Size is not enough to decide whether or not a place is beautiful. There are areas in the world that are big, yet are too plain that when you visit, you’d quickly get bored. On the other hand, there are places which, despite their very small size, offer seemingly endless attractions all worth visiting.
One such place is the pearl-shaped island of Camiguin. The name of the island was derived from the “kamagong” tree which are aplenty in the land of the Manobos (the earlier inhabitants of the island) in northeastern Mindanao. This historical account is supported by linguists since the local language “kinamigin” is closely related to the Manobo language.
In recent times, however, most of the indigenous population has shifted to speaking Cebuano since migrants from Cebu and other nearby provinces have made it the official language of trade.
Camiguin also played an important role during the first few years of Spanish colonization. In 1521, after landing in Homonhon and Limasawa, Ferdinand Magellan and his men headed their way to Camiguin. Then in 1598, this time following the visit of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the first Spanish settlement in the island was established. Catarman, located southwest of Mambajao, was the major trading center of Camiguin until 1871 before the violent eruption of Mt. Vulcan. The catastrophic event wiped out communities and sank some coastal settlements beneath the sea.
Carved out of Misamis Oriental, the small province today, the second smallest in the country in terms of population and land area, is politically divided into 5 municipalities: Mambajao the capital, Mahinog, Guinsiliban, Sagay, and Catarman. About 23 kilometers in length and nearly 15 kilometers wide, the island has a rugged mountainous topography molded by at least 4 volcanoes: Hibok-Hibok, Timpoong, Butay, and Guinsiliban.
The province’s economy depends mainly on fishing and farming, famous for products such as abaca (hemp weaved for clothing, furniture, and accessories) and lanzones, a grape-sized tropical fruit in which the sweetest variety grow in the island. Ultimately, Camiguin’s tourism industry is a boon to the local people, providing a livelihood to many while satisfying the island’s vacationers.
How to Get to Camiguin
Although there is a small domestic airport in the capital Mambajao, currently there are no direct flights from Manila to Camiguin. The most convenient option is to book a flight from Manila (MNL) to Cagayan de Oro City (CGY).
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific fly daily to Cagayan de Oro from Manila. Flight time is approximately 1.5 hours.
From Laguindingan Airport, transfer to a van bound for Agora Market. Magnum Shuttle Service to Agora Market can be found outside the arrival area; fare is ₱200 per person. From the terminal at Agora, ride a bus bound for Balingoan Port. The fare from Agora to Balingoan is around ₱150 with a travel time of 2.5 to 3 hours.
Get off the bus at Balingoan Bus Terminal and walk to Balingoan Port which is just beside the terminal. Passenger ferries from Balingoan Port to Benoni Port in Camiguin are available from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The regular fare is around ₱170 with a travel time of approximately 2 hours. Upon arrival at Benoni Port, there are jeepneys and vans going to Mambajao; travel time is about an hour.
Cebu Pacific flies from Mactan–Cebu International Airport (CEB) to Camiguin Airport (CGM) departing at around 6:00 AM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and then Friday to Sunday.
What to See in Camiguin
Mt. Hibok-HibokMambajao, Camiguin
An active stratovolcano with an elevation of about 1300 meters (~4300 ft) and a base diameter of roughly 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), Mt. Hibok-Hibok is a popular hiking destination in Camiguin. Teeming with an abundance of ferns and mosses, the trail to the summit is mostly through a low-dense forest dotted with bushes.
Ardent Hot Springs in Mambajao is the usual jump off point when climbing the volcano, taking about 3-5 hours to reach the top. From the peak, a nice view of the mossy Ilihan Crater (site of the 1950 eruption), White Island, and the islands of Siquijor and Bohol can be seen.
In arranging a climb to Hibok-Hibok, it is necessary to first secure a permit from the DENR Office in Mambajao (registration fee of ₱200/person). Guides may also be arranged from the office for a day hike fee of ₱1,200. From the office, hire a habal-habal to Ardent Hot Spring to commence the climb.
White IslandMambajao, Camiguin
Off the northern coast of Mambajao is an uninhabited sandbar which is popular for its breathtaking beauty, due to it being surrounded by crystal clear turquoise waters, and providing an incredible panoramic view of Mount Hibok-Hibok, Mount Vulcan, and the rest of Camiguin Island.
Not a single speck of vegetation can be found on White Island, thus calling it an island is technically wrong. During high tide, it becomes submerged underwater so it’s important to ask the locals about the high tide schedule prior to renting a boat. Interestingly, ‘White Island’ also changes its shape throughout the year depending on the direction and movement of sea current and tides.
