Travel guide to Camiguin, Philippines.
Camiguin Island has always been on my list of places to see and photograph, knowing that it is an island which is gifted with almost everything in it – volcanoes, mountains, hot springs, cold springs, smaller island off its coast with white sand and clear blue waters, and waterfalls packed in such a very small island. I came in the first week of July and stayed for 7 days during the time when the Milky Way was clearly visible to create a time lapse movie of it above the seven volcanoes. Nature didn’t cooperate very well, and I only able to capture 1 Milky Way scene, but made most of the daytime to create the below movie of Camiguin’s landscapes.
About Camiguin Island
The island of Camiguin is a pearl- shaped island located in the Northern Mindanao Region with a total land area of 238 square kilometers. It is a small mountainous Island with volcanic origins and home to seven volcanoes and other mountains; no wonder it is also known as the Island Born of Fire. It is the only place on earth with the highest density of volcano for a certain land area. Hot springs are thus born from volcanic vents. And as mentioned above, the unique composition and geologic activity of the island made it a home to natural land and water formations and home to a variety of flora and fauna.
How to get there
From Manila and Cebu
There are no direct flights going to Camiguin Island. However, you can take a flight to Cebu City and from there take the flight to Camiguin Island. Only Cebu Pacific Airlines provides the flight, thrice weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with flights leaving Cebu at 6:45am and arrives in Camiguin at 7:25am. The return flight will leave the island at 7:45am and arrive in Cebu at 8:25am. Lowest fare is 1477 pesos. (Or at least at the time of writing this is true, please do check for yourself, things change)
From Cagayan de Oro
Get to Agora Terminal in Cagayan de Oro City and catch a bus going to Butuan City. Tell the driver to drop you in Balingoan town bus terminal that is 3 hours from Cagayan de Oro. The Balingoan port from where the boats going to Camiguin is just a few walks away from the bus terminal. Bus fare from CDO to Balingoan is 250 pesos.
From Butuan City
Take a bus from Butuan City going to Cagayan de Oro and tell the driver to drop you in Balingoan bus terminal. The travel time from Butuan to Balingoan is also 3 hours. From there, it is an easy walk to the port. Fare: 250 pesos
From Balingoan port, a ferry will take you to Benoni Port in Camiguin. Travel time is 1 hour. There is a ferry going to and from Camiguin every hour from 4am to 5pm.
Once you have arrived in Camiguin, you will be greeted by multicab drivers, and men offering to rent out their motorbikes. Most of the tourists take a multicab which can sit up to 8 people for 1700 pesos a day that will take you to the popular destinations on the island. This is popular among big groups who have limited time to stay on the island. Apparently, there are also tour packages available in the island. I opted to rent the motorbike which is 350 pesos per day but I got it for 300 per day since I was renting it for a week.
Where to Stay
There’s a large variety of places to stay, especially in the north, below are a few recommendations.
Paguia’s Cottages – great for budget travelers who also want reasonable comfort. It offers clean and spacious room, with air conditioning, cable TV, shower, and free internet access. The cottages are located very near major tourist spots especially the white island. The port going to the island is just around the corner, a few walks away. I paid 800 pesos for a room with 2 double beds.
Volcano House – It is a guesthouse located high up on the slope of an active Volcano Mt. Hibok-Hibok which is also the highest peak in Camiguin. It has a view of the sea as well and is a modern house in the middle of the jungle which means peace and quiet for its guests. It is quite far from the main town and major tourist spots (about 45 minutes), thus, they provide necessary amenities to provide comfort. The house is a three-room vacation house, with a kitchen that you can use, a huge projector screen, TV, wifi, and hot and cold shower. We paid 1250 pesos per night with a great view of the jungle below and the sea beyond. The staff is super helpful, you can ask them to cook anything for you or you can cook them yourselves.
Casa Roca Inn – It is a Bed and Breakfast Inn which offers a great sunset view at the sea. It is located along the highway with also a view of the active Mt. Vulcan. Pay 900 pesos a night here. Their food is amazing.
Where to Eat
Casa Roca Inn – rated no. 1 best place to eat by Tripadvisor so I decided to give it try and I was far from disappointed. I came back to this place several times just to try almost everything on their menu. I love spare ribs (250 pesos) and they probably have the best spare ribs I’ve ever tasted in the Philippines so far. The staff is helpful and the owners are very friendly. They have a great view of the sea and the sunset.
Captain Cooks – offers Vietnamese, Filipino, and Western dishes. Great food and big serving for the amount of money that you pay. Price range from 100-300 pesos per meal. It is located a few meters away from the port going to White Island.
