The first thing in mind when we hear the word SUMMER is outdoor. We have our own preferences of places to go to enjoy this time of the year. There are those who like partying at the beach, those who like going to private resorts and have an intimate time with people close to them, and there are those who like adventure. Most of the people who likes adventure, also like their summer tour on a budget. And when we talk about adventure, we talk about places not yet spoiled by heavy commercialization of the place. So for those who want an adventure this summer, consider going to Santa Ana, Cagayan to visit Palaui Island and some of the beaches on the northeastern most part of the country.
Our Palaui Tour in video.
Palaui Island lies off the northwestern part of a large promontory in San Vicente, in the municipality of Santa Ana, Cagayan province. It is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) at its longest and about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) at its widest and moderately high. The western shore of the island appears bold, but on the eastern side, a reef projects from its side for 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi), the edge of it being 0.8 kilometres (0.50 mi) from and extending around the small islet of Escucha, east of Palaui. The Dos Hermanos rocky islets lie off Cape Engaño, in the northern point of Palaui, and there are some rocks off the northeast point of the island, about 1.6 kilometres (0.99 mi) eastward of the cape. Gran Laja island, a low rock islet surrounded by breakers, is one of the rocks located northeast off Palaui.(from wikipedia)
There are two ways to get to Santa Ana, Cagayan. One is by land, and the other is by both land and air. The most comfortable but a little expensive is the latter one. If you choose to go by 100% land travel, you need to endure around 12 hours of bus ride from Manila to Tuguegarao then you need to transfer to a non-aircon van for another 4 hours of travel going north to Santa Ana. However, thanks to budget airlines (Cebu Pacific), we can now book a not so expensive flight from Manila to Tuguegarao. If you are patient and the "plan ahead" (like 6 months ahead) kind of traveler, you just need to wait for Cebu Pacific's latest promo to get the lowest possible ticket price. We got our tickets under a promo 3 months before this trip (I think it costs us around Php 2,400 for a roundtrip ticket).
Another good thing about a budget tour/adventure is you need to travel in group/s. This helps a lot in lowering down the travel cost by dividing the common expenditures among the members of your group. In our case, we were 7 adults and a three-year-old boy in the group. Thus, we divided our common expenses like food, boat rent, accommodation, etc... by 7.
We arrived in Tuguegarao, a little past twelve noon so our first stop is this:
One of the Popular Local Restaurants near the Airport
Must Try: Pancit Batil Patung. This serving cost me Php60.00
After taking our lunch, we went to the nearest bus terminal but it turned out that the air conditioned buses are only available either very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon. So we decided to go by van. Since we are 7 and a half in the group, we decided to occupy the remaining slots (13 slots) on the 16-seat van that's waiting for passengers in the terminal. One way fare to Santa Ana costs around 160 pesos. All the vans travelling from Tuguegarao to Santa Ana are not air-conditioned. However, the van seldom stops (partly because we almost rented it out) so the problem with ventilation will not be too much of an issue.
Scenery along the way...
After less than 4 hours of travel, we arrived in Baranggay San Vicente (Baranggay in Santa Ana where the port is located). We dropped our things in our room, take a short break from a long travel, then headed out to check the place.
Road going to the port.
At 7 in the evening, most of the stores are already closed. So we decided to buy burgers and foot long sandwiches here for our dinner.
Huge part of our first day is spent on travel alone. So day 2 means adventure. But before we jump into the boat and sail our way to the island, we went to the tourist center in San Vicente near the port area to register and pay Php 50.00 each for environmental fee. Then we meet our contact boatman at around 8 in the morning and start our boat ride to Palaui Island. The boat rate is standard. You may want to visit their facebook page for more details but below is the current rate as of this writing.
First stop is drop off location in Palaui Island. You need to register here and get a guide for the island tour.
Waiting for our Guides.
Locals' place in the island.
Start of the tour.
There are two types of trail in the island. One is long but easy, the other is short but difficult (steep assaults). Since we have a little man in the group, we've chosen the easiest path.
Leonardo's trailer is a tribute to a botanist who helped the locals identify the plants and trees in the island. Botanist Leonardo Co died after his group was accidentally shot in one of the islands in central Philippines. The army mistook his research team (a forest guard and a farmer) as a rebel.
Here are some of the scenic views along the Lagunzad trail going to Cape Engano Lighthouse.
After more than 2 hours of hiking
The famous Cape Engano Cove
Lunch time. Our boatman traveled by sea to Cape Engano cove and prepared the lunch for us. You just need to provide them with what they will cook for your group.
Perks of being fit.
Light house tower
The famous Cape Engano Lighthouse
This used to be a place where the generator was which powers the lighthouse. Now, the lighthouse is being powered by solar panels.
My "View from the Windows" series. How I wish I can have these views in my house.
Cape Engano. The two rocky islands a few hundred meters away from Palaui island.
Half of the trail going up the lighthouse has stairs, which is for a mountaineer like me, is less comfortable than the trail on its left side.
Can you find the lighthouse?
Siwangag Cove. We stayed here for about 30 minutes just to enjoy the water, then we move to the middle of the cove for snorkeling.
We arrived at the port of San Vicente around 6:00 pm and went to our accommodation right away. On our second day, we have our breakfast packed so we can leave San Vicente port at around 7 in the morning.
We arrived at the Anguib Beach at around 10 in the morning after the not so comfortable boat ride from San Vicente. Since it is early march, the wind blowing across the country is transitioning from Northeasterly wind we call Amihan, to South-west monsoon we call Habagat. During Amihan, the open sea on the eastern part of Santa Ana has high waves and at times strong gust of winds coming from the north can be felt through out the Palaui island and its vicinity. The place is still worth the wait. We had our breakfast then enjoyed the beach afterwards.
Local delicacy served to us by our boatman.
Due to low tide and high waves, our boat failed to drop us at Puzu Rubo beach, so we decided to do a beach marathon to get there.
During high tide, this green field goes underwater.
My Sun Warrior
Her Standing Leg Extension
Our own nature swimming pool beside Puzu Rubo.
On top of Crocodile Island
My Tripod Headstand
Her Sun Warrior under the Sun
After spending about an hour in Crocodile Island, we headed back to San Vicente port for an early wrapup of day 2. We need to prepare for the early departure the next day.
642 Kilometers away from Luneta.
We left San Vicente at around 6:00AM on the fourth day so we can have time to take lunch in Tuguegarao before we board our flight back to Manila.
Based on our Palaui Tour experience, here are some of my recommendation to those who want to visit the place:
- You need at least 4 days to enjoy the place, 2 days for travel and 2 days for island hopping.
- Best time to travel is middle of March until middle of August. (Habagat).
- Only resorts and hotels offer air-conditioned van.
- Plan your daily tour properly. Remember, you have to pay the boat for every extra hour after the 6 hours allotted on your tour.
- Enjoy the nature but be RESPONSIBLE. When you go hiking in Palaui island, bring your own garbage bag. do not leave anything in the island. Also, do not take anything from the island. Remember, the nature's beauty is not a gift to selected few but for all. Yes you are enjoying its beauty right now, but don't be selfish enough to destroy it to make sure your future sons/daughters can see and enjoy it as well.
- Lastly, have fun...