Cuyo Islands

The Cuyo Islands are a group of islands in Palawan Province, Philippines. The archipelago is in the Sulu Sea, to the northeast of the main island of Palawan, south of Mindoro and west of Panay. There are 45 islands, many of which are uninhabited. Their total land area is 130 square km (50 square miles); population as of the 2010 census was about 46,000.

Cuyo Island, in the south of the archipelago, is the largest island and has most of the population.


The biggest island in this group is Cuyo which has 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. 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.

With a population of 18,257 people (2000 census), Cuyo is one of the less exploited 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 Town

Cuyo is known to be the oldest town in Palawan. From the sea, Cuyo Island's first visible landmark is a large, new concrete sign on Capusan Beach. 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 church, convent, and fort built by the Spanish and finished in 1680. Nearby stands a schoolhouse, and a monument of national hero Jose Rizal.

Cultural heritage

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.

Flora and fauna

Cuyo is a place blessed with nature’s beauty. Secluded and quiet, it is covered with mango, cashew and coconut trees that gracefully sway in 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.


The Cuyonon 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 and the epitome of “rural living” in its simplicity, the kind that grows on people who visit the island. Its several beaches, gracious townsfolk, and simple life are its gems.


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.

Cuyo Fort

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]


There are only two distinct seasons in the Philippines generally distinguished by the rains and prevailing direction of the winds. The amihan season begins in November from the North and lasts until March and is typically drier. The habagat seasonal winds blow in from the southeast from June to October. This also coincides with the monsoon/typhoon season although this is not a daily nor even weekly occurance. 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 when there are occasional stretches of hot, dusty and windless days. Since Cuyo lies to the south of the direct typhoon belt, storms can be exhilarating though usually short in duration and very irregular. Apart from the windless April and May doldrums throughout the archipelago when it feels a few degrees hotter, temperatures are nearly always the same regardless of the season being within the equatorial zone.

Get in

By air

The airport on Cuyo Island is located in Magsaysay some 20 minutes away from Cuyo town.

Air Juan flies from Puerto Princesa to Cuyo Island (about 1 hour) every Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday. (Return tickets about ₱10,000-12,000 depending how early you book. Enough space for kite equipment. Additional weight ₱98/kg.
Arrive by Air Juan: Puerto Princesa to Cuyo 10:00-11:00 days 1, 5, 6
Depart by Air Juan: Cuyo to Puerto Princesa 11:30-12:30 days 1, 5, 6
Air Juan bookings for Cuyo: +63 939 902 2348 or

By boat

Boat service several times a week from Puerto Princesa and Iloilo to Cuyo Island. Weekly to/from Coron and Manila. [Inquiries about timetable/schedule should be made in advance].

Puerto Princesa to Cuyo Island Montenegro Shipping Dep. Monday 19.00 arriving Tuesday 09.00 Milagrosa Shipping Lines: Dep. Thursday 15.00 arriving Friday morning / Dep. Sunday 15.00 arriving Monday morning

Cuyo Island to Puerto Princesa Montenegro Shipping Lines: Dep. Saturday 21.00 arriving Sunday 10.00 Milagrosa Shipping Lines: Dep. Tuesday 15.00 arriving Wednesday morning / Dep. Friday 15.00 arriving Saturday morning

Iloilo to Cuyo Island Montenegro Shipping Lines: Dep. Saturday 08.00 arriving Saturday evening Milagrosa Shipping Lines: Dep. Monday 19.00 arriving Tuesday morning / Dep. Thursday 19.00 arriving Friday morning

Cuyo Island to Iloilo Montenegro Shipping Lines: Dep. Tuesday 12.00 arriving Tuesday 22.00 Milagrosa Shipping Lines: Dep. Friday 17.00 arriving Saturday morning / Dep. Monday 17.00 arriving Tuesday morning

Manila – Coron – Cuyo Manila – Coron (Palawan) – Cuyo M/V D’Asean Journey (Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port) Manila – Coron Sunday 16.00 arriving Monday AM / Coron – Cuyo Monday 17.00 arriving Tuesday AM

Cuyo – Coron – Manila Cuyo – Coron (Palawan) – Manila M/V D’Asean Journey (Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port) Cuyo – Coron Wednesday 23.00 pm arriving Thursday AM / Coron – Manila Thursday PM arriving Friday PM

*These schedules are meant as a guide only and often not precise do to weather, tides, cargo delays and mechanical problems. Best to inquire with someone familiar with these services.

Get around

There are lots of tricycles around Cuyo Town. It is also possible to rent motorcycles or bicycles.

Motorcycles are available for rent in the public market while the beach resort has a jitney 4x4 mini-passenger truck for island tour and pier and airport pick-ups. Local bangka boats are available for island hopping and snorkeling and camping excursions.


White sand beaches, coral reefs, heritage trees.


Island hopping, snorkeling, windsurfing, kiting, walking, bicycling, motor biking.

Kiteboarding and Windsurfing

The Philippines is considered by many people to be the best place for windsurfing and kiteboarding in the whole of Asia – and Cuyo island a good choice for still only a few. Most of the tourists who come for this sport stay in the mostly noisy hotels or private rooms in town with the public Capusan Beach nearby. Cuyo Island has two spots for kiteboarding / kitesurfing. One is located in Cuyo town at the Capusan beach. The other is located at the Quijano beach, the location of the Anino Retreat some 20 minutes from Cuyo town. Kiteboarding instruction are provided by the Cuyo Watersports Association, and by Carlo Salazar of the Buradol Kite Central beside Nikki's Pension. Kiteboarding instructions are also available at the Anino Retreat. The Philippines has two principal seasons known locally as amihan and habagat, and for the kiters it's the amihan season which brings them back to Cuyo Island year after year. This season lasts from November to March and is characterised by moderate humidity, seldom any significant rainfall, and an almost daily, consistent, steady wind from the Northeast. Capusan Beach in the main town is the most popular spot for kiteboarding, due to its long sand bar, ample space and combination of both shallow and deep water. Quijano Beach on the East side of the island also offers very good conditions with side onshore wind and 100% safe. Those who consider themselves mediocre kiters find ideal conditions to practice the water start in chest deep crystal clear water in a pristine landscape with green hills and several islands in view. The Anino Retreat bay has excellent conditions for both beginners and experienced riders alike.


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 area is accessed from the partially developed Quejano Beach. Unfortunately the removal of most of the reef here in recent years plus the prevalence of seasonal kitesurfers has rendered this area generally unsuitable for snorkeling according to confirmed sources. One can contact the friendly resident there or try 0999 946 9279 for updates or inquire in the Public Market in Cuyo Town. On the southcoast there is Coco Verde Beach with it's easily accessible shallow coral reef located about 150m offshore. A user fee of P50 per person is requested for funding a local Reef Protection Awareness Program. This fee is waived for guests of the small beach resort here. Locally built boats called bangkas are regularly launched from here for fishing but are also available for island-hopping adventures always accompanied by a fully qualified crew. Beach camping expeditions can also be organized locally. Inquire in advance. Best to bring one's own snorkeling gear however it's possible to rent if necessary.

Protected Marine Area / Fish Sanctuary

There is a No Fishing Zone located at the Victoria Beach in front of the Anino Retreat in Magsaysay.

Aguado pilgrimage

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.




Internet: there are several internet cafe in Cuyo town. Provider SMART

Mika Cybercafe on the ground floor of Feroland Hotel is recommended.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, April 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.