Carabao Island in Romblon: A Hidden Gem an Hour Away from Boracay

Carabao Island, Romblon
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I admit I knew little of Carabao Island in Romblon except that, standing an hour away from Caticlan, it’s a quick escape from the noise of the party island Boracay. I remember searching about it online a year before, but the photos didn’t really impressed me.

The photos I’ve seen apparently were not able to capture the sightly clear beach of Carabao Island or the adventure offered in Koding-Koding Point, with its underwater tunnel and cliff-jumping area.

On the boat ride from Tabon Baybay port to Carabao Island, my curiosity was piqued by the shirt our boat captain was wearing. Underneath “Carabao Island,” it says, “The promised land.”

Here’s our experience in Carabao Island, Romblon. Scroll down to read our Carabao Island travel guide.

Exploring Carabao Island

The beach in Carabao island has white sand, with clear white-blue waters. There used to be a marine sanctuary here about 3 years ago; now the beach is open to the public.

Amazingly, we didn’t need to go far to see the beach. It’s in the same stretch where the port is located and goes alongside the main road, separated by lines of coconut trees.

Coconut tree in Carabao Island
The side of the beach is lined with coconut trees. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Beach in Carabao Island, Romblon
An hour away from Boracay. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Beach in Carabao Island, Romblon
The clear beach in Isla de Carabao, Romblon. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

In the late afternoon, the water recedes to reveal a field of seaweeds several meters away, where there are sea urchins, star fishes and sea anemones. In the morning and afternoon, everybody is free to frolic in its tropical waters.

Swimming in Carabao Island, Romblon
Clear, clear water. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Sea anomone in Carabao Island
Sea urchins, star fishes and sea anemones can be found farther along the beach. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

Aside from the beach, there are also landmarks in Carabao Island to visit: a farm with an overlooking view of Boracay Island, Koding-Koding Point and Ngiriton Bat Cave.

After hours of swimming, we rode habal-habals through steep hillsides until we reached a coconut tree plantation. Past the farm’s wooden gates is a spot that overlooks the whole of Boracay. White Beach is at the other end.

We rested here for a bit. The farm caretaker even harvested fresh coconuts for us for free, doing an impressive tree climb.

Carabao Island overlooking view
A farm with an overlooking view of Boracay Island. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
A visit to a province won't be complete without fresh coconuts! (Photo by Hali Navarro)
A visit to a province won’t be complete without fresh coconuts! (Photo by Hali Navarro)

We stopped next at Koding-Koding Point. The rocks here are pointed and ragged, and a wooden diving board has been set up for those who want to dive to the sea below. Unfortunately, it was habagat season during our visit and the waves were too strong. Hali kept hinting about diving anyway, and our guide kept hinting back that it wasn’t safe.

Cliff jumping site in Koding-Koding Point.
Cliff jumping site in Koding-Koding Point. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Koding-Koding Point cliff dive
Are you gonna jump? (Photo by Hali Navarro)

We went inside the nearby cave, where there’s an underwater tunnel that eventually leads outside. It wasn’t safe to go through it as well for the same reason. Hali tried and it seemed as though the waves would thrash him against the walls and cave ceiling. Nonetheless, he told me it was amazing underwater and I should’ve taken a peek too.

Cave in Koding-Koding Point, Carabao Island
Inside the cave. Underneath this pool is a tunnel leading to the sea outside. (Photo by Hali Navarro)
Underwater tunnel in Koding-Koding Point, Carabao Island
Hali swimming in the underwater tunnel in Koding-Koding Point. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

Our last stop was Ngiriton Bat Cave. There’s nothing much to see here, to be honest. It used to be an excavation site, and there used to be thousands of bats living in the cave. The bat population had since gone down. I’d already seen the bat caves in Samal Island, Davao, so this one was unremarkable for me.

The ride back from the land tour to our lodging was nice. We passed a road with flowering plants on both sides and then another long road along the beach. The beach’s sand wasn’t as white as the one earlier, but who can say no to a cool sea breeze?

Carabao Island needs a bit more clean-up

We visited Carabao Island in 2016. I would say that the beach here is almost perfect, but it needs a thorough clean-up. In the late afternoon when it was low tide, we spotted a few plastics buried in the sand along the beach. Similarly, the beach in front of Kameo Lodge seems to be a garbage dump of some sort. Perhaps this can be moved out somewhere else and the trash collected properly.

We also talked to a former government employee who said that, for years, there has been strict regulation on construction of buildings and resorts, following a specific distance from the beach. Accordingly, structures are now being allowed past this perimeter. It will be nice to have a clarification from the local government in Romblon and an investigation if this is proven true. If not, I think that will be a relief for all of us.

Fun fact: Why it is named Carabao Island

We asked our local guides why the island was named as such, and they told us there used to be lots of carabaos in the island. For the non-locals, carabaos are also known as water buffalos and are the national animal of the Philippines.

