Carabao Island is a bit of an unknown gem right around the corner from Boracay in the Romblon Province. Many people take the awesome day trip from Boracay at some stage but it’s actually a perfect spot for a multi-day adventure stay, away from the crowds of Boracay. If you like cliff jumping, you need to get yourself to Carabao. There are two awesome spots to send some backflips but it’s not just cliff jumping there are loads of other things to do on Carabao and I’ll show you what they are in this Carabao Island Travel Guide.
CARABAO ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE
Carabao Island, often overshadowed by its illustrious neighbor, Boracay, is a hidden gem nestled in the Romblon province of the Philippines. Boasting pristine white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and dramatic cliffs, this serene island escape provides a tranquil contrast to the bustling tourist hubs nearby. Named after the Filipino word for “water buffalo,” Carabao Island exudes an untouched charm, reflecting a blend of raw natural beauty and rich local culture. It’s a haven for those seeking a more laid-back and authentic island experience. In this article, I’ll share a few of the best things to do on Carabao Island.
HOW TO GET TO CARABAO ISLAND
Less than 10,000 people live in Carabao and its capital is San Jose. There are hardly any cars on the island, with motorbikes and boats the popular form of transport.
Carabao Island is just above Boracay and below the island of Tablas. To the right, across the ocean is Roxas. This means, there are many ways of getting to Carabao Island but at some stage, they all involve a boat.
- From Tablas: You can rent a private boat for $20 USD or whatever you can negotiate with a local fisherman, or boatman. You can also take the morning/daily ferry, which departs around 8 am in the morning. There is no nightly ferry.
- From Boracay: There are many day charters but also boats that will happily leave you on Carabao. Expect to pay anywhere from $5-10 for the private transfer depending on the size of your group.
- From Caticlan: The ferry from Caticlan to Carabao leaves daily at 9 am
- From Roxas: From Roxas, you will need to take the ferry to Tablas and then another ferry to Carabao.
- From Manila: You can fly into Caticlan or Tablas and then take the ferry as mentioned. There is no airport on Carabao.
CARABAO ISLAND TRANSPORT
There are hardly any cars in Carabao and no public transport. If you need a ride you can jump on the back of a motorbike. However, the island is so small you can walk to most places locally.
We rented a motorbike one day to visit San Jose and Cathedral Cave but other than that we walked everywhere. The motorbike cost $9 USD for the entire day with gasoline included.
WHERE TO STAY ON CARABAO ISLAND
We stayed at a local homestay. It was a beautiful family that had a few kids. We hung out with the kids every day and the family cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for us local style. It was a great way to do the stay.
There are also a few nice resorts nearby such as Oceans Edge Resort, which will have you right on the beach and within walking distance of the cliff jumps and viewpoints!
5 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON CARABAO ISLAND
Alright, let’s get into this list of the top things to do on Carabao Island in Romblon, Philippines.
KODING KODING CLIFF JUMP
Kuding Kuding on Carabao Island is one of those places you walk into and just get so excited you almost panic. Crystal clear, vibrant blue water lay in waiting for you from several diving platforms at this epic hangout spot.
There are several diving boards of only about 3 meters in height so it is a great spot for families, kids, and travelers alike. There are also rafts to hang out on in the water. Ladders make it easy to get in and out of the water but reef shoes are advised.
I suggest visiting Kuding Kuding Cliff Jump and Cathedral Cliff Jump on the same day if you have the energy as they are both nearby and definitely both worth visiting!
Carabao is a small island so you can probably walk to Kuding Kuding cliff jump depending on where you are staying or you can hire a motorbike for about 500 pesos give or take depending on your negotiation abilities.
There are tables inside little huts to chill and take cover from the sun after cliff jumping. Food and drinks are also available but nothing too extensive just basic snacks.
