Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015
The vanishing sandbar
Picturesque sunrise at the island




Cagbalete is a two-village island that's part of the municipality of Mauban in Quezon Province. It's approximately 40 minutes away via passenger boat from the port of Mauban and a 5-hour bus ride from Metro Manila. It has a semi-remote charm with its untamed environment but it's also quite accessible. Although the area is still suffering from rationed electricity, the need to read a book during daytime instead of ogling at a boob tube fits the pleasant surroundings. At this island barangay, the pace is not hurried and bonfires are lit in selected areas as a prelude to a restful sleep under star-studded skies. An impulsive visit can develop into a long-term stay as it appeals to both the patriotic locals and intrepid travelers, many of whom tend to linger.

For someone who has visited Cagbalete Island twice already, I recommend seven essential ways to experience the tropical destination:

A natural pool at Bonsai Islet
The vast rock expanse of Bonsai Islet

1. Take A Stroll To The Bonsai Islet At Low Tide

One activity to essentially include in your itinerary of enjoying the island is a visit of the vanishing rock formation called Bonsai Islet. Coined by resort owners at the island, Bonsai Islet is a 20 to 30-minute stroll on crystalline, low tide water at the beach. It showcases a vast rock expanse that’s as big as a conventional campus quadrangle. It's so vast that more than one helicopter can land on it simultaneously. The rock formation is not entirely flat as it has distinctive cracks darting through the expanse of the whole revealed sliver of attraction.

During my first visit of the place, I was enamored by some of the narrow, tunnel-like openings that I noticed to be sliding down onto one of its several natural trenches.

For my revisit, I made sure to take a dip into one of the rock formation's natural pools which featured lukewarm seawater that settled in during low tide.

The vanishing sandbar overlooking the island

2. Catch A Spot At The Vanishing Sandbar

Accessible on foot during low tide from Dona Choleng Camping Resort, a couple of sandbars appear in the middle of the day. Make sure to take a leisurely stroll upon check-in and not force yourself getting to either one of the sandbars since it will take hours before they will disappear depending on the weather.

During my revisit of the island a few weeks ago, it was where I sunbathed for half an hour. I only got up when high tide started to come in from the shore.

3. Chase Views of The Sunset and Sunrise At The Island

On a good day, sunset at Cagbalete Island is intense, almost fiery to the eyes. The burst of colors can weave through the sky and leave you breathless. It can rival the stunning sunsets at Boracay and other island destinations in the Philippines. You can take advantage of the chance to view a faint silhouette of the distant Mount Banahaw during the golden hour.

Mount Banahaw by late afternoon
Chasing a view of the sunset at the island
Fiery sunrise at Cagbalete Island

Sunrise at the island is as spectacular as sunset if the weather permits.

My recent morning stroll at the beachfront of Dona Choleng Camping Resort allowed me to view a picturesque display of blue and pink hues before the sun fully showed itself against a stubborn formation of clouds.

I had the fortunate time to just relax at the beachfront recliner of the resort to witness how a sky of dark blue hues slowly transformed into a spectacle of gleaming red and yellow reflection on water. Any silhouette that stood against the ray of light would've been a well-defined figure of splendor from where I was relaxing.

Kayaking at Dona Choleng Camping Resort in 2014

4. Swim and Kayak At The White Sand Beach

A resort owner once told me that during summertime, the fine, pink sand at the island turns to white. Regardless of the color, though, the texture of the sand at Cagbalete Island is something that's as soft as Boracay's.

The beach is also good for kayaking which I tried during my first visit in 2014. Kayak rental is available at Dona Choleng Camping Resort.

See other activities here.

On selected months of the year, professional kiteboarding athletes would spend days at the island to train away from the prying eyes of the sports press and media.

5. Have An Intrepid Visit of The Beachfront Cemetery

If you're brave enough to experience more than a bonfire from your booked resort, you can take a stroll to the beachfront graveyard to spot a reality of an island getaway. It is best to show the necessary respect for the place by merely standing a good distance from where the open tombs and scattered skulls are. There really is no way of not seeing this part of the island because it's like a resort that sits right at the beachfront, just past the swath of wild trees jutting from the shoreline near Dona Choleng Camping Resort. The only difference is that its sea-view luxury is something that's not any living soul will want to have soon.

