Sambawan Island is one of the most beautiful islands you can find in the Philippines. It’s tucked away in the quiet province of Biliran in the Visayan Region.
Hali and I went here during our backpacking trip to Biliran and Leyte. We went on an island hopping tour that included Sambawan Island, as well as other nearby destinations. This is actually my favorite part of our whole trip. Here’s our experience including a guide on how you can get here too!
- Sambawan Island
- Other islands you can visit in Biliran
- How to get to Sambawan Island
- What to expect in Sambawan Island
- Island hopping tours in Biliran
- Budget and expenses
- Reminders and Tips
- What to read next:
Sambawan Island is one of the two major islands in Biliran, the other one being Maripipi.
It’s made up of interconnected islets and surrounded by beautiful turquoise water where you can swim, snorkel, and dive.
I’d known about Sambawan Island before our trip, but I wasn’t convinced that it was worth seeing. It looked nice, but so do other places when posted in Instagram.
As our tour boat approached the island, I was humbled. Sambawan Island is one of those places too beautiful to be captured in camera!
Hali and I went for a beeline to the watchtower on top of the hill, before the rest of the group could come too. The watchtower offers an amazing 360 degree view of the surroundings. There we could see the length of the island. Then we took photos in the iconic spot with the huge boulder. It must be nice to stay here to witness the sunrise and sunset too!
Afterwards, we swam in the white-sand beach. It was clear and refreshing. Hali snorkeled along the shore, but there weren’t a lot to see except stones. I’ve read that there are good snorkel and dive spots here as well, but perhaps they are a bit further.
Later on, we enjoyed a sumptuous seafood buffet prepared by our tour organizer. The food was delicious and there were lots of shrimps and crabs. We had a delightful time!
We stayed here for about 3 hours. If I were to go back, I’d definitely stay for overnight. One of Hali’s friends says the Milky Way is usually visible from this area and so it’s a good idea to stay for at least a night.
Other islands you can visit in Biliran
Aside from Sambawan Island, there are nearby attractions that you can visit as well during your island hopping tour in Biliran.
Tingkasan Bat Cave
Tingkasan Bat Cave is a small sea cave located in Tingkasan Island.
You can swim around and explore the sea cave in 15 minutes. There are small schools of fishes in the area and the water is clear. There’s an interesting beach at the end of Tingkasan Island, although we didn’t come up close to see what it’s like.
Tingkasan Bat Cave is nice and all, but it’s too far and if it were up to me, I’d exclude it in a day tour.
Higatangan Island is one of the more famous islands in Biliran. Here you can find a beach resort that offers an exclusive beach escapade. Higatangan Island is known for its sand bar, which changes its shape on different hours of the day.
To be honest, I found it disappointing. There was a trail of trash in the sand bar and we joked about it shifting lines of trash instead of sand.
That saying, Higatangan Island has other things to offer. It has interesting rock formations that reminded me of Dapa Island in Burias Island. We also spent time in a snorkeling spot here. I saw new coral species that I hadn’t seen before.
Although we were disappointed by the sand bar, we had a good time in the snorkeling area and were a little sad when our time was up.
Dalutan Island is a small island with a rocky shoreline. It’s rich in marine life, and it’s a great place for snorkeling and diving.
The island is visible from Talahid. In fact, you can rent a boat there for less than P1000.
We didn’t stay long in Dalutan Island since it was already 5 or 6PM at that time and there were joiners who needed to get back to the airport for their return flight.
Capiñahan Island is similar to Dalutan Island. It has a white-sand beach and snorkeling & diving sites. It is now privately owned and has been developed as WAD Resort. It’s still open to tourists.
We weren’t able to visit this island due to time constraint and sea current condition.
How to get to Sambawan Island
Biliran is accessible from Manila and nearby provinces in Visayas.
Manila to Biliran
The fastest and easiest way to get to Biliran is by booking a flight to DZR Airport in Tacloban.
From the airport, head to Van Van or Dup Tours Terminal downtown or the Tacloban Grand Terminal and ride a bus or van to Naval. Travel time is about 2.5 hours, fare is around P130 per person.
You can also ride a ferry bound for Ormoc City (Tacloban). Travel time is 10 hours. There is also a fast craft available which is faster (3 hours). From Ormoc City, take a shuttle bus to Naval (Biliran).
Lastly, there are buses in Pasay or Cubao bound for Naval. Travel time is more than 24 hours.
Cebu to Biliran
From Cebu, ride a ferry to Naval. Travel time is 10 hours. Another option is to take a fast craft to Ormoc City (Tacloban). Travel time is 3 hours. From there, take a shuttle bus to Naval. Travel time is 1.5 hour.
