Philippines Travel: Siquijor & Malapascua
Siquijor and Malapascua are two bite size islands with loads to offer. My time in each island wasn’t long enough, but I am so grateful I was able to explore both for a few days.
Siquijor is a small island in the Philippines full of magical energy, beautiful white sand beaches, waterfalls galore and, of course, incredible sunsets. It’s home to the shaman massages and lots of old witchcraft which has kept many Pinoy tourists away for decades. Now Siquijor is booming with local tourists and is becoming a hot spot destination for travelers of all kinds. I had my first couchsurfing experience in the Philippines in Siquijor and immensely enjoyed my time getting to know my Pinoy family and their way of life.
When I arrived Cloudyne picked me up from the port via motorbike and drove us the hour to her house in Maria. Her little country home had chickens, turkeys, roosters, a garden full of crops, mango and banana trees, and a lovely family to welcome us. She gave me my own room and connected bathroom to make me comfortable before we ventured out to Cambugahay Falls on the motorbike I rented from her sister. Cambugahay Falls is a free three tiered waterfall with icy blue water. Since we arrived later in the day there were minimal tourists and lots of open space. Cloud talked me into doing the rope swing which was a close call to an almost disaster... For fifty pesos you can swing as much as you’d like, but after the second try of not going further than a few meters I decided it was best for my health if I watched others do it. It was mildly embarrassing as the man running the rope swing kept screaming across the huge pools to come back and give it one more try, but I continued to deny his offer with confidence.
We road to San Juan and watched the sky change colors before driving back to her house to enjoy a lovely family dinner. Her dad and brother in-law had dipped into the rum already and inducted me into the family with a massive shot of Tanduay, the local favorite. Cloudyne’s family is massive, but very lovely. Her mom, who lives in America with her other two sisters and brother, FaceTimed us during dinner to say hello. It still surprises me that this split life is normal for Pinoys, but it does make me appreciate all the opportunity we have in America. We enjoyed fish and rice for dinner, and finished off the night off with a plethora of bananas for dessert.
The next morning, I got a knock on my door at 6:30AM for breakfast. Every morning without fail, the family has breakfast together. For me it was a bit early so I enjoyed coffee while I watched them take down copious amounts of rice and fish for breakfast. I don’t think I’ll ever have the ability to eat fish soaked in soy, vinegar and chili’s for breakfast. It was already steaming hot by 8am and I was ready for a swim. Lugnason Falls was our first destination, starting off with a little walk through the rainforest which connected nine different waterfalls before dumping into the big swimming pool at the bottom. We cliff jumped and swam with the local kids for a couple hours enjoying the cool water on the hot summers day.
From there Cloud took me to her favorite beach, Palitan Beach, where we swam before indulging in the local ice cream, halo halo. Halo halo is the typical Pinoy dessert that varies in recipe depending on where you go. The one we had started with a base of ice, fresh coconut and coconut milk and included toppings of corn flakes, candies, seaweed jelly cubes, ice cream, corn, and fresh fruit. And if that’s not sweet enough for you already, the Pinoy way is to add more sugar to the top! A crazy strange combination, but it does cure your sweet tooth.
After the daily breakfast and laundry we went to my favorite spot in Siquijor, Salagdoong Beach. The drive there was absolutely stunning through a forest of trees before plopping us out at the crystal clear sea that extends for miles. You can cliff jump, kayak, paddle board, snorkel and explore the surrounding land. This beach has been turned into somewhat of a beach resort and pulls in local and foreign tourists of all kinds. Entrance and parking is a total of 50 pesos ($1), but totally worth it.
I went back and packed my bags before the whole family and I jumped in the van to take me to the ferry port and see me off. The hospitality of Cloud and her family will never be forgotten. It solidified that Pinoys might just be some of the friendliest people I’ve met so far. They are curious, kind and downright fun to be around. I highly recommend Couchsurfing in the Philippines if you can.
Where to go:
- Palitan beach
- Lugnason Falls- pay 20 pesos for parking (40 cents)
- Cambugahay Falls- Free waterfall, pay ten pesos (20 cents) for parking or 50 pesos ($1) to rope swing.
- Sunsets in San Juan
- Salagdoong beach and resort- 25 pesos (50 cents) entrance fee, 50 pesos ($1) for parking
- MIX Halo halo food hauz
Where to stay:
- Charisma Beach Resort- 500 pesos per night ($10)
- Backpacker hostels and Home stays
- Use this link to get $25 off your next booking!
I ventured long and far to get to Malapascua from Siquijor, but there was no chance I was going to miss seeing a friend I met along my travels in India! The main reason people venture to Malapascua is to see the Thresher Sharks in the cleaning stations where you are 95% likely to see them.
BEWARE: Malapascua is hotter than hot especially when it gets into the summer months. There are a few hours of the day where it’s impossible to walk even a hundred meters without feeling like you’re going to pass out, so stay hydrated and wear a lot of sunscreen!
I took the ferry from Siquijor to Dumaguete for 140 pesos($2.80) and then got a night ferry to Cebu for 400 pesos($8). When I arrived in Dumaguete a nice security guard watched my bag while his mate took me to the ATM deep into the city. I was again blown away by the locals graciousness and kindness. All they want to do get to know you for nothing in return except for maybe your Facebook or phone number to keep in contact. I sat with them for a couple hours before my night ferry began to board. I took economy which was an experience, but eventually you get used to the locals staring at you as you sleep. Economy was air conditioned though! BONUS! From Cebu I got a bus to Maya which took five hours and costed 190 pesos ($3.90). I wish I would have gotten an AC bus for 220 pesos ($4.40) because it takes half the time and is a bit more comfortable, but lesson learned! From Maya the last leg of the journey was a 100 peso ($2) 30 minute ferry to Malapascua where I was greeted with a sweaty hug from a familiar face.