View full blog post: KODING KODING CLIFF JUMP
CATHEDRAL CAVE CLIFF JUMP
From the road, we found the small Cathedral Cave sign and walked down the winding, muddy trail through all of the trees. After a few hundred meters we reached the entrance and paid 100 pesos to enter. That is just $2.50 USD. There has been a lot of bamboo construction of walkways and diving boards so you aren’t just paying to jump off a regular cliff, which justifies the fee.
There are two areas to jump at Cathedral Cave. We first visited the site on the left. Here there are two diving boards, which are about 3 meters and 5 meters.
A bamboo walkway winds across the roads leading you out to the ocean. The water was insanely clear and blue, it was such an epic spot and we actually had it all to ourselves for most of the time.
Along the boardwalks, you can stop off to the sides and explore the caves. The water glows and small fish are swimming about. If you are game there are several small tunnels and caves within the caves to explore.
The other side is where the big caves are and also where you will find the big cliff jumps. You can take a guided tour inside the caves to see all the natural formations. They make you wear a helmet and it’s quite an interesting cave to check out.
We were there for the cliff jumps so I was stoked to have a diving board, which was roughly 8-10m high directly above the crystal clear water. I sent way too many backflips as we watched on as the local visitors built up the courage to jump.
Some of the local kids, however, were pros. They were jumping from the highest cliff, which had to be at least 20 meters. I decided to give it a crack and join them for a jump.
There’s no doubt that cliff jumping is one of the highlights and best things to do on Carabao Island.
View full blog post: CATHEDRAL CAVE CLIFF JUMP
TAGAYTAY SUNSET VIEWPOINT
One of the highlights of Carabao Island was hanging out in a treehouse, watching the sunset while staring out across the ocean to the recently vacated Boracay Island. At Tagaytay viewpoint, you can get the sunset and the Boracay view all in one place.
It is quite touristy but it’s Carabao, it’s not busy. They have built a house and small cafe as well as a treehouse to turn the spot into a cool viewing area. It is surrounded by a lot of trees but you can get a great sunset view or the view of Boracay. From the east coast of Carabao Island, you could walk here in half an hour or drive your bike all the way up the path.
TAGAYTAY TREEHOUSE CAFE
There are a few awesome little treehouses set up at Tagaytay. If you get there early enough, you can hang out in these treehouses and watch the sun set over the ocean while sipping on a drink from the cafe!
SAN JOSE PALM BEACH
One day we rented a motorbike for $10 USD and made the journey up and over the hill to San Jose Beach. This is the main beach area of the island and there are a few resorts here. It seemed to be the more touristy side of the island with lots of food options and coffee spots. The water here is much clearer than the east side or at least while we visited and the main attraction is the palm trees along the beach.
Many of the palms are very bent, which makes for that classic tropical postcard photo. We found that there were some really cool palms down the far end of the beach at a spot called Sea Garden, which you can find on Google Maps. Finding these iconic palms is one of the most popular activities on Carabao Island.
SAN JOSE HIDDEN BEACH
Once we reached Sea Garden, we continued to explore further along the coast. An old staircase and bridge were falling apart but we wandered through some small caves and found some private beaches. No one else was to be seen and we enjoyed exploring some of the more random parts on Carabao Island.
It was a very quiet place and something to treasure. Crowded beaches are becoming more and more common in the Philippines and throughout the world so to sit down on the sand and watch the ocean come and go is a beautiful thing. This exploration was one of my favorite things to do on Carabao Island.
BEST TIME TO VISIT CARABAO ISLAND
Carabao Island, located just south of the more famous Boracay Island in the Philippines, offers a quieter alternative to its bustling neighbor. It boasts pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and a more laid-back atmosphere. If you’re considering a visit, here are some recommendations regarding the best time to go:
- Dry Season (December to May):
- Peak Tourist Season: The period between December and February, in particular, is the peak tourist season. This is because many are looking to escape the colder climates of their home countries. The weather is cooler and quite pleasant during these months.
- Hot Months: March to May is the hottest period of the year, known as the summer months in the Philippines. Expect sunnier days and warmer temperatures, but this is also a good time to enjoy the beaches.
