The Camotes Islands are also known as “the lost horizon of the south”, for their pristine beauty is still overlooked by most tourists. It’ll only take you an hour from Cebu City to reach this tropical paradise. Visit Camotes to relax on its white beaches, snorkel and dive, and enjoy a welcomed break from the more touristic spots.
This group of islands is composed of four islands: Pacijan, Poro, Ponson and Tulang. Located east of mainland Cebu, it’s considered a part of the Cebu Province. Camotes is a perfect example of Cebu’s beauty, and a great place to visit as a part of a holiday package in the Visayas Region.
Camotes is not accessible by air, since its only airport is non-commercial and actually just a small strip of sand. The best way to get to the islands is by ferry from Mactan. The Jomalia Shipping Company operate a fast craft terminal in Mactan just besides the Cebu Yacht Club across Marina Mall.
Jomalia Shipping Mactan-Camotes (Consuelo Port) schedule:
Monday – Thursday: two daily trips, 09:00 and 13:00.
Friday – Sunday: three daily trips, 09:00, 13:00 and 17:00.
Monday – Thursday: two daily trips, 07:00 and 11:00.
Friday – Sunday: three daily trips, 07:00, 11:00 and 15:00.
The trip takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes, and cost 350-380 Pesos.
There is an alternative way to get to Camotes – taking a bus from Cebu City to Danao port (about 1 hour) and then a ferry from there. This is the old way that was also the only method to reach the islands until mid 2017. There is also a ferry from Ormoc to Pilar in Ponson Island. So, if you’re traveling in Leyte and want to go to Camotes, it is the best and fastest option. The trip take around 1 hour.
The two main islands of the Camotes Archipelago are Pacijan and Poro, which are also connected to one another by a bridge road, and most people choose to stay at one of them. There are more resorts on these 2 islands, and they offer better amenities. Most of the beach resorts range from 2 to 3 stars – there is no luxury accommodation on these islands at all. However, in Camotes you can get beachfront accommodation for a fair price.
Ponson Island is a lot less developed and until recently only had very basic resorts and beach bungalows with the most basic conveniences. Now there is one modern beach resort with elegant rooms, a swimming pool, private beach and a dive shop. Ponson is more suitable for those who really like to get away from the crowds.
What to do in Camotes Islands?
Camotes is a very relaxed place, so tourists who choose to come here usually wish to avoid the crowds and enjoy the beautiful nature of the islands. All of the activities and tourist spots in Camotes Islands are nature based – caves, a lake, waterfalls, and some of the best preserved marine sanctuaries in the Philippines. We offer organized tour packages to all major tourist attractions – even though you can go around on your own, this is the most convenient way to explore the islands.
Camotes Islands best beaches
The pristine white beaches are what started the tourist influx to Camotes in the first place. They have single handedly turned it from a place only known to locals, to a legitimate vacation destination for foreign tourists as well. Still, all of the beaches on these islands remain intact, as the local municipalities work hard to preserve and maintain them. It is also thanks to the fact that the stream of tourists still remain relatively low.
Santiago Bay is the most famous beach in the archipelago, and is by far the busiest one. It is a white sand beach, and the widest beach in these islands, stretching from one mountain foot to another. It is a dissipative beach, so during low tides the shoreline become tenfold larger. There are several restaurants and resorts around the beach that offer a great view of the bay while having something to eat or drink. On the beach itself you can rent a cottage, and some beach games like kayaks, balls, floats, banana boats and more.
Buho Rock on Poro island is a great spot for snorkeling. There is no nice beach here and just stairs to take you into the water, but the public cottages on the cliff are very beautiful and offer a very nice view of the surroundings. They used to be owned by a private resort but were abandoned and are now maintained by the local government. There is no restaurant around, but it makes a great spot for a picnic if you bring your own food. Buho rock is famous for its cliff dives – between 6 to 12 meters high.
Bakhaw Beach is another amazing white beach, north of Santiago Bay. Unlike the former, it is an uncrowded beach that offers a lot of privacy. There aren’t any restaurants, bars, floats, badminton court or anything like that. Just a white beach with several nipa huts for the shade. It is a perfect spot for a picnic and swimming, and also for snorkeling.