Budget places to eat
Camiguin has a lot of local Carideria which serves already cooked Filipino food. Enjoy local delicacies for very cheap price. You can get a full meal for 50 pesos.
Local delicacies – Camiguin is known for Pastel, a bun filled with yema (a mixture of milk and sugar made into caramel consistency). The Nilupak is made from ground cassava, flattened very thinly to make a dish-sized cracker and drizzled with coconut syrup.
Things to do in Camiguin – My Camiguin Experience
Being on a motorbike gave me more freedom to discover the island. Get a map from their tourism office at the Capitol in Mambajao, the island’s capital, and lead yourself to the attractions or get lost in beautiful parts of the island that not so many tourists have visited yet.
It is possible, however, to tour the island for 2 or three days. A lot of tourists do that since going to the island is easy and the sites are mostly right next to each other. They hire tour guides and drivers. But you may need extra days if you want to hike the mountains, and try snorkelling to more than one snorkelling site.
I opted for a 7-day travel itinerary since I plan to photograph the Milky Way each night I am there and also to experience most of the main sites as well as the off beaten tracks of the island.
Here is my DIY Travel Guide – 7 Days in Camiguin, the Island Born of Fire:
Day 1 – Katibawasan Falls, Ardent Hot Springs
Katibawasan falls – a 250-meter waterfall of fresh cold water is a major destination in Camiguin. It is just 3 kilometers away from the Capitol so I decided to head that way. The roads going to the falls are paved so it is quite an easy ride on my motorbike. I arrived early with just two people in the waters swimming. You will have to pay 50 pesos for the entrance fee.
Ardent Hot Springs – located 4 kilometers away from the National Highway in Barangay Yumbing, Mambajao. The active Mt. Hibok Hibok volcano provides heat to the spring that can reach around 40 degrees Celsius; the spring is cascading with the lower springs having lower temperatures. The water is warm and fresh and without the stench of rotten egg that is expected of sulfur from a volcano. I had the chance to enjoy the upper springs for myself as it was not a busy tourist day for Camiguin. It is said that the springs could get very crowded during peak times which is from March to May (Philippines’ summer months). Entrance fee is 50 pesos.
Day 2 – Circumnavigate the Island, Camiguin Volcanoes and Mountains, visit Bura Natural Soda Swimming pools
Going Around – Second day in Camiguin is reserved for going around the island. If you go to smaller roads that go to the center of the island, it may lead you to roads that could go up to the mountains. Most of the island is accident-prone, though, since the roads can go up and down and there are many sharp curves; there’s also a risk of falling rocks from cliffs.
Volcanoes and Mountains of Camiguin – The view from the mountain is beautiful. The lush forest is right below you. You can see the surrounding small island of Mantigue and on the other side is the S-shaped White Island. The town is also visible. Along the way, there are villages with people, living contently with their livestock, and small vegetable beds. Their wooden houses are beautifully decorated outside with flowers. The people are always smiling at you.
Up north, you can see the peaks of the volcanoes Mt Hibok-Hibok and Mt. Vulcan. In the east, from downtown of Mambjao, the peaks of Mt. Timpoong (the highest peak on the island) and Mt. Mambajao are clearly visible. Down south, Mt. Butay (also known Mt. Uhay) and Mt. Guisilaban. Mt. Guisilaban is the first mountain that you will see when you ride a ferry from mainland Mindanao.
Bura Natural Soda Swimming Pool – located 4 kilometers from the main highway in Catarman town, it is a freshwater pool whose fresh and cold water come from underground springs that create bubbles, like sparkles in a soda water, hence the term Soda pool. Entrance is 30 pesos.
Day 3 – Hiking Mt. Vulcan, the Sunken Cemetery
Mt Vulcan – also known as Old Volcano is an active volcano that last erupted during the 19th century, burying nearby towns and changing the geography of Camiguin. It is located north of Camiguin. A walkway was created up to about a third of the elevation of the volcano, where every few meters, there’s a station of the Cross- 15 stations in all. Devout Catholics climb the slightly steep walkway during the Holy Week. From the end of the walkway, you can already see the Sunken Cemetery marked by a Cross off the coast of Camiguin.
For mountaineers, the volcano is a popular climbing spot. Between station 11 and 12, the trail to the summit of Mt. Vulcan begins, which is very steep with almost 90 degrees inclination, and only some grass and rocks to hold on to. The trail is about 1.4 kilometers to the summit.
