During this time, 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.

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)

Melville Lighthouse is perhaps the most beautiful lighthouse I’ve seen — it looked as if it jumped right out of a fairy tale story. Creeping vines cover the exterior of the century-old 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 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.

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)

Other things you have 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 complete info, please refer to our Complete Travel Guide to Balabac, Palawan.

 

Has this guide to island hopping in Balabac been helpful to you? Let us know in the comments below!

 

P.S. You might also be interested in these:

 

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32 Comments

  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:
      http://www.taraletsanywhere.com/balabac-palawan-itinerary/

      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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