This brief guide to Polillo Islands will help you plan your trip. It contains information on what to do, eat, and drink as well as the must-see spots and the best hotels.
Located east of Luzon is Polillo Islands, a group of islands located in the Philippine Sea and are part of the province of Quezon. The island group is composed of 27 islands with the namesake Polillo Island, Patnanungan Island, and Jomalig Island as the three biggest islands.
Polillo Islands are a great destination for nature lovers as they are blessed with pristine beaches, coves, caves, limestone cliff formations, lush vegetation, and of course, rich marine life.
Best Time to Visit
It’s best to visit the Philippines during the dry season. Dry season in the Philippines spans from November through April. These are the summer months in this country.
Be aware that temperatures and humidity levels are particularly high in April and May.
The best time to be a beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May.
TIP: This guide recommends that booking for Polillo Islands summer trips should be done as early as possible, at least a month before your travel dates, since resorts get fully booked early.
The period from June to October is the rainy (wet) season and is best avoided due to the high possibility of typhoons. The typhoons can not only be destructive, but most tours and activities are cancelled under such circumstances. Transportation via plane and boat is also seriously impacted as well. This happens frequently so beware!
This guide recommends traveling to Polillo Islands in April-May or in November-December, just before and just after the rainy season. This will likely bring fewer crowds, yet pleasant weather, and is also a great time to score a travel deal.
Plug commonly used is Type A but Types B and C are used as well. Bring A to B adapter(s).
There are many ways to get here depending on your starting point. This guide recommends using the following online tools to identify all the available options and cost for each while on Polillo Islands: Rome2Rio and PHBUS. The following are the major ports of entry for this destination.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (IATA: MNL) is the major airport closest to Polillo Island. You can fly to NAIA from any airport in the country and from several countries abroad.
Find Flights to Manila (Ninoy Aquino International) Airport
When in Manila, there are three options on how to get to Ungos Port, the jumpoff point to Polillo Island.
Via Legarda, Manila
Head to the terminal in Legarda and take the bus that goes directly to Ungos Port. The bus leaves at 11:30 PM (ordinary bus) and at 1:00 AM (air-conditioned bus). Travel time is four to five hours and the fare is about P250 ($5 USD) per person.
You can also ride a van to Real, Quezon and ride a tricycle to Ungos Port. The tricycle fare is P15 ($0.3 USD) per person.
Via Shaw Boulevard
In Shaw Boulevard, ride a jeepney going to Cainta junction and then take another jeepney going to Siniloan, Laguna. From there, you can ride another jeepney going to Real, Quezon.
Via Buendia or Cubao
From either Buendia or Cubao terminal, take a bus bound for Sta. Cruz, Laguna. Travel time is around two hours. From Sta. Cruz, take a jeepney to Siniloan where you can take another jeepney to Real, Quezon. Travel time is around two and a half hours. Ride a tricycle to Ungos Port.
From Ungos Port, You can take either a fastcraft or RORO to Anawan Port in Polillo Island. Fare is about P300 ($6 USD) per person and the travel time is two hours for fastcraft and three hours for RORO. The boat usually leaves in the morning so make sure to be at the port early.
The following are the modes of transportation available Polillo Islands …
The Polillo Islands can be explored by bicycle.
Jeepney is used to get from one town to another, like from Anawan Port to Burdeos which is about 10 kilometers away. The fare is P200 ($4 USD).
Locally referred to as habal-habal, the motorcycle can be chartered for P600 ($12 USD) to take you to neighboring towns.
Pump boats or motorized outriggers are used to get to and from Polillo mainland and neighboring islands and islets. The rate ranges from P1,500 ($30 USD) to P3,500 ($70 USD) per day depending on the size of the boat and destinations.
Pedicab, locally referred as padyak, is used to get to nearby destinations. Padyak is like Tricycle but instead of a motorcycle, a bicycle is attached to the passenger cab. Fare is between P30 ($0.6 USD) to P50 ($1 USD).
The minimum cost of a tricycle ride is P30 ($0.6 USD) and P250 ($5 USD) for a charter.
SEE & DO
The following is your guide to places to see and activities to enjoy while on Polillo Islands.
1 | Balesin Island
Balesin Island is located in Lamon Bay and is known for Balesin Island Club, a private luxury resort which covers 10% of the island. The resort is for members only with membership fee starting at P3 million. The waters of the island boasts of coral reefs home to various species of fish including parrotfish, butterfly fish, grouper, and many others.
2 | Anawan Island
Anawan is a small uninhabited island in the area. It has fine white sand beaches with rock formations lining the shores.
