Clear Waters: Maniwaya’s Beaches and the Palad Sandbar

As our ferry boat cut its way across Tayabas Bay from the port at General Luna town, we were beginning to feel the effects of waking up before 3 A.M. and driving 5 hours to our jump-off point. The white and grey clouds that blocked the sun’s rays didn’t help any. But as our boat inched closer to Maniwaya Island, the grey clouds began to dissipate. Soon we were gazing on stunningly crystal-clear emerald and turquoise waters that led to a long stretch of white sand beach – our home for the next two days and nights.

the western beach of Maniwaya Island
Approaching Maniwaya Island’s western beach

Maniwaya Island is part of Santa Cruz town in Marinduque province. With its two long stretches of fine, white sand beach, crystalline turquoise waters and a stunning sandbar, the island is a jewel that is only beginning to be discovered by the outside world. There are a number of resorts located right on the beaches but the island as a whole is still uncrowded and off the beaten path.

the beachfront at Residencia de Palo Maria, Maniwaya Island
The beachfront at Residencia de Palo Maria

Maniwaya’s Beaches

Our home for our two days here – the Residencia de Palo Maria resort – is located along the western beach like most of the resorts on the island. Stay in any of the accommodations here and you can immediately take a swim right in front of your resort.

the western beach at Maniwaya Island
The western beach at Maniwaya Island
the western beach at Maniwaya Island viewed from our boat
Another stretch of the western beach viewed from our boat

In case the place gets a bit crowded during the weekends, there are several spots away from the crowds where you can hang out in private. The waters around the island are so clear it’s impossible to resist taking a dip. Some of the resorts, including ours, are surprisingly well-equipped for a not-so-well-known destination and offer kayaking, jet skiing and paddle boarding.

the beachfront at Wawie’s Resort
The beachfront at Wawie’s Resort
coconut palms at Maniwaya’s western beach
Coconut palms at Maniwaya’s western beach

The beach on the northeastern side also has the same characteristics: fine white sand and crystal-clear waters. Again, the waters are so clear that we easily saw some huge sea urchins on the sea floor on the way here from the sandbar up north.

the northeastern beach of Maniwaya Island viewed from an approaching boat
Approaching Maniwaya’s northeastern beach from the Palad Sandbar
deserted section of the northeastern beach, Maniwaya Island
Deserted section of the northeastern beach

There is only one resort on this beach so that a long stretch in the area east of the Marikit-Na beach resort is practically deserted. The waters here are quite shallow and we decided not to swim. We would have to go out a little farther from shore to do that and we were worried we might run into the sea urchins. (The waters in front of the resort, however, looked okay for swimming.) Still we enjoyed walking on the soft sand and taking in the scenery.

crystal clear waters at Maniwaya's northeastern beach
The waters here are so clear it was easy to spot the sea urchins on the sea floor

The Palad Sandbar

the Palad Sandbar at mid-morning
The Palad Sandbar; an hour more and this sandbar would have been almost totally submerged

The highlight of our visit to Maniwaya was the Palad Sandbar, a strip of white sand located several hundred meters north of Maniwaya’s northeastern beach. We reached Palad after our tour of Mongpong Island. We had to be here by at least 9AM when a considerable portion of the sandbar was still showing above the water. High tide would have totally engulfed the sandbar before 11AM.

the Palad Sandbar and crystal-clear waters
Most sandbars we’ve visited are connected to a beach; the Palad Sandbar, however, sits several hundred meters away from the shore
boats at the Palad Sandbar
There were a handful of boats at the sandbar when we arrived

The most remarkable thing about this sandbar is the clarity of the water. When Nina accidentally dropped her earring into the waist-deep water, our friends found it within a minute and without the benefit of a mask and snorkel. The water was that clear.

crystal-clear waters at the Palad Sandbar
Sparklingly clear waters
our boat at the Palad Sandbar
Our boat resting on the sandbar

In summary, the islands of Maniwaya and Mongpong were a revelation to us, even if we had already seen photos and read posts about it online. Even with a number of resorts on the islands, the beaches and surrounding waters have been kept remarkably pristine. The only blemish is probably the damage caused to several corals by illegal fishing methods in the past but those destructive practices have been stopped and the corals are slowly being nursed back to health.

sunset at the western beach of Maniwaya Island

How to Get There

There are two ways to get to Maniwaya and Mongpong Islands. The first route is usually followed by those who are also visiting other destinations in the main island of Marinduque such as Poctoy Beach in Torrijos, the Natangco Island and Marine Sanctuary in Mogpog, the Tres Reyes Islands in Gasan, the waterfalls in Santa Cruz and the Moriones Festival during holy Week in Boac, the province’s capital.

First Route:
Take a bus (usually JAC or JAM liners) or drive to Dalahican Port in Lucena. The bus ride usually takes 4.5 hours, but shorter if you leave at midnight or very early morning. If you are driving you can park your car at Lucena port for a fee. Take a ferry to Balanacan Port in Mogpog or Cawit in Boac (preferably Mogpog if you’re going to Maniwaya Island since it’s closer to that destination). The ferry ride to Balanacan port takes about 3 hours. You may choose between Starhorse and Montenegro Shipping as these operate ferries to Marinduque. The earliest ferry leaves at 1AM and the latest is at 11:30PM.

Boat and Clouds

From Balanacan port there are jeepneys and vans bound for Sta. Cruz waiting just outside the port. The ride will take about an hour for jeepneys and even less for vans; the distance is about 40 km. Upon arrival at downtown Sta. Cruz ride a trike to Buyabod Port from where you may catch a boat to Maniwaya Island.

Regular passenger boats only travel from Buyabod Port to Maniwaya Island twice a day, 7:00AM and 11:30AM and return from Maniwaya Island to Buyabod Port once a day at 6:30AM. The ride is about 30 minutes. If you’re coming from Metro Manila this means you will have to leave very early to even catch the 11:30AM boat. If you miss this boat you can arrange with your resort to have a boat pick you up at Buyabod port although the fare will be significantly larger. You can get to your resort from your disembarkation point at Maniwaya via habal-habal or motorbike (P20 per ride).

Second Route:
if you are visiting only Mongpong and Maniwaya Islands this is the more preferred route. Ride a JAC or JAM Liner bus to Lucena Grand Terminal. From there, ride a van to General Luna Port. There is one passenger boat or ferry to Maniwaya which leaves everyday at 10AM and fare is P120. (You may have to pay an additional P20 since at low tide this boat cannot dock at the port and you will have to ride a much smaller boat to reach it.) The boat ride is about an hour long.

fresh seafood at the market in General Luna port
You can buy fresh seafood at the port in General Luna while waiting for your boat like we did then have them cooked at your resort in Maniwaya.

If going there by private vehicle drive all the way to Gen. Luna, Quezon and park your car in one of the pay parking areas in town. (The drive usually takes 5 hours but again this depends on the traffic.) Then take the boat going to Maniwaya at the pier. Some resorts can also arrange to have a boat pick you up if you miss this boat. Boats returning to Gen. Luna from Maniwaya leave at 6AM/7AM.

Island-hopping from Maniwaya usually costs P1500 for a boat good for 5-6 people. The boat will take you to other spots at Maniwaya, the Palad Sandbar and Mongpong Island. If you’re looking for boatman you may contact Lito at this number:  0907-7117067 or you may ask your resort to help you get a boat for island-hopping.

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