Tucked away in the heart of the Visayan Sea is a sleeping paradise known as Carnaza Island that is poised to be a confluence of epic journey, adventure and discovery. Carnaza Island is a 430-acres island just off the north point of mainland Cebu, under the jurisdiction of Daanbantayan. It marks the northern-most tip of Cebu Province just like Batanes to the Philippines. It is farther than its neighboring island and one of Cebu’s most popular destination, Malapascua Island but definitely could rival its unparalleled beauty. It is bordered by Leyte and Biliran in the East, Masbate in the North and Iloilo in the West.
I’ve been rooting for this promising island, albeit unpopular, everytime my friends ask me where I want to escape over the weekend. Outnumbered, this idea always gets rejected because most of my friends find it really far. With three to four hours land-trip and two to three hours sea trip, going there is not an easy feat! However, the thought of long distance trip and what the far-flung paradise could offer had pushed me to visit Carnaza Island even more. Cliche as it may sound but there’s no shortcut to any place worth going.
Our first attempt to visiting Carnaza Island dated back in February this year when my IG buddy Marcus (@otepmercado) from Laguna visited Cebu for his week-long birthday celebration. We were so excited to go to the northern-most tip of Cebu Province that we endured 3.5 hours of bus ride. We arrived at the jump-off point in Tapilon port and waited for almost two hours for the only passenger boat going to the island, but to no avail. I could sense then the disappointment of my companions. Time was running out and so we decided to forego of such Carnaza trip and instead, headed to another island-paradise in the North ~ Guintacan (Kinatarcan) Island.
See our trip here: Guintacan Island: The Last Frontier of Cebu
Determined to really step foot on Carnaza Island, I organized a revenge trip last June 1, 2017. With just two days before the travel date, I was surprised to receive positive feedback from the people I invited. Matio (@iameleimath), who just got back from Manila from a two-month vacation, without a second thought decided to give Carnaza Island another shot. Ian (@ian_ko), who is seldomly available on weekends due to professional duty, happened to be on a rest day that week. The Indian King, Kim (@kimville_101), who refused to be labeled as such, wanted to redeem himself and proved us that we were wrong. And of course, the Instagram star Jack (@Jak73), who never hesitated when invited to go back to the island despite the fact he just visited the island two weeks prior. Whew! Putting colors to a once-drawing plan has never been this sweet!
Cove Hopping Adventure
When we arrived in the island, the first thing we did was to ask the locals for some tourist spots but they couldn’t give us one concrete answer. We decided to just roam around the island via motor bike (habal-habal) and let the driver take us to places we never knew existed. Later did we know that Carnaza Island has at least eighteen (18) coves or small bays scattered around the island, awaiting to be visually feasted on. Offering a cove-hopping spree in the North, get ready to experience numerous seaside sensations in Carnaza Island.
Among the coves that are scattered along the island’s rugged coastlines, Daanbayan’s long stretch of white sand beach will first greet tourists and locals. On the far end of the beach, there is a hill which locals call as “pangpang’. Barrio is the main residential area of the island, so expect something “dirty” in the shore. Stores are also available in this area, albeit a bit pricey. To save on food, I suggest you bring your own or buy in the mainland. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water ‘coz you are going to need it all day long.
2.) Daan Barrio
This cove is just right next to Barrio. It has smaller stretch of white sand, situated within a larger bay area but with more or less number of boats that are lining up the shoreline. Fishing is the main livelihood of the residents so you may order fresh seafood catch in every household in the area.
3.) Osmeña Beach of Carnaza Eco Park
Previously known as Kambinaldo, Carnaza Eco Park is owned by a very well known politician. This is the only resort in the island offering swimming, snorkeling, or nature sightseeing at its best. See Where To Stay section below for the rate and contact number.
4.) Candionesio Cove
The right portion of this cove is still owned by the same politician noted above so it is restricted to the public. There is an islet in the left-most part of the cove that adds beauty to this private recess.
Sharing the same cove, the other half (left-part) is available to the public. This is where private boats dock, waiting shed is erected and a small community is living.
5.) Kang Gorio Cove
Among the coves that we’ve been to, Kang Gorio is my favorite. I was spellbound by the magic of its powdered white sand and the inviting azure waters. There is a mini cave on the hillside and you can do camping in the area.
The other side of Kang Gorio captured by a drone. The habal(2x) ride going to this cove guarantees views of mangrove swamps and natural canopy that looks like the famous man-made forest of Bohol.
6.) Twin Beach, Liog-liog
These stunning recesses are uniquely situated in a coastal community which are even more beautiful at bird’s eye view.
