The search for the next Boracay: Magalawa Island, Zambales
Looking to escape the city bustle this summer? This secluded island may be just for you.
Magalawa is a 56-hectare island on the west coast of Luzon. It is located in Zambales, which is also home to surf spots and hidden coves.
The island is best known for its white fine sand and pristine sandbar. It is also called the Island of the Stars because of the abundance of starfish in its waters, according to locals.
It is also believed to be the half of nearby Luan Island.
"'Yung kabila, isla din 'yan eh. Ito isla din. Magkadikit. So parang dalawa sila, naghiwalay. Ang dialect namin sa dalawa, luwa kaya 'yung kabila, Luan o luwa. Nagdalawa kaya ito, 'Magalawa,'" explained Reynando Armada, who owns the Armada Resort.
The island is also a rising star on social media, as many backpackers are eyeing it as a do-it-yourself travel adventure.
When asked why he chose to visit the island, 22-year-old Kiko Cervantes from Quezon City said: "Kasi mura. Ang sabi kasi affordable. At ssaka 'di siya crowded, 'di katulad ng ibang beach na ang daming tao."
Van Naling, a 20-year-old student from Rizal province, meanwhile said the island could be the next Boracay island.
"Pwede. Kasi nakikilala na siya sa Facebook. Nakikita na siya, ang dami nang shares tapos parang ang dami nang nagbabalak kaya nagweekdays kami. Kapag ganito parang solo lang namin," she said.
Alfred Decano, a local who is now based in the United States, likened the island's sand to that of Boracay's.
"Nakapunta na rin ako sa Cancun, Mexico. Magaganda ang beach natin, kulang lang ng development and management. Mas pino lang nang kaunti ang Boracay dito, but they have the same type of sand," he said.
Mulo Aragon, caretaker of Ruiz Resort, said the island receives as many as 100 tourists during its peak season.
HOW TO GET THERE
It is best to contact the resort you'll be staying in ahead of your trip so they can inform you of the location of their respective port areas.
By private vehicle
1. Take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and Subic–Clark–Tarlac Expressway to Palauig, Zambales. Toll fee costs P429. Travel time is 4 hours.
2. Once you’ve reached the town of Palauig, turn right at Banlog Triangle and drive north to Barangay Pangolingan.
3. Turn left at Veritas Road and drive straight ahead to the respective ports of your resort. Ride a boat to Magalawa Island. Travel time is less than 20 minutes.
By public transport
1. Take a bus bound for Sta. Cruz, Zambales from Victory Liner terminals in Pasay, Manila, and Caloocan. We suggest boarding from Caloocan as it is closer to the NLEX and will lessen travel time caused by the metro traffic. Fare costs P451 from Caloocan, P456 from Manila, and P466 from Pasay. Departure starts at 4 a.m., while the next bus will leave at 6:30 a.m., and every hour afterward. Travel time is 6 hours.
2. Alight at Veritas Road in Barangay Pangolingan in Palauig, Zambales. A queue of tricycles will be seen on the left side of the road. Tell the tricycle driver which resort you’ll be staying so they can take you to their respective ports. Buckle up for the rough road ahead. Travel time is 10 to 15 minutes. Fare is P100/person for two passengers.
3. Ride a boat to Magalawa Island. Travel time is less than 10 minutes.
WHERE TO STAY
There are only two resorts on the island: Ruiz Resort and Armada Resort. Both offer tent pitching and packages inclusive of boat transportation, meals, snorkeling, and accommodation.
- Ruiz Resort faces the more popular Potipot Island. Aside from rooms with fan, it offers trips to Bacala Sandbar at San Salvador Island and kayaking. Cottages start at P500/night. Contact Mulo Aragon at +63 928 856 8242.
- Armada Resort encompasses the island's beautiful sandbar. Cottages start at P1,000/night. Contact Grace Armada at +63 920 948 3303 or visit their website at magalawaislandresort.com.
WHAT TO DO
Magalawa Island is ideal for backpackers who want to lay back and retreat from the busy lifestyle of the metro.
Both resorts offer snorkeling as part of their day tour and overnight packages. If you opt not to avail of a package, snorkeling rates start at P100/head.
2. Pitch a tent and camp around a bonfire
Both resorts offer tent pitching and tent rentals. However, only Ruiz Resort offers lighting of bonfires.
- Day tour: Tent rentals start at P200.
- Overnight Camping: P1,800 / person minimum of 2 pax. Includes 2 days 1-night stay, round-trip boat transportation, entrance fee, a tent, and 4 meals.
3. Take a walk on the island’s sandbar
If you’re staying at Ruiz Resort, a P50 fee will be collected by the Armada Resort.
There is a rip current on the left side of the sandbar. Heed the warning sign.
4. Go island hopping
Ruiz Resort offers island hopping to Potipot Island and Bacala Sandbar in San Salvador Island. Rates start at P200/head to Bacala Sandbar, while guests must rent a boat for P1,000 to go to Potipot Island.
5. Go kayaking
Ruiz Resort offers small boats which can be used for kayaking for P100/head for one hour.
WHERE TO EAT
It is best to bring your own food or avail of the resorts’ packages as they have meals included. Ruiz Resort offers a grilling station while Armada Resort has a floating restaurant and a canteen where you can buy all-day breakfast meals, which start at P100.
WHAT TO BUY
As a budding tourist island, Magalawa offers shirts and accessories made of shells as souvenirs. Fresh fish and dried fish could also be bought.
The search for the next Boracay series: https://news.abs-cbn.com/specials/next-boracay
Credit: Video and photos by Gabby Gonzales
TIPS FOR RESPONSIBLE BEACHGOERS
1. Respect the surroundings. Don't leave your trash on the beach. Better yet, don't create trash. Avoid buying drinks in plastic bottles, using plastic straws and plastic bags.
2. Respect marine life. Don't disturb turtles, fish and other creatures. Don't step on corals because those things are fragile.
3. Respect people. Avoid playing loud music that disturbs others. Be sensitive by wearing appropriate clothing. Wearing bikinis near churches, schools or offices may offend the locals.
4. Patronize establishments that don't pollute. If your hotel's drainage leads directly to the sea, maybe it's time to check other accommodations.
5. Pick a beach that doesn't get a lot of people as congestion puts stress on the environment.