Three years in elementary. Four years in high school. Another four years in college. And more years after my education. Been to places first for shortstops and staycation. Yes, it actually took me decades to realize my childhood dream to travel to a place I so proclaimed a paradise – Camiguin Island. It’s the destination came first to my young mind when I first got interest in traveling – I was a third grader then. I even book a ticket to the island way ahead of time – almost a year beforehand. Not that excited… hahaha.
After spending almost a week at my first-dreamed destination, I was just so overjoyed to have achieved my decades-old goal. What more? I had taken a vacation to a secluded, laid-back island and came back to Cebu with happy thoughts and education minus the misadventures (lots of them actually). What? How? Why?
Brace yourself as we’ll tour across the second smallest island in the Philippines.
Unknown to many, Camiguin is distinct to have seven volcanoes (famous of which is Mt. Hibok Hibok), hence its dubbed name “The Island Born of Fire.” Its name comes from the word “Kamagong,” a tree from the family of ebony. It is home of the world’s seven out of nine giant clam species.
It’s an island with a little of everything to every traveller and local alike. The historic volcanoes, the inviting waterfalls, the white and gray sand beaches, the peaceful lakes, the cold and hot springs, the friendly locals, the tummy-friendly seafood, the towering mountains, the secluded islands, and the abundant flora and fauna – no one will definitely be left uncared.
We’ve also noticed a great number of pizza houses anywhere on the island, nearly one in every corner, I guess. Well, this could be because of the flock of foreign tourists here.
When Best to Go
The best probable time to come here is around the third week of October as they celebrate their annual Lanzones Festival though it has a great weather year-round. Its peak season other than October is during summer and the Easter season. Exclude these months if you’re traveling without the hassle and much crowd.
Experience culture-rich Camiguin with its many historical locations. This island is recognized as home to a rich architectural history. The heritage homes still visible across the island are influenced by the Spanish design. They seem to be a big block of wood and stone with wide sliding doors and windows reminding me of grandparents’ house back home.
Ancestral homes serve as havens of the rich illustrados symbolizing respect and power. They continue to be wonders in their historical and architectural value.
The Old Catarman Church Ruins remain intact. This church was actually one of Mount Vulcan’s casualties during its 1871 eruption. Only steps farther are the bell tower and the lighthouse.
A few meters from the church ruins is where the iconic Sunken Cemetery sets. The volcanic eruption made it sunk a long time ago. The limestone-based graves are covered with corals and the bones here were transferred to its new cemetery. Standing firm in the ocean is new cement cross replacing the original wooden cross damaged by typhoon Ruping. You need not to pay an entrance fee. Rent a boat for 100 pesos if you want to have photo-ops in the big cross with either the seascape or the volcanoes in the background.
One of the activities during Holy Week in the Philippines is the “panata” or a sacrificial commemoration of the passion of Christ, and The Walkway to the Old Volcano has been used by the Catholics for this purpose here. Each of its 12 stations of the cross has life-size statues. We only step up until the first station since it’s already getting dark. We haven’t even paid its regular entrance fee of 5 pesos as the attendant was out already.
A Wander Full Island and Seascape
Most of the tourist destinations in the island are in its surrounding and inland waters.
Two of the mostly frequented islands are Mantigue Island and White Island. Prepare 600 pesos for an entrance and boat rental for 5 passengers. On the island, you can rent a table for 50 pesos or just stay anywhere you can take your shade for free. You can stay here up to 4 hours. A side trip to Mantigue Sanctuary with a round tour of the island is possible but with an additional expense of 200 pesos.
Tip: If you’re a group of less than 5 visiting the island, better join with the other travelers.
Our smooth-sailing boat ride to the White Island early in the morning is amazing. It’s just morning yet I can call it a day already. The white, powdery and wide sandbar and the pristine, crystal-clear surrounding waters of the island is paradise. The boat fee departing to the island costs 600 pesos for 5 people alongside an entrance fee of 30 pesos. The only unfavorable in this ride is the fact that you won’t be able to join other groups to complete the allowable number of passengers. So the lesser the number to ride, the higher the cost. Their reason? “Different groups have different ways and preferred time to spend on the island.” Fair enough? Maybe for them but definitely not for me. This can be arranged by the travelers themselves.
Tip: Go for a group of 5 and bring your own snorkeling and diving gear for a lesser expense.
Inland waters include springs and falls and most of our visits to these places are challenging. Our perseverance and patience were really tested as we were all-soaked by rainwater. Most of the activities here will get you wet, anyway.
