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Hermana Menor Island in Zambales

I’ve been to an island in Zambales that I’ve been wanting to share with you.

Unfortunately, I was so busy with work last year. My mind was in constant worry, and so preoccupied that I couldn’t write something that I can be proud of, so whenever I wanted to write about this island, I just find myself stopping.

But now, I can say that I am okay and better. The good thing about Travel writing is you don’t need to write about a destination after actually being there. Even though months have passed, as long as the memories are there, you can still write about it.

I am talking about Hermana Menor island in Santa Cruz, Zambales.

This island has been getting some traction in social media and from travel bloggers because of its clear and blue-green waters and creamy white sand. There’s no resort on the island so when you visit, it’s actually back to basics and simple living.

After about 30 minutes of boat ride from Santa Cruz, we were welcomed by this white sand from afar and a long stretch of beach with a curving sandbar that creates a small lagoon in front of the island. This part of the island is a marine sanctuary with corals and fishes.

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Approaching Hermana Menor Island from the boat

Hermana Menor is called as Makatira island by locals. So how on earth this was named as Hermana Menor? Well, some of us are aware that Hermana means sister in Spanish, and since the island belongs to a couple of islands or twin islands in this part of the sea, this was named as Hermana Menor or little sister, and the other one as Hermana Mayor island or bigger sister.

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Beautiful

Both of these islands are privately owned, and Hermana Menor is the only one open to public. Hermana Menor is owned by a rich family and a politician from Palawan. It was only a few years back when the owners decided to open the island for the public to enjoy. There is an entrance fee of P100 per person and visitors can rent cottages from P500 to P1000. There are also tables that cost P350 for an entire day of use. Please be reminded that overnight stay on the island is not allowed, so this is only good for a day tour.

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Read

But a full day of exploring and swimming in the clear water is quite an enjoyable experience because the island has this simple and relaxing vibe that can really make you forget about your worries and stress.

Exploring Hermana Menor Island

As we got off the boat, we went straight to the area where tables, cottages and tents are found. There is a huge banner there to remind the travelers of the island’s policies. Those are pretty basic reminders to maintain the order and cleanliness of the island, but sadly most of us still don’t care. It’s just sad that despite the beauty and rawness of the island, some are not making the effort to maintain its cleanliness.

I saw some campers who just left their trash and without even bothering to dispose it properly. I hope we can take care of the island because as what I’ve mentioned the owners opened this to public to share this piece of beauty of nature with us. Don’t wait for that time when the owners close this again because we’re irresponsible.

Well, let’s go straight and talk about the beach. The sandbar was just in front of us but it was not revealing its full grandness yet and the scorching heat of the sun was unforgiving so we decided to chill first under the shades of the talisay trees. We had a quick meal, our breakfast, then settled our belongings inside a tent.

Eloi and I don’t want to waste time especially knowing that we only had the entire day to spend. So we decided to start exploring the beach.

Walking from the sandbar straight to the one side of the island is another pristine beach. We stayed there for a while and of course, it wouldn’t be complete without some photo ops LOL! But we made sure that we stayed at the beach for quite a long time to enjoy its beauty. The water was cool and relaxing, and the clear blue-green color of it made it more a delightful experience.

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Chillin’

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Waaah Taba. hahaha

There’s no resorts nor any overnight accommodation on the island, so imagine its raw and unique charm untouched by commercialism. The only visible structure there is the comfort room and also the house at the center of the island which serves as the owner’s guest house.

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Swimming time

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When we went back to our tent, we were advised that our group will transfer to the other side of the island, which is another awesome beach can be found.  I liked that part of the island better because it’s less crowded and the shore was longer.

On this part, the Hermana Mayor island is visible. I’ve talked to some people there that the owner of that bigger island has not yet decided to open this to public, and compare to Hermana Menor, this has much more structures because the owner is planning to put up a good resort there in the future.

So while, Hermana Mayor is still closed to public, let’s just savor the rawness and simplicity of its sister island, Hermana Menor.

While killing time until lunchtime, we decided to explore more. I took some photos also. This side of the island has more character with its creamy white sand with lots of trees and some rocks. Although it didn’t have the sandbar, I liked it a lot.

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Saan ang dako paruon? LOL

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Pag humarap ka, akin ka LOL

Hermana menor is another few islands or beaches that getting sunburn or darker skin is worth it. Plus the water is so cool that you wouldn’t feel the heat of the sun while swimming. You’ll just notice that you’ve become nognog when you get back to the shore and eat lunch LOL! At least you enjoyed! that’s the most important.

There is another interesting part of the island that we discovered by walking at the end of the shore with some rocky parts on it. We’ve found this huge rock that can be a mini cliff diving area.

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Oy san ka pupunta?

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pose pose hehe

After lunch, we made it a point to enjoy the famous sandbar of the island. When we got there the sandbar was already on its full glory, we walked and took some photos. Again, the heat of the sand did not mind us, the island is really worthy and special.

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Sandbar

It was already  late afternoon, and it was time to pack our bags and go back to Manila. It was also a realization of one inconvenience that every traveler to this island might face and I’m not going to sugarcoat it. The island is not perfect, and one thing that you have to prepare to endure is there’s not much enough water.

I mean water for rinsing and taking a bath. There were a couple of poso there, but there were producing so little water. So imagine what we’ve gone through, we were able to take a bath with so little water.

Let’s also talk about the rest rooms. They were pretty basic but due to the fact that a lot of travelers are using it this can be a little bit messy in the afternoon, plus the undesirable smell. I just wanted to warn you, especially those who are very OC about bath rooms and cleanliness as a whole, you have to be strong to endure this. LOL!

