Smallest in population and smallest in land area, the Batanes will transport you to a different world full of simple pleasures and raw nature. Situated in the northernmost region of the Philippines, the Batanes is comprised of 10 luscious islands with a total of 84.56 square miles waiting to be explored.
Because of it’s vulnerable location in the middle of the Luzon Straight 162-kilometers north of Luzon and just 190-kilometers south of Taiwan, it’s not surprising to learn that Batanes has experienced plenty of invasions, occupations, and interventions by the Spaniards, Japanese, and Americans. Luckily, these intrusions left the Batanes in tact. Today, nearly half of the land in the Batanes is made up of luscious green mountains and sprawling hills.
The beauty of Batanes is so overwhelming that it cannot truly be expressed in words. The beaches, lagoons, caves, and islands will leave you speechless. The culture here is just as exquisite, running at a much slower pace than the rest of the world. Villages, cafes, homestays…everything here is personal.
Prepare for an intimate vacation with the wind in your hair and meaningful interactions on the horizon. Pro Tip: Batanes gets more rainfall than other areas of the country. The best times to visit are March – May.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Batanes:
1. Eat Local Fare
Flying Fish and Coconut Crab are the two most prized proteins native to Batanes.
Dibang is the Filipino name for the migratory flying fish that spring out of the water and use their evolved fins to catch some air. You can go straight to the source, fishing boats, to buy your own dibang and have a local grill them for you along with some organic veggies grown and harvested on the island.
Tatus is the giant coconut crab that looks more like a lobster and whose meat is extremely juicy! You’ve never had anything like it. You will find restaurants that serve this crab in curry sauces but it is just as delicious grilled and pulled out of the shell.
2. Sabtang Island Tour
You and your group will jump in a local boat called a Faluwa on your way to Sabtan Island. From the water you’ll be capturing jaw-dropping views of the islands where you can see the topography of rolling hills against steep cliffs.
You’ll pull up in the “port” of Sabtang which is just a cement hut a few meters up from the shore with some locals sitting and waiting for…something. You’ll hop on a big Jeepney and cruise around the island to see sights such as Chavayan Village with preserved stone houses, the Sabtang Light House and a couple gorgeous beaches.
3. Batan Island North Tour
This island is so magnificent that you might get a little emotional. For as far as your eye can see, there are fluorescent green rolling hills overlooking the pristine blue waters with scattered cows and Mt. Iraya in the distance. You’ll have to pinch yourself to make sure that what you’re seeing is real.
In between incredible natural scenery, you’ll visit the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel left by troops during WWII, Tukon Church made with beautiful stone walls, and the Basco Lighthouse with 360 degree views of the island!
4. Stay at Fundacion Pacita Lodge in Basco
It’s like heaven on earth. Fundacion Pacita Lodge sits atop an emerald pasture overlooking the ocean. Every morning, you wake up surrounded by a landscape that simply commands your attention.
Each room has something special to offer its guests whether it’s a corner view of blue waves rolling in the distance or a big balcony with a turquoise bench to sit, drink a cup of coffee, and watch the sun come up on the horizon.
This is the perfect place to come and push the ‘reset’ button on life.
5. Trek Mt. Iraya
Mt. Iraya is the 1009-meter tall volcano that quietly sits in the town of Basco. Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts love Mt. Iraya as it’s not a very challenging mountain to climb, rather it’s a modest crawl through dense forests with crisp air. When you get to the top of the mountain you’ll find yourself inside the clouds which hug the rolling hills and turn the landscape into a dream-like world.
On your way up, you’ll encounter roaming cows, hundred-year old trees, and the natural spring that many locals use for drinking water.
6. Nakabuang Beach
Nakubuang Beach is no stranger to international praise, including making CNN’s list of best beaches to visit and the ‘It’ destination on my paradise-seeker’s travel blogs. Why all the fuss? You just don’t find pristine beaches like Nakabuang anymore.
Standing on the soft white sand with waves crashing onto your feet, you can look out from the shore and see Mt. Iraya in the distance and peninsulas on the horizon. This beach’s trademark however is Chawa Cave; a curious rock formation that creates tall, mossy archways and shallow caves in the cliffs.
Unlike other popular tourist beaches that scramble to set up cheap food stands and hawk sugary drinks, Nakabuang Beach has stayed steady with the pace of Sabtang. You can find traditional cottages that serve up authentic Ivatan food seaside.
7. Tayid Lighthouse in Basco
The Tayid Lighthouse looks like something off of a Dutch postcard. The tall, 6-story structure capped with rusty red roof next to a small cottage with a matching red roof sits on top of a brilliant green meadow with nothing but cobalt waters in the distance.
