We wanted to visit three different beaches in the Philippines. Immediately El Nido popped into our minds. The other one had to be Bohol and the adjacent little island of Balicasag. We were looking for a beach off the beaten track and discovered Camotes Islands. Located just a step away from Cebu Island it wasn’t difficult to get there. We flew from Manila to Cebu airport, took a bus to Danao and then a ferry to the Islands (arriving at Consuelo Wharf on Pacijan Island). We had to wait because we did not have the accurate ferry schedule. No problem whatsoever! Time flew while we chatted and laughed with the Filipinos. They are truly interesting and fun.
Eitan was a little bit dizzy on the ferry so he lied down to rest while I went for a walk. I made friends on the ferry! I talked all through the journey with Krista, Eduardo and Cromwel, three young entrepreneurs from Cebu. Once we got to Camotes, Krista took us on her car to the beach. Camotes Islands is a group of three islands and one islet. A bridge that goes over dense mangrove forest connects the main islands of Pacijan and Poro. There are several beaches all around both islands. However, the only one with decent tourist infrastructure is Santiago Bay Beach on Pacijan Island.
Where to stay on Camotes Islands
We hadn’t booked a hotel yet so agreed to meet with our friends later that night and went to explore the beach. We checked a couple of basic hotels and went for a walk. At the end of the beach, perched on a small hill, we spotted what was going to be our home for the next 4 days. Santiago Bay Garden & Resort is a splendid hotel, with a big pool, good food and the most amazing views. We booked a standard room but when we noticed a couple of rooms had a private terrace overlooking the beach we immediately upgraded.
All we did was walk, snorkle, read and meet up with friends. We are both not professional divers, so to us Camotes was perfect to enjoy snorkeling safely and so easily. If you don’t carry proper gear with you, no worries, you can rent it there. I had never seen so much beauty! All sorts of colorful fish, corals, massive stars and even a snake. We spent hours intaking all this wonder. One day Eitan stayed on the beach and I went on an excursion to Buho Rock with my friends and a couple of very cool Spanish girls we met on the beach. We cooked our own barbeque, drank beer and dipped in the sea. I got drunk that night and didn’t notice that the tide was high and totally ruined my phone. Brilliant: no connection on the beach!
What are Camotes Islands like
We loved every second we spent on Camotes Islands. The islands are very close to Cebu but feel magically isolated. They are scarcely populated, have no medical service, public transport and there isn’t much information online. The good thing is there are no huge hotels, horrible malls or any western commercial nonsense. What you will find for sure are great people that will take you around on their motorbikes and make sure you have a great time. So bring a big smile, small luggage and you will have the time of your life.
On a sad note, our friends from Cebu told us that an important investor bought a big chunk of the islands and plans to develop a gigantic tourist resort. It can’t be true. Another nondescript monstrosity ruining paradise? Of course, we have nothing against it if that’s what local people want. We doubt it. Development is OK if it benefits the locals, the owners of Camotes Islands. And even if such is the case, it always comes with a price. What would you prefer: super fancy hotels with thousands of tourists (more likely Europeans and Americans with their obsession for consumption and their need for a constant flow of Starbucks, McDonalds and the like), or a pristine beach with just a handful of visitors? Yeah, we are on the same page!