The Ultimate Travel Guide to Carabao Island, Philippines
Carabao Island, Romblon — Nestled in Romblon and a few minutes away from Boracay remains a little-known gem, the Municipality of San Jose or Carabao Island, but most known to locals as Hambil. Thanks to its unspoiled scenery, unimaginable beauty, and leisure activities, it is fast becoming a must-see destination in the Philippines.
During our superb 3-day tour care of the Department of Tourism MIMAROPA – with the company of other media friends – we have discovered how amazing this little island is. Read along to know more!
In this Carabao Island Travel Guide Blog, we listed some tips on how you can do your own DIY Day trip to Carabao Island, Romblon. We also included a sample Carabao Island Itinerary, Things to do and see, how to get there, and more.
Where is Carabao Island?
Carabao Island is part of San Jose town located in the southernmost tip of Romblon. The Island is a 15-minute boat ride from the smaller but equally beautiful island of Boracay. The island has the same white-sand beaches and pristine waters that can be found in Boracay but the island offers a more relaxed and laid-back atmosphere. San Jose is separated from Boracay by a narrow body of sea called Hambil Channel.
The island is also a divers paradise that offers beautiful unexplored dive spots like Lanas slope, West Wall, Devils Boulder, Gentle Wall, Tunnel Dive, Cathedral Cave, Channel Dive, Cemetery Wall, Village Reef, and Lobster Wall.
About San Jose, Romblon
In the 16th century, San Jose was abundant with cattle and carabao, thus its name. It was in 1965 when the Congressman of the lone District of Romblon Hon. Jose D. Moreno extended an effort to make the Carabao Island an independent municipality. San Jose, or rather Carabao Island is often referred to as the sister island of Boracay.
Best Time to Visit
Carabao Island is famous for its water activities and the best time to visit the island is during the dry season from Mid November to May.
How To Get There
To go here, from Manila, book a flight going to Tablas or Caticlan via Cebu Pacific. Travel time from Manila to Tablas will take around 1 hour and 25 minutes while the flight from Manila to Caticlan takes about an hour.
Cebu Pacific offers flights from Manila to Tablas thrice weekly. These one-hour-and-twenty-five-minute-long flights are usually scheduled on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The cheapest one-way ticket fare is estimated at around Php 2500. For more information, visit Cebu Pacific Air via www.cebupacificair.com.
How to get to Carabao Island From Tablas
From Tablas, catch a jeep to Sta. Fe and take a 1-hr boat ride going to the island. The ferry schedule is at 9AM. Boat Fare is P100 per person (USD2).
If you’re in Boracay and wanted to take a peak of Carabao Island’s beauty, you can ask where the public boats are at Bulabog Beach that goes to Hambil. Travel time takes about 45 minutes.
If you’re coming from Caticlan, you can also charter a tricycle going to Tabon Baybay port to catch a boat that will take you to Hambil. Boat transfers are available in the morning and in the afternoon. The boat leaves Caticlan at 8AM and 3PM daily. Fare is P100 per person (USD2).
Where to Stay in Carabao Island?
From what once a secret place for backpackers before, Carabao Island is now ready to accept more visitors in the next few years. Here are some recommended accommodations in Carabao Island you might be interested to check out in your future travels.
Oceans Edge Resort
Address: Inihawan, Lanas, San Jose, Carabao Island, Romblon, Philippines
Ocean’s Edge Resort is a cliffside luxury resort located in Carabao Island in the town of San Jose, Romblon. It is a tropical island paradise that can be reached by boat from Boracay in less than an hour. Although travel to and fro either island doesn’t take too much time, the islands seem worlds apart. Read -> Oceans Edge Resort Review
Nipa Hauz Resort
Address: Lanas, San Jose, San Jose, Romblon
A very serene place with complete amenities and hospitable staff. You’d definitely feel the tropical vibe from its rooms and you also get to have direct access to the beach. Filipino dishes are also to die for at their in-house restaurant. If you’re a backpacker or a vacationer with a limited budget, then this resort is for you. The rate starts at PHP1000.
