May 29

Malapascua Island Philippines Update: Images after Typhoon Yolanda

Malapascua Island 2014

How Bounty Beach Malapascua Looks in 2014

 

I revisited Malapascua in April of this year, around 5 months after typhoon Yolanda had hit. Like with Bantayan Island which I visited a week later, the place was hit hard by the typhoon. Malapascua is a tiny island just off the tip of northern Cebu in the central part of the Philippines know as the Visayas. I have written and posted videos about the island in previous posts. Check out my other blog here, I’m sure it will give you a better understanding of how this island looked before Yolanda.

 

 

 

How Bounty Beach in Malapascua looked before

 

Video update of Malapascua Island and how the island is recovering from Yolanda. Includes update on the resorts in Malapascua in 2014.

 

I’ve been to the island many times so I know pretty much know how it looked like before. As the boat approached Malapascua’s most popular beach; Bounty Beach it was an amazing transformation. My first impression was OMG! The beach looked so barren something like in a war zone. Most of the beautiful palm trees that lined Bounty Beach had either been completely destroyed (gone), broken or snapped in half.  Certainly an eye opener! You can see some greenery growing back in the trees that are still there. But to get back to its former beauty, Bounty Beach is just going to take years.

Damage from Typhoon Yolanda in Malapascua Island

 

Smiling Filipino kid on Bounty Beach Malapascua

 

Bounty Beach in Malapascua Philippines

In front of Dano Beach Resort Malapascua

 

Bounty Beach Malapascua

 

A walk around the island you can just see how much this place was devastated by the typhoon, even 5 months after the storm the locals are still reeling from it. Charity groups are still in the area helping rebuild the community. One of the days I was there, they were handing out water containers. A couple of the locals wished they were handing out more stuff like rice.  One family of people came out to greet me when I passed thinking I was from the Red Cross bringing some relief goods!

Destroyed palm trees in Malapascua Island Philippines 5 months later

Locals in Malapscua thank Red Cross for their help

 

The Resorts in Malapascua Update

Ocean Vida Resort Malapascua - looking a bit bare...

Overall most of the resorts in Malapascua Island are running back to normal. The few exceptions (while I was there in April) was Dano Beach Resort which still had around half its cottages out of action. Much repair work was still ongoing while I was there – so expect as you read this more of them to be open again. K5 Cottages only had a couple of cottages open. Ging Ging’s rooms where completely destroyed although these were not that popular as they were pretty basic. Ging Gings Restaurant was open and running as normal except  under a make shift tarpaulin (see picture below). Bantigue Cove Resort on the northern part of the island had sustained major damage, with its 4 cottages totally guttered; only parts of their bathrooms remained. The duplex rooms were also badly damaged. The resort at present was closed and I feel won’t open for a long time yet. Cocobana just had its rooftop restaurant/bar damaged, but rooms and cottages were all running as normal.

How Mangrove Oriental Resort in Malapascua looked like in April 2014

The rest of the resorts were pretty much status quo, in fact a few resorts had either extended or added rooms from my last visit in 2012.  Malapascua Legend Resort had a new building with more budget friendly rooms. Exotic Island Dive and Beach Resort had some new rooms with beach views (replacing the older fan cottages). Cocobana Resort had a new swimming pool which by sheer bad luck opened the day before the typhoon hit! The pool is back to normal now. Evolution Resort Malapascua had a new building at the back with some nice modern rooms, a lot nicer than their beach front cottages. Resorts like Hippocampus, Malapascua Garden and Ocean Video Resort were running as normal. First night I stayed at Mangrove Oriental Resort, which had a few of its rooms damaged but by far most were running as normal. The beach front area of the resort looked a bit bare (see photo above).  The following night I stayed at Little Mermaid Dive Resort which was pretty much the same when I stayed a few years ago although back then it was called Sunsplashed Resort. On my third night i stayed at Cocobana and my last night at Tepanee Beach Resort, which looked as gorgeous as ever. It has a wonderful private beach area. I also had time to check out  the new resort of Thresher Cove Dive Centre which looks pretty nice and aimed for a more upmarket resort, it also has a nice swimming pool. More rooms were being built while I was there so it should only get nicer.

 

The remains of one of the cottages at Bantigue Cove Resort

Kids playing in one of the damaged cottages at Dano Beach Resort

What's left of Ging Gings Restaurant but it's still open for business

 

 

Island Hopping from Malapascua

While I’m not a diver, there are plenty of other things to do around Malapascua and that includes island hopping to the nearby islands of Kalanggman, La Manok (La Manoc)and the beautiful Carnassa Island. Kalanggman was a little barer (vegetation) than my previous visit and the white sandbank had changed a little. Overall the island still looked gorgeous. La Manok Island had changed slightly as well with the sand changing in the centre of its two islands. The fishermen cottages had been pretty much destroyed as they were just basic huts. All the islands still looked amazingly beautiful and well worth the trips to see as you can tell by the photos below.

 

Carnassa Island has some wonderful tropical beaches

 

Kalanggman Island has some gorgeous beaches

 

Island hop to La Manok Island

The Future of Malapascua Island

The island relies on tourism for its main source of income. While I was there in April, tourist numbers were noticeably down. The best way to help is just to go to Malapascua for a holiday, tourist dollars will help the island get back on its feet. The beaches are still amazingly beautiful and it is surrounded by its tropical aqua clear waters that you see in postcards. While it will take time for the vegetation to grow back to its former days, there is no denying what a wonderful tropical island it really is. It still has some fantastic diving, including its famous thresher sharks. Time heals all wounds and that is happening here, you can see the new green shoots forming back in the trees. Malapascua is still a tropical paradise no matter what storm hits it. I truly think it’s still a fantastic place to check out.

 

One of the many beautiful beaches in Malapascua - even after the typhoon

 

Tepanee Beach Resort

 

 

 

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Rob Brand

May 23

Bantayan Island Update: Images after Typhoon Yolanda

 

Bantayan Island 2014                

Beautiful Bantayan Island is slowly recovering from Yolanda

 

The Island of Bantayan in northern Cebu was hit by one of the most powerful typhoons in recorded history.  Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Typhoon Haiyan) first stuck the Philippines at Leyte (where the most death and destruction occurred). Then tracked across the northern tip of Cebu, causing massive destruction to Malapascua, northern Cebu (Bogo, Medellin, Daanbantayan) and Bantayan Island, as well as other islands as it moved through of the Philippines. For more details on Typhoon Yolanda you can read further on the Wikipedia website.

 

I travelled up to Bantayan Island in April 2014, 5 months after the typhoon hit.  I have to say my initial impression of the place was pretty much of shock. The first thing I noticed (if you have never been to Bantayan before) as the ferry neared the island is just how much vegetation had been lost. All the greenery I’m used to had dramatically changed. I had just been to Malapascua a few days before, which also sustained heavy damage from the typhoon. If I was to compare the both Bantayan and Malapascua, definitely Bantayan looked a bit better (greener) than  Bounty Beach in Malaspascua. Still it was a lot less palm trees than I’m used to. The other thing you will notice is how many tents are around. Many people are still homeless and rely on tents for shelter.  Below I tried to match a photo from 2012 and then when I arrived into Bantayan Island in 2014. I also did a video update of Bantayan which I think gives a better idea on how the place is faring.

 

This is a video update of Bantayan Island and how it looks in 2014, 5 months after typhoon Yolanda.

 

Looking from the pier to Santa Fe Beach Club back in 2012

Looking from the Pier to Santa Fe Beach Club 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First night I stayed in Bantayan was at Santa Fe Beach Club, while generally the resort was running as normal there were a few cottages that still had been damaged that had yet to be fixed. See photo below

 

One of the damaged cottages at Santa Fe Beach Club

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beaches of Bantayan still look as amazing as ever, a walk down Alice Beach right in front of St. Fe Beach Club Resort down past Anika Beach Resort, Beach Placid Resort and Abaniko Resort (which all seemed to be running back normal) you can see how this island is still a paradise.

Even one of the worst typhoons in recorded history can’t ruin Bantayan’s amazing beaches!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As expected the tourist numbers were down on my previous holiday to Bantayan. The touts I usually use for hiring a motorbike and island hopping around Bantayan were offering some of the best prices I’ve got in years. Normally I have to negotiate and haggle for a price, but this time I was able to get some really fantastic prices. Normally I pay between 300 – 350 Pesos a day for a motorbike (if I hire for at least a few days), this time it was 250. One guy even offered me 150 per day! I’ve stuck with same guy over the years (if you want to contact – Glen is the guy I use, his number is 09098825989). The resorts in Bantayan where pretty flexible with prices too, one of the nights I stayed at Marlin Resort and was able to knock off 1000 P off the room price and this was in April! Marlin’s beachfront area is looking really nice too (better than before the typhoon! – see photo below) I don’t know how long tourists will be able to be able to get these fantastic rates on accommodation in Bantayan, so if you ever thought about going to the island, this is definitely the best time to go. Not only that, they really need to tourist dollar to help Bantayan and its locals get back on their feet.

 

Other Resorts in Bantayan update 2014

As far as the resorts on the island, generally most were running as normal with a few exceptions. Two resorts re opened after repair while I was there in April, Hoyohoy Resort and Maia’s Resort. Operations were back in full swing although a little less green than previously, in time that will grow back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hoyohoy Villas Reopens again After Typhoon Yolanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see in Hoyohoy Villas the resort lacks the greenery of before. Hopefully this won’t take too long to regrow back.

 

Maia’s Beach Resort Bantayan Island Opens again in April 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maia’s Beach Resort above just reopened again in April 2014

Budyong Beach Resort had a very noticeable bare look to the place, it and Kota Beach Resort were hit pretty badly by the typhoon. Budyong had its cottages open again although at the time I visited the restaurant was still guttered. They informed me that (the restaurant) would reopen in the next few months. Directly across, Kota Beach Resort wasn’t in quite as good shape, many of the cottages were under renovation and were due to reopen in the coming months. The good news is that they should look a lot better, as they were getting a bit run down anyhow. They had already opened a few cottages and the main concrete building at the back was open and being used by people.