Tulang Diot literally means small Tulang, is a small islet just a 200 meters north of Pacijan (also colloquially known as San Francisco Island). This is by far the most secluded beach of Camotes. It is a very small island with no resorts, restaurants and bars on it at all. There are only a couple of sari-sari stores to sell you some canned goods and snacks. The beach is almost entirely submerged during high tide. On Tulang Diot you will find pure white sand and crystal clear water, it is truly an ideal island getaway. For this reason some people go as far as camping there for a night, so they could experience the island’s serenity. A boat ride from Northern Pacijan takes only 5 minutes.
There are many other beaches spread across the coastline of Camotes Islands, which you can easily discover by yourself riding a motorbike. Another notable mention is Pilar Municipality in Ponson Island, the least populated (excluding Tulang Diot) island in Camotes. It is also the less traveled one, and more tourist spots are constantly being discovered. It has beautiful secluded beaches and a lagoon surrounded by mangrove forests.
You can visit all places independently, or book a Camotes island hopping tour, which will include as many of the locations as you’d want. If you wish to explore the beaches of Ponson it might be better to allocate a whole day just for that, or even spend a night there, because on top of the beaches and the lagoon, visiting in-land Ponson is an interesting experience as well.
Land adventures in Camotes
There are many things for you to see and do in these islands besides hitting the beach. You can tour them yourself or book a guided tour package. Both are good options and it a matter of a personal preference. Read below to understand what you’d like to do in Camotes.
Lake Danao is said to be the cleanest lake in Cebu. It is called the lovers lake, thanks to its serene romantic atmosphere. Renting a small boat which is good for two is a perfect opportunity for couples to get some quality time together. For larger groups there is a motor powered raft/boat called Sakanaw, that gives an hour cruise of the lake, and is good for up to 15 people. It has chairs and tables on it in case you bring drinks and snacks.
If you’re a fan of caves, there are eight visited caves in Camotes. Bukalit Cave is the largest one and also the most popular one. It’s located in the most eastern tip of Poro Island, close to McArthur Barangay. It has a large cavern and light beams enter the cave through holes in the ceiling and create a unique atmosphere. Timobo Cave north of Lake Danao is a small cave with a pool of water inside, and is definitely worth a visit if going to Danao Lake or to Tulang Diot. Holly Crystal Cave is a cave located near Lake Danao, with crystals that sparkle with exposure to light, and human bones from 5,000 years ago. There are other less popular caves, if you will still feel you want more.
There are also two nice waterfalls you should visit. Panganuron Falls in Poro are the more beautiful ones, but a little difficult to find. It also requires a 30 minutes hike, so in general you need to be fit to visit it. Busay Falls also in Poro is a nice spot to visit, and easier to access than Panganuron. It is a good idea to have a day tour in Poro to visit its beaches, caves and waterfalls.
Diving in Camotes Islands
Until recently there was only one dive-shop in Camotes, but in recent years a few more joined the party. There are only a few dive reports and very few pictures. It’s not because there is nothing to see, it’s only because the underwater environment is still unexplored, probably due to the remoteness of the islands. Being more difficult to reach, combined with not being famous in the tourist world, mean not many divers had the chance to dive here yet. The divers who did manage to do so had to use the services of dive-clubs of mainland Cebu Island.
Camotes is good to dive in all year round, as the temperature is 23c° at its lowest and 30c° at its peak. There is something for any type of diver, from technical wreck (1990 ferry wreck) and technical cave diving, to fun dives. There are walls that drop up to 85 meters, lots of corrals and large schools of fish. Depending on the weather and season, there are sharks swimming around the corrals, and a pod of at least 30 black dolphins. The best thing about diving in Camotes is that you’ll be among the very few divers to explore this territory. It is also possible to include it with other great diving spots in the Philippines.
How does Camotes Islands fit into my schedule?
These islands are among the smallest of Cebu Islands but there is a lot to see and do here. Getting to Camotes is a lot easier than it used to be in the past, so it gives an opportunity to more people to come and visit. Here you will find pristine tropical beaches, and crystal clear water, waterfalls, caves and a lake. This place is for those who like to get away from the crowds, and be surrounded by a simple natural setting.
Although it is possible to visit Camotes as a day tour from Cebu, it is highly advised to spend a night or two on the islands in order to get the full experience out of your visit. Any tourist who is traveling in Visayas, and specifically going through Cebu City, should consider visiting there. If you’re not sure whether this place is for you or not, you can always contact us for free travel consulting.