BEWARE: The locals may try to finagle you into reserving a solo ferry over for 1500 pesos if no other passengers show up for a while, kindly deny their offer and wait for other passengers! The pinoys are experienced businessman and will try with all their might to earn a few extra pesos.
I dumped my bags in our Hideaway Resort and did yoga for an hour before finding the massage women on the beach to receive an hour long deep tissue massage for only 400 pesos ($8). It was exactly what the doctor ordered. We had a beer at Hippocampus and a delicious pizza with actual pesto (SCORE!) while watching the sunset! A perfect welcome to the miniature island. After my long 24 hours of travel we decided to take it easy enjoying homemade pumpkin soup from Bakhaw Kiwi. I learned quickly that the small winding sandy walkways create a sort of maze that can easily confuse you no matter what time of day.
My alarm went off at 3:45am that next morning where I ventured to Mermaid Divers to get a glimpse of a thresher shark at thirty meters below the surface. We boarded the boat and drove out to the cleaning stations while the sun rise lit up the sky all different shades of orange. This dive was kind of intense as my mask kept filling up with water at a thirty meter depth, but it was successful since we saw two thresher sharks with their massive sword like tails. They use their tails to whip and kill their prey before swallowing them because of their small mouths. It was a beautiful morning out on the water.
After my dive I decided to walk to the other side of the island to explore some of the other beaches. It was a beautiful walk as you go to walk through the little villages on the island, but it was absolutely roasting! I was dripping sweat within ten seconds and walking through dried fish plantations imagining myself submerging in the beautiful sea. If you can’t handle the heat jump on a motorbike that gives rides for 50 pesos ($1) each way.
I ended up sitting with the only other person on the beach, a local fisherman, chatting to him about his boat and profession. I took long dips in the sea and enjoyed having the immaculate Langob beach all to myself. When the heat reached its peak, I headed back towards Villa Sandra where I chilled out on the pillows, read my book and had a delicious veggie burger.
That night I had an evening dive that was full of all different kinds of creatures. I replaced my mask thinking that would solve my problems and did my first backroll off the tiny wooden boat that couldn’t handle the power of the choppy waves. Stef, my guide and I searched for a hairy frog fish, but found hundreds of squids instead. Night dives are my favorite because of the wide array of interesting animals you find. We saw a sea horse, bobtail squids, dragon sea moth, a massive flounder, juvenile thornback cowfish, elbow crabs, flat worms, ornate ghost pipe fish and top top it off a big fin squid which inked at me as I swam by with my torch. I was incredibly happy with my night dive with Stef, even though this mask filled up with water as well, but the following day would kill all my confidence and like for Mermaid Divers.
I went on a mid afternoon dive after spending the whole day at Tepanee Beach Resort, a MUST SEE small cove that offers a private beach and incredible water. During our dive we descended at Deep Slope and not even ten minutes later the guide and another diver ascended because an O-ring burst. We were down under water for 54 minutes without a guide not really sure what to look for or where to go so we just swam around until my dive buddy’s watch alerted us to start ascending. Once we reached land I asked the owner whether there was some sort of discount because we were left under water without a guide and that is part of the service you are paying for, but instead of responding cordially, he decided to scream at me in front of many other people. I responded kindly with, “It was just question, there is no reason to yell,” but he continued to berate me until I finally walked away. My dive buddy Philip along with the man who’s O-ring popped were astounded at his irrational reaction. For the cherry on top Mermaid charges 1650 pesos ($33) per dive not including fees, and night dives are even more expensive at 2050 ($41) only offering below average equipment. Definitely not worth it, when you can go down the road and get a dive for 1200 pesos ($24).
For my last night on the island we enjoyed happy hour drinks at Ocean Vida before enjoying a delicious meal at EVOLUTION. We went to one of the only late night bars on the island “The Other Place” and danced the night away while challenging locals to billiards. The next day my friend and I called in a local masseuse, Melinda to give us a deep tissue rub down before I started making my way to Palawan. I highly recommend getting a massage on the island, all of the masseuses are trained in Cebu and they truly know what they are doing.
Malapascua was a beautiful surprise. Although it was one of the hottest places I visited in the Philippines I would definitely return and spend a bit more time around the tiny little island.
What to do:
- Thresher shark dive
- Bounty beach and Langob Beach
- Ocean Vida Happy Hour
- Tepanee Beach Resort
- The Other Place for dancing and drinks
- Villa Sandra for jams and a party
- Bantigue cave
- Dive with Sea Explorers, they are a bit more expensive but very professional and brand new gear. You get what you pay for.
Where to eat:
- Mr Quiz for dinner- Cheap local food
- Evolution- great western food options. A bit more expensive but worth it!
- Villa Sandra- Delicious vegetarian/vegan cuisine available and a chilled out atmosphere.
- Hippocampus- delicious pizza
- Bakhaw Kiwi- Place across from Hideaway- all fresh food made to order, it takes a while but their food is top notch.
- La Isla Bonita- Cheap local eatery
Where to stay:
- Hideaway- 400 pesos per night ($8)
- Villa Sandra-450 pesos per night (8.50)
- Ocean Vida/Sea explorers
- Celtis Resort- if you can splash the cash this is a wonderful place to stay!
- USE this link to get $25 off your next booking: