72 hours in Camiguin

From its quiet white-sand beaches, soda water pool, hot and cold springs, to its top dive sites, there’s more to discover on this tiny island in the sun

by Ces Rodriguez. Photos by Bien Bautista

Touchdown

Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines fly to Cagayan de Oro daily. From there, take a two-hour ferry from the Macabalan Port to Benoni Port in Camiguin (try OceanJet around P500 or US$11)

In  Camiguin, there are plenty of motorelas (six-seater jeepney-style motorcycle cabs) at the pier to take you from the port to your resort for around P200. You could also get on a van for P30 a seat, or hire the vehicle from between P350 to P500 for a one-way transfer. A jeep from the Benoni Wharf to Mambajao, the island’s largest municipality, costs P22 per person. You could also choose to rent a habal-habal (motorcycle) from P50 to P200 per ride (the habal can accommodate up to two people) depending on the distance, and get dropped off at your exact destination. Your resort can also pick you up if you arrange it in advance.

Get your bearings

Camiguin lies in the waters of the Bohol Sea, 714 kilometers south of Manila and 10 kilometers north of Misamis Oriental on the main island of Mindanao. It is small and compact, measuring only 238 square kilometers, with a road around the island that is 64 kilometers long, making it possible to travel the circuit in a few hours.

Camiguin has been called the “Island Borne of Fire” for good reason. It is home to seven volcanoes, the tallest and most famous of which is Mt. Hibok Hibok. It’s known for its volcanic sand beaches, hot and cold springs, lush forests, waterfalls and land so fertile it grows a variety of crops.  

Check in

The tourism office lists 19 hotels and resorts in Camiguin. Call the Camiguin Tourism Office at +63909 931 5681. 

The 24-room Camiguin Highland Resort, where our party stayed, is located in the elevated area of Orasan, Soro-soro, Mambajao, 20 kilometers from the Benoni Port. Its rooms have a view of a fruit orchard from a small terrace at the back of the rooms on the second and third levels. You can see the Bohol Sea from the third level hallway, and on a clear day you can see the island’s famous sandbar, White Island. Rooms start from P1,500.

Camiguin Highland Resort, Lakas, Soro-Soro, Mambajao; Tel: +63 88 387 0515 to 17, +63917 827 0200, or +6332 344 7682 (Cebu office); Email: info@camiguinhighlandresort.com 

Secret Cove located four kilometers from the airport in Yumbing, Mambajao, Secret Cove, run by Canadian Tom Solski and his Filipina wife, is clean, comfortable, serves good food and has the best stocked bar on the island. Rooms start from P1,400.

Secret Cove, Yumbing, Mambajao. Tel: +6388 387 9084; Email: info@secretcovecamiguin.net 

Camiguin's White Beach

Paras Beach Resort. The resort has accommodation ranging from a 12-bed dorm room, to a standard airconditioned room, to a two-bedroom deluxe cottage. Rooms start from P4,000.

Paras Beach Resort, Yumbing, Mambajao; Tel: +6388 387 9008, +63917 715 2285, or +6388 856 8563; parasbeachresort@gmail.com

Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge. This is a two-level treehouse built around a towering acacia. Rooms are basic. Rates start from P300 per person for a dormitory bed.

Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge, Maubog, Balbagon, Mambajao, Camiguin Island; Tel: +63 88 3870273, +63 919 999 9877 or +63 917 326 4474;Email: enigmatatreehouse@gmail.com; 

Take a habal-habal tour

Hiring a habal-habal is one of the best ways to see the island. The island’s circumferential road allows you to make the circuit in about three hours.  

A whole day’s outing can take you to the old volcano walkway in Bonbon, a fruit farm,  the main island’s only white-sand beach and community-maintained clam sanctuary, an inland soda water pool, and the ruins of an old Spanish church buried by lava during the 1871 eruption of the Old Vulcan, located 17 kilometers west of Mambajao.

You can hire a habal-habal through your resort or by visiting the market. You can also flag down passing habal-habals at any point on main roads. A full-day’s trip will cost you about P800 with a driver, who can also act as your guide. You can also rent a habal-habal on your own. Resorts like secret cove can help you negotiate with motorcycle-for-hire owners. 125 cc motorcycles can be rented from P500 for a full day and P400 for half-a-day. They require a P500 security deposit if you’re not a guest. Consult with the front desk for the best route to take, or call the Camiguin Tourism Office.

Revisit history

The cross marker of the Sunken Cemetery at sunset

Take time to stop by Camiguin’s Sunken Cemetery, a Spanish-era graveyard swept into the sea by the Old Vulcan’s eruption in 1871. While the view is at its most postcard-pretty at sunset, the sight of the large cross marking an underwater gravesite remains stunning at any time of day. The cemetery is located in front of Barrio Bonbon.

