With seven volcanoes looming over its 90 square miles, the Philippine island of Camiguin is said by locals to have been "born of fire." But these simmering volcanoes have yielded a surprising upside for visitors: Millennia of volcanic eruptions have fertilized the island’s soil, creating lush forests for nature lovers to hike through. Complex chemical reactions influence Camiguin’s water table, yielding hot, cold, and fizzy springs for swimmers to enjoy.
The blissful distance from Manila has made Camiguin a genuinely pleasurable island escape, a hidden retreat cherished by the few who know about it. Read on, and find out what you can expect once you brave the flight or ferry ride into Camiguin.
Hike Up a Sleeping Volcano
Spanning 5,500 acres, Timpoong-Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument is an ASEAN Heritage Park that encompasses both Mount Timpoong, Camiguin’s highest mountain at 5,300 feet, and Mount Hibok-Hibok, a dormant stratovolcano with an elevation of 4,300 feet.
Dive deep into Hibok-Hibok's untamed jungle wilderness by embarking on the natural reserve's Itum hiking trail, which takes three to four hours to complete. It begins at Sitio Itum and ends at the volcano's summit, where you can take in the panoramic views of the island and sea. To book a climb, visit Camiguin Tourism’s Facebook page.
Swim at Katibawasan Falls
Of Camiguin’s three major waterfalls, Katibawasan Falls is the most imposing to see. It drops 250 feet into a relatively shallow pool, but behind it, the slumbering Mount Hibok-Hibok casts a long shadow! In the rainy season, the giant ferns, orchids, and towering trees turn the falls into a green wonder, while in the sweltering summer months, the cool waters make a great escape from the heat. Katibawasan Falls is also the trailhead for a hiking path that snakes up Mount Timpoong.
Hire a motorcycle taxi (habal-habal) or rent your own scooter to get to the site; there's an entrance fee of 50 pesos (about $1).
Sun Yourself on a Beach or Sandbar
Sun and sand can be found in excess around Camiguin, but the best beach experiences can be found just off-island.
White Island is a sandbar off Camiguin’s northwest coast, where you can swim in crystal-clear waters and enjoy brilliant-white sand. Avoid coming here during high noon (there’s no shade to speak of) and high tide (when the island vanishes under the waves).
Mantigue Island is barely 10 acres large, but its wildness is palpable. Snorkel or scuba dive in its waters, and come face to face with marine turtles and a wide variety of fish. You can also hike through the island's mini-forest trail to ward off the sun. When you’re famished, take a break at a local eatery and chow down on fresh seafood and rice.
Kabila Beach in Barangay Cantaan yields a surprise for snorkelers: giant clams lurking amidst the live corals in the shallows!
Take a Dip in a Hot (or Cold) Spring
Due to Camiguin’s topography and seismic activity, the island’s springs offer wildly different experiences from spot to spot. Start with Ardent Hot Springs: This series of pools draw warm water from deep inside Mount Hibok-Hibok, with temperatures reaching a toasty 93 F (34 C). On the opposite extreme, frigid waters from Mount Mambajao feed the Santo Niño Cold Spring in Catarman; its 68 F (20 C) temps aren't quite freezing, but still a wonderful relief from the summer sun. Finally, the Bura Soda Water Swimming Pool in Catarman contains naturally-carbonated spring water; you can either swim in the pool, or visit the nearby drinking fountain to taste the soda water for yourself!
See Mount Hibok-Hibok, White Island, and the Sunken Cemetery from high in the air; Camiguin Aviation provides flight packages that show a different side of the island. Their two-seater Super Decathlon 8KCAB light plane efficiently commutes between their hangar near Camiguin Airport and many of the landmarks in this list. If you’ve got the stomach for it, the pilot will happily do some aerobatics to spice up the flight!
Flights start at 16,000 pesos ($330) for a one-hour scenic trip; aerobatic training flights can also be arranged.
Explore Guiob’s Church Ruins
The Spanish colonial presence in Camiguin was no match for nature’s fury. When Mount Vulcan blew its top in 1871, the resulting cataclysm destroyed the old Cotta Bato settlement. The ruins of Cotta Bato’s Catarman Church (also known as the old Guiob ruins) still stand in a tree-shaded spot off the Camiguin Circumferential Road, a 30-minute drive from Mambajao town. Catarman Church’s coral walls, along with the remnants of a convent and bell tower, are all that remain. A cross erected on the lawn beside the ruins is the only indication of the church’s former use.
Pay Your Respects at the Sunken Cemetery
The same 1871 disaster that destroyed Catarman Church sunk Catarman's cemetery and a good part of Cotta Bato. Some 70-plus acres of land simply went underwater, now only barely traceable in aerial photographs.
Built in 1982, the cross that memorializes the Sunken Cemetery stands above water some 300 feet out into the ocean. It is an icon of Camiguin, and can be seen on T-shirts and on keychains sold in local souvenir shops. You can visit the cross by tourist boat, or arrange for a diving expedition to see the last traces of the cemetery underwater: slowly eroding tombstones flanked by corals and giant clams.
Eat the Local "Lanzones" Fruit
Resembling a lychee, the island's favorite fruit contains numerous seeds surrounded by translucent white flesh. Camiguin’s lanzones are sweeter that those found elsewhere in Southeast Asia; it’s so locally cherished, it has a Filipino festival all its own, celebrated on the third week of October. Agriculturists credit the local lanzones’ superior flavor to the island’s volcanic soil. Indeed, most lanzones plantations can be found in the shadow of Camiguin’s volcanoes, with some 5,000 acres devoted to their cultivation.
Lanzones is a seasonal fruit, harvested and eaten between September and November. Visit during these months, and try this fruit at its freshest and most abundant.
Go Scuba Diving in the Seas around Camiguin
Camiguin’s choice location on the Bohol Sea gives divers plenty to see and do. And you don’t have to go too far from Mambajao, the island's main town, to find the action you’re looking for. You’ll find pelagic fish skulking around Black Forest Reef, giant clams gaping at Sunken Cemetery, and amazing underwater volcanic structures at the Old Volcano dive site. Further out, you’ll find a greater variety of experiences, from wall dives at Jigdup Shoal to Mantigue Island’s riot of sea life—schooling reef fish, sea turtles, and barracuda included.
Expect good visibility at most Camiguin dive sites, particularly during the Philippines' dry season between November and April. The island’s dive providers can rent you equipment and get you to each dive site for a surprisingly affordable price.
Ride a Motorbike Off-the-Beaten Path
Getting around Camiguin is almost too easy. Vans, jeeps, and motorela tricycles are available for group travelers, while habal-habal motorcycle taxis are great for those traveling solo. But if you want to ride on your own, then consider renting a motorcycle, which frees you from the tyranny of package tours and lets you create your own itinerary on the fly. Most of the island's attractions are easily accessible by motorcycle, either on or close to the 40-mile circumferential road that rings the island. Beyond the spontaneous access to attractions, you’ll also enjoy the sheer pleasure of taking in the majestic views and the fresh sea breezes as you motor down the road.
Expect to pay about 400 to 600 pesos ($8.30 to 12.50) to rent a motorcycle; rentals can be found all around Mambajao town.
ASEAN Clearing House Mechanism. "ASEAN Heritage Parks." 2020.
Mindanao Daily. "Despite Taal eruption, no volcanic movements in Camiguin: Phivolcs." January 29, 2020.
Inquirer.net. "Camiguin starts branding its sweet lanzones." October 31, 2018.