 

Budyong Beach Resort in Bantayan Slowly Recovering from Yolanda

The Guttered Restaurant at Budyong Beach Resort

This is picture of Budyong that I took when I stayed back in 2012.

Budyong Resort Before Typhoon Yolanda – Nice and Green!

Some photos of Kota Beach Resort Below. With some cottages already open, the remaining cottages should be reopened by the time you read this, or by early in the 2nd half of 2014. Kota still has a beautiful beach at its doorstep.

Rebuilding Kota Beach Resort in Bantayan Island

Down the beach a bit at Yooneek Beach Resort the front area of the place had been damaged including its popular beach Bar.

What is left of the beach bar at Yooneek Beach Resort

Some of the resorts further up the beach were still damaged; this included Sugar Beach Resort with half of its cottages still damaged. The cottages here were not the most well maintained anyhow, but it does offer pretty affordable rooms by the beach and it is popular with the locals.

Some of the damaged cottages at Sugar Beach Resort

Mayet’s Beach Resort rooms where all open, as was Ogtong Cave Resort, Sunday Flower. Queen Elizabeth Resort was still under repair as of early April, but should be open by the time you read this or very soon.

Ogtong Cave Bantayan

White Beach Bungalows still had the bungalows out of action but 2 rooms in the apartelle building where open for business.

One of the damaged beach cottages

Back in Santa Fe Town the accommodation was pretty much as it was before with the exception of Kiwi Kottages which was closed.  D’Jungle Restaurant was at my time of visit closed and under repair, not sure when this was to reopen. Micky Santoro Hotel was a new hotel that had recently opened in town.

 

Kiwi Kottages was closed

Outside of the resorts and Santa Fe, even when you travel from the pier to the resorts you can’t help but notice the number of tents that the locals are living in. The typhoon really ripped through a lot of the houses leaving thousands homeless. Unfortunately it’s always the local community that recovers slower than the tourist resorts that make the money. Thankfully relief agencies have helped the local people tremendously, and while there have been a good number of these operations, no one stands out more than OXFAM. Just travelling around Bantayan there are so many signs thanking OXFAM for all their help.

Bantayan locals thank OXFAM

People are still struggling

Damaged Chicken Egg Farm

People living in tents in Bantayan Island

The nearby island of Kinatarkan (I’ve also seen it spelt as Guintarcan Island) was also badly affected by the typhoon. If you have never been to this island, as it’s not so much on the tourist map, I can tell you this is a beautiful white sandy island with postcard perfect scenery. As of April, this island still did not have electricity which is just a disgrace!  When I visited the people were really pleading for help here, it was just heartbreaking.

 

A beautiful Beach in Kinatarkan Island Philippines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kinatarkan Island Before the typhoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Same area but now sand covers the rocky beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People still living in tents on Kinatarkan Island Cebu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bottom line is Bantayan Island is recovering from Yolanda although it’s a huge job and process is slow. Many charities are there to help but more is needed. Tourism will bring in extra dollars to the island which is needed for the island and people to get back on their feet. New resorts have opened in the past few months (I will do an update on this in the future) so people have confidence in the future of the island. If you don’t know much about this island I have done a previous blog on Bantayan Island which you can see how amazing this piece of paradise really is. In fact it’s one of my favourite islands in the Philippines and I hope other people can see what an extraordinary island Bantayan really is. It’s time to take a holiday in Bantayan Island!

 

 

 

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Rob Brand

 

Jun 07

Top 10 Luxury Resorts in Cebu

Spoil yourself at one of Cebu's luxury resorts

Top Luxury Resorts in Cebu

The majority of Cebu’s luxury resorts are located on the island of Mactan, which is surprising since Mactan island’s beaches are the least impressive that Cebu has to offer! To overcome this, some of the resorts have artificially designing their own beaches; even to the extent of bringing in white sand (some say illegally) in the construction of the beach. Not only that, most have built huge (sometimes extravagant) swimming pools to overcome these shortcomings. Guests will never be short of a place to cool down from the tropical heat of Cebu!

Most of these resorts attract the high end tourists who predominately spend their whole vacation at the resorts. The only issue I have with the resorts in Mactan is

1.) The price – they tend to be overly expensive for what you get and

2.) The beaches in Mactan are generally not that great (as discussed above).

Most of the resorts will offer scuba diving and other water sports as well as some opportunities to island hop to some of the nearby islands for a day trip. The best islands to check out are Nalusuan Island with its awesome snorkelling at its marine sanctuary. The island also makes a great day trip with restaurant and white sand beach area, extremely popular for Korea groups. There are also stilt cottages for overnight (and longer) stays. Visit here for more details.

Snorkel with the fish at Nalusuan Island Marine Sanctuary

The beautiful Pandanon Island. Makes for a wonderful day trip from Mactan Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other island is Pandanon Island, a great little white sandy island great for sigh seeing and beautiful beach area. If you don’t want to book through the resort, Island Banca Cruises organises island hopping trips around Mactan Island as well. The banca boats are a bit more upmarket than the norm and they come with beanbags to chill out on. I have used them a number of times and  I can recommended them as they run a great service. If you want to do something romantic try out their Sunset Cruise, you can see the video I made on the Mactan Island page. Also worth a trip is Olango Island with its famous wildlife sanctuary. More details on Olango Island can be found here.

Poverty around the resorts in Mactan

Some people are put off by the poverty around some of the resorts and actually feel hesitant to step foot outside (the resort) as they feel it’s dangerous. This couldn’t be further to the truth. You do need to take the right precautions, but you will find the Cebanos the friendliest people you could ever met. Despite their poverty, they are probably the easiest people in the world to start up a conversation, and they aren’t looking to rob you!  They know the resorts bring money in, and probably most likely someone in the family or friend  works in the resort. They know not to jeopardise that! The most annoying are the touts wanting to offer you tours, rides or other services, sometimes you have to be persistent in saying no! Eventually they will get the picture!  The reality is, that you’re already  getting “robbed” at the resorts with their expensive costs than someone outside the resort!

Getting to the shopping malls in Cebu

If you plan to do a bit of shopping in Cebu City at the main shopping centres (SM and Ayala Shopping Malls), the resorts in Mactan are about 45min to 1 hour taxi ride away (depending on which resort you are staying and traffic). You will be looking looking at a taxi fee (on the white taxi meter) of around 250 – 300 Peso one way. If you book the taxi with the resort expect to pay double this!  A lot of these resorts do offer free scheduled shuttle services to the shopping malls (normally 2 or 3 a day) so check with the resort if you plan to take them.

Other Islands in Cebu

If you’re looking for luxury in the other tourist spots of Cebu such as Malapascua Island, Bantayan or Camotes, you might be disappointed. These places are yet to have any resorts that I would classify as luxury, the best you would be looking at is 3 star resorts.

Saving Money on the Resorts

A number of these luxury resorts in Mactan regularly offer promos so its best to keep you eyes open. Checking the resort’s website or the cheap online booking websites such as Agoda and HotelsCombined are often promoting sales or discounts. In low season you may be able to book at considerable discounts, I’ve seen the online booking sites advertising up to 50% off. The resorts also offer early bird sales in which you save money by booking in advance (usually a month or so prior to arrival). For more details on this you can visit my other article on saving money on hotels in Cebu visit here.

 

Shangri-La Cebu                  

Rating: 5 star

Rooms: 530

One of the most famous resorts in Cebu, the Shangri La Mactan Resort is also one of Cebu’s biggest and most luxurious with  530 rooms and covering 13 hectares, made up  of lush tropical gardens, great swimming pools and a lovely beach front.  Having stayed here a number of times, the Shangri la has never failed to impress me. The resort is beautiful, gorgeous tended gardens and lawn. The private beach cove although man made, is a pretty area. Relax by the sandy beach in the resorts’ cabanas, swim or snorkel at their own marine sanctuary that spans six hectares. It teems with over 160 species of fish, clams and coral. Great for the whole family. If you get tired of the ocean, there are the resort’s 3 swimming pools awaiting you!

One of the beautiful swimming pools at the Shangri La Cebu

Beach Front area of Shangri La

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shangri La has its own spa called CHI, and while not cheap (with basic massages starting from around 6000 P) sometimes it’s OK to treat yourself to some TLC! The spa has Jacuzzi , sauna, steam bath and plunge pool.

Relax by the sea

Accommodation

Shangri La Cebu Premier Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Room with a view - Shangri La Cebu Panorama Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rooms at the resort as expected are of a high standard, spacious and modern. The older rooms (part of the Main wing), have been progressively renovated and due for completion around August of this year (2013).  Personally I like the rooms that have ocean views; nothing beats a room with a stunning view of the water! The more expensive suite rooms offer more room for families with separate dining and living areas.  The Ocean Wing Panorama Suite offers magnificent ocean views.

 

Shangri La Restaurants

 

Cowrie Cove - One of Shangri La Cebu's restaurants

 

 

The Resort offers a number of fine dining options including Cowrie’s Cove – a restaurant with a romantic setting offeringh awesome views overlooking the ocean. It specialises in seafood, with some of its best signature dishes being the Singapore classic Chilli Crab and Stir-Fried Tiger Prawns.

 

 

Tea of Spring is the Chinese restaurant with contemporary Chinese cuisine. They offer Dim Sum for their lunch meals. Acqua Restaurant offers Italian cuisine (risotto,pasta and pizza) with signature dishes such as Tagliata di manzo con fagioli cannellini (grilled beef rib eye).

For breakfast the Shangri La serves up a fantastic buffet breakfast (one of the best on Mactan) to keep most happy. The breakfast comes with a massive variety of foods including pastries, fresh fruits and cereals. Sometimes the room rate includes the buffet already. When I have booked with Agoda it has always included breakfast in the price, but do check this as things can change.

Shangri La Buffet Breakfast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shangri La Cebu is very family friendly, every time I stay here I always see tons of families. The resort looks after kids with special kids swimming pools, an adventure zone area and even a toddlers zone! There are plenty of aqua sports available for the “older” guests as well.

For truly one of the best resorts in Cebu, great staff, beautiful rooms, delicious food and a good beach (although man made!) Shangri La defines luxury in Cebu and is definitely worth checking out.

