Camiguin Tourist Spots and Ultimate Travel Guide
Camiguin Island is how places like Boracay and Palawan used to be before the rest of the world found out about them. Here’s my list of the best Camiguin tourist spots and my ultimate Camiguin travel guide, to help you plan your trip to this off the beaten track island.
This is the Island Born of Fire, and turbulent volcanic activity has shaped Camiguin into the rugged and mountainous place that it is today. Things happen slowly on Camiguin if they happen at all, and it’s a place to enjoy spectacular white sandbars, volcanic peaks, crashing waterfalls and the more unusual sight of a Sunken Cemetery, forced underwater by the eruption of Mount Vulcan.
It’s a spectacularly unique Filipino Island to visit, and I put together this guide on the best Camiguin tourist spots to help other travellers to experience what quickly became one of my favourite destinations in the Philippines.
My main suggestion though is to travel to Camiguin before everyone else does.
Is Camiguin Island Safe to travel to?
Camiguin Island is located off the northern shore of Mindanao, in the southern Philippines. Technically, it’s part of Mindanao, although realistically, it’s very far removed.
This association with the southern Philippines though, and its geographical proximity to troubled places like Marawi have kept Camiguin for a large part off the main travel trails in the Philippines, despite the fact it’s incredibly close to tourist hotspots such as Cebu and Bohol too.
Camiguin is incredibly safe to travel to.
Tourism is steadily picking up, and you will find that local Filipino tourists have been visiting here for a long time. Like much of the underrated northern areas of Mindanao, Camiguin is far removed from the conflicts of the southern Philippines.
The Best Things to Do and the Best Tourist Spots in Camiguin
Camiguin is a small island, but that doesn’t mean for a second that it’s lacking in things to do. I planned on staying for three nights and was on the island for over a week. Indeed, you could rush through all the sights in two days, but to really enjoy the best Camiguin tourist spots, take it slow like the locals do and take your time.
Relax a little and enjoy island life.
1. White Island
The most popular Camiguin tourist spot and the first attraction that needs to go on any Camiguin travel itinerary is White Island. The Philippines as a whole is renowned for its spectacular beaches and tropical scenery, but White Island takes things to a whole new level.
This is, in fact, one giant sandbar, and it shifts and changes shape according to the local tides, winds and weather conditions, meaning each year it’s slightly different in length, shape and form.
It’s called White Island because this is some of the absolute whitest sand you can find anywhere in the world. It’s dazzlingly white, so white that if you visit at noon you will find the glare from the sun overbearing.
Take a boat from the small harbour at the beach in the town of Yumbing, a journey of just ten minutes, and then spend your time relaxing on the sands, taking pictures or snorkelling in the shallow, clear waters that surround White Island.
Boats from the harbour cost 450 PHP per boat, plus an entrance fee of a further 50 PHP. Go early, take plenty of sunscreens, wear a hat, and make sure you have water.
2. The Sunken Cemetery
The Sunken Cemetery is Camiguin’s most unusual attraction, but a must-see on any Camiguin tour. The island is still very much at the mercy of volcanic activity, as is much of this part of the world, and past eruptions have shaped the very mountains and landscapes that you see today. One such eruption, in 1871, destroyed the entire town of Catarman and forced the local cemetery to slide underwater.
The locals constructed a huge cross to mark the spot where their ancestors now lie, and it’s a surreal sight to see. Small boats can ferry you over to the platform, and if you desire, you can snorkel through the cemetery too, although personally, I did not, as I was unsure if this was disrespectful or not. The Sunken Cemetery is the perfect spot to visit at sunset, as the sky turns a blaze of orange and red as the sun dips over the horizon.
3. The Spanish Church
Next to the Sunken Cemetery, you will find the ruins of the old Spanish Church. Catarman was once the Spanish stronghold on the island, and the only thing left after the eruption was the church, although even most of that was destroyed.
The ruins look out over the ocean and are a haunting reminder of the precarious lives of the people of Camiguin who live in the constant shadow of the volcano.
4. The Giant Clam Sanctuary
At the southern end of Camiguin Island, can be found the Giant Clam Sanctuary. Before I visited the sanctuary, I’d never even seen a Giant Clam before, I didn’t know that they were an endangered species, and I knew little of how marvellous these creatures are.
