The island of Cebu in the Visayas has a bit of everything. For the urban city folk, there’s its eponymous capital which has become nearly as metropolitan as Manila; beach lovers have countless sandy havens all over the nearly 200-kilometer stretch of island at their disposal; and those in constant need of a travel break have several of its neighboring islands to choose from. If you’ve been on Cebu for some time and believe you’ve just about exhausted its every nook and cranny, here are some of the gorgeous nearby islands to head to.
Most well known as the country’s surfer utopia, Siargao has been steadily rising in popularity even among non-surfers. Its gorgeous beaches, aquamarine lagoons, and stunning landscapes are more than enough to draw travellers in. And Cebu is perhaps the best jumping off point for Siargao. Everyday, local airline Cebu Pacific has three flights from the Mactan Cebu International Airport to Siargao’s Sayak Airport. And after a mere 45-minute flight, you’ll be on the island of Cloud 9, the country’s most famous swell. As beautiful as the main island is, don’t stay idle, as Siargao’s surrounding islets are part of its charm. Venture out and discover the beauty of Siargao, beyond its waves.
An immediate neighbor of Cebu island, and just a ferry ride away, is the island of Bohol — most popularly known as home to the smallest primates in the world and to the gorgeous landscape of over a thousand “chocolate” hills. Aside from these two famous tourist attractions, there is also the island of Panglao for beach lovers, which is connected to mainland Bohol by bridge. Here, beautiful beaches like Alona Beach and vibrant marine life await visitors and divers. Whether you’d like to visit adorable creatures endemic to the Philippines in their natural habitat, swim right above turtles, or simply lay on the sand all day, a visit to the island of Bohol will definitely be one you’ll enjoy.
Not quite the enormous tourist hotspot just yet (though likely soon-to-be), Camiguin is a clandestine natural paradise of beaches, volcanoes, cold and hot springs, and waterfalls that will enchant any visitor and make them wonder why the small island isn’t a bigger deal than it is. From Cebu, Camiguin can easily be reached by plane or by ferry, and it makes for the perfect relaxing getaway. Here you likely won’t have to worry about crowded beaches or tourist-congested attractions — at least, not yet. For now, Camiguin’s gracious locals make up most of the crowd and they’ll be glad to share their beautiful home island with you.
A two hour ferry ride from the south of Cebu is the mystical island of Siquijor. Another island off-the-beaten-track, even for local tourists, Siquijor holds the reputation for being the land of witchcraft and the occult. Lesser known are its beautiful white sand beaches and other natural wonders. Should you decide to visit this enchanted island, while you could opt for an encounter with “healers” or practitioners of the supernatural, you should also take the chance to discover its less-recognized enchanters: the beautiful beaches of Salagdoong and Paliton, its many caves, and the tranquil, aquamarine Cambugahay Falls.
And last on this list are a group of islands that are perfect for beach lovers seeking an untouched paradise. This young province (it used to be considered a part of Surigao del Norte until it was officially recognized as its own province in 2011) is studded with pristine virgin beaches and beautiful panoramas of towering limestone rock formations jutting out of the clear blue sea. From Cebu, the islands can be reached by first flying out to Surigao and then taking a boat or ferry to its capital, San Jose. From here, venture north on to the towns of Basilisa and Libjo for spectacular island hopping adventures that still slip under the tourist radar, and have these secret tropical havens all to yourself.