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Cagbalete Island: 1000-Peso Challenge

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I never thought of an island so close to that of Boracay’s white sand or to Pagudpud’s swaying palm trees. I also never imagined of an island that I call “paradise on earth” – that is Cagbalete Island.

Cagbalete: Paradise on Earth

Off the coast of Mauban, Quezon in Lamon Bay is a small island called ‘Cagbalete.’ As I don’t know exactly why it was called such, this tropical island – as big as Boracay – is an adventure on its own.

What struck me in awe about this island is its natural beauty when the tides are low. You have probably guessed it – you would see beautifully-patterned sand waves ashore perfectly contrasted with blue skies and shadowing mountaintops on mainland Luzon.

Sand waves during low tide - Cagbalete Island

Sand waves during low tide in Cagbalete

The island’s simplicity is just so overwhelming. With a number of co-tourists when we arrived there at lunch time, I have observed that island life is really far from why I have used to live in the City. People have simple livelihoods, they are very caring and very accommodating, and they have modest views on life. Simply amazing! (Not that I am advertising a Telecom network here. Hahaha!)

Some of the children I met on Cagbalete Island!

Some of the children I met on Cagbalete Island!

When I and some of my new-found friends (woot!) met to have a get-together in this island, I never had second thoughts on going, even if I am the only one from Baguio.

TuristaBoy Tip:

Whenever going to Cagbalete, it is best when you bring a tent with you. There are several resorts on the island that rent out cottages at reasonable prices (which are good for groups, though). Also, there is a minimal entrance (camping) fee that we have paid to the resort we were in. Contact your tour provider for such expense.

The island’s some 1,600 hectare area is also home to rich flora and fauna. It is also the first time I actually touched a starfish! Yes! That island is also home to Agoho pine trees aside from palm trees dotted along the island’s shoreline. On the other side of Cagbalete, there is also a Mangrove sanctuary and some sandbars perfect for picture-taking!

Pictorial using Supremo 1 Action Camera - Cagbalete Island

Pictorial using Supremo 1 Action Camera

I found Patrick! - Cagbalete Island

I found Patrick! Hehehe!

Just 4-5 hours away from Manila via public transport, Cagbalete is worth the travel, I tell you. Yes, it can be tiring, but its welcoming atmosphere just blows your stresses away.

The 1000-Peso Challenge

As a new adage to Turista Boy, I have conceptualized this challenge to determine if a budget of 1000 pesos or less is enough to enjoy some of the Philippines’ best and up-and-coming travel destinations. (Note that fares to and from Baguio and Manila are not included in this challenge.)

This is now the second post about the challenge and I am excited to share to you guys what I have experienced in Cagbalete. Happy reading!

0100 – 0200 Meeting Time (JAC Liner EDSA Kamias Terminal)
0200 – 0530 Travel Time (JAC Liner EDSA Kamias Terminal – Lucena Grand Terminal) P 218
0530 – 0600

0600 – 0730

Breakfast (Lucena Grand Terminal)

Travel Time (Lucena Grand Terminal – Mauban, Quezon)

P 55

P 54

With Wander Pinas’ very first (of the many) getting-to-know trips, this is the most memorable so far for me. It’s like we became best friends in a span of two days! Yes!

Focusing on the trip, we talked to meet by 0100 H and JAC Liner EDSA-Kamias as the rendezvous. Daily trips are available to and from Cubao, Lucena, and Mauban (by schedule) and JAC Liner is one of the major bus lines servicing the route, arriving at Lucena Grand Terminal.

JAC Terminal (EDSA-Kamias), Cubao, Quezon City - Going to Cagbalete Island

JAC Terminal (EDSA-Kamias), Cubao, Quezon City

Eateries at the Lucena Grand Terminal - bound for Cagbalete Island

Eateries at the Lucena Grand Terminal

Travel time from Cubao, Quezon City to Lucena, Quezon is approximately 4 hours and upon arriving, it’s the perfect time to have breakfast. The central terminal is so wide that there are various eateries there. Even pasalubong centers are instantly available.

After breakfast, we boarded another bus going to Mauban, Quezon, which is roughly around 1 hour and 30 minutes away. The buses servicing the route are ordinary buses (that’s why I like it more because I can smell fresh air. Hehehe!)

Mauban, Quezon

0730 – 0830 Rest, buy essentials in Mauban

Registration at Tourism Office

0900 – 0945 Travel Time (Mauban Port – Cagbalete Island) P 300 per pax, round trip (via private boat)
1000 – 1100 Pitching of tents, rest, prepare for Lunch P 200 (entrance / camping fee)

Upon arriving in Mauban, it is advisable that you go immediately to their local Tourism Office to register and so that you can queue up in the port for boarding. In our case, our group chartered a private boat (maximum of 20 persons) to escape the long queue. And believe it or not, we were at the port by 0830 H and our number stub is 80+!

