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The search for the next Boracay: Cagbalete, Quezon

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 23 2018 02:59 PM | Updated as of May 01 2018 01:00 PM

Because vacation's not vacation with a missing "sea" and summer's a bummer away from the water, do not resist the itch to be on the beach before the dry season's over.

And on an island off the town of Mauban in Quezon province, where a long stretch of white sand beach meets the clear aquamarine waters facing the Pacific, an intimate paradise awaits.

A group of office friends enjoy the summer in the cool waters of the Yang-in Sandbar in Cagbalete. Val Cuenca, ABS-CBN News

Cagbalete Island, just around 4 to 5 hours of drive south of Manila, may not be a place for party-goers but it sure is a haven for peace-seekers exhausted from the fast-paced toxic city life.

While not the whole stretch of the white sand beach is Boracay-fine, it is good enough for your Instagram posts — or for your #LatePosts as internet connectivity is weak in most parts of the island.

In fact, when the low tide, locally called “hibas,” hits its lowest, the sea rolls further back, exposing a larger stretch of white sand for everyone to enjoy.

Electricity is switched on only from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Cagbalate so be sure to bring power banks and extension cords so you can maximize the time to charge your beach-time gadgets.

 

HOW TO GET THERE

Mauban town, about 148 kilometers from Manila, is your gateway to Cagbalete Island. Getting there can be as quick as 4 hours to as long as 6 hours depending on the traffic along the way.

Commute to Mauban

Board a JAC Liner bus in Cubao or Buendia at 4 a.m. or 11 a.m. The fare is just P270. The bus will drop you off on the street leading to the Cagbalete Island Tourist Port.

You may also board a Lucena Lines or JAM Liner bus to Lucena City’s Grand Terminal for P217. These trips to Lucena are available 24/7 in Cubao.

From Lucena, take a van to Mauban for P70. Tell the driver to drop you off on the street leading to the port. This is just walking distance so it's not so much of a hassle.

Drive to Mauban

Take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) to Santo Tomas, Batangas. Toll fee costs P285. Travel time is 50 minutes to over an hour, depending on the traffic.

From Santo Tomas, proceed to San Pablo City; then take the highway through Tiaong, Candelaria, Sariaya, and Lucena City in Quezon.

From Lucena, take the 30- to 40-minute trip to the town of Mauban via the Tayabas-Mauban road. Upon reaching Mauban, follow the signs going to the Cagbalete Island Tourist Port.

Note: There's no need to go the Lucena City proper unless you want to grab some bite first.

Boat to Cagbalete Island

Colorful boats are parked on the busy shores of Sabang in Cagbalete. The island can be reached by pumpboat from the town of Mauban, Quezon. Val Cuenca, ABS-CBN News

Once you get to Mauban, the place you have to look for first is the Cagbalete Island Tourist Port where you have to pay the small amount of P50 environmental fee.

Public boats charging only P70 are scheduled for departure at 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to Cagbalete Island. There are also private boats to ferry you to your accommodation and back to Mauban. The trip is around 40 minutes.

The price range is around P1,500 for 1 to 2 persons; P3,500 for 9 to 11 persons; and P5,000 for 18 to 20 persons. Not bad if you have a whole barangay of friends and relatives with you.

Boats will either ferry you to the Sabang port or straight to your accommodation, depending on the tide. If you dock at the port, “habal-habals” (motorcycles) are available for just P50 per person.

WHERE TO STAY

The quiet island is an ideal place for relaxation. Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

If you're the kind of person who's always looking for a luxurious place to stay when going to the beach, then Cagbalate Island may not be for you.

There's only one hotel in the island and the rest are just resorts with studio-type rooms, nipa hut cottages, and tents. But hey, nature's the real luxury here, right?

The only hotel in the island is Aquazul Resort and Hotel. It's also the only facility there offering 24 hours of power. Room rates range for P3,500 for 3 persons overnight and 4,500 for 4.

Other resorts like Villa Cleofas offer lower rates. Fan rooms for 4-5 people are only P2,200 overnight and air-conditioned rooms for 5-6 people are only P4,500 a night.

