Palaui Island is one of the best road trips you can take from Manila. The island is located in Sta. Ana in Cagayan Province. A lot of people simply know it as a previous location for the Survivor series, but there’s much more to it than that. It has a very laid-back community and beautiful attractions such as rolling hills, beach coves, and waterfalls.
In my opinion, this is a great place to visit especially if you want to see the best of the Philippines has to offer.
- Our trip to Palaui Island
- About Palaui Island
- How to get to Palaui Island
- Things to do in Palaui Island
- 4 Days Itinerary to Palaui Island
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
- Reminders and Tips
- Budget and expenses
- What to read next:
Our trip to Palaui Island
I’d visited Palaui Island a few years ago, with a group of backpackers on a long weekend. Hali visited it on a separate trip. (I’ve posted photos from both our trips here.)
It’s often difficult to find a destination that isn’t crowded during long weekends, so at that time we were lucky that we have scheduled a trip there.
We departed Manila at night and spent the following day on the road to Tuguegarao and then Sta. Ana, Cagayan. It was one of the longest drives I’d been to, and I remember feeling a little sore and restless. From the mainland, we took a boat and settled in a campsite.
The day after, we took a boat to Cape Engaño. Some of the group were hikers, so they took a long trek instead. The boat dropped us off at the cove and then we trekked to Cape Engaño Lighthouse. It’s an old, classic lighthouse that overlooks the ocean.
From the lighthouse, there’s a short trail down to a clearing where you can see the Dos Hermanas Islands a little closer. I actually didn’t go down as I found it too steep and I didn’t want to stumble down (which if you know me, is a very likely possibility). Instead, I stayed on the lighthouse to take a few more photos.
From the lighthouse, you can also view a dramatic landscape of cliffs hovering over the ocean and then go down to see the verdant fields and rolling hills.
The next day, we took a boat to Anguib Beach. The beautiful white-sand beach greeted us from afar, that I fell in love with it even before I’d stepped foot on its sands. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. We swam and took pictures with the colorful flags along the shore.
During our trip, we also trekked to a waterfall in the island. However, it wasn’t really memorable to me. I’ve read from other blogs that the waterfall is best visited during rainy season, so that’s something to take in mind.
We spent the last night in Palaui Island getting to know each other and drinking mixed cocktails. I’d met some good friends in here and all in all it’s one of the best backpacking trips I’ve made that year.
About Palaui Island
Palaui Island is located at Sta. Ana, Cagayan Province, in the northern part of Luzon. It’s a laid-back, rural area that is home to a fishing community. There is no electricity in the island, and most houses use generators and solar panels.
The island is one of the best eco-tourism destinations in the Philippines. It’s a declared marine reserve, which means you can see a variety of corals, fishes, and other wildlife in here.
The island was the location of Survivor in 2013. It also made its way to CNN’s Best Beaches in the World in 2012 and 2013.
How to get to Palaui Island
From Manila, it takes about 15 hours to reach Sta. Ana, Cagayan.
Manila to Sta. Ana
The fastest way to get to Palaui Island is by flying to Tuguegarao, which is the nearest airport. If you’re on a budget, you can always take an overnight bus instead. An overnight bus to Tuguegarao is the most common option for tourists due to its convenient departure schedule (night time).
From Tuguegarao, it’s only a few hours to Sta. Ana.
- By air: PAL and Cebu Pacific flies from Manila to Tuguegarao. Travel time is 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- By bus: Victory Liner (Pasay, Sampaloc, or Kamias) has a daily Manila-Tuguegarao schedule. Travel time is 11-12 hours. Fare is around P900 per person.
From Tuguegarao, ride a bus or van to Sta. Ana, Cagayan. Travel time is 3-4 hours. Fare is around P250 per person.
It’s also possible to take a direct bus trip from Manila to Sta. Ana via Florida Liner (Sampaloc). Departure is at late afternoon. Travel time is 15 hours.
San Vicente Port to Palaui Island
- Once in Sta. Ana, ride a tricycle to San Vicente Port. It is only 15-20 minutes away. Fare is P15 per person.
- Head to the SAMOBA Office. Pay the registration fee and then charter a boat to Palaui Island. Travel time is 20 minutes.
Things to do in Palaui Island
Here are the activities you can do in Palaui Island.
1. Visit Cape Engaño
Cape Engaño is the gem of Palaui Island. Here you can find a beautiful beach cove, rolling hills, and the Cape Engaño Lighthouse.
The lighthouse is a Spanish-era architecture with bare walls and huge windows that look out at Pacific Ocean. It’s a declared National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum. It’s a great place for photo-ops. It also offers the best view of the beach cove, as well as the Dos Hermanas Islands (Two Sisters) and Babuyan Island located further away.
The easiest way to get to Cape Engaño is by taking a boat. You can also get a guide and then trek for 2 hours via Lagunzad’s Trail (beginner-friendly) or Leonardo’s Trail. Once you reach the beach cove, you need to climb up concrete steps and then follow the dirt trail to the lighthouse.
I recommend donning your best OOTD when visiting here. Also bring water (and snacks) because the climb to the lighthouse can be tiring.
2. Swim at Anguib Beach
Anguib Beach is a white-sand beach with beautiful water. The area is developed, and there are camping and glamping tents available for guests.
