Adventure island: Why Camiguin is the perfect place to go wild
LOCATED OFF THE NORTHERN COAST OF MINDANAO facing the Bohol sea, the volcanic island of Camiguin is the second smallest island-province in the Philippines.
But don’t let its size fool you. With zip lines, giant clams and more volcanoes per square km than any other place on earth – Camiguin is a force to be reckoned with and welcomes adrenaline seekers.
At just 64km in circumference, the island’s coastal road boasts picturesque views of the surrounding Philippine sea and allows one to whizz around the island by car, scooter or Tuk-Tuk in less than two hours.
Inland, the islands spectacular landscape is made up of seven volcanoes, three breath-taking waterfalls, crystal clear cold and hot springs, black and white sand beaches, jungle trails and natural swimming pools amongst many other outdoor exploits.
People say Camiguin island has a healing energy and its laidback yet energized vibe and lifestyle represents an alternative way of living in a contemporary world. With an eye on conservation and biodiversity, its locals are working hard to hold on to its local traditions and preserve Camiguin’s natural beauty through eco-friendly resorts and conservation efforts.
Getting there and getting around
The easiest way to get to the island is by air and the airport is located in Mambajao, the capital of Camiguin. Located in the north of the island, Mambajao is also the island’s biggest municipality.
There are plenty of tuk-tuks available to get around the island, heading either eastbound or westbound for just PHP10 (US$0.20) a ride. However, if you want to miss the stops and have a destination in mind it is worth renting one for special hire, it will cost PHP100 (US$2) to PHP300 (US$6) for your own personal ride.
Though there are many tuk-tuks and tricycles and private hire motorbikes called Habal-Habal around, they cannot reach all parts of the island, especially hidden gems off the beaten path. Better instead to rent a motorbike for more scenic island exploring. It will get you places fast and most resorts on Camiguin can organize motorbike or scooter hire for you.
For the more adventurous soul, we recommend renting a mountain bike.
Cultural heritage and the origin of Camiguin weaving
Kinamigin-Manobo were the first settlers of Camiguin. The tribe is known for its weaving tradition, using “nito”, a local vine that grows wild in the forests of Camiguin. They manipulate the thin and delicate nito vines to make colorful baskets to store rice, clothes and other possessions, and nowadays more contemporary pinikas handicrafts like hats, backpacks, and wallets.
Pinikas is a traditional Camiguin Island weaving art and there are only a few remaining pinikas artisans on the island and the organization Kilaha is working alongside them to preserve their tradition. Kilaha has partner establishments which include resorts, restaurants and souvenir centers and through these is helping to expand the market for pinikas and its appeal to younger people. You can help fund and support Kilaha here and help them give back to the island.
Camiguin’s weaving tradition itself has been around for several generations passed on by the Manobos, and to the locals, it is not only one of their main livelihoods but an important tradition to continue to pass on and demonstrate how organic material like nito can be used.
Conservation efforts and must-try activities
Catholic faith and devotion of the people of Camiguin are apparent in many of its most popular attractions such as the Sunken Cemetery and the Old Volcano.
The Sunken Cemetery
A large white cross dominating the horizon marks the cemetery which sunk in 1871 because of the eruption of the island’s biggest volcano. The Sunken cemetery is a unique snorkeling experience, so make sure to get a guide to help you navigate this hidden world and the high coral boulders. Go in the morning when the sun is low and the fish are plenty and make sure to strap on a pair of fins too as the current can be quite persuasive!
The Old Volcano
On the way up to The Old Volcano, you find 14 different stations with life-sized statues of Jesus Christ showing the stations of the cross. At the foot of the volcano, people probably will try to guide you up for a certain fee which is not necessary as the route has a marked path and is a gradual 30-40minute walk.
Hibok Hibok Volcano
Looking for a more physically challenging hike? Near the Sunken Cemetery sits Hibok Hibok Volcano, a monstrous beast of a mountain that takes between 5-7 hours to hike up and down from the active crater (1,250m height). It’s a trek through the lush jungle, slippery when wet and with a steep, rocky, windy ascend, therefore, it’s really recommended to take a guide to keep you on track.
You can either get one in one of the resorts like Action Geckos or you can hire a local. Ask around in Mambajao and you will find many locals who know the route well offering to guide you, costing around PHP500 (US$10). I would recommend starting out early at around 5am so you can make the climb in the cool of the morning.
There is also the option to leave at 2am to make the morning sunrise!
Top tip: The route can be very slippery so make sure to wear proper shoes. Also make sure you pack enough water (3 liters per person recommended), as there won’t be anywhere on route to buy it. Though Hibok Hibok is a must on Camiguin, it is a tough hike and both the ascent and descent are exhausting in the heat, so be sure you are fully up for the challenge. The plus side, when you see the view looking over the island, you know that it was all worth it.
Camiguin is known for its black sand beaches left by former eruptions of its volcanoes but it also has a few must-see white beaches.
This small fisherman island is a 30-minute boat ride from San Roque, Mahinog, 30 minutes from the main town of Mambajao. Boat rental costs PHP550 (US$11) and entrance fee to the island is only PHP10 – just make sure to let the driver know how long you want to stay and remember you are on island time so even a few hours whizz by. We recommend you opt for a day trip.
For snorkeling and diving, Mantigue island’s marine sanctuary is the perfect site with a diverse marine life from giant blue starfish to clownfish and spotted eels. If you have your own gear/equipment, there is a PHP50 (US$1) snorkeling fee but you can also rent from a stall at the boat port for PHP250 (US$5). And when you fancy a break from snorkeling there are plenty of water sports to enjoy.
