Exploring the Great Sta. Cruz Island: Pink Beach of Zamboanga City

Kat in the Pink Beach of Zamboanga
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One of the things that Zamboanga City is known for is the Great Sta. Cruz Island or Pink Beach. During its heyday, it was one of the most popular beaches in the country. Today, it remains one the best places to see in Zamboanga City.

The Great Sta. Cruz Island has also been voted as one of the top beaches in the world by National Geographic.

Sta. Cruz Island is actually composed of 2 islands, both of which have pink coraline sand. The color is due to bright red organ-pipe corals, which are dissolved in the water and gets mixed with the regular sand.

The Great Sta. Cruz Island is the one open to the public, while the Small Sta. Cruz Island is off-limits as it serves as a military installation.

How to get to Sta. Cruz Island

It’s easy to get to the Great Sta. Cruz Island:

  • From Manila or other destinations, take a local flight to Zamboanga City.
  • From the airport or anywhere in the city, ride a tricycle to Paseo del Mar. There is a port there for boats going to the Great Sta. Cruz Island (boat ride 15-20 minutes).

My Day Trip to Zamboanga’s Pink Beach

I went here on a day trip along with a companion during our ZamBaSulTa trip. I had already reserved a slot, so it was only a matter of showing up in the port in Paseo del Mar wherein we boarded boats to the Great Sta. Cruz Island.

Zamboanga signage in Pink Beach
Approaching the island.

To say it simply, the Pink Beach is beautiful. This actually surprised me as I thought that it being one of the top destinations in the city would take its toll, but alas, the shore was clean of any litter and the water was clear.

To level your expectation, the Pink Beach isn’t as pink as it looks online. There’s only a hint of pinkish color particularly when the sand gets wet. In fact, at first glance you might not even notice this hue. I’d seen other pink beaches in the country such as Tikling Island in Sorsogon and Comiaran Island in Balabac and even one in Indonesia that wasn’t marketed as a pink beach, so I already knew what to expect. Others not so and leave disappointed.

Red corals in Zamboanga's Pink Beach
Pieces of red corals can be found in the sand.
Kat in the Pink Beach of Zamboanga
The Great Sta. Cruz Island aka Pink Beach.
Pink Beach in Zamboanga City
Shore with clear water.

Since there were just the 2 of us, our guide led us to a small tree stump that serves as a table instead of a proper cottage. It was free, so I had no complaints there.

From thereon, we spent our time taking pictures and swimming. I love the shore of the Pink Beach as it immediately leads to the deep portion, unlike others wherein you have to walk further to get past the shallow water. My companion snorkeled around but he said there were none to limited corals. I would learn later on that there had been illegal coral reef mining in the past which destroyed the coral population in the island, but the local government is planning its rehabilitation and development as an ecotourism site.

Swimming in Zamboanga's Pink Beach
Locals enjoying the beach.
Zamboanga's Pink Beach - volleyball
Locals playing beach volleyball.
Zamboanga's Pink Beach - traditional vinta
Traditional vinta sails can be found in the island. This is one of the icons of Zamboanga City.

We didn’t bring food with us, so we just bought snacks and soft drinks from the store in the island. A local vendor passed by selling a plateful of small crabs. I initially didn’t want to buy it since I would only be the one to eat it (my companion had gotten tired of seafood after our stay in Tawi-Tawi), but the vendor dropped the price to only P100 so why not.

Zamboanga's Pink Beach - seafood
A huge plate of small crabs sold for P100 each.

After several hours, we packed our drybags to get to the city.

Overall, Zamboanga’s Pink Beach was better than I expected. I love that’s accessible and yet there are efforts to keep it pristine: tourist capping, proper waste disposal and so on. It’s also budget-friendly, so it’s ideal even for solo travelers. For me this is definitely one of the best things you can do in Zamboanga City.

Things to know before you go

Here are important reminders before your visit:

  • Day tour is open from 7AM to 2PM only. No overnight stay is allowed.
  • Only 400 people a day are allowed to visit the Great Sta. Cruz Island. As such, advanced reservation is advised especially on weekends and holidays. Walk-ins are also allowed.
  • There is no restaurant in the island so it’s advised to bring your own food and water. However, there is a small store where you can buy snacks and drinks. Oftentimes, vendors roam the island selling seafood such as fish and crabs in reasonable prices.
  • There are also souvenir stalls where you can buy pearls and other local products.
  • There are toilets in the island, but salt water is used. It’s better to wash up back in your accommodation in the city.

Things to bring

Here are the recommended things to bring in the island:

  • Food and water
  • Sunblock
  • Drybag
  • Reusable container

As of 2019, single-use plastics are banned in the island. As such, visitors are encouraged to use reusable containers and eco-bags.

Things to do at the Great Sta. Cruz Island

1. Beach bum

This is the best thing to do in the Great Sta. Cruz Island. Let your worries slip away, dive into the water, and get a little tan.

2. Mangrove tour

The mangrove tour is an optional activity which can be done during high tide, usually in the morning. After that, it’s not possible to get inside the mangrove forest. During the tour, you will get to explore the mangrove area, harvest sea grapes and observe stingless jellyfishes.

3. Explore the sandbar

There is a sandbar at the island, which is visible during low tide. Tour guide is required.

4. Play volleyball

Volleyball is one of the low-impact recreational activities you can do in the island.

5. Enjoy seafood

Though there is no restaurant in the island. However, there are vendors selling cooked seafood such as fish and crabs. Moreover, travel agencies organizing tours in the island often provide a seafood lunch.

Rates

Here are the current rates at the Great Sta. Cruz Island:

  • Boat ride: P1000 (good up to 10 people)
  • Terminal fee: P5 per person
  • Entrance fee: P20 per person
  • Cottage rental: P100-500 depending on cottage size
  • (Optional) Mangrove tour: P200 per person

You can join with other tourists on the boat ride. Since there were only 2 of us, the tourism officers put us in a boat with another group and so we only paid P100 each since there were a total of 10 passengers.

Budget and expenses

Budget depends how many you are in the group. A safe budget would be P400-500 per person (including fees and food).

Contact

For inquiries and reservation, you may contact the following:

Zamboanga City Tourism Office: email: tourism.zambo@gmail.com | mobile: 0927 283 5684

Has this guide to the Great Sta. Cruz Island in Zamboanga been helpful to you? If you have questions or comments, let me know in the comment section below.

What to read next:

Planning a trip to Zamboanga? Here are our articles on Zamboanga:

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