Hidden Paradise: Guide to Sambawan Island, Biliran
If what you’re looking for is a tropical getaway with incomparable sunset views, a refreshing tree-lined shore, and a peaceful appeal, then the island paradise of Sambawan Island in Biliran might just be your next favorite vacation spot.
Sambawan Island (or sometimes Sambauan Island) has previously been overlooked by tourists because of the popularity of nearby islands and beaches in the Eastern Visayas region, like Kalanggaman Island and Boracay.
But recently, both Filipino and foreign tourists have started recognizing the allure of the island’s white-pebble beach and grassy hills. Away from the commotion of busy resorts, Sambawan is ready to offer you the relaxing vacation you deserve.
Photo from BiliranIsland.com.
What does Sambawan Island offer?
Sambawan Island is truly a treat for the eyes. Where else can you see a long stretch of white beach made from white pebbles and crushed coral along a magnificent blue sea?
This seaside view is perfectly complemented by the island’s rolling hills carpeted with wispy grass and an interesting rocky terrain. Maria Benita, a diwata (fairy) in Biliran local folklore, is said to have designed this piece of paradise.
Because of its secluded location away from the bright, busy cities, Sambawan Island becomes beautiful at night, where you get to see a wonderful night sky filled with numerous stars. If you wake up early, you can also witness a breathtaking sunrise that colors the surrounding waters a magnificent orange hue.
How to Get to Sambawan Island
Sambawan is composed of four interconnected islets located 5 kilometers southwest of the parent Maripipi Island, an island municipality of Biliran. If travelling by air, the first step to reaching this paradise is through Tacloban City, the main jump-off point when visiting the Biliran Islands and Leyte.
Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and Air Asia all operate daily flights from Manila to Tacloban City. You can also hitch a direct flight to Tacloban City from Cebu City and Davao City. Additionally, those coming from Cebu can opt to ride a fastcraft to Ormoc City and then ride a vide to Tacloban.
The airfare for a one-way trip from Manila to Tacloban City typically ranges from P2,800 to P4,100, depending on your preferred airline and time of booking. The average travel time is a little more than 1 hour from Manila to Tacloban airport. As always recommended, you can score cheaper airfare if you plan and book your trip ahead and subscribe to your airline’s promo periods.
From Tacloban City, ride a van towards Naval, where you have different options of going to Sambawan Island. The cheapest option is through the locals’ route through Maripipi Island. From Naval Port, you can ride a passenger boat heading to Maripipi Island, but make sure to catch its only trip at 10 AM.
Once in Maripipi, ride a habal-habal (motorcycle) to Brgy. Ol-og, where you can now rent a motorized banca for a roundtrip to Sambawan Island. The boat rental usually costs P500, fitting a small group of 6.
The hassle-free but much more expensive option is to head to Kawayan Port, where you can charter a boat that goes directly to Sambawan Island. This route costs much higher at P3,000-P3,500 for a group of 6.
When’s the Best Time to Visit?
Sambawan Island is a timeless paradise that is beautiful at any time of the year, but the unpredictable weather limits us to visiting the island during the dry months. Planning your trip to Sambawan (and other island getaways) on the months of February to May will prevent any unwanted cancellations due to bad weather.
Furthermore, a trip during these months will ensure that you get to maximize your stay with all of the water activities available on the island. Currently, Sambawan Island rarely gets crowded by too many tourists, so peacefulness will not be an issue in your stay.
Make sure to check your calendars so that you visit during low tide, when all of the four islets of Sambawan Island are above sea level and explorable to tourists.
Where to Stay in Sambawan Island
If you’re planning on an overnight trip to Sambawan Island, the Sambawan Dive Camp & Marine Sanctuary is the best (and only) way to go. Here you can rent cottages of varying sizes at different price points, ranging from P500 to P2,500 per day. You can also choose to pitch a tent at P100 per day.
If you’re looking for an accommodation in Maripipi Island or in Naval to have better accessibility to other tourist destinations in Biliran and Leyte, renting an Airbnb is a cheap and convenient option.
We recommend checking out El Paseo Homestay in Maripipi Island, a cozy yet stylish place at the center of Poblacion, Maripipi.
It’s affordable price point and convenient location near the port makes this place a perfect overnight check in before heading to Sambawan Island.
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What to Do in Sambawan Island
- Snorkeling and Scuba Diving. Aside from its unique appearance, Sambawan Island is most known for being a marine sanctuary. The beautiful underwater world of this island is one of the richest and diverse ones we’ve ever seen in the country. The crystal-clear azure waters are always a sight to behold.
- Trekking. The rolling hills of Sambawan Island is a fulfilling experience just waiting to happen. The rocky terrain is carpeted with wispy grass, making you feel that you’re walking in a dream. At the vantage point atop the hill in the main islet, you can see a 360° view of the uniquely curved beach, as well as the shadows of nearby islands like Maripipi.
The long stretch of Talisay-tree lined shore of Sambawan Island. Photo by Rodel Bontes on Flickr CC.
- Stargazing. Maximize your outdoor camping experience in Sambawan Island with a breathtaking view of the night sky. Without light pollution from busy cities, all of the stars go out of hiding to illuminate the sky for a romantic night on this paradise.
- Kayaking. If you want to explore the different corners of the island, especially the areas with rich coral and marine life, go ahead and try kayaking with your friends and family.