A visit to Mactan Island is almost always synonymous to a Cebu trip, and for good reason.
The exquisite white sand beaches, surrounded by a bevy of globally-renowned resorts, have put the Queen City on the map as one of the must-visit tropical destinations in the world. But there’s more to Cebu than just Mactan Island—so here’s why you should take a step off the beaten path and visit these seven stunning island getaways waiting to be discovered.
A three-hour journey north of Cebu, Bantayan Island has often been likened to Boracay, and is even recommended as an alternative for people who want powder-fine white sand beaches without the crowded party scene.
That’s not to say Bantayan doesn’t have its own charms though—the island remains a popular cultural destination especially on Holy Week, when tableaus of the Stations of the Cross are mounted on carnival-style carrozas (floats). Besides all the beachfront resorts on the island, also worth checking out is the Ogtong Cave Resort, where guests can swim in cool waters inside the underground cave.
HOW TO GET THERE: While Bantayan has its own airfield, only AirJuan operates chartered and scheduled flights to and from the island. Most tourists come through Cebu City. From the North Bus Terminal, take a bus bound for Hagnaya, and then take a ferry to the Santa Fe Port in Bantayan Island.
Famed for frequent sightings of thresher sharks, Malapascua Island is a perennial favorite of divers from around the world. Manta rays and hammerheads have also been spotted seasonally. For casual snorkelers, the island’s underwater vista boasts shipwrecks dating all the way back to World War II, making for an eerie yet fascinating sight.
When you just want to lounge away by the beach, Malapascua does not disappoint, what with its gorgeous stretch of white sand leading into pristine waters. It also offers the most majestic views of the sunrise and the sunset for the ultimate Instagram post.
HOW TO GET THERE: Take a bus bound for the port of Maya at the Cebu North Bus Terminal. From there, you can take a boat ride to the island.
Step away from the comforts of more established island resorts, and rough it up on the way to Carnaza Island. Not for the faint of heart, the journey takes nearly five hours (if not more!), from a three-hour road trip to northern Cebu, to a two-hour boat ride over the unpredictable waters of the Visayan Sea.
Of course, no one would dare make the trip if the destination wasn’t worth it, and this turtle-shaped island totally is, with all its lush greens, picturesque rock formations, and the prettiest blue skies reflected in the crystal clear waters.
Carnaza is much less developed than its more popular neighbors, so there’s only one place to stay in the island—the Carnaza Eco Park—so make your travel arrangements accordingly, or set up camp. For food, there’s only the fresh catch of the day; those intending to stay long should bring enough provisions from the mainland.
HOW TO GET THERE: From the North Bus Terminal, board a bus for Daanbantayan, and disembark at the Tapilon Port. You can opt to take the public banca to Carnaza, or charter your own.
DG TIP: “The public banca only has one or two trips a day, so best to leave Cebu City at 3 AM to be able to catch the boat. If you hired your own, you can choose to leave a little later. Bear in mind though that the sea can get rougher towards the afternoon, so the earlier you leave, the better.” —Angel Gonzales Tudtud, Accounts Manager, Bigseed Public Relations & Events
Another diamond in the rough is the uninhabited Capitancillo Island. Legend has it that the Basillo, captain of a Spanish trading vessel, offended a local datu who then cursed the captain by transforming his ship into an island. Part of a marine sanctuary, this six-hectare islet is surrounded with no less than three dive sites, each more spectacular than the last. Its landmark is the ruins of the old Capitancillo Lighthouse, beside which is a modern and functioning solar-powered lighthouse.
When you’re north-bound, spare an extra day to visit this six-hectare islet, or pack a tent if you want to stay overnight—there are no establishments or accommodations of any sort here. It’ll just be you, the lighthouse, the seas, and the stars at night.
HOW TO GET THERE: Take a bus bound for Bogo City from the Cebu North Bus Terminal, and disembark at the town proper. From there, you can opt to take boats to Capitancillo Island from the Marangog Cove, the Nailon Wharf, the Odlot Hideaway, or the Polambato Port.
Yet another heaven for diving enthusiasts, Pescador Island’s vibrant marine life is truly a sight to behold. From the majestic open-top underwater cave known as the Cathedral, to the hundreds of species of fish and dazzling corals, even the most casual of swimmers would be hard-pressed to emerge from the waters!
Pescador Island is also famous for its year-round sardine run. The breathtaking rush of swimming with a million tiny fish, all moving in unison with their scales glinting in the sunlight, is an experience bound to be the highlight of your vacation in Cebu.
HOW TO GET THERE: Take a bus for Moalboal from the Cebu South Bus Terminal, and alight at the town proper. Hire a tricycle to take you to Panagsama Beach, where you can board a boat going to the island.
A group of islands east of Cebu, the Camotes Islands comprise three major islands and an islet: Poro, Pacijan, Ponson, and Tulang, respectively. While the former two—the main thoroughfares—are connected by a bridge and are the most accessible, you can also explore the latter two islands with ease.
When in Camotes Islands, the Santiago Bay Beach is a must-visit. Here, you can sink your feet into the powder-fine sand of the vast shoreline before taking a dip into the refreshing waters of the sea. The Camotes Islands are also home to some of Cebu’s most picturesque caves, as well as waterfalls, rock formations, and an expansive lake—Lake Danao—where you can kayak away in the afternoons.
HOW TO GET THERE: You can take a two-hour ferry from the ports of Cebu City and Mactan Island, or you can ride a bus from the Cebu North Bus Terminal bound for Danao City, which is an hour away. From there, you can take a boat to Camotes Islands.
With a distinction for being the first marine reserve in the Philippines, Sumilon Island has a natural and cultural significance deeply rooted in its storied past. In an effort to uphold the integrity of its heritage, Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort—the only establishment in Sumilon—only developed 20% of this 24-hectare dwelling, and allows the island to be its prime amenity.
Sumilon Island is best known for its ever-shifting sandbar, which changes along with the tide and makes for the perfect venue for a family picnic or a romantic dinner. For adventure seekers, the resort also offers biking and hiking trails of varying levels, kayaking in the lagoon, and whale shark watching in nearby Oslob.
HOW TO GET THERE: From the Cebu South Bus Terminal, take a bus bound for Bato via Liloan, and alight at Puerto Sumilon, the docking port and mainland reception of Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort. Transfers may also be arranged with the resort itself.
An unparalleled escape awaits! Plan your getaway for the best price with these exclusive deals.
Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort
(02) 817 5751
(0917) 790 6260
Find more inspiration for your trip with our comprehensive Cebu Travel Guide.
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