The Philippines has more than 7000 islands: why is this one so special?
That’s easy. Camiguin offers the best of the Philippines in a microcosm: picture-perfect beaches, bubbling hot springs, jungle cascades, perma-grinning islanders and quirky festivals.
There’s also no shortage of adventure, with unbeatable scuba diving (you can spot sharks, turtles, giant clams, even a sunken, underwater cemetery within metres of the shoreline) and bucket-list volcano trekking. In particular, don’t miss summiting Mount Hibok-Hibok, a 1332m-high cone that offers spellbinding views across the island.
But Camiguin’s real beauty is that it doesn’t really matter where you stay, as you can see all the sights easily from anywhere. The coastal road is only 64km long, making it entirely feasible to circle the island in a few hours. And doing that by motorbike, as you chase sunset around the coast, sets up one of those rare, pinch-yourself moments you can only have in Southeast Asia.
Why is it only being talked up now, then?
Historically, it’s been a problematic island to get to. Shoestring backpackers have long had to make do with a tiring overnight ferry from Cebu City (11–12 hours, if you’re lucky), or a bum-numbing bus-boat-bus-boat-bus combo from the neighbouring island of Bohol via Cayagan De Oro on Mindanao.
But the arrival of daily 50-minute Cebu Pacific flights to the island’s pipsqueak capital Mambajao has thankfully put an end to that particular headache. Now, a recently introduced second service on Monday, Friday and Sunday makes Camiguin even easier to get to. The grim reality of having to overland through mainland Mindanao’s danger zone is no more.
Sounds almost too good to be true. When’s the best time to visit?
Undoubtedly the last week in October during the Lanzones Festival. It’s an insanely brilliant tribute to the golfball-sized local fruit (a sweet lychee meets bitter potato), one of the island’s major sources of income, with revellers dressing up Rio Carnival-style in kaleidoscopic costumes and fruity headdresses.
Considering its popularity among Mindanoans – who’re known to go gaga on local hooch and party long into the night – it’s advisable to book a bed far in advance. This year’s festival takes place from 24–30 October.
Other than odd fruit, is there anything else the island is famous for?
One of Camiguin’s most popular trips is to White Island, a dazzling sandbar only visible at low tide and easily reached by bangka, or outrigger canoe, from the beach village of Yumbing.
Looking back to Camiguin, 1.5km to the south, with Mount Hibok-Hibok framing the jungle and brilliant blue sea, you could easily mistake it for a make-believe tropical Xanadu. If it looks familiar it might just well do: it’s become one of the most Instagrammed images in the Philippines.