Calayan Island: The Uncharted Beauty of the North (+Sidetrip to Callao Cave)

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Calayan Island is part of an archipelago called Babuyan Group of Islands (Calayan, Babuyan Claro, Dalupiri, Camiguin & Fuga) but according to Kuya Boyet (boat owner + our tour guide) it’s now called Calayan Group of Islands, which until now I can’t find a link saying that. I still believe Kuya Boyet though.

Calayan Map

This is not the kind of place you go to if you’re not into extreme adventures, because getting there alone can definitely be a challenge. Imagine, you start with a 14-hour bus trip from Manila to Aparri(or Claveria) plus a 6-hour boat trip just to get to Calayan Island. You can always take the shorter route and fly to Tuguegarao via Cebu Pacific Air or Philippine Airlines that offer daily trips going to the province, and then take a shuttle van to the Appari port(or Claveria port).

Now here’s where it gets tricky, all boats going to and from Calayan Island (which costs Php500 per person) leaves at 6 or 7 in the morning. Most of these boats are filled with cargo that they deliver every trip. You can rent a lampitaw(a medium-sized boat that can travel to and from the island) but you’re going to have to pay more. When I say more, I’m talking about 10 to 15k per boat! That’s our budget for the whole trip already, LOL!

MUST READ: If you have a contact number of your homestay, have him/her schedule the boat ride for you. In our case, we contacted Ms. Tessie Singun (+63 929 837 5737 & +63 908 593 3453) a couple of days before going there. When we arrived in Tuguegarao, she texted us which port (either Veteran’s Port in Aparri or Port of Claveria), the boat name and the boat owner’s contact number. Immediately ask the boat owner for the schedule of the trip going back to either Claveria or Aparri. We were scheduled to go back a couple of days after our original plan. It all depends on the weather. If the sea is wavy like your hair, the coastguard will most likely cancel all trips to and from the island. You need to have a flexible schedule to make this trip worry-free.

We felt really sad leaving our dogs behind. Imagine not seeing these cuties for 5 days!

This one’s begging us not to go

While this one’s giving us the silent treatment

And so the adventure begins,

We had a quick lunch just outside the airport and tried the famous Pancit Batil Patung for Php70 (which is delicious btw).

Pancit Batil PatungCagayan’s famous Pancit Batil Patung (or Patong)

INSIDE CALLAO CAVE

Our side trip to Callao Cave was first on our schedule. From the airport, we rode a tricycle going to one of Cagayan’s best tourist spots. We didn’t really plan to go there but our boat ride to Calayan Island was cancelled that’s why we thought of something else to do.

One word, STUNNING!

Callao CaveCallao Cave, Peñablanca, Cagayan

Church Inside Callao CaveChurch built inside the first chamber of Callao Cave, Peñablanca, Cagayan

According to the guide, there’s no regular mass inside the cave. You can schedule if you want to. You can also wed in this church. As of today, only 6 couples have wed here.

Callao CaveCallao Cave, Peñablanca, Cagayan

Callao CaveCallao Cave, Peñablanca, Cagayan

It was sad to see some of the stones were vandalized. Guys, please LEAVE NO TRACE.

EXPLORING CALAYAN ISLAND

On our way to Calayan Island, we met a lovely couple (Aldrin & Tammia) who share the same passion in traveling. It turned out we contacted the same person and we all shared the same house! We have decided to start the tour and rent a boat that cost Php 2,500 and an additional Php 300 for the tour guide. It was an amazing experience! Definitely one of a kind. Photos below.

SIBANG COVE

The first part of the tour was Sibang Cove. It boasts of bountiful natural wonders: white sand beach, luscious greenery, stunning rock formations, clear blue waters.

Sibang Cove, Calayan IslandWhite Sand Beach of Sibang Cove, Calayan Island

Sibang Cove, Calayan IslandThe Famous Rock Formation of Sibang Cove, Calayan Island

CANIWARA COVE

On the left side of Sibang Cove is Caniwara Cove, a rocky beach with crystal clear water. We saw about 10 local folks cleaning the area. We were told that this is a government initiative. They do this regularly to keep the beach clean and give jobs to the locals.

Caniwara Cove, Calayan IslandCrystal Clear Beach of Caniwara Cove, Calayan Island

Caniwara Cove, Calayan IslandA View of the Whole Caniwara Cove, Calayan Island

Caniwara Cove, Calayan IslandCaniwara Cove, Calayan Island

NAGUDUNGAN HILL

A 5-minute trek from Caniwara Cove, Nagudungan Hill boasts an amazing view of the sea from above. We were lucky enough to catch the sunset. Definitely one of my favorites.

Nagudungan Hill, Calayan IslandNagudungan Hill, Calayan Island

Nagudungan Hill, Calayan IslandA View of the Lighthouse in Nagudungan Hill, Calayan Island

Nagudungan Hill, Calayan IslandA nice view of the sunset at Nagudungan Hill, Calayan Island

Nagudungan Hill, Calayan IslandNagudungan Hill, Calayan Island

Nagudungan Hill, Calayan IslandNagudungan Hill, Calayan Island

LUSOK CAVE

Lusok Cave is almost an hour away from Calayan port.  Inside the cave is a small hole where you can dive. Be careful though, the current inside is sometimes strong.

Lusok Cave, Calayan IslandLusok Cave, Calayan Island

Stone Fish Outside Lusok Cave, Calayan IslandA Stone Fish chilling just outside Lusok Cave, Calayan Island

Lusok Cave, Calayan IslandLusok Cave, Calayan Island

Outside Lusok Cave, Calayan IslandA rocky beach near Lusok Cave, Calayan Island. We met some local fishermen that sold us 2 lapu-lapus for Php60.

