An abandoned lighthouse in Capones Island, Zambales

January 1, 1970

by Annina Coronel

For just 1,000 pesos (or about $20), I took an overnight trip to San Antonio city in the province of Zambales in the Philippines. Zambales is quite known for a few sandy beaches and coves but the abandoned lighthouse in Capones Island is a detour you cannot miss.

Getting There

From Pundaquit Beach in Zambales, it’s a 30-minute boat ride to the island. I say it’s a detour because it’s only worth a short visit, not for a long stay on the island since there are no accommodations around. The friendly boatmen will drop you off the rocky shore of the island which you will have to cross over to reach the beach.


Island rock formations


Rocky beach of Capones Island


View of the rocky beach

From the beach, there’s a short rocky trek to get to a set of cement steps that take you to the plateau of the island. As I was climbing the giant, steep steps towards the top, I couldn’t help but notice a mysterious opening camouflaged with the rock formations of the plateau. Perhaps it was a tunnel or a large drainage system for the island, but to me it looked like a beautiful tomb. Take note that this island was now abandoned with occasional visitors during the day, so I couldn’t help but imagine an interesting legend originating from this place. If I could cross the rocks, I would probably check out what I would find inside the opening, sadly there was no safe path towards it.


Something that looks like a beautiful tomb

Reaching the Top

Upon reaching the top, I was in awe of the majestic view of the blue sea. I looked down the steps and noticed how far I was from the shore–it was definitely a long way down. One misplaced step could lead you tumbling down the steps which is why it is important to be careful as you climb up. My chosen footwear for this trek was flip flops since I needed to get across the rocky shore at the beginning, so it was a slippery climb for me. Not my best decision but I managed to go up and back down carefully anyway.


Capones Island poetry

capones stairs

At the top, you will find a path that leads to a bushy trail leading to the lighthouse. This will take you about 10-15 minutes to trek. During this trek, you may get scratches from the sharp bushes so just be careful once again. Soon after you will realize that the climb and the trek was absolutely worth it once you see the rusty gate of the lighthouse. When I entered the gate, I felt like I discovered a hidden treasure right at the peak of the island.

The lighthouse was definitely old and could no longer light up, yet it was beautiful that way. Somehow by looking at it, you could picture how elegant it once looked with the walls made with bricks and white-painted wood, the black and white patterned tiles, and the tall-arched windows. You could imagine an old man, radio in hand, sitting by the window at night just listening to the waves and staring at the light beaming towards the sea. Such a pity that this lighthouse was reported to be destroyed by an earthquake years ago. There was an obvious attempt to repair the damage, yet the structure withered through time. Nevertheless this lighthouse still remains a beauty to this day.


What’s left of the lighthouse


I went inside to find windows with wonderful views, doorways leading to other rooms and a rusty spiral staircase connected to the top of the lighthouse itself. Every withered part of the lighthouse was picturesque, displaying its proud age to its visitors who appreciate the elegance of something abandoned. As I entered one of the rooms, I was greeted by two windows; each with a different view. Even until now, this picture comes to mind whenever I remember my visit to this island.If you are brave enough, you can climb up the rusty spiral staircase to the top for a romantic view of the island. I didn’t push myself further to go up there yet I could imagine it would be a perfect place to profess your love to someone. High up there with just the two of you on the island. No doubt it would make an epic proposal spot!

The travel back down to the shore took less time than going up. As you go down, you can soak up the view of this lonely island and appreciate the endless expanse of the sea. As we sailed away, I took one last look at the island and saw the glorious structure of that abandoned lighthouse.

Where to Overnight When you Visit: Anawagin Cove

Earlier I mentioned also that Capones Island was just a detour to my real destination, I headed to a nearby beach called Anawangin Cove for an overnight camp. You can tell the boatmen to take you there, the ride is about 15-20 minutes. This is the beach where most visitors of Zambales go camping since there are no luxury accommodations on the cove. With my 1,000 pesos, I was able to pay for a boatride, a tent, and cooked food for an overnight stay at Anawagin’s camping grounds, with access to a public bathroom that’s in OK conditions.

Tall trees surround the camp like a forest but on flat sandy grounds. The area was so peaceful since there’s no electricity. Suddenly zero technology seemed relaxing. You could lie on the brown sand and just stare at tall tree trunks, and take a peek of the blue skies from the branches of the trees.

Anawangin Cove camping grounds

Anawangin Cove camping grounds

I just loved how serene this place was and it was perfect for a peaceful night under the stars. If you explore the place further, you would find a small lake with crystal clear water (although I don’t recommend it for drinking). The depth of the water would depend on the season, so during the time I went, the lake was very shallow. I would definitely describe this place as magical because of all the wonders you would find. Perhaps there would be more if I explored further beyond the trees.

Capones Island is a place you must take a side trip to if you are in Zambales. Afterwards, enjoy the beautiful sunset and a peaceful slumber in camp at Anawangin Cove to cap off your stay at Zambales.


Sunset at Anawangin Cove

If you want to know more about my itinerary details, you can send me your questions. I’ll send you the link! See more photos of my visit here: Capones Island.

Annina Coronel

By Annina Coronel

I write poetry in the photographs I take whenever I travel. I know that a picture can say a thousand words so why not write those beautiful words clearly? Read about the sights, the people and the food from a bunch of my travels and discover the beauty of each place from the view of my lens.


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