Monday, September 5, 2011

Northern Samar: Capul, Biri and San Bernardino Islands, August 2011

A map of northwest samar showing our route
A short flight to Calbayog, a van to Victoria, a 30-minute bangka crossing to San Antonio (Dalupiri Island) to check in at the charming Haven of Fun resort, then a one-hour bangka ride brought us to Capul Island. After a beach landing at Capul town, we visited the old Spanish Church and the ruined fortress where people used to take shelter from the Moro raiders. The island was often the last stop of the galleons before Acapulco, hence its name. It was formerly named Abak and its people speak a language called Inabaknon. Interestingly, that language is not closely related to Waray, Cebuano or Bicol, but to the Samal language spoken in Tawi Tawi.

The beach landing in Capul
The old Spanish church in Capul. The historical marker was installed in August 2011
The Capul Lighthouse

The Capul Lighthouse

A 9-km habal habal ride to the north tip of the island took us to the old Capul lighthouse. Its construction started in 1896, was interrupted by the Philippine-American war, and was finally completed in 1904. The view towards Sorsogon across the San Bernardino Strait and around the lighthouse is breathtaking. Capul Island offers a great combination of natural beauty and historical interest and is definitely worth a visit while in Samar.

The Capul Lighthouse building
The view from the lighthouse, with the south tip of Sorsogon Province across the San Bernardino Strait
Biri Rock Formations
Back to Victoria, a tricycle brought us to Lavezares and from there a bangka took us in one hour to the town of Biri on Biri Island, where we checked in at the excellent Biri Resort. The Biri rock formations are a few minutes away from the town by habal habal. After a long walk through the mangrove, you find yourself in a fantactic mineral landscape with the ocean as a backdrop. You can spend hours just walking around amazing shapes and colors. I will let the pictures do the talking.

Sunrise over the mangrove at the back of the rocks


Taking pictures of the Back-naped Tern
A colony of Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana), a rare bird in the Philippines,  was nesting in the cliffs

San Bernardino Island

San Bernardino Island is located in the middle of the San Bernardino Strait, about one hour away by bangka in a northwest direction from Biri town. It is rocky all around and it was not possible to land due to the southwestly winds on one side and the Pacific Ocean surf on the other side. A lighthouse built in 1896 stands at the top of the island. There is a smaller rocky islet beside it. A large colony of Bridled Tern and Black-naped Tern, both rare birds in the Philippines, were nesting on the island.
On the way to San Bernardino Island at sunrise
Approaching San Bernardino from the southeast
The rocky islet seen from the north, with the main island in the background
A Bridled Tern flying over the lighthouse
Bridled Tern (Sterna anaethetus)
Mount Bulusan (Sorsogon) in the distance between the main island and the rocky islet
Leaving San Bernardino Island

Sunset over Mt. Bulusan seen from the Biri Resort

The Biri rock formations are one of the most underrated natural attractions in the Philippines. I would place it as one of the top 10 destinations in the country for natural beauty. Go and visit Northern Samar!

See my other travelogue "Off the Beaten Track in the Philippines"


  1. What a spectacular find. And your photos are getting even better. Did you get a new camera as well?

    mikko hilario

  2. fantastic!I wish I can go here next year! A totally breathtaking place... If you may ask, my mother is from Samar, but I never had the chance to get here... One day! hehhehe...

    Keep up such nice travelogue.

  3. Thanks for this! I've been wanting to visit San Bernardino Island for quite some time now, but haven't got to actually making the trip. I understand the islet falls under our town's municipal and parochial jurisdiction. I'm from Bulusan, Sorsogon in the Philippines.

    I have taken the liberty of saving SanBernardino_2.jpg, SanBernardino_3.jpg, and SanBernardino_4.jpg to my computer.

    With your kind permission please, I am intending to use these images as base images for three of my Facebook cover photos. I will of course cite your name and website as image source.

    I am running different cover photos of different tourist Philippine attractions, most of which are from my hometown. I hope to raise awareness and interest towards these scenic places, in my own little way.

    Thanks again and my warmest regards!

  4. Hello, I am glad you liked my pictures. You may use my photos of San Bernardino Island if properly credited and with a link to my blog.

  5. Thanks, Christian. Have properly credited you with a link to this blog post. Here's a link to my cover photo:

  6. I recently found many useful information in your website especially this blog page. Among the lots of comments on your articles. Thanks for sharing.

  7. This is a very interesting read. The ideas you have presented are very thought provoking.

    I am also trying to put up blog articles with similar concerns. In case you would like to compare ideas, feel free to visit my website:

    1. Thanks Vicki, I'm glad you liked my blog. Yes I am also reading your blog. Christian