I’ve always wanted to go to Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan — but I never did. Well, until my friend Matt brought it up that is.
I guess I could say I’m lucky in this regard — I’m surrounded by people who not only share the same passion I have for travel but are also game for almost anything almost all the time!
It only took 2 weeks of planning and virtual decision-making (and heckling each other! Haha) before the 100 Islands Extravaganza (coined by Matt) weekend escape came to be! And mind you, not everybody knew each other before this trip. Some, we only met on the day of being Alaminos-bound itself!
So for those of you who always let travel opportunities pass you by just because you don’t like traveling alone or your friends and family are always busy to go with you, I suggest you join CouchSurfing (this is how I met these crazy friends of mine) or to drop me a line every now and then to check whether we have another weekend escape planned! (We do have Baler scheduled for Holy Week already)
Anyway, here are some snaps (grabbed pics from Becky and Kapil – thanks fellas!) and some tips (budget and logistics included) from our 100 Islands Extravaganza for you to be encouraged to visit the Hundred Islands National Park at Alaminos, Pangasinan. Some life hacks and personal recommendations also included to hopefully help you have an awesome weekend escape! #endlesssummer
Getting to Hundred Islands National Park (from Metro Manila)
1. Take a bus bound for Alaminos via Victory Liner in Cubao. I repeat, Cubao and not Kamias. Fare is P392 for AC bus. We took the 530am bus.
- Logistics Tip 1: Buses tend to get full so unless you want to sit along the aisle with a small children’s seat, be there at least an hour early. No joke.
- Logistics Tip 2: Buses that go via NLEX and SCTEX are faster than buses that don’t pass by SCTEX. So take the 2-expressway buses if you can. There are normally two stops: Dau (if you are in Pampanga and Bulacan area, you can board here if you’re lucky and there’s still seats) and Tarlac City (if you are in Tarlac and Nueva Ecija area, same thing applies)
- Budget Tip 1: If you are a student, bring your ID to avail of the 20% discount. Non-aircon buses are also cheaper. So choose that or AC bus, depending on your comfort or tolerance level.
2. Take a tricycle to Lucap Wharf where the Hundred Islands National Park Tourism Office is located. You need to pay for your environmental fee (P80 for adult, P40 for children). It’s also here where you can rent a boat and arrange for cooking equipment and utensils (P1000) if you don’t have them. Rates are as follows from Asenso Pangasinan site:
Here’s the list of prices of services or fees you could avail for your Hundred Islands Tour. ENTRANCE FEE (PHP): – Day Tour – 40.00 – Overnight – 80.00 Note: – Children 5 years old and below are free of charge and 20% discount for the Senior Citizen. – Likewise, in conformity with the Tourism Code, ENTRANCE FEE will be known as ENVIRONMENTAL FEE. MOTORBOAT RATES: SMALL (good for 5 persons) – Day Tour – 800.00 – Overnight – 1,400.00 – Day Tour Service Boat – 1,400.00 MEDIUM (good for 10 persons) – Day Tour – 1000.00 – Overnight – 1,800.00 – Day Tour Service Boat – 1,800.00 LARGE (good for 15 persons) – Day Tour – 1,100.00 – Overnight – 2,000.00 – Day Tour Service Boat – 2,000.00 Note: Day Tour covers islands hopping limited to three islands including: Quezon Island, Governor’s Island and Children’s Island.
- Logistics Tip 3: Overnight rates apply only if you will camp at the developed islands namely Governor’s Island, Children’s Island, and Quezon Island. If you wish to camp at an undeveloped island (like we did), you would have to pay for another Day Tour boat that will pick you up. We paid for two boats and we got to pass by Marcos Island for cliff diving on our way back to mainland.
- Budget Tip 2: The fare from the Victory Bus terminal to Lucap Wharf or the Hundred Islands Tourism Office is P60 per tricycle. Confirm this before boarding the trike. The public market and Nepo Mart, as well as the Mart One supermarket, are walking distance from the bus terminal. You can do your shopping first and take the trike afterwards. Otherwise, the trikes will tell you it’s P100, including the waiting time.
- Budget Tip 3: Bring utensils as well as cooking equipment if you can. The P1000 package for gas tank, cooking range, knife, bowls, spoons and forks (about 5-6 sets) was a robbery to me. 🙂 Plus, the tour arranger insisted that it’s a package, which means it’s either you get it or you don’t. If you plan to get it, no need to buy extra eating utensils unless the sets provided is not enough for your group.
