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Camotes Island: A Filipino Vacation Secret
Camotes Island is a secret gem to visit. It is close to Cebu and spending either a day or several days on it seems like a world away. The funny thing about the Philippines in general is that, there are many hidden gems to visit in its 7000 islands! Unlike the usual hot spots, like, Boracay, El Nido, Honda Bay, waterfalls on Cebu island, snorkeling in Moalboal, extinct volcanoes, or Bantayan, Camotes offers a forgotten place of beauty.
Getting to the island is easy, as it is just off Mactan island near Cebu. You can take the 1.5 hr ferry ride from Danao, near Cebu city. The cost is 180-200 peso ($4-5). The ferries run, on average, every 2.5 hours. Upon arrival, there are always plenty of tricycles (motorcycle and sidecar), Jeepneys (large flat bed trucks that carry up to 20 people) and taxis. Many will offer a tour of the island for just 1500-2000 peso ($30-45). You can also obtain one and hit the places you want to see and experience. The island is 91 miles in size and about 35 miles from Cebu city, the Philippines second largest with over 1,000,000.
Hotels on the island all have the same problem- cell phone connections. The island only has a single cell tower on it owned by Globe. The Internet situation in the country is still developing outside in remote areas. Not all ISP share their towers and WIFI connections with non-customers. All this means is that be prepared to have spotty or no cell phone service while there. This also applies to WIFI in hotels.
Barring the connectivity issue with cell phones and WIFI, you will find Camotes Island offers a lot for little money. While many Filipinos know of this place, it is not on the tourist radar and not known by natives who do not live on Cebu Island. Once you are settled in your hotel (they range from $20-60+ a night, or, if you are just going for a long day, must see items are the following:
- Buho Rock - this is a 40 foot cliff to jump off! For just 20 peso (50 cents), you can have a blast jumping off unlimited times. Just make sure the tide is high! This is an OMG event.
- Go to the San Francisco Baywalk for authentic Filipino food for another 50 cents, usually consisting of rice and BBQ chicken-fish-pork. How can you not love this?!
- In the town of Sonog, is a fantastic discovery rarely found- a subterranean lake nestled in an interesting cave! It is called Timubo Cave. The weather inside is cooling as is the water, which is crystal clear. Just be sure to wear water sandals for rocks. The depth is 5-6 feet. Cost is 20 peso.
- If you love Sonog, then also visit the same at the Paraiso Cave. Cost is 20 peso.
- If you love white sand beaches like those on Boracay, El Nido (Palawan), or Lambug (Cebu), then you must spend time on the vacant Borromeo just chilling and enjoying the serenity of a huge beach with few people. Cost is 5 peso. The ocean is reminiscent of the Caribbean- light blue and dark blue. Honestly, just spend a day there.
- Visit the underground cavern called Holy Crystal Cave in the county of San Francisco. There are eight levels to descend into through a small opening. It is utterly amazing and equal to that of the Underground River that tourists flock to at Sabang on Palawan Island. It is more condensed but remains epic to see the stalagmites. The most amazing thing is that the entry fee is your donation.
- Lake Danao is a must for kayaking. The lake is huge and once you are out in the center, just floating, it is as serene as at Borromeo beach. Kayak rental is about $1 (50 peso) for 30 min. The jungle around the lake frames this awesome lake.
- Another great beach is the public beach on Santiago Bay. This is a more busy area and offers more shops and eateries to select from if you tire of laying in the sun. The beach equals Boracay- white, sugar-like, sand. Food sells for not more than 200 peso, which will provide enough for two.
So, for not more than 2500 peso ($50-60) for four people (this includes hotel, ferry round trip, other costs), this is a best value vacation or getaway for a day or two. The Camotes Island offers the most for so little.