The Php 3,000 Deluxe DIY Marinduque Challenge

Ungab Rock Formation
The heart-shaped island province of Marinduque is best known for its cultural traditions, of which the Moriones Festival, a colorful observance staged by the locals dressed as Roman centurions, is the most popular. This festival happens yearly during the Holy Week. While Marinduque is famous for this unique religious event, the province also boasts pristine beaches, panoramic landscapes, and rich waters.

Tourism in Marinduque boomed when the luxurious Bellaroca Island Resort & Spa opened a few years ago, and when ZestAir offered direct flights from Manila to Gasan, which mainly catered to the guests of the exclusive resort. The island was more accessible back then. However, since suites and villas at Bellaroca were priced with a premium, only a few can afford to stay here, and thus, many think that going to Marinduque is pricey. Due to this, tourism in the province became somber again. Add to that, the cessation of direct flights as ZestAir faced operational challenges.

I have been to Marinduque twice--my first visit was shortly after college graduation, and my second, just last week, a very long overdue getaway with my college friends Toni and Ayee, and my first time to travel with new-found friends Shei, Kim, Joel, and Kuya Meds. In my two visits, I can say that the province possesses a fair share of beautiful land- and seascapes, of warm and kindhearted people, and of rich culture and traditions.

Toni, a full-blooded Marinduqueña and a very good friend of mine, was my host during my first visit, and our host again this time around. She took care of all the reservations in Maniwaya Island, as well as gave us instructions on how to go there.

When we were planning this trip, we had the following in mind:
  • We wanted to stay a night in Maniwaya Island and explore the iconic Ungab Rock Formation and Palad Sandbar
  • We wanted this trip to be relaxed yet fun and exciting
  • We didn't want to starve, so there's ample budget on food and drinks (and even beer and vodka!)
  • We would stay in air-conditioned rooms as we expect the weather to be hot and humid
  • Budget should be Php 3,000
How to get to Marinduque:
  • From LRT Buendia, ride a JAC Liner bus to Lucena-Dalahican. Make sure that you don't ride a bus bound to Lucena only as it will not bring you all the way to the port. This will turn out more costly as you will have to alight at the Diversion to ride a jeep (Php 8) that will take you to the town properwhere you'll ride a tricycle to the port (Php 120-150 per trip). A direct bus ride from Buendia to Dalahican is Php 220, while it is Php 209.50 from Buendia to Diversion (Lucena). For bus schedule and a list of terminals, you may visit Alternatively, you may also ride a JAM Liner Bus (see info here: Travel time is 4 hours.
  • From Dalahican Port, board a Starhorse Ferry to Balanacan. Fare is Php 260 plus a Php 30 terminal fee.Travel time is about 3 hours, depending on sea conditions.
Ferry schedule
  • Upon arrival at the Dalahican Port, make sure to rush to the gates and catch the vans going to the town of Sta. Cruz. Vans are limited so better to be safe than sorry. Standard fare is Php 100. In the event that you miss the van, you might be forced to rent the entire van, which costs Php 1,100-1,200. Travel time from Balanacan to Sta. Cruz is about an hour.
At Dalahican Port
Waiting for the 2:30 AM departure

Arriving at Balanacan Port
Breaking Dawn
An islet near the port

Mama Mary watching over at Balanacan Port
If renting a van is out of your budget, you may rent a jeep instead
Where to eat in Sta. Cruz:
If you leave Manila at around 8:00 pm, chances are, you are already starving by the time you arrive in Sta. Cruz. You might want to have breakfast first before continuing your journey. Our group made a quick stop at Rico's Inn, a quaint lodge that also offers simple food that are modestly priced.

We tried their version of bibingka (rice cake), and some of their "silogs." Filipino breakfast is priced at Php 100, while American breakfast is priced at Php 120.

Tapsilog (beef tapa, rice, and egg)
Daingsilog (daing na bangus,rice, and egg)
Places to visit in Marinduque:
  • Maniwaya Island
  • Palad Sandbar
  • Ungab Rock Formation
  • Tres Reyes Islands
  • Poctoy White Beach
  • Elephant Island (Bellaroca Island Resort and Spa)
  • Sta. Vruz Church
  • Bathala Caves
  • Amoingon Beach
  • Secluded white sand beach of Club Cagpo in Torrijos
For this trip, our itinerary was to visit Maniwaya Island and the nearby Palad Sandbar and Ungab Rock Formation in Mongpong Island.

