Nestled in the Bohol Sea of the Philippines, Camiguin Island is a hidden gem that caters to both the adrenaline of adventure seekers and the palates of food enthusiasts. Despite its modest size, the island’s diverse terrain and rich culinary scene attract a growing number of visitors, with an annual tourism growth rate of 10%.
This travel guide will unveil the secrets of Camiguin’s lush landscapes, from its rugged volcanoes to the enchanting underwater tapestry of its dive sites. It will also delve into the island’s gastronomic delights, offering insights into local dishes that tantalize the taste buds, ensuring a well-rounded experience for explorers and epicureans alike.
Overview of Camiguin Island
Camiguin Island, often revered as the “Island Born of Fire,” is a spectacle of natural splendor situated in the Bohol Sea of the Philippines. Renowned for its volcanic landscapes, pristine waterfalls, and rich food culture, it’s a sanctuary for those seeking both adventure and culinary delights. Although specific up-to-date visitor statistics are not readily available, previous reports have shown significant tourism interest, with a 7% increase in tourists based on a five-year compound average growth by 2019. This underscores its emerging impact on the local economy and its allure to travelers worldwide.
Getting to Camiguin Island
Getting to Camiguin Island is an adventure in itself, with several gateways and transport options available to travelers. Here’s how you can reach this island paradise:
From Cagayan de Oro (Laguindingan Airport)
- By Air: Cagayan de Oro is the most common entry point to Camiguin Island, with direct flights available to Laguindingan Airport.
- By Land: From the airport, you can take a van to Agora Terminal, which takes about 45 minutes and costs approximately P199. A taxi could cost between P450 to P700.
- By Sea: From Agora Terminal, take a bus or van to Balingoan Port (around P150, up to 3 hours). Ferries from Balingoan Port to Benoni Port in Camiguin depart hourly from 4:30 AM to 6:30 PM, with the ride taking about an hour and costing P130 to P170 plus terminal and environmental fees.
From Butuan (Butuan Airport)
- By Air: Butuan is an alternative gateway with regular flights from Manila.
- By Land: From the airport, take a multi-cab with the ‘R4’ sign to the Butuan City Integrated Bus Terminal (P20, 20 minutes).
- By Sea: Then take a bus to Balingoan Port (around P200, up to 2 hours) and proceed with the ferry as above.
From Camiguin (Mambajao Airport)
- By Air: Camiguin Island has its own airport in Mambajao, with flights scheduled on selected days.
From Cebu and Bohol
- By Sea: Camiguin Island is accessible from Cebu and Bohol via ferry.
- Booking a flight to Cagayan de Oro usually offers the most straightforward route to Camiguin.
- Choosing air-conditioned buses and ferries can make the journey more comfortable.
- When taking the ferry, it’s wise to check the schedule in advance as the last trip may vary.
- Upon arrival at Benoni Port, vans to Mambajao cost around P30, or you can hire a habal-habal for a day tour for about P800.
- Always keep local currency on hand for terminal and environmental fees.
- It’s recommended to inform bus conductors of your destination (Camiguin) for convenience.
With these details, your journey to Camiguin Island should be smooth and enjoyable, setting the stage for an unforgettable adventure ahead.
Adventure Activities on Camiguin Island
Camiguin Island offers a variety of adventure activities that cater to both adrenaline junkies and nature lovers. Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect:
- Hiking: The island’s lush landscapes are perfect for hikers. You can trek to the top of the old Vulcan Volcano and follow the stations of the cross, which leads to a chapel and a large cross at the summit, offering panoramic views of the island and the ocean.
- Volcano Trekking: Mount Hibok-Hibok, also known as Catarman Volcano, is an active volcano that stands 1,332 meters above sea level. It’s a hiker’s dream within the Mounts Timpoong–Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument, a 3,739-hectare protected area with diverse wildlife and unique plants. The Itum Trail offers a challenging route to the summit, providing an unforgettable experience for those who brave its steep and narrow paths.
- Island Hopping: White Island is a popular destination near Camiguin, known for its breathtaking views and clear waters. It’s a great spot for snorkeling, as the surrounding waters are full of marine life and vibrant coral reefs. While facilities are limited, you can bring your own food and drinks to enjoy a picnic in this idyllic setting.
- Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: The coral-rich waters around Camiguin are a haven for snorkelers and divers. The marine biodiversity here is impressive, with a variety of fish and other sea creatures populating the reefs. It’s an opportunity to explore the underwater beauty that Camiguin Island so generously offers.
When planning these activities, it’s essential to prepare adequately, be mindful of safety, and respect the natural environment. Local guides and proper gear can enhance these experiences, ensuring that your adventure is not only thrilling but also responsible.
Camiguin Island’s dining scene is a vibrant mix of local flavors and dishes unique to the island. Here are some culinary highlights and traveler recommendations:
- Surol: A traditional chicken soup cooked in coconut milk, similar to tinolang manok but enriched with gata (coconut milk). It’s widely available, but a recommended spot is Bahay Bakasyunan sa Camiguin Restaurant.
- Bulalo: Although a common Filipino dish, the bulalo at La Isla Cocina in Agoho, Mambajao, comes highly recommended for its exceptional taste, served in an ambiance-rich local heritage house.
- Lanzones Ice Cream: Celebrating the island’s famed sweet lanzones, this unique ice cream is a must-try, especially during the Lanzones Festival every October when the fruit is in season.
- Pastel: A signature Camiguin treat, these are sweet buns filled with yema (milk custard), with other varieties like ube and macapuno available. Vjandep is the most popular brand known for pastels.
- Asian Cuisine at Guerrera Restaurant: For a taste of Asian flavors, Guerrera Restaurant offers Thai, Vietnamese, and other Asian dishes, with their pad thai being a standout dish, enjoyed in a serene setting amidst rice paddies.
These dishes and restaurants offer a glimpse into the rich culinary culture of Camiguin Island, promising delicious adventures for food lovers visiting this tropical paradise.
Best Times to Visit
Camiguin Island, with its tropical rainforest climate, promises warm temperatures year-round, ranging from a pleasant 29°C to a warmer 32°C, with nights cooling down to 20°C to 22°C. The ideal times to visit are January, February, March, April, and December when you can enjoy around 10 hours of sunshine daily.
The best time for outdoor activities on Camiguin Island is between April and June when rainfall is lower, averaging 130mm to 192mm, and there are fewer rainy days, roughly 10 to 12 days. This period offers the best conditions for enjoying the island’s natural beauty and adventure activities.
However, if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, consider visiting during the off-peak months. While January and December are the wettest months, receiving up to 244mm and 222mm of rainfall, respectively, these months might offer more solitude but require you to be well-prepared for the rain and to protect yourself against the sun, with the UV index remaining high throughout the year.
Keep in mind that while the drier months might be more comfortable for exploring, the island is popular during this time, and it’s wise to book accommodations and activities in advance. The weather is relatively stable, but it’s always a good idea to check the forecast close to your travel dates to ensure the best possible experience.
Exploring the Surrounding Area
Around Camiguin Island, there are remarkable attractions that shouldn’t be missed:
- White Island: This is an uninhabited white sandbar with crystal clear waters and a dynamic shape that changes with the tides. It’s perfect for lounging, swimming, and snorkeling. Note that it disappears at high tide, so timing your visit is key1.
- Sunken Cemetery: A dive site with a poignant history, marked by a large cross. The underwater cemetery is a legacy of a volcanic eruption and now hosts diverse marine life1.
When planning to explore these sites, consider the following tips:
- Check the tide schedules for White Island to ensure it’s visible during your visit.
- Renting a boat early in the morning can help you beat the crowds.
- For the Sunken Cemetery, ensure you have proper snorkeling or diving equipment.
- Booking guided tours can provide valuable insights and historical context, enhancing your experience.
- Always respect the natural environment and follow local guidelines to preserve these unique sites.
Camiguin Island offers a variety of accommodation options to suit any budget and preference:
- Balai Sa Baibai: For a comfortable stay, this hotel offers pool-view rooms, though some guests have noted it can be noisy at times.
- Bintana Sa Paraiso: This hotel is praised for its large, clean, beautiful, and comfortable rooms, making it a great mid-range option.
- Somewhere Else Boutique Resort: Located near the sea, this resort is known for its high standard of rooms and helpful staff, making it a delightful place for visitors.
- Paras Beach Resort: A popular choice for its relaxing environment and accommodating staff, with guests returning due to positive past experiences and, notably, their mango shake.