7.) Kambalaki Cove
There’s more to Kambalaki cove than meets the eye. This coastal plain is inhabited offering a private retreat from the rest of the island’s coves. Interestingly, just a few meters at the back of this cove lies a small lagoon which you may add to your itinerary.
8.) Skull Cove
Also owned by the same politician above, this small cove is restricted to the public. It has narrow entrance and a paved pathway leading towards a helipad. There is an entrance fee of Php 100 inclusive of cave exploration and swimming. You’ll never regret visiting this cove with that awe-inspiring view!
Skull Cove has two caves in the area, one of which has skulls inside its chamber. There is also a skylight inside, just a smaller version of Balay sa Agta Cave in Argao.
9.) Kailina Cove
When we arrived in the area, there were lots of event leftovers lying around. Jack shared to us that a beach wedding happened two weeks ago. Despite that, Kailina Cove still exudes untouched beauty and I loved it! This particular cove is somewhat secluded compared to other coves, making it ideal venue for exclusive and romantic events.
This coastal inlet is just beside the hill or what residents call as “pangpang”. As an extension of the nook of a cliff or two steep hillsides, it also serves as a cemetery of Barrio residents. I’d be willing to be a castaway in this area.
I took a photo of Carnaza Island from our hired boat and the white sand coves were quite visible from this vantage point. Other coves worthy to be explored are the following: Baliwanan, Gamayng baybay, Linao, Hinagban, Kabitounan, Bantigue, Pantao, Pantao Cementeryo
Where to Stay
There is only one resort in the island ~ Carnaza Eco Park (see #3). The entrance is Php 200 per person and the room rate is Php 200.00. Contact Diana at 0936 731 6495 for reservation. If you are on a tight budget, lots of houses offer homestay for a minimal fee, some even offer it for FREE. You may pitch your tents anywhere in Barrio’s beach but our group wanted to be one with nature, so we decided to camp out in the “pangpang” grounds.
The sundown in “pangpang” was divine. The blazing color of the setting sun, albeit blocked by puff of clouds, never failed to amaze us. Cliff-diving is also done in this area. It was fun to watch kids diving from the cliff like a pro.
So this was our set-up: two were sleeping in the air via hammocks, another two were staying in the tent while the last one opted to sleep under the stars atop the inflatable banana bed. The signal here is strong so expect lots of locals visiting the hillside.
Sunrise in “pangpang” was a dramatic one. This silhouette shot was taken by Matio (@iameleimath) using my Huawei GR5 2017. This beautiful sunrise signified that new adventure awaits and it’s gonna be a great day ahead.
How To Get There
Land Trip – Going to the island is an not an easy feat. I recommend to take the earliest trip (3:00 AM) of Maya-Kawit bound bus from North Bus Terminal (Ceres aircon, fare Php 180 or van, Php 170). Inform the driver that you’re heading to Carnaza Island so remember to alight at Tapilon Port (not Maya Port) in Daanbantayan. Watch out for “Welcome Tapilon” signage.
Sea Trip – The passenger boat arrives at Tapilon Port between 10:00 AM – 12:00 noon from Carnaza (8:00 AM daily schedule). If you wish to take this transportation (fare Php 100) despite irregular departure time going to the island, expect arrival of the boat in Carnaza late afternoon. In order to maximize your time in the island, hire a private banca. There are lots of outrigger boats for hire in the area. Rental rate is pegged from Php 1,500 – Php 2,500 depending on the size and capacity of the boat. Make sure to haggle. You make contact Jomar 09300323831 (for trips from Tapilon to Carnaza and vice versa)
Island Trip – Going around the island’s coves can be done by walking (but it eats a lot of time) so it is recommended to do cove hopping via habal-habal (motor bike). There are many habal-habal available in the Barrio, fare is Php 20 per person per cove but you may give Php 25 (pakyaw rate for exclusive guiding/driving service).
Side Trip – We decided to have our Isla La Manoc side trip the following day to catch its rosy sandbar. See our travelogue (with tips & important details) here: Isla La Manoc: The Best Gem Cebu Never Had
And of course, this article would not be complete without sharing the artworks of my good friends/companions who are legit drone heroes. Watch ’em here:
Posted in Db page entitled “Carnaza: Life and Sceneries Of The Unspoiled Island Paradise” by Jack Ponpon (@Jak73)
Posted by Matio of IAMELEIMATH with caption “Carnaza Island known as the hidden paradise of the north + The remote island between cebu and masbate (La manok Island).”
Our stay at Carnaza Island was nothing short of majestic, a dreamlike experience. For beach bliss that combines serenity, coastal adventure and tropical experience, there is no better place than Carnaza Island. I will definitely go back any time for more cove hopping adventure!