Where to stay in Maniwaya Island:

One of the aircon rooms at Playa Amara Beach Resort
Playa Amara Beach Resort is the newest resort on Palo Maria beach, which offers spacious airconditioned rooms, native closed cottages and draped cabanas for day trips.The resort is located at the other end of the beach, far from the crowds of Residencia de Palo Maria. It also has a generator on standby since power on the island is intermittent. Electricity is from 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm only. While there is a generator on standby, expect that power is not 24/7 as fuel supply on the island is also limited. Bring powerbanks if you have. The resort also has a provision for a swimming pool. Must commend the caretaker Rachel Pernia for being kind and accommodating, and for cooking scrumptious meals for us!

Aircon room - Php 4,000 good for 3-4 pax
Fan rooms are also available

Boat rental - Php 4,000 good for max 25 pax; includes rountrip transfers from Buyabod Port and island hopping to Mongpong Island, Ungab Rock Formation, and Palad Sandbar

Contact: Rachel Pernia +63908.164.8234

Residencia de Palo Maria is the first resort in Maniwaya Island. Rates are as follows:
  • Family room with aircon, TV with cable, and refrigerator - Php 3,500 for 24 hours, max. of 5 pax
  • Duplex room with aircon, and TV with cable - Php 3,000 for 24 hours, max. of 4 pax
  • Deluxe room with aircon, and TV with cable - Php 2,500 for 24 hours, max. of 3 pax
  • Superior room with aircon, and TV with cable - Php 2,300 for 24 hours, max. of 2 pax
  • Kubo/ Bamboo Hut with fan and TV - Php 1,500 for 24 hours, max. of 2 pax
Contact: +63919.237.5633 / +63925.867.0312 

Wawie's Beach Resort is famous for backpackers and campers as it offers affordable nipa huts and camping tents. The owner, Warlie Constantino is very accommodating, too. Rates are as follows:

  • Native family rooms with fan and extra mattress - Php 1,500.00 for 24 hours, max. of 7 pax
  • Native Sweet Lovers Room with fan - Php 1,000.00 for 24 hours, max. of 4 pax
  • Day tour cottage/ kubo - Php 500.00 for 12 hours stay, max of 12 pax
  • Camping tent Php 300.00 for 24 hours, max of 2 pax / Php 500.00 for 24 hours, max of 5 pax
  • Entrance Fee is Php. 50.00 only, children of age 10 and below are free of entrance fee

Boat rental:

  • Php 3000.00 roundtrip transfers from Buyabod port to Wawie’s Beach Resort
  • Php 3500.00 roundtrip transfers from Buyabod port to Wawie’s Beach Resort and a trip to Palad Sandbar
  • Php 4,000  roundtrip transfers from Buyabod port to Wawie’s Beach Resort and a trip to Palad Sandbar and Ungab Rock Formation

Contact: Warlie Constantino  +63921.369.5359 / +63946.474.3700

Marikit-Na Beach Resort is located on the other side of the island. Many travel bloggers have stayed here, so chances are, when you try to Google Maniwaya Island, you will come across this villa-type resort.

The villa can be exclusively rented for a group (max of 35 pax), so you'll have privacy. Each spacious room costs Php 1,800 for 24 hours stay, good for 2 pax. There is an extra charge of Php 600 per additional guest.

Contact: Ron Montes +63.927.878.9782

When I inquired at Marikit-Na Beach Resort, Ron said they were already booked on our preferred date, but he nicely recommended a beach house just beside Marikit-Na Beach Resort. Rate there is Php 350 per pax, without food and transfers, and Php 2,300 packaged rate for overnight accommodation, transfers, island hopping, and food. The rooms are not airconditioned though, but the price is definitely a steal!

We chose Playa Amara Beach Resort as we find it new, modern, and away from the crowds. A bit pricey at Php 4,000 for 3-4 pax, but aside from the limited fuel supply of the generator, we find this place worth it for the service and views.

Here's a rundown of our budget for this trip:

We could have met our Php 3,000 target budget if we hadn't stayed at Playa Amara Beach Resort but no regrets for us, definitely. We generally had a good time at this resort, not to mention that we enjoyed the delectable dishes Ate Rachel had prepared for us during our stay.

We could have put down the budget to Php 2,500 per pax (based on 7 pax) if we had camped out on the beach and shared the toilet and bath with other guests, but for us, comfort and convenience is top priority. All the more that we could have lowered down the budget if we were 10 pax or more. =)

My verdict, the Php 3315.33 is worth it because I was able to sleep well, eat well, and enjoy the views and the company of friends.

Up next: my travelogue of Maniwaya Island, Palad Sandbar, and Ungab Rock Formation


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