PALAUI ISLAND BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE (with itinerary, expenses and top attractions)

UNDERSTANDING PALAUI ISLAND


PALAUI ISLAND, a National Marine reserve since 1994, is arguably one of the best island destinations in the Philippines whether for its arresting presentation of landscape, vast expanse of coastline or its wide range of flora and fauna. Such are the glorious features of this unspoilt speck of a wonder that broke into the headlines when it ranked #10 of CNN’s World’s 100 Best Beaches and when it was used as a filming location for “Survivor: Blood vs. Water and Survivor: Cagayan.”

Despite its growing popularity, the 10-kilometer island which is made up of 70% forest, remained an elusive treasure due to its natural setting. Palaui Island lies off northeastern tip of Luzon where waters can be rough in certain months caused by the battering winds of northeast monsoon and travel can be long which would require a 14-hour bus ride from Manila where most of the travelers would come from. However, it’s worth noting that Palaui is only a swimming distance once you get to its jump-off point in the mainland of Sta. Ana, Cagayan. So, if enduring a long bus ride comes off as an easy task to you, getting the best experience of Palaui is only a matter of knowing when the seas are at peace.

Cape Engaño

The vastness of Cape Engaño with the historic lighthouse at the center and the Siwangag cove at the far right.

It is said that only the persevering of hearts bother to visit this glorious sight. If you’re up for a low-key type of relaxation, trekking through gentle thorny grasses, camping to a breathtaking vista, or bumming to secluded beaches – then Palaui island is the right place for you.

Siwangag Cove of Palaui

Siwangag cove. This is where boats dock before kicking off the hike up to the lighthouse.

QUICK FACTS AND TIPS ABOUT PALAUI ISLAND


Here are few facts and tips to consider when traveling to Palaui Island.

  • Palaui Island is only a 10-minute boat ride from the mainland in Sta. Ana, Cagayan – a second class community at the northeastern tip of Luzon, 14 hours away from Manila by bus.
  • Palaui is a rural area of a fishing community with most homes powered only by generators and solar panel. Electricity in the island is not available at night so if you are planning to stay over, make sure to bring a powerbank or fully charge your gadgets ahead.
  • Despite Palaui only a sight away from Santa Ana, it is still advised to visit during the summer days of late March to May when seas are calm. Getting to the island would mean heading out to the open sea where waves can be wild and rough.
  • Boat trips to the island are regulated by coast guard and tourism. Permission to sail may not be granted during a bad weather condition.
  • Guests are required to register in Santa Ana tourism office before heading out to Palaui for safety purposes. The tourism office is located in San Vicente port where you can arrange a boat for an island hopping around and to Palaui.
  • Palaui Island has poor mobile and internet connectivity. Only SMART mobile works but with 1 to 2 signal bars.
  • ATMs are only available in Tuguegarao. Stack up some cash before you head out to Sta. Ana, Cagayan as everything goes on cash basis.
  • Palaui is a marine reserve. Swimming would require a snorkeling gear.
Dos Hermanas Islands of Palaui

Dos Hermanas Islands as seen from the top part of Cape Engaño lighthouse.

HOW TO GET TO PALAUI ISLAND


Here are options in getting to Palaui Island both by air and land transfers:

GV Florida sleeper bus.

GV Florida sleeper bus.