Things to do in and around the Hundred Islands National Park
1. Chill and relax (doh!)
After pitching our tents at Scout Island (we got lucky that there was no marshal to charge us P200/tent, which is automatic when you camp at the developed islands), the next order of business is — do nothing! 🙂 Well, actually, we did go for a swim and made sure we have collected enough wood for the small bonfire (note: unless you know how to make one and to put it off after, PLEASE DO NOT start a bonfire. Also, please use fallen wood and twigs) we’d be using to grill the corn and to warm us in the night.
2. Eat, drink and sleep (not necessarily in that order!)
Matt prepared home-made tortillas while in Baguio and we chopped and diced the potato (which will be the main filling), tomatoes, onions and cilantro (I think ) for the salsa to go with it. It was yummy! 🙂 We also grilled the corn by the camp fire.
Lifehack Tip 1: There’s no need to buy BBQ sticks for the corn cob since the small branches and twigs will do the job for you anyway!
- Lifehack Tip 2: You can use leftover (for the salsa) calamansi (local lime) and salt to add flavor to the corn. And if you have tequila, yes for that one too!
- Logistics Tip 4: Have enough food and water (and alcohol) that will last you for the time that you are camped in the island. Buy stuff that don’t need cold storage (unless you avail of the ice chest package or brought one yourself) and which does not go bad easily. Eggs, bread, pancakes, fruits, chips, milk (carton, not opened till morning), coffee, salt and sugar practically filled our supply cart.
3. Snorkel till you drop The boatman will bring you somewhere in the middle of Lopez and Quezon Island. There will be a platform for those who want to jump into the clear waters and play with the fish. While it’s not as diverse as other snorkeling sites (like in Bohol), there certainly are a lot of fish in the sea! I did not see Nemo though! Both ends of Scout Island also had areas for snorkeling. If you are on the island and you can swim (or if you have a life vest), you can go to the right side and enjoy some more marine life. Otherwise, the area on the left by the rocks would also have small fish you can play with.
- Lifehack Tip 3: If you have a piece of bread, hold it in your hands and the fish will swarm towards you in a moment.
- Budget Tip 4: I now believe it is cheaper to invest in goggles or snorkel mask rather than renting it all the time. For the two day rental, Becky had to pay P175. Because Niklas had goggles, I paid nothing. Hehe. Even shared the goggles with Duncan. That’s another tip, if you’re not planning to be in the water to snorkel all at the same time, you can take turns. 🙂
4. Enjoy the sunset and the magic of nature
I have always loved the sunset, especially when I’m at the beach or up in the air. And, the sunsets in northwestern Philippines are among the best I have seen. So even though we were busy playing around or making the food, we still made sure to take a pause and enjoy the magnificence of nature in front of us.
We also saw the stars and constellations that night, since the only light we have is from the camp fire and the stars above — so unlike the brightness of Metro Manila. And, perhaps as a bonus to us, we didn’t know that Hundred Islands had those “magical plankton” that illuminate the sand and the sea at night. Imagine Avatar the movie or Life of Pi. With every step, with every wave, the sea and the sand lit up. I’d need to update my CS profile and add it as one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in my life!
5. Cliff dive at Imelda Cave #yolo
I have gone cliff diving before inside the cave in Sagada, by the Bomod-ok waterfalls also in Sagada, and at the Ulot River in Paranas, Samar (you should go and do the torpedo boat ride there by the way — it’s awesome!) all in 2013. This is my first cliff dive of the year and yes, I am looking forward to more in 2014!
- Lifehack Tip 4: Always dive in the water with your legs straight, not bent and please, not in a 90 degree angle with your body. You might tell me that it’s common sense but you know, better to remind nonetheless. I did not have anyone reminding me and it H.U.R.T. the heck on the first cliff dive! The next two were much better! 🙂 Also, going back up will be either a challenge (as in you’d have to climb up using a rope and clinging to the rocks where there are crabs waiting to pinch you for encroaching in their space) or a long swim/walk/hike (as in exit the cave, back to the beach, and climb up to the cave top again). The longer version is safer. 🙂
There probably are other things you can still do while the Hundred Islands National Park. I guess it will depend on who you’re traveling with. Like, Children’s Island will be good for families with kids (no joke) since the water is shallow, Quezon Island I suppose would be good for those who want to have a bed and proper toilet and bath facilities.
For the rest of the urban jungle backpacking community though, we all know that we can sacrifice some comforts to get the most out of our money and the time we managed to steal away from work. For a quick calculation, I think each of us spent on average between P1500-1700, all-in, for the weekend at the Hundred Islands — not bad, huh?!