Jack Ponpon

Carnaza Island is a paradise off the northern coast of Cebu, in the middle of the Visayan Sea close to Leyte and Masbate. Its pristine beaches and scenic views are picture-perfect and mostly untouched. A number of adventurous backpackers have been here, but because of the distance one has to travel, tourism here has not picked up aggressively. Many still prefer the more popular islands of Malapascua and Bantayan, but my fearless forecast is that Carnaza will soon enjoy the limelight it deserves as the next backpacking haven of Cebu.

How to Get There

* From the Cebu North Bus Terminal, take a bus (4 hrs) or a van (3 hrs) to Baranggay Tapilon in Daanbantayan. The fare is about P180. Buses are available anytime, but it’s best to leave as early as 3 AM or 4 AM.
* When you arrive in Tapilon, ask the locals to guide you to the port. (Make sure it’s Tapilon Port, not Maya Port for boats going to Malapascua.) Most boats going to Carnaza travel from 9 AM to 11 AM. (I have no idea if there are boats available in the afternoon. You probably can rent at P2000.)
* Going back to the mainland, there’s only one trip to Tapilon Port. The first trip is at 8 AM, and the last trip leaves at 9 AM.
* One-way fare is P100, and travel time can be 2 to 3 hours depending on the weather and the size of the boat.

Where to Stay

* The Carnaza Eco Park is the only resort in the island. This is a bit far from the “barrio”. Make a reservation if you plan to stay there.
* You can also pitch a tent or check with the locals if they have rooms for rent. The people of Carnaza are very accommodating and friendly, some offer rooms for as low as P200 per night.

When we visited the island, however, we had nowhere to stay. The island was busy and full-packed because of their fiesta. Thankfully, after hours of searching, we found a place to stay at the Carnaza Elementary School.

What To Do

There are loads of activities you can do in Carnaza. The island not only boasts white sand beaches and snorkeling spots but also caves, a swamp, a lake (sort of), a pristine forest, a twin beach and a runway. These places are just a hike or a “habal-habal” ride away (P20 per person). You can also do cliff jumping from a hill close to the “barrio”.

Side Trips

La Manok Island of Esperanza, Masbate is one of the side trips you should not miss, because it’s only a short 30-minute ride from Carnaza. This is a pair of islands connected by a sandbar, somewhat similar to El Nido’s Snake Island. (Use your charm when looking for a boat going to La Manok. Oftentimes, it costs P1200 to P2000 depending on the size of the boat.)

Dakit-Dakit Island or Maria Island is known for its rocky structure which has a hole in the middle. This can be reached in 10-15 minutes from Carnaza.

Travel Tips

1. Electricity is available between 7 AM and 10 PM only. So, you gotta bring a flashlight and, of course, a power bank. But the island doesn’t go in complete darkness because its streets have solar-powered lamps. Some houses also have their own power generators.
2. There are no restaurants or “carinderias” in the island. Bring your own food and supplies. You can buy fresh catch from the fishermen at a very cheap price. There are also loads of convenience stores or “sari-sari stores” in the island but expect higher prices especially for cold drinks.
3. There’s no reliable cellphone signal in the island unless you take a hike to the top of the hills.

Photo Copyright: Jack Ponpon

Jack Ponpon

Jack is a Fine Arts student at the University of San Carlos in Cebu. A photography enthusiast, Jack takes impressive drone and mobile phone shots which he publishes in his Instagram account of more than 20K followers.