Municipality of Calayan Island

Calayan Island is part of the Babuyan Group of Islands located in Luzon Strait, just above the northern most part of the island of Luzon, Philippines. The name comes from the local dialect of Ibanag and can be roughly translated to ‘ginger’ – why? Who can be sure. The local population number less than 20,000 and the weather is atypical to what you might expect in this part of the Philippines with a healthily addition of Northeast Trade Winds due to its location off the mainland.

Aerial view of Sibang Cove

Traditionally the island inhabitants scratch a living from raising cattle and growing corn, sweet potatoes and rice as well as some fishing. As an island it does not suit itself well to arable farming as it is mostly to mountainous and uneven and a lot of the land is heavily forested. Now with the new, shines runway, you can be sure that tourism will begin to play a more major part in the livelihood of the islanders, who to date only saw tourist income from those hardy enough to weather the long and often rough, boat ride of 7 hours or so. The island, as might probably expect, is volcanic in origin but not longer active, and this has left a heritage of wonderful scenery, caves, waterfalls and the most glorious white sandy beaches that are considered by many to be superior to what Boracay has to offer.

Paradise Island of Calayan opens up with new airport

These days which such a strong and growing focus on the preservation of the environment, it is rare to come across an opening of a brand new shiny runway that has the backing of everyone concerned and especially the locals. The recent opening and inaugural flight to the island of Calayan is one of these rare occasions.

All the locals were at the airport to show their support when the first flight arrived; waving and clapping to sounds of beating drums. It is a small indication of how much and how important this new airport and service is to the local economy. They were proud to stage a fantastic play called a Komedya, which demonstrates a battle dance with both local Moro and Christians and included some young girls depicting a flightless local bird call a Piding.

Komedya as perforned by the locals during the inauguration of the Calayan Airport

We were then honoured to a welcome speech from the popular and esteemed Mayor Alfonso “Al” Llopis and the radiant Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines (TPB) chief operating officer, Venus Tan.

Tan said ‘Your source of livelihood won’t be limited anymore to agriculture and fishing; it will now include tourism. This will be part of your alternative livelihood,” She was also very complimentary about the efforts of the local government of Calayan having had the vision and drive to build an airport’ and both the Mayor and Tan emphasised the need to practise sustainable tourism.

Calayan is renowned for its pristine white sand beaches, spectacular waterfalls and incredible caves, but until just recently, the only way to get was a 5-9 hour boat ride, which was not for everyone as the sea can be unpredictable which can lead to delays and sea sickness! But now, thanks to some recent investment, a brand new ‘airport’ has opened – I say ‘airport’ as it is a simple runway with not alot else, but to the locals it is hopefully a concrete strip that will bring much needed tourism into the local economy.

It’s not exactly clear at this stage, what airline/s will run services to Calayan or indeed on what days or times, but I am sure it will not be to long before a regular service materialises, even if it is only during the more traditional tourist periods. The man responsible for arranging the first flight to Calayan, Wakay Air Transport CEO Jerry Cabalce, said he was optimistic that some of the smaller airlines would soon fly to Calayan. He continued to say that along with Mayor Llopis, cooperating with the TPB, they were putting together a marvellous proposal for the careful  development of tourism that aims to make Calayan Island a ‘hot’ destination for all tourists.

Of course, one hopes that the new runway does not turn into an event similar to opening Pandora’s Box and tourism is strictly controlled as to benefit all and preserve the island in its current pristine state.

If you have the opportunity to visit the island, you will find the locals very friendly and more than happy to point you in the right direction to take in the wonderful scenery, but local facilities are currently limited so best if you can be self contained with tent etc and remember to always clean up behind you!


Top Destinations in
Calayan Island

Sibang Cove

Some might say that the fine white sands of Sibang Cove and the crystal clear waters surpass that of Boracay; either way you need to see for yourself!.

Caniwara Cove

Is yet another beautiful white sand cove near the village of Caniwara Cove, and is one of the best places to swim as the sand shelf is a gentle graduation into the sea. Great for smaller kids.

Photo Credit to Sir Noel Amata

Nagudungan Hills & Lighthouse

You must make the trip to the top of Nagudungan Hill. where, from the top, you get the most incredible views of three coves: Caniwara, Cibang and Cababaan. Its a view that is not only spectacular but unique. It’s nature at its best and also pretty wild as the winds whip across the top, stirring up the crashing waves below, so don’t stray to near the edge!

Nagundungan Lighthouse stands proud against the worst Mother Nature can throw at it, although I’m pretty sure the current lighthouse is a rebuild after an older one was wiped out during a fierce storm many years ago. Either way, is commands a great view and a beacon of hope to those in peril on the sea.

