Sambawan Island, Biliran
Biliran Island is formerly a sub-province of Leyte. Since 1992, it was declared as a separate province. It is, in fact, one of the smallest provinces in the Philippines. But wait, when talking of Biliran, one can say that small is the new big.
Biliran Province is perfect for those seeking nature adventures or just taking in the sights. It has mountains, waterfalls (lots of waterfalls), beaches, islets, hot springs, caves and rivers. To summarize, it is a complete package.
Here’s our Biliran Island itinerary for 4 days and 3 nights in Biliran Island, including travel time from Manila.
Getting to Biliran Island
Tacloban to Naval, Biliran
From Manila, you can take a flight to Tacloban, like I did and proceed via the Tacloban to Naval route. From Tacloban airport, there are jeepneys that will take you to Tacloban downtown. We asked the driver to drop us at the van terminal where vans bound to Naval, Biliran are stationed. The popular transport service company is named Duptours, so don’t get confused if the tricycle driver wants to confirm whether you want to go to Duptours terminal.
Though we took the early flight to Tacloban, the van going to Biliran Island only arrived at the terminal at past 10AM already. Travel time from Tacloban to Naval is 2 hours 30 minutes.
A bridge connects Leyte with Biliran Island so you won’t have to get a boat ride to get to the Island. We arrived past lunch time at Naval, Biliran, which is also past the time that passenger boats bound to Maripipi Island in Biliran leave from Naval port. We opted to stay overnight at Naval and explore the sleepy small town in the afternoon until sunset time.
Cebu to Naval, Biliran
If you are in Cebu City, you can take a three hour ferry ride to Ormoc, then take a van to Naval, Biliran, which takes another one and a half minutes road trip. Check schedule and fares of Cebu to Ormoc ferry ride from the following ferry companies: Ocean Jet, Weesam Express or SuperCat/ 2Go. You can purchase tickets directly at the pier or conveniently book online (at a slightly higher price) through 12Go Asia.
Alternatively, a more direct but longer travel time is to take an overnight ferry from Cebu to Naval. Travel time is 10 hours. Check the ferry schedule for Cebu to Naval trip here.
Biliran’s padyak: the most common mode of transportation in Naval. I’ve seen a similar design in Palompon, Leyte, the take-off point to Kalanggaman Island.
Sunset in Naval coast
Passenger boats depart Naval port at 10:30 AM and 11:00 AM, daily except Sundays. There are three boat trips, but all leave Naval between 10:30 AM to 11:00 AM. If you want to go to Maripipi Island earlier or later than these times, private boats may be arranged from Naval port or from Kawayan port (about 30 minutes habal-habal or motorcycle ride from Naval). Private boats are more expensive but if you are a party of six passengers, the private boat may be the way to go.
The boat ride to Maripipi Island is about two hours. The boat we boarded at was loaded with bags and goods that passengers had to sit on low planks laid from corner to corner or from the sides of the boat. Sitting low on the planks can be quite uncomfortable if bags are on the way. Meaning, you won’t be able to stretch your legs. Arrive before 10 AM if you want to get a good seating spot because they let the passengers in as early as 9:00 AM.
Maripipi Island to Sambawan Island
Maripipi Island is located northeast of Biliran Island. Though the smallest municipality in Biliran province, the island has relatively unspoiled coasts and lush mountain. It is also a place to find peace and quiet. Curfews aren’t needed because the island comes to a still as early as 8 PM.
We had prior reservation at the Napo Beach Resort (For booking, text Ate Emy at 09212125164 or 09062520845 or click here to conveniently book online). Ate Emy arranged a habal-habal to fetch us from the port to Sitio Napo, located northwest of the island. We reached the resort after about 20 minutes.
View from the Napo Beach Resort – I already saw fishes just by standing on their small dock
After lunch, we set to leave the resort for Sambawan Island using a private boat owned by the resort’s neighbor. Normally, boats leave for Sambawan from Brgy. Ol-og, and I think it’s cheaper to start from there. However, we accepted the resort’s offer to take us to Sambawan directly from the resort.
