CEBU, PHILIPPINES – THE ULTIMATE CENTRAL-VISAYAS TRAVEL GUIDE 2019 (SIQUIOR, BOHOL AND CAMIGUIN)
Cebu is the main island in the Visayas and has the biggest flight and ferry network in the Philippines next to Manila. This makes it almost impossible not to visit Cebu Island and Cebu City, when travelling to the Central Visayas. Luckily the Cebu Island is definitely worth a trip, because it has many beautiful places and adventurous activities to offer. If you have enough time to travel around Cebu Island, go for it! We will show you important travel tips for the nearby islands Siquior, Bohol and Camiguin, but also why to skip whale shark watching in Oslob.
Traveling the first time to Cebu or haven’t discovered the surroundings of the island yet? This guide has all you need to plan your trip!
To be honest, we experienced Cebu City as a dirty and stinky town with too much traffic. Therefore we moved to Moalboal as fast as possible. In general, Cebu City lives from its location in the archipelago. Almost all islands in the Visayas can be reached directly from the Cebu, whether it is the famous Boracay, the epic diving spot of Malapascua or the upcoming tourist spot Siargao.
10 THINGS TO KNOW FOR CEBU CITY
- There is really heavy traffic in the city! The ride from the airport into the center can last over 1 hour for only 12-15km.
- You will find two types of taxis – white and yellow – at the airport. We chose the white one (as most people do), because it is the cheaper option.
- It was probably the city with the worst smell so far… a mix of urine and trash.
- There are a few different bus terminals! Make sure to check out where you have to go.
- You can get your bus tickets on the bus itself, so you don’t have to buy them in advance.
- Although it is a big city, there are not many cheap accommodations online.
- We stayed at “8th Street Hostel” in the dormitory, which was okay. The staff was really unfriendly though.
- We have never seen so many begging children before! Don’t give them any money. We bought some food for them instead.
- We found a good vegetarian All-You-Can-Eat Restaurant: Persian Palate in the Mango Square Shopping Mall (you can also sit outside). The buffet is only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but they also have international food for reasonable prices throughout the week.
- The area of the airport might be more beautiful to stay, as there are most of the hotels and resorts.
HOW TO GET TO MOALBOAL?
Moalboal is located on the island of Cebu and therefore easy to reach. From Cebu city there are public busses leaving from the South Bus Terminal every 30 minutes. The duration of the ride depends on the traffic. We had to wait for 1 hour in line at the terminal and arrived 3 hours later at the terminal near the Stone Altar of Moalboal.
WHERE TO STAY IN MOALBOAL?
We stayed at three different accomodations: The Chief Mau Hostel, the Moalboal Backpacker Hostel (across the Pizzeria Marina, with a yellow VW-Bus as reception) and the Pescadores Sea View. Each of them we can recommend. The two listed hostels are good for low budget and the Pescadores Sea View is a midrange hotel.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN MOALBOAL?
We definitely fell in love with the place, as there is much to do! Especially for water activities this is one of the best places in the Philippines. That was the reason why we extended our stay in Moalboal several times! We can recommend staying there for 4 nights, because it is a good base for many attractions.
WHAT TO DO IN MOALBOAL?
One of the coolest things to do is the kanyoneering tour at the Kawasan Falls! We booked the day trip directly at the Chief Mau Hostel and we definitely recommend it (it’s 1500 PHP/ person). One day you HAVE to go snorkeling with the sardines right at the house reef. We went there two mornings, on one day we saw 7 turtles, but not a single sardine and on the other day we were surrounded by sardine runs for over an hour! Pescador Island is one of the best dive spots in the Philippines – if you are a diver then this is a must do!
10 THINGS TO KNOW FOR MOALBOAL?
- The place to be is at Panagsama Beach, which is 3km from the bus station (a tricycle is 100-150 PHP).
- There are many dive shops and spots, also one freediving shop! The spot seems to be very popular for Chinese tourism, but it was not overcrowded.
- You can go snorkeling with the sardine runs directly at the house reef (no boat trip needed!). For us, this was one of our absolute highlights in the Philippines!
- Pescador Island is supposed to be the best spot for diving at Moalboal, go there early in the morning for the best experience!
- At Panagsama Beach are neither bakeries nor a market. You can find them at the bus station at the Stone Altar of Moalboal (scooter or tricycle is helpful).
- There is only one ATM at Panagsama Beach and it is often out of money. Several ATM´s are close to the Stone Altar of Moalboal as well.
- Panagsama Beach is actually not really a beach (the white beach in the north is the closest noteworthy beach).
- Chief Mau Hostel offers a really good canyoneering tour (we were only 5 people + 2 tour guides, we met other groups with about 20 people).