 

Imperial Palace Cebu      

The huge Imperial Palace Cebu

 

Rating: 4.5 star

Rooms: 556

 

One of the largest luxury resorts in Cebu, Imperial Palace has over 550 rooms.

During the low season I have seen 50% discounts on Agoda as well as early bird sales of up to 25% discounts if you book well in advance, so keep an eye out for sales like this as it could save you considerably!  Also note this is a very popular resort for Koreans so during their holidays you may see an influx of tourists, even when it’s low season in the Philippines!

Make no mistake about it, Imperial Palace Mactan’s main draw card is its water-park. It features five different “themed” pools all designed by Dream Park USA.

1/ Amazon River – jump into one of the inflatable tubes and let the “river” flow take you around.

2/ Wave pool – An artificial wave pool meant to give the feeling of being at the beach. Waves are pretty tame, so leave your surfboard at home!

3/ Beach Pool – built to give the impression of a beach, laze, swim and relax – just like being at the ocean without the sea urchins!

4/ Captain Hooks Pool – especially made for the kids with pirate ship and slides.

5/ Toddlers Pool – another one for the little ones.

On top of those the resort has its famous slides – Open body Slide, the second longest of the resort (120 meters).  Or try the resort’s slide called  The Tube slide.

Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort Cebu - Ride one of the slides!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 3rd slide, The Space Bowl offers a bit more in extreme fun! It lets you spiral in its “space bowl” before being flushed into a deep pool of water.

They also have an their main swimming pool, a huge pool that dominates the main grounds. It contains a nice little pool bar you can sip cocktails will keeping cool in the pool.

Relaxing by the pool at Imperial Palace Waterpark Cebu

Imperial also has its own private (small) beachfront, though not as good as other luxury resorts on Mactan and seriously you’re probably going to spend more of your time in the other swimming pools or rides. The standard water sports are available such as jet ski, banana boat, island hopping tours and scuba diving.

For the younger ones there is the Kids Club, which offers activities such as face painting, arts and crafts and game consoles such as PlayStation 3 and Wii. The Club has a mini-library equipped with a selection of toys and books.

 

Imperial Cebu Swimming pool at night

Imperial Resort Restaurants

Start your day off with breakfast at Familia Buffet Restaurant.  Here you can savour on cuisine from a huge choice from different parts of the world – Japanese, Western, Oriental and the delicious dessert station.  I have heard this place can get busy, but the times I have been, I haven’t had an issue. If the resort is busy expect to find breakfast to be very busy.  Familia has seating for 390 people and the resort has over 550 rooms which could mean over a 1000 guests at one time. When I see a resort is busy, I tell you I’m at breakfast as soon as it opens. It’s always a good idea to (try) beat the crowds!

Delicious desserts at Imperial Palace Cebu Buffet Breakfast

 

 

The Resort also has a Chinese Restaurant, The Cheon San.  An authentic Korean cuisine Restaurant – Maru. The Coral Restaurant, a seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean and some more casual dining at Aqus Pool bar, Café Amiga and the Delmar Lobby Lounge. Generally the food is great but at the pricey side of things, so be prepared to keep your wallet open!

 

Imperial Palace rooms and suites

 

Deluxe Room

Pool VIlla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firstly don’t be fooled by the “Garden View” rooms, my first time to the Imperial I booked this room type, garden view is in reality “car park” view. Although there isn’t anything different between rooms, having an ocean view is a much better option in my opinion!

The rooms are just terrific, large modern and comfortable. The deluxe rooms are 38 sq. with a nice little balcony. While the suite rooms are huge starting from 76 sq for the one bedroom suite.

The villas are huge, with their own private Jacuzzi, living room, king-sized bed, sun deck and a big bath

Imperial Palace Cebu is a wonderful place for families, with plenty to offer both adult and child. Sure, the resort also appeals to couples and other travellers, but definitely families would get the most out of the Imperial.  The resort is huge and has heaps of facilities, it is expensive, but if you’re staying in Mactan that is something of the norm!

 

Imperial Palace Cebu Swimming Pool

 

 

Crimson Resort Cebu 

Cimson Resort Cebu


Rating: 4.5 star

Rooms: 290

Crimson Resort and Spa Cebu is another large luxury resort on Mactan Island. It features an awesome (large) 3 tiered infinity pool, the most famous icon of the resort. Each of the tiered pools are of different depth, although none are very deep (2 feet, 3feet and 4 foot). Crimson also has its own private (smallish) beach front, but while OK is nothing to write home about. A popular resort for Koreans.

The resort offers the usual water-sports (kayak, snorkelling, jet ski, island hopping tours, scuba diving and banana boats. For children there is the Crimzone and for a relaxing spa (again pricy) Crimson has its own spa called AUM.

Crimson Resort Cebu beach front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                 Crimson Restaurants

Delicious buffet breakfast at the Crimson Resort

The resort has 4 restaurants and bars.  Like with most of these resorts in Mactan, expect to pay a premium.  With its isolated location you cannot simple walk out of the Crimson and expect to find any restaurants outside.  So unless you’re prepared to pay for a taxi to take you somewhere, you’re most likely to be eating inside at one of the resort’s restaurants.  Food is generally of a good quality.

For breakfast the Saffron Restaurant serves up a  huge buffet with array of international cuisine and pastries.  The buffets are terrific and on par with the other top end resorts in Cebu. They serve up buffet for lunch and dinner, as well as having a la carte menu.  When I booked via Agoda the breakfast was included in the price.

 

For those with a sweet tooth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other main restaurant is the Tempo Lounge which unfortunately I haven’t/didn’t get the time to check out yet. For a more relaxing and casual feel, check out the Score Sports Bar for drinks and light meals. Play pool or watch a game on one of their TVs. Azure Pool Bar as the name suggests is located next to the pool with a great view of the ocean. I found this place refreshingly cool at night as it’s open air and it gets cooler night sea breezes. Great for a cocktail or beer after a long day!

Accommodation at Crimson

Deluxe Garden Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rooms at the Crimson are of a good standard and large and spacious, especially the bathroom which is just huge! The lead in room type is the deluxe, with the deluxe garden being slightly larger and having a small private garden (not accessible) outside the bathroom window. They have the larger villas (115 square meter space) that are probably more suited to families. They come with a living room area and plunge pool, the most expensive having ocean views.

Villa at Crimson Resort Cebu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall , although they do have facilities for children I feel places like Imperial, Plantation offer more in the way for families.The biggest negative for me is it’s the most isolated of the luxury resorts in Mactan. While resorts such as Imperial Palace or Shangri la you can easily walk to a highway, Crimson you simply cannot do this. You will need to catch a “resort” taxi which is invariably overpriced. My mate loves this resort, but having teenage children the main issue is keeping them happy. For him he finds spending time at Plantation Bay a better option. He feels that resort offers a lot more activities.  Having said that, Crimson is an excellent resort, that while having a few shortcomings, is still a fabulous resort to stay at.

Relax by the infinity pool

 

 

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort 

Maribago Bluewater Resort Cebu


 

Rating: 3.5 star

Rooms: 158

Some people don’t realise this is classified as a 3 and half star resort (with 5 star prices!) The way it’s marketed you would think it that it is 5 star. For me I find this is a fantastic resort and luxurious enough to be into the top 10 luxury resorts in Cebu. Maribago Bluewater Resort  is a large resort covering 7 hectares with its own private (man- made) beachfront – again pretty average for swimming, but it does look pretty and is nice to laze around.  If the beach isn’t your thing, Bluewater has 3 swimming pools dotted around the resort. Other noteworthy facilities are its Amuma Spa that offers a range of treatments and therapies. A small children’s playground and lots of water sports such as jet skiing and scuba diving. It also has banquet and function rooms that are equipped to host corporate functions and  wedding receptions.

Relax at Maribago Bluewater Resort in Mactan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maribago Bluewater Restaurants

Allegro Restaurant

Allegro Restaurant dinner buffet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffet breakfast is good, with a great selection although not as good as Shangri La or Imperial.  Sometimes the breakfast is included with the room, when I booked with Agoda it was at the time. The resort holds nightly themed dinners (buffet style) which where good although pricey. They include live entertainment and sometimes live dancers.  Themed nights include Asia, American backyard grill , Mediterranean and Seafood.

The Cove specialises in fresh seafood, you can choose from their fish tanks. For light snacks including fresh salads and healthy fruit/vegetable drinks check out the The Amuma Spa Café and Juice Bar.

To save a bit of money, only a few minutes away from Bluewater Resort is La Place Restro Bar, a nice chill out place for drinks.  If you’re looking for a cheaper place to eat head over to Maribago Grill Restaurant, it has an outdoor garden area with open air cottages or eat inside. A great place for affordable decent food. These places are walking distance away you only need to ignore the touts when you walk out of the resort.

Maribago Bluewater Accommodation

 

Premier Deluxe Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deluxe Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rooms are spread all around the resort and start from their lead in Deluxe Room. All come with the standard facilities including a small veranda. While I was there last year, the resort was still in the process of renovating the deluxe rooms. This should have been completed by now. I did take a look at one of the renovated rooms and to me it seemed more a semi renovation and not a total make over. None the less an improvement on the last time I stayed. Most recently I booked the Premier Deluxe which was totally brilliant, modern large and comfy, including a magnificent bathroom (complete with free standing bathtub and separate shower). Definitely the room to stay at here!

Premier Deluxe Bathroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you would come to expect from the resort (and Cebuano’s in general) the staff are very polite and helpful. The resort’s grounds are clean and well maintained. While it’s a notch down from say the Shangri La in pure luxury, it’s certainly no less deserving of a place to stay for those wanting to enjoy an amazing resort at a little cheaper rate!  I wouldn’t have any hesitation recommending this is as a place to stay.


 

Plantation Bay Cebu

Plantation Bay Resort Cebu


 

Rating: 4.5 star

Rooms: 256

One of the most iconic resorts in Mactan, Plantation Bay has been wowing guests since the late 1990s and is listed in Conde Nast Magazine as one of the top 25 resorts in Asia. If you can get over the fact that most of Plantation Bay is fake  – while beautifully designed,  the huge lagoons are actually made from concrete.  The lagoons are amazing to look at but once in, you do feel like your swimming in a pool.  Not that it’s bad, in fact it’s easier to control when it’s man made, it’s something that needs pointing out.

