Summer may be winding down for a lot of people, but not for me. My mandatory 2-week leave at work officially started last Friday, so after weeks of writhing with envy over the flood of beach pictures in my social media news feed, I gathered my closest work buddies and headed to my first beach of this summer – Cagbalete Island in Mauban, Quezon.
A friend sent me a blog link about this place (check it out here:“6 Hours and 470 Pesos To Paradise”) and I found it beautiful, refreshing and most of all, affordable so I planned to go there alone at first, but decided later on to include my friends. It’s a great alternative to your usual beach haunts, and if you can get over the long bus ride, additional boat ride, walks and camping feel, you should add this to your list of must-visit place in the Philippines.
I’ll try to break down the details of our trip to help you if you are planning to visit this little pocket of paradise int he Quezon province.I am very grateful to the blog post I read, so I’m doing the same. I’m no travel blogger so don’t expect too much, alright? I’ll be sure to include other helpful links below.
For commuters, there are a couple of ways to get there. Since our group were coming from work in Alabang, we stayed overnight in Cubao then got to the Jac Liner bus terminal at 2 AM. It has two trips to Mauban, 5 AM and 12 NN, and many trips to Lucena. The bus starts loading at around 3AM though and once it’s filled up, it leaves even before 5 AM. We boarded at around 3:30 and left at 4 AM. Note: be vigilant for line jumpers (singits!) though, or else you’ll lose your own seat. We almost got into a fight over line jumpers and the guard who wasn’t watching the line properly. The trip to Mauban is for 4-5 hours. We go there in four. Cost: PHP 277.
Once there, you will take a tricycle to the Mauban port. Cost is PHP 50-100 for 4 persons, but if you will rent it and take a detour to buy supplies at the market, it costs around PHP 250. The drivers are friendly and knowledgeable and acted as tour guides as well, so the fare is worth it.
Once at the port, pay the environmental/terminal fee of PHP 50. The public boat costs PHP 50 each. It has two trips, one at 10 AM and another at 4PM, but same drill: it fills up early, it leaves. There were two boats when we got there: MV Anthony and MV Neneng (I think). It will be filled to the brim and for a few second you will wonder about the safety. Sit close to the life vest. Trip lasts for 30-45 minutes.
If you got left by the Mauban bus, you can take any bus to going to Lucena, then take a van or jeep going to Mauban. There are also private boats going to the different resorts in Cagbalete Island. Price starts at PHP 1500 for 1-2/pax, then going up as the capacity increases. Some private boatmen can offer packages and discounts so use your haggling powers (without risking your safety of course). You can negotiate with them as they offer their services to you at the port. I’m sure if you’re coming from the South (Los Banos or San Pablo), the trip would be much shorter. You may also bring your own car (road trip, yey!) and leave it at the port (at your own risk I guess).
You will get off at the Sabang port (also called Cagbalete port) which is also lined by the homes of the locals there. Kids and adults alike will offer their services as guides and you can tip them as you see fit. The resorts are on the other side of the Island. Trek time depends on the distance of the resort you chose, 10 minutes for the nearby ones, up to 30-45 minutes for the farthest (which is what we did!). If you will take the public boat, I suggest staying at the nearby resorts like Pensacola (arguably one of the most popular there), Villa Cleofas, Villa Noe. We stayed at MV Sto. Nino which is at the farthest end of the strip. It’s more secluded though so it’s fine.
Most of them offer the same types of accommodations for roughly the same price range. You can bring food or buy there for slightly steeper prices, or you can get meal packages, cost around PHP 800 and up for three meals and snacks. You can also pay them to cook for you (cost PHP 100-250) or rent utensils. Ice is not regular, some resorts charge corkage for alcoholic drinks (PHP 50-200) and I suggest bringing lots of uling (charcoal), water and snacks if you plan to cook your own food. We bought food at the market and cooked.
There is no electricity in the island, just power generators which is only turned on from 6PM – 6AM the next day, so bring your power banks and also charge during the night. We brought katol (mosquito coils) but there weren’t a lot of mosquitoes so it was quite pleasant, though hot during the night.
For resort choices, here are some. Or simply type Cagbalate resorts in Google and you’ll get a lot more.
We stayed at MV Sto. Nino, which is at the far end of the island, so unless you’re game for some walking (we walked for 35 minutes at noon time, san ka pa?), I suggest you rent a private boat so they can drop you off at the resort’s front step, so to speak. It’s quieter though, and more spacious, though once high tide, the shoreline is a bit smaller. There’s a swampy area though that’s fun to explore.
The beach itself is beautiful, just a few seaweeds, hardly any litter. The sand is fine, some parts are rockier than most but not painful. There were a lot of whole shells, probably because only few people trample the sands. The water was pleasantly warm, not too salty and not painful that you can swim with your eyes open underwater and not get those red, ouchy eyes. The even sand goes on for like forever so there’s plenty of space to wade and swim and just lounge around.
Low tide is around 10 AM until early afternoon, during which the place looks like an endless expanse of a damp desert. Water will come in though at around 5PM until the next morning. You can swim at night or even during early morning because the water doesn’t become cold.
We stayed in two small cottages with a room, PHP 1000 each. There’s a main house with air-conditioned rooms too. The rest rooms are clean and newish. You can buy food, beer, water and soft drinks at their little canteen. The katiwala, Ate Aileen is friendly and accommodating. There’s a volleyball court in the middle and you can rent the ball.
You can also pitch tents (rent for PHP 400-500, bring your own for PHP 200-300) or hang a hammock or roll out a sleeping bag. Be sure to keep your valuables close at all times.
Getting home is also as easy as getting there. Just reverse the process. You ride a boat from Sabang to Mauban port (it leaves at 6AM and 1 PM) or rent your own (we got ours at PHP 2200 for 10 pax). Then ride a tryc to the van terminal (PHP 50/tryc), ride van to Lucena grand terminal (PHP 65/pax, about 1-hour trip) and then once at the terminal, choose the mode of transportation depending on your destination. My friends going back to Alabang rode a Jac Liner bus; I chose a van going to Sta. Rosa, which will pass by Calamba. Tough if you live where I do (Los Banos), better to take a van to San Pablo, and from there take a jeep going to Calamba, to avoid taking the long route of Alaminos-SLEX and the traffic of Pansol.
There are several fast food chains in the terminal (Chowking and Jollibee) and some stalls where you can buy pasalubong. Broas (lady fingers), tikoy (a kind of caramel sweet), espasol (some kind of rice-macapuno sweet rolled in roasted rice powder) and cassava cake or budin, are local delicacies. Or if you can brave the dirty stares at an air-con bus, go buy some longganisa (sausages in pigs’ intestines) as well.
With my group of eight people, each of us spent roughly PHP 1700 each, which our own individual meals in fast foods going to and from Mauban, and our ambagan (shell out for the group expenses) of PHP 865 each. Not bad, eh?
Moral of the story: better to travel in packs or groups. Not only is it more fun, but more affordable as well!
There are still two weeks of summer left. Go book your rooms, pack your bikinis, board shorts and sunblock, and head out to Cagbalate Island. Let’s support local Filipino tourism, o diba?