Hundred Islands National Park
The Hundred Islands National Park collectively comprises these 123 limestone islands most of which are clad in lush vegetation, secret coves, strips of white sandy beaches and sand bars as well as giant clams snorkeling areas amidst largely tranquil waters with gorgeous views of the South China Sea – another 123 reasons to discover the Philippines.
Just off the coast of Alaminos City, Pangasinan (4-6 Hours North of Manila) are these 123 (124 during low tide) mushroom-shaped limestone and coral islands that compose the wonderful Hundred Islands National Park. Along with the Chocolate Hills of Bohol and Taal Volcano of Batangas- the Hundred Islands National Park also known as Kapulo-puluan or Taytay-Bakes, is considered as one of the National Geological Monuments of the Philippines.
Photo by akosikenet
The Hundred Islands National Park is believed to be at least about 2 million years old – the islands were part of an ancient coral area that extends well inland, a large area that used to be part an ancient sea. When the sea levels lowered, the islands were exposed, whilst hundreds of thousands of years slowly eroded the base of these islands invariably forming mushroom/umbrella shapes in the middle of stunning emerald waters.
Edited Map originally from Official Alaminos City Site
Out of the many islands, only three were developed for tourism – the most well developed is Quezon Island (which is actually composed of three islets) which includes 2 dining pavilions, a grilling area, restrooms, nipa huts, a small white sandbar, and a giant clam garden. Quezon Island was named after the former Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, whose statue we saw on one of the islets.) Quezon Island is probably one of the most visited in the National Park. You should also be able to rent kayaks as well on Quezon Island – snacks are available as well though as expected, a bit overpriced – though people are not pushy. We found some of the inhabitants on the island very friendly- and they humbly offered us some boiled bananas! Yum!
Rates on Quezon Island are as follows (subject to change without prior notice): Cottage without room (Nipa 1,2,3) –PhP 350 (day tour)/PhP 500 (overnight stay); Cottage without room (Nipa 4) –PhP 500 (day tour)/PhP 1000 (overnight); Cottage with room (Nipa A)- PhP 500 (day tour)/PhP 900 (overnight); Cottage with room (Nipa B) – PhP 600 (day tour)/PhP1,100 (overnight); and Picnic Tables & Picnic Area – PhP 200 (day tour); PhP 300 (overnight). For tent space/ pitching fee – PhP 200.
These rates are of course on top of the entrance fees –PhP 20 (day tour)/ PhP 40 (overnight). Kids 5 years old below can come in for free and there is a 20% discount for Senior Citizens.
Photo by Dave Ryan
Another well-developed island would be the Governor’s Island – which also doubled as the site for the Philippine version of the reality show- Big Brother. The island, one of the three most visited in the National Park has a short stretch of white sand beach, a small cave that is home to bats and swiftlets and a view deck which offers beautiful views of the islands of the National Park. One can stay at the Big Brother House (10 pax) for PhP10,000. The island is powered by a generator from 6:00PM-6:00AM. A container of water (30 liters) would cost PhP 100 extra, for an extra person/extra bed on top of the standard 10pax is PhP200, whilst a table for rent & picnic area is PhP 200 (day tour) and PhP 300 (overnight). Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut- 3 pax) costs PhP 1.200 (day tour) and PhP 2,000 (overnight). Tent Space/Pitching fee is at PhP 200.
Photo by Dave Ryan
Last but the least of the three most developed islands- is the Children’s Island which is ideal for families with its waters shallow enough for little children to swim safely. There are tables for rent (PhP 200 for day tours; PhP 300 for overnight stays) and for those who prefer camping Tent Space/Pitching Fee is at PhP 200.
Lucap Wharf is the jump-off point to the Hundred Islands, and although at first – there would be a bevy of people swarming around you offering boat rides – don’t worry – it’s not as bad as it sounds. Make your way to the Tourism Information Center for your registration and pay your entrance fees and parking fees (when applicable) and make sure you get your official receipt because this will be required when visiting the islands.