Some resorts offer breakfast packages while some do not. Some resorts also allow you to cook in their kitchen and would even buy fresh fish for you at a fair price. Resorts also offer island-hopping packages, depending on the number of guests. So be sure to make prior arrangements proceeding.

Here the contacts of some accommodations in Cagbalate:

Aquazul Resort and Hotel
09237428390; 09237426208; 09237428368

Casa Verde Beach Resort
09178212796

Doña Choleng Camping Resort
09266549958; 09108823346; 09201551552; 09279680690

Joven's Blue Sea Beach Resort
09392899752; 09179848505

MVT Sto. Niño
09176787080

Nilandingan Cove
09152117037 or via facebook.com/nilandingancove

Pansacola Beach Resort
09175465901; 09285058633

Villa Cleofas
09178395852; 09178143475; 09192205000

Villa Noe Beach Resort
0921-784-9062; 0906-519-7126

WHAT TO DO

A couple enjoys the white sands of Cagbalate. The island has secluded beaches devoid of any establishments. Val Cuenca, ABS-CBN News

Yang-in Sandbar

This kilometer-stretch of Boracay-fine white sand that reveals its full beauty in the afternoon low tide keeps local and foreign tourists coming back to Cagbalate. Dipping in its crystal clear waters is a big stress-reliever. And the scenery is just perfect for your IG selfies or even your summer Facebook profile and cover photos.

Island hopping and snorkeling

Island hopping will not only take you to Yang-in Sandbar, it will also take you to the rocky islet called Bonsai Island. It is a vanishing rock formation that appears at noon during low tide. It is called "bonsai" because on its flat rock grows a bonsai mangrove tree.

Bonsai mangrove trees grow on the Bonsai Island, one of the attractions in Cagbalete. Val Cuenca, ABS-CBN News

Not far from this is Buntis Island, located at the edge of Cagbalete Island. In between these islands are clear blue waters where you can snorkel and catch a glimpse of the beautiful corals beneath.

Beach and chill

The quiet afternoons and the faint sound of shallow water waves in the background are perfect for siesta, book reading marathons, or just meditation.

Towards the end of the day, the sunset can be viewed unimpeded on Cagbalete Island. Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

When the sun is about to set—photographers call it the golden hour—and the tide is getting high, go for a beach walk. Sharing stories with friends and loved ones at night by the beach will surely be memorable too especially because there are no party sounds to spoil the evening.

WHAT TO BUY

The typical tourist shirts and souvenirs are in Mauban, near the town hall. But if you'd like sea shell handicrafts, locals roam selling their handmade products. You also don't want to miss the fresh catch from local fisherman at the Sabang port.

PRO TIPS

Food

There are resorts who offer to buy you fresh fish at Sabang port and cook them for your lunch or dinner for a decent service price. If you want to spend less, you may also want to bring your own meals, especially if you're just staying overnight.

Low tide-high tide dynamics

The sea rolls back really, really far—like a kilometer kind of far—during the lowest low tide of the day. So if you plan to rent a private boat straight to your accommodation and you have heavy baggage, be sure to come during high tide. Fishermen say "the best" high tide is around 8 or 9 a.m., especially when the moon is full or new.

Low-tide exposes the beach's wide shore on Cagbalete Island. ABS-CBN News

Take the habal-habal

If you're going to your accommodation through Sabang port, ride the habal-habal because otherwise it will be a long walk on a muddy terrain. The 10-minute habal-habal ride is just P50. Consider that your help to the deserving locals.

Of Junes and weekdays

Because the seas are rough during monsoon months, tourists usually flock to Cagbalete Island from March to May. Expect fully booked resorts during these months, especially during weekend. But locals say June is still a good month to go to Cagbalate, especially during weekdays when only a few visit the island.

Proper waste disposal

Follow segregation labels on trash bins around Cagbalete. The island is trying to maintain the cleanliness of the island despite the number of tourists going there. If you can, bring your own ecobag for your own trash because plastics are discouraged in the island.

Enjoy

Forget your problems for a while and enjoy the beach. Time is slow in Cagbalete.

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

Photos by Val Cuenca and Patrick Quintos

The search for the next Boracay series: https://news.abs-cbn.com/specials/next-boracay

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.

1. 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.