These accommodations have garnered positive reviews for their amenities, service, and the overall experience they offer to guests, ensuring a pleasant stay on Camiguin Island.
Safety Tips and Guidelines
When embarking on adventure activities on Camiguin Island, safety is paramount. Here are essential safety tips, local rules for environmental conservation, and guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:
Safety Tips for Adventure Activities:
- Mind Your Belongings: Always keep an eye on your personal items and avoid leaving valuables unattended.
- Be Cautious: Some areas may not be easily accessible or well-lit, so exercise caution when exploring, especially in less frequented locations.
- Respect the Environment: Follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles by taking all trash with you and not disturbing wildlife or natural habitats.
- Gear Up: If snorkeling or diving, bring your own gear if you prefer not to rent, ensuring it’s in good condition.
- Stay Charged: Bring extra batteries or a power bank to keep your electronic devices charged throughout your adventures.
Environmental Preservation Rules:
- Cash is King: Withdraw cash in larger cities before arriving, as ATMs may not be readily available on the island.
- Footprints Only: When visiting natural attractions, ensure you leave the area as you found it, preserving its beauty for future visitors.
Additional Safety Measures:
- Informative Tours: Consider hiring knowledgeable local guides for both safety and educational insights into the island’s history and culture.
- Stay Sun-Safe: Protect yourself against the sun’s rays, as the UV index can be high even during cloudy days.
- Emergency Preparedness: Be aware of the location of the nearest medical facilities and have a basic first aid kit with you.
Exploring the Surrounding Area:
- Mantigue Island: If time and budget allow, visit Mantigue Island for more beach time and exploration of Camiguin’s natural beauty.
- Cagayan de Oro City: Nearby cities like Cagayan de Oro offer additional activities such as rafting and cultural sites for a more diverse travel itinerary
Photography and Capturing the Beauty
When photographing the scenic vistas of Camiguin Island, consider these tips:
- Golden Hour: Capture the soft, warm hues during the golden hour, just after sunrise or before sunset, especially for landscapes and seascapes.
- White Island: Visit during low tide for the best sandbar shots with Mount Hibok-Hibok in the background.
- Underwater Photography: The clear waters are ideal for underwater shots, so use a waterproof camera or case.
- Volcano Peaks: For panoramic views, trek to higher elevations early in the morning to avoid cloud cover.
- Local Life: Capture the essence of island life by photographing local markets and festivals, respecting the privacy of the locals.
Always have extra batteries and memory cards, as you won’t want to miss any opportunities on this picturesque island.
Local Culture and Festivals
Camiguin Island, steeped in a rich tapestry of heritage and culture, offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in its unique traditions and vibrant festivals. The island is not only a haven for adventure but also a cultural gem where history and festivity intertwine.
The local culture is punctuated by several festivals that embody the island’s spirit and communal ties. Notable among them is the Lanzones Festival, a jubilant celebration held annually, honoring the bountiful harvest of the sweet lanzones fruit, for which Camiguin is renowned. This festival, in its 44th year as of 2023, draws visitors and locals alike, with its theme often focusing on environmental stewardship and community progress.
Other significant cultural events include the Panaad Sa Camiguin, an annual pilgrimage that embodies faith and discovery, and the San Juan Hibok-Hibok Festival every June 24th, which pays homage to St. John the Baptist. There is also the May Festival, a month-long fiesta celebrating the towns and barangays of Camiguin.
These festivities are not just for entertainment; they are a living testament to the island’s cultural significance. Home to several Important Cultural Treasures such as the Spanish-era watchtower, the Old Bonbon Church Ruins, and the Sunken Cemetery, Camiguin preserves its historical legacy while celebrating the present. The blending of the past with the present in these festivals and landmarks illustrates the cultural richness and pride of Camiguinons.
For travelers interested in cultural experiences, timing a visit to coincide with these events can offer a deeper understanding of the island’s traditions and a chance to participate in communal celebrations that are both meaningful and exhilarating.
Camiguin Island offers an enchanting blend of natural beauty, adventure activities, rich culinary experiences, and deep cultural traditions. Whether you’re diving into the crystal clear waters, relishing in the unique delicacies, or partaking in vibrant local festivals, Camiguin is a destination that promises unforgettable experiences. As you plan your visit, remember to respect the environment, immerse yourself in the local culture, and, most importantly, savor each moment on this remarkable island.