For boats – contact Miss Helen (+63.908.5631215) – she operates a souvenir shop, a little restaurant with deliciously cured Alaminos Boneless Bangus (fried or grilled) and an inn as well. Once you get receipt, present it to the Boat Dispatcher who will usually assign a motorboat for you (if you haven’t contacted any boatmen prior to your arrival in Lucap). Make sure you wear your life-vest at all times. Trust me, you will be really thankful. My legs cramped whilst swimming away from the Imelda Cave out of Marcos Island – good thing that there were Bantay Dagat (literally – Philippine version of Baywatch – only more credible and they also run after fishermen fishing illegally around the area) nearby who saved my sorry arse from drowning. Thanks to Engr. Ismael Najera and his men. Good job gentlemen!
Of the numerous islands, we visited 15 – Governor’s Island, Century Island (whose cave was said to be one of the hiding places of Alaminos locals during World War 2- and also known for snakes and bats), Quezon Island (3 islands actually make up Quezon Island), Lopez Island, New Scout Island, Marcos Island (with Imelda Cave- one can jump into emerald colored waters and swim out into the sea and back onto the beach), Clave Island, Old Scout Island (with the Quirino Cave), Children’s Island, Martha and Ramos Islands which are joined together by a tiny strip of white sand bar, Cuenco Island, Romulo Island and the Devil Island which is also known as Cagao Island. The Cathedral Island is named for a big cavern where one can swim as well. Other islands in the National Park are Guiya Island, the northernmost, Bangar Island, Turtle Island (shaped like well, a turtle), Braganza Island, Hernandez Island, Abad Santos Island, Sulpot Island, Cariaz Island, Monkey Island (monkeys apparently don’t show themselves anymore though, that is if there are any left), Sison Island, Shell Island, and Camantiles Island.
A view of Marcos Island, one of the “hundred islands”. Lingayen Gulf, Pangasinan
Photo by storm-crypt
Aside from having a picnic or just sunbathing on most of the islands, one can also snorkel or dive and see the Giant Clams which are under the auspices of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute based in Bolinao. The Hundred Islands National Park which used to be under the national government’s Philippine Tourism Authority has fallen into disrepair and neglect. Destructive fishing methods were rampant, typhoons as well as climate change have threatened the National Park’s existence and greatly reduced its marine life and corals. In 2005, the local government of Alaminos finally took over and swift changes were made. The area is now being patrolled regularly and strategic partnerships with the University of the Philippines and other stakeholders in the area were formed to rehabilitate the islands and its once rich marine grounds.
Now, whilst trash had been greatly reduced (we found a bit on Martha and Ramos Islands) also some vandalism on some of the rock formations is still present, care of the islands now seems to seep into the consciousness of the locals whose main livelihood also happens to depend on tourism. Signs of life have begun to return to the Hundred Islands – we saw a flock of wild ducks swimming around the islands, bats, healthy clams with some measuring as big as 1 meter wide, and schools of fish around. If you are traveling anywhere in the Philippines, make sure you take your own personal trash bag.
Motorboats have standard rates (rates subject to change without prior notice- please contact the Alaminos City Tourism to confirm), and boatmen will never hassle you for tips (like the ones in Pagsanjan in Laguna). For small groups (1-5 persons) – day tour- PhP 800, overnight- PhP1,400; groups of 6-10 persons – day tour – PhP 1,000, overnight- PhP1,800; groups of 11-15 people- day tour- PhP1,100, overnight – PhP 2,000.
Quezon island is one of the Hundred Islands. This is located in Lingayen Gulf, Pangasinan.
Photo by storm-crypt
Day tour rates mean that only 3 islands will be visited – Quezon, Children’s and Governor’s Islands. Overnight means unlimited boat rides around the islands – one can arrange for drop off and pick up as well. Using the boat and taking it anywhere in the islands (Service Boat Rental) has the same rates as the overnight rates of the islands.
The helpful people of Alaminos City Tourism Office can be reached at these numbers – (Add country code prefix 63 for the Philippines if you are calling from abroad, area code prefix for Alaminos City at 75) – 5512145/6960937/5512505/5527406/6960936 and email firstname.lastname@example.org; website – www.hundredislands.ph.