The resort is a little isolated, so you will need to catch a taxi to get anywhere around Mactan or Cebu. It is possible to walk down the long driveway to get outside the resort, but you will only find a couple of small sari-sari stores (general stores). The nearest shopping mall Gaisano Grand Mall is around a 10 minute drive. Here you can find a number of small stores, supermarket, banks and a few fast food restaurants.

Plantation Bay Mactan Cebu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the way they have designed the resort, it’s just stunningly beautiful to look. The resort is huge; it is spread over 11.4 hectares of tropical gardens, massive (saltwater) lagoons and swimming pools. The resort has its own small private beach, fine for chilling by but not really a beach that will blow your mind, which I’ve stated before is typical of Mactan.

Plantation Bay Cebu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The resort is also well-designed for families with so many activities and facilities for kids of all ages. There are a lot of indoor and outdoor activities to do here like wall climbing, archery, biking, kayak, golf putting, badminton, tennis (the resort  hosted the Davis Cup in the Philippines). There’s also a game room which you can play billiards, table tennis, air hockey, arcade games and gaming consoles. They also have a good fully-equipped gym. Not only that add the water activities such as island hopping, scuba diving and whale shark tour.

Plantation Bay Restaurants

 

Chicken Panini Sandwich at Kilimanjaro Kafe

Lechon at one of the themed dinner buffets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The resort has 4 main restaurants which are generally of a good standard. They include Kilimanjaro Kafé (both international and Filipino cuisine), the Fiji Restaurant located by the beachfront and offering seafood and Asian cuisine. Enjoy eating outside overlooking the ocean or inside in their air conditioned area. For Italian cuisine head over to Palermo, or for some fast food Plantation has its Savannah Grill. Expect to pay a premium for food (as with all other resorts).

I was a little disappointed by the limited buffet breakfast,  that doesn’t match up to standards of other resorts. The buffet is a lot smaller so has limited variety compared to the others. Surprisingly, booking via internet websites such as Agoda, breakfast is not included.

Plantation Resort’s Rooms

 

Plantation Bay Cebu Lagoon Side Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lagoon Side Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rooms are decent, a tad on the old side, but definitely not up to the standards of a 5 star resort. What you do get is a view to die for, that’s if you book the lagoon side room, which I definitely recommend booking if you’re staying at Plantation Bay!
Their spa – Mogambo Springs is very classy, built in the style of an old 18th century Japanese village. The spa has  hot pools with Jacuzzi, cascading massage waterfalls, dry sauna and steam room. Mogambo Springs offers many spa treatments including  Japanese Shiatsu (energizing), Swedish (relaxing), or a combination, and Fusion (rejuvenating).For more details visit their treatment link

Mogambo Springs Spa at Plantation Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://plantationbay.com/spa/spa-treatments/

Plantation Bay Resort isn’t going to be for everyone. If you can get over the “fakeness” of the place, it’s pure eye candy to look at.  A bit like those resorts in Dubai, just less extravagant.  The resort is fun to stay at, plenty of things to do, or if it’s your thing, do nothing but sit and relax by the tropical lagoons, Plantation Bay Cebu is a wonderful place to stay at. Great for families, couples or even singles. For me I do love this resort.

 

The other 5 resorts will come in Part 2… coming soon…

 

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Rob Brand

*rates and information subject to change without notice. Some photos courtesy of their Facebook pages.

 

 

May 20

12 Great Reasons Business Travellers Should Explore Cebu’s Tourist Destinations

Blog Guest Post

 

There are some perks that only business travellers could have. For instance, you can go some place new for free–and get paid for it. However, there are days when meetings are scarce, and you have some time to explore the vicinity. In Cebu, it will pay to check out the many tourist attractions.

 

Why so? The city is a booming metropolitan, and your travails might just lead you to discover a business opportunity or two. There are plenty of good spots in the city, as well as at the outskirts, and a little bit past the structures and “hotspots”, you will see the locals living their days as they usually do. Before you set up your new endeavour, you should always do your research. Culture plays a big role, and here are things that you should check out:

 

Food – It is a big and important part of every place that you’re ever going to go to. After all, it is what brings people together. It always has, and Cebu is no different from that. As a visitor, you might want to try out the local dishes and delicacies, and more foodie adventures that your tummy will be happy for. It is up to you to stick to restaurants or try out the street food.

 

Language – Learning Cebuano will give you an advantage. The ability to communicate with your future clients in their native tongue will surely impress them. It is also important to note that non-verbal language is integral in communication and you may want to learn more about gestures and body language. Not to mention the tone of voice or sense of humour.

 

Religion – Majority of Cebuano’s are Christians, and considering the moral and cultural references of religion in their daily life, it will do you no harm to learn more about it. For instance, the city observes Lenten traditions, and if you’re planning on opening a business, it will be an advantage to know how to operate during that time.

 

Economy It will always be smart to learn more about the economy before investing. Currently, the Philippines has a positive investment grade from three different investment grade agencies: Standard & Poor’s, Fitch, and Moody’s. Due to the positive credit ranking, now is a good time as any to start investing.

 

Clothing – Professional dress will always be important no matter which country you are visiting. It can mean the difference between returning home empty-handed or closing a deal. So, turn to local businesspeople for inspiration on what you should wear as you do not want to be over nor under dressed when meeting with your clients.

 

Gender Relations – In our modern age, equality is a major issue. If you do not pay attention and treat a man or a woman in the wrong manner, you might as well kiss your client base goodbye. Be especially mindful of touching or maintaining eye contact as they can be easily misinterpreted given the conservative views of many Cebuano executives.

 

Tolerance – It pays to check out the locals’ willingness to recognise and respect your practices and beliefs as it enables you to know which business ideas would actually work and how you should handle your employees. Visiting establishments with a business idea similar to yours can yield great results.

 

Technology – While the Philippines may not be as advanced as other countries, it is open to the many innovations from abroad. You should find out just which business devices and systems are already common or not. In this way, you can know if you might need to order them from your home country or can avail of them locally.

 

Arts – Creativity is essential, especially in the marketing and advertising field. However, you must always bear in mind that what can be considered as art in another culture might be offensive to another. For this reason, you should do your research for what would actually be appealing on billboards and other forms of adverts.

 

Social Groups – While there isn’t a caste system in Cebu, people still end up being grouped together. This is where senior citizens are separated from the youth and the upper-class are separated from the middle-class. What the members from the different groups can be very different thus you should know how you can cater to the needs of your target audience.

 

DailyLife – Observing how people get by day to day will let you know how your future business will fare. Mingling with the locals will give you an idea of the over-all culture: the way they speak and how they usually spend their money, for instance.

 

Government – Cebu has its own local government wherein the leaders for the Province are different from the leaders of the City Proper. You have to know in which jurisdiction your company falls under. Then, you will also need to find out about the requirements for starting a venture. The process is likely to be entirely different to the system at your home country.

 

Immersing in culture is important if you’re planning to start a business in a new place. After all, knowing the area is a good start for you to find a home for your company, like a condo for lease or an office space for rent in Cebu, as with anywhere else in the world. Just make sure that you deal with a reliable commercial real estate provider and you should have no trouble in setting up your headquarters or branch.

 

Why explore the tourist destinations to do your cultural research, you ask? The fact is that in most tourist destinations, you will see a lot of different businesses, and you will see how well they are doing. The differences range from the locals’ one-person operated booths to big corporate companies, some of them even foreign. This will give you a general idea on what business sector really is like, for locals and foreign investors alike. We hope that the information we’ve shared will be useful to you in your own entrepreneurial efforts.

 

About the Author:

Regus is a global company that has 1500 centres in 600 cities and 100 countries. Clients in the Philippines can find out more about their products and services if you check out http://www.regus.com.ph

May 01

Cebu Philippines for 1st timers – the inside guide to Cebu

 

One of the beautiful Beaches in Cebu

First Time to Holiday in Cebu?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cebu is an amazing holiday destination, a great alternative to Thailand or Malaysia for those looking for a tropical vacation. It offers a bit of everything to keep most holiday makers happy. The friendly Cebuano’s are welcoming hosts and the beautiful Cebuano girls have been attracting foreigners for years, easy to talk to and fluent in English. Recently the Philippines been attracting attention as more people discover the appeal of the country. Boracay Island has constantly been rated as one of the top 10 beaches in the world, but believe me, there is plenty more to the Philippines than just Boracay. There are plenty of alternative places to visit and Cebu is just one of those places you should check out.

Cebu is a small tropical island surrounded by a number of smaller islands that make up some of the best places to visit in Cebu. Most of the time you can enjoy these magnificent beaches without the crowds of people you would normally come to expect with beaches that are so beautiful.

How to get to Cebu

Internationally, the best way to get to Cebu is flying directly into Cebu, (the international airport is located on Mactan Island) direct flights operate from Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore and Bangkok. Another option is to connect via Manila as there are a lot more international flights into Manila.

When you arrive into Cebu from overseas most nationals will get stamped with a 30 day visa waiver (recently changed from 21 days), giving you a stay of 30 days. For more information check with the Philippine Immigration website http://www.immigration.gov.ph/

Previously you could extend that 21 days up to 59 days (38 days extra) and with the new extension to 30 days they are still saying you can extend for an extra 38 days. Please refer to the immigration link above for more details. Interesting enough the Philippines Immigration Facebook Page seems to have more information as well as answering peoples questions on this subject. Please visit their Facebook page link. Extensions can be done by going to the immigration office in Mandaue or you can get one of the local travel agents in Cebu to do this for you. A number of the hotels can offer this service as well. Expect to pay around an extra P 1000 (on top of the actual visa fee). If you wish to stay longer, you can keep extending your stay for extra 59 days. For more information on maximum length of stay and more details/conditions please refer to the immigration website above.

For international tourists make sure to have return ticket or a ticket with a flight leaving the Philippines, you will not be allowed to enter the country on a one way ticket. Again please consult the immigration website for more details, or contact the Philippine Consulate in your country.

