While it’s not always easy to find a destination that is simultaneously stunning and isolated, Kalanggaman Island in the Philippines offers just that. Even more incredible are the unique and exciting experiences that can also be had on the small island.
These ten adventures may not be entirely exclusive to the Kalanggaman Island resort, but they sure make for an unbelievable vacation.
Getting to Kalanggaman Island
Exploration starts early—just getting to the island can be an adventure in itself!
Kalanggaman Island, Leyte is a fascinatingly raw islet that lacks many modern conveniences. You won’t find any shops or restaurants let alone airports – if you’re looking for a true Philippines backpacking adventure, this is the place to go!
What they do have are plenty of docks—travelers can only reach the island by boat.
While determining how to go to Kalanggaman Island, it’s important to first examine your starting point. You can reach the town of Palompon—where you’ll need to start your experience—in a variety of ways. From the Cebu province, there is a direct ferry to Palompon. Those outside outside of Cebu can fly to Tacloban City, where vans shuttle guests to the west coast of Leyte.
Be sure to book a reservation ahead of time; officials in Palompon allow a set number of visitors to the island each day.
Once in Palompon, travelers can hop on speedboats or small pump boats that whisk visitors across the rough turquoise waves. While you may initially think you’ve made a grave mistake, the beauty of Kalanggaman Island will change your mind.
As you approach the islet, you’ll be met with vibrant white sand, swaying palm trees filled with coconuts and clear waters lapping at the shoreline. Put simply: paradise.
Staying Active on the Island
With Palompon city officials capping the number of visitors arriving on Kalanggaman Island each day, it’s obvious that the tropical island won’t be filled with tourists. On top of that, it still remains relatively unknown to those outside the Philippines.
But, despite the isolated nature of the island, there are a plethora of water-based activities that visitors can partake in. A tourism office on the island provides rentals, namely for stand-up paddleboard and kayaks. Take to the water and relax above the teal waves on the vessel of your choice.
The office also rents out water bikes, which are particularly fun for families with children. While swimming is permitted on some parts of the island, water bikes provide another way to cool off.
Those that prefer to remain on land can even rent volleyballs, with a beach volleyball court laid out on the sand nearby.
The Kalanggaman Island resort is small, but hardly ever crowded. This makes it the perfect vacation destination for those who want to make the most of their location. No matter how many times you kayak, gliding over sparkling waters never gets old.
Meeting the Locals
Because Kalanggaman Island is uninhabited, many are under the impression that there are no locals. But that is not the case. Rather, the island has its own caretakers and police officers that monitor the islet and ensure the safety of its visitors.
Talking with the locals can give you a new perspective on the area and on the island itself. Caretakers have plenty of tasks to complete—maintaining the island’s cleanliness, renting out equipment to travelers and ensuring that operations run smoothly.
But one thing they will also do is share their knowledge with visitors. Listen to their tales of how the island has changed or about the dolphins that soar from the waves offshore.
These caretakers hope to maintain the pristine environment of Kalanggaman Island so they will enforce the rules, but they are also available to help. They are typically found near the island’s main beach, adjacent to the popular sand bar that guests love to explore by day.
Exploring the Wild Side of Kalanggaman Island
While there is one prominent sandbar in a popular area of the island, a unique aspect of Kalanggaman Island is its second sandbar. That’s right—there are two of these gorgeous creations.
Despite the compact size of Kalanggaman Island, the other side of the island—commonly referred to as the wild side—is much less traveled.
Kids frolicking in the waves, families riding water bikes and couples kayaking along the coastline fill the main sandbar. Caretakers offer a watchful eye while cottages and palm trees provide minimal amounts of shade.
But the second sandbar, that of the wild side, is a different environment altogether. Darker rocks, rugged slabs of limestone and twisted trees fill this untamed area. While gulls continue to soar overhead, screeching as they go, you won’t find many people lining the shores here.
Exploring this part of the island provides an added adventure—an extra aspect that simply doesn’t exist in the more touristy parts of the small islet. Those who really love to see the world and get in touch with nature will prefer the peace and serenity that they’ll find here.