Reminders to make the trip perfect:
  • Go to the island when the sea is calmest, that’s from April to May. We went there on March and our boat ride got cancelled because of the bad weather. We had to wait for a day to catch the next trip. To be sure, go there between April and May.
  • Bring extra cash. You wouldn’t know if you’re going to get stranded there so you better have some extra money. There are no banks in the island.
  • Bring sunscreen lotion, rash guard, dry bag, slippers, power bank, phone charger & extra clothing.
  • Power is out from 12am to 12pm, so charge all your gadgets in the afternoon or early in the evening.
  • While on tour, you’ll find some fishermen selling their catches for cheap! Make sure to always have some cash with you.
  • Buy a Smart SIM card. There’s no signal Globe signal in the island.
  • Build a kubo and live there (Just kidding! LOL)
Budget (Calayan Island Tour only)
  • Promo Airfare Roundtrip for 2 – Php1,622
    ***If you want to hit the road, take a Florida or Victory Liner bus ride in Sampaloc or Cubao going to Aparri/Claveria – Php750 (Php1,500 roundtrip)
  • Boat ride to Calayan Island – Php500 per person (Php1,000 roundtrip)
  • Accommodation per night – Php250 per person
  • 1 meal – Php100 per person (served at breakfast, lunch & dinner)
  • Island Tour – Php2,500 to rent a boat which can fit up to 8 people or Php500 to rent a habal-habal which can only accommodate one person
  • Tour Guide – Php300 (it can get more expensive for bigger groups)

We took advantage of a seat sale in Cebu Pacific from Manila to Tuguegarao that costs Php1,622, roundtrip for 2. There are tricycles waiting outside the airport that took us to the van terminal going to Aparri. Tricycle rides in Tuguegarao aren’t cheap. They will most likely charge you Php100 for a quick ride from the airport to the van terminal. A van to Aparri/Calayan costs Php100 per head.

My girlfriend and I spent Php4,061 each for a 3D2N stay in Calayan Island. (Tip: It’s cheaper if you’re in a bigger group)

There’s a lot more we haven’t explored. I guess you have to stay for like a week to see the whole island. We actually saw a little of Malansing Falls but we had to get out of there immediately because it was late and waves are getting bigger.

One of the best parts of our trip was the night when we had drinks with some local folks. They were all very welcoming. The owner of the house gave us free wild berry wine & one local folk gave us a free habal-habal ride to buy some souvenirs. We learned a lot about what it’s like to live there; mainly the history of the place & the struggles of having limited resources. Soon, the island will have its own airport, there will be less blackout hours (from 12 hours to just 6) & tourism will boost.

Planning to go to Calayan Island soon? Hit me up on the comment section for your questions!


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16 thoughts on “Calayan Island: The Uncharted Beauty of the North (+Sidetrip to Callao Cave)”

  1. That looks like such a unique experience going into the cave! And the food looks delicious!

  2. Wow..this island is really far out, and looks pretty isolated. Not a soul in sight. Cave walking seems to have been wonderful. And the picture with the amazing rock formations below and a view of the lighthouse from Nagudungan Hill is just stunning.

    1. Nagudungan Hill is definitely stunning. It’s one of my favorite parts of our trip 🙂

  3. Fab pictures, especially the cave ones. Loved the rock formation as well.
    This island is really isolated and and I’m wondering how the locals manage commuting to mainland everyday, especially during monsoons and when the sea is rough.

    But given the option, i would love to visit.

    1. Glad you liked the photos 🙂 The locals schedule their commute to the mainland and it’s not everyday you’ll find a boat leaving the island.

  4. There are so many islands, it’s hard to keep a good idea in my head which ones I want to visit when I go to the Philippines again. Someone needs to write a comprehensive list of pros and cons of each island. LOL. I do think this one sounds super peaceful and relaxing, my kind of place.

  5. Wow…the caves look so magical. Loved the ambiance of the place. Also you got some good landscape shots in your collection. Good job

  6. The caves are so cool! There is something about churches been built inside caves. They do feel more mysterious and grand, I guess. Reminded me of a church in Portugal that I had a chance to visit some time ago.

  7. Wow! The water IS crystal clear. I’d love to go swimming in it! I’d also love to go see that lighthouse and the stunning views from above those cliffs — your photo is beautiful. I suppose you have to make some sacrifices (long trip, flexible schedule) to see a place so pristine like this. We make a similar trip to see the undeveloped area around Bahia de los Angeles in Mexico — drive for 12-14 hours and hope the gas station you need is open, then camp without amenities at the end of a 6-mile rutted dirt road! But so worth it for the wildlife and kayaking and beaches!

  8. Hey Mike! I just love your descriptive and detailed writings and also thanks for providing the cost break up, really helpful to know how much to allocate in what activity! Needless to mention the pics are stunning and you guys seem to have some good adventure out there👍🏻

  9. Travelling is all about the new experiences. We liked your article. Keep up the good work!

  10. That Pancit Batil Patung looks delicious!!! The church inside the cave is phenomenal. Wow. I’m not sure if I can handle a 14 hour bus ride plus a 6 hour boat ride but the pictures of the island and beaches are amazing. So remote and rugged. Awesome.

  11. I loved your pictures of Calayan Island, looks like a great place that’s still undiscovered. Can’t believe the Philippines has so many hidden gems, especially these gorgeous islands. Thanks for the tips on the weather. I was lucky to have a great weather during my trip here, but yes, it can get bad.

  12. Thank you so much for the information. Been looking around for a more detailed Itinerary and budget guide to Calayan Island and yours was perfect! Thank you so much.

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