Philippine electric plugs – The Philippines uses the 2 vertical pronged plugs at 220V/60Hz

 

Electric plug in the Philippines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currency – The Philippines uses the Peso, notes come in the denomination of 20/50/100/500 and 1000. There are money changes at the airport as well as a couple of ATMs that you can draw money from (be aware ATMs are not as reliable in the Philippines and it’s common for them to go “offline”). Most ATMs will have a maxium limit of P 10,000 and will charge a fee of P 200 on top of any fee your local bank charges may charge as well. The HSBC bank near Ayala allows up to P 40,000 in one transaction (no fees) and the Citibank (also at Ayala) allows up to P 15,000. Make sure to have some smaller notes such as 100s and 50s as taxis and some smaller businesses never seem to have change for larger notes.

Weather in Cebu

Luxury Sumilon Island Bluewater Resort in Cebu

Cool off from the tropical heat at Sumilon Bluewater Resort in Cebu's South

Cebu is more humid than Manila and during the rainy season you can feel this humidity even more (around June through until November), December to January tends to be the coolest time of year (by tropical standards!) and March/April the hottest and driest time of year (where temperatures can reach the high 30’s centigrade).

 

The Cebuano’s

Happy Cebuano's

Cebuano’s are a laid back bunch of people, friendly, sometimes quite cheeky (in a playful way) but always easy to talk with. Cebu is one of the few places that you can strike up a conversation with a stranger without having that paranoia. You can really feel a genuine warmth about people, something that’s hard to find these days. In Cebu it’s quite easy to have a friendly chat with a stranger at the mall or store. It’s common thing to exchange mobile/cell numbers with someone you just met.

 

Koreans in Cebu

Over recent years, the amount of tourists from Korea has grown amazingly, so much so they now represent the single biggest group of tourists to the Philippine (around 50% of the total tourist market). A large proportion come to study English as it’s so affordable. This has led to the lots Korean restaurants having popped up in Cebu. If you love Korean food, then surprisingly Cebu offers a lot of choice for some great traditional Korean food. While the Korean influence is indisputable in Cebu City and Mactan Island, it’s less so in the other tourist spots of Cebu such as Bantayan and Malapascua.

Hygiene

If I come to stay in the Philippines for an extended period, one thing I always bring with me is diarrhea tablets, hygiene in some of the restaurants isn’t what I would call world class, quite often food is cooked in the morning and just left in their pots for hours allowing bacteria to grow. When you order food the restaurants simply re cook the food. If your belly isn’t used to the local food, diarrhea can be a problem. Believe me, you don’t want to be suffering from this stuck on a long bus ride!

For those planning to travel between island around Cebu and you are susceptible to motion sickness, plan on getting some sea sick tablets or equivalent. Sometimes the ocean can be choppy – especially during the rainy season.

In the Philippines chemists or pharmacies sell tablet medications not in their boxes but opened already and tablets are sold separately. When you buy medications you are asked how many tablets you want, rather than buying the whole packet. You really need to be careful on the directions or doses that you need to take. Sometimes the salesladies can give you different or vague answers if you do ask for advice.

Water – Don’t drink the water from the tap, only use bottled water and then make sure the cap of the bottle is sealed. I’ve seen a report on TV some unscrupulous street sellers collecting empty water bottles and re-filling them with tap water! One of my first trips to Cebu many years ago I mistakenly drunk a glass of water that wasn’t filtered and ended up 2 days in hospital!

Health in Cebu

Vaccinations are a good idea and it’s best to check with your GP or doctor a couple months before travel as some vaccinations take a while to kick in and work. In Cebu, Malaria isn’t a problem (but that’s not to say it’s possible for outbreaks in the future), the more common mosquito borne disease is Dengue, which hospitalises people every year in Cebu, some years are worse than others. It occurs more commonly in the wet season. I recommend checking out a site like http://www.traveldoctor.com.au/ if you’re an Australian and I’m sure there are equivalent sites in other countries.

Is Cebu Safe? 

Generally, yes, but just take the right precautions to keep yourself out of trouble, just like anywhere else in the world. Keep your valuables hidden. If you don’t know Cebu well,  don’t walk the streets at night, this includes the downtown area of Cebu.There are a number of dodgy characters around there that are best avoided! Best to be on the cautious side.

Government websites have the latest updates on any warnings on the Philippines (although these tend to be overly cautious) and are more often aimed at parts of Mindanao and not Cebu. For the Australian Government Smartraveller website visit here http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/Philippines .

Tourist spots in Cebu

Schools of fish in Moalboal. Diving in Cebu offers some of the best in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re coming to Cebu, don’t stick around too long in Cebu City or Mactan Island, you must get out and see the great natural tourist attractions Cebu has to offer. The best tourist spots in Cebu are undoubtedly the tropical beaches and diving. The place is a tropical paradise and if you don’t get out of the city, you’re really missing out on the amazing beaches and islands Cebu has to offer. Most of the resorts in Cebu are pretty much low key and generally pretty affordable. Outside of Mactan Island and Cebu City you won’t find those famous hotel chains (such as Shangri La and Sheridan).

What to do in Cebu

Budyong Resort Bantayan Island

Looking out from Budyong Resort in Bantayan Island. One of the top tourist spots in Cebu.

Head to Bantayan Island for a laid back tropical paradise (read more here), Malapascua for its beautiful beaches and amazing diving (read more here), Camotes for a more rustic tropical Island feel and less travelled islands in Cebu (read more here), Moalboal – Cebu’s premier dive spots with plenty of good value resorts. Cebu City is a great place to see some Cebuano culture (nightlife, history and shopping). Bohol Island is only a short boat ride from Cebu and it offers some amazing adventures for the tourist as well. Beautiful beaches, the famous Chocolate Hills, diving and great snorkelling. Mactan Island is home of Cebu’s luxury resorts. Cebu offers everything for the holiday maker could need, and generally at more affordable prices, although compared to Thailand, Philippines is a bit more expensive.

Beautiful Alona Beach in Bohol only 2 hours away from Cebu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have listed the top 10 tourist spots in my other Cebu Travel Blog here.

Video guide of top tourist spots in Cebu City.

This is a video on things to do in Bohol

Video Guide to Mactan Island

More details on all these spots as well as where to stay in Cebu can be found on the main page of BeyondCebu. It also gives more details on smaller and less popular places to visit in Cebu

Filipino Cuisine

Food in Cebu or the Philippines won’t knock your socks off; overall while not terrible, it’s just not going to have you raving to your friends about. While you may have a local Chinese, Thai or Malaysian restaurant back in your home country, you will be lucky to find a local Filipino restaurant. Cebuano’s are meat lovers so a lot of their dishes comprise of mostly meat and rice. For vegetarians choices are more limited, even on many menus the vegetarian dishes are in fact meat dishes that contain vegetables. One thing that is abundant is seafood, and plenty of it. If you keep away from the “touristy” seafood restaurants (which charge astonishing prices) you can get some really delicious cheap seafood. Check out our listing of restaurants in Cebu for more details. Being a tropical island, Cebu has some amazing tasting tropical fruits, the most famous being its mangoes – try them and you will agree, undoubtedly they are the best tasting mangoes in the world! Not only that, pay less than 2 dollars a kilo of them.

Shopping in Cebu

Coming from Australia I found that what is cheap in Cebu is clothing. I’m not talking about the fake stuff either, but the legit brand names in the shopping malls (Guest, Levis, Nike etc.) as well as watches you can pick up some real bargains!  What I did find expensive were electronics such as laptops and cameras. For older cell phones (some 2nd hand), ones that nearly belong in a museum, can be picked up at really cheap prices as well.  While in Australia it’s possible to pick up, buy and walk out of the store without meeting a single store person, here in Cebu you’re more likely to find more sales ladies than customers! It’s a refreshing change to get some customer service or interact with someone, something of a lost art form in this day and age. My mate couldn’t stop raving on the customer service he received when he purchased a cell phone that he went back to buy more stuff!

Traffic in Cebu

 A problem that has unfortunately been getting worse in Cebu over the years is traffic. No one has come up with a real solution to the problem, nor is it likely in the near future. Cebu lacks any good transport infrastructure – so all types transport use the road. As Cebu’s population grows so do the number of cars and jeepneys creating hideous traffic issues. Public transport in the city is basically just jeepneys and to a lesser extent tricycles. Best time to travel in the city is on Sundays or when Manny Pacquiao fights! Traffic is at its worse during Sinulog, (the biggest festival in Cebu) around the lead up to Christmas and believe it or not, Valentine’s Day! Leaving from Ayala shopping Mall, kid me wrong, took over 1 hour of  just waiting for a taxi and only getting to the exit of the park in Ayala! If you plan to book car hire in Cebu my advice is not to. Taxis are cheap enough and if your never driven in Cebu before traffic is chaotic. If you’re involved in some accident (and you’re a foreigner) you be looked upon as an open cheque book and whether or not it’s your fault, you will be liable.

 

Where to Stay in Cebu

Relax at one of the resorts in Cebu. Picture of Be Resort Mactan

Cebu has plenty to offer the tourist, plenty of resorts and amazing beaches. Cebu’s top luxury resorts are mainly located in Mactan Island and include well recognized chains such as Shangri La Cebu and Movenpick Resort Cebu. The only issue I have is the beaches on Mactan island aren’t what you image when you thinking of a tropical paradise. Most of these luxury resorts have artificially made their beaches. While they do look nice it’s all man made and really for the price, they are generally not the best value for money! For me I don’t mind staying a couple nights here, just to indulge myself, hey it’s your holiday and it’s good to spoil yourself a bit, but Mactan isn’t a place I would spend too much time at, you need to discover the other amazing spots in Cebu.

Cebu City is the capital of the Province of Cebu and is roughly about half an hour from the airport (depending on traffic). Cebu City has no beaches, it’s a city so don’t expect to find any resorts in Cebu City. The closest resorts are in Mactan Island. There are a number of smaller resorts just north or south of Cebu City but are poor in standard and are nothing to write home about, definitely not post card material! Cebu has some amazing beaches but you need to travel at least 2 to 3 hours from the city to see them (see more above for Cebu’s tourist attractions).