In all of Camiguin, White Island’s sandbar offers the most breathtaking view. Imagine sparkling shallow waters that extends as far as your eyes can see. Snorkeling and diving around the island also introduce visitors to the rich marine life thriving beneath the sea surface. And if you’re lucky, there are times of the year when seabirds breed in the island.
To reach White Island from Mambajao center, hire a habal-habal or tricycle to bring you to Brgy. Yumbing near Paras Beach Resort. Beside the resort, boat operators charge ₱300-500 round trip depending on the number of passengers. The boat transfer takes only 15 minutes.
Sunken CemeteryCatarman, Camiguin
After the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vulcan in 1871, the coastal area of the town of Catarman was submerged under the sea. This included a local cemetery in what is now Barangay Bonbon. The Sunken Cemetery can still be seen during low tide until a series of volcanic eruptions between 1948 to 1953 pushed the land further down towards the sea.
To mark the location of the sunken cemetery, a big cross was erected in 1982. Today, not only does it serve as a clear reminder of the island’s violent past, it is also a diving and snorkeling site. Giant clams and a variety of fish take shelter behind the tombstones as well as small cross markers scattered all over the old graveyard.
Barangay Bonbon in the town of Catarman can easily be reached by riding a multicab from Mambajao or renting a habal-habal/tricycle. Just tell the driver to drop you off at the site of the sunken cemetery. There is no entrance fee. A boat ride to the actual big cross marker costs ₱100 for a group of 5, while ₱50 is collected for those who want to do snorkeling around the area.
Katibawasan FallsMambajao, Camiguin
Located 5 kilometers (3 miles) southeast of Mambajao at the foot of Mount Timpoong, Katibawan Falls is the most visited waterfalls in Camiguin. Standing at approximately 250 feet, it drops straight down from a cliff into a narrow waist-deep pool where visitors can have a dip. Since the spot is tucked in the middle of a forest populated by various species of orchids, giant ferns and tropical trees, it creates a cool atmosphere perfect for relaxation.
To get here, you may rent a habal-habal from Mambajao and just tell the driver you are going to Katibawasan Falls (10-15 minutes). There is an entrance fee of ₱20 per adult. Tables and chairs are available to support small gatherings and picnics.
Tuasan FallsCatarman, Camiguin
Another popular hangout spot in the island is Tuasan Falls – although going there requires a bit more effort. From Mambajao, hire a habal-habal to drive the circumferential road counter clockwise to the village of Compol where a small sign in the road directs to the falls. From the junction, continue towards the small road. At the end of it, the actual falls will be a quick 30-minute hike away.
Although Tuasan Falls is shorter in height when compared with Katibawasan, it is certainly quieter and more serene, excellent for those looking for a short hike and easy adventure.
Binangawan FallsSagay, Camiguin
If you think the hike to Tuasan Falls was too short and easy and you feel like trying something more challenging, then head to Binangawan Falls in the town of Sagay. “Bangaw” is the Bisayan word for rainbow, which then translates “Binangawan Falls” to rainbowed falls owing to the small rainbow that forms whenever sunlight hits the blanket of mist it produces.
With the falls concealed in the highlands of Sagay, only a few people know about its existence. But today, a 5-kilometer dirt road accessible to a habal-habal now leads to Malingin from the junction in Barangay Bonbon. From Malingin, the falls is still another 1 to 2-hour hike away through a mountainous rainforest trail.
Mantigue IslandMahinog, Camiguin
If White Island is uninhabited, lacks vegetation or in short totally bare, Mantigue Island in the town of Mahinog on the other hand, hosts a low-dense forest and a few households. With a total size of about 4 hectares surrounded by white sand beaches and rich coral gardens off its coast, a visit to the island is definitely a must when in Camiguin. It is a marine sanctuary which means fishing around the area is prohibited. However, you may bring seafood from mainland Camiguin and have them cooked here; you’ll find small huts set up in the area for picnics.
Going to Mantigue is very easy if you are coming from Benoni Port. Outside the port, just hire a tricycle for a 5-minute ride to Barangay San Roque where the boat station to the island can be found. Boat rental costs ₱550 two-way which includes a waiting time of 4 hours. Beyond this period, an additional ₱150/hour will be charged.
