You are here
Home > Asia > Philippines > Calayan > The Unchartered Territories of Calayan Island

The Unchartered Territories of Calayan Island

The Unchartered Territories of Calayan Island 9

Calayan has two points of Entry: Aparri and Claveria

How to Get to Calayan

From Manila:

1.By Air:
Fly to Tuguegarao via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. There are 3 flights a day bound for Tuguegarao from Manila.
From Tuguegarao, take a 2-hour trip via van to Aparri, or a 4-hour van ride to Claveria


Fly to Laoag via Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines. There are 3 flights a day bound for Laoag.From Laoag, take the van to Claveria.

2.) By Bus

A, To Claveria
Take Florida bus route Manila- Laoag- Sanches Mira. It leaves at 8pm and costs Php 750 per way. It will take
roughly 12 hours.

B. To Aparri
Take Florida bus for 14 hours and costs Php 600

C. To Sta Ana
Take Florida Bus for 16 hours and costs Php 650. From Sta Ana, take a van to Claveria or Aparri.

Note: They say 16 hours but we tried this on the way back from Sta Ana to Manila, and it took us 22 hours due to
road constructions.

D. To Tuguegarao
Take Florida Bus or Victory Liner for 12 hours and costs Php 623. You may also take a van to Claveria or Aparri upon
reaching your destination.

Whether you decide to fly or to take the bus, the final options as jump-off points towards Calayan are Claveria and Aparri. From whichever of these, take a “lampitaw” ( an open banca); it is 4 hours from Claveria and 6 hours from Aparri. Take note that the time given is also based on the conditions of the sea. For instance, on our way to Calayan from Claveria, it took 6 hours but on our way back it only took 4.5.

What We Did to get to Calayan

We opted to fly to Tuguegarao and just take a bus back to Manila after all our whole trip for several reasons. First, we wanted to visit the Callao Caves (read my post on it here). Second, the “lampitaw” trip schedule is not reliable, as it is dependent on sea and weather conditions. Meaning, there is a huge possibility that you cannot sail back to the jump-off points on the day you intend to, and consequently miss your flight home. This happened to 2 of our friends.

We also opted for Claveria as jump-off point over Aparri because the schedule seemed more regular from there, and it was also easier for us to find a contact person for the “lampitaw” from there. The contact is important in advising you in advance about weather conditions and information as to whether boats will sail the following day or not.

The “lampitaws” leave Tagat Lagoon in Claveria between 5-7am. We were told that if the “lampitaw” was not ready by 9am, the coast guard would not allow it to sail. We chose MB Jason, the biggest boat that would leave for Calayan that day, and the Captain said that we should be ready by 6am. The “lampitaw” set sail by 8:30am. It took them a while to push the boat out of the shore and shuttle the people in.

The boat trip from Claveria to Calayan usually costs Php 500/person. If there is no big boat sailing on the day you are there, or if you are in a smaller group, weather-permitting, you may haggle with the smaller “lampitaws” to take you. From Claveria on a good day, the captain says it takes 4 hours. In our case, it took 6 hours going, and 5 hours on our way back. The trip can even last longer if the sea is more rough.

The Boat ride from Claveria

I psyched myself to prepare for the worst ride of my life so that hopefully I may find the ride more pleasant than my expectation. The night before, I packed my bags and lined the inside with plastic to protect my things from getting wet. I arrived at the port wearing a rash guard, a rain coat, a hat, a litre of water and a “malong”. I made sure I bathed myself with sunblock. I chose a spot up on the roof deck so that I could lean my back on something. I was lucky I had that as others had to sit for 6 hours with no back support.

The moment the “lampitaw” left Tagat Lagoon, waves started splashing from left and right and it was just hopeless trying to stay dry. Few minutes into the trip and I was already soaking wet, despite my rain coat. The trip had cold wind blowing on us, and splashes of salt water were non-stop. After a while, you begin to not care, but I couldn’t help but keep asking the captain , “Are we there yet?”

Two hours after we left shore, we traversed between two islands that I found really pretty, and was told that these were called Fuga. Apart from the scenic view, this was the closest to calm that the “lampitaw” ride came, since the wind was being shielded by the islands. It was a relief and a good break. However, the moment we left Fuga behind, it was the same scenario yet again. At this point, I thought we were half way. Oh how wrong I was! The captain said that we still had a long way to go.

Since I had some back support, I managed to nap a bit. When I woke up, I saw a silhouette of what they told us was already Calayan. I rejoiced. That silhouette, though in sight, took 2 more hours to get to. I felt like it wasn’t getting any nearer. I was soaked, wet, baked, and I must admit, somewhere along that ride, I questioned myself if it was worth it. Despite being really adventurous, this one required a whole lot of patience. Finally, after all that, we reached Calayan and were greeted with a warm welcome by Mommy Tess.


