The Pink Sand Beach of Santa Cruz Island
Since my Basilan day trip was far-fetched and wanting to save the city tour for later, I have no idea where to go in Zamboanga City. Thankfully, a friend of mine said, “Tu viaje a Isla Santa Cruz.” It wasn’t the first time I heard about the island—my relatives have been promoting this as the island of pink sand.
For those who aren’t familiar, Santa Cruz Island (referring to Isla Grande de Santa Cruz) is one of Zamboanga’s best kept secrets. Located some few kilometers away across the strait, the islands are well-known for its pink-white sand beaches and seemingly virgin when it comes to tourism development. Despite being very close to the city, only a few have visited this island. Most people who go here are local Zamboangueños who spend their weekend at a beach. Most urban dwellers of the north may probably have second thoughts going here since Basilan is just across the strait.
The tourism brochures advertise the island as having pink sand on its shores. However, upon arriving, I only saw creamy white sand beach. Beautiful sight to behold, but where is the pink? Well, look closer—there are bits of red coral in the sand. Zoom your view out, and the sand has this “pinkish” accent! Wait till sunset so that you’d appreciate more of it! If you’d check the island and its neighbors (try it also on Google Earth), you’d see that the islands have reddish colour in their lagoons! Maybe that explains it.
The island itself was part of the Philippine Tourism Authority until sometime few years ago when it was given to the City Government of Zamboanga. Now part of Barangay Santa Barbara, the island has few residents who are mostly of mixed ethnicity such as Tausug, Sama, Bisaya, Ilonggo, Zamboangueño and more. They earn a living by fishing, selling souvenir items to tourists and travelers, and for the brave, as CAFGU or the civilian guards of the island.
For diving enthusiasts, the island offers some coral reefs for you to explore. However, locals said that even if the sea is calm, the currents are strong.
For Zamboangueños who would like to take a piece of sand, sea and shore, Santa Cruz Island is the place to be. Day tour picnics are common here, especially during weekends and sunny days. Just bring your own food and water instead—there are no food stores in the island, or even round-the-clock electricity. Just a good old sun and nature at its best!
In a way, being shunned by tourists has been a blessing in disguise for this little island. Runaway tourism development hasn’t damage its pristine beauty. Still tranquil and fewer people, I guess we have more time basking in the sun without the noise. Relaxing at its finest! No crowded beaches, no loud music, not much to worry about “water pollution” if you know what I mean.
And as for me, I had only an hour and a half to stay here. Next time, I might stay here longer…perhaps overnight together with the natives of this island. That idea is not far-fetched.
How do I get there?
I went there unplanned. Therefore I have to negotiate with the tourism police at Paseo del Mar, the promenade beside Fort Pilar, where the Santa Cruz Island-bound boats are docked. I got lucky to join a group who rented the whole boat, hence I got free one-way trip! However, renting a boat for a round trip costs P1,000. (US$23.50) The boats can carry up to six to seven passengers and two crewmembers.
In order for you to be well-prepared, please do coordinate at Zamboanga City Tourism Office at NS Valderama Street, near City Hall, before your trip. Tourist Permit is needed in order for you to get to Santa Cruz Island safely.
Terminal Fee is just only P5.00.
By the way, you don’t have to worry about security too since the city has provided some tourist security escorts on your way there and for the duration of your stay. The Philippine Navy on the other hand guards every entrance there is in Zamboanga Harbour, between Basilan and mainland Mindanao.
View Santa Cruz Island Excursion in a larger map