Why Not Go
Hundred Islands doesn’t have long beaches, or much nightlife to speak of, but what it lacks in the flashy lights of the other more developed islands in the Philippines, it compensates for its utter solitude and tranquil grace.
Looking to up your numbers of the islands you have visited in the Philippines? Going around the Hundred Islands is the perfect way to do it. If you don’t like a particular island, in the Hundred Island’s case, there are still about 122-3 islands to choose from!
Best Time to Visit
Come during the dry/summer season, the islands are best explored \when the skies are the bluest. If you are coming from Manila – leave by 12 midnight, to catch the serene sunrise over the National Park – coming early also means that there are less people going around the islands.
Where to Stay
If you are staying for the night, one can choose either to stay at the Big Brother house on Governor’s Island or at the Hundred Islands Pension House (for room reservation call +63.75.551.2505) – with mostly air-conditioned rooms (room 205 does not have A/C) with price ranging from PhP1,650 to PhP4,800 for 6-16 persons. We haven’t stayed at any of the lodgings so we cannot verify the quality of each. We did the Hundred Islands as sort of a day trip. Miss Helen also apparently lets rooms so you may also check with her for rates and the quality of accommodations.
Where & What to Eat
Food can be delivered to the island where you will be staying, make sure you make a prior arrangement between you and the restaurant in Lucap. We ordered deliciously cured, fried Boneless Bangus (Bangus is the Filipino term for milkfish) from Miss Helen (+63.908.5631215) with rice. Make sure to remind her to avoid mix-ups. When in Alaminos, do not forget to try the Boneless Bangus and their own version of the longganiza (sausages). A bangus would set you back about PhP120 per whole fish – although if you get it from downtown Alaminos, it would cost you about half the price for two pieces at the local market (uncooked).
Also, do not forget to bring home Patupat, Bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), Binungey, Smoked oyster, and oyster nuggets.
Nightlife on the Hundred Islands means quiet barbecue nights on deserted islands camping under the stars. Most of the activities are focused on the three main islands – Quezon, Governor’s and Children’s.
My to do List
1. Island hop! Get your numbers up by going around the islands. *
2. Snorkel and see the giant clams, apparently one of the world’s biggest!**
3. Jump into the waters of Imelda Cave.**
4. Kayak around the islands.**
5. Catch the sunrise from Lucap Wharf and see the early morning colours of the sun bathed the islands.*
6. Capture a flight of wild ducks on your camera, while you cruise around the islands.*
7. Have a lunch of Alaminos Boneless Bangus or Alaminos Longanisa on the sandbar connecting Martha and Ramos Islands.*
8. Quench your thirst with one of the best beers in the world (you can have it delivered) whilst sunning at the Romulo Island.*
9. Check out the caves on Century Island.**
*- Highly Recommended
**- Recommended by Locals
Stay Away From
1. Mosquitoes! – just bring bug repellent to be sure
2. Snakes at the Century Island. Make noise upon approach to the island and the cave. There is dense undergrowth which is perfect hiding place to the snakes around the area.
3. Drowning, wear your life-vests at all times.
If you are not coming with a tour group, the National Park is accessible by land travel through Alaminos City. From Manila it can be reached through the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) connecting to Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) or the McArthur National Highway. Alaminos is 250 kilometers away from Manila – 4 hours by private vehicle, 5-6 hours by bus (Five Star Bus Inc., Victory Liner, Dagupan Bus Inc. and Philippine Rabbit Bus Inc.). If you are taking the bus, ask to be let off Alaminos City, and board a tricycle (fare is about PhP40 – not more than that) and ask to be taken to the Lucap Wharf. You may also alternatively get a map prior to your trip as well. Maps by EZ Maps found in gas stations, hotel lobbies and bookstores are very helpful.
Photo by Dave Ryan
Ryan supports socially and environmentally responsible and sustainable tourism, as well as the promotion of the Philippines as an alternative Asian tourist destination.
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