Where to Stay in Calayan

We stayed in TPS homestay, owned by Mama Tess who is also the Kagawad. She is a mother of 11 children. Mama Tess was very accommodating, and welcomed us with wine which she made herself. Traveling around Calayan was easier because of her.

We had 2 common bathrooms and 2 toilets found near her little garden. There was also a common dining area where we sat down to meet the other guests. Her home had a kitchen where we could cook, for which she only charged us Php50 for gas. The stay was Php 200/head/night.

Just 2 minutes walking from TPS Homestay, you will find 3 convenience stores for everything you need. Our favorite was Gretchen’s Store, since it had the most variety. We got our chips, food, water, and toiletries from them. They were also very accommodating, sharing with us that they used to live in Manila too, but had migrated to Calayan to put up this business there. Gretchen’s Store became our comfort food haven for our daily dose of C2, Stick-O, Hansel, pancit canton and more.

Note: The town of Calayan practices “siesta”, so from 12 noon to 2 pm everything is closed. We couldn’t go out to buy water at those hours since most of the stores were closed.

Contact Details :
Mommy Tess: 0939-9158667
Mommy Tess can also help you arrange schedules for the lampitaws.


Friendly Reminders

1. Pack your bags inside plastic bags to secure your belongings.
2. Wear sunscreen, the sun up north is harsh.
3. Be prepared to get wet.
4. Have a hat or something to protect your face.
5. Bring a raincoat.
6. Eat light and bring easy finger food just for you to munch on during the journey. Eating too much will make you feel nauseated.
7. Find a contact at the port to update you about the weather conditions.
8. Mama Tess is a good contact person. Message her and she can help you arrange things.
9. Have a flexible schedule since the boat rides are weather dependent.
10. It’s best to go during summer months ( March to May) where the sea is better. During rainy season expect more boat trip cancellations. There is also the possibility of being stranded for a fe days till the trips resume. It is also during this time that humpback whales are spotted in the ocean. They migrate to Japan the rest of the months.
11. The bigger the boat, the better.
12. Be prepared in case one of the engines of the “lampitaws” give up in the middle of the sea. Keep calm; the crew seems pretty used to it and is quite skilled at handling it.
13. There is no globe signal in Calayan. Have a smart or sun sim card for means of communications.
14. There is no electricity from 12 midnight to 12 noon so use the rest of the time to charge everything that you have to.
15. There is no ATMs in Calayan. Bring sufficient cash to sustain you while in the island.
16. Each catered meal costs Php150/head. The bed is Php 200/head/night
17. Town Siesta time is 12 noon to 2pm. Most, if not all, of the stores will be closed.


What to see in Calayan Island


After our 6-hour ordeal to get to Calayan, I temporarily dreaded having to ride a “lampitaw” again, but they said it was worth it, and so we did. The boat to Lusok Cave cost us Php2500.

Lusok Cave, they said, was 30 minutes away from the Municipal port, but it took us 1 hour. Just before reaching shore, we saw a lot of wild cows, carabaos, goats and horses. It was nice that on this island, animals were free to roam.

We headed towards the cave. We marveled at the hole at the center where water enters, thus making it a good place to swim.

We spent a lot of time in Lusok, and we headed home late. Good for us though, as we experienced seeing phytoplanktons lighting up the waters that surrounded us, as our boat swooshed through the sea. The night sky was filled with stars; what a perfect first day. All of us agreed this was definitely what we came for.

Photo taken by @benjstagram


Ask me, was all that travel was worth it? They say nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort. Once I caught a glimpse of Sibang Cove, I knew it was worth it.

There are two ways to get to Sibang Cove from the town of Calayan. If you’re a big group, you can take a 15-20 minute “lampitaw” ride from the port in front of the Municipal Hall for Php 1500, or Php 2000 for a bigger one. If you’re a small group, or alone, it is best that you hire a habal habal (motorcycle), for a 30-minute ride inland. The roads are very steep and winding though.

Since we were 10, we opted for the boat. Depending on the weather, the ride can be calm or rough. We experienced both. Before we left the port, we were asked to register our names at the Police Station for our safety.

When we got to Sibang Cove, it was hard not to take in the view. It was overwhelming and too pretty. Everything was just a “WOW” moment. The sea was turquoise and it was very clean. The sand was white and it was fine. It was perfect.


We first explored the cove towards the direction of Kababaan beach and Puraw Rock Formation. This one, looked very much just like Kapurpurawan Rocks of Ilocos Norte. The path was filled with rocks and boulders which we had to climb our way through. Near the cove’s edge, the waves hit and splashed on the rocks, creating a much welcome shower.



When we got to Sibang Cove, it was hard not to take in the view. It was overwhelming and too pretty. Everything was just a “WOW” moment. The sea was turquoise and it was very clean. The sand was white and it was fine. It was perfect.