The sanctuary is more of a breeding ground for clams, but the locals who run the place are extremely knowledgeable about the many species they look after. You can even snorkel out over the thousands of giant clams that are found just off the shore. You can hire gear here and pay for a local guide to show you the way. The southern shore here is also home to the main island’s white sand beaches and some excellent coral too.
Entrance cost is 50 PHP per person, which includes a short guided tour of the sanctuary, while a guided snorkelling tour cost 150 PHP, but plus extra for any equipment you may need.
5. Mantigue Island
Mantigue Island is Camiguin’s second favourite offshore island. Found off the eastern shore, you can take a ferry here from the small village of San Roque, which is just a short drive north of the ferry port at Benoni.
Mantigue is a marine sanctuary, and here you will find the definition of a tropical paradise. White sandy beaches, swaying palms and coral reef.
Hiring a boat to Mantigue Island should cost 550 PHP. If you are on your own, then you could wait for other travellers to arrive and split the costs.
6. Katibawasan Falls
One of the island’s most beautiful features are the Camiguin waterfalls. Away from Camiguin’s sandy shoreline, the rugged interior is covered in jungle and hiding some of the Philippine’s most beautiful waterfalls. Katibawasan Falls is found close to the main town of Mambajao in the north and is a towering, thundering waterfall of epic proportions. This is one of the tallest falls in the country, and you can jump in the huge plunge pool at the base of the drop to cool off from the humidity of the jungle.
Entrance costs 50 PHP per person to Katibawasan Falls.
7. Tuasan Falls
At Tuasan Falls you will begin to see the development of tourism on the island first hand, as authorities are constructing a road through the jungle to make this waterfall more accessible to visitors.
It’s not as tall as Katibawasan Falls, but it is still a beautiful sight, and an equally great Camiguin tourist spot to go swimming at.
Entrance to Tuasan Falls costs 50 PHP per person.
8. Binawangan Falls
If you want to visit a waterfall that is entirely off the beaten track while on your Camiguin tour – and so well hidden that, like me, you may not even find the place – then try and take a trip to Binawangan Falls.
This waterfall is found hidden on top of a mountain peak, surrounded by dense jungle. When I tried to reach it, I couldn’t even find a path through the trees and forest, and there were no locals around to ask for help. This is one that you may need a guide for. If anyone has ever made it here, I’d love to know what it’s like!
9. Ardent Hot Springs
The Ardent Hot Springs aren’t so hot these days, unfortunately. This sort of resort-style area is found hidden away in the foothills of the volcano, and the pools are fed by natural mineral waters, heated by geothermal activity. It’s lukewarm at best though – at least when I visited – but it does still make a relaxing place to wind down at for an hour or so.
Entrance to the Ardent Hot Springs costs 20 PHP per person, a bargain really while on your Camiguin tour!
10. Hike Mount Hibok-Hibok
Mount Hibok-Hibok is the huge peak that dominates Camiguin Island. This is the active volcano that has caused so much trouble in the past, and with a guide and a permit, it’s possible to hike to the summit, for exceptional views over the rest of the island.
The hike isn’t easy, with a maximum elevation of just over 1,300 metres, and it’s best to start early before the heat of the midday sun kicks in and makes the uphill slog unbearable. You can find a guide in the tourist areas of Yumbing or in Mambajao, and they should be able to help you get the permit easily.
Allow at least 4-5 hours there and back again.
Locations of the Best Camiguin Tourist Spots
How to Travel Around Camiguin Island
Camiguin is very easy to navigate, as there is just one main road stretching for about 60 kilometres around the circumference of the island. You can traverse this entire route in an hour if you don’t stop. Many of the best things to do in Camiguin are found either on the road or just off the road, and most are signposted well.
Public transport, however, isn’t too great. There are Jeepneys and Tricycles travelling from village to village, and you can pay a few pesos to jump on, but then getting out to the waterfalls or hot springs would be difficult.
The easiest way to get around is to either rent a motorbike or to hire a tricycle or driver for the day. Habal-Habal’s – the local motorcycle taxis – can take you around easily, but the costs will add up. You can rent a tricycle or a car for the day, but again, the cheapest form of transport will be to hire a motorbike if you are confident enough. The roads are quiet and no one ever drives too fast on Camiguin.