3. Snorkel and dive
Palaui Island is a marine reserve, so this is a great place for snorkeling and diving. You can find different corals and fishes — dolphins and whales have also been spotted around the island. Just make sure to bring your own equipment.
There are three trails in the island: Lagunzad’s Trail, Leonardo’s Trail, and Siwangag Trail. You can explore these trails to see the hidden waterfalls and flora & fauna in the island.
5. Camp in Punta Verde
Punta Verde is a residential village in the island. It’s the only place to stay at if you want to camp in the island. The village has its own beach and a hidden waterfall tucked in its forest trails.
Here are other things you can do in Palaui Island:
- Bird watching
- Explore the island’s hidden waterfalls
- Visit the nearby Crocodile Island, Mapurao Island, and Manidad Island.
4 Days Itinerary to Palaui Island
Here’s a sample itinerary to Palaui Island.
|Day 0||7PM Departure from Manila|
|Day 1||8AM Arrival in Cagayan|
– Callao Cave
– Baggao Blue Waters
Late afternoon boat trip to Palaui Island
Check in at homestay/camping site in the island
|Day 2||Island hopping:|
– Cape Engaño
– Crocodile Island
– Anguib Beach
– Punta Verde Beach
|Day 3||Land tour:|
– Sinago Cove
– Buwacag Falls
– Free time at Anguib Beach
– Baratubut Falls
|Day 4||Check out of accommodation|
Departure back to Manila
I recommend spending at least 2 days in Palaui Island.
I have included Callao Cave and Baggao Blue Waters in Cagayan because these are interesting places and it can be included in your itinerary if you are on a road trip and have an extra day to spare. Alternatively, you can also visit one of the various centuries-old churches in Tuguegarao.
Again, this is just a rough itinerary. You can change it depending on which places you want to visit in Palaui Island.
Where to stay
There are no hotels or resorts in Palaui Island. Your options are to book a homestay or pitch at Nature Village in Punta Verde (a residential village in the island). You can also stay at Anguib Beach Club if you want a beachside accommodation.
If you want somewhere more comfortable, you can stay in the mainland instead where you can find hotels and inns. Some of the best ones are:
- Avalon Beach Club
- Costa Carina Beachfront Resort. Book via Agoda.
- Balai Cagayano. Book via Agoda.
- Country Inn Hotel and Restaurant. Book via Agoda.
Where to eat
If you’re staying in Palaui Island, you can find catering services where you can order meals per person.
You can also cook your own food. Homestays allow free use of their kitchen. However, there are few stores in the island so it’s best to buy everything at the Sta. Ana market before going here.
If you’re going to Cagayan via Tuguegarao, don’t forget to stop by a restaurant that serves pancit batil patung.
Reminders and Tips
Here are some things to note before your trip:
- The best time to go to Palaui Island is during summer (March to May), when the sea is calm.
- Mobile signal can be unreliable. Globe is okay, but Smart has minimal to nonexistent signal.
- Bring enough cash. There are no ATMs in the island.
- It’s best to go here on a group to save expenses. If you’re solo or a couple, you can just wait for other passengers at the port.
- Boat trips may get cancelled by the coast guard due to bad weather. As such, it’s safe to schedule your island hopping on your first day, so you can easily reschedule if the trip gets cancelled.
- The easiest way to explore Palaui Island is by island hopping. There is a special trip that covers Punta Verde, Cape Engaño, Anguib Beach, and Crocodile Island.
- Bring enough enough trail food and water, as well as drybag to secure your items. If staying overnight, you should also have a flashlight, mosquito repellent, and powerbank and/or charger.
- If you’re happy with the service of your guides, give them tips! 🙂
Budget and expenses
Here are the current rates (Updated as of 2021).
SAMOBA (Sta. Ana Motorize Boat Association Inc) has fixed rates for fees and boat rentals.
|Fees||Registration: P50 per person|
Palaui day pass: P50 per pax
Environmental fee: P20 per pax
Anguib Beach entrance fee: P100 per pax
Palaui Island guide fee: P300 (up to 4 pax) + P50 to Baratubut Falls
Snorkeling fee: P300 (up to 2 pax)
|Accommodations||Homestays: P250 per pax|
Nature Village: P250 for tent rental (1 pax) / P1200 per room (4 pax)
Here are the boat rental rates:
|Special trip (4 destinations)||7 hours||P3500|
|Cape Engaño lighthouse||4 hours||P1800|
|Anguib Beach||4 hours||P1500|
|Siwangag Cove||4 hours||P1500|
|Snake Island||4 hours||P1500|
|Punta Verde||3 hours||P1000|
|Crocodile Island||1 hour||P500|
The Special Trip includes Punta Verde, Cape Engaño, Anguib Beach, and Crocodile Island.
Here are some things to note:
- Maximum of 8 passengers per boat in every tour.
- Additional P100 in excess hour in every tour.
- Additional P300 for Punta Verde and P500 for Anguib Beach for overnight.
Total budget depends on how many you are in a group. For a 3-4 days itinerary, prepare at least P4500-6000 per person.
Has this guide on Palaui Island in Cagayan been helpful to you? If you have questions or comments, let us know below.
What to read next:
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Katherine Cortes is a long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).