It was our first trip to Southeast Asia. My boyfriend and I flew into Manila, Philippines, eager for exotic beach escapes: white sand, turquoise waters and bright orange sunsets. We quickly realized, however, that our dreams of island hopping would stay just that – dreams. Our limited funds meant that our adventures would be contained on the country’s main island of Luzon.

Disappointed, we were still determined to make the most of our time and began searching for places to visit and things to do. We learned of Capones Island (thanks, Google!), an island off the west coast of Luzon known for huge rock formations and steep cliffs. We decided to check it out and were surprised by what we found: it was a beautiful, historical and magical destination. Our trip there turned out to be one of the highlights our time in the Philippines, and I highly recommend you make time to visit if you find yourself there as well.

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GETTING THERE: 

From the town of Subic (also on the west coast), hire a private driver to take you to the ferry port. There, you can catch a boat to the island. The trip is very manageable: it’s about 20-30 minutes long and costs approximately $50 dollars per person (including entry to the island’s lighthouse).

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EXPLORING THE ISLAND:

The boat drops you off close to shore; wade through the shallow, rocky waters until you reach a set of stairs. Climb up and you’ll find yourself in a grassy field just below the lighthouse, an absolutely towering structure and Capones Island’s main attraction.

There is a cliff just to the left of the path that leads to the lighthouse. Climb to its peak and you’ll be rewarded with the most glorious view: traditional fishing boats and uninterrupted ocean. The water is so clear that you can see the active marine life below the surface.

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The lighthouse’s entrance, with its rod iron gates, is reminiscent of a haunted mansion. Inside its base, the walls reveal exposed brick and flaking paint. It looks and feels like a very magical place. Ascend to the top of the building using the ladders and spiraling staircase; beware, the stairs are very steep!

Once at the top, the view is breathtaking. To the south, you’ll see islands of all different sizes spotting the sea. Beyond them is mainland Luzon. To the west and north is pure open water: bright, deep and turquoise (just what we were hoping to see when we first arrived in the Philippines).

ALTERNATIVE ACCESS TO THE LIGHTHOUSE:

As we were leaving, we noticed a dock on the opposite side of the island. We learned that it is possible to arrive there by boat, then trek about 1.5 hours through the island’s jungle to reach the lighthouse. Reason for a second visit, perhaps!

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