You can fly to either Catbalogan City or Calbayog City when heading to Samar. You can also take a plane to Tacloban City in Leyte followed by a van, bus, or jeep ride to Samar.
If you’re coming from Cebu, visitors can ride a boat to Calbayog City via Cokaliong Shipping Lines. Travel time is roughly 10 to 12 hours.
You can also travel by land from Manila to Samar. There are buses in Pasay City and Cubao that leave for the province daily. From Manila, the bus will head first to Matnog, Sorsogon, to board a RORO Ferry headed for Allen in Northern Samar.
How to Get Around
There are mini buses that can take you across towns and cities in Samar. Passenger vans are likewise available for intercity and interprovincial trips. While you’re in cities or towns, you can take a jeep to get around. You can also ride a motorcycle for shorter trips.
What to See
Even if it was destroyed during Typhoon Yolanda, the Immaculate Conception Parish Church or Guiuan Church in the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar remains a symbol of faith and resilience for the locals. Completed in 1844, this Baroque church was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines. Repairs are currently being done to restore the church to its former glory.
In the town of Basey in the southern portion of Samar lies the centuries-old Church of Saint Michael the Archangel, more commonly known as the Basey Church. Built by the Jesuits late in the 17th century, it is one of the most well-preserved churches in the country. Another church, the Buscada Chapel, is another place where the religious can pay homage to the image of the Holy Child Jesus of Buscada.
The Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in the heart of Calbayog City is the biggest church in all of Samar. This structure was built in Spanish architectural style in 1901. The cathedral has undergone renovations over years and its classic design was soon blended with modern architecture.
Samar is called the “Caving Capital of the Philippines,” and rightfully so because of the hundreds of caves that have been mapped and catalogued by local and foreign speleologists in the province. If you want to go spelunking or discover beautiful rock formations and lagoons, Samar will be an ideal destination for you.
Of all the caves in Samar, perhaps the most talked about is the Langun Gobingon Caves in Calbiga. It is the biggest cave ever discovered in the Philippines and the second largest in all of Southeast Asia. It is home to a wide variety of species like bats, crickets, eyeless fish, birds, and even snakes! Cave corals and gigantic stalactites and stalagmites are also abundant inside.
The Lobo Cave in Jiabong is said to be one of the most beautiful caves in the country. Its mineral formations are breathtaking, but you will need the help of a tour guide when navigating the insides of the cave. Lobo Cave is also recommended for beginners in spelunking.
The Sohoton Cave in Basey is yet another popular attraction to visit when in Samar. The cave is actually part of the Sohoton Natural Park, which is about 841 hectares of water and forestry. More than the thrilling adventures that await you inside the cave, the lush greens and the clear waters give you a unique way of being one with nature.
For those who want a tropical vacation, Samar has quite a selection of beaches that won’t disappoint. There’s the Bacayawan Beach in the town of Lorente, Cabong Beach on the eastern side of Samar, Caliocan Beach that is known for its beautiful white sands, and the Malajog Beach—considered to be the prettiest of them all.
The province is also blessed with plenty of magnificent waterfalls. The cascading waters of Lulugayan Falls in Calbiga will remind visitors of the Niagara Falls in the US and Canada. Calbayog City, on the other hand, is known as the “City of Waterfalls.” Bangon Falls (or Bugtong Falls as it is known to the locals) and Tarangban Falls are just two of the well-known bodies of water that can be found in the city.
One of the grandest but underrated natural wonders in Samar are found in Biri Island. The island is located at northwestern part of the province. Its coastal areas have been blessed with pristine waters and the most stunning rock formations that look as if they come from a fantasy world. Visitors will have plenty of things to take pictures of while in this one-of-a-kind destination.
The Samar Archaeological Museum is located within the campus of Christ the King College in Calbayog City. Many artifacts from all corners of the island, some of which date back to as early as the 14th century, are displayed at the museum.
The province of Samar is connected to the province of Leyte via the San Juanico Bridge. Built in 1973 during the Marcos administration, the bridge spans 2.16 kilometers long. Pedestrian sidewalks allow you to take on the challenge of walking along the longest bridge in the Philippines from end to end.
Events and Festivals
Each town in Samar celebrates its own fiesta so there are a lot of events to look forward to every year. The Embajada Festival is one that the entire province celebrates together. The festival commemorates the Christianization of the native Filipinos and is celebrated through traditional songs and colorful dances.