Most hotels and guesthouses will be able to hire a bike out to you, expect to pay around 500 PHP per day, although ask for a discount if you want multiple days. Your hotel or guesthouse will also be able to arrange a driver or call in a Habal-Habal to pick you up.
Prices for these are very much negotiable.
How To Travel to Camiguin Island
Like many of the Philippine’s best islands, Camiguin isn’t necessarily the easiest place to travel to, but it’s by no means remote. Camiguin is located in the sea between Bohol and Mindanao, and it’s possible to travel by ferry from either these locations or you can simply fly in. Here are the best ways to travel to Camiguin Island.
1. Flights to Camiguin Island
Camiguin has one, very small, domestic airport. There are no international flights here of course, but there are a few regular connections from Cebu. The most popular routes are usually from Cebu, with CebGo or Philippines Airlines.
Flights can easily get booked out though, as they are limited, so buy a ticket in advance. The airport terminal is located right on the main road just outside of Mambajao, so simply walk outside, and you will find onward transport to your hotel easily.
2. How to Travel from Bohol to Camiguin
Bohol is one of the Philippine’s more popular island destinations and from Bohol, it’s relatively simple to get to Camiguin. Many travellers will fly into Cebu, from where you can take one of the many fast ferries across to Bohol – or indeed, you could simply take a flight from Cebu.
If you opt for the ferry route from Bohol, take a bus from Tagbilaran City along the coast to the port of Jagna, a journey of around two hours depending on traffic. From Jagna, there are ferries across to the port of Balbagon in Camiguin, which is very close to the main town of Mambajao. These seem to leave at 3 pm. You will want to book in advance and double check schedules.
From Camiguin, the ferry to Jagna in Bohol generally leaves at 3 pm – at least during peak season – and you can book tickets online, in advance. You can buy a ticket in person, but only in the morning on the day of your departure. I got told to be there at 7 am to buy a ticket, but the ticket office didn’t even open until 9 am.
From Camiguin to Bohol, the cost of an economy class ticket was 450 PHP and the journey time was 2 hours and 45 minutes.
The ferry route can be subject to change and only seemed to have even restarted again in March 2018 after a hiatus, so be careful and check the schedules.
3. How to travel from Cagayan de Oro to Camiguin
Cagayan de Oro is the biggest city in Northern Mindanao and makes for an excellent off the beaten track adventure in its own right. There are domestic connections to many major Filipino cities, and it’s an easy place to fly into, or, if you are feeling adventurous, to take a slow ferry to.
From Cagayan de Oro, there are two ways to get to Camiguin. The first option is to take the ferry, however, this doesn’t depart from the city itself, but from the nearby port at Opal. It takes around 3 hours to travel to the port at Balbagoan, in Camiguin from Opal. The schedule seems to vary, but Fast Cat has been running at least one daily ferry, although the times seem to vary. The cost should be 570 PHP for an economy ticket.
The second option – this is the option I went for when I travelled from Cagayan de Oro to Camiguin – is to take the bus from the Eastbound Terminal in CdO, to the ferry port of Balingoan. There are buses running this route or stopping here constantly, and you can expect to pay 120 PHP for a ride that takes around two hours, depending on traffic.
At the bus terminal in Balingoan, you need to buy a ticket for the ferry to Camiguin – don’t go to the ferry port first, they will just send you back to the bus terminal! There is a small booth, you will see the advertisements, and there are roughly ferries every hour or so – although not quite, it seemed to be a strangely irregular schedule, with 8 crossings throughout the day! The first departure is at 4.15 am and the last is at 5.15 pm. The ferry ticket costs 175 PHP in total, and the journey takes roughly two hours once you have departed.
When you have your ticket, it’s about a ten-minute walk from the bus terminal to the ferry port. Check-in, pay a small departure tax and then wait for the ride over.
The ferry from Balingoan calls in at the port of Benoni, in the south-east of Camiguin. From here you will find Jeepneys waiting to leave to other parts of the island or plenty of Habal-Habal drivers looking for a fare.
