The Philippines is blessed with thousands of stunning islands and beaches. Unfortunately, many of them have been overrun by commercialism and the natural beauty is a shadow of its former self.
Calaguas Island remains relatively untouched and close to its original natural state. It also has the most stunning water and beachfront that I have seen anywhere in the world.
While the pictures below show you the glowing blue water through the lens of a camera, nothing will prepare you for the real thing. And that alone is worth the many, many hours that it will take you to reach this remote island paradise.
For the majority of the year, this destination remains pristine, unspoiled, and one of the most stunning islands to visit in the Philippines.
But this is also changing as the island grows in popularity.
In this post:
- Virgin Island No More
- Calaguas Island Activities
- How to Get to Calaguas Island
- Organized Tour or DIY
- Best Time to Visit Calaguas Island
- Final Word
Virgin Island No More
While people still refer to Calaguas as a Virgin Island, in reality, it gets further from this status every year.
It remains mostly undeveloped but there is now a resort at the beachfront, plus a handful of older beach huts.
Every year there seems to be more of them and it is only a matter of time until more serious structures are erected. So I wanted to start off this article by saying that if you are considering going to do it as soon as you can!
Having said this, it is still one of the more authentic opportunities to experience the natural beauty of the Philippines.
Calaguas Island Activities
I thought it was important to get you excited about visiting the island before we tell you how hard it is to get there.
It is not an action packed place. It is slow, lazy, and a great place to get away from your everyday distractions like your cell phone/TV and live a simple life…. Even if it’s only for 24 hours.
Almost everything revolves around the stunning beach. You will not find clearer blue water anywhere else in the Philippines, or the world for that matter.
It is worth the trip alone and you could easily just spend your time there swimming, eating, and laying on the beach.
But there are a few other things available if you want.
Make the most of that crystal clear water and do some exploring along the rocky headlands. You will see all kinds of bright colored fish swimming around.
The currents are friendly and the water very warm. So it is a nice easy place to swim. If you are not a strong swimmer then the tour operators will have life jackets available so you can just float along and still enjoy the beautiful underwater spectacle.
The surrounding hills are only a light walk but the view you get is still impressive given the island is very small.
Sunset and sunrise are the stars of the show here. Both also happen at the time of day that isn’t uncomfortably hot to be hiking out in the open.
You will usually find a local selling coconuts (buko) for just a few pesos. They are both refreshing and tasty!
3. Beach Volleyball
There are nets set up along the beach and free for you to use.
If you have a small group of people it is a lot of fun and a good way to get active if you have been lazing about on the beach all day.
The calm and shallow water was the perfect place to jump around trying to catch a falling frisbee.
It is not something I had done since I was a kid and this kept us entertained for longer than I thought it would.
It is also a great opportunity to get some amusing photos.
5. Sand Boarding
I usually associate this activity with fail videos on Youtube. I had a go but it is surprisingly exhausting!
I grew tired of it quickly, but some younger and more skilled companions were at this for hours and seemed to glide effortlessly onto the small waves lapping the shore.
6. Island Hopping
Calaguas is actually the name of a small cluster of islands with Tinaga being the main island that you visit.
You will not find any commercial tour operators on the island but can just approach locals with a boat to see if they will take you for a negotiated price (likely to be 1,000-1,500 PHP).
The one thing that all of the surrounding islands have in common is that you will be the only ones standing on them. All are uninhibited and just as beautiful.
7. Fire Dancing
At night time fire dancers will walk up and down the beach doing shows for the various groups of campers, and tour groups.
This is common at most island destinations that are popular with tourists in the Philippines but there will not be much else going on at night.
So enjoy the show, and feel free to tip the performers.
How to Get to Calaguas Island
Now before you get too carried away with excitement you should be aware of where the island is and the journey you will be required to take to get there.
Flying to the nearest airport will save you some time but you will still need to put in many hours no matter where you are coming from.
But, I promise you that it is worth it!
By Air (7-9 Hours)
- Plane: Manila -> Naga (45 Min + check in time) 4k-12k PHP
- Van: Naga -> Daet (2 Hours) 200 PHP
- Jeepney: Daet -> Minaogan Port – 30 minutes (PHP 10 – PHP 20)
- Boat: Minaogan Port -> Calaguas (2 hours)
The route is serviced by Cebu Pacific, but check for any other available flights and just book the cheapest one. All domestic airlines in the Philippines are equally unreliable so just book whatever suits your plans and budget best.
The advantage of taking a flight is that you can leave and arrive on the same day. Overnight buses or vans make it very hard to sleep and anything you can do to arrive fresher is worthwhile in my opinion.
A return flight costs anywhere from PHP 4,000 to PHP 12,000 depending on when you book.
The downside is that even after you land in Naga you still have multiple legs before you step foot on the beach.
Van (Naga to Daet)
There are usually plenty of vans available outside the arrivals area at the airport.
