Island Hopping in Ticao Island: Underrated Gem of Masbate
Ticao Island is undeniably one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines. This group of island in Masbate Province features islets and beaches, coral gardens and other diving spots, and even a waterfall that flows down directly to the sea! Here’s our Ticao island hopping tour experience + complete guide so you can visit here too.
For a little background: Ticao Island is one of the three major islands comprising Masbate Province (along with Masbate Island and Burias Island). It has four municipalities: Batuan, Monreal, San Fernando, and its mother town San Jacinto.
Island hopping in Ticao Island
I explored Ticao Island this summer of 2022 as part of the Tourism Promotions Board’s Bicol Trip. The spots we visited include Halea Nature Park, Catandayagan Falls, and Borobongkaso Rock Formation — all of which can be found in Monreal.
Our group was picked up at Donsol Port in Sorsogon, and from there we traveled for an hour to reach our first stop: Halea Nature Park.
Halea Nature Park
One of the most beautiful spots in Masbate, Halea Nature Park is a marine reserve featuring a tropical white-sand cove surrounded by palm trees and an abundant coral garden. It’s also known as a breeding site for sharks.
There are native cottages here ready to welcome tourists, so it’s often where lunch is served.
The moment we approached the beach cove, I was already astounded at the water, which was so clear that the corals and rocks underneath were highly visible. I was excited to swim and snorkel! But first things first — lunch!
We enjoyed a delicious budol fight with roasted chicken, shrimp, various veggies, and fresh fruits. Fresh coconuts were given around as drinks.
Afterwards, we formed a small group and then swam to the right side of the cove, where the baby sharks could be spotted. It’s important to go here in three’s or four’s because the baby sharks are easily spooked.
Snorkeling here was wonderful — there was high visibility and abundant coral life and fishes. This would be among my top snorkeling spots around the country, alongside Apo Island in Negros Oriental. We spotted a baby shark a few meters away, and a second one that was almost gone as soon as we saw it. Nonetheless, it was a very fun experience.
We then spent the rest of our time swimming near the shoreline.
Catandayagan Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls in the country. Towering at about 100 feet tall, its water flows down directly to the sea.
Our boat was the first to arrive here and so we got the best viewing spot, at the right side. The waterfall was truly beautiful! We took turns taking pictures with it in the backdrop, which was a bit challenging because we were too close and the waterfall would get cropped in the photo. If you’re coming here, I suggest asking your boatmen to slow down while you approach and take your picture at the boat’s bow.
We then jumped into the sea and swam towards the base of the waterfall. The opposing water flow was strong, so this required a bit of strength. From there we held onto a rope and and enjoyed the water falling down from above.
This was really enjoyable, and I wish we’d spent more time here.
Borobongkaso Rock Formation
Several minutes away from Catandayagan Falls is an islet with white coralline shores and a rock formation that is said to resemble a stacked pile of books.
Here, you can take pictures of the Borobongkaso Rock Formation or climb up to its top to enjoy an advantageous view of the islet.
To be honest, this is my least favorite stop on our Ticao island hopping tour. It’s open to the public as a swimming area, so it was a bit crowded and there were pieces of trash scattered and tucked between crevices of the rock formation. My companions took time in taking pictures, while I chose to swim instead. The water was cool, but the coraline fragments hurt the feet.
Personally, I suggest only taking a quick stop here.
This was one of the best experiences I’ve had during our 6-day Bicol Trip. I’d always wanted to visit Ticao Island but was always hindered by the fact that it is far from Manila. I was lucky to have been invited by the Tourism Promotions Board, and let me tell you, the travel was really worth it!
Halea Nature Park alone is a good reason to travel to Ticao Island. I particularly enjoyed snorkeling in Halea Nature Park and swimming in Catandayagan Falls. Though we’d visited the best spots in Ticao Island, I’d later learned that there are more places here to explore. I would — without a doubt — go back here in the future!
Other spots you can visit
Aside from these spots in Monreal, you can also visit Buntod Reef Marine Sanctuary and Sandbar.
Depending on your package, here are other spots you can include in your island hopping itinerary:
- Guinlatayan Bird Sanctuary
- Puro Island
- Lapus Lapus Lagoon
- Paborito Rock Garden and Mababoy Island
How to get to Ticao Island
You can get to Ticao Island via Masbate City or Sorsogon. Masbate City is the gateway of Masbate Province, with flight and boat trips from Manila and other airports.
Via Masbate City
Once in Masbate City, head to the city port and ride a boat to Lagundi Port. Travel time is about 1 hour. From Lagundi, commute to Monreal Port. Monreal is the usual jump-off point for island hopping tours to Ticao Island.
There are different ways to get to Ticao Island from Sorsogon.
- From Pilar, ride a fastcraft or regular ferry (roro) to Monreal (Masbate). Travel time is 1.5 hour.
- From Bulan, ride a ferry to San Jacinto (Masbate). Travel time is 1 hour. You can proceed to San Jacinto Port or commute to Monreal Port (travel time of 30-40 minutes) and charter a boat from either point.
Take note that ferries from Sorsogon to Masbate often run from morning until afternoon only.
Our Ticao island hopping tour was booked ahead of time. Our pick-up point was at Donsol Port in Sorsogon and then we traveled for an hour to reach Ticao Island. As per our guides, this is faster compared to going over to Masbate City.
Where to stay
There are cottages in Halea Nature Park that are available for overnight stays. However, there are no other facilities there, except for a basic toilet.
For a comfortable stay, I suggest staying at Ticao Island Resort located in San Jacinto, Masbate. It features beachfront cabanas and budget rooms and is strategically located close to the best spots in Ticao Island, including its dive sites such as Manta Bowl,
Here are personal tips for your visit to Ticao Island!
- Bring your travel essentials. There are no stores in the islands.
- You can rent snorkeling sets and fins, but for better fit I suggest bringing your own equipment. I rented a pair of fins but it was stiff and poorly fitted, that I decided to just abandon it.
- The best time to visit Ticao Island is during the dry season, from November to May. But if you want to see Catandayagan Falls with a fair cascade, it’s best to visit during the rainy season. Otherwise you might find it almost dry!
- It’s best to go here in a group, so you can share expenses on boat rental and fees.
Book your tour + Ticao Island rates
For a hassle-free island hopping tour, I highly recommend Donsol Eco Tour. They offer various tours in the Bicol Region, including Ticao Island.
Alternatively, you can get in touch with Monreal Tourism Office. The tourism office can help you with boat arrangements.
Ticao Island boat rental rates range from P2500 (good for 5 people) to P8000 (good up to 15 people), plus a guide fee of P500. The usual stops include Halea Nature Park, Catandayagan Falls, and Borobongkaso Rock Formation. Some people add Buntod Reef and Marine Sanctuary as the last stop in the itinerary. Monreal Port is the common jump-off point for the tours, but you can also ask if it’s possible to be picked up in a location that is convenient to you.
Have you been to Ticao Island in Masbate? If you have questions or comments, let us know in the comment section below!
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Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).
Oh wow, how beautiful!! This will definitely be on my bucket list from now on! Thank you for sharing~
Kate @ Your Tita Kate
Oh my god Halea looks so beautiful, and I loooove sharks!! Might have to make this my next travel destination.