Of all the incredible places I've explored in the Philippines, people might be surprised to learn that Romblon Island tops the list. After all, you don't hear too much about this place. Perhaps it's because it's overshadowed by it's massively popular (and crowded) neighbor Boracay. Well let me tell you...Romblon is loaded with charm and scenic beauty.
Words & Photos By Nathan Allen
This is Romblon, Romblon - Don't Get Confused
Romblon island is the middle of the three islands in Romblon province. The island to the west is Tablas, Romblon, and the one to the east is called Sibuyan, Romblon.
Getting to this island from Tablas was a bit of an adventure itself, but there is a much easier way direct from Manila (I'll cover that later). I arrived at the port of Romblon Town in the early morning. After a nice, brief rest at my B&B, I headed to JD&G Italian Restaurant. This place was recommended to me, and not only was the food fantastic, but the owner had a motorbike I could rent!
I finished my lunch and hopped on the bike. Within minutes (literally), I was treated to this view:
Yeah, right away I could tell I was going to love this island. Hardly any tourists, with breathtaking turquoise seas and white sand beaches.
About 1km after this overlook, I located the small trail going to a place called Bonbon Beach. I had seen some amazing photos online, so I was excited to check it out.
( If you prefer to use booking.com, you can browse Romblon Hotels HERE )
Well, it delivered. This place was sooo incredible - you can check out my separate Bonbon Beach Post if you'd like.
Colorful Romblon Town
The town itself has a lot of character. Many of the buildings are splashed with vibrant, pastel colors. It gives such a bright, cheery feel. I love it.
(Click photos of Romblon town for more info)
"Good Vibes" in Romblon's Marble?
As you can see in that last photo, marble (the mineral) is Romblon Island's claim to fame. I noticed many marble shops in town, and quite a few marble sculptures and statues along the countryside roads. What I also noticed is that, quite simply, Romblon is full of good vibes. Really, there is an unexplainable energy I felt here.
In fact, as I rode my motorbike through the remote parts of the island, my arm literally started to hurt from waiving back at all the smiley locals. There were SO MANY. Don't get me wrong - the Philippines is the friendliest country I've ever visited, but Romblon Island seems to take that friendliness to an exponential level!
Carlos Reyes, owner of Stone Creek House in town, half jokes that maybe it's something in all that raw marble just below Romblon's surface. Who knows, stranger things have happened. Whatever it is, I felt it...and it was good.
Fort San Andres
A steep 10 minute climb up some stairs by the market brings you to this historic Spanish Fort. The grounds are lush and well kept, and there are beautiful views of the harbor and sea from the top. You can find some information and history about the fort as well. There will probably be a caretaker who will collect a 20 peso fee (40 cents).
Anyhow, after this I continued south on the motorbike, snapping colorful photos along the way. It was a beautiful day.
Talipasak Beach Resort (San Pedro)
As usual, I didn't really have a plan. When I saw a road veering off the right, I just took it. I noticed what looked like a huge eagle flying overhead, then the road started leading into a canopy of shady trees. There were kingfishers and other tropical birds all around, and the landscape was quite beautiful. I passed a place called Totoys, then the road dead ended at Dumagat Freedive.
I wanted to have lunch somewhere, and the guy at Dumagat said to check Talipasak Beach Resort next door. I'm so glad I did.
Also known as San Pedro Beach Resort, the food wasn't incredible, but it was pretty tasty...and definitely affordable! The woman there was quite nice, and I loved the feel of the place. I relaxed in the hammock and then went for a swim and some snorkeling afterward (I brought my own mask). Nothing spectacular...but it was refreshing, at least.
The resort bungalows sit in the shade up a small hill, overlooking Talipasak Beach and the sea. Rooms are clean, but basic. Fan only. Last I checked it was just 700 pesos a night to stay there.
Someday I hope to come back and stay for a few nights. Beautiful, secluded place. I noticed that local groups like to come in and pay for day use. They just bring their own food and drinks to the beach.
If you want to stay here (and you don't have a motorbike), you need a trike (public transportation) to drop you off. That could cost about 300 or 400 pesos ($6-8). You'll be isolated out there, but perhaps that's just what you're after.
The southern part of the island brought me through some colorful and friendly local communities. I stopped at a few tropical vistas and lagoons - really breathtaking scenery.
(Ricoh GR II photos - click for more info)
I heard people talk about going "up on the mountain" from time to time...so I asked how to get there. The last photo above was from a hike I took (the dirt road became too rough and dangerous, and I had to leave the motorbike).I believe the road going up is called Sawang-Cogon Shunt Rd.
As you ascend, the scenery really begins to shift to grassy, windswept hills...and the temperature cools off. Again, nothing spectacular, but it is cool and peaceful. Could be a good place to catch a sunset.
By the way, I also checked out the fascinating corals @ Agpanabat Marine Sanctuary while down south. Link is at the bottom of the page.
Beautiful, Rugged Coastline
Check out these views! These lush, grassy hillsides actually remind me home - the beautiful northern California coast.
I parked the motorbike and took these photos near Calabago lighthouse (not pictured).
(continued below, but I do hope you'll consider following along with me...)
If you're more interested in photography than travel, you might want to follow me here:
Continuing up the east side of the island, I found these colorful buildings tucked away in the coconut trees along the beach.
There was also a native style "bahay kubo", or hut. These were located very near to Lamao Beach Resort (this place seems to be popular with the locals). It's a pretty remote area out here.
Why Do I Love Romblon So Much?
If the pictures weren't enough for you, I'll elaborate more: To me, Romblon Island is the perfect getaway / adventure. It has everything I love: Stunning beaches / swimming / snorkeling, access to a motorbike for rent, few crowds / little development, tropical jungles, windy coastal roads (with scenic vistas), a lot of friendly local culture, AND it's small enough to circle on a motorbike in just a few hours.
I call Romblon Island "The Sweet Spot in the Heart Of The Philippines".
To top it off, there is a tiny but tight-knit community of European and American expats there. They are highly entertaining to chat with, and they have even brought some flavors from home. As mentioned before, you'll often find some at JD&G Italian Restaurant, which serves excellent pizza and calzones. Probably the best affordable Italian I had anywhere in the Philippines.
Anyhow, now to wrap up my story...on the way back to town, I stopped once more at Bonbon Beach. I caught a magical sunset, and captured these two fishermen bringing their boat in from the sea.
What a great way to say goodbye to my new favorite paradise.
How To Get There
You might be able to find a cheap Cebu Pacific flight to the neighboring island of Tablas, but then you need transportation to the San Agustin ferry port an hour away. The ferry only runs early in the morning and at 1pm each day. I think the best bet is to take the 2GO "party boat", as I like to call it...
It's an overnight sleeper ferry that goes from Batangas (south of Manila) directly to Romblon Town. It has a bar with live entertainment playing late into the night. Haha. Awesome.
Where To Stay
If you are looking to get away from it all in rustic fashion (warning: you WILL be isolated out there) check out Talipasak Beach Resort, mentioned above.
However, the best option might be sleek Stone Creek House. It's located right in town proper, and is beautifully designed - with all the conveniences of home. The reason this is so great is because it's nearby to excellent food, as well as the BEST beach on the island (Bonbon). In town you can easily rent the motorbike @ JD&G and explore more of the island as well.
Hope you enjoy Romblon's charm as much as I did!
Also be sure to check out my other related posts:
- Nathan Allen
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share!
Other Related Links