Welcome to the SOW’s Camiguin Island Travel Guide. This is the third article in a 9-article long series detailing tourist destinations in the Philippines that are pretty awesome to visit. My previous articles were about where you should go in the Philippines depending on your needs and a Boracay Island travel guide. For this post, I want to write a Camiguin Island travel guide because it is my 3rd favorite island in the Philippines, after Boracay and Palawan Island. I spent 3 days visiting in Jan 2014, and felt that it could have used 1 or 2 more days. If you’re looking to visit Camiguin (gonna start typing just Camiguin instead of Camiguin Island since it’s just easier), give yourself 3 full days to explore around.
Table of Content
What is Camiguin Island
For the start of this Camiguin Island travel guide, I want to talk about the island itself. Camiguin Island is an island province located in the southern part of the Philippines as part of the Northern Mindanao region. It’s shaped like a pearl and is located to the southeast of Bohol Island. What’s amazing about Camiguin is that it was formed from 4 volcanoes, with one of them still active! (No worries, Mount Hibok-Hibok hasn’t erupted since the 1950s so you can travel there without fear). The island itself is actually quite big. With a motorbike, it’ll take you about 4 hours to circumnavigate around it without stopping. Thanks to the volcanoes, there are an abundance of hot springs that you can check out (I’ll list them down below). If you’re wondering how to pronounce Camiguin, it is pronounced like “Kam-mee-ghin”. Like the Cami in Camila and guin in Guinness. Oh, cool fact, Ferdinand Magellan (the one that was the first to circumnavigate the world) landed on Camiguin in 1521 according to historical documents.
How to get to Camiguin Island
There are 2 ways to get to Camiguin Island. Either by plane, ferry or both. SOW’s Camiguin Island travel guide recommends going by air directly to the island.
By Air: Camiguin Island itself has an airport that has daily flights from Cebu airport with Cebu Pacific Airline. The airport code for Camiguin is CGM. To make your travels easy, if you can afford it, fly into this airport. It lands you right on the island, and you’re a 10 minute tricycle ride from the main town.
By Air + Land + Sea: However, if you’re looking to save money, then the next nearest airport is called Cagayan de Oro (CGY). CGY is actually on the way bigger island next to Camiguin. You can fly there from either Cebu (30 minutes) or Manila (90 minutes) again with Cebu Pacific or Philippines Airlines. Once you land, walk outside the airport and you’ll be faced with a plethora of options to get to Agora town where you would have to hop on a bus to the nearby port. For a more detailed explanation, take a look at this website (http://www.cdodev.com/travel-guide/). If you take the van, it’ll cost 200 pesos from the airport to Agora bus terminal.
So, once you arrive in the Agora bus terminal, you’ll have a choice of 2 ports to get to catch your boat from. Either Macabalan Port (which is a 10 minute cab ride from the bus terminal) where you can take a fast jet to Benoni Port on Camiguin Island. From Macabalan to Benoni, fast jet leaves at 0830 and will arrive in Benoni Port at 1030. Monday through Sunday. From Benoni to Macabalan, it leaves at 1600 and arrives at 1800. Cost is 400 Pesos for the 2 hour fast jet.
If you cannot make that early time for Benoni, then from Agora, you can hop on a bus that’ll take you to Balingoan port, 88kms (2-3 hour drive) away from Agora. Cost is 140 pesos. When you get off the bus, walk towards the street and turn right. Then walk a little further up and turn left. The port is about a 200 meter walk from the road. If lost, ask one of the locals. They’re very friendly and will help you find your way. From Balingoan port, you can then purchase a 170 pesos ticket to Benoni Port in Camiguin. The slow ferry will take about 1 hour. The port has a ferry going over every 45 minutes. It starts at 0545 and ends at 1800 (check here for latest ferry schedule from Balingoan http://www.e-philippines.com.ph/philippine-tourist-destinations/cagayan-de-oro-travel-and-tour-packages/ferry-schedules-of-benoni-port-balingoan-port-and-macabalan-port/). If you arrive at Balingoan port too late, then you can stay in one of the guesthomes for about 400 pesos a night and take the next early morning ferry over.
For cost, if you do fast ferry from Benoni, it’s 199 (Airport to Agora) + 100 (Agora to Benoni port) + 400 (fast jet) = 700 pesos.
If you do the slow ferry from Balingoan, it’s 199 + 140 (bus to Balingoan port) + 170 (slow ferry) = 510 pesos. Remember to add this onto the cost of flying to CGY if you chose not to fly into CGM Airport.
By Sea: For the more adventurous type, you can also get to Camiguin Island from Bohol Island using the ferry service. Super Shuttle Ferry goes from Cebu port to Camiguin and Jagna, Bohol to Camiguin. See http://cebuboattrips.com/slow_ferries.htm for more details.
Where to stay on Camiguin Island
When I went to Camiguin Island, I stayed at an amazing place called the Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge (http://camiguinecolodge.org/). It has both dorms and privates. I stayed in the private Eagle’s Nest suite option, which was spectacular. The hosts are very nice and answered any question I had. The common area was huge! It even had a large life-size chess set with pieces for you to play with!
While there might be other locations you can stay, SOW’s Camiguin Island travel guide recommends to stay here! It’s easy to find, and is about a 10 minute motorbike ride from the main city, Mambajao.