Kalanggaman Island may not be known for its wildlife, but it sure does have a pretty spectacular underwater selection.
Along with their selection of vessels and volleyballs, the island’s tourism office rents out snorkeling fins and masks. Because Kalanggaman Island is so small, visitors are already in a prime location for slipping into the sea and spotting some colourful creatures.
In addition to snorkeling, there are ample spots for scuba diving along the coast. Whether snorkeling or scuba diving, the underwater world at Kalanggaman Island is incredible to behold.
Sea life is protected and thriving, thanks in large part to the marine sanctuary on the west side of the island. Coral beds house thin spindles of coral while the exteriors of massive coral pods are also home to plenty of critters.
Expect to spot starfish, anemones and urchins galore as well as pufferfish, Christmas tree worms, seahorses and lizardfish. Further away from shore, visitors often spot dolphins and flying fish as well.
Relaxing in Local Cottages
Many travelers love to spread out their towels on the hot sand and soak up the island sun. But, on really hot days, there’s nothing better than finding some shade for a cool down.
While there are plenty of palm trees on the islet to provide reprise from the heat of the sun, those who run the island provide an alternative. There are a few different cottages that visitors can use—for a fee.
With thatched roofs and open sides, these structures aren’t good for much else, but they do provide a welcome escape from the heat in the middle of the day.
Right next to one of the sandbars, a small tree house also provides some UV protection. Climb the thin wooden ladder to sit on the platform under the thatched roof. All in all, it’s not too different from the cottages—just a little smaller.
While exploring and adventuring is always a blast, sometimes sitting back and enjoying the view is all you need for an unbelievable afternoon.
Soaking Up the Sunset
Island sunsets are always stunning, but Kalanggaman Island takes it to a whole new level, making it one of the best places to stay in the Philippines.
As with any island, twilight brings with it a flurry of colours. The pinks, purples, reds and oranges streak across the sky like a painting—one that a camera simply can’t do justice.
But the sunsets on Kalanggaman Island are especially stunning, with the colours in the sky reflecting off the pure white sand. Rather than maintaining its usual glow, the sand takes on the same colours.
Stroll out on the sandbars for a romantic experience, surrounded by nothing but the turquoise waters, fluffy pink clouds and colourful hues in the sky.
Whether you watch from the sand, from a cottage or from the adorable tree house, it’s a riveting experience you won’t likely forget.
Camping on the Beach
Spending the night at the island is something every visitor should experience. But there’s one thing that must be mentioned—there aren’t any hotels on the island. Those that want to stay overnight have to camp.
The pristine environment on Kalanggaman Island ensures that your overnight island experience will be one of a kind. Drift off to sleep under the stars as you listen to the waves lapping at the shore. You’ll wake up to an equally stunning sunrise. Make breakfast and hit the water before catching the boat back.
There is no electricity and hardly any fresh water on the island, aside from jugs sometimes provided by caretakers or the drivers of the boats. They have a few spots for showering and some toilets, but generally, travelers will be roughing it. Be sure to follow this Philippines packing list when planning your trip.
You’ll find some grills on the island, but there aren’t any restaurants so you’ll want to be sure to bring plenty of food and drinking water with you. There is a small retail store offering basic products, but they aren’t likely to have much so make sure to come prepared.
Even without Kalanggaman Island accommodation, overnight trips can be successes with a little bit of planning.
Stargazing After the Sun Goes Down
Kalanggaman Island is one of the best places for stargazing. Without electricity, there is no light pollution to interrupt your view. Therefore, the amount of stars visitors can see from the beach is spectacular.
Whether you’re seeking out constellations or simply looking for your own patterns in the sky, it’s a stunning experience. You’re also likely to spot a few shooting stars before the night is over.
Lay back, look up and enjoy the view—it’s a pretty unique one.
Leaving Glowing Footprints in the Sand
If you visit Kalanggaman Island in the right season, you just may catch it when the plankton are blooming. As the waves crash, they glow bright green, leaving an incredible light trail on the black sand.
Head down to the water and walk in the surf. As you look behind you, you’ll find each step glows for a second before it disappears. While this is certainly not unique to Kalanggaman Island, it is a stunning sight no matter where you are.