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The Pride of Romblon: Carabao Island, Up close

Carabao island, also known as Hambil island , is actually the entire island-municipality of San Jose, Romblon. There are two main beaches in the island. Lanas beach which is situated on the western side has coarse and brown sand. The images of a beach with soft powdery white sand that are posted in the internet, and are often referred to as the Carabao island beach, are actually pictures of the beach in Sitio Inobahan, which is located on the eastern side of the island.

I was instantly captivated by the beach the first time I saw its pictures in the internet. It was described by many, just like any other white beaches in the Philippines, as the next Boracay, the premiere beach destination in the Philippines. My interest was fired up even more by some people saying “it looks like Boracay from many years back, pristine and untouched.” If this was an exaggeration, I didn’t know. But for someone like me who prefers to go to a beach which is still untouched by any forms of development, that description would only mean one thing…..paradise. Since then, I had been hoping that one day, I could visit the island and see its beauty through my own eyes.

As I mentioned in my previous post, prior to my most recent, I had been to Boracay twice in the past. And since I wanted to explore as many travel destinations as I could, I would prefer to go to places I have never been before. I would not have booked a flight to Caticlan if I didn’t know that Carabao island is just approximately 30-45 minutes away from the famous Boracay beach. Flying to Caticlan would not only give me the chance to enjoy Boracay’s White Beach and its many attractions one more time, but it is also a great opportunity for me to finally explore and experience Carabao island myself.

How to get there. We went to Carabao Island on our third day in Boracay. I know that there are regular boat trips going to San Jose, Romblon from Caticlan port, but I’ve also read that there are boats from Boracay going directly to Carabao island. But prior to the trip, I didn’t know where to look for them. I had no idea whether we could find the boats in Station 1, 2 or 3. Since we were constantly being bugged by some agents offering watersports activities, I took the opportunity to ask them where we could find a boat that would take us to Carabao Island. As expected, they told us we could rent a boat to take us there, or go back to Caticlan and get on a regular boat trip to San Jose port. But when I told them I’ve heard of some boats that some residents of San Jose who work in Boracay would usually ride daily to commute to Boracay and then back, one of them told us we could go to Bulabog beach and ask. (We learned later that depending on the season, the boats may be found in station 3 or 1)

From the main road, we rode a tricycle to Bulabog beach. We were immediately approached by another agent asking us if we wanted to avail of their watersports activities. When I told him, we were looking for the boats bound to San Jose, he accompanied us to where several boats were docked and introduced us to Mang Sherwin, a boatman who lives in Carabao island (Contact Mang Sherwin- 09129044342). The boatman said he would go back to San Jose at 4PM and that we could ride in his boat. We learned later that his boat is also being used for island hopping and other watersports activities. We noticed some people, which we thought were locals, getting on a smaller boat and when we asked where they’re headed, we were told they’re going back to San Jose. Although, they were leaving earlier, the boat was quite small so we decided to wait for Mang Sherwin’s boat, which is bigger. The ride from Bulabog beach to San Jose port took only more or less 30 minutes.

The sea was calm that day. We had a smooth ride all the way to Carabao island. Mang Sherwin charged us P100 each. We did not notice the rest of the passengers pay for the ride so I guess it might be a free ride for the residents of the island.

The beach. The sand was as white and soft and as powdery as that of Boracay’s. As soon as I had my first glimpse of the island, I instantly felt the urge to jump off the boat and swim to the shore. Its water is very calm and crystal clear. I actually enjoyed swimming here more than I did in Boracay.

The beach is smaller in length though. It is approximately one third of Boracay’s White beach and its shore is about 10-15 meters wide. The road is right beside the beach and across are the residential houses. I really liked it that the houses, except for one bungalow, were built across the road, and not on the beach. Otherwise, the view would have been destroyed and the whole beach area would have looked congested.

I hope the local government would really be careful in constructing infrustructures and allowing people to build establishments near the beach. Personally, I think that the port that was constructed at the middle and which divided the beach into two, had diminished the beauty of the place.

In it’s current state, however, the beach is still lovely and has remained unexploited. It still looks and feels like a remote and quiet fishing village. Although, there have been plans of tourism development in the area, it is still devoid of the common tourist attractions that one may find in the more developed beaches like Boracay.

We stayed in the island for two nights and two days and mostly spent our time swimming, exploring the beach and its town and being friends with the locals.

There wasn’t much to do here. We were the only visitors during that time. At some point in the afternoon, we found ourselves at the port along with some of the island’s residents waiting for boats from Boracay to arrive. We were hoping that other tourists would also find their way to Carabao Island. But nobody else came to visit when we were there.

Where to eat. Finding a place to eat could really be difficult so it is best for anyone who is going to the island to bring enough supply of food. During our visit, we did not find any restaurant in town. We were hoping we could buy seafood in the market, but to my surprise, there was not a single fish that was being sold when we went there. We opted to buy canned goods and rice from a grocery store instead, which the caretaker of the guesthouse we stayed in gladly cooked for us.