 

Cebu City Hotels

Radisson Blue Hotel Cebu one of the top hotels in Cebu

Quest Hotel Cebu one of the better hotels in Cebu

Cebu City is large enough to have plenty of accommodation options for everyone’s budget, generally speaking Cebu is pretty affordable. For the top luxury hotels in Cebu you can’t go past the Radisson Blu Cebu, probably the best hotel in Cebu City you can stay in. Located right next door the huge SM Shopping Mall so you don’t have far to carry all the stuff you buy! Not only are the rooms top notch, the hotel offers great buffet meals and has an outdoor swimming pool to laze and relax after all that shopping! The Marriott Cebu another upmarket hotel located on next door to the other large shopping mall in Cebu, Ayala. For those looking for a “resort” the closest you’re probably going to get is the Montebello Villa Hotel which offers a peaceful garden type resort with a couple of swimming pools and pond area, though not considered luxury, more middle of the range. For further reading or my recommendations on hotels in Cebu please visit the top 7 hotels list. For more budget friendly accommodation in Cebu there are plenty of options as well. For the list of hotels in Cebu visit here.

 

If you’re a first timer to Cebu and looking for a good area to stay in Cebu City, an area I would recommend staying is close to Ayala Mall. Check out my other post on this for more details. During the off season (June – November) a lot of hotels offer discount rates on hotels in Cebu, check online booking sites like Agoda and HotelsCombined, or directly with the hotel.

Hopefully if you do get to holiday in Cebu you will see the amazingly wonderful place it is. I’m sure Cebu will bring you back again and again. It’s one of those places that doesn’t attract the volume of tourists that it should. It has only been recently that Cebu and the Philippines has become “flavour of the month” so maybe more people will see what this fantastic country has to offer. Tourism in the last couple of years has started to outpace other more popular Asian holiday destinations such as Thailand and Malaysia, so I hope this trend will continue into the future. So next time you’re planning that tropical vacation to Asia, give the Philippines a strong thought.

Mactan Shine

Statue of Chief Lapu-Lapu at Mactan Shine

 

             Welcome to Cebu!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rob Brand

Mar 10

Discover this gem – The tropical paradise of the Camotes Islands, Cebu Philippines

Overlooking Santiago Bay Camotes

Camotes Islands Cebu

One of the least travelled to islands of Cebu, the Camotes Islands make a fantastic holiday option when you travel to the Philippines. Being off the main tourist spots in Cebu, the Camotes have remained a perfect idyllic tropical getaway. I have been coming here off and on for the last 5 years or so. As many other tourist spots in Cebu have been rapidly developing, I’ve found the Camotes the lagging behind the islands around Cebu in new forms of tourist infrastructure. Personally I think that’s a good thing, I like the way the Camotes has this laidback rustic feel to the place. Not a lot has changed from the first time I came, a few more resorts have been built, but generally it’s pretty much the same as I first remember when I originally came to the islands. Mobile coverage is as crap as it’s always been! Some areas are ok, other areas have no coverage at all! A number of the roads are not fully sealed, and when it rains, some of these roads become muddy, making it a bit of a nightmare to use. I’ve actually come off my bike due to the slippery mud; thankfully I wasn’t going fast and just bruised my shin. I met another guy who did have a nasty spill on his bike with some huge bruises along his side. A few days later another motorbike rider with two other passengers on the back hit a dog, 2 of them ended up in hospital. It just goes to show you need to be careful. That’s not to say the Camotes is not developing, there are plans to start building a new Monte Cristo Resort Casino (complete with 60 ocean front condos) later this year.

For further reading on the Camotes Islands please visit our main page of BeyondCebu. It also covers the resorts in more details with extended video and photos.

Getting from Cebu to the Camotes

The only consistent way of getting to the Camotes over the years has been via the northern port town of Danao in Cebu. Getting from Cebu City to Danao takes a little over an hour by bus and less than that by taxi. You can also catch a V-hire van from SM Shopping Mall going to Danao. There you can board one of the ferries going to the Camotes. It’s also possible at  staying overnight near the pier and getting up early the next morning to catch the first boat out. Danao has some decent resorts to stay at, thought the resorts in Danao arn’t blessed with any great beaches to speak of, they do have some nice swimming pools to relax by. The better resorts in Danao include Elsalvador Beach Resort Danao, Sunshine Shin Beach Resort Danao and Coco Palms Resort Danao, check on the links to get more details on the resorts including video and photos.

Schedules of the ferries from Danao to the Camotes:

As with always for latest times/prices always check directly with the companies direct as they are subject to change with time.

Super Shuttle Ferries

They have a daily service that departs Danao at 1 pm. Their Facebook page seems to be updated more regularly than their actual webpage http://www.facebook.com/pages/Super-Shuttle-Ferry-Super-Shuttle-Roro-Shuttle-Fast-Ferry/148071318593482

Jomalia Shipping Corp.

Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jomalia-Shipping-Corporation/179072295462797

Prices: 180 P for economy and 200 P for air conditioning.

(+5 pesos terminal fee)

Danao – Consuelo (Camotes Islands):
05:30am / 08:30am / 10:00am / 12:00nn / 05:30pm / 09:30pm

Consuelo – Danao:
04:00am / 05:30am / 09:00am / 12:00nn / 02:00pm / 04:00pm

 

Mandaue to Camotes

The boat from Mandaue (to the Camotes) was at time of writing on dry dock and getting some repairs done. It used to run daily below.

Ouano, Mandaue 5am 3 hours (mob 63 919537 2573)

 

Fast craft to Camotes

From Cebu City there has been fast craft that operates to the Camotes but over the years this has been very sporadic. I’m not sure if this run makes enough money and they cancelled the route. The first time I went to Camotes many years ago was on the fast craft from Cebu. A few years later it wasn’t running anymore, then 2012 it started up again and ran from February until mid-year, then stopped. This year it doesn’t seem to be operating again. All I can say is, if you’re planning to go to the Camotes don’t rely on this service operating and keep a check out schedules in the local papers.

 

Camotes Island Resorts.

Most of the resorts in the Camotes are pretty much low key affairs, rooms come with basic facilities. Most of the resorts don’t have TV, and if they do, it’s local channels, Madgodlong Paradise Resort is the only one which has limited satellite channels.

Video guide to the resorts in the Camotes Island

 

List of Resorts in the Camotes

 

Mangodlong Paradise Beach Resort Infinity pool

 

Definitely the best resort in the Camotes is Mangodlong Paradise Resort. Beds are comfy, modern and at this time, is the most luxurious resort you’re going to find on the Camotes. The resort comes with an infinity swimming pool, restaurant and beach front, although the beach man made it still looks pretty good. The resort is classified as a 3 star property.

 

 

Bano Beach Resort (BBR) Camotes Islands

 

 

Bano Beach Resort (or BBR) -. Another newish resort, it overlooks the ocean and Mangodlong Rock Resort. BBR has 8 rooms and a nice little swimming pool and restaurant. Owners are relatives of Mangodlong Rock so you are permitted to swim at their resort’s beach area.

 

Vall Hall Resort Camotes

 

 

 

Vall Hall Resort – A beautiful cliff top resort. The rooms while simple are reasonable enough, it’s the views from the cliff top that make this resort. Vall Hall Resorts has no beach, but the warm tropical waters around the cliff base are great for a refreshing swim or if you’re game, a plunge from the elevated water slide!  The resort has friendly staff and a restaurant that serves up nothing spectacular, it’s reasonable enough.

 

 

Santiago Bay Garden Resort Camotes

 

Santiago Bay Resort is one of the largest and oldest resorts in the Camotes situated on a hilltop overlooking Santiago Bay, arguably the best views on the island. Their simple rooms come with fan or air conditioning, the more expensive rooms having the better views. A few years back they upgraded the resort with a nice swimming pool that shares some of the magnificent views. Its sister resort is Mangodlong Rock Resort around 15 minute drive away.

 

Payag Beach House Resort

 

 

Payag Beach House Resort – Located right on Santiago Bay, you literately have to walk out of your room a few footsteps and you are on the beach. The rooms are small, basic and simple, some with common bathroom; they have a couple of family rooms as well.

 

 

 

Palanas Beach Resort in the Camotes Islands

 

 

Palanas Beach Resort – The closest you can get to living like Robinson Crusoe. Half a dozen or so rooms on this secluded beach, no restaurant, no facilities basically you, the beach and some palm trees! Palanas Resort is run under the same management of BBR and you can pre organise food with them. Enjoy paradise!

 

My Little Island Hotel Camotes

 

 

 

 

My Little Island Hotel. This resort is located on an isolated hilltop on Poro Island. Being on top of a hill it has some wonderful views looking out to the sea. The resort has decent rooms, and a great swimming pool. The only downer with this hotel is it’s so far away from everything and it doesn’t have a beach, hence the pool

 

 

 

Masamayor's Beach House and Resort

 

Masamayor’s Beach Resort – Located a couple hundred meters away from Santiago Bay Beach offering simple motel style building with a restaurant on top. There is a house at the back that also has some rooms.

 

Mangodlong Rock Resort

 

 

 

Mangodlong Rock Resort – Run under same management as Santiago Bay Resort that used to be the only resort in this area and now how become a little crowded with 3 resorts almost on top of each other. The rooms are aging but are decent. The more expensive rooms face out onto the beach while the cheaper rooms are located a few hundred meters away. Has a little beach front.

 

 

Keshe Beach Resort

Keshe Beach Resort – Is made up of 2 bungalows (one small and one larger) and if you looking to get away from it all this resort may be for you! Bare to the bones, no facilities only the beauty of Mother Nature and the beautiful beach of Bakhaw (one of the Camotes hidden gems) in front of you. it’s one way to enjoy paradise! Organise food with the caretaker – sit back and relax!

 

 

Flying Fish Resort

 

Flying Fish Resort – Another Isolated Resort which I had a bit of trouble trying to find riding a bike around the island. The time I was there, the resort was empty of any guests. The rooms were actually quite good, clean and modern. You have the option of renting rooms in the top floor of the house or more standard room types in the main building. No beach here, but the resort has their own house reef for diving/snorkelling.

 

Borromeo Beach Resort on Bakhaw Beach

 

 

Borromeo Beach Resort – located close to Keshe Beach Resort on the beautiful Bakhaw Beach. More of a beach house that you can rent rooms from.  The house comes with numerous rooms and has kitchen and dining area. Probably more suited for big groups or families wishing to rent the whole house.

