A Travel Guide on Boracay's Twin Sister, Carabao Island, Romblon: Part 1 (How to go there?)

Said Beach, Carabao Island, Romblon
Last year, I won two roundtrip tickets from AirAsia's "Philippines in Pixels" contest. We were asked to select between Davao or Kalibo, and we decided to get the latter. No, we're not planning to go, or spend the Holy Week, in Boracay. Instead, we went to the party island's exact opposite, Carabao Island off the town of San Jose in southern Romblon.

Carabao Island is just an hour away from the famous Boracay Island by boat, but contrary to its twin sister's crowded paths, noisy bars and not-so-clean waters, Carabao Island -- or Hambil to the locals -- possesses its own tranquil charm. To visualize how near it is from Boracay Island, I took a photo of it while onboard:

Aerial shot of Carabao Island
You will notice that the shape of the island resembles a carabao's head, thus the name.

How to get there:

The fastest way to go to Carabao Island is via an hour flight to Caticlan. Local carriers like Cebu Pacific and Pal Express ply this route with several flights daily. You may also take a flight to Kalibo (just like what we did) and endure the two hour van or bus ride to Caticlan. Cebu Pacific, PAL, Pal Express, Tiger Airways, Air Asia and Zest Air service this route. At the arrival area of the Kalibo International Airport, there are booths that offer transfers to Caticlan. If you're planning to go straight to Carabao Island, do not avail of the packages that include boat transfers and fees to Boracay because you need to go to a different port where the passenger boat to Hambil is.

Note: You should be in Caticlan by 8:00 am to catch the passenger boat to Carabao Island (Hambil). If not, might as well stay in Boracay for a night and proceed to Carabao Island the next day.

Bulabog beach in Boracay -- here you can find some locals who go home to Carabao Island everyday

From Caticlan, take a tricycle to Tabon Baybay. Drivers might be a little surprised when you tell them this, but just explain that you are off to Hambil and not to Boracay.

Our small private boat to Carabao Island @ Php 1,000
Board the passenger pumpboat to Hambil which is scheduled to leave at 8:30 am. Fare is Php 80 per pax. This boat will traverse the Sibuyan sea for an hour, braving the roaring waves especially during Amihan (northeast monsoon) season, and docks at the Port of Said in Inobahan, Carabao Island, Romblon. This port is right on the white powdery beach of Said, and is near the mayor's house-turned-into-a-pension-house, Republic of Inobahan. There are also a number of homestays in Said where we chose to stay for the rest of our vacation in Romblon.

Mang Ben's big boat from Said beach bound to Boracay on Easter Sunday

Should you miss the passenger boat, another option is to hop to Boracay Island and either rent a boat, or hitch a ride with the locals who works on the island and go home at around 4:00-5:00pm. If you hitch a ride, they would usually charge you anywhere from Php 50 to Php 100. The rates are NOT standard. Most of the boatmen who offer island hopping in Boracay are from Hambil, and they usually dock at Lanas beach instead of Said beach. Although, we saw one boat that regularly goes home to Said beach (Ben Merque, 09499423668/09153616586). His boat is huge and can fit around 25 people so renting it might be a bit costly unless you are a big group.

Choppy seas from Bulabog beach to Carabao Island on Amihan (northeast monsoon) season

Another note: The pristine white beach you probably saw on TV is on Said beach and not on Lanas beach. The latter became more popular because more resorts have been built there. It's also closest to Boracay (from the beach, you can already see Puka beach). If you decide to hitch a ride, ask the boatman if he'll dock at Lanas, or in Said. It will save you some moolah and time if the boat will dock at Said. From Lanas, Said beach is about 4 kilometers away and is accessible via motorbike at Php 60 per pax.

En route to carabao Island, we saw Angas Cave, accessible by boat 
Should you wish to charter a boat, you can get in touch with Edison Manuel at 09183303718. He was also the one who helped us get a nice room in Said beach, which I shall post soon. A small boat from Bulabog beach in Boracay to Said beach costs around Php 1,000. Please remind him though that you require lifevests. The waves along the way are big and you want to sail safe, don't you? From the Port of Said, you can just walk to your homestay.

Approaching Carabao Island
Carabao Island is also accessible through a one-hour flight to Tablas. Zestair is the lone provider of flights there, so expect higher rates and more chances of flight cancellation! From Tablas airport, take a jeep to Sta. Fe, and from there, board a boat to Hambil. There is only one passenger boat from Sta. Fe to Hambil scheduled to leave at 9:30. Travel time is around an hour and it will also dock at the Port of Said.

From the Port of Said, you can literally jump into fine white sands seconds after you left the port!

Port of Said

Just a tip, it is better to go to Carabao Island during the early months of the Habagat (southwest monsoon) season, provided that there is no typhoon or low pressure in the area. The waves during those months are calmer on Said's side but can be choppy at Lanas' side.

Rocks at the foot of the wharf
Going out of Carabao Island, you may take the passenger boat from the Port of Said going to Caticlan or to Sta. Fe (if you're heading to Tablas). Both leaves at around 5:30 am. Otherwise, hitch a ride again or rent a boat back to Caticlan or Boracay.

Mang Ben's boat to Boracay
During your journey to Carabao Island, make sure to waterproof your stuff and get ready to be wet! Ziplocks and dry bags are an  advantage. It will be impossible for you to remain dry during the trip as the current is so strong most of the time!

Sunrise in Said Beach


Edison Manuel (Guide) - 09183303718
Ben Merque (Boatman) - 09499423668/09153616586

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  1. sis, maalon? liit lang ng boat. scary! haha! been planning to go here sana last year when my bf and I went to bora. tinamad lang, hehe. thanks for this additional info :) sony underwater cam ba ginamit mo rito? hehe

  2. hi sis! yes, sony tf1 yan. ganda ng pix nya infairness! yung papunta small boat at super buwis buhay. kaya mas ok kung makakahitch na lang kayo sa bigger boats from Boaracay. or rent a bigger boat na medyo nga lang mas mahal. =)

  3. grabe buwis buhay! mala-calaguas ba ang alon o hindi naman?

  4. mas malaki than Calaguas...or dahil small ang boat kaya feeling mas buwis buhay to? hehe

  5. Oh I love your pictures. Very informative blog. Keep posting.

    granton world

  6. when is the best time to go to carabao island from kalibo weather wise..


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