My Island Vacation for Under $50

“Mate, I am going to check out this island and camp out on the beach this weekend. You interested?”

His friend had been wanting to make this trip for a while and I was told, the more the merrier!

I told him that I would look into the location when I got home from training and then let him know.

San Antonio, Philippines

A quick google search of Capones Island and Anawangin Cove brought up photos of a beautiful beach, a lighthouse, and another beach covered in Pine trees. PINE TREES, IN THE PHILIPPINES?! With such bizarre promise, I had to check it out!

I texted Ali and told him that I would meet him at the station.

So here is how it played out:

We woke up at 4:30am and Ali met me at my apartment to share a taxi to the bus station. We stopped at a nearby store to pick up some drinks and snacks before heading over to the bus station to get our tickets. Since it was early, there wasn’t too much of a line and we settled in and waited for Ali’s friend Aldrin and the bus.

Once they arrived, we crammed ourselves into some seats and quickly discovered that it would be a chilling trip. With the air conditioning set to max, we bundled on all of our layers and tried to sleep. I slept on-and-off for most of the trip thanks to my legendary Microsoft Zune and a borrowed hoodie.

After a 5 hour trip north from Manila, we arrived in San Antonio. The three of us piled out of the bus and collected our things, and off the bus went.

It was at this point that Aldrin realized that he left the bag with all of our food and his clothes on the bus. Since they didn’t have a way to contact the bus directly so we were out of luck.

We did a quick bag check as we regrouped to figure out our next step. We discovered that we still had the bag with our tents, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

Aldrin borrowed a phone and called the bus station to sort out the bag he forgot. He worked it out so that they would leave his bag at the station in Manila and he could pick it back up when we returned.

Once that was settled, we packed ourselves like sardines into a trike (See: roughly welded together motorbike and sidecar). After a 20 minute, extremely bumpy, trike ride, we arrived along the coast.


I was about to step into the sand when I realized that I had forgotten to bring sandals. Here I was at the beach in jet black tennis shoes and jeans, looking like a major boludo. It was awkward to say the least, I was definitely unprepared.

I had noticed a road-side shop on our way in, only a block away from the beach. I quickly made my way over to it, asking the woman inside about sandals. She showed me dozens of children’s and women’s sandals, but none that would fit me. After a few minutes she pointed to the only pair of sandals that was around my size. They were a combination of every bright color you could imagine and even had an added platinum flair to them that really caught your eye. It was basically a platinum rainbow, in sandal form. I was not about to complain though, it was either these or black tennis shoes on the hot beach all weekend. I purchased the sandals for only 82 php, some bread for 40 php, and ran to catch up with Ali and Aldrin.

While I was off looking for footwear, Aldrin was busy making a deal with the captain of a small boat to take us to Capones Island for a few hours, drop us off at the beach cove where we would stay the night, and then finally pick us up early the following morning to give us a ride back to San Antonio. We hopped on board and we were on our way!


After about 35 minutes, we arrived at the front of Capones Island. There were several groups of people along the beach and sunbathing on the rocks. We were under the impression that we would be able to see the island’s lighthouse, but we were informed that that would require a several hour hike across the island and up some cliffs. After speaking with our captain, Aldrin mentioned that they would be willing to anchor on the far side of the island and we would be able to swim into an area much closer to the lighthouse. We decided to do that.

The swim into the island was hilarious. Although the water started only neck deep, the shallows were full of rocks covered in the most slippery algae known to man! (Or so it seemed). It was literally impossible for us to balance on any of the rocks and what resulted was each of us being forced to swim up to 6 inches deep of water in order to avoid falling.

Once we finally got to shore, we climbed the stairs, towards the lighthouse. It wasn’t difficult getting there, but the steps were quite hot, after soaking in the sun all morning! Good thing I brought my new flip-flops!


We spent about an hour on the island itself, exploring, taking photographs, and even climbing to the top of the lighthouse tower. It was an amazing view; we sat up there for a 30 minutes before heading back down to shore. After a short crawl and swim to the boat, we were headed off to Anawangin Cove.

A quick 30 minute boat ride later, we were hopping off the boat and onto the beach. Much to my (pleasant) surprise, it was a completely undeveloped beach with just tents and a wooden fence. We were truly out in nature, it was brilliant.

En Route to Capones Island

As we picked a location for our tents, a man came along selling home-made ice cream. It was surprisingly delicious and the perfect treat to cool us down.


Once we finished setting up camp, we decided to set off into the woods. We had heard that there was a waterfall a few KM upstream, so we set off in that direction. After following the river for at least two hours, we never found it. It started getting late and the sun was going down, so we headed back towards the beach. It was definitely a fun experience, but I would not recommend that anyone hike 5 miles in sandals, hah.

We arrived back at the beach just in time to swim in the ocean for a bit and catch an amazing sunset. Afterwards, we dried off and got ready to eat dinner.

“What was for dinner?” you might ask, potato sticks and a loaf of bread. Since there were no shops there at the cove, we were stuck with what we picked up earlier in the day where I got my fancy flip-flops. We split it up three ways on our beach table and then quickly devoured it.


Once we cleaned up from dinner, we set off to meet some of the other people on the beach.

After a short walk through the pines, we settled on a group to join. They had a campfire on the edge of the tree line, yet still on the beach.

We asked if we could join them and indicated that we brought along some sweet nectar of the gods ($5 pints of rum). They enthusiastically waved us over and we got to introductions.

We ended up drinking and laughing for much of the night. One of the guys around the campfire was REALLY into Ali, which made it pretty awkward for Ali himself, being the ladies man that he is. Aldrin and I egged the guy on to keep hitting on Ali and I just remember some major laughter coming as a result.

This all lasted for a few hours, while some campers enjoyed an evening swim, and others were playing catch with glowsticks along the beach and in the water. When Ali and Aldrin decided they had had enough rum and laughter, they softly let his admirer down and headed back to our tents.

I stuck around for another hour or so to admire the evening, the ocean, and the stars with my new friends. I had grown up around the Great Lakes, but it was my first time swimming in the ocean. It was great.

After a while, I said my goodbyes, headed back to the tent, and immediately passed out.

We woke up early the next morning, just as the sun was coming up over the hillside. The captain that gave us a ride to the island had returned to bring us back to our launch point. From there, it would be another crammed trike ride and another 5 hour bus ride back to Manila.


Although it was a last second trip, and we had to rough it a bit after forgetting bags, we still managed to have a great time.

I can think of far worse ways to spend $50. ;).