3 | Anilon Island and Cave
Visit Anilon Island and enjoy the sandy beach with bluegreen water and pinkish sand. Not too far from its shore is a very large rock formation with a hole at the center where people can swim through. The rock is often referred to as “May Butas Cave” or simply “May Butas” which translates to “with hole” in Filipino. Stand at the top of the rock and be rewarded with relaxing views of the sea and the surrounding areas.
4 | Luli Sandbar
Luli is a portmanteau of “lulubog, lilitaw” Filipino words which mean “will sink” and “will arise or emerge”. It is named that way since the sandbar disappears during high tide and appears during low tide. There are no cottages, sheds, or any structure in the area so make sure to bring something to protect yourself from the heat of the sun.
5 | Isla Puting Bato
Not too far from Luli Sandbar is Isla Puting Bato known for its limestone cliff formations, beach coves, and caves. Its water is also blessed with a coral garden where you can snorkel and see the interesting marine life.
6 | Minasawa Bird Sanctuary
Minasawa Bird Sanctuary occupies the whole Minasawa Island, a 4.5-hectare island that is home to about five species of birds including amusling, black-naped oriole, nutmeg imperial pigeon, rufus night heron, and swifts. The beach, although its shores have pebbles instead of fine sand, is great for swimming and sunbathing.
7 | Tamulaya Waterfalls
Tamulaya Waterfalls is a small waterfall one hour away from Polillo town proper. It is surrounded with lush vegetation including edible ferns such as takla and gabi leaves.
8 | Other destinations
When you do island-hopping, you get to see other islands such as Palasan Island, Patnanungan Island, Jomalig Island, and others.
NOTE: The Tarictic Festival occurs annually in Polillo Islands every March 18-19.
EAT & DRINK
The following is your guide to the flavorful food to enjoy and restaurants to try while on Polillo Islands.
1 | Sampaguita Lugawan
Aside from lugaw (porridge), Sampaguita Lugawan also serves affordable dishes such as mami, bihon soup, and combo meals like chicken or pork bbq with rice.
2 | Yuno’s Food Ave.
Yuno’s Food Ave. is a cozy eatery in Polillo town proper. It offers a wide selection of comfort foods such as fries, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, silog meals, and lugaw (porridge).
3 | Mom’s Island Pizza
Craving for tasty pizza while on the island? Head to Mom’s Island Pizza in Rizal Street. Their homemade pizza is one of the best on the island making both locals and tourists come back for more.
WHERE TO STAY
There are many different types of accommodations available in this destination ranging from hostels to luxurious resorts. The following is your guide to our top choices for each range Polillo Islands.
1 | Conchada’s Guesthouse and Residence (Budget)
2 | Casa de Azaula Beach Resort (Mid-Range)
3 | Balesin Island Club (Luxury | Resort)
This guide recommends using the following sites to conduct research online of where to stay on Polillo Islands or for a specific destination:
Book your room with these trusted online booking sites. Booking online in the Philippines almost always guarantees the best price and a room when you arrive. We use these sites frequently to get the best prices and enjoy convenient bookings. Click each of the buttons to find the best place for you at the lowest rates or use the form below:Agoda » Booking.com » Expedia » Hostelworld »
TIP: Balesin Island Club is the best property to experience this destination.
Use the chart below to get an idea of how much to budget daily. Actual amounts will depend on YOUR travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages … some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. Prices are in USD.
A bed in a hostel dorm costs from 500 PHP ($9 USD), but smaller dorms can cost from 700 PHP ($13 USD). For a private double, prices start around 1100 PHP ($20 USD).
Most budget hotels begin at 1200 PHP ($22 USD) per night for a double room and usually include free wifi and breakfast. For a three-star hotel, prices begin around 1,700 PHP ($31 USD) per night. AirBnB is also widespread throughout the country, with private rooms starting from as little as 1300 PHP ($23 USD) per night. For entire apartments, expect to pay at least 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night.
Resorts and luxury accommodations vary greatly from 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) to 5,000+ PHP ($100+ USD). However, there are some really nice resorts and luxury accommodations which are surprisingly affordable.
Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 50 PHP ($1USD). For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 100 PHP ($2 USD). For a meal at a mid-range restaurant with drinks and table service, expect to pay from 300 PHP ($5 USD). Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Filipino food. Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher cost. Western food (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 250 PHP ($4 USD) for a meal and drink.
Fast food like McDonalds will cost around 200 PHP ($4 USD). A beer at the bar will cost around 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD).