Sto. Niño Cold Spring is located in Catarman. You dip into the cold spring, swim or have a fish spa at 10 pesos other than its 30 pesos entrance. We stayed and had fun for quite some time.
How do you usually describe spring water’s taste? Might as well try the water at Bura Soda Cold Spring by yourself. It’s like a mixture of different tastes difficult to determine. Just pay 30 pesos for pool use and enjoy a fresh swim all you can.
I’m thankful there’s Ardent Hot Spring to comfort my chilling body since it was raining all day. The spring and mountain resort is situated at the foot of Mount Hibok-Hibok. Like the two previously mentioned springs, it collects 30 pesos as entrance fee. It has several pools with different temperature and dip.
We also visited two falls on the island: Katibawasan Falls and Tuasan Falls. Both have 30 pesos entrance fee. Their water is really inviting but not conducive for swimming at that time due to the cold weather. They are stunning at their respective explosive beauties.
Its historic hub apart, Camiguin has a beguiling and intimate neighborhoods. One of which is Mambajao, specifically in Yumbing where restaurants, pizzerias, bars, and entertainment venues are sprawling. When the sun goes down and before heading back to our accommodation each day, we drop by or trek over to the metro for something to eat the following day. Also check out its juice stands, greengrocers, and food vendors.
Walking through their central area, our eyes were caught by its old municipal hall in Catarman. The white building now became the local civil registrar of the island.
Meet the Giants
I have been to zoos and wildlife centers and have seen the gigantic bird ostrich but not as close and personal with those at Mahinog Ostrich Breeding Farm. We actually have an intimate interaction with them and selfies, of course. They’re not camera shy, by the way, and they are so tall that makes me so small. The government-owned farm usually collects an entrance fee of 5 pesos but we’re spared of it.
Climbing and hanging out from mangrove trees? Why not? You may only see mangroves meters away through a river cruise or sightseeing but here at Katunggan Park in Benoni, it’s a whole lot of difference with your 20-peso entrance fee. You’ve got to climb on these huge mangroves like a monkey, I mean like a child, hehe. The mangrove park is great for a long leisurely walk on its boardwalk while taking snaps. There are also tree houses/cottages (150 pesos rental) and side wooden chairs for shortstops. You can even have a sneak peek of the Mantigue Island and rent a kayak when it’s high tide.
Our patience-test misadventure turned to a great adventure with the amazing bivalve mollusks at the Giant Clams Sanctuary at Kaliba Beach in Guinsiliban. Misadventure as it took as two comebacks before we got to see them at their natural habitat underwater due to the unfavorable weather. It’s a great adventure and an honor as we were blessed with the perfect timing on our third attempt.
We’re so lucky to see the seven of the nine giant clam species in the world that can grow from 1-3 meters. The knowledgeable crew is full of enthusiasm in introducing the sanctuary’s mission and vision of giant clam conservation. Baby clams are placed on different pools for breeding and reproduction before being deployed to their natural habitat.
How amazed and excited I was to see them underwater that snorkeling in water over my height deep made me conquer my fear. I was really in awe that an hour of the adventure wasn’t enough. We still have a flight to catch so we better went and hope to be back one day.
You pay for entrance (25 pesos), life jacket and snorkel and mask (150 pesos), and snorkeling/guided tour (150 pesos) are all worth it.
Tip: Check for the weather forecast on your desired time of visit if you’re planning to go snorkel.
Eat This, Eat Here
Though it only spans 238 sq. km., Camiguin serves as a trove for foodies. Though most food served here are of Filipino cuisine, international influences is apparent especially for pizza and Italian pasta lovers. It serves many types of cuisines to satiate the varying palates of its increasing tourist community.
Bros Namit Inasal
One of my best friends working in the island highly recommends the food establishment Bros Namit Inasal, which is located just across the Camiguin Provincial Hospital. Truly, the silog (fried rice and egg) dishes served are delicious and not that pricey.
I’m craving for seafood and my travel buddy and our tour guide suggest eating lunch on our first day in this restaurant. My taste buds really glorify as food reach them. When it comes to their price, they cost a bit higher than expected.
D & A Dive Resort
As advised by our guide, pizza in this resort is mouthwatering. I am not into pizza and any pasta but maybe because I’m fond of thin-crust pizza I love it here. Their chicken rice curry is also a must-try. Foods served here are friendly to your wallet and make you eat more.
