Carabao Island, Romblon: Escape from Boracay

Lanas Beach, Carabao Island, Romblon
Glassy waters of Lanas Beach on Carabao Island (San Jose), Romblon

Just 30 minutes north from famed Boracay Island is Carabao Island, whose territory is contiguous with San Jose, a municipality of Romblon province.  The island is also known as Hambil, hence, its inhabitants are called Hambilanons. There are two possible reasons why the island is named after the beast of burden. Some say that the island has long been populated by carabaos or water buffalos, while others say its shaped like one when approached from Boracay Island. If you’re looking for a beach escape near Boracay – a vacation from your vacation, so they say – Carabao Island is the bucolic tropical paradise you are looking for. Stepping onto Carabao Island is like turning back time when “the best island in the world” was a low-key island retreat.

Seaweed Farmer
A seaweed farmer at Lanas Beach, Carabao Island


There are two beaches to choose from when staying on the island. San Jose Beach is on the main town or poblacion, while Lanas Beach is on the western coast, facing Boracay. The former has finer sands with leaning coconuts, while the latter has coarser coralline sand but incredible sunset views. After nine days in Boracay, I decided to hop over to its quieter, unspoiled ‘twin’. From Station 1 on White Beach, I was able to get a free ride to Lanas Beach, a deserted strip with a handful of low-key bungalows. There was no one on the beach when I arrived, save for a friendly villager harvesting sakol, a variety of Kappaphycus seaweed which is an important source of exported carrageenan.

San Jose Beach, Carabao Island, Romblon
San Jose Beach at the main town or poblacion of Carabao Island


HOW TO GET THERE: From Caticlan, the jump-off point to Boracay Island, there are daily bangkas that head for Brgy. Lanas and San Jose town in Carabao Island (San Jose), Romblon mostly in the morning. Motorbikes can shuttle vistitors between San Jose and Lanas.


Alternatively, you can take a bangka direct to Brgy. Lanas from White Beach on Boracay Island. Most island-hopping boats in Boracay are based on Carabao Island, so you can hitch a ride after lunch when these boats return home after their tours. Ask the boatmen at Station 1 (near Starbucks) for boats returning to Carabao Island. Travel time from Station 1 to Brgy. Lanas is only 30 minutes. Fare around PHP 50 per person.

From Tablas Island, boats travel between Santa Fe and San Jose poblacion.


Lanas Beach, Carabao Island, Romblon
Nipa Hauz Resort on Lanas Beach has stunning sunset views overlooking Boracay Island

WHERE TO STAY: If you want to stay the main town along San Jose Beach, there’s the Isla de Carabao Tourism Center that has double fan rooms for PHP 500.

At Lanas Beach, Nipa Hauz Resort & Restaurant offers native-style double fan rooms starting at PHP 800/night. Their restaurant serves generous portions of Filipino and Western cuisine at PHP 250 to 350 per meal. Address: Brgy. Lanas, San Jose (Carabao Island), Romblon. Mobile: +63 9994074225, look for Merelyn Gonzaga.


One comment

  1. Thanks for the tip on getting to Carabao via Station 1 in Boracay. That makes it very convenient for us here.

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