Magalawa Island | Zambales: A Beautiful Sunburnt Morning


“So near, yet so far”, I thought to myself as I stare at the island known as Potipot from where I was standing in Isla Vista Beach Resort. “It is still closed to visitors”, the manager told me. Ever since the world re-emerged from the clamps of the pandemic, resort owners in Candelaria, Zambales, have been clamoring for the reopening of Potipot.

Kristina Hamdorf
Approaching Magalawa Island

According to local whispers, the island is privately owned by an influential family in Zambales. Whether or not this is the case, I hope the island accepts visitors soon so the province's tourism industry picks up from where it left off before the pandemic.

Marky Ramone Go
Worth the sun burn on the way

“You can go to Magalawa island tomorrow”, the manager of Isla Vista told me and my friend Cynthia. Hearing a better solution presenting itself, we immediately agreed to the plan. Magalawa Island it is.

Finally, Magalawa

When I was starting to travel around the Philippines back in 2007, Zambales easily became my go-to road trip destination. Either I’m riding shotgun on a friend’s car or taking the bus, I always find myself traveling to the beaches of Pundaquit, Anawangin, Nagsasa and Iba. For some reasons however, I never found my way to Magalawa Island.

Alyana Bromeo
Tempting waters

That’s why it sounded like music to my ears when the idea to visit Magalawa island became a possibility sans bad weather the next day.

Anne Gumiran
Can't wait to swim already

We woke up early the next morning to prepare for our 8:00 am sea journey to Magalawa Island. “From here, it takes around an hour and a half to reach Magalawa”, the boatman hired by Isla Vista told us in Tagalog. We were delayed by an hour and a half so we ended up leaving at around 9:30 am.

Alexa Pajarillo
Beach, Demon Lemon drink and chill

I looked up and saw a huge bright blue sky signaling great weather before I directed my gaze towards our small roofless boat. Sunburnt skin over rain drenched? I asked myself. I prefer to be showered by the sun rather than rain when I’m on an island jaunt.

Zambales Travel Guide
My friend Cynthia still got sunburnt on her back

From the look of it, my friend Cynthia seems not to mind as well. She seemed prepared and covered up with a cloth throughout our boat ride.

Sophie Gianan
Would be nice to set up a hammock here

Passing various coastal towns, beach resorts, and even some mysterious black sand mining areas allegedly siphoned by Chinese vessels, we cut across a relatively calm sea a few kilometers off the lengthy shoreline of the province.

Where to go in Zambales
BTS. Before Tostadong Skin

We docked on the powdery white sand bar of Magalawa Island before lunch time giving us plenty of time to swim in the pristine waters. We soaked on the beautiful environment of the island and alternating between chugging Cynthia's Demon Lemon drink and getting our skin burnt by the full glow of the sun.

Gay Mitra
There was only a few people on the island that day

On the main portion of the island, I saw a few modest wooden houses, a sari-sari store, and numerous trees, all of which made it seem like a pleasant spot to spend a few days. We never attempted to walk the entirety of the island as we just rested under a tree after we exhausted our body from swimming.

Samantha Concepcion
Potipot Island as seen from Isla Vista Resort

Following a few cancelled trips to Magalawa Island in the past, I finally able to spend a fantastic morning here. After having the good karma of visiting almost all Philippine provinces, Zambales still remains as one of my go-to road trip destinations.

Where to Stay

While there are a few small homestays on Magalawa Island, we opted to find an accommodation in Candelaria, a town near the northern edge of Zambales. Isla Vista Beach Resort sits just across Potipot Island. “From here, it takes less than 20 minutes”, the resort’s staff told us when we asked her about it.

Say Tioco
There's like a dozen rooms of various sizes in each level

Unlike modern beach resorts in other provinces and the hipster boutique accommodations in Liwliwa, Isla Vista exudes a vintage and rustic vibe which I surprisingly like.

The property is a throwback to the family-friendly resorts of the 80s and 90s where you can grill some food in the veranda in front of your room. It also has spacious ground for kids to play and a pool to relax after a day of island hopping. Plus, it isn’t as expensive as other resorts in the province.