- Off-Peak Season (June to November):
- This period is considered the rainy or monsoon season. While there will be days of heavy rain, it doesn’t mean it will rain continuously. There are still many sunny breaks in between.
- If you’re looking for a quieter experience and don’t mind the occasional rainfall, this might be the time for you. Accommodation rates tend to be lower during these months.
- Festivals and Events:
- Consider local festivals and events. These can add a cultural dimension to your trip, though they may also mean more visitors. For instance, the “Kanyaw Festival” is held in September to honor the island’s patron saint.
- Environmental Considerations:
- Carabao Island is less commercialized than Boracay, but it’s always good to visit when the environmental impact is minimized. The Philippines occasionally implements tourist limits or temporary shutdowns on popular islands to allow for rehabilitation. As of my last update in 2021, there was no such shutdown on Carabao Island, but it’s always a good idea to check current conditions.
- Travel Restrictions and Safety Protocols:
- Due to changing global situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, always check travel advisories, quarantine requirements, and safety protocols.
In Summary: The best time to visit Carabao Island depends on your preferences. If you prefer sunnier days and don’t mind more tourists, December to May is ideal. If you want a quieter experience and are okay with occasional rains, June to November is a good choice.
BACKGROUND OF CARABAO ISLAND
The island’s history is not as extensively documented as some of the larger Filipino islands, but here’s a brief overview:
- Pre-Colonial Period:
- Before the Spanish arrived in the Philippines, the islands, including Romblon and Carabao Island, were home to indigenous communities. These early inhabitants were likely to be Austronesian settlers who migrated from the southern parts of Asia.
- Spanish Colonization:
- The Spanish colonized the Philippines in the 16th century. Romblon and its islands, including Carabao Island, were visited by Spanish explorers, and eventually, the Spanish influence became prominent. Catholicism was introduced, and several churches and Spanish-era structures were built throughout the province. However, Carabao Island, being smaller, didn’t have as many notable structures as other islands.
- American Period:
- After the Spanish-American War at the end of the 19th century, the Philippines was ceded to the United States. The American colonial government introduced a new system of governance and education. During this period, infrastructure development took place, and English became a medium of instruction.
- World War II:
- During the Second World War, the Philippines was invaded and occupied by Japanese forces. While the primary battles and resistance movements were centered on the larger islands, smaller islands, including those in Romblon, felt the effects of the war. After the war, the Philippines was granted independence by the United States in 1946.
- Carabao Island, along with the rest of Romblon, embarked on local developmental projects post-independence. Over the years, tourism has grown, especially with the rise of Boracay as a popular destination. Carabao Island began drawing visitors looking for a quieter and more pristine environment.
- Current Times:
- The island has been earmarked for tourism development due to its proximity to Boracay. Infrastructure improvements and resort developments have been taking place, with the local government aiming to strike a balance between development and environmental sustainability.
WHERE IS CARABAO ISLAND
Carabao Island, also known as Hambil Island, is located in the Philippines. It is part of the Romblon province and lies just about 8 kilometers south of the world-famous Boracay Island in Aklan. Positioned in the Sibuyan Sea, Carabao Island is closest to the northern tip of Panay Island. Despite its proximity to the bustling Boracay, Carabao offers a more tranquil and untouched ambiance, making it a peaceful alternative for travelers in search of a quieter retreat.
MORE ROMBLON TRAVEL GUIDES:
- Tablas Island: 20 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON TABLAS ISLAND
- Sibuyan Island: 9 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON SIBUYAN ISLAND
- Carabao Island: 5 THINGS TO DO ON CARABAO ISLAND
- Romblon Island: 17 THINGS TO DO ON ROMBLON ISLAND
- Cresta de Gallo Island: CRESTA DE GALLO ISLAND, ROMBLON – EPIC DAY TRIP
- Hiking G2 (Guiting Guiting): TREKKING MT GUITING GUITING (G2)