Bataraw Falls

Probably the most impressive of all the waterfalls on Calayan, the 30-foot Bataraw Falls, they are not the easiest to trek to, but are certainly worth the effort. The cool, clear water provide a great reward to take the heat off and are safe to swim in and locals will be happy to give you some lunch if you feel the need. Although a little effort is required to get there, make it people – it’s worth it!

Caanawan Falls

You need to jump on a boat for 30 minutes and then face a  much easier trek in less than 15 minutes to the Caanawan Falls. They are not as big as Bataraw Falls, but many think they are prettier, with a mix of colours and plants that compliment the sparkling waters – another great place to enjoy the cool fresh, clean water – so don’t forget your swimming things.

Photo Credit to Emman Evangelista

Lusok Cave

This is like a cave out of a story about pirates in the 1800s and the kids especially will love to let their imaginations run riot on a visit. While they are looking for places they could hide their treasure, you will enjoy the wonder of nature that has divided this Cave into distinct parts. The low swooping birds and a plethora of assorted sea dwellers such as crabs, will make the 30 minute boat trip to get there, all seem worthwhile and if you happen to enjoy diving then so much the better as it’s a great location to explore the underwater world.

Photo Credit to Emman Evangelista

Other Things to
try not to miss

  • Witness the sunrise or the sunset at Nagudungan Hills or Bangaan Hills
  • Visit the other islands of the Babuyan Group such as Babuyan Claro, Dalupiri and Fuga, Camiguin
  • Cliff jump in Lusok Cave
  • Visit Malansing Falls and Cove, Kasaluran Cove and Purao Cove
  • Trek to Cabudadan Falls or Salaminan Falls
  • Whale watching – Your in the breeding ground for Humpback Whales
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving (need your own equipment)
  • Calayan wildlife sanctuary

Things to think about before and during your trip to Calayan Island:

  1. Best months to visit are April and May
  2. No ATMs – take lots of cash.
  3. Take back up batteries and power banks. Electricity is distributed within the community but only for 12 hours per day (12 noon to 12 midnight).
  4. Mobile signals are weak to non existent. Best chances are with Smart and Sun but depends where you are exactly. it’s a fluid situation and changing all the time.
  5. There is no Internet on the island. What fun! You can all talk to each other!
  6. Bottled water, rice & snacks are available in sari-sari stores.
  7. Renting a boat is the best way to go on exploring the entirety of Calayan Island. This option is best for those traveling in groups of 5-10 people. Daily rate vary on how big a boat you want.
  8. Boat trips are indefinite and unpredictable so prepare to be stranded for several days.

How to get there?

By Air

As I said earlier, It’s not exactly clear at this stage, what airline/s will run services to Calayan or indeed on what days or times, but I am sure it will not be to long before a regular service materialises, even if it is only during the more traditional tourist periods.

By Land

There are two options how to get to Calayan Island are via Aparri and via Claveria.

VIA CLAVERIA

MANILA TO CLAVERIA, CAGAYAN
Ride a bus heading to Claveria from Manila. You may take RCJ Bus or GV Florida Bus, as they have direct trips to Claveria and get off at Taggat, Claveria. Fare is around Php 850 per person and the travel time is around 9-12 hours.

RCJ BUS LINE
Espaňa, Sampaloc, Manila(02) 741 2994
FLORIDA BUS 5 times a day
Earnshaw, Sampaloc, Manila(02) 738 3809 / +63 905 778 3894
Cubao, Quezon City(02) 394 9405 / +63 905 778 3894

LAOAG CITY TO CLAVERIA
There are several options to get to Claveria from Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. Bus companies operating to Claveria includes GMW, St Joseph Trans and Claveria Tours. There are also vans heading to Claveria. Fare is around Php 100 (bus); Php 120 (van). Travel time is around 2-3 hours. From the bus station in Claveria, ride a tricycle going to the port which cost at around 20Php. From the port, ride a lampitaw going to Calayan Island (5Hrs ; P500/way). You can also hire a private lampitaw if you are travelling with friends or big group.


TUGUEGARAO CITY TO CLAVERIA
If you are going to Claveria from Tuguegarao City, take bus going to Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. Tell the driver to drop you off at Taggat, Claveria.GMW Bus Line have a direct trip from Tuguegarao City to Claveria . Fare is around Php 250 per person. Travel time is around 6-7 hours.  From the bus station in Claveria, ride a tricycle going to the port which cost at around 20Php. From the port, ride a lampitaw going to Calayan Island (5Hrs ; P500/way). You can also hire a private lampitaw if you are travelling with friends or big group.

