The archipelago of the Cuyo Islands are located north of the Sulu sea, to the east of the main island of Palawan. They compose around 40 islands, many of which are uninhabited. Cuyo Island, in the south of the archipelago, is home to Cuyo town. The total population in the islands according to a census in 2000 is 18,257.
Cuyo Island is a group of 45 islets with a total land area of 50 square miles. It lies south of Mindoro and between Northern Palawan and Panay. The biggest island in this group is Cuyo with an area of 22 square miles and is about 9 miles long. Cuyo is divided in three municipalities, namely Cuyo, Agutaya, and Magsaysay. Cuyo is the oldest town in Palawan. Cuyo has a culture of its own which was preserved since more than 350 years. In the year 2008, the total population of the Cuyo Island is almost 25’000. Cuyo is divided into two island groups. Up north is the Quiniluban group to which Pamalican island is part and where the 89-hectare, ultra-exclusive Amanpulo Resort belongs. To the south are the Cuyo islands, where the three municipalities, namely Cuyo, Agutaya, and Magsaysay are located. Magsaysay is the location of the Anino Retreat, also exclusive but in another sense. Less exclusive but nevertheless unique is Coco Verde Beach Resort located on the less-visited southshore of Cuyo island.
There are only two distinct seasons in Cuyo and the Sulu Sea, generally distinguished by wind direction: The amihan season blows favorably for windsurfers at two of the three beaches on Cuyo Island, namely the public beach called Capusan next to the pier and the other a private beach sharing the names Quejano (original spelling - north side) and Victoria (manager of Anino exclusive retreat - south side) This season starts in late November ending around mid-March. The habagat winds can be equally delightful blowing from the southeast from late June to Mid-October. Actual speeds can vary wildly this time of year however there are always stretches of consistent 20 to 30+ knot winds. While this also coincides with the monsoon/typhoon season these are not daily nor even weekly occurances. Most rain comes in the form of short, heavy downpours. They bring a pleasant coolness and lush, green vegetation not apparent during the dry amihan season when there are occasional stretches of hot, dusty and windless days. Since Cuyo lies to the south of the typhoon belt storms can be exciting and exhilarating though usually short in duration and very irregular. Aside from windless April and May doldrums when its a few degrees hotter, temperatures are always the same regardless of season being within the equatorial zone. Windsurfing during the habagat is possible and is often practiced at Capusan Public Beach next to the pier by a few locals. The experience is unique in that few visitors will consider it given the inherent variables. This is an ideal time to visit Cuyo if avoiding crowds is your concern and don't mind experiencing the Philippines as locals do.
Cuyo is a fourth-class municipality composed of 17 barangays. With a population of 18,257 people (2000 census), it is one of the unexploited islands in the country. Home to a fort, which shelters a church and a convent in its high stone walls, constructed during the Spanish period to protect its population from Moro pirates, Cuyo has one of the most ancient forts in the Philippines. Incidentally, Cuyo became the second capital of Palawan from 1873 to 1903.
Cuyo is known to be the oldest town in Palawan. From the sea, Cuyo Island's first visible landmark is a lighthouse by the pier. Many of the streets leading to the town have already been cemented but the town has preserved the hispanic plaza-iglesia structures. Dominating the town centre is Cuyo's 1860 church, convent, and fort built by the Spanish and finished in 1680. Nearby stands a schoolhouse, and a monument of national hero Jose Rizal.
Despite its long history Cuyo has held back the hands of time and preserved its rich cultural heritage preserved since more than 350 years. The ati-ati, comedia, sinulao, sayaw, inocentes, erekay, biso, banda y tipano, cheats, tambura, birguere, pondo-pondo, curatsa, and others are things Cuyono.
Mt. Aguado features life-size stations of the Way of the Cross constructed from the foot to the peak of the mountain. Cuyonon devotees, visitors and tourists make the annual pilgrimage to Mt. Aguado as part of the penitential rites done in Cuyo during the Holy Week particularly on Holy Thursday.
Flora and fauna
Cuyo is a place blessed with nature’s beauty. Secluded and quiet, it is covered with cashew and coconut trees that gracefully sway to the wind. Thick clumps of bamboo abound. And of course, the vast blue seas – home to a myriad of corals and sea creatures – that seem extend to eternity. The island would appeal to hardy, outdoor types of people who enjoy taking walks, swimming and discovering a unique local culture, rather than indulging in material pleasures.
Cuyonons live on the basics and hardly complain. They are very resourceful and have found ways to make the best of what they have like making tuba from coconut and cashew brittle their specialties.Life is slow, timeless, and the epitome of “rural living” in its simplicity, the kind that grows on people who visit the island. There is nothing to be lost in Cuyo except perhaps one’s heart. Its untouched beaches, gracious townsfolk, and simple life are its gems. Rare are places where the concept of excessive materialism does not exist, yet people are thankful and welcoming, where happiness is equated with putting value on love and life, and living means working with nature and not trying to change it.