Sunken Cemetery – one of the best-known landmarks of Camiguin. Best viewed during the sunset, the Sunken Cemetery is just about 5 minutes’ drive from Mt. Vulcan. A Big Cross was erected a few meters off the coast to mark the sunken cemetery and the old town which was destroyed during the eruption of Mt. Vulcan. You can hire a small boat to take you to the cross. It is also a popular snorkeling site.
Cross at the sunken cemetary.
Day 4 – Guiob church ruins, Sto. Nino Cold Springs, Tuasan Falls
Guiob Church Ruins – located next to the Sunken Cemetery, it is an old church that was destroyed by Mt. Vulcan’s eruption in the 19th century. It features Spanish architecture and stone walls. Only the walls and the bell tower remains of the church.
Sto. Nino Cold Springs – also a popular destination in Camiguin, the fresh spring water can get as cold as 20 degrees celsius. It is located in the town of Catarman, northwest of the Island. From the highway, you can see signs leading to the Spring which is about 2.4 kilometers from the main road. Pay 30 pesos for the entrance fee.
Tuasan Falls – located 5 minutes by motorbike from the Sto. Nino Spring. Newly constructed big roads lead there. It is a beautiful waterfall that drops into a knee deep basin surrounded by big rock formation. It is quite a new destination since there were no big roads that lead there before. People have to hike through a jungle to get there before the roads were made. Only a few people were there when I visited and took a time lapse.
Day 5 – White Island, Mt. Tres Marias
White island – located off the coast of northern Camiguin, in Brgy . Yumbing, Mambajao, it is an S-shaped sandbar with white sand and surrounded by clear blue waters. From the port, you will have to pay 500 pesos per boat with 20 pesos each for environmental fee. You can also rent snorkeling gears from the port. From the island, Mt. Vulcan and Mt. Hibok Hibok are clearly visible. However, waves can be dangerous and the tide might be too low so sometimes they don’t allow boats to leave the port.
Mt. Tres Marias – staying in volcano house which is located on the higher slopes of Mt. Hibok Hibok gave me a chance to discover more mountains which are very rarely visited by tourists. The mountain features 3 peaks right beside each other, hence the name. The landscape surrounding the mountain is serene, with lush greens, rolling hills, low cloud formation and you can even have a glimpse of the sea. The way up is paved so it is a very easy access to these hills and there are villages along the way. I even camped for hours at night just to watch the night sky.
Day 6 – snorkelling in Mantigue Island, Milky Way time-lapse over Mount Hibok-Hibok
Mantigue Island – a beautiful small island about 4 hectares, located 3.5 kilometers off the coast of Camiguin. It has a fine white sand beach with clear blue waters surrounding the island. It is also known as a very good snorkeling and diving site. There were many colorful fishes and corals found in Mantigue snorkeling area, including the giant clams. It is truly worth a visit. The boat is 500 pesos plus 20 pesos each for environmental fee and 50 pesos snorkeling fee. They also rent out snorkeling gear for 150 pesos.
Milky way over mt. Hibok Hibok – as it was a clear night sky, I decided to down to Yumbing, Mambajao where the mt. Hibok Hibok peak is visible and the Milky Way is right over it. There was fairly no light pollution in the area, thus I was able to take a time-lapse of the Milky Way.
Day 7 – Taguines lagoon
Taguines Lagoon – a man-made lagoon built as a fish breeding area. Located near the Benoni port, south of the island, this is also where you can try the zipline for 250 pesos.
Conclusion & Rating
Camiguin is truly a wonderful island. I could not believe how such a small island can pack so many natural landscapes. You don’t have to go far for the next tourist site. It is a relatively well-developed island in contrast to Siargao and especially Batanes (Read about my Siargao and Batanes Blog), with cemented roads, that even lead up to the mountains. Tourism is the main source of income of the island. It is a quite popular destination for Filipinos, but I was surprised to see only a couple of foreign travellers like myself.
It is advised to go on sunny days in Camiguin. I was a bit unlucky to come on the rainy season, it was raining for 3 straight days, and there was a typhoon passing by so that boats going to White Island where not allowed to go. On some nights, it was too cloudy that I could not get a shot of the Milky Way.
Oh well, that’s my 7 days in Camiguin, the Island born of fire. I had a very interesting trip to Camiguin and I would definitely recommend it to anyone that loves nature instead of party, because you won’t find that here. Hope you enjoyed my DIY travel guide to Camiguin!
Rating (out of 10):
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 9
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: 7
EASY TO TRAVEL: 8
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Text by Jen Yap, photos by Martien Janssen