The sea-view from the beachfront cemetery
The beachfront graveyard at the island
The mangrove forest of Cagbalete Island
Taking a dip near the mangrove forest

6. Linger At The Mangrove Forest

A good 20-minute stroll from Dona Choleng Camping Resort is where the mangrove forest of the island is. At the beach where it starts was where I had the most fun taking a dip since the waves are stronger there compared to the rest of the shoreline.

7. Stay At Dona Choleng Camping Resort

Dona Choleng Camping Resort is the only accommodation at the island that offers its guests a tourist shuttle service from the island's port straight to its location.

My booked casa at the resort actually has a featured bathtub which I found to be useful during daytime when there was no electricity. I simply filled it up with water on the night of my check-in and comfortably settled into it the morning after before check-out.

For those who want to camp out, tent rental is available at the resort.

My booked casa at Dona Choleng Camping Resort
The room interiors
The receiving area of Dona Choleng Camping Resort

While at the island, it's best that you also get to mingle with the locals. While strolling at the beach, you can engage a few fish peddlers in a friendly conversation about their freshly hauled catch.

With a lot of island destinations becoming too crowded with beachgoers, Cagbalete Island is suddenly an attractive alternative. It can easily be your target vacation spot for this year's remaining long weekends or as a year-end escape.

You will not run out of things to do for an overnight stay in this Quezon Province getaway.

Dona Choleng Camping Resort

Official website of Dona Choleng Camping Resort

Address: Cagbalete Island, Quezon Province, Philippines 1012
Phone: (042) 784-0789
Mobile: (+63) 910-882-3346

Pork Liempo for lunch at the resort
A Cagbalete Island local peddling a freshly-hauled catch
Tapa and Tocino for breakfast at the resort

How To Get To Cagbalete Island:

• If coming from Metro Manila, board a Mauban-bound Jacliner Bus from EDSA at 5:00am which will take you directly to Mauban five hours after. It's only one trip per day with boarding time at 4:00am (it leaves minutes earlier once the bus is filled) so in case you miss it, you can take any Lucena-bound bus and take a commute from the Lucena Grand Terminal for Mauban instead just like any other traveler coming from other parts of Luzon.

• After getting off the bus in Mauban, ride a tricycle for the Mauban Port. It will make a stopover at the Tourism Center for a necessary tourist registration. After the formality, the tricycle will take you to the port to board the passenger boat which normally leaves between 10:00am and 11:00am. Make sure that you've coordinated in advance with the office number of Dona Choleng Camping Resort for a tourist shuttle pick-up at the island's port for your convenience.

More Photos Below:

My booked Dona Choleng Camping Resort casa at night
(top) Tinola and (bottom) watermelon for dinner at the resort
The mangrove forest of Cagbalete Island
A faint silhouette of Mt. Banahaw and a distinct silhouette of a local at sunset
Untamed trees at a swath of the island's shoreline
The bathtub at my booked casa at Dona Choleng Camping Resort

Leaving the port of Cagbalete Island


  1. Hey, Karl!

    I've never heard nor seen Cagbalete Island's beauty...Thanks very much for this wonderful cover.

    The bonsai islet looked otherworldly.. the sunscapes are perfect - both sunrise and sunset.. Just breathtaking!

    1. Thanks! You should visit Cagbalete Island soon, Issa, to experience it for yourself.

  2. We had a funny experience in that vanishing sand bar, nasobrahan ata ng photo shoot when we looked umaakyat na yung tubig and malayo yung boat. We had to semi speed up because we had the non water proof cameras with us. Nonetheless, it was a fun trip :)

    1. It's nice that you had fun there. I honestly did not want to leave that spot coz it felt nice there.

  3. How much yung room na pinagstayan mo in dona choleng?

  4. may bayad din poh ba ng environmental fee ang kids? like 7-9 yrs old

    1. I have not been able to verify that if wala. You may call Dona Choleng Camping Resort to check: 0910-882-3346.

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks! The Philippines is truly beautiful. Visit your next destination locally soon!

  6. For reservation Call 09108823346
    Dona Choleng Island Resort


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