First Settlers on Cuyo Island
Chinese traders where the first to discover Cuyo island and introduced the trade and barter system in the locality. Malay Settlers on Cuyo Island. Later Chief Matuod of Malay origin was arriving in big bancas called “sakayan” and formed settlements in the island of Cuyo. A Malay Mohamedan of the name Datu Magbanua later also settled in Cuyo. Datu Magbanua’s leadership was so great and powerful, that even chieftain from another island recognized its rule. The Malays brought with them their dances and when blended with native dance, the “Soriano”, it became known as the “pondo-pondo” one of the most popular folkdances even up to the present.
Chinese Settlers on Cuyo Island
During the leadership of Datu Magbanua, three Chinese Mandarines arrived on the island and settled also on Cuyo. The Chinese discovered gold deposits in Mt. Aguado and introduced gold mining, smith working, pottery, and other handicrafts. The natives of Cuyo became suspicious of the their presence and were able to drive them out. They sailed to Ilongilong (today known as Iloilo) and formed another settlement called “Parian”.
Spanish Colonization of Cuyo Island
In 1622, Count San Augustin together with five Spanish missionaries colonized the island named by them as Cuyo and introduced Christianity. The friendly character of the people proved to be a blessing to the Spaniards who did not find difficulties in converting the population of Cuyo Island to Christianity. They were immediately able to baptize 500 Cuyonos.
Muslim attack Cuyo Island
In 1636 a powerful Muslim fleet under Datu Tagul raided Cuyo and other places in Palawan. In Cuyo the Muslim attacked the convent and the church and set the town on fire and took with them prisoners including a priest, Fr. Francisco de Jesus Maria. They then proceeded to Agutaya and Culion and wrought havoc and destruction on the helpless and defenceless civilians. Again their prized captive was another priest from Culion, Fr. Alonzo de San Augustin who was captured while saying mass. A Spanish naval flotilla of 6 vessels and 250 men under Capt. Nicolas Gonzales met the returning pirates with their loot and booty on December 21, 1636. Datu Tagul was killed, 300 of his men captured and 120 prisoners were liberated. The two captured priests were unlucky.
During the early Spanish period, purposely to protect the Cuyonon from sporadic Moro attacks, Fort Cuyo was constructed and finished in 1680. The original complex of stone and mortar was a square with four bastions. The present complex, which occupies 1 ha, is a solid rectangular edifice with walls 10 m high and 2 m thick. It has a tall belfry and watchtowers; its canons, which face the sea, are now fired only during town celebrations. It is considered as one of the most ancient and unique forts in the Philippines. Unique in the sense that you can find the church, the convent and the Perpetual Adoration chapel all within the fort. In 1762 one of the British ships that invaded Manila fired at the Cuyo fort but it was not damaged at all. Another fort was started at Lucbuan seven kilometres away on the east side of Cuyo island, but it was never finished. In 1873, the capital of Paragua (present day Palawan) was transferred to Cuyo from Taytay.
[Much of the information about Cuyo was received from the Municipal Planning and Development Office in Cuyo town in November 2009]
By air from Manila to Cuyo Island: There are daily flights from Manila airport terminals 2, 3 and 4, to Puerto Princesa in Palawan and on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday flights by Air Juan from Puerto Princesa to Cuyo Island in small planes Air Juan flights between Puerto Princesa and Cuyo Puerto Princesa to Cuyo 10.00 am–11.00 am day 1 / 3 / 5 Cuyo to Puerto Princesa 11.30 am–12.30 am day 1 / 3 / 5 Air Juan Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kindly check day, times of departure and arrival
Montenegro Shipping Lines once per week
Milagrosa Shipping Lines once per week
Montenegro Shipping Lines once per week
Milagrosa Shipping Lines once per week
Manila – Coron (Palawan) – Cuyo M/V D’Asean Journey (Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port)
Manila – Coron Monday 4:00PM arriving Tuesday 11:00AM
Coron – Cuyo Tuesday 5:00PM arriving Wednesday 4:00AM
Cuyo – Coron (Palawan) – Manila M/V D’Asean Journey (Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port)
Cuyo – Coron Thursday 10:00PM arriving Friday 8:00AM
Coron – Manila Friday 5:00PM arriving Saturday 11:00AM
There are lots of tricycles around Cuyo town. It is also possible to rent motor cycles or bycicles.
Motorcycles are available for rent in the Public Market while one of the beach resorts has a jitney 4x4 mini-passenger truck for airport and pier pick-ups and island tours. Local banca boats are also available for island-hopping and unique adventure snorkeling and camping excursions.