To reach Tayid Lighthouse, you’ll embark on a pleasant 1.2-kilometer hike from the center of Basco. You’ll be rewarded with a climb to the top of the lighthouse where you can look out onto the China Sea and the entire island of Batan.
8. Bunker’s Café
Get a bite to eat and a piece of history in the same go. As the name suggests, Bunker’s Café used to actually be a bunker during the American occupation at the end of World War II. As a bunker, it sits atop a hill with marvelous views jetting off the cliff and into the ocean.
Bunker’s Café doesn’t open until 6pm so do some sightseeing at nearby Basco Lighthouse and some exploring in the hills to work up a good appetite.
And as a bonus, Bunker’s Café has beautiful views of the uninterrupted sunset.
9. Diura Village
Also in Basco is Diura Village, a sleepy civilization that gives you a keen look into small-town fishing culture of the north.
Many fishermen come to Diura Village when the migratory fish make their way back to these waters. Since the fishermen live in other parts of the island, they have built a series of small cogon houses on the edge of the water where they stay during the fishing season.
If you come during March, you can witness the spiritual ceremony called Kapayvanuvanua that marks the beginning of fishing season. In this ceremony, a pig is butchered and its blood is poured at the edge of the shore as an offering for the spirits of the sea.
10. Chadpidan Beach
It’s a stunning sight to see. The shores of Chadpidan Beach in Basco are comprised of boulders that have been expelled from nearby Mt. Iraya centuries ago. Since then, these boulders have slowly been polished down to smaller rocks by the waves of the South China Sea and are scattered below the overhanging cliffs.
The cliffs look as though a giant has gone along and taken bites all along the edge. There are abrupt dents and sudden drop-offs that create a truly unique landscape.
You’ll need some decent hiking shoes to make it up through the rocky, and sometimes muddy, paths but the views are certainly worth it.
11. Homoron Blue Lagoon
Don’t miss this whimsical natural lagoon in Batanes. Quite the unexpected oasis, this turquoise lagoon is surrounded by green hills and huge volcanic boulders that is simply breathtaking.
You’ll trek with a guide through a hidden path across steep slopes down to the lagoon where you can take a dip and take some photos as well.
It’s important to go with a guide, as the waters can turn rough without warning. It’s best to get the green light from a local when you want to swim.
12. Honesty Coffee Shop
Honesty Coffee Shop might never survive in the city, but out here where life is slow, people are good, and nature provides- this coffee shop concept is doing just fine.
Locals and visitors are welcome to come into the shop and pick up whatever goods they need without any salespeople or cashiers watching over. The customer is in charge of paying the exact amount, recording it in a book, and depositing their cash on the spot.
This is one of the most charming elements of Batanes: that there is virtually zero crime in Batanes and stealing just isn’t a common occurrence.
13. Batanes Day
June 26th is Batanes Day- with Batan being the center for celebrations! Imagine the most colorful parade with singing children and musical instruments all with a hilly green backdrop. It’s a breathtaking experience that you will be lucky to experience.
There will be indigenous performances with dancers wearing traditional costumes, food stands with local delicacies, and parades for days.
The on Batan comes out for this: farmers, students, parents, teachers, and more. And they will all welcome you to join in on the festivities.
14. Pension Ivatan Hometel and Restaurant
If you find yourself in Basco, there is a local restaurant that you’ve just got to try! This unique restaurant serves the dishes of the Ivatan people who are native to this region of the Philippines. These dishes incorporate the fresh ingredients that they hunt and grow themselves like crab, mango, ginger, hot peppers and more.
At this family restaurant, you’ll have a chance to try some special plates like crispy sweet potato chips called camote, sapas turmeric rice, and stuffed gabi rolls filled with pork, shrimp and coconut simmer in coconut milk. If you want a little bit of all the best, order the Ivatan Platter served on a massive palm leaf!
15. Buy Some Souvenirs
Many times when you buy souvenirs, you are buying factory-produced trinkets with “made in XYZ” stamped on the back. Not in Batanes.
Every single souvenir you come across in this region has been handmade by a local with local materials to represent local culture.
“Pasalubong” is the word for souvenirs in the Philippines, so the Pasalubong Center
in Batanes town is where you’ll find plenty of what you’re looking for. There are treats like homemade sweets and or Batanes-grown turmeric powder.
You might come across some local Batanes kids selling fresh bundles of Tubho tea, women weaving Batanes Baskets, handmade reef magnets, traditional hats, and more.