Via Manila

  • Direct trip by Bus from Manila (no option for plane) From Manila, only GV Florida bus in Sampaloc terminal goes directly to Sta. Ana, Cagayan Valley daily at 12:30PM and 3:00PM. Travel time is close to 14 hours, fare is around P700 to P1,000+ depending on the bus class. Contact them at their Facebook page: GV Florida Transport for inquiries.
  • By Air + Land Transfer from Manila: The next option is to go to Tuguegarao by plane or bus. Once in Tuguegarao, head out to the terminal and ride a bus or a van (faster between the two, last trip is 5:30PM) to Santa Ana, Cagayan for P250. Travel time is mostly 3 hours. The bus or van stops at Santa Ana Commercial Center, take a tricycle to San Vicente Port for P15 per person, travel time is close to 20 minutes. At the port, register at the tourism office and arrange a tour. Note: Sign up with a guide to avoid getting lost. Palaui island will only be 20 minutes away from the port by boat.
    • By plane to Tuguegarao: Fly to Tuguegarao from Manila via Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific. Travel time is close to 1 hour.
    • By bus to Tuguegarao: 
      • GV Florida bus offers daily trips to Tuguegarao hourly from 12:00PM to 3:30PM and 7:00PM to 10:30PM in Sampaloc terminal, and hourly from 12:00PM to 10:30PM in Cubao terminal. Travel time is close to 10 hours, bus fare ranges from P700 to P1,000+ depending on the bus class, including sleeper buses.
      • Victory Liner at Sampaloc, Caloocan City and Kamias bus terminals in Manila also offers a trip to Tuguegarao. Travel time is close to 10 hours, fare ranges from P600 to P1,000+ depending on the bus class including sleeper buses. Check out the Victory Liner Terminal Guide website or contact them at (02) 559-7735 , +63 998 591 5073 for the schedule and bus class. Note: It is highly advised to book a reservation before travel time to avoid hassle.

Via Ilocos and Abra

GMW Liner and Florida Liner have trips to Tuguegarao.

Via Baguio

Dalin Liner with a bus Terminal near SM Baguio at Gov Pack Road has daily trips to Tuguegarao.

Crocodile island of Palaui

The coarse sands surrounding Crocodile island.

TOP ATTRACTIONS IN PALAUI ISLAND


Here are 8 top tourist destinations that you can cover in a day tour or with an itinerary for 2 days while in Palaui Island.

CAPE ENGAÑO

Cape Engano of Palaui

Cape Engaño is the very place that shows up when people searches for Palaui – a lush, grassy hill that meets a creamy, white, pebbled cove. It is a visual treat that continuously fills your cup of hunger for picture-perfect views. It’s breathtakingly surreal, nature’s masterpiece!
Cape Engaño lies at the northern part of Palaui. Getting here can be done either by boat to Siwangag cove for 40 minutes or by foot for 2 hours from Punta Verde following either Lagunzad (easy) or Leonardo (challenging) trail for a fee of P300 per guide for 4 persons.
Rating: 5/5

CAPE ENGAÑO LIGHTHOUSE

Cape Engano Lighthouse

Built in 1892, Cape Engaño or Faro de Cabo Engaño lighthouse served as a guide for vessels coming to the island during the Spanish period. It is located at the highest point in Cape Engaño following a trail of 229 drawn-out steps from the base near Siwangag cove. The lighthouse provides a 360-degree view of the island and the nearby Dos Hermanas.
Rating: 3/5

SIWANGAG COVE

Siwangag Cove of Palaui

Siwangag cove is where boats anchor before tourists head out to Cape Engaño lighthouse. It is a peebled beach with coralline sands in some areas. During the Spanish period, the cove was made as an entry point to bring provisions to the lighthouse.
Rating: 3/5

DOS HERMANAS

Dos Hermanas

Dos Hermanas, which means “two sisters”, is a collective name for the two islets that can be seen vividly with its beautiful properties from the lighthouse or in any raised area in Cape Engaño. The islets stand 10 meters above sea level.
Rating: 3.5/5

PUNTA VERDE

Punta Verde of Palaui

At the south tip of the island lies Punta Verde, a fishing community home to 200 families, mostly of Aeta or Agta tribe. Meeting the Aetas and getting to know their day-to-day living is a one humbling experience you can embark on while in the island. Apart from its people, Punta Verde also has good natural attractions to offer. It has a small beach with white coarse sands suitable for swimming and snorkeling, and a small waterfall 20 minutes away from the village. In most cases, Punta Verde serves as a starting point to the trek to Cape Engaño which takes for about 2 hours. Camping is allowed in the area.
Rating: 3/5

BALATUBAT FALLS

Balatubat Falls of Palaui

Balatubat falls is one of the few waterfalls in Palaui. Getting here would require a 20-minute trek from the village through a hanging bridge, mangrove forest, and rice fields.
Rating: 2/5