A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300-600 PHP ($6-12 USD) per person. However, food in this country is so inexpensive, and kitchens & refrigerators are hard to come by, I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss!
There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines and each varies greatly.
Public Transportation is cheap. Bus services on the islands are inexpensive. Local buses (called jeepneys) are the most common type of transportation in towns and cities. The fare is usually between 15-25 PHP ($.25–.50 USD).
On islands without a bus system, a taxi or tricycle is the only form of transport with fares starting at 50-500 PHP ($1-$10) USD for short trips.
Taxis are everywhere, and they’re very cheap. Most fares shouldn’t cost you more than 500 PHP ($10 USD) around town.
To get between islands, you’ll need to take a boat or to fly. There are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option.
Flights between islands usually cost about 2,000-3500 PHP ($40-70 USD). However, this isn’t the cheapest way to travel. It’s only recommended if you have limited time.
Attractions & Activities
Most attractions and activities in the Philippines are pretty cheap. Most attractions throughout the area are FREE to enter, though some of the more well known and popular ones cost 5-100 PHP ($.10-$2 USD) to enter.
Depending on the activity, most day tours only cost around 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD), oftentimes less. You have more bargaining power if you go with a group. If you are expecting to do some climbing, remember to pack some warm layers. It gets cold at the top!
Other activities such as Island Hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, swimming with whale sharks, jungle trekking, canyoning, ATVs, jet skis, wakeboarding, cruises, parasailing, horseback riding, cultural experiences, and tours can cost as much as 1,250-5,000+ PHP ($25-100+ USD).
The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. Learning to scuba dive usually costs about 15,000-20,000 PHP ($300-400 USD), but often includes FREE accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days.
You can book your tours and activities when you arrive. Stick to travel agents who are selling on the ground. If a travel agent won’t negotiate with you, move on to the next until you find one that will. You can book online to save time and effort although it costs a little more. You can check Klook to plan your vacation.
Typical Costs on Polillo Islands in 2023:
- Hostel Dorm Bed: 500-1000 PHP ($9–18 USD) night
- Budget Hotel: 1100 PHP ($20 USD) night
- Mid-Range Hotel: 1500 PHP ($31 USD) night
- Street Food: 50-150 PHP ($1–3 USD) meal
- Restaurant Meals: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) meal
- Local Beer: 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD) bottle
- 1.5L Bottle of Water: 38 PHP ($.75 USD) bottle
- Tricycle Ride: 20-100 PHP ($.5-2 USD) ride
- Public Ferry Ride: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) ride
- Domestic Flight: 2,500-3,500 PHP ($45–65 USD) flight
- Island-Hopping: 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD) trip
BEST NO-FEE INTERNATIONAL DEBIT & CREDIT CARDS
The following is some of our best advice on traveling to Polillo Islands. Learn what you need to know BEFORE you go!
Tips & Hacks
he following are our Top 10 Tips when visiting this destination in the Philippines:
- Be aware that a tourist VISA is only 30 days. You can extend it upon arrival, or within the first 30 days, for an additional 30 days for a fee of approximately 3,000 pesos.
- Don’t buy into the fear factor. The Philippines has an unjustified reputation of being a dangerous place. It’s true there are security guards everywhere, but that is to deter theft.
- Manila is NOT the Philippines. Get outside of the cities to see the real Philippines.
- Don’t over plan. Boats, buses, and even airplane schedules are notoriously unreliable. Be flexible.
- Check the weather. The weather varies greatly throughout the Philippines daily.
- Typhoons can have a huge impact on your plans. Account for this when planning your trip.
- It’s not cool to raise your voice or show outward frustration in public.
- Be polite at all times. Realize that your country’s sense of humor may be different from Filipino humor and take this into account when interacting with Filipinos and while in public places.
- Things move at a slower pace. Accept it … don’t get frustrated … but do account for it.
- Don’t drink the tap water… but stay hydrated! Save money by buying large bottles (6-10 liters) of water and using it to fill your water bottle or hydration bladder in your backpack.
For a complete list of our travel tips & hacks, check out the following guide and be sure to download a FREE copy for yourself.
The Philippines has its own currency called the Philippine Peso. Banks, ATMs, and money-changers can be found on the island. If you are exploring the neighboring islands or provinces, make sure to bring enough cash that will last until the next time you get to an ATM or bank since most tours, transportation, and budget accommodations only accept cash.
Health & Safety
While overall the Philippines is a safe country to visit, as is Polillo Islands, you need to use common sense just as you would in any country, especially when traveling, and in a city, town, or area you are unfamiliar with.