We first explored the cove towards the direction of Kababaan beach and Puraw Rock Formation. This one, looked very much just like Kapurpurawan Rocks of Ilocos Norte. The path was filled with rocks and boulders which we had to climb our way through. Near the cove’s edge, the waves hit and splashed on the rocks, creating a much welcome shower.

When we got back to where the boat dropped us, our guide Kuya Medi suggested we stay in the shed. Surprised that it existed, we all walked towards that shed and that’s when we decided on a spur of the moment that we were going to stay the night. Yes, we weren’t prepared. We decided to make do with whatever few things that each of us had brought. Luckily, since we were 10, we were able to gather a collection of things good enough for the night. My contribution was the flashlight. We didn’t plan to camp there, and yet, we made it happen.

Being on an island with no one else, you can get really creative. This started out as “Hey, that looks like a baseball bat”, and we ended up playing baseball with some wooden plant and a fallen coconut. We also pretended to be monkeys with a huge stick that we found, hanging on to it to see who can stay on the longest. With no social media or technology available, we went back to basics. We decided to play tribe wars and survivor. We saw random things around the island that we could turn into “weapons”. We split into 2 groups, the mountain tribe and the beach tribe, and spent roughly an hour trying to come up with costumes to match our “weapons”. We had 4 go pros that we set around the battle field, and we played a little game of war. It was all too funny!

Finally, when we were done with all those games, we swam in the ocean. It was deep, and the waves were a bit strong, so knowing how to swim was a must. We had fun being swept away by the waves and “body surfing” it.

Just before 4pm, we started our long walk towards Nagundungan Hills. The walk was very scenic, with the coast on your left, and the forest on the right. We also saw random mysterious things along the way, like a dead fish with really big teeth. Prior to climbing the hill, we first hiked a small mound of land where our guide said once contained a huge jar but because people didn’t know what it was, they broke it. At the center of the mound of land was a big hole, marking the spot where the “banga” ( jar) used to be.

Heading for the hills, he hike was very easy. Anyone can do it even in flip flops. As we ascended, we kept looking behind us; with every step the view just got prettier. This island that kept giving—-despite having consumed one whole day in it, we were still mesmerized by the sight of it.

Nagundungan Hills had wild goats just roaming around in huge herds, moving as one unit. Atop was a light house and endless amazing views of cliffs and jagged edges. We watched birds soaring, and listened to the waves as they crashed in the sea below. We took a lot of pictures in this hill since it was too pretty not to. For now, this was our version of Batanes, yet another destination we dream of.

When the sun started to set, we sat down and watched it disappear in the horizon. We were thankful for what a great day that was, and headed back to camp.

Just when we thought that it couldn’t get any better, the serene night time on the island totally embraced us. Its darkness made us see the sky clearly, no moon, but with literally a dome of stars. We even saw Jupiter. We laid down on the sand with our trusted “malongs” and just stared at the beauty that surrounded us. I found myself wishing that I knew how to do night photography, since it was too pretty but we couldn’t capture it for posterity.

We had a long day, so we slept early. The next morning, when we woke up and stepped out of our tents, it felt like we were seeing Calayan for the first time all over again. We were just as in awe of it as we were yesterday.


Day 3 : Cliff Jumping in Tapwakan and Exploring the Town


Since we had a rough couple of days, today was supposed to be our “rest day”. We spent the morning just chilling by the beach, till we decided to head for Tapwakan for some cliff Jumping. It seemed high from above, but it turned out to be a short jump. Definitely, nothing we haven’t done before. The only thing against it was, walking through the rocks on barefoot did hurt.

After several jumps and beach bumming, we went back to town for a proper lunch. TPS Homestay had meals catered for Php150/head. As it turned out, it was the wife of our tour guide, Medi, who was our caterer.

We took the afternoon to rest, and then just before sunset, we walked around town. We were amazed upon seeing their town church. It did not look like a very remote island’s church at all. It was really nice. (See for yourself in the picture below )

We walked for roughly an hour. During our walk, we saw rice paddies, a lot of cute pigs roaming around, and dogs following us. We also saw small houses with “karaokes” where people gathered around to sing. It was such a small town yet everyone was so accommodating.

We headed back to sit by the port to watch the sunset. Some of us were heading back home the next day, so we took this time to really appreciate it.

In the evening, Mama Tess and our tour guides surprised us by giving us a meal “on the house”. We had clams, lobsters and fish. Mama Tess toured us and showed us where she made her wine. She also served it to us that night, with a couple bottles of beer and Emperador.

This is why I love being in farfetched provinces; everyone is just so helpful and friendly. We were thankful that they fed us. We spent the night just bonding and talking about our wonderful experiences on the island.