The tourism office in Mauban is open from 0700 H – 1700 H on weekdays and 0500 H – 1800 H during weekends. It is also advised by the Philippine Coastguard that the last trip going to the islands is at 1700 H. 🙂

If you want to charter a boat for your group (which is advisable to be in a group of 20), you can contact Kuya Jayjay at +63 939 111 2012.

Wander Pinas pips at Gat Uban Park (Mauban Port) bound for Cagbalete

Wander Pinas pips at Gat Uban Park (Mauban Port)

Turista Boy Tip:

Buy all your food and essentials before boarding your boat in the port to save energy! It is better if you buy everything you need it before travelling – to avoid the hassle and by not getting that much tired. Food in the island is pricier so you might want to save up.

When reaching Cagbalete Island, you have to walk for some 500 meters from the shore (especially when you arrive at midday) because of low tide. The water is only ankle-high anyway. The water will eventually rise in late afternoon.

The Island experience

1100 – 1200 Lunch Time!
1200 – 1400 Free Time! (Beach Bumming, photo ops, etc.)

To fully maximize that island experience, it is also good to setup at bonfire at the center of your pitched tents. As most of the shores in the island are dubbed as ‘tent city,’ it is best to enjoy the company of your friends in a bonfire (also when cooking food!)

Tent City at Pansacola Resort - Cagbalete Island

Tent City at Pansacola Resort

When we were there, some locals offered help to let our food be cooked in their house for a minimal fee (talk about hospitality!) We then shared food with each other and enjoyed our simple lunch by the shore.

After eating, what else should we do? Edi pictorial! So we bummed the beach and strolled along the dry shores of Cagbalete at midday. Also, we got a bonus of getting those tan lines after. 🙂

Pictorial in Cagbalete Island


We also met some adorable kids and we got to chat with them for some time. We asked them questions about the island, and obviously, there answers are very innocent and very simple. Oh, how I miss my childhood days, too. We just laughed our way together while exploring Cagbalete‘s shore (and while taking lots and lots of pictures!)

Strolling around Cagbalete

1400 – 1730 Mangrove Sanctuary visit and snorkeling (45-minute boat ride)

P 150 per pax, round trip

In the late afternoon, our group decided to go to the Mangrove Sanctuary on the other side of the island. It is a 30-40 minute boat ride from our station at Pansacola Resort to the sanctuary. In the early afternoon, waters are also very shallow and some sand bars started to appear.

Snorkeling in Cagbalete Island

Snorkeling in Cagbalete Island

These mangroves then became an instant additional tourist attraction in Cagbalete for ‘photophiles’ like us. Hehehe! It is best to go to the sanctuary before the sun sets because the waters will start to rise as evening draws near. After visiting the mangrove plantation, some of us decided to dive the deep waters and go snorkeling. FYI, it is also good if you have your own snorkeling gear because boaters may charge you for an additional fee when you borrow from them.

Relax all you want

1730 – 1800 Rest, prepare for dinner, freshen up
1800 – 1900 Dinner! P 47 (potluck dinner)

Upon returning from that mangrove-and-snorkeling excursion, we the rested for a while and prepared for dinner. The climate is generally warm and dry so it is very good to bathe in a cold shower within the resort, especially at night.

TuristaBoy Tip:

Take a bath as early as possible. In the whole of Pansacola Resort, there are only for shower rooms and toilets that accommodate a large number of people, especially during weekends, long weekends, and holidays. It is very disadvantageous to wait for a long time queuing in the bathroom when you came in late.

Electricity in the island is somewhat scarce and generators are charged whole day for the vacationers to use something at night. It is also good if you have flashlights or lamps with you for the evening. There is also a small number of light bulbs provided by the resort we are in, which is a good thing. There is also a charging station for gadgets in a store near us for only PhP 10.00 per charge (on a first-come first-served basis).

Rumor has it that when electricity is not enough to accommodate everyone, they turn off the light bulbs provided as early as 1800 H to have reserve energy for the next day/s.

Nightlife in Cagbalete

1900 – 2200

Free time

2200 Lights off

After dinner, we had our free time and some of us bummed the shores again. You can also buy food for the next day and you can charge your gadgets at the charging station at nearby stores. It is also the perfect time to bond with friends and exchange stories with each other.

Second day…

0530 Freshen up, prepare for breakfast
0600 – 0700 Breakfast

On our second day on the island, we woke up early to have some early photo-ops and some beach bumming while our breakfast was being cooked. After, we prepared for our departure at 0900 H to catch early trips going back to Manila.

