Kinatarkan Island in Sta Fe was unknown to me until I ditched my plan to visit Carnaza Island. With boat rental starting at P7,000, I think a Carnaza trip was too expensive for solo travel. There must be a better alternative, I told myself, somewhere in the neighborhood of Bantayan.

Guintacan Island—that’s how it’s named on Google Maps. This island popularly known as Kinatarkan (also Kinatarcan and Guintarcan) is 12 kilometers northeast of Bantayan and almost the same distance west of Hagnaya Port in mainland Cebu. On its east is the diving hotspot of Malapascua and farther northeast is Carnaza Island, also an emerging tourist destination.


The Rebirth of an Island

The island of Kinatarkan, which is part of Sta Fe, is home to about 10, 000 people distributed into three barangays: Hagdan, Kinatarkan, and Langub. Unknown to many, Kinatarkan is also called “The Forgotten Island”, owing to the lack of attention from the government which left this island with poor basic services including electricity, water, healthcare, and education.

When Typhoon Yolanda ravaged the central part of the Philippines in 2013, Kinatarkan was one of the worst hit. There were no recorded deaths, but houses and buildings were flattened. Thanks to the outpouring of relief missions and rehabilitation projects, the island has slowly recovered from great damage. A number of projects are in full swing until now including those of Gina Lopez who is a popular name in the island and Southern Partners and Fair Trade Center Inc. (SPFTC) and other NGOs.

To some extent, the lack of popularity has helped keep the natural resources in this island in excellent shape. Its coral cliffs was also one of the locations of a local film, I Found My Heart in Sta Fe. On March 2018, the island was also featured on a Jessica Soho’s show as one of the premiere beach destinations in Cebu. Some even consider the island as “Cebu’s Last Frontier”.

As of writing, the Tourism Office of Sta Fe is taking double time to assess and prepare the island for the influx of tourists. They are yet to certify businesses including homestay to ensure safety and comfort for its visitors.

With unspoiled beaches and great sights, Kinatarkan guarantees a unique island experience away from the crowd. Hopefully, tourism can create more opportunities for its people and drive progress in this remote community.


Attractions in Kinatarkan

THE BEACHES

When I visited on April 2018, my jaw dropped as the boat eased its way along the shores of Langub-Pasil Beach. Deep blue waters, charming pebble beach. The clear waters sparkled in the sun. On the other side of the island is Bitoon Beach, but when we went, the waves were strong. It was not good for swimming, and this is true during the habagat (southwest monsoon). When the winds shift to amihan (northeast monsoon) around September, Bitoon Beach gets the calmer waters.


THE LAGOON

From Langub, we hopped on a habal-habal (motorcycle) to get to Laaw Lagoon. Getting there took some 25 minutes. The road was well-paved at first, and then it turned to a rocky road that gave me a minor headbang. We trekked down for a few minutes. It was an easy trail, although it was a steep descent sprinkled with rough coral stones. And then this view…


THE CORAL CLIFFS

From the lagoon, you need to climb up a steep path to get to the edge of the cliff. It’s called “Tamboan ni Leon”, a viewdeck that lets you marvel at the surrounding deep blue ocean.


THE LIGHTHOUSE

While approaching Kintarkan, I saw the lighthouse on one end of the island. I didn’t have time to visit the lighthouse but I learned it looks similar to that of Gigantes Island in Iloilo.

Looks like the lighthouse of Gigantes Island


How to Get There

From Daanbantayan:

1. North Bus Terminal (Cebu City) to Hagnaya Port (about 4 hours, P180 aircon bus)
2. Flag a tricycle and ask the driver to take you to the boats going to Kinatarkan.
3. Hagnaya Port to Kinatarkan (45 to 60 minutes by boat)

Option 1: Rent a private boat for P2, 500 and leave the port anytime.
Option 2: Take the regular passenger boat that leaves the port once full (between 8 and 11 AM). That won’t cost more than P50. This boat returns to Daanbantayan the next day at 7 AM.

From Bantayan Island:

In case you are in Sta Fe, you can rent a boat going directly to Kinatarkan. That will cost P2,500, good for about 10 passengers. Travel time is about 80 minutes under moderately rough waves. My reliable friend and habal-habal driver Roland (0932.359.9976) can help you arrange the boat.


Notes

1. At the moment, tourism activities in the island is not yet organized. We recommend getting assistance from the barangay hall or the Tourism Office of Sta Fe for your concerns. You can reach Lanie (Tourism Officer) at 0995.043.2485.

2. It’s best to setup camp at the beaches of Langub and Pasil. There are possible homestays around the island, but none of them have been evaluated  by the Tourism Office as of writing.

3. You can get overcharged for habal-habal, especially that there are no standard rates yet. I believe going to Laaw Lagoon from Pasil-Langub should not be more than P100. You can always negotiate.

4. Bring all supplies including food and water if you plan to stay overnight.

5. Kinatarkan is a pristine island that’s starting to embrace tourism. Help the community protect their natural resources by being a responsible traveler. Interact with the people and leave them with a smile on their faces.

ArisMape

ArisMape is a travel insider at ABS-CBN's Choose Philippines. He loves orange, halo-halo, and PowerPoint, and hates beef, slow internet, and long taxi lines. His pastime is watching people watch other people. He swears on the power of smartphone. His half-life? Thirty.