Consult your hotel or resort front desk as they are more likely to give you reliable information than a random stranger on the street. Be careful when approaching strangers and selective about who you approach. Always pay attention to your gut feeling and follow it.
There are many things to consider when traveling in order to stay safe … things that we may not be accustomed to during our normal everyday lives. The following are articles about tips on how to stay safe while traveling in the Philippines:
- 6 Common Accidents to Avoid
- How to Beat the Heat in the Philippines
- Taxi Safety Tips: Dos and Don’ts
- Motorbike Safety Tips
- Beach & Ocean Safety Tips
- Sun Safety Tips
Staying fit & healthy can be challenging when traveling in the Philippines.
The tropical Philippines climate requires you to prepare for illnesses that you may not normally be accustomed to.
The following are our Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines:
- Maintain a Balanced Diet
- Stay Hydrated but Only Drink Bottled Water
- Get Plenty of Rest
- Allow Your Body Time to Adjust
- Keep Active
- Sanitize Often
- Be Aware of Food Safety Concerns
- Take Your Vitamins
- Practice Safe Sex
- Be Prepared Should You Get Sick
You need to have a local-based SIM card in order to stay connected when in the Philippines. Network giants such as Globe and Smart have SIM cards you can use to make calls, send text messages, and also to connect to the Internet. A SIM card costs around 50 PHP ($1 USD) and usually comes with a FREE load worth 50 PHP ($1 USD). You can buy a card containing a code you can enter on your phone to replenish your load or buy an electronic load that is available almost anywhere in the city.
While you may not have problems with signal strength when in the city, it is not always the case when on islands or in remote areas of a province. So when arranging for transportation pick up, say when renting a boat to take you to and pick you up from the island, it would be best that you make it clear what time you need to be picked up before the boatman leaves.
Recommended Travel Apps
Apps for smartphones and tablets can be useful both before you leave and while you’re traveling. Most are available for iPhones and Android phones.
- Grab (taxis/ride shares)
- Get Your Guide (tours & tickets)
- WhatsApp (phone calls)
- WayAway (flights)
- 12Go (transportation)
- Agoda (accommodations)
- Expedia (accommodations & Flights)
- Hostelworld (accommodations)
- Kiwi (flights)
- Klook (attractions & activities )
Be certain to download and set up apps BEFORE leaving on your trip to make certain each is installed and working properly.
For our complete list of travel apps that we use and recommend while traveling in the Philippines, checkout our checklist below. Download a FREE copy for yourself as a PDF.
Trying to decide what to do when traveling to a destination for the first time can be a bit overwhelming given your lack of familiarity with the place along with all of the available options.
We’ve created the following itinerary to help simplify the process and ensure that you get the most out of your trip. Although we provide a 7 day itinerary for this destination, it can always be adjusted to fit the length of your trip.
The secret to a successful and stress-free trip is to start by using a packing list. This will reduce anxiety from the start and ensure that nothing important is forgotten when packing. To make this process easy for you, we’ve created a detailed packing list. Click the link below to download it for FREE now.
Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you do not leave anything behind.
Things to Remember
This guide recommends to take note of the following while traveling on Polillo Islands or in the Philippines in general.
There is a nationwide ban which prohibits smoking in public places including indoors, the streets, on sidewalks, in restaurants , and on public transportation, requiring smokers to use designated smoking areas. Selling tobacco to and purchasing from or for minors is also prohibited. Violators are subject to fines (up to 5,000 PHP | $100 USD) and even 4 months in prison.
The minimum legal drinking age is 18. Alcohol such as beer and hard drinks can easily be bought in grocery and convenience stores. The most common alcoholic beverage is beer, generally served cold. Local alcoholic drinks include tuba (coconut wine which is usually very strong) and potent moonshine-like clear liquors made from sugar or fruit. Imported beer, wine, and name brand hard alcohol are available but expensive.
Drugs are illegal in the Philippines. Don’t use, buy, or sell any non-prescription drugs while in the Philippines … not even marijuana. It is considered an especially heinous crime to buy from, for, or sell drugs to children. The penalties are severe … up to and including death.
Public nudity is illegal in the Philippines and is not tolerated. Most locals consider it offensive. There are laws which prohibit provocative and erotic clothing and swimwear, therefore carefully consider your clothings and swimwear choices to make certain they are not too revealing.
Foreigners & Expats
If you are not a Filipino citizen, remember that you are a guest when visiting this country … be certain to act accordingly. Respect the people, their customs, and the environment and wlidlife. You can be deported and banned … so behave … but have fun and enjoy all that this wonderful destination has to offer.
Don’t Forget …
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