Coincidence? I guess so. We found this resto while on a search for a dining hub before heading back to our accommodation. In fairness to this dining hub, it’s living by its name. We seem to be on a hunger strike for our wait-time. We we’re so hungry that an extra rice serving time was worth the wait.
There’s one restaurant in Mambajao where my friend (the one I mentioned earlier) often eats as she loves the food they serve. They also offer pizza along with pancit and their homemade ice cream. They all satiate my palate so they really are delicious.
Since we stayed on the island for 4 days, we booked and visited more than one resort. Most of them are in Yumbing, Mambajao where most resorts are located. Booking your accommodation here is ideal as it’s near the airport with stores, restaurants, and other entertainment around or nearby.
Staying here is more than expected as we we’re really up for a peaceful place to relax. This is just so home for us minus the power outage, which is common on the island.
Caves Dive Resort
Based in Agoho, this resort is good in service and internet connection except that mosquitoes love to suck our sweet blood. We only spent a night here and visited the neighboring resort the following day. It’s also a quiet place to stay and free your mind from anything.
YSLA Beach Camp
Since we were not able to book at this resort, our preferred accommodation, we took our breakfast here. It’s quite pricey to stay but right for the services and amenities, they offer to every guest. I’m telling you, breakfast in this eco-themed resort is the best across the island. Just look how they paint happiness on our faces while eating and wandering around the camp area. What strikes me most was their glamping (glamorous camping). I love to camp and pledge to stay here on my next visit.
Take Me Home
It seems unsettling to explore somewhere new for the first time and learn your boundaries, but by the laid back, slow island life as we ran into practically everyone we met during the entire staycation, the sense of community wasn’t just obvious – it was definitely infectious. This only gave me confusion whether to take our flight back to Cebu or extend the vacation. We have a life to live and work to do so we need to bid goodbye to Camiguin Island for a while because we will come again in some other time.
Indeed, good things may come in small packages as the old adage goes.
Traveling to Camiguin Island can be done by air or sea.
- From Mactan International Airport, be onboard your preferred airlines to Camiguin Airport.
- Go onboard a boat from Cebu Port to Camiguin Port.
- Know the changing boat schedule before the planned travel date if you preferred sea travel. This would save your travel time.
- Have your gadgets fully-charged or bring power banks since you will be exploring outdoors in most of your stay in the island. Don’t miss worth-capturing moments then.
- Keep yourself hydrated when going out especially during summer when the temperature is typically high.
- Explore and meet locals and other tourists for some great deals and tips while wandering.
- Be always reminded of every traveler’s creed to take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and kill nothing but time. Help preserve the beauty of the island so generations to follow will still experience this paradise.
Mactan International Airport – Camiguin Airport
- Ostrich Breeding Farm
- Katunggan Park
- J&A Fishpen (Lunch)
- Mantigue Island
- Giant Clams (Viewing and orientation about the cultured clams)
- White Island
- Sto. Niño Cold Spring
- Bura Soda Water Spring
- Tuasan Falls
- Old Spanish Church Ruins
- Sunken Cemetery
- The Walkway to the Old Church
- Katibawasan Falls
- Ardent Hot Spring
- Vjandeep Bakeshop
- Northern Lights (Dinner)
- YSLA Beach Camp (sight viewing)
- Giant Clams Sanctuary (snorkeling)
Camiguin Airport – Mactan International Airport
White Island 300 pesos/person (600 pesos for 5-6)
Soda Waterpool 30 pesos
Tuasan Falls 30 pesos
Sto. Niño Cold Spring 30 pesos
Sunken Cemetery 25 pesos (50/2 per boat ride towards the cross)
Ardent Hot Spring 30 pesos
Katibawasan Falls 30 pesos
Mantigue Island 150 pesos (600/4 boat charter good for 6 people)
Katunggan Park 30 pesos
Giant Clams Sanctuary and White Beach 25 entrance; 150 (swim with the clams); 250 (full gear rental); 150 (vest, mask, snorkel)
TOTAL: 3135 (excluding food and airfare)
Things to Bring (recommendations)
Pack light, but do bring the necessary:
- rashguard and/or other swimwear
- aqua shoes or slippers and other necessary swimming gear you want
- jacket, umbrella (in case it rains)
- sunscreen/skin protections
- sarong or towel
- dry clothes
- personal medication and toiletries
Watch our video by travel buddy Asa Ni Qen?
*some photos credit to Asa Ni Quen?