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Island Bliss

Unraveling Polillo Island


The Philippines is never short of island getaways because of its archipelagic nature. In fact, many of it is already part of the top international tourism circuit. But beyond what most tourists know, there are far more beautiful islands that are yet to be explored. Polilio Island is one of those tropical paradises that when discovered will surely be a new place to be dotted on everyone’s vacation map.


Polillo Island is tucked in the northeastern side of the Philippine archipelago belonging to the 1st District of Quezon Province. It is composed of 27 islands belonging to 5 small towns. Unlike other islands, crossing to other towns in Polilio is a great challenge because they are not interconnected by land. People travel by boat to reach to the other side. This trip brings you only to the Municipality of Polillo, a peaceful rural escape from the usual city jungle.

Like many island stories, the voyage to Polillo from Real, the mainland part of Quezon would be a boat ride of your life. Crossing Polilio Strait can sometimes be unforgiving. To put one’s heart at peace, it is best to travel to this island on the Philippine Sea on a clear day, just like what we did. Ungos Port in Real is the best jump-off point. It is a 3-hour sailing time on a rather spartan outrigger boat design commanded by captains mostly trained to sail with stars as guide. In-land, tricycles and padyak (bicycle-driven carriage) are the only means of transport. It has modest Inns with good supply of water. Electricity supply is rationed throughout the Island and in Polillo, it is only available between 2PM to 6AM the next day. If you love seafood, it is a sure feast here. However, there are not many restaurants so it is better to have a host family to prepare it for you. The Polilos live a humble lifestyle. It is their cheerful and accommodating nature that creates vibrancy to this place.


The beach is not in your usual horizon like in many celebrated resorts. You have to go out of your way to reach it. I contracted a motorcycle to bring me to Bato Beach in Agta Point, about 15 kilometers uphill drive. We maneuvered through dirt roads passing through a seemingly endless line of coconut trees and rice fields. After a while I was beginning to doubt if there was really a beach out there. As we snaked through down hill, the smell of the air began to change. The breeze became stronger and out of nowhere the view suddenly changed, unraveling a surprising oasis.


Behold a sight of a long stretch of white sand coastline glistening under the sun. Marveling on its serene landscape from a distance is already a therapy. The image of blue water slapping on huge rocks until falls back to the sea creating ripples to the sand is maddening! The shoreline is so free of the usual colorful beach umbrellas and resort tiki huts. It does not have any beer-intoxicated tourists, no fire dancers, no karaoke and no vendors selling chips. It is just you in bikini and your sunblock cream! This defines the true “island getaway” which is private retreat.


Polillo is hemmed-in by many beaches with awesome coral formations. It is abundant of diverse marine species. Inland, its unspoiled forests are home to many endemic animals such as the rare kind of bird called the “balod”. Truly there’s more to discover in this place and I can’t wait to see the other side of the island.


Polillo may not be your usual party island or it may not have the resort comfort. But Polillo offers a different kind of detox that will surely be etched in your memory. It is a sanctuary.


From Manila
  • Take the Marikina-Antipolo route to Real, Quezon.
  • Drive straight to downtown and just by the main road is a signage that will lead you to Ungos Port.
  • Cars may be left at Ungos Port for about P100 per day.
  • Buses and V-Hires are available plying the route Manila-Real/Infanta-Manila. Familiar bus terminals are the ones in Araneta Center, Cubao and Legarda, Manila.
  • For those taking the public transport, many buses wait for passengers bound for Manila just when you disembark at Ungos Port.
From Other Parts of South Luzon
  • Take the Pagsanjan, Laguna national highway to Pangil-Siniloan-Famy.
  • It’s a long winding drive up to Real, best taken on early morning.
  • Although it varies depending on the weather, boats usually leave at 7:30AM and 10AM.
  • Return trips are scheduled at 5:00AM and 1PM. The dawn trip is usually a bouncy ride probably due to the tide level.
  • There are not many hotel choices in Polillo. Amenities are just basic.
  • Seahorse Hotel – (+63 42) 6342859. Price ranges from P1,000-P1,800.
  • Herrera Plaza Lodging House – (+63 42) 3148411. Price ranges from P150-P500.
  • Tricycle or single motorcycle can be hired to drive you around town or to the nearest beach. There is no fixed price for this service but huddling is not a challenge.

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    Comments ( 22 )

  • Hi Roch, it’s a beautiful place indeed. We should bring the gang there.

  • This is my parent’s hometown, one of the many islands in the Philippines,which is still unexplored and unexploited. We would go “home” every summer vacation during our younger years and just be away from the hassles and bustles of the city. I wish to be back there soon! Thanks for this wonderful blog, Pot!

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