(Note: They also educated us in the art of opening and eating lobsters with our bare hands. Too bad we didn’t have a camera to take photos. )

Day 4: Sumairo Falls Secret Coves and Cave Connections

This morning, we asked the guide to take us to places that were not often visited in Calayan, and he suggested the waterfalls in Kabudadan. He said that this was called Sumairo falls, but in Filipino it means “Demon”, so they are planning to change the name. (Agree!!!)

We set out to hike for 3 hours to the highest falls in Calayan, boasting 173 feet high, with a pool in the bottom to swim in. The path started out well from town and then later on became just dirt mud that sometimes felt like “quicksand” because it was too wet and soft. I had my foot caught in one of it because I lost balance and my foot sank deep. The guide had to dig in for it and he used bamboo and a leaf to clean it off. The trail was pretty wide; however, we restricted ourselves to the edges because it was where the ground was dry and hard enough for us to walk on. We had ample shade from trees in some parts and exposed to the sun in the rest. It was a constant change in uphill, downhill, and flat surface. There were some hills that were steep but the guide said that they are in the process of lowering it down.

After 1.5 hours ( yes, the guide said we were fast), we turned into a natural rain forest. Our guides brought “itaks” (large knives). When I asked them about it, they said it was precaution for the snakes. That didn’t sound very encouraging, but that is why they said it was best to hike in the morning and not in the afternoon, as these creatures are more active at night.

While the first 1.5 hours was a breeze and a walk in the park (especially if you are an experienced hiker), the next 30 minutes was a bit more difficult. The path entered the thickness of the forest and it was mossy, steep and slippery. We had to exercise caution going down, and often, we used our butts to catch our fall, or the roots of the trees to keep us from falling. Despite our desperate attempts to stay clean, even the best of us were dirty, so we looked forward to the waterfalls at the end of the hike. After 30 minutes or so of slipping through what was the trail, we reached our destination.

Because of the heat, the girls quickly decided to take a dip. The water was cold but it was what we needed at that point. Being adventurous people, we decided to climb the 2nd level of the waterfalls. It wasn’t that easy but it was doable. It was even colder up there, but there was also a mini pool to chill and relax. The boys joined us after awhile. The guide said that we were only able to do that because it was summer and the water is not at its fullest strength. During rainy season, it pours really strong, making climbing the 2nd layer very, very difficult.

We spent a good amount of time there until we decided to head back to have a hearty lunch at the Homestay. Climbing up, although tiring, was a lot easier, as we did not slip as much. Some parts had hard tree roots in place, which we used as support for climbing and rappelling. Once we hit the road, although still a long way home, it was very easy.

My crazy pack and I are obviously adventure seekers, and as if our morning was not cardio and work out enough, our afternoon was spent exploring some secret coves and cave connections. We saw the cave connections while on the “lampitaw” but we saw no way to enter them, until we spoke to someone who was willing to take us down to the secret cove. It literally needed much caution, muscle work, leg work , endurance and determination. This was reverse cliff/rock climbing, and in our path lay jagged rocks with natural metals in it. Some of the rocks were loosely set; we had to constantly check that the rocks we stepped on were sturdy enough to support our weight. In our determination to do this, without a rope nor anything else but our hands, legs and our fighting spirit, we descended the cliff to view the caves.

Going down was hard; in some pathways that were too narrow, we had to hang side ways. Had we let go, we would go straight down and fall. When we all made it down, we rejoiced and we were all proud of ourselves. We were so thankful for our guide who, even if it was not a normal tourist destination but because we had asked him, climbed down and found a path for us to use. (Note: There was a part where there was a big gap and being that I was short, I had to use the guide’s lap as a stepping stone to be able to cross to the other side J)

The caves were really interesting. There were bats and a lot of sea urchins though. We were told that it was best to explore it during low tide.

The experience was really such an achievement. Apart from doing the road less travelled, we were happy to have reached our goal as we had been eyeing that cove from the moment we got to Calayan.

We climbed up before sunset and sat at the top, relishing the experience that we just had. And again, just like the other nights, we headed home in the dark with a starry night sky and phytoplanktons in the water.


Day 5: Going back to Claveria and heading to Palaui, Santa Ana

5 days in Calayan was definitely not enough. There were still a lot to explore. We will be back for sure.


Lusok Cave Boat Ride 2500/boat 1 hour away
Sibang Cove 2000/boat 15-20 minutes away
Tapwakan ( In between Sibang Cove and Port so you can pass by)
Guides for Kabudadan Falls 250/guide


12 thoughts on “The Unchartered Territories of Calayan Island

  1. Awesome itinerary!! And your pictures are insanely gorgeous. I’m headed to the Philippines for Christmas, but I’ll be spending all my time on Palawan. But if I go back again Ill definitely keep these sights in mind. 🙂

  2. I never even heard about Calayan before and yet it looks just soooo amazing! The route you described sounds perfect, too! Will definitely try to repeat it when I travel to the Philippines!!

Leave a Reply