Sabtang Island, Jewel of Batanes, Philippines

When visiting the Batanes island chain in the far northern reaches of the Philippines, one island in particular stands out: Sabtang. This island is only home to 1,500 people but is well-known throughout the country for its white sand beaches, old stone houses, and Mission-style churches.

Sabtang Island, Batanes, northern PhilippinesSabtang Island northeastern coastline

  Thankfully the weather was slightly better today and these photos turned out better than those from Batan Island

Sabtang Island welcome sign in the PhilippinesWelcome sign at the Port of Sabtang

After disembarking from the ferry all visitors are required to sign in at the Municipal Tourism Information Center and each pay a P100 tourist fee. Turns out that this list is handed off to the Philippines Coast Guard, who will be at the port that afternoon checking names off the list as they board the ferry to make sure that no one has overstayed their welcome.

Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes, northern PhilippinesBehold the small village of Savidug and in the distance the “Sleeping Beauty” of Sabtang Island — can you spot her?

Batanes locals are the Ivatan people and in addition to speaking Tagalog they also have their own dialect, Ivatan. Foreign visitors need not worry though, as some of them do speak English also.

Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes, northern PhilippinesApparently there was a Tagalog movie called Batanes that was filmed here in this barangay…but you cannot always trust the “facts” that tour guides give ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our next stop was the Chavayan barangay, which can only be reached by traveling along a narrow, winding cliff-side road on the eastern side of the island full of blind corners and hairpin turns.

Cliff-side road on Sabtang Island, Batanes, northern PhilippinesAs we hurtled down these cliff-side roads, I couldn’t help but happened if we passed someone going in the opposite direction…


Upon arrival the one-lane road forms a U through the heart of the village, which is delicately nestled between a narrow beach and the steep slopes of the inactive volcano that dominates the island skyline.

Welcome to Chavayan village on Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northern PhilippinesThe entrance of Chavayan village

We were informed that the traditional barangay of Chavayan, one of Sabtang’s must-see destinations, is under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, however I have been unable to corroborate this online. I suspect it could be an example of incorrect information spouted by a tour guide, which happens from time to time, either purely by accident or by locals wanting to make their region more appealing. However that does not diminish the appeal of this small village.

Chavayan Theater in Chavayan village, Batanes, northern PhilippinesThe Chavayan Theater is the only source of entertainment in town other than the sound of the waves

Pinned in by mountains on one side and ocean on the other, these small fields are all the residents Chavayan village on Sabtang island haveBehind the village there is just enough room to grow corn before the steep mountain slopes begin

The houses of Chavayan village on Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northern PhilippinesThe small houses in Chavayan are a photographers dream…but back then my skills were not so good ๐Ÿ˜›

Chavayan village on Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northern PhilippinesMost of the houses on Sabtang are made of stone because of the harsh monsoon season, however this was one of the few which was not.

More Photos     Chavayan: A Trip Back In Time To This Remote Village In Batanes

Morong Beach

Morong Beach, also known as Nakabuang Beach, is the most recognizable place on Sabtang and therefore also the most common tourist destination — all due to the stone arch you see pictured below.

Morong Beach, Sabtang Island, Batanes
The arch at Morong Beach by my friend Dreidel (Why Stop Over), who had much better weather during her trip than me

There are a couple huts located next to the beach that serve as a great lunch destination for local visitors — or if you visit as part of a tour then have no fear as these tables will be full of food by the time your group arrives.

A few panoramic shots of Morong Beach from different angles

Morong Beach is the iconic beach of Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northernmost region of the Philippines

Morong Beach is the iconic beach of Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northernmost region of the Philippines

Morong Beach is the iconic beach of Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northernmost region of the Philippines

Sabtang Island is so gorgeous that trimming it down to just these few photos was tough. The next time you visit the Philippines, make sure to add Batanes to your list!

  More Photographs From Batanes

  Where is your favorite island escape?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." ย  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

43 thoughts on “Sabtang Island, Jewel of Batanes, Philippines”

  1. Awesome! Loveeet! Thanks for the post Derek!
    Hmm been only once in Mindanao, in Davao and Samal Island, and that’s another paradise. I saw a lot of foreigners there. And I know Brad Pitt visited Siargao in the past, an island in the south too. There are certain provinces in the south where these terrorists are concentrated, and Fiona is correct, you should not dare to go there if you don’t want the US government to save you and bring you back to the US. :p

  2. I have blond blue eyed friends who were in Mindanao for several months. They were fine, loved it, and would go back in a heartbeat.

