The Philippines is quickly becoming the go-to destination for tropical vacations, and for good reason. With over 7,000 islands making up this archipelago.
There are beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, and diverse marine life that are quite frankly no longer well-kept secrets.
So if you’re headed over there, make sure you make a trip to Malapascua Island in Cebu.
Ranked as the 6th best island in the world, Cebu is a gem in the Visayan region of the Philippines. There are white sand beaches on the mainland for sure, but the more tranquil and sometimes wilder destinations lie in towns farther away, all accessible via bus from Cebu City or Mactan Island (where the airport is). It goes without saying that visitors have a whole lot of places to choose from in Cebu alone, but one you shouldn’t miss is Malapascua.
Malapascua can be found at the northern tip of Cebu, and the bus ride from the city terminal can take anywhere from 4-6 hours. From the Mactan airport, take a taxi to the Northern Bus Terminal and look for the Ceres Bus ($2) that will take you to Maya Port in Daanbantayan. From the port, take a 30-minute boat transfer via public boat ($1) or private hire (rate depends on your haggling skills). It’s possible to go rogue and just book a public bus and boat as you go along, but most resorts also offer transportation either from the city or just a pick-up at Maya Port.
Transportation in Cebu is even less organized than in Manila. If you’re taking public transport, make sure you’re not on a strict schedule. These vehicles will just come and go depending on how many passengers they have.
Malapascua is a rather small island that would only take three hours to explore on foot. There are no roads nor cars here since it’s only about 2.5 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide. Walking along the shoreline leads you to small fishing villages with friendly inhabitants, and some quiet bays where resorts haven’t been put up yet.
There is one thing that Malapascua island is most known for – thresher sharks. It takes an hour boat ride from Malapascua Island to Monad Shoal, the “cleaning station” of thresher sharks as they travel through the Sulu and Philippine Seas. The deep-water dive (which means minimum dive certification is Advanced Open Water) guarantees daily sightings of the threshers at 30 meters. Sometimes divers can see a pair, but other times, as many as twenty sharks pass by this station. The trip sets off at 4AM because the sharks leave the station around 6AM, but the early wake-up call is very much worth it.
There are several other sites and sights divers can enjoy after the thresher shark dive. Malapascua is a great place for big fish encounters with mantas, marble rays, and sometimes white tip sharks.
Gato Island, a small island off Malapascua, is another site where a huge variety of sea creatures live – seas snakes, cuttlefish, seahorses (large and pygmy), frogfish, many nudibranchs, loads of macro and good soft coral. Macrophotography is also good in this area.
This isn’t to say that non-divers have nothing to do on the island. Most resorts have watersports facilities for guests to use. The shores of Malapascua island itself are not too rocky, which makes it ideal for swimming as well. Boat tours are also available to nearby provinces such as Dumaguete to see the beautiful sand bar of Kalanggaman Island. Land-lovers can also trek to the Malapascua lighthouse for a great view of the entire island.
Relative to the rest of Cebu, resorts in Malapascua are on the more expensive side, but nothing too exorbitant.
Low season is June to September where prices are cheaper, but weather is more unpredictable.
Some residents offer homestays if you’re really on a tight budget, but here are some suggestions on where to spend the night:
Evolution Dive Resort has a range of accommodations for both backpackers and luxury vacationers. Every room has a personal terrace, and hammocks are scattered across its generous open air private space before you hit the shore. Their dive shop is fully-equipped, and offers more advanced course like technical diving. The Craic House, the Evolution Dive resort’s restaurant, is also one of the more popular bars and restaurants on the island. Guests can choose to sit on wooden tables or on bean bags and pillows situated at the beach front. And who can resist a little kicking back when on vacation!
Thresher Cove Dive Resort is one of the most popular luxury and dive resorts on the island. It sits on a private bay with the ocean at the front, and hills and mountains hugging on all three sides for a secluded escape. Because of its location, waters are gentle and guests get 100 meters of white sand all to themselves. There are deluxe cottages and a private villa, but they also provide a backpackers dorm for a more affordable stay.
Nightly rates range from approximately $20 for the dorm rooms up to $300 for the villas.
Situated on Malapascua’s Bounty Beach, Hippocampus Beach and Dive Resort is perfect for water sports, and a good jump off point for island hopping. There are 18 rooms integrated into a natural tropical garden. Its beachfront location provides direct view and access to the ocean. There are different types of accommodation, from more upscale rooms with air-conditioning and minibars, to more economy fan rooms and basic facilities. They also have both Philippine and European sockets for charging your devices.
Nightly rates during the low season range from $35 for the economy rooms and $77 for beachfront villas.
Tepanee Beach Resort is located on Logon beach, sitting on a small hill that slopes down to a private beach area secluded from the rest of the island. The resort is designed with sustainability in mind, making use of local wood, bamboo, stone, and grass to be as environmentally friendly as possible. They also have a beach bar and an Italian restaurant within their property. They don’t have their own dive shop, but they can arrange dive trips and courses with partner shops on the island.
Nightly rates range from $75 for standard room to $105 for deluxe, stand-alone rooms.
The Angelina Beach Resort is very well located, only a 2-minute walk from both the Logon and Tepanee Beaches, and close to Baga Beach which most people appreciate. It also has an Italian restaurant on-site. The rooms look reasonable, with parquet floors but some of the reviews don’t rate it as highly as other local resorts. If you are backpacking in the Philippines, it is a reasonably priced option.
With 20 spacious rooms centrally located on Bounty Beach, Ocean Vida Beach and Dive Resort is popular and almost always fully-booked. To cater to their growing clientele, the owners also put up Buena Vida Resort and Spa just a few minutes away but further into the hills. Service is always commended at Ocean Vida. It is also quite popular for families with kids with its flat layout and access to other resorts and restaurants.
Nightly room rates range from $78 for double-occupancy rooms to $120 for family rooms.
Malapascua Island is undeniably a diver’s paradise. But if all you want to do is enjoy the peace and quiet of some of the Philippines’ best beaches with fantastic views of the sunset, then this trip is a must for visitors to Cebu.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!