Camiguin Island: the hidden gem of the Philippines

Mike MacEacheran

written by
Mike MacEacheran

updated 28.03.2023

Camiguin Island is one of the Philippines’ safest and most appealing beach escapes, offering ivory-white sandbars, iridescent lagoons and jagged volcanic mountain tops. You'll find these beaches are under the radar — a world apart from the bumper-to-bumper resorts of Boracay and Alona Beach. Here’s why Camiguin Island should be at the top of your travel list, plus everything you need to know to plan your trip.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to the Philippines, your essential guide for visiting the Philippines.

Why Camiguin Island is 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, and 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 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.

Aerial drone view of a beautiful white sandbar surrounded by coral reef near a tropical island (White Island, Camiguin) © Shutterstock

Aerial drone view of a beautiful white sandbar surrounded by coral reef near a tropical island (White Island, Camiguin) © Shutterstock

How to get to Camiguin White Island?

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.


Camiguin beach, Philippines © Paul Kiss/Shutterstock

When’s the best time to visit Camiguin?

Undoubtedly the last week in October, during the Lanzones Festival. It’s an insanely brilliant tribute to the golfball-sized local fruit (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 are known to 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.

Lanzones festival, the Philippines

The Lanzones festival takes place annually on the Camiguin Island@ imagegallery2/Alamy

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 Island, 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.

Is the Mount Hibok-Hibok volcano dangerous?

Yes and no. The volcano had its last major eruption in 1951 with tremors and landslides tragically killing 500 people.

But since then, Philvolcs, the country’s leading group of volcanologists and seismologists, has set up a scientific outpost and research centre on the flanks of the volcano’s northern slope to monitor any rumblings. Better still, they’re happy to talk to visitors about their work and have several lung-emptying photographs of past eruptions. It’s a beautiful motorbike ride into the interior, too.

Volcano of Hibok-Hibok, on Camiguin island in south Philippines © Shutterstock

Volcano of Hibok-Hibok, on Camiguin island in south Philippines © Shutterstock

Other places in the Philippines worth visiting

The Philippines’ eco-island remains a firm backpacker favourite. Palawan’s capital, Puerto Princesa is carbon-neutral, while the island and its beaches have collected countless accolades – particularly for the jaw-dropping Nacpan Beach near El Nido. For many, a visit to Palawan is all about getting out on the water.

The Philippines’ biggest and most densely populated island, Luzon, is home to the nation’s capital Manila, with its bustling traffic-clogged streets and swanky shopping malls. North of Manila, this vast island unravels a range of sights. You can see everything from 2,000-year-old rice terraces and Sagada’s hanging coffins to the historic colonial city of Vigan.

Discover two paradise islands in the Philippines with our tailor-made trip to Boracay & Palawan. Enjoy luxurious hotels, white sandy beaches, a fascinating underwater world and the hospitality of the local population.


Philippines Palawan © Shutterstock

Best Camiguin tourist spots

The beauty of Camiguin Island is that it doesn’t matter where you stay, as you can visit all the sights easily from anywhere. The coastal road is only 64 km long, making it entirely feasible to circle the island in a day. If you don’t want to depend on public transport, consider renting a motorbike for day trips.

Katibawasan Falls

Easily accessible by road – or you can trek along a marked trail from Balbagon (2hr) – the impressive Katibawasan Falls is a narrow, 70m-high cascade with a crystal-clear plunge pool at the bottom, perfect for a chilly swim. Several souvenir stalls also congregate at the base of the falls.

Sunken Cemetery

A little southwest of the Old Camiguin Volcano you’ll see a striking, enormous white cross floating on a pontoon in the bay. This marks the site of the Sunken Cemetery, which slipped into the sea during a volcanic eruption in 1871 – you can observe reef fish massing around the decaying tombs on a diving or snorkelling trip.

The same eruption destroyed the seventeenth-century Spanish San Roque Church on the northern fringes of modern Bonbon; its brooding ruins still stand, with a memorial altar inside.

Sunset behind a large cross marking an old, sunken cemetery under the tropical ocean (Camiguin, Philippines) © Shutterstock

Sunset behind a large cross marking an old, sunken cemetery under the tropical ocean (Camiguin, Philippines) © Shutterstock

Ardent Hot Spring

Some 3km inland from the barangay of Tagdo, Ardent Hot Springs can be reached in about an hour on foot from either Mambajao or Agoho Beach. The water in these pools, which lie in a developed park in a jungle valley, is warmed by the volcanic interior of Mount Hibok-Hibok and can reach 40°C.

The best time to visit is from late afternoon or after dark when you can sit in a pool with a cold drink and gaze at the stars. There’s a little restaurant, a coffee shop and accommodation in several simple cottages.