I paid 200 PHP to travel from Benoni to Yambing, where most of the hotels are, on the back of a motorcycle. A Jeepney would have cost 25 PHP to Mambajao from where I would switch to another Jeepney or Tricycle, which would have cost PHP 15 to Yumbing. This, however, would have taken much longer.
Locations of Useful Camiguin Transport Points
Where to stay in Camiguin
If you are travelling from a more built up or popular island in the Philippines, then don’t expect Camiguin to have such a wide range of accommodation. Prices here also tend to be a bit more expensive for what you get than other locations, such as nearby Bohol, where there is more competition.
The hotels and guesthouses are clustered around the town of Yumbing, which is conveniently located opposite White Island. I found this was a great location to stay, as there are some good restaurants here too. You can also find a selection strung out around the island, including down the road in the large town of Mambajao. This is where you will find all the ATMs and money changers too. If you stay somewhere more secluded, you may find it difficult to walk to restaurants and get around so easily.
Here are my top picks for choosing where to stay in Camiguin.
1. Medano Island Resort
Medano Island Resort was my home in Camiguin for the week. It’s in an epic location, overlooking white Island, and there is a swimming pool, a rooftop bar and an outside restaurant that are perfect for sunset.
There are rooms and dorms, and although they are quite basic for the price, the staff are some of the friendliest people I met on the island, and are always looking to help out.
2. Pabua’s Cottages
Pabua’s Cottages are a good mid-range choice for traveller’s who want to be close to the boats to White Island, right by the beach and within an easy walk of the restaurants. The cottages are fairly basic, but the setting is lovely, and for Camiguin, they really aren’t bad at all.
3. Caves Dive Resort
Caves Dive Resort is probably the closest thing you can find to a hostel on Camiguin, as amongst their selection of rooms they offer Backpacker Rooms for a great price. As their name would suggest, they can also arrange diving trips to the surrounding area too.
4. Camiguin Highland Resort
Camiguin Highland Resort offers visitors a unique experience on the island, as this is one of the few hotels that is actually found away from the coast, and in the more mountainous parts of Camiguin. It’s a bit pricey, but they have a range of rooms in a cool location.
Where to Eat in Camiguin
Camiguin has a fast-growing selection of restaurants, and these days you can find anything from Filipino cuisine to wood-fired pizzas. Yumbing and Mambajao have the best variety of restaurants, while in the small villages you will find plenty of little local eateries serving cheap local fare such as Adobo.
In Mambajao, there was even a takeaway Jollibee Van serving up their famous Jolly Burgers and Jolly Spaghetti when I visited, although I don’t know if this a permanent fixture!
1. Check Point Camiguin
Check Point is found at the top of the road in Yumbing, and they serve up a huge variety of dishes, from pizza to lechon, and all for reasonable prices. It’s always busy here, you can get a cold beer, and in the mornings, they do an all you can eat breakfast too.
2. La Dolce Vita
Found on the road just outside Mambajao, this great little Italian inspired restaurant serves up beautiful, thin crust pizzas that are cooked to order in their wood-fired oven. It’s as close as you can get to Italy in Camiguin, and makes for a great change from Adobo!
Guerrera is probably Camiguin’s best upmarket restaurant choice, but the inspired food has its roots more in Asian street food rather than anything too fancy. The menu is great, the location beautiful, but the prices are more than most places.
Locations of Hotels and Restaurants in Camiguin
WiFi on Camiguin Island
If you have travelled around the Philippines for any length of time, then you will know that unfortunately, despite its many other blessings, good WiFi is not easy to find.
Camiguin is no exception, and even the best hotels may struggle to deliver a good connection. The infrastructure is just not there. While this gives you the opportunity for a digital detox if you do need to get online – if you are a blogger like me for instance! – then I find the best option is to buy a local Sim card and hotspot.
Packages are inexpensive, and this tends to offer the best connection. Globe is always a safe bet for coverage in the Philippines.
Disclaimer I was hosted by Medano Island Resort as part of a complimentary 3-night stay on Camiguin Island, all opinions expressed in this article are, however, my own of course. Indeed, I loved the place so much I stayed much longer by my own accord!
All Words and Photographs by Richard Collett