They can get very cramped if it is busy and can be uncomfortable. So try and get a window seat so you at least have your own little corner.
Jeepney (Daet to Minaogan Port)
If you are on an organized tour this is the pickup point and your guides will take care of things from here – but the methods of transportation are all the same.
If you DIY (not recommended!), the ride should only cost PHP 10-20 and take about 30 minutes.
Frequency and routes can be unpredictable so just ask someone at the bus station for confirmation of the best pickup point.
Boat (Minaogan Port to Calaguas)
If you are DIY’ing you may have to ask around to find the correct boat. You will also find there is no set schedule – one of many reasons to just get on a tour.
It is best to arrive at the port early in the morning to ensure you do not miss the boats heading to the island. It is also best to organize your return journey at the same time so you have a way to get back (just get a tour!).
The boat is fairly small and won’t be the most comfortable ride. My best advice is to put on some music, try and get comfortable, and tune out for the first 90 minutes of the trip.
By then your butt will be numb and sitting will be uncomfortable. So get up and take a look around at the clear blue water that surrounds you.
As you start to see the surrounding islands you will notice the turquoise water jumping out at you from a distance. You will go past many of these teaser beaches before you arrive at your final destination.
But this final stretch will help you transition from tired commuter to a relaxed holiday mode. And nothing will beat that feeling when the boat turns into that shoreline.
By Road (Up to 12-15 hours)
- Bus: Manila -> Daet – 9 Hours (PHP 650 – PHP 720)
- Jeepney: Daet -> Minaogan Port – 30 minutes (PHP 10 – PHP 20)
- Boat: Minaogan Port -> Calaguas – 2 hours
From Manila, the most frequent service runs from the Superlines terminal in Cubao. They offer multiple class options for the journey and I would recommend the air-conditioned bus, or higher.
Expect plenty of bumps and windy roads on the overnight bus trip. It is very hard to sleep which is why I recommend you just fly.
A first-class bus will not cost much more and will give you the best chance of getting some sleep!
If you have a larger group you can also hire a private van for PHP 15K-30K depending on your length of stay. This moves faster than a bus but is even harder to sleep on due to the windy roads.
The Jeepney and boat legs are the same as what we have already covered above.
Organized Tour or DIY
You already know my position on this – just get on a tour. They are cheap, easy, and you get to travel with a group.
The value is excellent with your tent accommodation (upgrade to a hut if you want), and food (which is excellent!), and transport all taken care of.
Prices generally range from PHP 1,799 to PHP 2,999 for a one or two-night stay. Which is around $50-$70.
Yeah you can DIY, but that means lugging a tent, food, and cooking utensils around. Plus navigating all the travel can be challenging.
Booking a Calaguas Island tour gives you the comfort of a fixed cost with no surprises from a local trying to overcharge you for transport.
Most Calaguas tours will include the following:
- Meals (which were high quality)
- Boat and environmental fees
- Tent and beach hut access
- Snorkeling gear, volleyball, and frisbee use
Some tours will also include the round-trip bus ticket from Manila to Daet. This gives you the chance to make a few new friends before jumping on the boat.
When booking your tour online you will not be able to pay via credit card like with most modern travel sites. You will complete an online inquiry form and then have some email back & forth to confirm details and organize payment.
Two of the more reputable options are:
As mentioned at the top of the article, there is now a basic resort built on the island which has a small number of cottages and fixed glamping tents that are a cut above the regular camping options.
You can organize this in advance and have a bit more comfort than what was available in the past.
However, most people just camp. There is a 100 PHP fee for your tent space – but that just gets you a patch of grass.
Facilities are limited to a basic toilet (usually no toilet seat or running water) and bathroom that will vary in quality depending on which camping ground you stay at.
Showers are non-existent and you will have to purchase a bucket of water instead for PHP 10 per bucket. But this does the job just fine.
Best Time to Visit Calaguas Island
- Nov to Feb – Mild weather, less predictable seas.
- Mar to July – Perfect!
- Aug to Nov – Typhoon Season (avoid!).
The weather is mild from around November to February but the sea conditions can be less predictable. February to July is more stable and you will get amazing weather throughout this period.
However, I would strongly discourage you from visiting whenever there is a long weekend of any kind.
Holy Week (from Easter Thursday) especially sees the tourist numbers explode! This really defeats the purpose of coming to Calaguas if it is crowded so avoid these dates and you will have a much more enjoyable experience.
August through to November is typhoon season. Not the best time to visit isolated virgin islands as you will get regular rain and the occasional typhoon that could see you stuck for days.
Calaguas Island is one of the few remaining spots that are accessible to tourists but remains fairly untouched.
But this is changing fast! So visit as soon as you can.
Don’t let the arduous journey turn you off going. It will be worth it and you will be living the closest thing to deserted island life that you may ever get to experience.
I guarantee that you will remember that glorious aqua-colored glow under the bright sun more than the uncomfortable boat seats.