One of the highlights of my recent vacation to the Philippines is finally stepping on Camiguin island! I finally decided I should go to Camiguin because I would want to look at pics of this wonderful island in Google images and blogs of the lucky people who had been there and point, “I’ve been there too!”
Plus, it’s really a bit shameful that I’ve been to the Maldives but never been to that little island worthy to be called “paradise” on the tip of Northern Mindanao, just a ‘few’ hours from where I live in the Philippines.
WHERE IS CAMIGUIN ISLAND?
Camiguin is an island province located in northern Mindanao. It is situated 10 km north of Misamis Oriental and 54 km southeast of Bohol.
Barely 240 square kilometers in land area, Camiguin is the second smallest island of the Philippines in both area and population. It is just 23 kilometers at its longest and just a bit more than 14 kilometers at its widest. Within this small area lie seven volcanoes. Because of this, little Camiguin is the island “born of fire.”
HOW TO GET THERE
There is an airport in Mambajao, the capital of Camiguin province but the flights are limited and only from major cities in the Philippines like Manila or Cebu.
Otherwise, take a flight to Cagayan de Oro City. From Cagayan de Oro, take a bus from Agora Bus Terminal going to Balingoan. Buses going to Butuan will pass by Balingoan. Bus fare (airconditioned bus) was PHP140 for adults. Travel from Agora bus terminal to Balingoan is about 2-3 hours, depending on traffic in Cagayan de Oro. Our travel time was about 2 hours and 20 minutes.
TIP: If you are prone to motion sickness, you should take medication just to be on the safe side. The road to Balingoan wasn’t rough or winding. But about 10 minutes before reaching Balingoan, the road tends to be bendy and my 3 year old son threw up. He was ok after that but I wish I was more cautious and gave him something before boarding the bus.
From Balingoan Bus Terminal, you can either walk to Balingoan port or take pedicabs if you have luggage. We took a pedicab because we were in a hurry to get into the 9am ferry. Fare was PHP10 each.
We arrived at Balingoan port after a short pedicab ride but the 9am ferry was already closed for boarding though there was still a few minutes left before its departure time. We didn’t have a choice but wait for another hour for the next ferry.
~ at the waiting area for ferry passengers ~
From Balingoan Port, buy ferry tickets from the stands just outside the port entrance. Regular ferry fare is PHP170 and for children is half fare at PHP85.
* Daily ferry schedules from Balingoan Port leaves every hour from 5 am. Unfortunately, I could not find any website with reliable and accurate ferry schedules.
* There is a ferry called Ocean Jet from Cagayan de Oro to Benoni Port in Camiguin but more expensive, like double the fare than the bus + ferry combined.
The ferry ride was a smooth one with minor waves. Camiguin isn’t very far from the mainland of Mindanao. We can actually see the island from Balingoan port! The kids slept through the trip which lasted about an hour and a half. (We did not travel with my husband this time but thankfully, I have two brothers with me who helped me take care of the kiddos!)
GETTING AROUND AND TOURING CAMIGUIN
We arrived in Camiguin around noon. A friend of ours was there to pick us up at Benoni port! We were lucky even if our trip was short notice, our friend accommodated us in his schedule! Camiguin is a small island and the you can tour it by:
1. Using your own car
If you have a car you want to take to the island, that’s possible by paying extra on your ferry ride from Balingoan port. The ferries are ro-ro type (Roll on/ roll off). Ro-ro ships are specially types of ships that are designed to carry cars, trains, and even smaller ships. Your car will be “rolled on” the vessel at the port of loading and “rolled off” the vessel at the destination.
There are several vans and multicabs that can accommodate large groups available just outside the port. Price depends on your negotiation skills. Your accommodation can also arrange for tours around the island as they have vans for hire. You can hire a single motorcycle, a motorela or a multicab within the city.
We hired a multicab with driver promising to take us to 7 tourist spots for PHP1400. I know people would usually negoticate but it was already cheap and I found out that the price of gasoline in Camiguin is at least PHP10 more expensive than in Cagayan de Oro City so we paid what the driver initially asked for!
Camiguin island’s main road is a beach side circumferential road so you get the view of the sea when you tour the island from the main road. If that instantly make you feel you’re in paradise, I don’t know what will!
WHAT’S IN CAMIGUIN?
In a nutshell, 7 active volcanoes! That means very diverse natural attractions like cold springs, hot springs, hike trails, falls, soda water spring, ruins from the last volcanic eruption and of course the beautiful beaches.
The wonderful places we went to around the island needs to have a post of its own, so stay tuned!
WHERE TO STAY IN CAMIGUIN
Unless you’ll be staying with friends or family in Camiguin, you will need a place to stay. There are a few hotels/inns you can find at hotel booking sites and you might want to book ahead before going, to be safe, especially when you go on peak season. But, there are several smaller and more affordable accommodation options which are not advertised online!
We booked our first night at Villa Paraiso Resort and Apartelle, located in Mambajao, a 20 minute car ride away from Benoni port. “Paraiso” means “paradise” and look at the sky! Don’t you think they aptly named this apartelle? There are rooms in the main building (look at their website for details) and there are also rooms at the back of the main building, in lined up cottage style. We stayed here.
A word in booking for accommodation: we did not book days ahead. Actually, I called Villa Paraiso while our bus was leaving Cagayan de Oro at 7 am. July is not peak season at all so that’s why this is possible however, during peak season, it might be safer to book days before you arrive.
My brother and his wife stayed in one room and me and another brother + my 2 kids stayed in another. We paid PHP2,400 total for two rooms inclusive of breakfast. There is a restaurant inside Villa Paraiso that offered good food at reasonable price, however, service was slow. Our stay was ok. The rooms were basic but there was no hot water and the way to this inn was an uphill ride from the main street. We heard no pedicab would climb up and with the lack of taxis in Camiguin, we were lucky that our friend who lives on the island picked us up at the port in his trusty 4×4 and brought us here.
The next day, we wanted to stay near the beach, so we ventured out to the other side of Mambajao. We did not have reservation anywhere but we do know there are a lot of smaller inns owned by locals. Nearby is also the very famous Paras Beach Resort, one of Camiguin’s first fancy accommodation options.
We opted to stay at Pabua’s Cottages for our second and final night at Camiguin. We negotiated for PHP1,200 for one cottage that could accommodate all of us (4 adults + 2 kids). I say that’s a real bargain from our previous one at Villa Paraiso. However, the room rate did not include breakfast. We took our breakfast at the restaurant inside Paras Beach Resort which was just across the street. Not a big deal.
We had a great time in Camiguin. It was an impromptu getaway with two of my siblings and my kids. Unlike my previous travels where I get OCD with planning and preparation, we had the “just swing it” travel style and it was ok. Next up: checking out this mystical island and an unexpected storm that sent me in semi-panic mode.
If you are living in the Philippines and have not been to Camiguin island, I highly recommend you pay a visit. It’s one of the Philippines’ less touristy, less hyped up places you can relax and just soak in life, as it happens, in slow motion. I love life in the rural areas.
And if you are a foreigner reading this, you can still visit the Philippines’ most popular spots like Cebu, Boracay or Palawan but Camiguin is a must see too and you’ll thank me later.