Beyond Boracay | Finding paradise in rustic Hambil

View of the GrottoOf all the times I decide to create a new blog entry, it’s on the eve of my first international trip for 2H 2013. I suppose having to travel reminds me of the many travels I haven’t shared. So here’s one from the first part of the year – the side trip that made my holiday less than typical.

It started off with a trip to Kalibo for the famous Ati-Atihan Festival – then I decided to spend a few extra days in Boracay to wind down.  I hadn’t had a beach holiday for over a year, and was itching to feel the sand between my toes.  But I also wanted to be far from the madding crowd.  A friend had told me of this small island which is a 20-min boat ride from Boracay, called Carabao Island.  Locals call it Hambil, and many of the island residents actually work in the bustling beach of Boracay Island.  It sounded exactly like what I wanted.

I spent a night in Boracay, chilling at Bulabog Beach watching kite surfers.  The next day, I headed to the coconut grove in Boracay’s Station 2, and asked the local boatmen about going to Hambil.  They normally leave around 3pm, and I just told them I’d hitch a ride.  I’ve read other blog posts saying that the trip would cost about PhP 50 or so. (Foreigners get charged PhP 100, I’ve heard.)  But, being a local female solo traveller, I suppose the boatmen decided to be gallant gentlemen and didn’t charge me a cent.  It helps that I travel light and I don’t look like I’ve got money to burn.

So there I was, with my yellow 10L dry bag in a rural island with 12hrs of electricity and no fast food joints.  I was beyond happy.

Despite being mentioned in Lonely Planet’s chapter on Boracay, few people find their way to Hambil.  There is a lack of infrastructure and amenities. (Think cold shower, people.)  The rustic and secluded nature of the island is part of its charm.  You can go around the island on a motorbike and cover everything in one afternoon.  The views are breathtaking, the sand is as fine and as white as Boracay’s (for the most part), and the water is as clear (or probably even more so).  There isn’t a large shoreline, and most of the beachfront properties have already been sold.  (BTW, if you’re wondering – they’re not at all cheap.  I had to give up my dreams of retiring in this island paradise the minute I heard what the going rates were.)

There are two major beaches / developed areas.  One is on the east side, with the port and town proper (Poblacion), while the other is on the the western shore (Lanas).  There are a few places to stay in each.  I got a homestay in Poblacion on the first night, and stayed at Ivy’s Vine in Lanas on the second night.  Accommodations on the Lanas side seem to be better than those in Poblacion based on limited experience and feedback.  The trade-off would be the quality of the beach – Poblacion has the same powdery-white sand that Boracay has, whilst Lanas is more gritty with pebble-sized pieces lining its shore rather narrow shore.

Hambil will likely see an influx of tourists spilling over from the crowded beaches of Boracay in the coming years.  But in the meantime, I recommend a short jaunt into the island when you’re in the vicinity.  It’s the perfect place to unplug and just enjoy what nature has to offer – sun, surf and sand.

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For more information on getting to Hambil, or where to stay, mosey over to Lakwatsero (who I believe to be the premiere source of Philippine travel information) and Mustachio Ventures (where there are photos and contact details of the Poblacion homestay, and then some).  A Google search on Hambil and Carabao Island would also yield valuable information.

Happy travels!

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