BY AIR TRANSPORTATION
Book a flight from Manila to Laoag City, Ilocos Norte or to Tuguegarao City via Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines. Regular air fare is around Php 3,000 to Php 4,000. However, air fare varies from time to time. Travel time is around 45 minutes to an hour. Once you reached Laoag City or Tuguegarao City, you may ride a van or bus heading to Claveria. From the bus station in Claveria, ride a tricycle going to the port which cost at around 20Php. From the port, ride a lampitaw going to Calayan Island (5-6Hrs ; P500/way). You can also hire a private lampitaw if you are travelling with friends or big group.

VIA APARRI

Ride a bus heading to Aparri from Manila. You may take RCJ Bus or GV Florida Bus, as they have direct trips to Aparri for only 750Php that may take 13-14 hours of bus travel.

Another option is book a flight from Manila to Laoag City, Ilocos Norte or to Tuguegarao City via Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines.

From the bus station in Aparri, ride a tricycle going to Veteran’s Port which cost at around 20Php. From the port, ride a lampitaw going to Calayan Island (5-6Hrs ; P500/way). You can also hire a private lampitaw if you are travelling with friends or big group.


Lampitaw Contacts & Rates

Contact NumberRates
M/B Macarra
Calayan to Claveria vv
+63 9273277889
+63 9214779167
Php 500 / way
M/B Romina
Calayan to Aparri vv
Calayan to Claveria vv
+63 9196634954Php 500 / way
M/V Eagle Ferry
Calayan to Aparri vv
Calayan to Claveria vv
+63 9477733904
+63 9395680817
Php 500 / way

Boats leave between 6 to 7 AM everyday if weather permits.
Contact them first for schedules and reservations.

Tour Guides / Habal-Habal
/ Boat Contacts

James Tan SingunHabal-Habal/
Tour Guide
+63948-1142620
Fred UbasaHabal-Habal/
Tour Guide
+63995-01671188
Calayan Coast Guard +63999-9243554

Where to stay?

Apollo Beach Resort, Dadao, Calayan Island
Contact NumberRates
TPS Homestay
JP Rizal Street, Poblacion, Calayan Island
+63929-8375737
+63939-9158667
Php 250
/ pax
Apollo Beach Resort
Dadao, Calayan Island
0947-8939-619
0999-7151-283
Starts at
Php 500 / night
San Jose Inn & Mini Grocery Homestay
J Madella Street, Poblacion, Calayan Island
+63921-5349231Php 250
/ pax
Villa Innocencia Inn
Dadao, Calayan Island
0949-600-1931Php 700 / Night
good for 3 Pax
Pagdagusan Homestay
Dadao, Calayan Island
0998-510-0621Php 250
/ pax

If you need a place to stay at before or after your trip or incase you missed the trip you can stay at some affordable hotels in Tuguegarao and Aparri.


Calayan Island Budget

Calayan Environmental FeePhp 250
Guide Fee (1 is to 5pax)Php 500
Trike: Sentro to Nagudungaan Hill / Sibang Cove / LighthousePhp 500/2pax
Trike: Sentro to Bataraw Falls / Caanawaan Falls Php 600/2pax
Boat Tour: Bataraw Falls, Lusok Cave, MagsidelPhp 3,500 / boat
(sharing up to 10 pax)
Boat Tour: Magransing Falls,  Caniwara Beach, Cababaan Beach, Sibang CovePhp 1,500 – 2,500 / boat
(sharing up to 10 pax)
AccomodationPhp 250 / Night

Calayan Island
Sample Itinerary

Day 1Activities
06:30 AM Platimun Skies Avation to Vigan to Calayan Airport
11:30 AMTravel to Sibang via boat
12:30 PMEstimated time of arrival at Sibang Cove
01:30 PMLunch
02:30 PMTrek to Nagudungan Hill / Lightgouse
05:00 PMCheck-in to Homestay
06:00 PMDinner
Day 2Activities
07:00 AMStart of tour to
– Lusok Cave
– Bataraw Falls
– Caanawan Falls
05:00 PMBack to Accommodation
06:00 PMDinner
Day 3Depart to Basco, Batanes

This Itinerary and trip was part of the Implementation of Philippine Tourism Destination Inventory and Inaugural Flight of Calayan Island, a media familiarization tour organized by the Tourism Promotions Board, in coordination with Wakay Tours and the Municipality of Calayan Island.

Photo Credit to Sir Noel Amata


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