Boat trips to Sambawan Island
Most tourists who want to visit Sambawan Island do so via Maripipi Island. This route is budget-friendly and it’s serviced by daily passenger trips.
Maripipi Island to Sambawan Island:
- From Naval Port, ride a passenger boat to Maripipi Island. There are daily trips at 10AM except Sunday. Fare is P100 including terminal fee. Travel time is 2 hours. (Return trip from Maripipi Island to Naval Port is 5AM. )
- From Maripipi Island, charter a boat to Sambawan Island. Rate is P800 round-trip (good up to 5 pax).
Mainland to Sambawan Island:
Here are other options to get to Sambawan Island.
- From Kawayan Port in the mainland, charter a private boat to Sambawan Island. Travel time is 1 hour. Rate is P1500-3000 round-trip (capacity depends on boat size).
- Another option is to charter a private boat c/o Agta Beach Resort in Talahid. Rate is P3500 round-trip.
What to expect in Sambawan Island
Sambawan Island offers basic facilities for your stay. It’s managed by the Sambawan Dive Camp and Beach Resort.
Here are the island facilities:
- Open cottages for day trips / room cottages for overnight stays
- Grilling / cooking area
- Sari-sari store
- Dive shop
It’s best to bring everything you need before you go to the island, including food. The sari-sari store offers basic goods, if you forget any.
The dive shop rents out snorkeling and dive equipment. You can arrange a fun dive here to see the 8 marked dive sites near the island, where you can see black tip and bull sharks. If you want a more casual activity, you can also rent a kayak or paddleboard.
If you want to stay overnight in the island, you can pitch a tent. You can bring your own or rent there. Room cottages are also available for a more comfortable sleep.
Island hopping tours in Biliran
An island hopping tour is an easy, convenient way to visit Sambawan Island and other nearby attractions.
Here are the spots you can visit during island hopping:
- Sambawan Island
- Tingkasan Bat Cave
- Higatangan Island
- Dalutan Island
- Capiñahan Island.
You can book a joiner tour or charter a private boat.
Via private boat tour:
There are no standard fees for chartering a private boat for island hopping. It depends on the boat size and your haggling skills. Based on other fees, you might need to shell out more than P3000-3500.
If you’re on a group, I suggest chartering your own boat because it gives you more time and flexibility.
Via joiner tour:
This is what Hali and I chose to do. We found this tour very sulit. The whole-day itinerary was packed and the lunch was served in generous servings, including seafood.
In my opinion, this is the best way to explore the islands in Biliran. It’s easy and hassle free, and you can start the boat tour from the selected port in the mainland rather than transferring via Maripipi Island. Plus, you can visit not just Sambawan Island, but other attractions as well.
The downside is that since you’re going with other tourists, the itinerary may be changed to accommodate the needs of other guests. In our case, there were guests that needed to get back to the city for their flights that night. We were able to visit Tingkasan Bat Cave, Sambawan Island, and Higatangan Island and then we only took a quick stop at Dalutan Island. We missed Capiñahan Island altogether. Despite this, we still found it good for the rate. Maybe this is something that you can clarify with your tour operator beforehand.
We booked via Biliran Island Travel & Tours. Here are the inclusions:
- Island hopping to Sambawan Island, as well as Tingkasan Bat Cave, Higatangan Island, Dalutan Island, and Capiñahan Island
- Buffet lunch, snorkel gear
There are limited joiner tours for island hopping in Biliran. I suggest checking the tour schedules ahead of time, so you can plan your itinerary around it.
Budget and expenses
Here are the current rates (Updated as of 2020):
Sambawan Island fees:
- Entrance fee: P80 per person + environmental fee: P20 per person
- Boat mooring fee: P50 per boat
- Tent pitching fee: P100 per day
- Open cottage: P500 overnight
- Room cottage: Starts from P1500 overnight (good for 5-6 people) to P2500 (good up to 12 people)
- Kayak or paddleboard rental: P300 per hour
If you want to book an island hopping tour that includes Sambawan Island, the rate is around P2000 per person.
Reminders and Tips
Here are some reminders and tips before your trip to Sambawan Island:
- The best time to visit Sambawan Island is from April to July. In severe weather, the coast guard may choose to cancel boat trips to the island.
- Depending on the weather, you may encounter rough sea conditions. Hence, it’s best to travel early in the morning when the sea is still calm.
- Electricity in Maripipi Island and Sambawan Island only runs from 12 noon to 2AM. It’s best to bring a powerbank and a multi-port charger if you’re in a group so you can charge your items simultaneously.
Has this Guide to Sambawan Island in Biliran been helpful to you? If you have comments or questions, let us know in the comment section below.
What to read next:
This is part of our backpacking trip to Biliran and Leyte. Here are the posts we’ve written for this trip:
Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).