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Cagayan Feature Islands and Beaches

Return to Palaui Island in Santa Ana Cagayan Valley

It took more than a decade but I finally found my way back to the northwestern tip of Cagayan Valley. So much has happened the last decade or so in Palaui island. Admittedly, it’s the biggest tourist draw in Santa Ana Cagayan. It has hosted 2 seasons of America’s Survivor series back in 2013. There are other Survivors from other countries that followed. But the most significant development for me is the designation of the island as a “National Park” due to the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area System (ENIPAS) act signed by President Duterte in June 22, 2018.

It took more than a decade but I finally found my way back to the northwestern tip of Cagayan Valley. So much has happened the last decade or so in Palaui island. Admittedly, it’s the biggest tourist draw in Santa Ana, Cagayan. It has hosted 2 seasons of America’s Survivor series back in 2013. There are other Survivors from other countries that followed. But the most significant development for me is the designation of the island as a “National Park” due to the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area System (ENIPAS) act signed by President Duterte in June 22, 2018.

The northern ridges of Palaui island where the lighthouse sites
The northern ridges of Palaui island where the lighthouse sites

Palaui island Protected Landscape and Seascapes

The inclusion of Palaui island changes a lot in terms of rules and restrictions on the island. Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) is tasked to managing the natural resource of the island. Ensuring stricter rules and enforcement to protect the 10km long and 5km island where 105 species of rattan thrive and is sanctuary for 90 specie of migratory birds.

The waters surrounding the island were also declared a National Marine Reserve. Beneath are more than 50 hectares of pristine corals which is home to 21 commercial species of fishes.

Our outrigger boat to Palaui Island.
Our outrigger boat to Palaui Island.

Limited Entry

The rugged and raw beauty of Palaui island is not as easily accessible as before. PAMB enforces a strict 100 visitors/day limit on the island. So it’s best to book a slot ahead.

During the pandemic, the island was closed-off including the community on the eastern side. Before, pre-pandemic, people can stay at the community and partake in cultural activities with the agtas, the indigenous people of the island like weaving and learning their traditions. Visitors would eventually trek for 2-3 hours to the Cape Engaño lighthouse with a side-trip to a falls. But as of this writing, trekking and access to the community side of the island is restricted.

San Vicente port, jump-off point to the Palaui island
San Vicente port, jump-off point to the Palaui island

At the moment, only the northwestern side of the island is open which includes the. Cape Engaño Cove and the hills and ridges surrounding the Cape Engaño lighthouse.

A vast grassland at the start of the trail
A vast grassland at the start of the trail

Developing Facilities

We were blessed with bright and sunny weather on our recent visit. The jump-off is at San Vicente port where a two-story pavilion is where guest would register, pay fees, secure boat and guides. We’re riding an outrigger boat this time in contrast from the speedboat we rode the first time. I thought it was a much more relaxed pace albeit the lengthier travel time.

Siwangag Cove
Cape Engaño Cove

I was elated to see the familiar craggy islets and rocky ridges as we approach Cape Engaño Cove. I could see the the Cape Engaño lighthouse peeking through the vegetation atop the hill. The island feels like a familiar friend welcoming me back.

There were a few structures being built which we were told would be the receiving area and a souvenir shop. I also noticed a few information boards. Camping is no longer allowed on the island unlike before. I would wish there were more info boards though like maps, flora and fauna found on the island. I was told it was already planned.

View of Siwangag cove, grasslands and ridges from the trail
View of Cape Engaño Cove, grasslands and ridges from the trail
Start of the stair trail
Start of the stair trail
Plenty of pandan plants and fruits
Plenty of pandan plants and fruits

Trail Flags and Viewing Decks

I already wrote about Palaui island and Cape Engaño during my first visit so I’ll focus on what has changed. The stairs were definitely refined. Newly painted with added railings to assist climbers. Colorful flags also situated at some points.

The view gets better as we climbed higher. I appreciate Palaui island’s beauty more under the sunny sky. The scenic cove, the grasslands and the hills in verdant glory. I could spot a few birds but they were definitely wary of our presence.

Cape Engaño lighthouse and Dos Hermanos rocky islets
Cape Engaño lighthouse and Dos Hermanos rocky islets

There’s couple of new resting spots and view decks as I’ve noticed. One coming from the covered forest trail. The other is just below the lighthouse with an open field and view of the Dos Hermanos rocky islets. Cape Engaño remains the same with vegetation gnarling its way along the walls and crevices. I still yearn for a little restoration and preservation of this structure which has survived two world wars already.

Taking advantage of the clear skies and good weather, I flew my drone and just marveled at the landscape of this island. Similar to its relative islands in Batanes, Palaui island is shaped by the elements. Naturally captivating and sweeping. I cherish being back here.

Open trail at the start of the hike
Open trail at the start of the hike
Covered forest trail
Covered forest trail
The forest trail leads to one of the covered viewdecks
The forest trail leads to one of the covered viewdecks

Essential Info

Our meals on the island were handled by Kulinarya Cagayan, a DOT Region 2 project were they train locals to serve sumptuous meals while preserving and offering authentic meals. This was prevalent on our arrival where we had a localized turon in banana and ube (local taro) variety with a wild honey and dip on the side.

On our main meals, the salmon soup was soothingly good! The squid dish and vegetables were naturally flavorful.

It’s best to plan your trip to the island. Below are details that may help you.

Lunch spread prepared by Kulinarya Cagayan
Lunch spread prepared by Kulinarya Cagayan
Organic bamboo as plate
Organic bamboo as plate
Turon and kamote dipped on wild honey from the island
Turon and kamote dipped on wild honey from the island

Requirements for Palaui Island

  • Valid ID
  • Vaccination Card

At the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority Tourism, register with the Municipal Tourism Officer and coast guard. There will be a short briefing and boat assignments are done here.

Here are the fees:

  • Visitor Fee – (P50 – Santa Ana residents; P100 – visitors outside Santa Ana)
  • Environmental Fee – P20
  • Tour Guide Fee – P350 (1 guide to 4 guests ratio)
  • Garbage Bag deposit – P200
Boat heading back to Santa Ana mainland.
Boat heading back to Santa Ana mainland.

Boat Rental Fees

Single
Destination
FeesRemarks
Cape EngañoP2,000Maximum of 5 hours. Additional P150 for every hour.
Anguib BeachP1,800Additional P500 for overnight
Crocodile IslandP800Maximum of 5 hours. Additional P150 for every hour
Combination
Destinations
FeesRemarks
Cape Engaño – Crocodile IslandP2,500Whole day tour
Anguib Beach – Crocodile IslandP2,300Whole day tour. Additional P500 for overnight
Cape Engaño – Anguib BeachP3,500Whole day tour. Additional P500 for overnight
Cape Engaño – Crocodile Islnd – Anguib BeachP4,000Whole day tour. Additional P500 for overnight

For inquiries and reservations:

Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) only allow up to 100 visitors a day at Palaui Island. Make sure to book your visit especially on peak seasons.

Municipal Tourism Office (MTO) Hotline: 09167431280

CEZA Hotline: 09651988801

PAMO Hotline: 09959261450

For more information and assistance on tours, contact Cagayan Turismo at their Facebook Page.

Arriving at Cape Engaño lighthouse
Arriving at Cape Engaño lighthouse
Cape Engaño Lighthouse
Exploring the lighthouse grounds
The lighthouse has survived two world wars
The lighthouse has survived two world wars
Cape Engaño Lighthouse
Group photo fun at the windows
Group photo at the lighthouse
Group photo at the lighthouse

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