I didn’t have high expectations for Sambawan Island. For some reason, I thought people only went there because it’s a good side trip destination in the Eastern Visayas region. I was completely wrong.
In fact, out of all the places we visited on this trip (Kalanggaman Island and Tacloban City), I enjoyed my time on Sambawan Island the most. The beach sand in the island may not be as powdery fine as that on Boracay or Calaguas, but it’s still really, really beautiful! Mesmerizing aquamarine blue waters, stunning coral reefs which support huge variety of marine life, great snorkelling and dive sites, low-key, beach feel – I can’t believe we found this in Sambawan Island!
About Sambawan Island
Sambawan Island is a marine sanctuary located off the coast of the municipality of Maripipi in Biliran Province. It is located between Leyte Island and Samar Island, which makes it a great addition to any adventures in the Eastern Visayas region. The island is known for its raw beauty, thus, people say it is Biliran’s best-kept secret.
How to get to Sambawan Island
Getting to Sambawan Island is not easy. We even considered the idea of dropping this destination. We took a van from Tacloban City to Naval (capital of Biliran Province). From Naval, we boarded a boat to Maripipi Island. Then, we took a habal-habal to get to the jump-off point to Sambawan Island. We chartered a boat to get to the island. It was a trek, honestly.
From Manila to Tacloban City
Since there is no airport in Biliran, the fastest way to get to the province is via Tacloban City in Leyte. Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Air Asia fly from Manila to Tacloban City daily.
From Cebu to Tacloban City
Alternatively, you may opt to ride a fastcraft to Ormoc City or Palompon and take a van going to Tacloban City. If you plan to skip Tacloban, you can catch a van going to Naval in Ormoc City.
From Tacloban City/Ormoc City to Sambawan Island
From Tacloban City, catch a van to Naval at Van Van or Dup Tours Terminal in the downtown or in Tacloban Grand Terminal. Travel time is 2-3 hours and one way fare is around 150 pesos. From Ormoc City, there are vans passing through from Tacloban City goind to Naval.
From Naval, board a passenger boat to Maripipi Island. Travel time is around 2 hours and one way fare is around 100 pesos. Upon arrival, you may shop for your food supplies at the talipapa. Then, hire a habal-habal (motorbike) to Barangay Ol-og, the jump-off point to Sambawan Island. From there, charter an outrigger boat to Sambawan Island. Travel time is less than 30 minutes and roundtrip boat ride is less than 1,000 pesos (good for up to 6 people).
Where to stay in Sambawan Island
We stayed at the only resort on the island, Sambawan Dive Camp and Beach Resort, where we rented one of the enclosed cottages. The overnight rate was 2,500 pesos which is good for up to 15 people. There are also open nipa huts which can be rented from 500 – 1,000 pesos per night. For budget travellers, you can pitch a tent for a minimal fee of 100 pesos per night. Basically, you can find anything to fit your budget in Sambawan Island…and your money could go a surprisingly long way.
Where to eat in Sambawan Island
Food wise, there are no restaurants or stores in the island. We purchased our food and supplies at a small grocery in Maripipi Island. What we should have done is to go to the market of Naval before we board the boat as there are not plenty of food choices in Maripipi Island.
We asked one of the caretakers to cook our food while we enjoy the island. Honestly, it was the best decision ever! Our group decided to go to the viewpoint, took tons of photographs and had a very nice afternoon swim. We went back to our cottage after sunset and our food is already cooked. Because we were so happy, we paid the caretaker 400 pesos for the ‘paluto’. He seemed to be very pleased. Thank you so much Kuya!
My Island Experience
Getting to the island takes a lot of time, especially if you are going there through public transportation. But do I regret going through so much trouble just to reach the island? Hell NO! We had perfect weather at the time we were there despite Accuweather forecast that it will rain. We did not get lost despite the lack of travel information online. And we were blessed to see an amazing dolphin show en route to Sambawan Island! How cool is that?!
There were about two other groups of tourists that day but we felt like we had the whole island to ourselves. In the evening, we get to see starry night sky which was so awesome. I wished I had my tripod with me so I could do astrophotography. Well, that’s another reason to go back to Sambawan Island!
The next morning, we all woke up early to wait for the sun of the new day to appear on the horizon. And, it did not disappoint. Waiting for the sunrise is probably one of the most fascinating experiences you could get in Sambawan Island.
Sambawan Island is a destination in its own right. And I am not just talking about the island, but the whole Biliran Province. After the trip, I told my friends that Batanes might not be my favorite Philippine destination anymore. That’s how beautiful Biliran is.
The island surprised me in the best way possible and I have no doubt that I’ll be making a return visit at some point. Hard to put into words, there’s just something about this place that invites you to get off the grid and experience authentic island life at its finest.
For people who want to be away from the world for a while and those who want to spend some time in a hammock with views that look like screen savers, then Sambawan Island is for you! The island is not for those who want to party, but it’s an actual get-away-from-it-all, totally unplugged destination, without high-speed Wi-Fi.
Suggested Leyte – Biliran 4D3N Itinerary and Budget
Day 1 (Arrival in Tacloban City)
Take an early morning flight to Tacloban City
Tacloban City Tour (Holy Cross Memorial Garden, MacArthur Park and Yolanda Memorial Monument)
Lunch at Ochó Seafood and Grill
Sunset in San Juanico Bridge
Dinner in Chew Love Tacloban
Check in at your chosen accommodation in Tacloban City
Day 2 (Tacloban City to Sambawan Island)
6:00 AM – Check-out
7:30 AM – Take a van from Tacloban City to Naval – 150 pesos
9:30 AM – Drop by market; buy supplies
10:00 AM – Take public boat to Maripipi (do not be late!) – 100 pesos
12:00 PM – Arrival in Maripipi Island; Lunch
1:00 PM – Ride habal-habal to Brgy. Ol-og – 150 pesos
1:30 PM – Charter outrigger from Ol-og port to Sambawan Island – 1,000 pesos (good for up to 6 people)
Stay overnight at Sambawan Dive Camp and Beach Resort – 2,500 pesos (good for up to 15 people) for nipa hut accommodation and 100 pesos per person for Sambawan Island Entrance/Environmental Fee
Day 3 (Sambawan Island to Kalanggaman Island)
8:00 AM – Check-out from Sambawan Dive Camp and Beach Resort
8:30 AM – Board the boat to Kawayan Port
10:00 AM – Take jeep/multicab from Kawayan Port to Naval
11:00 AM – Lunch in Naval Public Market
12:00 PM – Take a van from Naval to Ormoc City (ask the driver to drop you off at)
2:00 PM – Take a van to Palompon
3:00 PM – Register at Kalanggaman Tourism Office and shop for food supplies
Charter boat to Kalanggaman Island
Overnight in Kalanggaman Island
Day 4 (Kalanggaman Island to Tacloban City)
9:00 AM – Check-out
9:30 AM – Boat ride from Kalanggaman Island to Palompon
11:00 AM – Travel by van from Palompon to Tacloban City
Tacloban City Tour (if late flight back to Manila)
Fly back to Manila
Have you been to this side of Eastern Visayas? Got any questions? Comments? Insights? I’m all ears! Let’s chat down below.
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