Carabao’s Rocksbay Resort
Address: Lanas Beach, Carabao Island, Romblon
A resort with a view of the beach at an affordable rate. The 1.5-star property offers various activities to their guests from kayaking, boating, hiking, and diving. They also boast excellent facilities such as daily housekeeping, luggage storage, BBQ facilities, restaurant, a bar can be enjoyed here.
The Beach House Resort
Address: Lanas, Carabao Island
Known as the only luxury boutique resort on the island, you get to experience comfortable accommodation while exploring the beautiful Carabao Island. With rates starting from PHP3,500, one can enjoy its facilities from their bar/lounge, a comfy bed, minibar, refrigerator, and more! Their restaurant also offers cuisine from Filipino to Western. Must-try are the seafood dishes!
Places to Visit
But of course, no Carabao Island visit is ever complete without visiting these top places and trying out some water activities.
For the thrill-seekers, you may find this secluded destination exciting as this is the perfect place for cliff jumping. Just be careful with your steps as the rocks here are pointed and ragged. However, if you’re more of a laid-back traveler, you can also spend your day here by resting on a bamboo raft or just sit in one of the cottages and enjoy the view of the sea.
Sunset Viewing at Tagaytay Point
Surrounded with lush trees, you will certainly enjoy sunset viewing here at Tagaytay Point. At this view deck, you can see the entirety of Boracay, Caticlan, and Aklan. There’s a small café so you can chill and sip coffee while gazing at its admirable view.
Another perfect place for jumping and cliff-diving is here at Cathedral Cave. There are diving boards for those who wanted to try cliff diving and bamboo walkways. Aside from these thrilling activities, there are also beach caves nearby to check out. The water’s so clear, you can see fishes swimming below. According to some locals, big fishes are swimming around at the back of the cave.
Strolling at Poblacion White Beach
Away from the touristy Boracay, you will also get the same view of the sea here at the Poblacion White Beach. It boasts a long-stretched of white sand, coconut trees lined along the shore, and a great view of the clear waters. You can bring your swimming suits and enjoy the clear blue waters. What could we ask for more?
Ngiriton Bat Cave
The long walk is worth it when you visit the Ngiriton Bat Cave. Here, you’ll see bats and hummingbirds. Upon entrance, you’ll get to have a fresh buko or coconut juice – the perfect refreshment after that tiresome walk. This is an exciting destination as you get to crawl through some narrow openings and exit into a forest, but don’t worry, you will be provided with a flashlight and safety helmet to enter the cave. Make sure to wear your most comfortable footwear of course.
Map of Carabao Island
Carabao Island Travel Tips
- As of this writing, there’s still no ATM machines on the island, make sure to bring enough cash.
- The boat ride from Tablas – Php100 per person
- Boat Ride from Boracay – Php100 per person
- Koding-Koding Point Entrance Fee – Php100 per person
- Cathedral Cave Entrance Fee – Php100 per person
- Ngiriton Bat Cave Entrance Fee – Php100 per person
- Tagaytay Point Entrance Fee – Php70 per person
- Habal-Habal Rental – Php700
* Rates may change without prior notice.
The Overall Experience
Overall, if you want to have a breather outside Manila, but in a limited budget, then this is the place to be. The island is peaceful, offers plenty of beach activities for both the adrenaline-seekers and the laid-back ones. Boracay is beautiful, yes. However, for those looking for a quieter alternative, I think Carabao Island checks all boxes as a must-see destination in the country.
Walking amongst underrated island like this is such a liberating feeling. If you want to know what we’re talking about, then book your flight as early as now, and you’ll be amazed at how Carabao Island will take all those stresses away.
Searching for the best hotels and affordable flights? Check out our complete list of affordable Carabao Island hotels and resorts via Agoda or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.