ANGUIB BEACH

Anguib Beach of Cagayan

It is Cagayan Valley’s best, well-kept beach. Anguib has shallow, cool waters and powdery, white sands with a nice-looking expanse of Agoho trees at its background. It is serene on weekdays and turns into a perfect place to catch the sunset during the golden hour and gaze the stars at night. Entrance to Anguib beach is P100 for day use, and P150 for overnight stay. Camping is allowed in the area for a certain fee. They also offer glamorous camping packages and tent accommodations. For booking and reservation, contact Anguib beach at +63 917 652 0581.
Rating: 4/5

CROCODILE ISLAND

Crocodile Island of Palaui

Let’s get this straight, there are no crocodiles in the island. Crocodile Island or Manidad Island got its name for its crocodile head-looking shape. It is small that you can walk all over it for 5 minutes. Surrounding the island is a white coarse sand that only shows up during low tide. The island is 15 minutes away from Cape Engaño by boat and is often visited by locals fancying for a picnic by the beach.
Rating: 3/5

CALLAO CAVE (in Tuguegarao)

Callao Cave of Tuguegarao

Arguably the most famous cave in Cagayan Valley, Callao cave is unique as it chambers a cathedral inside that produces beautiful hues of orange when stricken by a sunlight from its top opening. To get here, you can either charter a tricycle for P400 round trip fare at the town proper in Tuguegarao or head out to Peñatoda tricycle station and take a public tricycle for P40 one way trip. Travel time is 30 minutes.
Rating: 3/5

TOP THINGS TO DO IN PALAUI ISLAND


Here are top things to do and activities that are worth a try in Palaui Island.

  1. Take a photo at KM 642 upon arrival in Santa Ana, Cagayan. It is the farthest and last kilometer post in Northern Luzon.
  2. Hangout with the Aeta tribe at Punta Verde and appreciate their laid back and totally off-the-grid way of living.
  3. Go on a trek to Mt. Kabo of Cape Engaño and enjoy the beautiful scenery and historic lighthouse that await at its summit.
  4. Enjoy the island – swim, beach bum, snorkel, dive, camp out, fish. The memories are yours for the taking!
  5. Stay in the island overnight and know how it feels being out of touch from the virtual world. Go by the shore, listen to the sound of the crashing waves, watch the stars at night and be in one with nature.
KM 642 at Santa Ana Cagayan

KM 642 at Santa Ana, Cagayan. The farthest kilometer post in Northern Luzon from Rizal Park.

PALAUI ISLAND SAMPLE ITINERARY


If you decide to go to Palaui, make it worthwhile. Go around for at least 3 days. The island can make you appreciate the simple things and gain back a fiber of your being that favors the basic. Take it from me. 😉

Palaui Island

Watching over the islets of Dos Hermanas from Cape Engaño.

Anyhow, here is a sample DIY itinerary for 3 days which assumes a party of two and will set back a budget of P5,395.00+ per person, excluding expenses for accommodation, souvenir and other incidentals.

DAY ONE

Activity Time Budget
Arrive in Tuguegarao 11:30AM P700
Lunch 12:00PM P200
To Sta. Ana, Cagayan by van 3:00PM P250
To San Vicente Port by tricycle 3:30PM P15
Register at the Tourism Office. Book a special trip: Punta Verde, Cape Engaño, Crocodile Island, Anguib 4:00PM P1950
To Palaui Island (At Elsa Homestay) 5:00PM
Dinner (Ask Elsa to cook) 6:00PM P250
Lights Out 7:00PM
Palaui Island

Cape Engaño lighthouse viewed from an elevated meadow in Cape Engaño.

