The SPOT.ph Guide to Camotes Island, Cebu

Apart from beaches, there are so many things to explore.

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PHOTO BY (L) Abby Gail Susan, (R) Krystyl C. Miranda ILLUSTRATION Warren Espejo

(SPOT.ph) Ask anyone from Cebu where they like to go to escape the city life, and the name Camotes Islands is very likely to pop up. This group of islands is located to the east of the Cebu mainland and has earned its reputation among visitors, tourists, and expats over the years. With so many natural wonders and dive sites, the group of islands is definitely a dream.

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The first thing you have to know is that Camotes comprises three main islands: Poro, Pacijan, and Ponson, and an islet called Tulang. Poro Island is made up of the Poro and Tudela municipalities, while Pacijan Island’s only municipality is San Francisco. Likewise, Ponson Island’s municipality is only Pilar. Meanwhile, Tulang Island is part of San Francisco. You can easily explore the main islands of Poro and Pacijan using a land bridge.

Also read:
The SPOT.ph Guide to Malapascua Island
The SPOT.ph Guide to Bantayan Island

Here’s what you need to know about Camotes Island in Cebu:

What to Do

One of the biggest reasons why people escape to Camotes is to take advantage of the islands’ beaches. The first that will probably come to mind is Santiago Beach, with its pristine white sands and cool waters. However, Camotes also has so much more to offer than just beaches.

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Swimming and beach-bumming

camotes island
PHOTO courtesy of Abby Gail Susan

No visit to the islands may be deemed complete if you don’t visit the famed Santiago Bay. There are a number of resorts around the area if you’d like to go for an overnight stay, but you can also opt to rent a cottage or tables by the shore. This particular beach is popular among families, especially with kids.

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Meanwhile, Mangodlong is fast becoming a favorite among visitors as well. Like Santiago Bay, it has white sands and blue waters. Other beaches that will be worth your while are Buho Beach, with its famous cliff-diving spot and amazing rock formations, the secluded Bakhaw Beach with its untouched charm, the equally serene Esperanza Beach, and the Tulang Diot Beach, with its unique sandbar.

Kayaking, caving, and more

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PHOTO courtesy of Krystyl C. Miranda
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If you’ve had enough of the beaches, you can always visit the fresh waters of Lake Danao (P15 entrance fee), another favorite among visitors. It’s located in the northern part of Pacijan Island and has picturesque sceneries which you can fully immerse in by kayaking or boating (P50 per person). Apart from that, you can also ride horses near the lake. The lake is also well-loved for its romantic atmosphere, so it’s definitely worth a visit.

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PHOTO courtesy of Krystyl C. Miranda
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Exploring caves in Camotes is yet another unique experience. There’s Timubo Cave in San Francisco (P20 entrance fee) with its grotto and cold waters, which you can reach after only a short walk. Another is the smaller but more developed and more accessible Paraiso Cave, also in San Francisco (P50 entrance fee). There’s also the Instagram-worthy Bukilat Cave (P20 entrance fee) in Tudela, Poro Island, with its roof opening that throws sunlight inside, making everything look magical.

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PHOTO courtesy of Krystyl C. Miranda
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If romantic waterfalls are your thing, then the good news is that Camotes has a couple of worthy spots tucked away in Poro Island. Busay Falls (P10 entrance fee) has satisfyingly cold waters to freshen your spirit. It has three levels as well as a small clearwater pool to bask in. The hike to the site will only take around 10 minutes. The other offering is Panganuron Falls, which has a longer hike time of 45 minutes. That said, make sure to pack proper hiking shoes if you choose this spot. You will have to ask locals to guide you along as it’s rather isolated.

Lastly, the islet of Tulang Diot is not far behind when it comes to scenery despite its size. Like many other Camotes beaches, the place offers crystal waters and fine sand. A fare of P20 will take you there, with a travel time of 10-15 minutes. You can even spend the night and camp if you wish.

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Where to Eat

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PHOTO courtesy of Facebook/Santiago Bay Garden and Resort

Santiago Bay Restaurant, Santiago Bay Garden and Resort

Pacijan Island, San Francisco, Cebu
Contact: (032) 345-8599, 0917-329-2448 or 0939-912-7042
www.facebook.com/SantiagoBayGardenAndResort
Open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Like many destinations, Camotes offers a variety of dining experiences. Many of the beaches mentioned have private resorts that offer an assortment of excellent restaurants, such as the Santiago Bay Restaurant. The place has an open-air design that lets you feast on Filipino and Asian dishes while enjoying a view of the nearby sea.

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PHOTO courtesy of Facebook/Pito's Sutokil and Bamboo Rock Resort

Pito’s Sutokil and Bamboo Rock Resort

Santiago Bay, San Francisco, Cebu
Contact: 0945-550-0757
www.facebook.com/Pitos-Sutokil-Bamboo-Rock-Resort-166000514039183
Open 24/7

Another offering at the Santiago shoreline is Pito’s Sutokil, a budget-friendly place run by a family, making the ambiance as cheery and fresh as the cuisine. As the name suggests, the food is freshly caught and cooked just for you.