A ₱20 municipal and environmental fee plus ₱50 snorkeling fee for those who want to snorkel are collected on the island. Be sure to bring your own snorkeling gear. The waters surrounding the island are to host some of the healthiest coral reefs in Camiguin.
Guiob Church RuinsCatarman, Camiguin
After the 1871 catastrophic eruption of Mount Vulcan, only the coralline walls of a Catholic Church remained standing in Barangay Borbon in the town of Catarman. Now called Guiob Church Ruins, the 16th Century structure is one of the oldest in Camiguin. At the back of the main church, you’ll see the remnants of a bell tower and a convent.
Today, a small chapel stands within the walls of the old church, frequented by locals, as well as visitors, who want to find a quiet place to pray. The site is approximately 30 minutes away from the center of Mambajao by habal-habal. It is just along the road and almost everyone in Camiguin knows the place. There is no entrance fee.
Ardent Hot SpringMambajao, Camiguin
Hot springs are common in volcanic islands like Camiguin. Among those in the island, Ardent Hot Spring found at the foot of Mount Hibok-Hibok is the most popular. The spring cascades down to six separate pools in which the topmost pool is the hottest at approximately 40 degrees Celsius. As the water gushes down to the lower pools, the temperature decreases giving visitors more options when choosing which pool to pick. If you are dipping in the upper pools, don’t stay in the hot water longer than 20 minutes or you risk skin irritation. If you’re coming from a day climb of Mount Hibok-Hibok, having a quick dip in the hot springs is a good way to relax the muscles. Ardent Hot Spring can be reached by hiring a habal-habal from Mambajao. The entrance fee is ₱30 per person. Huts under the shade of trees are available for rent.
Mt. Vulcan WalkwayCatarman, Camiguin
Along the slopes of Mt. Vulcan in Barangay Bonbon, in the town of Catarman, lay a series of concrete steps and pathway. White statues depicting the Stations of the Cross stand beside the trail, making this a popular prayer and devotion site during the Christian Holy Week.
Camiguin offers great views of the island and the sea. It also serves as a good way to work out while on vacation. A must especially when you plan to eat a lot of seafood, lanzones, and pastel while in Camiguin. Mount Vulcan Walkway is just about 20 minutes away from Mambajao center by habal-habal. It is only a 5 to 10-minute drive from Paras Beach Resort, the common jump off point to White Island.
Sto. Niño Cold SpringCatarman, Camiguin
If crowded places don’t concern you that much and you don’t mind sharing a rather small space with both locals and travelers, then you might want to consider a visit to Sto. Niño Cold Spring, in the town of Catarman. The clear, cold waters of the two pools (the bigger one measuring approximately 25m x 40m) attract many locals to take a dip.
With a temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius, the freshwater coming out of the spring is truly refreshing. One may even swim along with small fishes that frolic in the pools. From the main Camiguin circumferential road, turn at the junction in the village of Looc and from there continue to drive for another 2 kilometers to the spring. There is an entrance fee of ₱20 for adults. Picnic huts can be rented for ₱75 for the first 4 hours.
What to Eat in Camiguin
There are at least 3 varieties of lanzones in the country: Paete, Camiguin, and Jolo. Among them, the Camiguin variety is considered to be the sweetest and this is the reason why many visitors to the island make sure to get a taste of this fruit during their trip.
Since lanzones have become synonymous to Camiguin, a festival named after it is held in the month of October. During the celebration houses, floats, and street poles are decorated with lanzones and lanzones leaves. Parades and street dancing also make the roads of Mambajao come alive to the delight of both locals and tourists.
A snack that is unique to Camiguin, kiping is made from dried cassava topped with “latik” or caramelized sugar. It is as thin and crispy as a fried potato crisp, but is as large as a regular dining plate. It’s normally sold for just ₱5 and easily found outside the main attractions of the island such as Katibawasan Falls and Sto. Niño Cold Spring.
Pastel is a delicacy so delicious, it’s now famous throughout the archipelago. It can be found all over Mindanao, in selected stores in the Visayas, and occasionally inside the larger malls in Luzon. These soft sweet buns filled with yema originated from the small island of Camiguin, in a small bakery called Vjandep Bakeshoppe. Together with lanzones and kiping, pastel is certainly a must-try. It’s not surprising if you end up bringing home boxes of it.
Where to Stay in Camiguin
+63 88 387 9008 / +63 917 715 2285
+63 88 387 0131 / +63 917 721 2798
+63 88 387 0419 / +63 917 308 9293
+63 88 387 0077 / +63 918 915 7593
+63 88 387 0948