 

 

 

Bellavistamare Beach Resort overlooking Santiago Bay

 

 

Bellavistamare Beach Resort – A smaller resort on the Camotes, right next door to Santiago Bay Resort and having some amazing views overlooking the bay. Rooms are pretty simple and basic, with some having fan and others aircon.

 

 

 

 

Sunset Vista Resort

 

Sunset Vista Resort – Located on the north eastern  part of Pacijan Island, Sunset Vista has basic rooms either fan or air conditioned rooms with a nice garden area overlooking the ocean. The Resort has a small restaurant, it has no beach only rocks, although you are still able to swim. The staff are friendly and helpful. The only resort in the area and is walking distance from a small village.

 

 

 

Nonoc Beach House

 

Nonoc Beach House – newly opened in 2012, Nonoc offers 2 houses that are for rent.  One of the houses can hold up to maximum 8 people and has 1 bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. The 2nd house can hold up to a maximum of 10 people and has 2 bedrooms. For more information call/txt +63 947 796 2529 or visit their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/CamotesBeachHouse

 

 

 

Camotes Islands tourist spots

 

Santiago Bay

 

For the holiday maker there are many tourist spots in the Camotes worth visiting. One of the best spots to start is with Santiago Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches on the islands. It’s a bay blessed with a magnificent white sand beach, that at even at high tide is shallow and just amazing to swim at, If you want to stay here there are a number of resorts Payag Resort, Santiago Bay Resort, Masamayor’s Beach Resort and Bellavistamare Beach Resort (see above in Camotes Resorts for more info).

 

 

Bakhaw Beach

 

Another Beautiful Camotes Beach is Bakhaw Beach located near the town of Esperanza on Pacijan Island. The beach is a hidden little gem in the Camotes Islands, while Santiago Bay has been attraction the main tourist crowd; Bakhaw Beach has quietly attracting a more savvier tourist. To stay in this area, you have 2 choices; Keshe Resort and Borromeo Beach House Resort (see above under Camotes Resorts for more details).

 

 

Beautiful Tunlang Island Camotes

 

The other beach worth checking out is on Tulang Island just north of Pacijan Island. It’s easy to organise one of the public boats to take you across to the island, it’s only a few minute ride. It’s so close, you could even swim it if you’re fit enough! The island has a lovely little stretch of white sand. On the northern side of Tulang there is also a great dive site for any budding scuba divers. Flying Fish Resort offers dive tours of this spot.

 

Timubo Cave

 

There are 2 caves worth visiting on the Camotes, one on Pacijan Island; Timubo Cave (entry 15 Peso) a small cave with a pool of water that you can swim in. The other, Bukilat Cave (entry 10 Peso) on Poro Island, located near the town of MacArthur, again only a small cave with a pool at water. Timubo Cave is darker and uses lights, while Bukilat has an opening in the roof that allows natural light into the cave.

 

 

 

Lake Danao Camotes

 

 

Lake Danao Park (also known as Green Lake Park) entry is 20 pesos, the lake is biggest on the island and a great place to relax, kayak, hire a sakanaw (lake boat that holds many people) or have a picnic.

 

 

 

 

 

Buhol Rock

 

 

 

 

 

Buko Rock – is a lovely little spot by the ocean, a rocky area that has some places to relax and have a picnic or go swimming/snorkelling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panganuron Falls

 

 

Panganuron Falls is a little waterfall (so much so it can dry up during the summer) is a 30 minute walk (1.6km) along a badly maintained (overgrown!) trail, at places I couldn’t even see the trail so I tended just to follow along near the river. Eventually I go there, and while it’s pretty enough, I wouldn’t say it’s a “must see”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall the Camotes Islands are a great place to get away from the world. It’s a destination if you’re looking for a holiday without all the luxuries of the world and get back to nature. It has some beautiful beaches to explore, some diving and a fantastic place to get away from the crowds. I love hiring a bike and exploring the islands, for me a 3 or 4 days is enough, after that I do start to get bored.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the email below.

Happy Travels!

 

*prices show are subject to change without notice.

 

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Rob Brand

Mar 02

The Ultimate Guide to Hotels Near Ayala Cebu – The Best Area to Stay in Cebu

Ayala Terraces has plenty of restaurants in Cebu to eat at

 Why stay near Ayala Center Cebu?

One of the most popular areas to hang out in Cebu City has to be Ayala Shopping Mall; it’s one of the best shopping malls in Cebu. Ayala has everything you could possibly want – many retail stores, clothing stores, foreign currency exchange, banks, department stores, salons, a chiropractor and you can even get a tattoo done! The latest addition to Ayala Cebu was “The Terraces” opened in 2008 at the cost of around P 600 million. This multi levelled terraced facade is home to a huge range of restaurants and coffee shops (Starbucks, Siam Thai Cuisine, TGI Fridays, CYMA Greek Restaurant, Red Kimono Japanese Restaurant to name a few) with nearly every cuisine available and is a lovely area built around an outdoor garden setting complete with water fountains. The Terraces addition has made Ayala the premier shopping Mall in Cebu and if you’re new to Cebu or a first timer to the city, it’s a great place to introduce yourself to the city. If you plan to do a bit a shopping in Cebu (and prices of clothing is pretty cheap compared to Western countries) you don’t have far to carry all your shopping bags! If staying in a safe area is priority then this part of Cebu is defiantly one of the safer areas in the city. The only thing you really need to be careful of is the traffic around the mall! I’ve found myself staying in this area many times so I thoroughly recommending staying in hotel around Ayala. I honestly think if you never been to Cebu before, this is one of the best places to start looking for accommodation in Cebu City. Unlike other parts of Cebu City, you won’t have beggars outside your hotel asking for money or someone harassing you to buy fake Viagra tablets.

Location wise Ayala is very convenient; it’s only a short taxi ride to most places around the city, including the  popular tourist attractions in Cebu. A short 10 minute taxi ride away is IT Park, an area that has some great restaurants and bars. You’ll find this open most of the time as it’s where the call centres in Cebu are located. These centres run around the clock and have created a thriving business of restaurants and bars that service all call centre workers.  If you are into checking out the nightlife in Cebu, again it’s only a short ride to Mango Square (a popular area with a number of discos such as J. AVE, Alchology and Hybrid Bar) and if you’re into the bikini bars, again only a short taxi ride away.

Finding the right hotel near Ayala

For more information on these hotels in Cebu (below) please click here.

There is a fantastic choice in the number of hotels near Ayala Cebu, including a number of new hotels just opened in the last couple of years. It’s easy to see why in the last few years the biggest growth area, in terms of hotels in Cebu has been around the Ayala. With more competition between the hotels it only means better prices for the consumers. So here is the rundown of the hotels in this area.

One of the more upmarket hotels in Cebu

 

Cebu Marriott Hotel – The closest hotel you can get  to Ayala. The Marriott is a business style hotel that has the luxuries of an outdoor pool area, gym and has some of the best buffets in town. Rooms are fitted with modern amenities and are pretty much what you expect from the Marriott Brand. The hotel enforces a strict airport like security when entering the hotel.

 

 

 

 

The massive Cebu Waterfront Hotel and Casino. Deluxe Room

 

Most of the hotels generally are located on the busy Archbishop Reyes Ave which runs parallel with Ayala. Starting from the Northern end of the Ave is the huge Waterfront Hotel Cebu. It  has a side street onto Archbishop Reyes Ave (while its main entrance is on Salinas Drive) and about a 10 minute walk to Ayala. The hotel contains a casino, numerous restaurants, gym, outdoor swimming pool, duty free shop and practically everything that you could possibly want! The Uno Restaurant serves some huge buffets.

 

 

Cebu Parklane Hotel. Corner Room

The distinctive Blue tinted windowed Cebu Parklane Hotel  used to have unobtrusive views of Ayala, now blocked by a high-rise building.  I have stayed here a few times over the years and is one of the better hotels near Ayala. Even though there is a lot more competition now it’s still one ranks up there in the top hotels. The Parklane has a better than average buffet breakfast to get you going in the morning. The lead in rooms are a little on the small side, I prefer the corner room, which is a little larger than the Superior. The hotel has an around 240 rooms and has an outdoor pool and gym both located on the 4th floor. Although walking distance to Ayala there are 2 roads to cross both of which are a bit of nightmare as they seem always busy with traffic!  The hotel would fit in as a 3 or 3 and half star hotel and pretty good place to stay at, somewhere I don’t mind staying in Cebu.

 

One of the newer hotels in Cebu, The Quest Hotel Cebu.

Quest Hotel Cebu is one of the newest upper market hotels in Cebu as well as being one of the city’s largest hotels with over 420 rooms. Rooms are adequately sized and are fitted with modern amenities including WiFi. The Premier Deluxe Rooms have the extra balcony which is the only real difference between that and the normal Deluxe Rooms. The Quest Hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool and for breakfast the restaurant serves up a decent buffet. The hotel is also a popular conference centre and as such, the hotel is fitted with state of the art meeting facilities complete with 10 meeting rooms. A hotel in Cebu I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

 

Diamond Suites Cebu Deluxe Room

 

Diamond Suites & Residences Cebu is located just behind the Quest Hotel and is a relatively new mid-sized hotel in Cebu. The lower floors house the hotel rooms and the top floors being the “Residences” 2 storey condo type accommodation, suited for longer stays. The hotel has a small outdoor swimming pool and gym. Standard Room has two twin size beds and the area is about 20 square meters. Deluxe Rooms has two queen size beds and the room area is about 32 square meters.

 

 

 

Regal Park Hotel Standard Room

Regal Business Park Hotel is a much older hotel that offers some more budget friendly rooms. Due to the competition in the area, rooms are actually cheaper than what they were a few years ago and come with buffet breakfast (OK breakfast for the price). Rooms have  the standard facilities (cable TV, air conditioning, telephone and hot and cold shower) and there is free WiFi in the restaurant on the ground floor. The hotel has a small car park. Regal Hotel is located directly across from Ayala Shopping Mall. Overall the hotel offers reasonable value.