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PHOTO BY Facebook/Nena's Grill and Drinks

Nena’s Grill

Santiago Beach, San Francisco, Cebu
Contact: 0945-350-9577
www.facebook.com/NenasGrillAndDrinks
Open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Still located by the Santiago beach is Nena’s Grill, featuring traditional Filipino food that makes you remember your favorite home cooking. The seafood and grilled dishes should be perfect after a day of swimming.

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PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK

Lake Danao Sizzling Bar

Lake Danao Park, San Francisco, Cebu
www.facebook.com/LakeDanaoParkOfficialPage
Open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you find yourself in Lake Danao, make sure not to miss the Lake Danao Sizzling Bar. It has affordable Asian and Filipino cuisine that will hit the spot after doing your favorite watersports activities.

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PHOTO courtesy of Facebook/Mangodlong Paradise

Bamboo Café

Mangadlong Paradise Resort, San Francisco, Camotes Islands
Contact: 0917-491-0794
www.facebook.com/mangodlongparadiseofficial
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Looking for a spot to chill and hang out with friends after a day at the beach Camotes also offers cafes to relax in, such as Bamboo Café in Mangodlong Paradise Resort. You can get pasta, pizza, and Filipino food, or just sip a glass of wine and watch the sunset on the beach.

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PHOTO courtesy of TripAdvisor/Camotes

3 Beans Café

Southern Poblacion, San Francisco, Cebu
Contact: 0915-103-7930
www.facebook.com/3beansCoffeeCafe
Open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Another place to check out is 3 Beans Café, with its assortment of sandwiches, shakes, and lattes.

Where to Stay

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PHOTO courtesy of Facebook/Santiago Bay Garden and Resort
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Santiago Bay Garden and Resort

Pacijan Island, San Francisco, Cebu 
Contact: (032) 345-8599, 0917-329-2448 or 0939-912-7042 
www.facebook.com/SantiagoBayGardenAndResort
Rates start at P1,000

Due to the popularity of the beaches at Camotes, there are now many beach resorts that offer all the conveniences of city accommodations. One of the most popular places is Santiago Bay Garden and Resort, which boasts the best view of Santiago beach. The resort also has two infinity pools, perfect for families. Rates start at P1,000 for Standard Non-Aircon rooms and P1,650 for Standard Aircon rooms, to P5,500 for a Villa Family room.

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PHOTO courtesy of Facebook/Mangodlong Paradise
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Mangodlong Paradise Resort

San Francisco, Cebu
Contact: (032) 346-0421 or 0917-491-0794
www.mangodlong.cunahotels.com
Rates start at P3,300

A more luxurious and exclusive option is the Mangodlong Paradise Resort, which also has an infinity pool and a poolside bar. Its private beach is treasured by guests for its quiet ambiance. Rates start at P3,300 for a Standard Room, to P7,500 for a spacious Paradise Suite.

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PHOTO courtesy of Mangodlong Rock Resort
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Mangodlong Rock Resort

San Francisco, Cebu
Contact: 0917-329-2448 
www.facebook.com/MangodlongRockResort
Rates start at P2,420

The nearby Mangodlong Rock Resort offers a more affordable alternative, without skimping on the facilities. A Beachfront room costs P2,420, while a Beachfront Family room costs P4,400. 

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PHOTO courtesy of Facebook/Camotes Island Ocean Heaven Resort

Camotes Island Ocean Heaven Resort

San Francisco, Cebu
Contact: 0917-190-6777 
www.facebook.com/Oceanheavenresort
Rates start at P1,650

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The Camotes Island Ocean Heaven Resort is just as heavenly as the name suggests. A Standard Room can be booked for just P1,680, while more spacious Family Rooms have a price of P5,550. The pool can help you get in a lounging mood. Additionally, the place is also ideal for corporate or family events with its wide function halls.

How to Get There

People usually get to Camotes using Cebu Island, the mainland, as a jumpoff point. In the past, the most popular way to get to the islands was by boarding an OceanJet fast craft, with a travel time of around one to two hours. However, as of March 2022, the liner has temporarily stopped the trips. To keep updated, make sure to check out the OceanJet Facebook page.

Not to worry, though, as you may go for the Danao to Camotes route instead through Jomalia Shipping. Bookings are conveniently made online. The travel time is only 50 minutes. Departure times are 5:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. The fare is P264 for Economy seating, non-air-conditioned. You will be arriving at the port of Consuelo in Camotes. For updates, head to Jomalia Shipping’s Facebook page

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Danao is a city in Northern Cebu. You can easily get there by going to the North Bus Terminal and taking a bus to the port. The travel time is around an hour and a half. Fares are from P70, plus a minimal terminal fee.

Getting Around

Once you arrive at the port, you’re only a few steps away from enjoying what the islands have to offer. Getting around the place shouldn’t be too hard, with many motorcycles, tricycles, and multi-cabs plying the routes. You can rent an entire vehicle for the day, with prices ranging from P1,500 to P2,500, depending on the size (and your haggling skills). This is why many visitors opt to tour Camotes with a group.

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