    But please keep spreading that kind of information because I’d rather have all that less spoiled beauty all to myself.

      • Hi Derek, thanks for writing about this. Didn’t know there’s a nice beach in Batanes i could visit. Are there overnight accommodations in Morong beach? Kindly send me details on how to get there. Would love to be there this summer ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Hey Rej, unfortunately there are not any lodging accommodations on Morong Beach. If fact the only thing there is a small building which is used to serve lunch (for group tours) or as a picnic spot for individuals, as well as a restroom. But the beach isn’t far from Malakdang, the barangay right next to the Sabtang port. You pretty much just follow that road through town and out a few kilometres until boom, it dead ends in the beach. Actually there is a photo of it here, if you want to see what the parking area and lunch spot look like:

    • No worries Val, our comments about potential danger to blonde American tourists were referring to the complete opposite side of the Philippines, the far south. Batanes is a safe and wonderful region. It is also primarily visited by Filipinos on vacation — not so many foreigners make it up there. Of course that was one reason why I loved it even more! And why I’m not a fan of places like Boracay…

      If you make it to the Philippines and are looking for a unique place to get in some great culture and impressive scenery (not to mention a few pristine beaches) then definitely take a trip up to Batanes ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I keep telling y’all, you’ve got to get out of North America and come to Asia. No matter where you go here the fun just never stops! I understand you’ve got the pups (I call all dogs pups regardless of age) but you can find a way. Speaking off, there is even a doggie spa less than 100 metres from my apartment in Hanoi ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Wow, Fantastic photos! That stone arch something else. Philippines somewhere we’ve never been but on our list, have met so many nice people from there.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • The Philippines — and Filipino people — are absolutely fantastic! I dated a local girl there from 2008-10 and am very familiar with the Filipino culture. The locals are amazing in every sense of the word…it’s hard to describe in comment form. Let me just put it this way: add the Philippines to the top of your list and trust me, you will not be disappointed! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Thanks for the kind words Katie ๐Ÿ™‚ Now that I’m in Vietnam and using Hanoi as a base in between trips around the country, hopefully I can catch up on all my writing and online chores…we’ll see ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • And I have a feeling that you’ve spent even more time exploring this country than me! This trip was my first one back in four years and it definitely reminded me of why I love this country. Something tells me I’ll be headed back again soon — maybe we’ll finally cross paths there since I won’t be back in Texas anytime soon. Any plans to head back there again this year?

          • Awesome, well I’m sure you’ll have fun in Sabtang and all of Batanes. I love the Philippines. And yes I agree with you, not only is the Philippines beautiful but the people there are so nice as well. Definitely one of my favorite countries ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Nice writeup there, Derek! Weeeee! We (me and some of my friends) really want to go there later this year! Hehehe! ๐Ÿ™‚ The pictures included are awesome, too! *thumbs up!* Yey!

    By the way, I have a question: where did you stay (I mean, a house or a transient/bedspace facility) when you arrived at Basco? ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks bunch! (And enjoy Vietnam!) ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Thanks Chiki, I also have a third Batanes article already written, just waiting to publish….hopefully you will enjoy it as much as this one.

      I stayed at Troy Lodge, an awesome little hotel / homestay in Basco. Definitely a cool place and one that I would recommend when y’all take your trip up there ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you Syarif. Well it’s easier to say where I haven’t been in Indonesia — Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua. Spent 6-7 months there total, much of it traveling around between places on motorcycle, stopping and getting to know people at small local villages, not just the big cities. Loved it! Aku rindu Indonesia….akan kembali segera. Saya mau lncr dlm bhs ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’ve done a lot of writing on Indonesia so far but have lots more articles to post this month. Plus I hope to write my first one in Bahasa really soon ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Thanks for the quick reply Derek. I think you have missed the most beautiful ones. Hehehe…Derawan in Kalimantan, Wakatobi in Sulawesi, and Raja Amp at in Papua are the best I think. I have been in some Asian countries and I still believe Indonesian people are the most friendly ones. And its also safer where no gun shooting which is not allowed to have gun here. The main problems we have are infrastructures, cleanliness, and access of transportation. Let me know whenever you come to Jakarta so maybe I can cover your story at some media in Indonesia to inspire others. Thanks again Derek