DAY TWO

Activity Time Budget
Early morning at the shore 05:00AM P150
Breakfast 06:30AM P150
To Balatubat Falls 07:30AM P300
Back to the village 08:30AM
Boat to Cape Engaño 09:30AM
Hike to Cape Engaño Lighthouse 10:00AM
Enjoy Cape Engaño 11:00AM
Lunch on the boat docked at Siwangag cove 12:00PM
To Anguib Beach 1:00PM P100
Swim, frolic at the beach 2:00PM
To Crocodile Island 3:00PM
Enjoy the island 4:00PM
Back to Punta Verde to Pack up 5:00PM
To San Vicente Port 6:00PM
Check in at Eden’s Lodge 6:00PM
Palaui Island

A rice field on our way, with my canine friend, to Balatubat falls.

DAY THREE

Activity Time Budget
Breakfast 07:00AM P100
To Tuguegarao by van 10:00AM P250
To Callao Cave 11:00AM P40
Back to Tuguegarao for lunch 12:00PM P240
Depart 1:00PM P700

Things to consider for this itinerary: 

  • Going around Palaui island is weather permitting. Be flexible. Rearrange the itinerary depending on the weather condition.
  • You have to go back to Tuguegarao from Sta. Ana, Cagayan before you can head out to your next destination. Last trip of van going to Tuguegarao is 1:00PM.
  • The vans going to Sta. Ana, Cagayan may go straight ahead to San Vicente Port. Politely ask the driver to save up your time and budget.
  • At Cape Engano: Camping is not allowed. You can find a public toilet at the base, as well as few stores selling snacks and drinks though price is a bit high.
  • Mosquitoes are rampant in the area. Bring a lotion or a repellent with you.
  • The seas are rough. Make sure to waterproof your things.
  • Upon arrival at San Vicente Port, head out to the tourism office and pay P50 for the environmental fee.
  • All guide fees and boat rentals in Palaui follow a standard rate and are regulated by SAMOBA (Sta. Ana Motorize Boat Association Inc.). Seek advice from the association in case you feel being ripped off. Contact their chairperson at +63 966 379 1811, +63 916 277 6600.

Palaui Island

The grassy meadow of Cape Engaño.

Below is the standard price per attraction and special trip: 

Per Attraction

Attraction Price
Cape Engaño P1,800.00
Anguib Beach P1,500.00
 Siwangag Cove P1,500.00
Crocodile Island P500.00
Punta Verde P1,000.00

Per Special Trip

Combined Attractions Price
Anguib Beach + Cape Engaño P3,000.00
Punta Verde + Cape Engaño overnight P2,800.00
Crocodile + Anguib Beach P1,800.00
Siwangag + Anguib Beach P3,000.00
Engaño Cape + Crocodile Island P2,200.00
Punta Verde + Anguib Beach P2,200.00
Punta Verde + Crocodile Island P1,000.00
Punta Verde (Engaño Cape trekking) P2,500.00
Special trip  (Punta Verde + Cape Engaño + Crocodile Island +Anguib) P3,500.00
Special Trip Overnight (Punta Verde + Cape Engaño + Crocodile Island +Anguib) P3,800.00

Here are some tour operators (boatmen) in Palaui. They take turn to ensure that all boatmen get a chance to handle guests. Contact them in case you have inquiries about Palaui.

  • Edwin Tabucol +63 926 9064 657  or +63 916 1165 850
  •  Edgar +63 999 758 7079

San Vicente Port in Palaui

Sunset at San Vicente Port, where boats for the tour are docked.

WHERE TO STAY IN PALAUI ISLAND


The types of accommodation available in Palaui island are homestays and tents (for camping) at Punta Verde. If you want to stay overnight in Punta Verde, contact Elsa Homestay at +63 905 283 559. The house has 2 rooms with enough facilities to cater to basic needs. Elsa can also cook for P250 per meal.

Alternatively, you can stay overnight in Sta. Ana, Cagayan. Here is a list of accommodations to choose from.

  • Eden’s Lodging House (02) 858 1025
  • Jotay Resoert +63 906 478 1270
  • Lordwins Beach Resort +63 928 390 4518
Elsa Homestay

Elsa Homestay where I stayed on my first night.

Elsa Homestay in Punta Verde

The second room inside Elsa Homestay.

BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER


Lastly, have fun and don’t forget to be awesome! 😉

EXTEND YOUR TRIP


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