When you think of a tropical hideaway, you often think of places like Boracay and Palawan. Somewhere near these two, Romblon wouldn’t even come to mind. But all that will change once you discover this little island heaven called Cobrador. Also called Nagoso locally, the island just off the coast of the province capital boasts pure white sand made of crushed corals and magnificent sapphire waters. If you want a beach paradise with a lot of local character, you should definitely see this. Also, if you want a vacation spot where you can feel very safe, this is also the place! Cobrador has very low to virtually no crime rate at all, and if your effort in reaching the place is rewarded by a completely worry-free vacation, then it’s worth it
Don’t worry if the place is unfamiliar, though — this guide will be your ultimate manual on how to get there and what to do once you’ve touched the ground! Prepare your Php 50 (USD 1) entrance fee for the island, and off we go.
How to get there
Romblon may be far away from the nation’s capital, but it’s still not that hard to reach if you have patience. Manila-based travelers can take a bus from either Cubao or Pasay (JAC and JAM Liners have terminals) to Batangas Port. The ride lasts for around 2 hours, and the fare is less than Php 150 (USD 3).
From there, there’s a choice of two RoRo ferries. 2Go Travel has one that goes through Romblon on its way to Roxas, and is the faster way. The ferry leaves every Tuesday and Friday, at 10PM. The trip is about 8 hours, so you will arrive early in the morning the next day. The Economy Class is a little over Php 1,000 (USD 20+), while the more comfortable Tourist class is about Php 200 (USD 4) more. If you wish to have privacy with your companions, you can also rent a cabin for 4 at no less than Php 1,500 (USD 30) per head. Online bookings are best to ensure a bunk.
On the other hand, Montenegro Shipping Lines drops anchor in Romblon after passing through Odiongan. Despite being a slower trip (at 12 hours), this one has more ferries plying the route. It leaves every Monday, Thursday and Saturday, at 5PM. It’s cheaper, too, with Economy class costing less than Php 1,000 (around USD 20). The DeLuxe class is also at more than Php 1,200 (USD 23+), while First Class is a little less than Php 1,500 (USD 30).
There are also trips directly to Romblon, courtesy of the smaller MV Navios. The trip leaves every Sundays and Wednesdays, also at 5PM. It’s best to call the shipping lines to reserve a seat, though. There are different prices, with the cheapest being under Php 900 (USD 18) and the most expensive (Cabin) at around Php 1,200 (USD 23). Students, senior citizens, and children also have discounts
There’s a terminal fee of Php 30 (about USD 1) no matter which one you decide to go with, and the all you have to do is to wait for the announcement to board the boat.
If the traditional RoRo route is too slow for you, however, you can catch a flight from the NAIA Terminal 4 directly to Tablas Island in Romblon! There are flights along this route four times a week, courtesy of Cebu Pacific. From Tugdan (in Tablas), you can take a 1 ½ hour trip to San Agustin (around Php 250 [USD 5] via jeepney or tricycle) and take a pumpboat to Romblon, Romblon. The Santo Nino Lines ferry leaves daily at 8AM and 1PM. The travel time is around 40 minutes to an hour, and it costs around Php 100 (USD 2). It’s for 80 people, but you can actually rent one for Php 5,500 (USD 110)! It’s also possible to charter a fishing boat from one of the locals and have them ferry you from San Agustin to the capital! This costs Php 1,500 (a little less than USD 30) for a roundtrip, and is great for those times when you missed the ferry and you have companions to split the fare with.
How to get to Cobrador
Once you’re in Romblon, Romblon, you can easily take a ferry to Cobrador. The ride can last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the weather. The boat’s fare is only Php 60 (a little over USD 1) , and the ferry leaves from the capital (“Bayan”, in local parlance) every 10AM and 5PM. You can catch the same ferry back from Cobrador every 6AM and 1PM.
If you’re not doing anything in the capital and your only destination is Cobrador, it’s also possible to get a similar ride straight from San Agustin! It’s just that hopping via the capital is easier especially if you are also visiting the other sights in the province.