        • I know, I know, I’ve missed a lot of the good parts. That’s another reason I am coming back — to visit the places I missed. I stuck to the regions that I could easily get with my motorcycle…Sumatra (those roads are horrible!), Java, Bali, Lombok, etc. Interesting you mentioned guns…I did see a few rifles in random places, even Magelang, and I always wondered what the legal status of them was. But yeah infrastructure and cleanliness definitely could use some improvement.

          Right now it looks like it will be the end of April by the time I make it back. Just finished the Philippines and now I’m in Vietnam. Let’s keep in touch though, for sure. Thanks for stopping by and saying hi — and for following me on Twitter ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I’ve been to the Philippines six times now, more than any other country except for Mexico, and it is definitely one of my favorites. Although the food is not as tasty as in some of the neighboring countries (forgiven me my Filipino friends) the people and the sights there are both amazing. Another thing I love is that there are no scams to be worried about, unlike in other SEA countries — most notably Thailand and Vietnam. People there are friendly, fair, and more than willing to go out of their way to help foreigners. Plus many speak perfect English. Although Tagalog is the official language, English is spoken as well by the vast majority. You cannot even detect an accent of any sort, that’s how well-versed they are in English — and why so many call centers are located there now. The two are frequently mixed, even in mid-sentence on television, which I also find amusing.

  5. hi! nice one, seldom see blogs of foreigners. Few knows about this but back then, when batanes was not as popular , no lodges , no local tourists yet , no tourism programs and flights were only 1x week from the mainland manila ( well i was 12years old or younger then, 15+ years ago ) … we didn;t have local tourists , the first tourists we laid eyes on were from other countries ( not from asia) , and they don’t ride , they , heck, walk and trek to the mountains with their hugeeeee backpacks! oh and must i say they’re friendly, they will call us to hand some candies and goodies, it was not until after 10 years later that philippines local tourists started to flock ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks Mariela ๐Ÿ™‚ I loved my time in Sabtang but must apologize for being one of the tourists flocking there and disrupting traditional life. Tourism, no matter how well done, always taints the local culture. Shame. Even so, I must say, I only spent a week in Batanes but wish I could have spent more…I didn’t want to leave. But my Tagalog is not that good anymore and I didn’t realize until visiting that they have their own dialects up there. Anyway, thanks for reading/commenting ๐Ÿ™‚

      • oh no, nothing to apologize about, we love seeing people visit our little paradise and share them the beauty of slower paced life they say it’s a place where time stood still, quite true in some of the villages. as for the dialect, i’m sure you’ve learned that they generally can speak and understand basic english, and you still have sign language which i read on one of your articles that you so love to do , hahaha! thanks for a wonderful blog, still reading some of your travel articles and i find them very informative, keep it up ^ ^

  6. Hi Derek! I went to Batanes last week. Migod. I didn’t want to go home to Manila. Sabtang was really beautiful, but the Marlboro country in Batan was even more breathtaking. Btw, I went for a DIY tour and saved a lot of money. :p

    • Woo-hoo, so glad to hear that you not only made it up to Batanes finally but that you also enjoyed the experience as much as I did ๐Ÿ˜€ It really is an amazing place, isn’t it? I’m not surprised that you didn’t want to return to Manila hahaha. How was the weather? Hope it treated you a bit better than it did when I was up there…all those clouds and misty days made my photos turn out rather lackluster. What I wouldn’t give to return again and see some perfect blue skies!

        • Yeah, it can definitely get a bit chilly up there this time of year — especially with the wind. I didn’t have the opportunity to make it to Itbayat either but hey, like you said, there is always next time. Cheers buddy and greetings from Malaysia! Will give you a shout next time I make it back to the Philippines ๐Ÿ™‚


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