Wander Pinas with Nic in Cagbalete Island

Wander Pinas with Nic! Hehehe! (Photo by Ate Russy Melly Annonuevo)

TuristaBoy Tip:

It is advantageous if your group charters a private boat so that you can contact the boat operators anytime on what time you would like to depart the island.

0700 – 0900 Free time, prepare for departure
0900 – 0945 Travel Time (Cagbalete IslandMauban Port)
0945 – 1115 Travel Time (Mauban, QuezonLucena Grand Terminal) P 55
1115 – 1200 Lunch Time (Lucena Grand Terminal) P 90
1200 – 1600 (or 1700) Travel Time (Lucena Grand Terminal – JAC Liner EDSA Kamias Terminal) P 218
1800 Depart for Baguio
GRAND TOTAL PhP 1,387.00

VERDICT: 10/10

Although we did not meet the challenge, going to Cagbalete Island is worth the travel time and your tiredness. You get to appreciate the simplicity of island life and the warm smiles of the people are just unforgettable. It made me forget my busy City life because even in a short span of time, I was separated from all work-related stress and it gave me that much-needed breather. I would want to go back to Cagbalete as soon as possible!

We’re born to travel!

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48 thoughts on “Cagbalete Island: 1000-Peso Challenge

  1. Odyssa says:

    Ohmygosh I have never been to Cagbalete but have always wanted to go!! My favorite is the last photo. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks, ate Odyssa! Will be waiting for your Cagbalete trip soon, too! <3

  2. Wow for a thousand pesos only? Okay, new challenge accepted. 🙂

    1. Yup yup yup! 🙂 It can be lesser if you are more in the group! 😀 Happy travels, kuya Keevin!

  3. Mike says:

    It’s pride month and I can see you as a brave soul! So happy to have read this post, it only proves that backpacking and adventure is for everyone! xoxo

    1. Yes, it is! Thanks bunch, kuya Mike! <3

  4. Princess says:

    Nice. We have diff experiences but lucky you you dint go through what i experienced. 😀

    1. Thanks, ate Princess! Why, what happened on your recent trip? 🙂

  5. Charmaigne says:

    Love how you tried to get the 1K challenge. We did tried that too when we were traversing Negros & Siquijor and we made it with 5K or less.

    Once I come back in Manila, I’ll go there and hope I get to met some friends to travel as a group. Seeing the sand makes me want to go to the beach right now.

    1. Wow! Would love to go to Siquijor and Negros, too, ate Charmaigne! (And I definitely miss the beach!) <3

  6. You had me at the first photo! Sooo pretty! Good job for spending wisely and for encouraging future Cagbalete goers that it can be done! 🙂

    1. Thanks, ate Joser! Can’t wait to see (and read) your Cagbalete experience, too! <3

  7. VERONICA says:

    What was your highlight from the trip? 🙂

    1. The highlight basically is the island itself, ate Veronica! You get to experience a simple way of living and you also get to meet new faces and interact with them when you’re there! It’s all about experience! 🙂

  8. Ferna says:

    wow! what a paradise!!!!! and i can’t believe it’s a 1000 thing. Oh well, when it comes to expenses, we have all that creative minds to stick to our budget 🙂 good idea!

    1. Thank you, ate Ferna! Will be doing a lot more 1000-Peso challenges soon! <3

  9. Awesome! 1.3k and it looked so fun. Judging from the pictures itself, I can see why you rated it 10/10 😀

    1. You should go and experience Cagbalete now, Joseph! Hehehe, the island is really just simple and a “paradise.” <3

  10. Yrwin Denzel says:

    What an adventure! It must have been a wonderful experience! And wow you really did so good on budgeting! I could use a beach trip right about now!

    1. Yup, kuya Yrwin! <3 Let's go on a beach trip, shall we? 🙂

  11. erwin who says:

    Top notch travelling you got there mate 🙂 The best part is, you only get to spend a thousand peso to enjoy. Nice !

    1. Thanks, kuya Erwin! You should try visiting the island soon, too! <3

  12. marge says:

    I’ve heard so much about Cagbalate and my oh my, based on your pictures it sure looks beautiful. I’d love to go there myself and I want to camp also to make the experience more meaningful. For 1,000 pesos budget, I say it is not a bad deal at all.

    1. Can’t wait to see you travel to Cagbalete soon, too, ate Marge! <3

  13. Kat says:

    It’s okay if you didn’t make the P1000 budget challenge, the total of your final expenses is still pretty cheap. 🙂 Been wanting to go to Cagbalete since last year. I’ll probably do so when it’s off-peak season to avoid the crowds and long queues.