What to do while on Camiguin Island
First things first. You’ll need transportation. There is barely any public transit on this island, and trust me, it’s not convenient. The popular spots are all very spread out too so you will need your own motorized transportation. You can rent a tricycle cab for about 800 pesos with a driver, or you can rent your own motorbike for 400 pesos per day. SOW’s Camiguin travel guide recommends negotiating for your own motorbike. It gives you more freedom, is cheaper, and because the island itself doesn’t have that much traffic, it’s pretty safe to drive. Plus, nothing beats the wind in your hair, going 40 kph down the freeway with ocean to your left and jungle to your right. Once you got your bike, ask your local lodging for a map of the island, it will help in going to all the spots. I also recommend Google map caching the island. Very helpful! Here are the things you can do on Camiguin Island. I’ll list the things I did first, then the other things you can do that I didn’t do.
Station of the Cross (Via Cruzes): This is a pretty decent hike that has all the stations of the cross which eventually lead up to the peak of Mt. Vulcan Daan. You can easily see this if you’re driving on the main freeway that circles the island. If you’re going counter clockwise, it’ll be on your left hand side and you can see it because there’ll be an area for parking, plus vendors stationed on the other side of the entrance. In all, it was a pretty good hike. I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top.
Sunken Cemetery: This is about a 20 minute motorbike ride from Via Cruzes going counter clockwise. It’s a huge cross that was installed in the ocean in 1982 to mark the cemetery for that area that was sunk during the 1871 volcanic eruption. I recommend coming here at around sunset because you can get some pretty good pictures as well as being able to sit and just be at peace with yourself.
Katibawasan Falls: A little difficult to get to if you don’t have a map as it’s located near the Mambajao main town but is a 5 km ride into the interior of the island. It’s 250 feet high (about 80m for the metric folks) and the water has a very cool refreshing feeling to it. There’s a small entrance fee to get in, but it has tables for picnics (I saw some locals picnicking here as well) so if you do go, consider making it a picnic. Thanks to the minerals in the water, the pool at the bottom of the waterfall has a clear translucent blue color to it. Badass.
White Island: A spectacularly beautiful, uninhabited sandbar that’s a 10 minute banca (small Filipino boat) ride from the northern shores of Camiguin. You can also try sea urchin sushi here. Very interesting taste. Similar to oysters. It gets quite hot here by noon, so either go early morning or late evening to see the sunset.
Ardent Hot Springs: Six km west of Mambajao is a mineral hot spring that can get as hot as 40 Celcius. The water is heated from vents that run down to the dormant volcano. Benches and huts are aplenty for eating and picnics. I recommend heading here at night, which is what I did. There’s something therapeutic about lying in a mineral hot spring on a cool night with nothing but emptiness on your mind.
Mantigue Island: This is a small island located 20 minute boat ride from the eastern coast of Camiguin. On the interior it’s filled with green trees while the exterior is a white powdery sand beach. It has a picnic area but the main purpose there is to relax on the white sand beach and snorkel. I wouldn’t call it the best snorkeling in the world, but still decent.
Giant Clams Ocean Nursery: A nursery for the local giant glams, located on the southwest end of Camiguin. You can also pay to snorkel here. It’s quite cool seeing the clams. I didn’t get to snorkel, which I wish I did but we arrived too late.
Other things you can do:
Mount Hibok-Hibok Hike
Bura Soda Water Swimming Pool
Sto. Nino Cold Spring
Sample 2 Day Itinerary
Here’s a sample 2 day itinerary: This is going to assume you have already arranged transportation.
0900 – 1000 : Wake up, smell the fresh clean ocean air and get yourself some breakfast.
1000 – 1200: Head to White Island to relax and chill at the beach
1200 – 1500: Head to Katibawasan Waterfall for lunch and relaxing underneath the waterfall
1500 – 1700: Take a drive in the counter-clockwise loop and go to see the Sunken Cemetery
1700 – 1900: Grab dinner at one of the roadside restaurant or in the main town.
1900 – Whenever: Grab a bottle of the local Tanduay rum and drink at your lodging. I didn’t see that much nightlife in the city when I was there.
0900 – 1000: Breakfast
1000 – 1300: Head clockwise from Mambajao and go to Mantigue Island. Relax on beach. Snorkel. Eat.
1300 – 1400: Continue heading clockwise to Giant Clam nursery. It’s a little tricky to get here, so trust your motorbike skills.
1400 – 1600: Continue heading clockwise. Feel free to check out the Soda Pool down here.
1600 – 1800: Watch the sunset again, and then head back to town for dinner.
1800 – 2000: Head to the Ardent Hot Springs. Relax after a day of riding.
Extra: Day 3: Mount Hibok-Hibok hike. This will take the entire day. Start early and pack a lot of water. See here for more info: (http://www.ivanlakwatsero.com/2014/03/mt-hibok-hibok-yumbing-to-ardent.html)
Camiguin Island Travel Guide Wrap-up
And there you have it. I hope this Camiguin Island Travel Guide was helpful for you. It’s an amazing island with very friendly people (I had 2 people stop next to my motorbike when I had stopped to look at my map to ask if my bike had broken down and if I needed help), gorgeous scenery, and tons of things to do. Don’t miss out. The nightlife can be a little bit better, but hey, if you’re looking for a little R&R, you can find no place better. Camiguin Island Travel Guide out!
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