Tales from Talicud Island

turquoise waters off Isla Reta Beach Resort

Just one hour away by ferry from the Davao metropolis is a tiny paradise of fine, white-sand beaches, palm-lined shores, pristine coves and dive sites containing vast coral gardens. We had originally planned on visiting Surigao del Sur after attending a conference in Davao City but with time in short supply we opted for a nearer destination instead. The main island of Samal in the Davao Gulf loomed as our first choice but eventually we cast our eyes on a more rustic and laidback setting: Talicud Island.

colorful waters on the approach to Isla Reta, Talicud
Approaching Isla Reta Beach Resort, Talicud Island.

(For more pictures of Talicud Island visit our Flickr album)

Talicud Island is actually part of Samal – or the renamed Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS). Located just off the southwestern tip of bigger Samal Island, Talicud is just 45 minutes to 1 hour away by ferry from Davao City. Talicud's proximity to the latter might be the reason why picnickers and beach bummers from Davao troop here for a few daylight hours of fun and relaxation.

Isla Reta Beach Resort

The ferry we took from Davao's Santa Ana Wharf took us straight to Isla Reta Beach Resort on the eastern side of Talicud facing the main island of Samal. Isla Reta's beachfront is the longest of its kind in the island. The sand is remarkably fine and white, forming a small cove near the area of the picnic huts and stretching out south towards the rockier portions of the beach. The main island of Samal loomed large, framed by the white sand and the clear turquoise and azure waters of the Davao Gulf. All along its length, large talisay or Indian Almond trees provided plenty of shade from the afternoon sun, allowing us to enjoy a leisurely walk along the beach without getting sunburned.

rocks and white sand at Isla Reta Beach Resort
Rocks and fine white sand, Isla Reta Beach Resort.

We chose to stay overnight at Isla Reta before turning our attention to other seaside attractions on the island. The resort grounds are clean and the lawn well-manicured with the coconut palms and other shady trees providing plenty of shade. Along with the beautiful white sand beach we spent the rest of the day just enjoying the natural surroundings, watching chestnut munias, yellow-vented bulbuls and the occasional colorful pigeon nestling in the trees and a school of big eyed jack (local talakitok) doing some spectacular jumps in unison along the waterfront (a pity that we left behind our snorkel and mask at Davao City).

talisay trees at Isla Reta Beach Resort
Isla Reta's many talisay trees provide a good beach shade.

Dayang Beach

While Isla Reta was a fine destination for us, some more discriminating visitors might get turned off by the crowd that can really assume serious proportions on weekends. Even on a weekday, there was a considerable number of visitors on the beach, although most would be gone with the last boat trip at 3PM. No problem. There are other beach destinations at Talicud that are secluded and even more laidback. A 20-minute habal-habal (motorbike) ride took us across the width of Talicud to the opposite or western side which contained the beaches of Dayang and Babu Santa.

Dayang Beach
Dayang Beach

Dayang Beach Resort is a little corner of Eden this side of Talicud. Its beach front might be short (around 150 meters) but the fine white sand, crushed corals and plethora of coconut palms all combine to create a relaxing setting. The resort provides several basic but attractive native cottages for overnight stays in a clean and manicured setting. One drawback though: there is no running water yet. But if you're willing to rough it out just a little bit, this is the perfect place for a peaceful retreat. Dayang also faces west, making the place the perfect spot for watching and shooting sunsets.

coconut plams at Dayang Beach Resort
Coconut palms provide ample shade at Dayang Beach

Babu Santa Beach

Babu Santa Beach
Babu Santa Beach

Adjacent to Dayang Beach Resort is Babu Santa Beach, the boundary marked by the ruins of an old pier. Like its neighbor, Babu Santa is clean, serene and laidback. It does not offer overnight accommodations like Dayang Beach Resort but it does have open cottages for day rent and does not charge any entrance fees. It is a favorite stopover for boats on island-hopping tours from Davao City.

remnants of an old pier near Babu Santa Beach
Remnants of an old pier at the boundary between Dayang and Babu Santa Beaches.

Other Destinations

Talicud has other attractions in addition to the beaches mentioned above. The Coral Garden and Angel's Cove are located on the western side of Talikud Island just south of Babu Santa. The Coral Garden, called Linosutan by the locals, is a protected marine sanctuary and is a favorite of snorkelers and novice divers with its clear waters and corals at shallow depths. We tried to get our habal-habal driver to take us to this place but he said the beach at the Coral Garden is off-limits to visitors. To get to the Coral Garden, visitors take a boat tour of Talicud and simply snorkel or dive off the boat. Further south is Isla Cristina, which isn't really an island but a portion of Talicud known for its numerous giant starfish and gorgeous aquamarine waters.

Just across a narrow channel from Isla Reta Beach is Kaputian Beach Park, the most famous public beach in Samal Island. Being a public beach might tarnish its beauty but Kaputian's sand is indeed white (or creamy white) and while the sand is not as fine as in some of the beaches at Talicud, the waters are crystal-clear. Kaputian and the rest of the main island of Samal may be reached from Talicud via a ferry or by renting smaller boats at the Santa Cruz Wharf.

small wharf at Isla Reta

How to Get There

Hop on any of the ferries that make the daily trip from the Sta. Ana Wharf near Magsaysay Park (famous for its fruit stands) in Davao City to the Sta. Cruz Wharf in Talicud Island. Try to get there before 9AM. There are no fixed schedules and the ferries usually leave when they are full. The last trip to Talicud is usually around 3PM. (Visitors from Davao who just go on a day tour take the earliest ferry to Talicud, then catch the 3PM ride back from Talicud's Sta. Cruz Wharf to Davao.) The fare is usually P50. The ride can take 1 hour or so. One can easily access Isla Reta from the Santa Cruz Wharf: it is just a 10-minute walk. By chance we took the ferry owned by Isla Reta at Davao's Sta. Ana wharf that took us directly to Isla Reta. The fare is P80.

The entrance fee for Isla Reta is P100 per adult, P50 for kids 4 to 10 years old and free for kids below 4. Picnit huts for day tours costs P250 each. If staying overnight you can check in at their native huts (public toilet and bath) or concrete cottages (private T&B) at P800 to 900 each of which can accommodate at least 2 people. All are fan rooms. They also have a restaurant here and while the prices are not cheap by Davao standards, they are at least reasonable and the servings are on the generous side. (For reservations you may contact them at 0928-2141487.)

Isla Reta's own boat resting

You can easily access Dayang and Babu Santa Beaches from Isla Reta by hiring a habal-habal to take you there at P50 per person, two persons per bike. (You may also arrange an island tour with the habal-habals; prices vary so just negotiate with the driver.) A secluded alternative to Isla Reta Beach Resort, the Dayang Beach Resort offers fan rooms/cottages starting at P700 (a 4-capacity cottage with a small veranda). Entrance fee for day tours is P50 per person.

Visit our Facebook page for even more pictures on Isla Reta Beach and Dayang & Babu Santa Beaches.

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