Halea Island Retreat and Nature Park, a privately owned beach cove in Monreal, Ticao Island, Masbate, 580km southeast of Manila is a perfect island in the sun —about a kilometer of fine, icing sugar white sand, off shore coral reef, a backdrop of swaying palm trees, native beach huts and dense forest. The waters here are so clear you can see up to a depth of at least eight feet. Needless to say the snorkeling is spectacular. Halea has a marine sanctuary not far from the beach where you can feed small fishes and baby sharks. A dive site near the island is famous for manta ray sightings.
Stay at Masbate Novo Hotel (tel +6356 578 0687) less than five-minutes’ ride away from Masbate City port, your jump off point to Halea. It has aircon, flatscreen cable TV, and private bathroom with hot and cold running water; strong Wi-Fi; a tricycle stand right outside the building; and local restaurants and eateries in the neighborhood. And there’s cold local beer sold cheaply at the ground floor lobby. From P900 (US$18) per room per night. Tel +6356 578 0687.
To get to Masbate, book a flight on Cebu Pacific Air or Philippine Airlines from Manila to Legazpi City in Albay. Albay is less than an hour’s flight from Manila. From Legazpi Airport, take a tricycle to the bus terminal, and hop on a van to Pilar. From Pilar port, take a Montenegro fastcraft to Masbate port. From Masbate City’s port, it’s an hour and a half boat ride to Ticao Island. A boat hire for 10 people costs P8,000 for a whole day's use. Best to get in touch with the local tourism office prior to your visit to get a local guide.
Read about another Masbate nature gem: Bongsalay Nature Park.
Read about Palani, one of Masbate’s off-the-radar beaches.
By Monica De Leon
Published December 2016