Reading online gave a different answer: apparently the island topography looks like a carabao. I’m not sure how this is so though. Another local we’ve talked to confirms that the name came from the island’s shape, saying that the local term Hambil is actually from the word “anvil.”

Travel Guide to Carabao Island, Romblon

Carabao Island, referred to as Hambil by locals or its fancier Spanish-derived name Isla de Carabao, is part of Romblon province in the Philippines.

It’s possible to visit here on a day tour, which is what most tourists prefer especially those who are staying in Boracay. Other spend more days since Carabao Island offers a more relaxing option compared to other nearby tourist spots.

How to get to Carabao Island

There are different ways to reach Carabao Island depending on where you’re coming from.

  • From Caticlan: Ride a tricycle to Tabon Baybay port where there are daily passenger boats to Carabao Island. Fare is P100 per person. Boat schedules are 8-9AM daily. Return trips to Caticlan are at 6AM daily.
  • From Boracay: Go to Bulabog Beach in Boracay and charter a boat from the locals for a day trip to Carabao Island. Rate depends on boat size and can range from P2000 (good for 4 people) to P3000-4000 (10-12 people), depending on your haggling skills.
  • From Tablas Island: There are ferries in Sta. Fe in Tablas Island en route to Carabao Island. Ferry schedule is at 9-10AM. Fare is P100 per person. Return trips to Sta. Fe are 5:30AM daily.

Things to do in Carabao Island

The most obvious thing to do in Carabao Island is enjoy its beach.

Beach in Carabao Island, Romblon
Beach in Carabao Island, Romblon. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

You can also tour Carabao Island via habal-habal. Fee for a land tour is P500 is person. You’ll go through hills, rough roads and mountain trails, so only one person per habal-habal is allowed. Hali and I actually tried to talk our driver to letting us both since we’re used to going in one just vehicle, but we were glad we heeded our driver’s advice because it would’ve been dangerous with the uneven road.

Rent for habal-habal for 1 day so you can drive on your own is also P500.

Here are the places you can visit in Carabao Island:

  • Farm overlooking the island of Boracay / Tagaytay Point
  • Koding-Koding Point – where you can cliff jump and swim through the underwater tunnel
  • Cathedral cave – another cliff jumping site with 2 diving boards
  • Ngiriton Bat Cave

Most of these require an entrance fee, so prepare at least P250 per person.

Where to eat

As it is a less developed island, there are few eateries in the area. If you’re not picky, you won’t have a problem. Otherwise, just bring your own food to the island.

Where to stay in Carabao Island

There are several resorts and lodging available in Carabao Island. Here are some of them:

We stayed at Kameo Lodge, about 15 minutes away from the port. The rate is P500 for a single room for 2 people, P1500 for a group room.

Looking for something else? Click here search for other resorts in Carabao Island.

Planning to stay in Boracay Island instead? Click here to search for other resorts in Boracay.

Kameo Lodge in Carabao Island, Romblon
View from veranda in Kameo Lodge. (Photo by Hali Navarro)

 

Has this Carabao Island travel guide been helpful to you? Let us know in the comments section!

 

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

Here’s our full 4 days vacation in Panay Island. Here are other posts we’d written about our trip:

 

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Carabao Island, Romblon - an island an hour away from Boracay. Includes a short travel guide to Carabao Island, accommodation and expenses

Carabao Island, also called Isla de Carabao, in Romblon. Includes a short travel guide to Carabao Island.

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9 Comments

  1. hello ung boat from tabon port isang biyahe lng 8to 9am, kng sakali hndi pala nmin maabutan yan wl ng biyahe, kinabukasan p ulet tama ba ako ng pagka intindi hehe, at ung pabalik from hambil 6am lng, salamat sa pag sagot

  2. Hi Kat, just discovered your blog and I love it! 🙂 I am looking for tips whether I should go to Boracay or to Carabao Island in January. Which island would you prefer, if you had only 3 days for beach and leisure at the end of your holidays? I am not looking for party or crowds, but I will travel solo… Before I will do a 9 days tour in Northern Phillipines and want to relax the last days in one place. Your post about Boracay doesn’t make it easier for me, it sounds good too… 🙂

    1. I’m actually leaning more towards Boracay because it has a wide selection of restaurants and activities, if you ever want to do anything other than beach bum. Station 1 or 3 should be relatively quieter, as well as Puka Beach. You can also island hop and stop over Carabao Island from Boracay.

      Carabao Island is really nice, but apart from the land tour there’s not much to do and restaurants/stores are really limited – there were only 2 eateries near our accommodation then if I remember correctly. If that’s not an issue and all you ever want is some peace and quiet, definitely stay here.

      Anyway Boracay and Carabao Island are really close to one another so you can easily change places. 🙂

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