- There are many waterfalls to explore by scooter (start early in the morning to escape the crowds!)
- The most popular waterfall is the Kawasan Falls, which is really overcrowded during the day.
HOW TO GET TO SIQUIJOR?
There are a few options from Cebu Island. The easiest way is from Cebu City with a direct ferry. The other option is to go to Liloan Port on Cebu Island (e.g. by public bus). From there is a direct ferry going at 10 AM or you take a ferry to Dumaguete and from there another ferry to Siquijor (last one leaves at 5 PM). We took the second option. We recommend this blog… for detailed information about getting to Siquijor.
WHERE TO STAY IN SIQUIJOR?
We couldn’t find a fitting place online, so we decided to show. Lucky us we found a nice place not far from the Port with sea view. It is called “Diamond de Siquijor” and offers basic and low budget Bungalows. It´s perfect for two travelers. If you want to book something in advance, you should search at the west coast. This is the main tourist area on the island.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN SIQUIJOR?
Siquijor isn´t quite big and there is not a lot to do. For exploring the main attractions 2 nights (or 1 whole day) is enough. Going around the island with the scooter once and stop at your favorite spots, fits easily into a day trip.
WHAT TO DO IN SIQUIJOR?
On our island tour we stopped at the Mangrove Forest, the cliff-jumping spot, the Cambugahay Falls, the century old Manete tree and the Little Boracay Beach. In summary, we recommend going to the Cambugahay Falls in the morning and chill at the beach at the evening. For the more activity oriented travelers the cliff-jumping is worth a visit. We paid an entrance fee of 20PHP per person and 10PHP for the scooter, but the jumping spots are for free! The mangrove forest and the tree are worth a stop for a few minutes, but in our minds nothing special. We visited neither the marine sanctuary nor the churches.
10 THINGS TO KNOW FOR SIQUIJOR
- Best to explore with a scooter! Easily available and it only costs about 350PHP. Always make sure the brakes work properly and ask for helmets! We were stopped by a friendly police control, the German driving license was enough.
- Cambugahay Falls are very crowded. The first time we went there in the afternoon, which was a bit disappointing after the awesome Instagram posts we´ve seen. So we decided to go there a second time the next morning. We arrived at 7 AM and were one of the first people. In the end it was the best decision to go there early in the morning.
- On the west coast are the best beaches (enjoy a sunset there!). There is more than just one good beach, we visited the “Little Boracay”. There was a little entrance fee and several shops for snacks and drinks but no sanitary infrastructure. The beach itself was clean, white and not too crowded. The water was clear and good for swimming, no currents or jellyfish.
- The fast ferry to Bohol is very expensive (760 PHP including all fees)
- The alternative is a slow ferry, but you will arrive on Bohol in the middle of the night.
- The cliff jumping spot has a restaurant, a beach and even a resort with many activities to offer (but with additional fees). The water slide was closed during our visit.
- The century old manete tree is pretty touristy, not really essential to do! There is a restaurant, some souvenir shops and a footbath.
- The mangrove forest is nice, but also not essential. It´s cool to walk on the bamboo walkway and there are even small huts to stay overnight, but not a lot to see. For a real mangrove experience we recommend doing the Sogod Lagoon at Siargao.
- The road around the island is well prepared, no steep ascending or descending parts and gasoline is available all around the island.
- A trip around the island takes about 2 hours with a scooter.
HOW TO GET TO BOHOL?
Bohol is one of the bigger islands and more or less in the middle of many other attractive islands. There are ferries coming from and leaving to Siquijor, Cebu, Camiguin and also maybe Leyte (we couldn’t find out for sure. We came from Siquijor (ferry starting at 12:30) and arrived 2 hours later in Tagbilaran. The ferry continued to Cebu City.
WHERE TO STAY IN BOHOL?
The best place to stay in Bohol is on the little island in front of the main city Tagbilaran, called Panglao Island. We found a really nice and cozy place named “Natura Vista”. It is close to Tagbilaran and has a nice small beach just 2 min walking distance away. We made a short trip to the famous Alona Beach and were really disappointed. Nevertheless there are the most accommodations.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN BOHOL?
Attention, the distances are bigger than on most islands, calculate with enough time. We recommend staying in Bohol at least 3 days.
WHAT TO DO IN BOHOL?
Bohol has much more to offer than just the famous “Chocolate Hills”. By the way, if you are a good climber and want to escape the crowds: we climbed the hill right in front of the Chocolate Hill Complex. We can´t recommend doing this, because it is actually prohibited, but we asked some locals who told us, that it is okay to go up. There is no real path and it is very steep. The grass is also really sharp.
There are tours going to Virgin Island and Balicasag. We met people who were not convinced. Check out our Palawan blog for this kind of activity, we can recommend Port Barton especially.