    1. Yup! It’s really much better if you go there on the off-peak season, ate Kat! Long queues await you when you o there on weekends and long weekends as well. 🙂

  14. Relyn says:

    Sama ako please hahaha

  15. ROBERT LEE says:

    From the photos, let me say this. The sand and the water is not Boracay. It’s pretty tough to find another beach that can match the fine powdery white sands of Boracay (especially in front of Friday’s Resort). Having said that, Cagbalete is cheaper and what Boracay was in terms of tourism. Boracay today is crowded and for someone who has been going there from 1990-2003, each year, and having spent FIVE years living there, I can tell you commercialism has destroyed ‘pristine’ Boracay.

    For less than 1000 pesos, Cagbalete is WORTH it. Nothing beats a beach with not a bunch of tourists every direction you looks, plus the noises blasting through the night.

    1. Klaudia says:

      I was just about to start day dreaming when I saw that gorgeous white beach . Too beautiful to be true, wow how impressive. Then reading “Boracay” reminded me of you , Robert . Did you not tell that you have worked as a dive instructor /scuba diving and lived in Boracay ? Then reading your comment has made me come back to reality , it sounds like the same sad story that is happening everywhere. Greed of governments forcing mass tourism and destroying it all , building one all inclusive bunker after the next one , cheap low-level plastic bracelet wearing invaders will leave their footprints , and the locals are paying the bill for that. We can’t enough support environment organisations and activists , without them the Canary Islands would have been a big scrapheap. Anyway , I don’t wanna come across as a party pooper , this is a neat post . Just a shame , that it doesn’t give a clue about the currency exchange rate . It would have been interesting for us non-Philipinos to get an idea about the ‘value for money’ aspect.

    2. Yes, Sir Robert! Boracay’s beauty was really destroyed by commercialism. The island is now very overcrowded no matter where you look at. Good thing the Philippines is blessed with 7000+ islands more for us to discover! 🙂 Cagbalete is just paradise. 🙂

  16. Mirriam says:

    The place is fantastic! And for P1000, it’s a paradise on a budget 😊 You have great photos. Hope I can visit this place.

    Book through my site to get awesome deals 👉https://mirriamdictionary.wordpress.com/ 😊

    1. Yes! Thanks, ate Mirriam! And there are more beautiful islands in Quezon province that I want to go to, too! <3

  17. Jessica says:

    I love Cagbalete and the rest of the cheap beach destinations in Quezon Province. I am amazed how it has massively populated by visitors. I can’t really compare Pagudpud and Boracay as Cagbalete is more undeveloped than these two. In terms of sand, Boracay has still the best, I guess, minus the commercialism effect. Nevetheless, I prefer Cagbalete to visit more than these two as it still relatively more natural and less tourists. 🙂 Lovely photos btw.

    1. Thanks, ate Jessica! Yes, Cagbalete is way underdeveloped than Pagudpud or Boracay but it really is a tourist spot ion its own. I just wish that this island will not be as commercialized as the two. They should preserve the beauty of these islands! 🙂

  18. Sriparna says:

    This is really cool. I feel one can always enjoy freely even with a restricted spend limit. I’d done this twice last year. And that has given me confidence to do more,as with every restricted trip, I’m saving for 2 more 🙂
    Glad you enjoyed the island in its natural exploration!

    1. Thank you, Sriparna! 🙂 Budget traveling while enjoying the place you are in to is really challenging for us nowadays! Hope to travel with you soon, too! 🙂

  19. John Pena says:

    Woah, I love the 1000Php challenge. Actually Cagbalete is the next on my list, we’re going here on September which we hope won’t rain too much. Anyways, this is too detailed!! 😀 Thank you, totally got useful infos! To more travels!

    1. Thank you, John! 🙂 Hope to travel with you soon, too! Visit Baguio sometime! 🙂

  20. Carola says:

    I had never heard of Cagbalete before. But it really looks wonderful. I love the pictures you made. The nature is so impressing. Beautiful starfish and it sounds like there even more to explore there! Would 1000 peso be around 21 dollars?

    1. Hi, Carola! Thanks! Yup! PhP 1000 would be roughly around US$ 20-21. 🙂

  21. Omy. You got with that sand waves. You should be doing more of this 1000 challenge. It was all worth it. Thanks for the thorough post of your trip.

    1. Thanks, ate Princess! Yes! Will be doing more of this challenge in the future. This August, I would be doing this challenge again in Quirino province! <3

  22. Maria says:

    Your 1000 peso challenge is so amazing! I mean, the challenge on fitting everything in a thousand pesos is really tedious to do especially with all the inflation and whatsoever. Another post, another adventure. Thanks for feeding my hungry soul with beach photos!

    1. You’re welcome, ate Maria! Hehehe, more beach photos for you soon! 🙂

  23. Sonnie says:

    We passed by Quezon province several times, and have been to Lucena once. I will try to visit this place if I get invited again for an event

    1. You should really visit this place, sir Sonnie! Take me with you! I wanna go back! 😀

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