It was late in the afternoon when we finally hop on a boat and back to Santa Cruz, and I’m just happy that Eloi and I got this photo moments before departing the island.

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Afternoon.

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I hope that during that little time that you all will spend there when you visit, you’d pick up your trash and dispose it properly. Let’s protect our environment.

How to go to Hermana Menor island?

As of now, Victory Liner is the bus company that offers direct ride bound to Santa Cruz, Zambales through its terminals, Pasay, Caloocan and Sampaloc, Manila. Please be reminder that there is no direct bus trip to Santa Cruz from Cubao terminal.

Take the Victory Liner bus going to Santa Cruz, Zambales. Tell the kundoktor (and driver) that your drop off point is at the Petron Station in Barangay Lipay in Santa Cruz. Fare is about 490 pesos,and the travel time is about 5 hours.

Once you arrived at the Petron Station, take a tricycle going to the port. The driver already knows this, just tell him that you’re going to the port. It will just take about 5 minutes with P10 fare per person.

At the port, ask around where can you rent a boat going to Hermana Menor and you will be guided accordingly. Boat rental ranges at about Php1,500 for a maximum of 6 passengers (two way). If you’re a bigger group you can rent a larger boat that can accommodate up to 14 passengers for a higher price.

If you need to contact for boat, call Kuya Gabriel Arcelao at 09502508569 or 09466861680.

Where to stay?

Again, overnight stay is not allowed on the island, so if you want a less stress travel to Sta. Cruz, Zambales and Hermana Menor island, you can stay at these resorts near Hermana Menor. Instead of doing a day trip to the island then travel back to Manila, this is a more chill option since you can just go back to the resort and rest after visiting the island, then you can travel back to Manila the next day.

These resorts can also assist you in finding boat rentals going to Hermana Menor. Here are the resorts.

Seasun Beach Resort

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Credit: Agoda

Located on the shores of the Sabang beach, but this resort is also just a 30-minute boat ride going to Hermana Menor island. Aside from offering good accommodation, the resort has an on-site restaurant, barbeque facilities and a private beach area. They also serve daily breakfast, and if you’re craving for more food, you can find Filipino cuisine from their restaurant. CHECK ROOM RATES HERE

Potipot Gateway Resort

Sounds familiar right? But yes Hermana Menor is just near Potipot island and you can actually visit these two islands in one day!

So this also means that you can look for a resort near Potipot and still be able to explore Hermana Menor, and one of the best resorts in the area is Potipot Gateway Resort. This is just a 5-minute speedboat ride going to Potipot island, and if you decide to go to Hermana Menor, it will take you 30 to 40 minutes.

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Credit: Agoda

Potipot Gateway Resort also offers swimming pools for kids and adults if you decide to stay inside the resort. How about food? No need to worry, their in-house restaurant offers a wide-array of choices from Filipino, American and Italian cuisines.  CHECK ROOM RATES HERE

[ SIDE TRIP: Potipot Island in Zambales ]

Hermana Menor Itinerary
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Here’s a sample itinerary that we did when we visited Hermana Menor. This is just for a day tour which is a more popular options among travelers. Again, for a less stress travel, you can book a resort near Hermana Menor to stay for overnight.

12 Midnight –    Departure in Manila
6 AM –                  Arrival in Santa Cruz, Zambales
6:30 AM –            Quick breakfast
7:00 AM –            Boat Ride going to Hermana Menor
7:30 AM –           Arrival in Hermana Menor
8:00AM –            Beach bumming
10:00AM –         Another quick snack or breakfast
10:30AM –         Back to the beach
12:30 PM-          Lunch time
1:00 PM –          Swimming/ beach bumming
4:00 PM –          Quick Bath after the beach
4:30 PM –          Boat ride back
5:00 PM             Back in Santa Cruz
6:00 PM –          Travel back to Manila then dinner
11:30 PM –       Arrival in Manila

Hermana Menor Island Expenses

Take note of these expenses when traveling to Hermana Menor Island. Please be reminded that these expenses might change overtime so be sure to bring extra cash okay?

Bus ride to Santa Cruz        Php 451 one way
Tricycle going to post         Php 10 per person
Boat Rental                             Php 1,500 for 6 persons
Entrance Fee                          Php 100 per person
Cottage rental                        Php 500 for 5-10 persons
                                                     Php 1,000 for bigger group up to 20 persons
Rent for Long Tables         Php 350
Tent Rental                            Php 350

Hermana Menor Tips and Reminders

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Summer na!

  • Remember to bring enough drinking water to the island. The summer heat can be too much that you need more water.
  • Bring your own food or baon. There’s also a grilling area but expect that there are many visitors to use it so for less hassle, bring your food cooked since you will stay there for a day tour only.
  • Water on the island for rinsing only. Bring a your own clean drinking water.
  • Again, Overnight stay is not allowed. Also, expect very basic comfort rooms.
  • If you want to save, bring your own tent and pitch for free.
  • There’s no electricity on the island. Bring power banks. Also, cellphone signal is available.
  • Flying of drone and bonfire are not allowed.
  • Be a responsible traveler. Leave No Trace. Bring all your trash back to the mainland or Manila then dispose properly. Let’s take care of this island!

There you have it. I hope my personal story and guide will help you to visit this island in Zambales. If you have anything to add or share, please share it in the comments section below. 🙂

UPDATE:   Hermana Menor island is closed as of the moment until further notice. The owners decided to rehabilitate the island because of trash and garbage by visitors which I also discussed in this blog post.  For the latest update about the island, always check this Facebook Page – Hermana Menor Island FB Page.

Updated for 2020