Accomodation. Prior to the trip, I only knew of one place to stay in the eastern part of the island- the mayor’s house (Contact Edison- 09183303718). It is a bungalow located right infront of the beach. Their air-conditioned rooms would cost P1,300 and fan room is priced at P750.00. The rooms are of course very clean and well-furnished. Two of the rooms are located inside, which are accessible through the main door, while the other room is located on the right side of the house, and can be accessed without having to go through the main entrance – perfect for those who may want more privacy.

There are resorts in San Jose but these are located in Lanas beach, on the western side, which is 30-minute habal-habal ride away from the more beautiful beach on the eastern side, at Sitio Inobahan. I wanted to know if there are other available guesthouses in Inobahan aside from the mayor’s house where we could stay for the night, and when I asked Mang Sherwin , he led us to Roque’s Place, a two-story house located approximately 5 minutes away from the beach (Contact ALing Lily- 09079157580)

Their air-conditioned rooms cost P1,000 a night. The rooms were clean and each has its own bathroom. The amenities were very basic though. The one that was given to us has a king-sized bed, very spacious but it doesn’t have a cabinet and TV. Should anyone need it, guests are allowed to use the only refrigerator in the house. What I really like best about our stay at Roque’s place was how we were treated by Aling Lily, the caretaker, and her daughter, as guests, in the real sense of the word. They were very nice to us and gladly attended to all our needs.

Camping is also allowed on the beach, and it may also be important to know that electricity in the island is not available from 11PM-10AM.

We left Carabao island early in the morning on our third day riding on the same boat that took us there from Boracay. I was so glad that I have finally visited and seen the beach up close.

As to the idea of Carabao Island being the next Boracay, I have some doubts. It’s too small in comparison to the most popular beach in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, I have yet to see a beach as long and as wide and with white sand as soft and as powdery as that of Boracay’s.

If tourism development in Carabao island would really push through, however, I could imagine it to be like Puerto Galera’s White beach in the future, perhaps even better, if careful planning is observed. But for someone like me who prefers the unexploted beaches, I love it the way it is now.

I do remember and understand my conversations with the local residents, however,(during a 7-hour drinking session with them. Good eagle beer ba? Tagay pa!)and their long overdue hopes for progress. I just wished that along with the future plans of tourism developments, the people and the local government will work together in ensuring that the beauty and charm of Carabao island will always be preserved for many more years to come.

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34 Responses to "The Pride of Romblon: Carabao Island, Up close"

  1. For me, Carabao Island is a good side trip if you’re in Boracay- it’s near and accessible. Did you try checking out the small coves and pockets of beaches around?

    • I agree. One may perhaps ask the boatman to go there during island hopping for an additional fee. I wasn’t able to go around the island though. We arrived in the island at almost 5PM on our first day, made friends with the local residents, and got into a 7-hour drinking session with some of them after dinner. I was so drunk, I couldn’t get up till noon the next day. Gold Eagle beer lang pala katapat ko, lol! We went to Lanas beach after lunch but we decided to go back to Sitio Inobahan immediately and spend more time there. We went back to Boracay early in the morning on our 3rd day :-)

  2. d ko a xa narating pero I;ve heard so much about it. kung gusto mu daw ng serenity sa Boracay, Carabao Island is the place to be. Nice captures Gerum! =)

  3. Lovely beach and great one to visit. Ang ganda ng beach talaga and to add it up, mas malapit pala sya sa Boracay. I am wanting to go there na! Thanks for sharing this!

    • You’re right, Wendell :-) Malapit lang talaga. Just like what Claire said, it’s a great side trip especially for those who have been to Boracay a lot of times already. And mababait ang mga tao dun :-) Thanks for dropping by, Wendell!

  4. WHOA! Breathtaking! Ang haba na ng listahan ng mga pupuntahan ko pagbalik ng Pinas…

  5. wow, now I regret for declining the invite of my friend last 2009. grr. ang ganda sobra!

  6. Brenna says:

    It’s so beautiful! Dapat pala eto pinuntahan namin! Grabe, now I know what to do if nabore ako sa ingay sa boracay.
    Waa. Nakakapanlaway ang beach!

  7. Marjorie says:

    Oh my! The Carabao Island! I went there in 2002, sobrang tagal na and during that time wala pang mga resorts. Nakakamiss! It remains to be one if not the most beautiful island I’d ever been. Sana makabalik ako dun.

  8. nel says:

    hello senyor lakwatsero, me and my friends will be going to boracay this coming feb 24-26 and we’re planning to go to Carabao island on our 2nd day. Inspired kasi kame dito sa blog mo and gusto namin marating ang carabao island. walking distance lang ba from eriko’s hotel to bolabog beach? can’t wait to get there!!!