The southern part of Bohol is a great place to explore hidden waterfalls. We only had one entire day and went to Ingkumhan Falls and Pahangog Falls, both of them are worth a visit. Also worth to see is the man made forest on the way to the Chocolate Hills (we skipped the tarsier sanctuary).
10 THINGS TO KNOW FOR BOHOL?
- Panglao Island is the place to stay for tourists. Most of the hotels and hostels are located on the small island which is connected to Bohol with two bridges.
- Panglao Island has some nice beaches. This is the reason why all the hotels are in this area.
- Panglao Island offers island hopping tours. We didn’t do them because of lack of time. People from our hotel told us they liked other boat trips elsewhere better.
- The famous Alona Beach was really disappointing for us, because it was fully covered with tourist shops and therefore too touristy for us! Definitely not a good place to calm down and relax.
- There is a small, but beautiful beach in the north of Panglao Island, which is called San Pedro Beach.
- Bohol has great waterfalls, which are not touristy yet. We were lucky to visit two waterfalls (Ingkumhan Falls and Pahangog Falls) completely alone during 10 AM and 12 AM. The Google Maps location isn’t correct, the first waterfall is about 200 meters further north than Google Maps shows.
- There is no ATM on Panglao Island, you have to go to Tagbilaran on the main island.
- Don’t forget your driving license when renting a scooter, there were many traffic controls during our stay (German license was enough).
- Natura Vista is a nice combination of budget and eco accommodation. We enjoyed staying there during our visit. If possible, don’t stay in the room which is above the kitchen, because of the smells!
- The Chocolate Hills Complex is very crowded! Expect to share the view with hundreds of other tourists.
WHY TO SKIP OSLOB?
We consciously decided not to go swimming with the wale sharks in Oslob. There are many reasons, like the environmental issues on these gentle giants. Critics claim, that the whale sharks don´t follow their natural routes anymore, because the tour guides feed them. All in all, we don´t believe, that it is a great experience to jump in the water in a line of hundreds of people. We recommend to go to Southern Leyte for swimming with whale sharks, there are not many tourists yet and the animals can follow their natural instincts. (link)
HOW TO GET TO CAMIGUIN ISLAND?
The following three options are the main routes to Camiguin Island: the first one is a ferry coming from and leaving to Jaffna, Bohol. The second option is a ferry coming from and leaving to Mindanao. The two connected ports are Balingoan and Benoni. If you don’t want to take the ferry, Camiguin Island also has a small airport, but due to your environmental impact, you should consider to take the boat, instead of the plane.
WHERE TO STAY AT CAMIGUIN ISLAND?
Most of the hotels are in the northern part of the island, close to the White Island. This is the best area to stay because most tourist attractions are in the same region. We stayed at Myrna´s Paradise Cottages, which we liked very much. Small bamboo cottages at the shore, but no beach nearby.
HOW LONG TO STAY AND WHAT TO DO IN CAMIGUIN ISLAND?
We can recommend staying two full days on Camiguin. There is one MUST DO: the White Island! Why? On the eastside of the small sandbar we experienced the most beautiful water we have EVER seen in our lives. This was unreal. The boat to get there costs around 450 PHP, which can be split by four passengers. Just chill on the island, take a dip in the turquoise water and enjoy life! There are three waterfalls, which are worth a visit and can be reached with a scooter. Moreover there are the church ruins, the Sunken Cemetery (good place to snorkel) and the Old Volcano. If you are really adventurous you can climb Mt. Hibok-Hibok.
10 THINGS TO KNOW FOR CAMIGUIN ISLAND:
- The island has a really dark-green, wet and therefore unique flora. This alone makes it definitely worth to see.
- Camiguin has around 7 volcanos. The only one recorded erupting was the Hibok-Hibok over 60 years ago.
- Snorkeling at the sunken cemetery requires a small environmental fee of 50 PHP.
- In order to climb the Hibok-Hibok Volcano you need to apply for permission. You ask for the permission directly on Camiguin at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), at least one day before you plan to go. Good to know: you need a guide (total costs of about 30$).
- The island is best to explore by scooter. The size of Camiguin is comparable to Siqiuior, it takes roughly 2 hours for a round trip.
- There is a road crossing Camiguin straight in the middle. Good to know: it is not on Google Maps yet, March 2019.
- There are jeepneys/multicabs going around Camiguin. It makes traveling on the island cheap and easy.
- Camiguin is close to Mindanao, but safe to travel.
- The White Island is definitely the absolute highlight! Pristine beach and the most epic water color we have EVER seen.
- If you come with the RoRo ferry from Bohol, there is a good chance to spot some dolphins (we spotted some in March 2019).