For more of the devastation brought about by the 19th century volcanic eruption, visit the Old Catarman Church Ruins in Brgy. Bonbon, about 14 kms away from the heart of Catarman town. Most of the Spanish-era church, belltower and convent were buried in mud and lava. A makeshift chapel now stands within the church ruins.

Also worth a visit is the Old Volcano Walkway in Bonbon, which has steps built on the slope to take you to the volcano’s peak. Life-size statues depicting the Stations of the Cross mark the trail to the top.

Take a dip

The Soda Water Swimming Pool in the town of Bura, Catarman is a must visit for the rejuvenating powers of its waters, funneled from Mt. Tres Marias.

The soda water pool

The Sto. Nino Cold Spring, about 2.5 km south of Catarman, is just a short ride away from the soda water swimming pool. It has a refreshing 25m x 40m pool.

From the cold spring, you can hop on a habal habal or van to go to the White Beach in Cantaan, Guinsiliban. The shore is rocky, but the water here is teeming with marine life and is a good spot to do some snorkeling and diving. Cantaan is also a giant clam sanctuary, run by the community since 1997, and has designated two protected areas.

Sample the local fare

J&A Fishpen at Taguines Lagoon fronting the sea, serves fresh seafood in little huts built on the lagoon. Recommended are the chili crabs and the specialty here, sutukil which stands for sinugba (grilled), tinola (soup) and kilawin (raw fish cubes steeped in vinegar).

J&A Fishpen, Barangay Benon, Mahinog, Camiguin; Tel: +6388 387 4008

Pedro’s Restaurant in Parola, Mabajao serves local fare such as fish marinated in vinegar mixture.

Pedro’s Restaurant, Parola, Mambajao; Tel: +6388 387 0405

Pizza at Ecolodge

For coffee, Secret Cove serves brewed coffee in individual French presses, while Camiguin Action Geckos offers espresso.

The market in Mahinog Town sells lanzones, which the island is famous for. Also look for the homegrown chocolate tableas.

For a taste of local favorites, order Enigmata’s Wild Fern Pizza, Secret Cove’s house pizza and Paras Beach Resort’s raw tomato-topped crunchy-crusted pie.

Stop by the springs and waterfalls

Stop at the Macao Cold Springs in Tupsan Pequeño in Mahinog, where the mineral-rich waters are a clear blue, surrounded by centuries old trees.

Then, take the detour to Katibawasan Falls at the foot of Mt. Timpoong. The thunderous falls is a 250-foot beauty that cascades down to a rock pool surrounded by lush vegetation,. You can swim in its waters, but it can be icy cold.

At about six kilometers southwest of Mambajao is Ardent Hot Springs, which has three pools, one with a sign warning guests that the water temperature is 38°C.

Go for adventure

Johnny’s Dive’n’Fun Shop with two locations in Paras Beach Resort and Caves Dive Resort in Agoho, Mambajao offers eco-adventure tours from jungle camping to rappelling and canyoning. Rates start from P1,750 per person for a minimum of two. Rapelling takes you to the top of a waterfall, where you’ll hoist yourself down the opposite side of the falls. You may also slide down untrammeled to a funnel of gushing river water situated above the falls.

Sport fishing is also available at P3,500 for a half-day tour and P6,000 for a full day. Other activities offered include a full-day’s trek through the jungles of Timpoong Mountain for P2,200.

Johnny’s also offers freediving for P3,000, a sailing expedition for P3,000 that circumnavigates the island, and a cultural tour where you can learn about traditional crafts, local cuisine, and Camiguin rituals for P2,200. 

Katibawasan Falls

Dive

Diving is excellent in Camiguin. Paras Beach Resort's former manager Maurice Bollozos, a diver for the past 10 years, says there are 15 dive sites in Camiguin with the Old Volcano being the most unique in the country. The site’s main attraction is an underwater lava formation that rises from more than 80 feet from the bottom, forming several pinnacles.

“You see all these lava formations, these crevasses and the cathedrals underwater. And on the surface you see crevices filled with tiny bats,” Bollozos said.

Dive sites include the Sunken Cemetery, the Mantigue Island marine sanctuary where sea turtles are a common sight, and Tangub Hot Springs, 12 kilometers west of Mambajao. Tangub is good to about 10 to 20 meters with a gradual drop-off. It has a volcanic hot spring that gurgles from the bottom of the sea, with water temperature changing from cold to hot as the tide changes.

Johnny’s offers dives from P1,100, while Camiguin Action Geckos charges from P1,250.

Map

Originally published in InFlight Traveller October-November 2007. Updated September 2015