Malapascua Island is a small island off the northeastern coast of Cebu in the Philippines. It features warm, tropical waters, palm trees, white beaches, and excellent dive sites.
The island has a long stretch of white sandy beach, where most of the resorts are located. There are a number of local villages on the island. Fishing and tourism are the main sources of income for the locals.
Malapascua is much less developed than popular tourist spots such as Boracay and Alona Beach. The island has a friendly, relaxing vibe. There are no roads or cars and on the main beach strip; not even motorbikes are allowed.
Malapascua is mostly visited by divers who flock to the island to swim with the famous Thresher Sharks that surround the area.
How to get to Malapascua Island
The easiest way to get to Malapascua Island is to fly to Mactan international airport, just outside Cebu city. The airport is connected to most cities in the Philippines but also to a number of major cities around Asia, such as Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul, Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur.
Cebu Pacific Air serves the biggest number of international destinations. See the route map below for an overview. The blue cities can be reached by direct flights and the yellow cities require connections with a stopover in Manila.
From the international airport at Mactan Island you have two options: take a bus or hire a private car to Maya, a small port on the northern tip of the island.
A private car will set you back about P2500 and will take around three hours. Busses are considerably cheaper (P100-200) but can take anywhere from four to six hours.
If you take the bus, your best bet is to take the yellow Ceres Tours bus. It has AC and free WiFi on board. Other bus operators are Ceres Liner and Rough Riders. Buses leave from the North Bus Terminal Cebu, which is about 7km away from the airport, which is a 20-minute taxi ride.
When you get to Maya, you can take a 30-minute public boat to Malapascua. The boat should cost P80. There is no set time schedule; the boat usually leaves when there are enough people on board. This amount is kind of arbitrary, but around 10 passengers should be enough.
Some captains will try to make a few extra bucks by offering you an earlier departure in exchange for extra money or even offer a private boat for P1000 - P2000. I've had one guy tell me the public boat wasn't in operation. Don't fall for these tricks; the wait really shouldn't be long.
The boat drops you off on the beach within walking distance of the resorts. There will be plenty of locals around who are willing to carry your bags for a few Pesos.
When to go
If you are looking to relax, the low season from May to September is the best time to visit. You'll have a bit more rain during this period but the absence of tourist crowds more than makes up for this. Almost every single visitor during this time of the year will be looking to dive.
During the high season (October to April) you'll find lots of beach lovers arriving to the island. Expect people to have small beach parties to the early hours of the morning. If you're looking to meet people, party a bit, and relax during the day, this is the time to go.
Where to stay
I stayed at Ocean Vida Beach & Dive*, a middle-class resort located on the center of the beach strip. I recommend you stay here if your budget permits it. Rooms start at $80/night. From what I've seen, this really is the best place to stay.
They have a nice beach bar and a great seating area on the beach in between the palm-trees. If you're not staying here, you should at least drop by for a happy hour drink (4-6pm) or dinner on the beach. The excellent dive shop Sea Explorers is located within the resort.
If you're on a budget, the neighboring Hippocampus Beach Resort* is a good choice. Rooms start at around $35.
Eating & drinking
Don't expect too much in terms of nightlife on Malapascua. The seating in front of Ocean Vida is probably your best bet if you are looking to enjoy some drinks with fellow travelers at night.
There are a few good dining options. Restaurant Angelina is a great locale if you like Italian food. It's attached to the Tepanee Resort in the southwestern corner of the island. The resort itself also features a good restaurant called Amihan. Try the fresh seafood… you won't regret it!
The main thing to do on the island (except for relaxing) is diving. There are plenty of dive spots around the island. Two great options are Gato island and Calamangan Island. These dive spots will provide ample opportunities to see sea snakes, frog fish, white tip reef sharks, octopi, and cuttle fish.
The highlight of the dive areas is a site called Moan Shoal. This place is frequented by the gracious Thresher Sharks almost every morning. Guarantees can’t be made, but you'd be very unlucky not to see at least one. There is no Thresher Shark season, so you can see them all year round.
If you're lucky, you might also spot a Manta Ray. The best time to see them is November to March.
There are plenty of dive shops in the area; most of them are located on the main beach strip. I dove with Sea Explorers, but other options include Thresher Shark Divers and Evolution Diving.
You can snorkel right off the beach. In the shallow parts, you can find crabs hiding in the grass and a few types of small fish. For more interesting snorkeling spots, take the three-hour snorkeling tour around the island. You'll be taken to three different spots, the second one being the most interesting.
Leftovers of what was once a Japanese warship lie on the bottom off the sea, just off the coast of the island. It's only 10-15 feet deep, so for those who are able to hold your breath for a while, it's a great spot. I found a frogfish and several funny looking creatures that I didn't know existed.
Not far from the wreck is a cliff that you can jump off. Make sure it's high tide so you won't slam into the rocks!
Another good place to snorkel is Calamangan island. The island is about 1 1/2 hours away, and daily trips are offered by the locals.
There really isn't much else to do. You can rent a motorbike to explore the island and visit some of the local villages. The paths are pretty narrow though, so if you've never driven a motorbike before, I'd pass on this adventure.
There is one place where you can rent kayaks and water bikes. Walk along the beach in the western direction until you see the Blue Coral resort (you can't miss it). Take a right and walk up to the yellow building in front of you.
One more thing I enjoyed doing was watching the sunset. There are a few good places to shoot sunset pictures. The best one is a mile or so away from the main beach where the lighthouse is located. You can't climb it, but it's on one of the hills so you'll have a nice view.
The Blue Coral resort has an outside patio that serves as a good vantage point for taking pictures. You can't see the sun sink into the ocean from here, but you'll be able to take some good shots before that.
Another spot is just on the other side of the Blue Coral resort. Walk past the cemetery, take a right, and follow the beach. At the end of the path, you'll see a few beach beds (they belong to the Tepanee resort). Sit down and enjoy!
You won't find many cash machines in Malapascua Island, so it's advisable to bring plenty of money. At the international airport in Cebu, there is one cash machine that accepts international cards. It can be tricky to find, it's located outside the international terminal. When you exit the terminal, take a left and keep walking until you see it.
Would I go again?
Absolutely. I had a great time in Malapascua island. I ended up extending my stay twice! It's the type of place that I enjoy. No big tourist crowds, just a few friendly resorts mixed with a few small local villages. Adding the outstanding dive spots, the affordable prices, the crystal clear waters, and the white sand beaches makes for a top-notch destination.
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