    • nel, bolabog beach is about 15-20 minute-walk away from the main road. if the watersports activities are being done at bolabog beach, then you can find the passenger boats going to carabao island there. if not, there’s a big chance that you can find them at station 3. have fun :-)

  9. Trip@dora says:

    Hi Gerum! nice photos! parang gusto ko pumunta dito bukas kaso di ko alam kung aabot ako. I’m arriving 7am in Caticlan. Gusto ko sana sa passenger boat nalang din. pabalik ng boracay, anung oras kaya? flight ko in the afternoon is at 2pm naman so i need to be back early rin.

  10. adette cm says:

    Hi!! My friends and I are booked already for Kalibo, plane leaves 7am here in Mla. Okay lang ba na from kalibo diretso kami ng Carabao Island ( via Caticlan port ) then overnight at Carabao, next day late afternoon diretso ng Boracay? Tama na ba ang isang araw na tambay mode sa Carabao? salamat!

  11. pwede din. one day one night is enough to stay in the island. you can go directly to carabao island on your first day then leave for boracay early the following day. I’m not sure if there are boats going to boracay from carabao island in the afternoon

  12. redhterorista says:

    Wow, ganda naman dito. We’re planning to go here this coming August! Lalo akong na-excite sa mga pictures!

  13. Julie Ann Villa says:

    Thank you so much for the info Mr. Senyorlakwatsero.

    Very informative! thanks Thanks!

    • You’re welcome and thank you :-)

      • Cam says:

        Indeed, our place is a paradise! Hambil is my Mother’s home town and we visit twice or thrice every year (from Manila). I grew up swimming on that beach because I can’t resist its beauty. Waaaaay better that Bora! hehe ;)

        Our rest house is perfectly located not too far and not too near at the beach. Lucky to have a province as gorgeous as this…Nice review by the way! :)

  14. melvin says:

    had i heard of this place, i could have included it in my itinerary when i went to boracay last month.sayang.

  15. Martin says:

    Hello Senyor,

    many thanks for the worth reading report of Carabao Island. Your site is very informative and the pictures are reflecting the beauty and pristine character of this beautiful place. Hopefully, Carabao will stay in this state a long time.

    Regards Martin

  16. Kyong says:

    I love your blog! Damn so informative! Two thumbs up!

  17. Jang says:

    This blog is very helpful! This one’s definitely included in our itinerary.. Day 1! Thanks a lot! :)

  18. Mark Jeysson Pidlaoan says:

    Wow ang ganda nman dito sir.. Syang nd ko kgad nlaman ito, we’ve been in Boracay last week, that was our firsttime ng gf ko sa Boracay and sobrang na-enjoy nmn pro mkhang my ms magpapa-enjoy p smin once n bumalik kmi jn..Tnx sa blog mo sir mlaki naitulong nito..ingts lagi..Godbless!

  19. Shairane Asis Escalada says:

    Wow taga Romblon ako pero di ko akalain na ganito pala kaganda ang Hambil/Carabao Island hehe nice one………

  20. lizzie says:

    Just came back from 6weeks holiday from Philippines with my French husband and we had the chance to visit Carabao Island, the island is a hidden paradise it is untouched, the beaches are incomparable it has a true beauty, the sand is powdery white and soft the water is so clear, we went through the whole island with a scooter the island is magnificent and it is a nice place as well for trekking, the people are very friendly, I only have one comment though when we arrived on the island we are supposed to stay at the mayor’s house upon glimpse of the Bungalow house just in front of the beach I told my husband it was the perfect place to stay but when we entered to our room it was a horror the room was very dirty, old and stinky and full of cockroaches and bugs we decided not to stay there we went to Lanas instead, it’s a little bit expensive we paid 2500/day for exotic type bungalow, the lodge is owned by a german and runs by german people, we loved our stay there because they were very nice and accommodating.

  21. Lilia Marano Madragon Miller says:

    thanks for the information about Hambil Carabao Island Sanjose Romblon, Philippines, I grow up there during my 19 yrs of my life. thanks

  22. Jovencio G.Ong says:

    thank you sa appreciation mo sa Carabao Island, hometown ng mother ko,hopefully marami ng papasok na investor dahil bago na ang uupong mayor. siyanga pala yong linakaran mong may malalaking batuhan sa lagpas ng pier ay lote namin at diyan ako lagi nakatambay na may baon SMB at pulutan kapag nagbabakasyon.

  23. Isaias Perez Formilleza says:

    Yes, Boracay Island before was like Carabao island now. I would know it as during my elementary years we would travel to Kalibo, Aklan via a pumpboat with a stopover at Boracay. It was indeed an island so “pristine” and “untouched” as you cited and said description is not an exaggeration. Am a Romblomanon who grew up in Odiongan in Tablas Island where its last town Santa Fe is only about 2-3 hours going to Carabao Island.

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