There are no restaurants on the island but there is a small canteen, where the locals serve up fresh fish, pork, chicken, and seafood. There are also several bamboo huts for a beer or games break from the sea – be sure to grab one early in the day as you welcome the shade as the afternoon heat rolls in.
Kabila White Beach
There are many initiatives Intent on preserving Camiguin’s natural environment and the cultural heritage of the island for future generations such as the Kabila White Beach.
This pure white sand beach is not only an ideal spot for relaxing and sunbathing but also known as the giant Clam Sanctuary of Camiguin. The sanctuary is an NGO devoted to the propagation of giant clams. Dive into the clear blue waters and snorkel amongst some of the best-preserved coral on Camiguin and of course these Giant Clams. There is also a Giant Clam Educational Tour where you can see these wonderful creatures inside The Giant Clam Nursery.
The family that owns the Sanctuary charges for PHP250 for a guide, and a PHP25 (US$0.50) entrance and environmental fee, and rents masks and snorkels and fins for PHP100 each.
White Island is an uninhabited white sandbar 1.4km off the northern shore of Mambajao. A shapeshifter, with changing tides the island is constantly changing shape and size. Barren of any trees or structures and surrounded by pristine waters, White Island is a true gem of Camiguin.
Feel daring? Kayak to this dreamy spot or get a boat from the boat port opposite for PHP450 (US$9) including a PHP20 (US$0.40) conservation entry fee. This island is completely exposed to the sun, with no natural shade, so bring your own umbrella or rent a beach umbrella on the island for PHP150 (US$2.90).
Top tip: It’s a small km island so we recommend going there during the week to avoid weekend crowds.
Ardent Hot Springs
Ardent Hot Springs are situated about 6km south of Mambajao. There are three natural pools where the water comes in directly from the volcano, Hibok Hibok. You also find some picnic tables and a shop for lunch and the entrance fee is just PHP30 (US$0.60). This is the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.
St. Nino Cold Spring
On the other hand, if you need a laze after a long hot day the St. Nino Cold Spring is just right for you. The water is really refreshing and a welcome change to the 29° C warm ocean water. Head there during the week almost no people are there and have the whole pool to yourself.
Looking for a refresh, then visit Katibawasan Falls, 70m of fresh cool water shooting down into a crystal-clear pool. Head here in the morning to get some sun as well. The entrance fee is PHP15 (US$0.30).
In contrast to Katibawasan Falls, the Tuwasan Falls are not that easy to reach. The waterfall is situated deep inland and you can go there by tricycle or even better by motorbike.
I recommend that you take a guide as there are no signs marking the way to the falls and there are only certain parts of the river where you can cross. But don’t let this put you off, make the trip and you will find a stunning waterfall surrounded by nature almost without any tourists. Note that after heavy rain it is not possible to reach the falls.
And finally, have some extra time? Head to the Eastern side of Camiguin to zip line 780m over an idyllic lake and lush palms.
Serious view goals!
What to eat
This café is a treasure trove, with every shelf packed with antiques, seaside memorabilia, corals, and shells and eclectic interiors and furniture.
They not only plant and roast their own coffee but produce and bottle their own honey and even make gelato from scratch.
Top tip: try the civic cat coffee here (naturally sourced, no civet cat farms here!) and stop by in time for the sunset, you won’t regret it.
Owned by a local vegan, this spot in Mambajao district is the place to go for a healthy meal. The café boasts a hipster interior with beautifully unique dishes, which range from fresh smoothie bowls to spicy eggs shakshouka.
This restaurant is part of Nypa Resort and located in the middle of an enchanted mahogany forest in Mambajao. The restaurant serves fresh homemade pasta and Western-Asian fusion cuisine to guests.
Top tip: Make sure you call to book a day in advance so you don’t miss out on an exquisite dinner. The Nypa Style Resort also has a spa if you fancy putting some time aside for some well-deserved relaxation and rejuvenation.
Where to stay
Along Camiguin’s coast is a string of eco-friendly resorts and initiatives keen on helping to preserve Camiguin’s natural landscape.
Kurma Eco Lodge is one such place – a freediving shop and resort located right on the coast, aimed to help visitors experience the island through freediving and Yoga. Kurma Eco Lodge is known for its healthy and unique menu, from Muesli and local fruits to Mexican omelettes for breakfast, to Creamy Tangy Spaghetti and Naked beef pie with homemade hummus and bacon jam for dinner.
Or… if you are looking for something a bit more secluded..
There is Casa Roca Inn, a picturesque lodge on a cliff top located on the Northwest shore with arguably the best sunsets on the island. The lodge is straight out of swiss family Robinson, built with heavy logs and with high ceilings decorated with wooden beams. The lodge has only three rooms so it really is a private haven and the restaurant and bar downstairs serve up a Western-Asian fusion cuisine and constantly changing daily “specials”.
If you fancy beach camping with a touch of luxury, check out YSLA Beach Camp and Eco Resort. Ysla has six different-sized air-conditioned glamping tents with airbed mattresses that cater to couples and small groups. Each tent also has a toilet and bath right by them, so there is no need to share with
other guests. And although Ysla offers towels they do not have shampoo and soap so make sure to bring your own.
Camiguin is truly an island for exploring, and if you are looking for an activity-packed adrenaline pumping getaway then this is the island for you. And there are also beaches and islands to relax on and feel like a castaway in your own paradise, after a hard volcano trek or day of mountain biking.
For the self-sufficient traveler, this island escape is a perfect fit as it is easy to navigate and discover this small natural wonder on your own without needing a guide for most activities, so get planning your own adventure holiday.