As you see, getting to this hidden paradise does take a bit of effort and some good planning skills to make sure you catch all schedules with minimal time wasted. However, at the end you will be rewarded with a pristine hideaway that is mostly unspoiled!
Tropical beauty at its finest
Even as you travel to Cobrador, you would already see just how clear their seas are. Romblon prides itself on its ecological preservation, being home to the second cleanest river in the world and different kinds of marine sanctuaries. Naturally, this concern would also extend to its seas which are practically free from any type of pollution.
Meeting the clear waters at the shores of Cobrador is the pure white sand that shines bright under the Romblon sun. While the sand isn’t fine (crushed corals do that), it’s still an amazing view. It’s the exact image of tropical beauty, and you can take pictures all day! This is exactly what Boracay once was, during the days when rampant commercialization wasn’t yet a thing.
Cobrador is mostly suites to either day trippers, or those who wish to camp out in such a setting. There’s barely any accommodation on the island, even though there are people actually living on it. These are tribesmen that are native to Cobrador! The only commercial place here is a homestay that can accommodate a max of only two people. If you’d like to check this out, it’s Php 500 (USD 10) per head with free breakfast. The lack of accommodations would also mean, of course, the lack of those pesky vendors that litter other beaches! You can fully enjoy your day without trying to evade hawkers of overpriced souvenirs. In our case, we stayed in Paradise Dream Resort which is in the Bayan.
Aside from that, there is a really big cabana that you can rent for Php 300 (USD 6). This can be used to house you while you eat lunch! You can buy food from the capital and cook it here. But what good would a tropical paradise be without tropical fruits! Cobrador is the proud producer of the best atis (sugar-apple or sweetsop) in this region. There’s also watermelon, and different kinds of vegetables you can cook for your beach-side meals.
If you want to have boodle meals here, you can have them, too! You can even arrange to have one by contacting the Tourism Officer in the area before your trip, so they can coordinate. The Tourism Officer’s name is Cesar, and you can reach him at 09883409500. You can also shoot him an email at email@example.com. You can contact his office for anything from trying out local dishes to hiring pump boats for groups!
One you have your fill of beach bumming, the island also offers a lot of different activities.
Into the deep blue
Aside from its heavenly beach, Cobrador is also famous for being the jump-off point for some of the most beautiful diving spots in the province! Snorkeling and diving is a must-do in the island. In fact, you can also rent snorkel gear for only Php 50 (USD 1)!
One of the things to see here is the “blue hole” which is an underwater sinkhole deep within the sea. This is a favorite dive spot, as it was only recently discovered around the Sibuyan Sea. This is so far the only known such phenomenon in the Philippines.
There are other dive spots in the area, too, with an abundance of corals and marine species that thrive within the unpolluted waters. And if swimming calmly with the fishes isn’t enough for you, and if you’re the type who likes to catch what you eat, then there’s also an option to go spearfishing!
Deep within the earth
You have the sun and the sea, and then you also have the earth! There are various caves around the island that are worth exploring, so long as the weather permits. One of them, the Ilaya Cave, used to be a local tribal burial ground. It has different chambers that provide an interesting adventure! Sadly, you can no longer see any of the tribal artifacts since they had been stolen by grave robbers in the 1970s.
The cave is only a 15-minute trek from the beach, and can be easily explored. However, it’s been raining days prior to our visit so we weren’t allowed to do this.
You will, of course, notice the absolute cleanliness of Cobrador Island once you get to visit it. But the eco-tourism drive of the Romblon government does not just extend to picking up trash. Recycling is also a major thing here, as evidenced by the Plastic Bottle Library found in the local elementary school! And it’s not a library that has stuff made out of plastic bottles. It is completely made out of plastic bottles!
Cobrador’s rich heart is also the source of one of Romblon’s treasures — the rare onyx-black marble that is so prized around the world. Romblon itself is famous for world-class marble and related products, but this black beauty holds a special place.
As you see, Cobrador is far more than just a simple beach island. It has everything you need for an awesome weekend getaway! Just make sure to fully-charge your phones and power banks, load up all your travel essentials, and kickback and relax as Cobrador soothes away all your worries with the world.