Here’s our day trip to Isabela City, Basilan. We visited Lampinigan Island (an underrated island less than an hour away from Isabela Port) and the famous Malamawi White Beach Resort.
Before I go on, let me ask you this.
What do you think about when you hear the place Isabela City, Basilan? I’ll tell you mine — I think of fine white-sand beaches, the sound of gently rolling waves, shades and cottages where I can seek respite from the sun or enjoy a sip of fresh coconut juice.
It’s not the usual mental image most people would associate with Basilan especially due to security stigma, but in fact, prior to the military conflict in the area, this is what Basilan is famous for: white-sand beaches.
I loved our day trip in Isabela City and I hope you get inspired and visit here in the future too!
Day trip in Isabela City, Basilan
I took pains to do research prior to our visit in Basilan. Our initial plan is to spend the whole day in Malamawi White Beach, which is what most backpackers do. Malamawi White Beach is undoubtedly the most popular attraction in this province.
However, a friend told me about Lampinigan Island which is only about 45 minutes from Isabela Port and I learned that we could hit the 2 islands in a day, so we opted for that instead.
Lampinigan Island is an off-beaten beach destination in Basilan. It is known mostly to locals, although every now and then backpackers would stumble upon this paradise as well.
Our group went here with maritime escorts. Our boat docked on the shore where residential houses idly sit. Even here, the water was crystal clear and we could see boulders and corals from underwater.
We walked to the other side of the island where the proper beach is. As we were getting close, we were amazed and impressed by the whiteness of the sand and the bright baby-blue of the sea.
We put our things down in a cottage and set off towards the shore, where we said hello to the local kids swimming and took photos of the beach.
At the end of the beach, there are rock formations which is a favorite photo-spot among visitors in the island. On the other side, there is a snorkeling area.
After a bit of swimming, we ate our packed lunch in the cottage and bought fresh coconuts from a local in the island.
At about lunch time, we went back to Isabela Port and headed to Malamawi White Beach Resort.
Malamawi White Beach Resort
From Isabela Port, we took a boat to Malamawi Island and then a habal-habal to Malamawi White Beach Resort.
The beach here is beautiful as mentioned in testimonials online, with white creamy sand that stretches along the shore. Compared to the virgin shores of Lampinigan Island, it is significantly more commercial but it was still able to keep that peaceful ambiance. The combination of the ocean breeze and the surrounding nature makes for a lazy afternoon.
The beach is shallow on both ends, but deepens in the middle where people choose to swim. There are corals and fishes to be seen underwater.
We didn’t swim here since we were already tired from the tour earlier. Instead, we took photos in the boardwalk and the surrounding and spent the rest of the afternoon chilling in our cottage.
At about 3PM, we decided to go back to Isabela Port.
Isabela City: Guide and Day Trip Itinerary
Here’s our guide on a DIY day trip to Isabela City, Basilan.
Is it safe to visit Basilan?
I actually spent 2 days in Basilan. The first day in its capital Lamitan City and the second here in Isabela City. On the first day, I was solo and then I met up with others in Isabela.
My experience is that I was safe and sound all throughout the trip.
As per the tourism officers I talked with, it is safe to visit Basilan. However, it is still recommended to coordinate with respective local tourism offices prior to your visit.
Also Read: Is the Philippines safe to visit?
How to get from Zamboanga to Basilan
Basilan is easily accessible from Zamboanga City. Regular ferries take 1.5-2 hours (regular P70, aircon P90 per person), while fast crafts via Weesam Express take 1 hour (P170 per person).
- First trip: 6:45AM via Weesam Express
- Last trip: 4:45PM via Weesam Express | 4:30PM via regular ferry
For the last trip back to Zamboanga City, I recommend getting on the regular ferry because the difference is only a few minutes and you’ll be saving about P70 each.
If you arrive at Isabela City via ferry, you will get off at Isabela Port which is walking distance to commercial establishments and accommodations and the jump-off points to Lampinigan Island and Malamawi Island.
How to visit Lampinigan Island
1. Secure a permit
To visit Lampinigan Island, you need to secure a permit at the tourism office at least a day before your intended tour.
