The beautiful and largely undiscovered island of Biliran lies off the north coast of Leyte, connected by a bridge. Biliran, an autonomous province, is the Philippines in microcosm: there’s a lengthy coastline of coves and beaches, a jungled, mountainous interior with some wonderful waterfalls and even its own small version of Banaue’s rice terraces at Iyusan in the island’s western interior.

Among the many natural wonders are nearly a dozen thundering waterfalls, most with deep, clear pools that are perfect for swimming: Kasabanga Falls is in the barangay of Balaquid on the south coast; Casiawan Falls a little further along the coast near Casiawan village; Tinago Waterfall near Cabibihan in the island’s southeast; and last but not least Bagongbong near Iyusan.

Two of the best beaches on Biliran are on opposite sides of the island, but even on a day-trip you’ll have time to see them both. On the east coast near Culaba is the beautifully deserted Looc White Beach, while the Shifting Sand Bar, 45 minutes by bangka towards Higatangan from the west coast capital of NAVAL, is a curving spit of sand surrounded by shallow water ideal for swimming, though note that there’s no shade.

If you get to Biliran make sure you allow enough time to take a bangka to some of the surrounding islands. Maripipi is a picturesque place of friendly people dominated by a stunning nine-hundred-metre volcano, while Higatangan Rocks on Higatangan Island, one hour west of Naval by bangka, should also be on your itinerary.

The beach here is beautiful and the rocks have been curved into extraordinary formations by time and tide. Ask your guide to take you to Cavintan Cave, said in local legend to extend all the way to Masbate and to contain deadly legions of venomous snakes – neither story appears true. Both islands have places to stay.

Arrival and information
There are buses and Duptours minivans to Naval from Tacloban and Ormoc. Roble Shipping and Supershuttle Ferry operate daily ferries from Cebu City to Naval (9hr), but if you want to save time it’s far quicker to take a fast ferry to Ormoc, and then a minivan from there (free if you travel with Supercat).

There’s a small provincial tourist office (T053/500-9627; Mon–Fri 8am–5pm) and museum in the capitol building in Naval. For internet, Roderick’s Internet CafĂ© is next to Chooks to Go by the State University on Naval Street. There are Metrobank and PNB banks, both with ATM, on Sabenorio Street.

To explore the more remote areas of the islands and to find the waterfalls, it’s best to employ the services of a local guide (P300/day) which you can enquire about at the tourist office. From Naval there are jeepneys north to Almeria (P20), Kawayan (P25) and east to Caibiran and Culaba (P60), but no further in either direction.

For Maripipi there are two boats daily (10am and 10.30am; P60) which take one hour and return at 5am the following day. There are three daily boats for Higantangan (10am, 10.30am and 11am; P40) which take 40 minutes to reach the island.

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