White sand beaches, coral reefs, heritage trees
Cuyo is arguably one of the best spots in the Philippines for kiteboarding / kitesurfing. Here one can learn kiteboarding from qualified IKO level 2 Instructors. Ideal conditions exist to learn and practice in chest-deep crystal-clear water. Instructors hold certification from the International Kiteboarding Association (IKO) and there are programs for beginners, intermediate, and independent kiteboarders. Depending on the wind and tidal conditions, lessons take place at the Anino Exclusive Retreat located at Victoria Beach formerly known as Quijano in Magsaysay Municipality or at Capusan Beach in Cuyo Town near the pier and public market.
Another fun watersport activity gaining in popularity is snorkeling. Despite years of neglect and abuse the coral reefs within the 40+ Cuyo Islands group is still a fantastic place to explore and enjoy the crystal clear tropical sea. On the main island of Cuyo, the gateway and largest of this group snorkeling is best on the less-developed eastern and southern shores. The eastern snorkeling area is accessed from Quejano Beach from the road entrance to the left and Victoria Beach adjacent to the Anino Exclusive Retreat accessed to the right. The southern shore has Coco Verde Beach where a delightful beach resort is also located. Locally-built boats called bancas regularly depart from here for fishing but are also available for island-hopping adventures. Beach camping expeditions can be organized locally. Best to bring one's own snorkeling gear however it's possible to rent if necessary.
There is a protected fish sanctuary located at the Victoria beach in Magsaysay in front of the Anino Retreat. Excellent snorkelling conditions.
Windsurfing on Cuyo Island
Aside from Penghu Island in the Pescadores of Taiwan the Philippines is considered by some people to be perhaps the best place for windsurfing in the whole of Asia – and Cuyo island is a good choice for many who have been coming to the Philippines for many years. Most of the windsurfers stay in small, cheap and noisy hotels or private homes in Cuyo Town with the Capusan Public Beach for windsurfing – although somehow with off shore wind keeping kiters alert. But for those exclusive few who like to combine the excitement of kiting and windsurfing with the tranquility of a beautiful beach the ultimate choice is the Anino Exclusive Retreat located in Magsaysay Municipality at Victoria Beach also available to non-guests for a modest fee. The wind blows on shore slightly from the left, permitting long rides inside the bay or going over the reef into the waves. Those who consider themselves mediocre windsurfers find ideal conditions to practice their start in chest deep crystal clear water in a pristine landscape with green hills and several island in view.
The Anino Retreat with 3 beautiful cottages, 4 double rooms and 1 single room built at the foot of a small hill covered with trees is located on 4 hectares of beautifully tended flower gardens and unspoiled nature with a 400 metres long sand beach lined with palm trees. The concept of the Anino Retreat is to provide beautiful accommodations just for a few visitors who enjoy privacy and unspoiled nature. It is a place which invites you for beautiful hikes through a pristine landscape. However, you must bring your own boards and sails as there is not yet sufficient board rental facilities on Cuyo island. Nevertheless the Anino Retreat kiting facilities to kiters who visit Victoria beach just for the day and return in the evening to Cuyo, which is a beautiful twenty minutes ride with a motor bike through a lush green landscape with lots of smiling people.
The weather in the Philippines has two principal seasons named after the particular winds known as amihan and habagat. For the windsurfers it's the amihan season which brings them back to Cuyo Island in droves year after year. The Amihan season lasts from late October to mid-March and is characterised by moderate temperature, rarely any rainfall, and almost daily a wind from the Northeast. In Cuyo town the wind blows during the winter season offshore and but still provides good spots for beginners. Not too many other kiters and windsurfers will be sharing this slalom blaster's heaven with you. Windsurfers on the island come from a great diversity of countries – you could be sailing with a Filipino, Korean, Swiss, Australian and Brit, all in the same day. If you look for the best among few come to Cuyo.
Nikki's Pension 14 rooms and fast-food restaurant near the pier and next to the public market on Capusan Public Beach(Contact Number: +63 920 8760 008). Feroland Hotel with 8 air-con rooms w/hot water located nearby (Contact:+63 921 7904 848). Villa Gange Pensione with 6 air-con rooms, 4 fan rooms and communal kitchen (contact: +63 916 5029397).PSU-PCAT Baywatch Resort of the Palawan State University Cuyo Branch at Capusan Public Beach with 1 air-con room and 4 fan rooms (Contact Number: +63 918 4770 102). Apohlic Pension with 3 fan rooms & communal kitchen (contact: Bert Baloco: +63 918 501 2315). Discovery Bay Resort 6 air-con/fan rooms and 4 nipa huts at Tabunan Beach (Contact: +63 905 2711089; +63 947 8009121).
Internet: there are several internet cafe in Cuyo town. Provider SMART
Mika Cyber Cafe on the ground floor of Feroland Hotel near the public market is recommended.