The Isabela City tourism office is open from 8AM to 5PM. If you’re in a group, you may just send a representative to get the permit. Just bring your ID and details of your groupmates (name, age, contact details). You will need to give copies of the permit to the maritime police and coast guard before you are allowed to leave the port.
2. Ride a boat to the island
From Isabela Port, ride a boat for about 45 minutes to Lampinigan Island.
How to visit Malamawi White Beach Resort
It is easy to visit Malamawi White Beach Resort. Since it is a private resort, you don’t need any permit from the tourism office and you can visit on your own.
Malamawi Island is located just across the city. In fact, it’s possible to swim your way here if the currents are moderate (and if you’re a swim junkie).
From Isabela Port, ride a boat to Malamawi Island (P5 per person or P100 to pay for the whole boat, 5 minutes). From there, there are habal-habals waiting to take you to Malamawi White Beach Resort (P60 per person round-trip, 10 minutes).
Here are the rates (updated as of November 2019):
For Lampinigan Island:
- Boat rental to Lampinigan Island: P2500 good up to 7-10 pax. Additional fee of P500-600 to visit the mangrove forest, depending on the number of pax.
- Cottage rental: P250
We did not pay for the cottage rental in Lampinigan Island. However, this is the published rate as posted online.
For Malamawi White Beach Resort:
- Cottage rental: P350 good up to 5 people
- Entrance fee: P35 per person
Cottage is required for day tours. Make sure to reserve in advance.
Where to eat
There are no restaurants in Lampinigan Island or Malamawi White Beach Resort. It’s advised to buy your own packed lunch in the mainland.
You may also buy fresh seafood or other ingredients in the market. It is possible to have it cooked in Lampinigan Island — ask your boatman for assistance. In Malamawi White Beach Resort, there is a canteen but it’s not guaranteed that there is available staff to do the cooking for you. However, you can still buy snacks and drinks in the resort.
Where to stay
If you plan to stay overnight in Isabela City, here are your options:
- Lampinigan Island. It’s possible to stay here overnight. Bring your own camping tent.
- Malamawi White Beach Resort. Rooms start at P2000 good for 2-3 people. Make sure to book ahead as it can get fully booked on weekends.
There are also accommodations in the mainland.
- Sophia Hotel or Casa Rosario Pension House. Rate starts at P1000 good for 1-2 people.
- Basilan Business Hotel. Rate starts at P2500 for a standard room inclusive of breakfast.
Sample 1 day itinerary
Here’s a sample 1 day itinerary for Lampinigan Island and Malamawi White Beach Resort.
8AM – 11AM Visit Lampinigan Island (Optional: Mangrove Forest)
11AM Back to Isabela Port/buy packed lunch
12PM – 12:30PM Ride boat to Malamawi Island and then habal-habal to the resort
12:30 – 3:30PM Enjoy Malamawi White Beach
3:30 – 4PM Back at Isabela Port
4:30 or 4:45PM Take last trip to Zamboanga City
6PM Back in Zamboanga City
Here are some reminders for your trip:
- Bring change of clothes. There are toilets in Malamawi White Beach Resort, but during our visit, there is no water.
Budget and expenses
For this itinerary, in a group of 5 people, a safe budget would be P1000-1200 per person.
Things to know before you go
- It’s best to coordinate with the tourism office prior to your visit.
- You need to a secure a permit to Lampinigan Island via the Isabela Tourism Office. Similarly, you need to make advanced reservation in Malamawi White Beach Resort, even if you’re only going for a day trip.
- Maritime escorts are required when visiting Lampinigan Island. As such, it’s not possible to go directly from Lampinigan Island to Malamawi Island. The maritime escorts will escort you from Isabela Port to Lampinigan Island and back. You will be turned over back to the coast guard. Only then can you proceed to Malamawi Island.
For inquiries and reservations, you may contact the following:
Has this guide to a DIY day trip to Lampinigan Island and Malamawi White Beach Resort been helpful to you? Let us know in the comments below.
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