We found it hard to resist Ate Emy’s friendly offer after the warm welcome she and her husband, JD, gave us upon arrival. She also told us that we’ll be the first ones to rent the new boat of their neighbor. We agreed after being clarified that the boat has already been tested on water.
That’s Sambawan Island straight ahead
Sambawan Island is the most famous among the islets surrounding Maripipi Island and you will see why, once you arrive this island. Sambawan Island is composed of five islets forming an L-shaped mass of lands.
Panoramic views of the island can be seen by climbing a path of stairs to the top of the hill. Getting to the top reminded me of Isla de Gigantes’ Cabuyao Gamay. The difference is that in Sambawan, you have stunning views on both sides looking from your left and right, because the viewing deck is at the middle of the island.
Activities you can do in the island, aside from beach bumming and picture taking are snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming and bird watching. We went in June 2016 and at that time, proposed developments in the island are on its way. This includes a zipline and a hanging bridge connecting two of the islets.
I am not against development but I would rather keep the island as it is, with no fancy amenities. With development comes the influx of tourists. More tourists mean more waste generation which puts more strain on the island’s environment. Well, there are ways for proper management of wastes, which I hope would be part of the plans for development.
It would have been nice to witness the sunset in Sambawan but we need to get back to Napo Beach Resort before the sun sets. Back in Maripipi, we had some nice little chat with the resort owners. We were the only guests at that time, so who would listen to each other’s stories but us who were secluded on that island.
Maripipi Island to Biliran Island via Kawayan
We rented the same boat we used to go to Sambawan Island to head back to Biliran Island via Kawayan. Kawayan is nearer the Napo Beach Resort than Naval port. The boat ride took about 1 hour 15 minutes. There is a cheaper alternative, however, which is to take the passenger boat from Maripipi to Naval. The thing is, you have to be up early as the boat leaves Maripipi at 4:30 AM.
Approaching Kawayan Port
Around Biliran Island
From Kawayan port, we headed to Naval to leave our bags in the hotel and arrange for a habal-habal ride to take us around the sights of Biliran. We started quite late at 11AM.
Habal-habal drivers waiting to take us to Naval
Tinago Falls, Biliran
We started off at Tinago (meaning hidden in English) Falls, which isn’t that hidden anymore :-). Tinago Falls is located in Cabibihan Village (we didn’t see tatlong bibe in the village, but we did see more than three in another town…just in case, you may ask) in Biliran’s Caibiran town.
What I love about waterfalls is the anticipation of finally catching a glimpse of the falls once you start hearing the rushing sound of the water dropping.
The sun was shining behind the falls at the time we arrived. Nevertheless, waterfalls for me is <3.
Recoletos Falls in Almeria
We went back to Naval for lunch after Tinago Falls then went next to Recoletos Falls in Almeria. We passed by a sloping terrain and had to park the motorcycle once the road got rougher. According to our motorcycle driver, the road also gets slippery after a rain. In short, we had to hike for about 30 minutes to get to Recoletos Falls.
We found locals having picnic here as we came. Recoletos Falls isn’t that grand as other falls but the waters are crystal clear. Going up to the falls are various little streams coming from a higher source and meets up with the downstream water of Recoletos Falls.
Ulan-ulan Falls, Almeria
Ulan-Ulan Falls can be reached on the same trail leading to Recoletos Falls. Recoletos Falls is actually upstream of Ulan-ulan Falls. Ten minutes walk back to where we came from leads to Ulan-Ulan Falls. I was astounded the first time I peeked through the falls before going down the slope. The falls is a towering 90 feet high.
Going down and getting nearer the falls, you will understand why it is called Ulan-Ulan Falls. Ulan in English means rain. You don’t need to take the plunge to experience the waters of Ulan-Ulan Falls. All you need to do is go near the falls, choose one of the giant pebbles scattered around, sit back, raise your two arms and receive the blessings from the falls.
I already forgot which part of Biiliran we stopped to view and take photos of the rice terraces. The hilly landscape of Biliran Island makes rice terraces the perfect method for growing rice in the island. Besides, having blessed with 29 river systems within a small island, irrigation in Biliran is not much of a problem.
