For the Third Time, Palaui Island is Still a Charm | Sta. Ana, Cagayan


More than a decade has passed since I first journeyed to Palaui Island. Back in those days, I was still in my earliest phase of exploring the Philippines. Cagayan Province, being in the farthest northeastern part of Luzon, seemed like a foreign country to me then. Locating it at the map, I set out, myself and a couple of female friends, on a trip that would leave a beautiful set of remembrances in my memory vault. After a 15-hour bus ride to Sta. Ana, Cagayan followed by a 3-hour van ride, a half-hour boat ride and finally, a three-hour trek, we pitched our tent on a foot of a hill where the old Cape Engaño Lighthouse stands.

Marky Ramone Go

Cue in Silverchair's "The Greatest View"

I consider my first travel to Palaui Island as among the ones that baptized me into a life of wandering. Since then, a 15-hour bus ride felt nothing but a welcome and integral part of journeying. Therefore, Palaui Island, aside from its exceptional beauty, remains a special place in my mind.

Charisse Vilchez
Approaching Siwangag Cove 

The second time I made it to the island was in 2017, as part of Lakbay Norte, a media familiarization tour organized by NLEX to promote destinations in Northern Luzon. Traveling by chartered bus from Manila, we visited several places in Cagayan Valley, capped off by a turbulent sea journey to Palaui and nearby Anguib Beach.

Kezia Romblon
A protected island like Sta Cruz Island in Zamboanga and Danjugan 

Summing it up, my Palaui trilogy provided me a different set of experiences each turn. And as I found out on this recent trip, Palaui Island remains a charm, even for the third time.

Cagayan’s Nature and Adventure Tourism Circuit

After a two-year ban on visitors due to the pandemic, Palaui Island Protected Landscape and Seascape finally reopened on March 9, 2022. This time, the Department of Tourism (DOT) and DOT Region II are currently promoting a nature and adventure tourism circuit in the region that included this island.

Moha Borakat
Turon and Kamote courtesy of the community members of DOT's "Kulinarya" program

The newly-designed route aims to leverage the popularity of the island among adventure seekers and nature lovers to promote other interesting places in the province as part of an itinerary that can be completed in 3-5 days.

Audrey Trinidad
A short meet and greet plus orientation with the community tour guides

I was fortunate to be invited by the DOT to join their Site Validation and Technical Inspection of the said tourism route. In collaboration with a dozen tour operators from different parts of the country, we tested the circuit by visiting the places and experiencing various activities included in it to see if it would appeal to travelers and in turn, entice them to explore more of the province as opposed to just visiting one or two places.

Eileen Campos
This view after a few rest stops later.

Other than Palaui Island, we visited a community in Casagan where we went on a firefly watching tour in the evening and afterward, had dinner with the community participants of DOT's "Kulinarya" program — a culinary campaign that aims to promote local cuisine. On our third day, we experienced beltfishing with local fishermen where we witness their traditional method of catching the "espada" fish. Also, part of the tour is a morning hike the next day to Buwacag Falls before capping it off with a heritage tour of Tuguegarao on our way back to the airport.

Muffet Sta Maria
Can I put a stamp on this view and mail it as postcard already?

Right now, the Nature and Adventure itinerary is open to revisions and may include additional destinations in the future such as Anguib beach and its surrounding mangrove forest.

The Hike to Cape Engaño Lighthouse

As a protected area and national park managed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Palaui island imposes a strict 100-visitors per day policy. During my first visit to the island, we entered through the community side facing Sta. Ana, this time though, visitors are only allowed to dock at its northwestern side in Siwangag Cove close to the Cape Engaño lighthouse.

Marky Ramone Go

After a brief orientation with the community tour guides, I volunteered to be among the first group to climb the hill. Walking in a slow pace allowed me to take in the spectacular scenery en route to the hilltop.

Sophie Gianan, Jomie Naynes and Alyanna Bromeo

Unlike the rugged terrain a decade ago, cemented stairs were built leading up to the lighthouse. While I’m not sold to the idea of putting up concrete structures in beaches and islands, I find the stairway almost blending well with the surrounding nature. After almost 300 hundred steps, I arrived at the lighthouse with our young guide, a lady Palaui resident who was among those trained to become island guides, almost out of breath but filled with awe and delight at the 360-degree picturesque view of the rolling hills and the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Levy Amosin and Astrid Alvarez

“Like a fine wine, this backdrop just gets better”, I thought to myself. I found a spot to sit on the window sill of the Spanish colonial lighthouse built in 1892 and designed by Magin Pers, the same person who designed Cape Bojeador in Burgos, Ilocos Norte and the Capones Island lighthouse.

Pika Yonzon
Batanes of the....Don't say it. Palaui should be known as Palaui Island. 

After a few minutes, I trekked to the view deck and laid on the grassy knoll. While staring intently at the mighty Pacific Ocean swells crashing on the walls of Dos Hermanos islets below, I gradually turn my head only to be met with a slideshow of postcard-like images of sloping hills, lush vegetations, deep crevices, blue skies, swaying grass, the rustic lighthouse, and so on.

Marky Ramone Go
Can I just lie here and forget about the world?

It was at that moment when I felt the island of Palaui reacquaint itself with me once more. Acknowledging the universe and my good karma, I answered back to the hissing wind in a whisper, “I’m happy to be here again”.

Things to know before your visit

- Register at the Municipal Tourism Officer in Sta. Ana port

- Attend the short briefing for island do's and don'ts and boat assignments

- Pay a visitor fee of 100 pesos for travelers from outside Sta. Ana. Sta. Ana residents need to only pay 50 pesos.

- Other fees includes: Environmental fee (20 php), Tour Guide (350 php for 1 guide per 4 guests), Garbage bag deposit (200 php).

Boat rental fees: 2,000 php to Cape Engaño (Palaui Island), 1,800 php to Anguib Beach and 800 php to Crocodile Island.

Tania Maria Gonzales
Our lunch on the island. Click here for the listing of the food

Note: You can negotiate to your boatman if you want to visit a combination of the islands or all three of it.

Koryn Iledan

Winning Tip: For a hassle-free trip, you can contact Cagayan Tourism to connect you to an accredited tour operator who will prepare everything in your trip.