Where to Eat
Café Maria Rosario in Catbalogan City serves diners with the local version of the Mexican tamales, which they call tamalos. The dish is made with pork belly, cooked with rice flour, and ladled with rich peanut sauce. The café is also known for its Samar torta, a dessert similar to ensaymada.
City Grill Restaurant, also in Catbalogan City, serves mouthwatering Filipino and Asian dishes that your palate will surely love. There is also live music to enjoy while dining. Meanwhile, Ernie’s Pizza specializes in different kinds of pizza; their local versions are some of the must-tries such as sisig pizza and the tinapa pizza. For foodies who want more diverse flavors, Our Nest Restaurant in Catarman boasts a menu of Chinese, American, Italian, and Filipino dishes.
A local breakfast favorite in Samar is salukara, a pancake-like dish made with ground rice, sugar, and young coconut wine. Another favorite delicacy in Samar is the delectable suman sa talipopo, which is served with caramel sauce made from coconut.
Fare: PHP 1,200.00 to PHP 10,000.00
Bus rides between Manila and Samar costs roughly PHP 1,200.00, inclusive of the RORO ferry fee. Round trip airfares can go as high as PHP 10,000.00, so be sure to be on the lookout for promos in order to score better deals.
When riding jeeps around town, the base fare is PHP 7.00. A van ride from one town to the other will cost around PHP 50.00 to as much as PHP 150.00, depending on the distance.
Food: PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00
Meals in Samar are tasty, satisfying, and best of all, pocket friendly. On average, you can spend PHP 250.00 for a full meal.
Shopping: PHP 20.00 to PHP 1,500.00
For souvenirs, key chains and ref magnets are available for PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 apiece. There are also souvenir shirts from PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00, depending on the design and material. Hand woven mats or banig are popular items sold in Basey. Depending on the design and the size, a banig can cost anywhere between PHP 300.00 to as much as PHP 1,500.00
Accommodations: PHP 800.00 to PHP 2,500.00
For PHP 800.00, you can already spend the night in some of the hostels in Samar. Overnight stays in hotels can cost as much as PHP 2,500.00.
Activities: PHP 100.00 to PHP 3,000.00
A boat ride to Biri costs around PHP 50.00 per head. Once on the island, you can rent a habal-habal for PHP 300.00 so you can tour the island, especially the rock formations.
If you’re going spelunking, several tour shops offer them for PHP 2,500.00 to PHP 3,500.00 inclusive of tour guides, food, transport, equipment, and souvenir CD.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
When dining in restaurants in the province, a service charge may be included in your bill, so tipping is no longer required. You can still leave a tip if you wish; PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 would be more than enough.
||ETA in Calbayog City
||Have heavy breakfast at S.O. Café in Calbayog City.
||Depart the city for Biri Island.
||ETA in Biri Island
||Check in at the hotel and have late lunch there or at an eatery on the island.
||Ride a habal-habal to see the Biri Rock Formations.
||Watch the sunset.
||Have dinner and retire for the night.
||Have breakfast at the hotel.
||Enjoy water activities by the beach.
||Depart the island for Catarman.
||ETA in Catarman. Head over to Café Eusebio for lunch.
||ETA in Catbalogan City. Go on a tour of the city.
||Have dinner at Café Maria Rosario and head back to your hotel.
||Have breakfast at the hotel.
||Depart Catbalogan City for Calbiga.
||Have lunch (inclusive of spelunking package) before entering the cave.
||Start spelunking at Langun-Gobingob Cave.
||End of spelunking.
||Depart Calbiga for Calbayog City.
||ETA in Calbayog City
||Have late dinner at Carlos and Carmelo’s Restaurant.
||Check in at the Calbayog Airport.
||Depart Calbayog for Manila.
||ETA in Manila
Eastern Samar is more susceptible to northeast monsoons as compared to the other parts of the province. The northwestern portion, on the other hand, has a more evenly distributed rainfall throughout the year. When visiting the province, don’t forget to a light jacket or a scarf to keep you warm. Don’t forget to bring umbrellas as well in case it rains.
There are tertiary and government hospitals available throughout the province should you need medical assistance. Some of the well-known hospitals in Samar are Catarman Hospital, Samar Provincial Hospita,l and Our Lady of Porziuncola Hospital—both of which are in Calbayog City.
And while there are drug stores and pharmacies in key commercial areas in the province, it is still best to bring your own medicine, especially for unique medical conditions.
Though Samar is generally a safe place to visit, staying alert and vigilant is still highly recommended. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep a close eye on your valuables in order to avoid any untoward incidents from happening.