Tucked away in San Jose, Romblon lies a hidden paradise known as Carabao Island, also called Hambil by the locals. This idyllic destination boasts of pristine white sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and a serene atmosphere perfect for a laid-back getaway. Despite its proximity to the bustling Boracay Island, Carabao Island has managed to preserve its charm, remaining relatively off the tourist radar. Its offering of unique experiences and unspoiled beauty make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking an unexplored gem.
II. How to Get to Carabao Island
Carabao Island is easily accessible by land, air, or sea from major cities and ports in the Philippines. You can either catch a direct flight to Caticlan Airport, take a boat ride from Caticlan Jetty Port to Tabon Baybay Port or Santa Fe Port in Carabao Island, or ride a RORO (Roll on Roll off) bus from Batangas Port to Odiongan Port in Tablas Island with a connecting van transfer to Santa Fe Port. The boat rides vary from 30-45 minutes, while the RORO bus can take 8-10 hours, and an extra 45 minutes for the van transfer. Costs include the following:
- Plane ticket: P1,000 – P3,500 per person (one-way)
- Boat ride: P150 – P200 per person (one-way)
- RORO bus: P700 – P1,000 (one-way)
III. Best Time to Visit Carabao Island
The ideal time to visit Carabao Island is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. This is when the weather is most pleasant, with minimal rainfall and sunny skies. If you want to experience local festivities, consider visiting the island during the annual Biniray Festival in January. This week-long celebration honors the Sto. Niño and features lively cultural performances, traditional music, and street parades.
IV. Accommodations on Carabao Island
There are a variety of accommodations available on Carabao Island, suitable for every budget and preference. Some top-rated options include:
- Lanas Beach Resort: A charming beachfront resort offering cozy rooms and cottages, a restaurant, and a pool.
- The Beach House: A stylish boutique hotel with modern rooms, excellent facilities, and a convenient beach location.
- Oceans Edge Resort: A luxury cliff-side property featuring stunning views, infinity pool, and an on-site restaurant.
V. Top Things to Do in Carabao Island
- Beach hopping: With several white sand beaches surrounding the island, visitors can go beach hopping to Lanas Beach, San Jose Cove, and Cathedral Cove.
- Cliff jumping: Daredevils can test their courage at Kuding-Kuding Point, Carabao Island’s famous cliff jumping spot.
- Scenic viewpoints: Hike up to popular vantage points on the island, like Lanas View Deck and Lighthouse View Deck, to capture breathtaking panoramic views.
- Snorkeling and diving: Dive into the crystal-clear waters and explore the diverse marine life in nearby dive spots such as Tagaytay and Koding Koding Point.
- Local cultural experiences: Immerse yourself in local life by visiting the main village and engaging with the friendly locals, and don’t forget to try some local delicacies.
VI. Where to Eat and Drink on Carabao Island
Carabao Island offers a mix of local and international dining options to satisfy your taste buds. For an authentic local dining experience, head to Carabao Grill or El Nido Eatery. If you crave international cuisine, pay a visit to The Beach House and Kapis Beach Bar & Restaurant. Don’t forget to try Carabao Island’s local specialty, the sumptuous “bulalo” stew made from beef shank and bone marrow.
VII. Tips for Traveling to Carabao Island
- Transportation within the island is limited to walking, renting a motorbike or tricycle, so plan accordingly.
- Carry cash with you, as ATMs are scarce on the island.
- Pack essentials such as sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and a hat.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, as exploring the island may require walking and hiking.
- Be respectful of the island’s natural beauty and practice responsible tourism.
Carabao Island is a hidden sanctuary for those seeking serenity, natural beauty, and a unique island experience. With its stunning sandy beaches, vast array of exciting activities, and warm local culture, the unexplored gem that is Carabao Island should definitely feature on your travel bucket list.