Biliran to Tacloban to Manila
Day 4 is saying goodbye to Biliran Island. There are a lot more waterfalls scattered in the island and one day is obviously not enough to see all of them, or even the ones marked on Biliran Island’s tourist brochure. Hence, “see you again” may be more appropriate than goodbye.
From Naval, we took the Van Van (it’s a public van just like Duptours, need I say more?) to return to Tacloban. I would have wanted to re-visit the Sto. Niño Shrine in Tacloban but it fell on a holiday and learned it was closed. With more than 3 hours to spare before my flight back to Manila, I went to Robinson’s mall and just watched a movie. If you want to explore Tacloban city in 3 hours, there’s the San Juanico Bridge, General MacArthur’s Park or the Sto. Niño Shrine.
From Robinson’s, I took two short jeepney rides to the airport. And that, my friends, is the end of our Biliran Island trip.
Read other island destinations in the Philippines
Biliran Island Itinerary
6:35 AM – 7:55 AM Manila to Tacloban (waited for my friend from Cebu)
8:45 AM – 9:00 AM Airport to Tacloban downtown by jeep
10:45 AM – 1:15 PM Tacloban to Naval via Duptours van
To Naval Hotel (GV Hotel)
2:30 PM Late lunch
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Around Naval town
8:00 AM Breakfast
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM Naval Port to Maripipi Island
12:10 PM – 12:30 PM Maripipi port to Napo Beach Resort via habal-habal
1:15 PM Lunch
2:00 PM – 2:45 PM Napo to Sambawan Island
5:00 PM – 5:30 PM Sambawan Island to Napo Beach Resort
7:00 PM Dinner
7:00 AM Breakfast
8:15 AM – 9:30 AM Napo Beach Resort to Kawayan port
9:35 AM – 10:05 AM Kawayan port to GV Hotel in Naval
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM Biliran Island Tour via habal-habal
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM Around Naval town/ sunset at the port
7:30 PM Dinner
8:00 AM Breakfast
9:00 AM – 11:30 AM Naval to Tacloban via Van Van Tours van
12:00 PM Lunch/ Buy pasalubong (chocolate moron in Tacloban downtown)
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Robinson’s Mall
3:00 PM – 3:30 PM Proceed to Airport
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM Tacloban airport to Manila
Breakdown of Expenses
Php 50 Jeep from Tacloban airport to downtown
Php 100 Van fare (Tacloban to Naval)
Php 60 Boat fare (Naval to Maripipi)
Php 10 Terminal fee at Naval port
Php 60 Habal-habal to Napo Beach Resort (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 400 Boat rent, two-way, Napo Beach Resort to Sambawan Island (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 80 Entrance fee Sambawan Island
Php 20 Environmental fee Sambawan Island
Php 350 Napo Beach Resort accommodation (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 500 Napo to Kawayan port (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 100 Kawayan to Naval by habal-habal (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 300 Biliran Island Tour via habal-habal (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 50 Motorcycle gas (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 15 Tinago Falls Entrance/environmental fee
Php 20 Ulan-Ulan Falls Entrance/environmental fee
Php 750 GV Hotel Naval accommodation, 2 nights (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 120 Van fare (Naval to Tacloban)
Php 16 Robinson’s to Airport (two jeepney rides, Php 8 each)
Php 150 Tacloban airport terminal fee
Php 1,383 Food (meals, mineral water)
Total Expenses: Php 4,534
Expenses may be cheaper if you go with the passenger boat ride from Maripipi to Biliran mainland, or if the private boat is shared by more than two people.
I hope I had given you an idea of what to expect in Biliran Island. Why not plan your next trip to Biliran?
Where to Stay in Biliran
In Naval, we stayed at the GV Hotel Naval. This is a budget accommodation clean, air-conditioned rooms and basic amenities. It is conveniently located 700 meters away from Naval Port. Check accommodation options and the latest prices at all popular booking sites with just one click here.
In Maripipi Island, we stayed at Napo Beach Resort where the food is great, the owners and staff very friendly and the seaside location provides a perfect spot for some relaxation. Book this resort or check out other accommodation options here.
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