Malapascua Travel Guide for Your Next Cebu Trip [Guest Post]
If you like to while away your time swinging in a hammock on uncorrupted white, sandy bays, searching for wildlife in stunning clear water, or diving with unique and beautiful Thresher sharks, then Malapascua Island awaits.
A far cry from the hordes of tourists sipping Starbucks and eating McDonalds in Boracay, Malapascua has so far retained its natural, rugged beauty. The island was devastated in 2013 when Typhoon Yolanda ripped roofs from homes and snapped palm trees in two, effectively flattening the landscape.
For budget travelers, Malapascua’s inflated room prices online may initially put you off. Don’t let it! Once you arrive, there are other more budget-friendly options like Blue Corals Beach Resort (on the south-west tip of the island) with rooms around PHP 1000 per night for walk-ins. You can also stay at Hiltey’s Hideout Homes in a comfortable private double room for only PHP 900. If, like me, you’re not too confident about arriving without a room booked or you will be arriving late (a distinct possibility even if you don’t plan to), you can book a night online with the usual booking sites. For this, I stayed at Slam’s Garden Resort, and it was a little pricey at around PHP 1500 per night but good value for money with a great pool. Another good option is Mangrove Oriental Resort for a similar price.
If you walk along the main stretch where all the resorts are, you will see many restaurants. But for the budget traveler, these may cost a bit more than you are willing to pay. I will list a few cheaper options I found but don’t be afraid to wander about inland near the south of the island since there you will find many (simple but tasty) cheap local eateries.
1. Mabuhay Restaurant
Walk two minutes around the bay from Blue Corals Beach Resort, and you will see a beach-facing restaurant called Mabuhay Restaurant. Serving local and some western dishes at reasonable prices, the food is yummy, and the staff is friendly. Try the vegetable fried rice and Lon’s Mushroom Spaghetti.
2. Ging Ging’s
Head inland from the port, past the back of Slam’s Garden Resort, and take a right until you see this quality restaurant. They offer excellent fresh seafood at fantastic prices. Try the prawns here!
3. The Burger Shack
Not the best burger you’ll ever eat, but the Burger Shack does a variety of rolls (think bacon, egg, cheese) for a measly PHP 40 a pop. You can also pick up cooked packet noodles here for next to nothing.
Things to Do
Upon arriving, I dropped my bags and headed straight back to the harbour area as I had seen loads of starfish on the boat over. Snorkeling around the island is good if you know where to go, especially for small stuff. We took a snorkeling trip for PHP 500 each (ask the guys in tourism t-shirts along the main resort beach). The trip was good, and with only two of us on the boat, we went at our pace.
First, we went to a tiny island just off the south coast and saw some coral and a few fish. The next two stops are right off the coast of the Island, the Coral Garden, and the Japanese ship wreck. If you’re a strong swimmer, and the weather is good, it would be possible to swim to both from the shore.
Of course, one of the main draws about visiting Malapascua is the opportunity to dive with thresher sharks. These shy creatures are truly majestic, and there’s a very good chance you will see them here. I haven’t been, but dives start at around PHP 1,400 and are supposed to be spectacular. Some dive schools offer discounted room rates for divers, so if you intend to dive, it may be worth checking a few out before you book.
Otherwise, the island provides an unrivaled opportunity to relax surrounded by natural beauty. It’s a great place to get to know the friendly locals and to get a better feel for Filipino culture and hospitality. I dare you not to be charmed by this gem of an island; don’t be surprised if you end up extending your stay more than once.
How to Get to Malapascua Island
To get to Malapascua from Cebu city, take a taxi cab to the northern bus terminal, and ask for a bus to Maya. The four-hour drive in an air-conditioned bus should cost you PHP 190 (or the more hardy traveller can pay PHP 160 for non-aircon). You’ll be dropped right at the port where a few eager locals will be waiting for you. They will try to persuade you to pay over double the usual rate order to leave on an earlier boat. It’s up to you, but we refused and paid the standard PHP 100 and arrived 10 minutes after the other boat. You will probably also have to pay PHP 20 for a small boat to shore.
Philihappy Pro Tips
- There are no ATMs on the island, so bring cash and bear in mind that food and toiletries may cost you a little more than in Cebu City.
- The majority of inland paths have little or no lighting. A head torch or flashlight is great for finding your way home in the evenings.
- Ladies, tampons are almost impossible to get hold of here. Stock up before travelling if possible (pharmacies in Cebu City are a good bet). If you do get caught short, the only place I found them was in Blue Corals Beach Resort from the reception desk. They sell at PHP 30 per piece.
- Watch out for boats when swimming and snorkeling around the island. Drivers can be ruthless and, to be fair, you will be hard to spot. I nearly lost my head to one on the first day…