The beauty of the Hundred Islands

Story by Tania Moffat, photos by Gayl Punzalan

The rugged beauty of the Hundred Island National Park, located north of Manila, Philippines.

The rugged beauty of the Hundred Island National Park, located north of Manila, Philippines.

A view of the islands on approach.

A view of the islands on approach.

Hop aboard an outrigger for a memorable island trip. Visitors will be swept away by the breathtaking views and variety of islands to explore in the Hundred Islands National Park. This protected area is located in the province of Pangasinan in the Northern Philippines.

There are 124 islands covering 1,844 hectares at low tide and 123 islands at high tide. Many of them are simply little bits of land, while others have intact cave systems to explore or hilly terrain that is ideal for hiking and camping. The islands, believed to be over two million years old, are ancient coral formations that have become exposed due to the lowering sea level. Their peculiar shapes have been molded by the ocean waves. One of the most stunning things you will notice throughout your visit is the exquisite blue-green hue of the water and fantastic coral reefs below.

Look closely and you’ll find rock formations and caves.

Look closely and you’ll find rock formations and caves.

Only three of the islands have been developed for tourism: Governor Island, Quezon Island, and Children’s Island. Governor’s Island has a small house that can be rented, a great viewing deck and tiny cave to explore. Some of the islands are best known for their intriguing names such as Devil’s Island and Kissing Island.

Tours will take you kayaking to explore caves such as Quirino Cave, or view the stalactites and draperies of Nalsoc Cave or St. Paul’s Subterranean Cave among others. Another popular activity is cliff jumping. Jumping off points can be found throughout, but the 70 foot (21.3 metre) drop-off on Marcos Islands is one of the most popular. Jump off and then explore the underwater cave, Imelda.

Bring your swimsuit, but remember to minimize your carbon footprint. Do not wear any lotions and don’t touch or remove items from the reef or caves.

If you are looking for a place to sample some of the delightfully fresh seafood, Maxine by Sea is the most popular restaurant with generous portions, or you can purchase seafood at the local marketplace and have your boatman cook it during your island hop.

Special thanks to Gayl Punzalan who sent these wonderful photos to us when she returned home to visit the Philippines this past winter.