Cagayan: On Rough Seas to Palaui Island and Cape Engaño Lighthouse

Cape Engano Bush View
Cape Engano Bush View

I’ve been looking at the stark gray sky repeatedly while hoping that it would clear up or much less, let the rains abate. It’s been at least an hour since our original call time. We’ve eaten our packed breakfast and spent time idle with Sun City‘s speedy internet connection. We could have slept over these wasted time but we were all raring to go to Palaui Island. It will be my first time to set foot on this island at the northeast tip of mainland Luzon and I won’t let this rain dampen my excitement.

Outrigger boats at Sta Ana port
Outrigger boats at Sta Ana port

“Let’s Go Guys!”, my spirit felt revived as I heard those words. We headed to the port which is only a short distance ride and boarded on some sturdy outrigger boats. Each boat can accommodate 6-8 passengers plus the 2 boatmen. The gloomy weather lingered which I know would spoil our photos but hey, it’s better than nothing.

Speedboat to Palaui
Our companions on a speedboat to Palaui Island

Jose, our boatman told me it would take around 45minutes to reach Palaui Island, maybe less on calm water or more on rough seas. We experienced the later. For a while as we navigated parallel the western coast of the island, it felt like we were a piece of cork bottle floating on the water of a washing machine tub on a whirl as waters from the South China Sea clash with the winds from the Pacific Ocean.

The Beach jumpoff to Cape Engano
The Beach jumpoff to Cape Engano

I wasn’t really that alarmed with the strong waves as I think I’ve been through worse, but the sight of far away boats disappearing on the horizon from the swells does spell a bit of worry to some. But there was no look of concern on our boatman who took it as a regular boat ride. He told me that April has the best waters here, not as rough as that time.

Hike up to the lighthouse
Hike up to the lighthouse

Siwangag Cove at the western part of the island was our first stop. It was hard to appreciate the beach with the weather aside from it being quiet with a few communities living near the area. This is the usual stop when visitors want to do some trek along the island forest on the way to Cape Engaño (The Faro de Cabo Engaño) . But since the waters were manageable, we took the boat and headed to the beach to this lighthouse.

Midpoint of the hike overlooking the bay
Midpoint of the hike overlooking the bay at Palaui Island

Cape Engaño or Faro de Cabo Engaño is the first cape in Asia built in 1892 at the north eastern tip of the island. In its glory day, families and workers who manage the lighthouse describe it as being like a castle standing proud while perched on the hill. Supplies are regularly brought in every month and rationed to the caretakers. But somewhere along the way this stopped. The structure may have survived the 2 world wars but not the erosion from natural elements and decay. There’s a heritage marker on the lighthouse itself but there are currently no signs of restoration being done.

The rugged terrain of Palaui Island
The rugged terrain and hills of Palaui Island is similar to Batanes

From the rocky coral beach, it was only a 20 minute hike to Cape Engaño. But the hike sure is one of the highlights of this trip. The island seen from above, seems like a part of Batanes chipped off and placed further away. Since the island is molded by the opposing force of South China Seas and Pacific Ocean, it got the same rugged beauty.

Dilapidated Cape Engano
Cape Engano

It’s at least 100meters above sea level, my GPS indicates, while I was standing in front of the dilapidated lighthouse. Yes, I am saddened by its sorry state and could only imagine what its like when this was still at its prime state. Plants and vines started to break into the crack like the island has started to engulf this structure and claim it as its own. No more castle-like grandeur here only ghostly stories from the locals and guides.

The dilapidated walls of the lighthouse
The dilapidated walls of the lighthouse

From afar, Dos Hermanos islands with its flame like peaks can be seen ahead. Another island taunting to be explored. But the rains have started to fall now as we make our way back. I wouldn’t be surprised to be back here again in the future.

Ida Dos Hermanos
Ida looking over the lighthouse window to Dos Hermanos Islands


  • Sta Ana Cagayan can be reached directly by bus from Manila
  • Florida Buses have direct routes to Sta Ana from Manila and Tuguegarao
  • From Sta Ana, boats can be hired to Palaui from P1500-2000 which includes Cape Engano, P2500 including Anguib Beach at the eastern side of Sta Ana mainland.
  • It is possible to camp at the island, just make sure to bring ample supplies