This Small Island in Cebu Is the Perfect Detour on Your Next Trip
Put Olango Island on your Cebu itinerary.
(SPOT.ph) Olango Island has always been known as a birdwatcher’s paradise. But there’s more to this little island in Cebu than the migratory birds. It’s close enough for a day trip, but it can also be a destination on its own. It’s budget-friendly as long as you’re willing to rough it in a sleeping bag—bring your own, though—but also, familiar enough with the conveniences of city life. Whatever your traveling style is, just be sure to take a fully charged power bank with you!
Getting to Olango Island
From Cebu City, find your way to Angasil Port in Mactan Island, Lapu-Lapu City. You can either take a cab or a Grab. At the port, there’s always a pumpboat on standby, waiting to take you to Olango Island’s Santa Rosa port for P30 per head, plus terminal fee (approximately P10). The frequency of trips might depend on the number of passengers or the return trip of the other boats, so the schedule isn’t set in stone. If you’re lucky, it’ll be ready to leave the moment you take your seat. Otherwise, you might have to wait quite a bit. The boat ride itself is approximately thirty minutes.
If you’re taking your own car, head to the Hilton Wharf for a RORO instead. There are trips every hour. Do note that on your way back, taxis may be scarce. Take a tricycle to Mactan Newtown and try your luck there instead.
Getting Around Olango Island
Due to COVID restrictions, a tricycle can carry up to a maximum of two passengers only. The rate for two starts at P80. Bike rentals are also gaining popularity. It’s environmentally friendly and a more cost-effective way to get around the island. Rates start at P10/hour. You can negotiate with the shop for a whole day or even an overnight rate.
What to Do
Open from sunrise to sundown, the San Vicente Marine Sanctuary is a nice spot for a swim. Whether the tide is high or low, you’ll be sure to see the fish thanks to the long boardwalk that leads straight into the water. It's best to go early and spend the afternoon here as the entrance fee of P80 per person, plus an environmental fee of P100 for every group of five or less, entitles you to a cottage and a life jacket each. You can even bring your own food as the fees are inclusive of corkage. Take note that cottages are subject to availability.
Bring your own goggles or rent a pair for P100. For hygiene reasons, snorkels are no longer available for rent. If you don’t feel like getting wet, you can still enjoy this Department of Environment and Natural Resources-protected spot by seeing the fish from a patrol boat. A fee of P105 includes fish food.
San Vicente Marine Sanctuary is at Barangay San Vicente, Olango Island, Lapu-Lapu City. For inquiries, call 0995-021-4633.
You can even charter your own Island Hopping Tour. Olango Island is surrounded by six smaller islands and islets; together they comprise the Olango Island Group. A boat for eight people with stops at two islands starts at P1,300. The schedule however depends on the tides. Coordinate ahead with your boatman if you want to dock and roam the islets.
The bird-watching institution, Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary is at Barangay San Vicente. It is best to visit during the cool months from December to February as this is when a lot of the migratory birds pass through Cebu. But the site remains open yearlong, save for major holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Day. Enthusiasts say the best time to catch them is before the high tide. Be sure to take a pair of binoculars with you!
Where to Eat
You can find a number of dampa-style floating restaurants, which are famously known for grilled spider shells, or saang in Bisaya. Some might even offer you a metal pick—or a safety pin—to help you fish the meat out of its shell. But if you want to go for something more ugly delicious, then this next restaurant should be at the top of your list.
Despite only opening in December 2019, Twinvibes Foodhaus has made a name for itself as a food destination on the island. Need proof? Ask any local where to eat and they’re likely to name Twinvibes. On its menu, the Pork Barbecue (P20) and the Grilled Chorizo (P30) have thumbs-ups beside them, but the real showstopper is the Tuslob-Buwa Set (P150), which comes with six pieces of pusô.
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Tuslob-buwa started out as street food in Barangay Pasil, Cebu City, but made its way to restaurants because of Cebuanos’ demand for the dish in a more hygienic setting. It’s pig’s brain and liver that’s been caramelized on a hot wok, and seasoned with soy sauce, garlic, and onions, until it’s all hot and bubbly. Then you dip in the pusô and take a bite.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mercato de Olango is an open-air food park that’ll make you feel like you’re back in the city. It has eight stalls, all with different cuisines. From chicken wings to shawarma wraps, milk tea to halo-halo, it has everything you can want. Of course, Cebuano street food is represented here. Pungko-Pungko ni Madam has crabmeat (P30), ngohiong (P10), and ginabot or chicharon bulaklak (P35). Mercato even has events on random nights.
Where to Stay
The island is home to many camping grounds. Among the buzzy ones are Eco-Tourism Camp and Pag Utlan Camp. The former is located on another islet, so you’ll need to take a boat ride (approx. P20) from the main island. The camp grounds itself charges a small entrance fee (approx. P20). Tents are available for rent. Not much information is available from official sources, but it may be best to assume that power sockets are only located in communal spaces and private rooms.
Pag Utlan Camp, on the other hand, is more millennial in its approach to camping. It has a bamboo archway with its name spelled out—similar to the one that was popularized by Camp Sawi. There are designated bonfire spots, and pets are allowed as they remain leashed on campgrounds. Liquor is also permitted at the site, but be mindful of the camp’s quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Day rate is P10 per person, while overnight costs P100. The cut-off is at 6 p.m. Tents are available for rent; rates start at P200. Be sure to book ahead through their Facebook page, even if you don’t plan to stay the night. The beachside camp has had to refuse walk-in guests.
But if you want to live in the lap of luxury, Casa Blanca by the Sea is as good as it gets. The beachfront property has the vibe of a vacation house replete with a large swimming pool, a billiards table, and a volleyball court. The resort also has two restaurants onsite, and their menus feature Filipino favorites such as Calamares (P250), Pork Adobo (P350), and Shrimp Sinigang (P300).
The rooms are spacious and can accommodate additional guests (P500 per extra bed). The Timber House is priced at P3,500 per night for 2, but can fit up to 5; the Deluxe Room, P4,500 for 3 but can fit up to 6; Family Room 1, P6,000 for 4 but can fit up to 10; and Family Room 2, P5,500 for 4 but can fit up to 8. Rates include a plated American breakfast.
Casa Blanca by the Sea is at Bas Coral, Barangay San Vicente, Olango Island, Lapu-Lapu City. Contact them at 0995 922 9908 or through their Facebook page. In case your tricycle driver is unfamiliar with its official name, you can ask them to take you to the “white mansion” near the Marine Sanctuary. You can also book through popular booking websites like Agoda, Expedia, and Traveloka.
If living like a local is more your speed, book with Triponia’s Home Stay. A walking distance from the photo stop Tungasan Boardwalk, they offer a no-frills payag (nipa hut) charmingly named Rain (P1,200 for 2 pax), an air-conditioned room (P1,500 for 2 pax), or family rooms (starts at 2,400 for 4 pax). All come with complimentary silog-style breakfasts as well as free WiFi. The beach in this area however is covered with mangroves, so you’ll have to head out to other areas of the island for a swim.
Triponia’s Home Stay is at Barangay Tungasan, Olango Island, Lapu-Lapu City. For bookings, call 0905-864-2648 or visit their Facebook page. To get there, ask the tricycle driver to take you to Kap Aga’s residence.
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