Mount Mambajao

Mount Mambajao is one of the seven volcanoes located on Camiguin Island. This volcano has a rugged landscape covered with dense forests and grasslands. It is a popular hiking spot for both tourists and locals. The climb to the summit can be challenging because of the steep slopes and rocky terrain, and it usually takes approximately 4-6 hours.

However, reaching the top is still worth it for the spectacular views of the island and the surrounding sea. It is recommended that you take the necessary safety precautions before embarking on any hike and check with local authorities to be aware of the volcano's current status and any potential dangers.

Mount Mambajao on the island of Camiguin in the Philippines © Shutterstock

Mount Mambajao on the island of Camiguin in the Philippines © Shutterstock

Santo Niño Cold Spring

Santo Niño Cold Springs lies some 6km north of Catarman, while further north an island tour will bring you to Tuasan Falls. Both have deep pools that are good for swimming, but much to the chagrin of locals, the area surrounding the once pristine cascades has been blighted by the building of a controversial cross-island highway.

The Old Spanish Church Ruins

Another popular tourist attraction on Kamiguin Island are the ruins of an old Spanish church. They are the remains of an ancient Spanish church that was destroyed in a volcanic eruption and still stand as a reminder of the island's rich history.

The ruins include the bell tower and the remains of the walls of the church, made of coral stones covered with moss and lianas. Visitors can explore and photograph these picturesque ruins. They also have a great view of the sea and Mount Hibok Hibok.

Church Ruins in Camiguin, Philippines © Shutterstock

Church Ruins in Camiguin, Philippines © Shutterstock

Tuasan Falls

If you are looking for an escape from the tropical heat, a visit to Tuasan Falls is just what you need. This spectacular waterfall is located in the town of Catarman, about 30 minutes from Mambajao. Crystal-clear cool water cascades down rocky steps and forms a beautiful natural pool, making it the perfect place to swim or relax.

The trail to Tuasan Falls is maintained in excellent condition and along the way, you can enjoy stunning views of the jungle and mountains. It is also worth noting that the trail is easy to hike and suitable for children.

Tuasan waterfall tucked away in the jungles of Camiguin Island, Philippines © Shutterstock

Tuasan waterfall tucked away in the jungles of Camiguin Island, Philippines © Shutterstock

Taguines Lagoon

Taguines Lagoon is an artificial lagoon created primarily for fish breeding, it is located just a short drive from Benoni Port on Camiguin Island. The lagoon is nestled in a tranquil area surrounded by lush tropical vegetation.

The calm, clear waters of the lagoon are of interest primarily to kayakers, swimmers and paddlers. It is also a great place for bird watching, as it is home to a large number of migratory and endemic species.

The Clam Sanctuary

The family-run Cantaan Kaliba Giant Clam Sanctuary is home to about three thousand clams. The entry includes a short tour of the rehabilitation tanks, and grants you access to one of the island’s most beautiful stretches of white-sand beach, as well as a coral reef that’s good for snorkelling. Though the entry fee is reasonable, the extra charges for snorkelling are overpriced.

Bura Soda Water Park

Bura Soda Water Park is known for its unique soda springs, which have a large amount of carbon dioxide and minerals that give the water a soda-like texture and mildly salty taste. This nature park is located in the town of Catarman, on the northern coast of the island. The park invites visitors to take a dip in the soda pools, which are believed to have therapeutic effects and provide relief from muscular pain.

Where to stay on Camiguin Island?

Most of the seaside accommodation in Camiguin Island is west of Mambajao on the beaches between the small towns of Bug-ong and Naasag. Resorts near the town of Agoho, a little west of Bug-ong, remain popular due to their easy access to White Island. East of Mambajao, around the village of Balgabon, you’ll find more resorts, although the beach here isn’t as good as at Agoho, Yumbing or Naasag.

Find more accommodation options to stay on Camiguin Island

Looking for some more exotic destinations for your trip? Explore our guide to the most exotic places to travel in the world.

Ready for a trip to the Philippines? Check out the snapshot of The Rough Guide to the Philippines.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to the Philippines without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn commission from some of the external websites linked in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image © Paul Kiss/Shutterstock

Mike MacEacheran

written by
Mike MacEacheran

updated 28.03.2023

Mike MacEacheran is a travel journalist & guidebook author based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He has reported from 108 countries for National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveller, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mail on Sunday, The Independent, Evening Standard, The Sun, The Globe and Mail, Scotland on Sunday, The National and South China Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMacEacheran

Planning your own trip? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Ready to travel and discover

Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels

Plan my trip ⤍