 

 

The brand new Wellcome Hotel in Cebu. Deluxe Room with Veranda

 

 

Wellcome Hotel Cebu is a brand new 3 star hotel in Cebu offering rooms equipped with clean and modern amenities (including free Wi-Fi, safety deposit box, hair dryer and coffee/tea making facilities in the rooms). The hotel has its own outside swimming pool and parking is available. Located a few minutes walk to Ayala.

 

 

 

 

Tune Hotel Cebu Double Room

Tune Hotel Cebu is another new hotel opened in 2012 and offers a low cost  stay in Cebu. Part of the Malaysian company that operates the budget carrier Air Asia. Tune Hotel follows the same concept of the budget airline, where you pay for the room only and everything else you pay extra for. (IE extra for towel, toiletries, Wi-Fi, cable TV etc.). For me I’m not entirely convinced of this concept, it doesn’t really work for me but maybe it works for others. I just like to have everything; rooms are not that expensive in Cebu. Agoda tends to package everything up in the one price, I find that the most convenient for me. The rooms are modern; clean if a bit tiny in size. A pretty good budget accommodation option in Cebu.

 

Island Stay Hotel Cebu Large Room

 

Next door is the bright and cheery Islands Stay Hotel Cebu, again another hotel that has only opened recently. The brightly coloured rooms give you this fun funky feeling. Not sure how I would feel coming back a bit tipsy from drinking at the clubs with all the bright colours! Rooms are pretty simple, but come with the basic necessities of a standard room. Good budget accommodation.

 

 

 

Golden Prince Hotel Cebu. Studio Room

 

Golden Prince Hotel is a mid-ranged hotel in Cebu. I’ve stayed here a few times and I have had problems booking a room if I leave it to the last minute, seems to be a popular hotel for conferences or parties and always find it a busy place. Rooms are decent, staff always accommodating. There is a buffet breakfast served on the ground floor which is reasonable enough.

 

 

 

 

Pensionne La Florentina Cebu

 

 

La Florentina Pensionne for those looking for  budget accommodation in Cebu, An older pension house, the  La Florentina offers some, while not spectacular, decent simple rooms. The place doesn’t have an elevator so higher rooms means carrying your luggage up the flight of stairs.

 

 

 

 

Myras Pension House Cebu

 

 

Myra’s Pensionne *update* this has been closed.

Is another older pension house in Cebu, rooms come with wooden floors are clean and pretty good value. Some rooms come with hot/cold showers (the others just being cold water) so ask ahead if you want the hot water rooms as these rooms are limited. I found the rooms do attract some traffic noise.

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Hotel Cebu. Deluxe

 

 

Elizabeth Hotel Cebu is a relatively new hotel just minutes away from Ayala. Rooms are modern and clean and come with mini bar, cable LCD TV and safety deposit box to name a few. The hotel has a restaurant serves up a decent enough breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Hotel Cebu

 

St. Moritz Hotel Cebu is an older hotel, located behind Elizabeth Hotel on a side street. The only off putting thing is there are a few  squatters as you  approach the hotel. There is hotel guard and I haven’t actually felt unsafe going there. The building are set up similar to a motel style set up, while inside the rooms are spacious, if a little tired looking. Kind of felt more suited to longer stay. There is a restaurant serving some nice European dishes as well as a “girlie”bar next door.

 

 

 

Richmond Plaza Hotel Cebu. Renovated Deluxe Room

 

 

Richmond Plaza Hotel Cebu is another older hotel which recently has been getting a much needed renovation! Stayed there a few years ago, and the rooms where very run down and old, coming back and staying in their renovated room was a big improvement. Hopefully all rooms are done by the time you read this.

 

 

 

 

West Gorodo Hotel Cebu

 

 

West Gorordo Hotel is an older hotel in Cebu; while nothing special it’s still a decent enough hotel. It’s one of those hotels if a friend ask you if you recommend it – it would be “yeah it’s ok”, just a run of the mill hotel. Right next door to Family Choice Restaurant, that offers some great priced buffets.

 

 

 

 

Golden Peak Cebu Deluxe Room

The Golden Peak Hotel. This was one of the very first hotels I stayed at in Cebu and it has been around since I ever knew.  The Golden Peak was one of my favourite hotels in Cebu when I first came to the city (before I really knew Cebu) and I stayed here a number of times. While I don’t tend to stay here as often anymore, it’s still a reasonable hotel, probably just getting a bit long in the tooth. In the low season they sometimes offer some fantastic promos. Breakfast is so-so. Located on a busy intersection but still easy walking distance to Ayala.

 

 

 

Kukuks Nest Cebu. Fan Room

 

 

Kukuk’s Nest Cebu – The cheapest hotel you are going to find in the area. It actually moved across the road from its previous location and has some very basic simple rooms. Kuku’s Nest is one if you’re really pinching your pennies and for the price, it’s ok value. Rooms are either air conditioned or fan.The bathroom is communal.

 

 

 

 

Tonros Apartelle Cebu. Budget accommodation for longer stays.

 

 

Tonros Apartelle Cebu – offers basic accommodation, more suited to long term travellers staying in Cebu. The rooms come with the basics – mini bar, cable TV  air conditioning and you can rent some cooking utensils. The apartelle is pretty old and the rooms do look a bit rundown, but for the price it’s ok.

 

 

 

 

 

Harolds Hotel Cebu. Deluxe Room

 

Harold’s Hotel Cebu. Nice modern hotel with a great rooftop bar to kick back with a drink and look over the city. Rooms are clean and nicely furnished with comfy beds. The Buffet breakfast is average. Stayed here when they first opened a while back when they had some opening promos, I felt then the staff where a bit unsure of themselves, still trying to understand the place, but thankfully staff are a lot better now. A good choice for someone wanting a hotel in the mid to upper range standard of accommodation.

 

 

The brand spanking new Mandarin Plaza Hotel Cebu

 

 

The new hotel in this area of Ayala is Mandarin Plaza Hotel Cebu which I have yet to visit, but it does look rather nice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The amount of hotels near Ayala gives you ample options to choose from. So anyone coming to Cebu for a holiday or even for business, then this area is one of the best places to be staying in Cebu. With all the competition, these hotels are regularly offering promos or discounts, so keep an eye out!  Check out our guide on saving money when staying in Cebu. Again I’m fond of Agoda when booking, but check out with hotels direct as it can work out cheaper, I’m more into convenience as I’m limited on time.

Hey and don’t forget to visit the main page of www.beyondcebu.com to see all the wonderful things to do and see in Cebu!

Enjoy your Stay in Cebu!

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to our email for the latest blogs just below.

 

 

*Mandarin Plaza Hotel photo courtesy of their Facebook page.

 

 

 

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Rob Brand

Feb 12

Romantic things to do in Cebu

Valentine's Day red roses

With Valentine’s Day nearly upon us again, it’s time to think of the best romantic things you could do here in Cebu. February 14 is an important date for Filipinos, and they love to show and share their love. If you’re in Cebu or in fact anywhere in the Philippines you have to be blind not to see all the excitement Valentine’s Day generates to Cebuano’s.

Are you a romantic? Have you ever been given or received a bunch of red roses or box of delicious chocolates? We all like to think of ourselves as romantics. Some of us are lucky to celebrate Valentine’s Day with our sweetheart or loved one, it’s the day we can really show how much we love them, maybe not as often as we should. Don’t let your Facebook status change to “complicated”! If it’s your one time to keep the passion in your relationship, then do it!  Everyone loves to be treated special, to feel loved and wanted, especially from the one we really care about. For those who haven’t been struck from Cupid’s arrow, this is a day we are hoping a crush or someone special leaves us that romantic note, or bunch of red roses on our door. Maybe it’s from a secret admirer, maybe it’s many admirers!

So what romantic things can you do in Cebu? One of the most simple yet most romantic is having a candlelit dinner, or just a dinner for two. In Cebu there are plenty of great options, you only need to start at Ayala Terraces. From here there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, and a budget to suit everyone. After you can hold hands and take a stroll in the gardens. If it’s your first date, maybe it’s a good opportunity for your first kiss! IT Park has plenty of places to eat as well, later treat your loved one to one of the many bars around the area, or even go dancing.

If you want to impress your date more, dinner with a view is a great way to get the Cupid’s arrow stuck into his or her heart. Head to Nivel Hills to find a number of great restaurants in Cebu. Marco Polo serves up some amazing buffet dinners, so if you don’t know what food to eat, it’s all there for you! After head up to the Blu Bar with some stunning views of Cebu City. Drink a glass while gazing over the city lights. How about Anzani Restaurant, an upmarket and expensive place to eat but having some amazingly delicious food with the added bonus of some terrific views. On a budget? Try Mr A, with some more affordable meals with its outdoor tables giving some awesome views! Even tighter budget, try the cafe of Mr A (just downstairs from the restaurant) with a coffee and enjoy the same great views! Italian? La Tegola has some great Italian cuisine with some of the best views in town. After, head right up to Tops, a lookout overlooking Cebu City. It’s a lot cooler up at the top of the mountain, good chance of a cuddle to keep warm! Don’t forget to ring the bell for good luck in your relationship! Again a great opportunity for a smooch!

How about a romantic getaway? With Philippines made up of over 7 thousand islands, a romantic beach getaway is never far away. Nothing beats the feeling of going away to a beautiful beach resort with something special.  Bohol is only a couple of hours by boat, why not enjoy a couple days on Alona Beach, a beautiful white sand beach with plenty of restaurants to enjoy a candlelit dinner on the beach. Feel the fresh ocean breeze as you dine, surely a location to spice up your romance. Why not try one of Bohol’s many 5 star resorts, as the saying goes no pain no gain! Sure it may hurt your hip pocket, but it’s only for one or two nights and love has no price, except the price of happiness. The most luxurious resorts include the Bohol Bluewater Resort with its infinity pool and Amuma Spa which offers some of the finest signature therapies in Bohol. The Bellevue Resort a brand new luxury resort in Bohol offering first class service and amenities. It comes with a huge infinity pool with many rooms having stunning views over the ocean. The resort offers a number of restaurants offering fine dining. Amun Ini Beach Resort & Spa in Anda has it’s own private beach area providing a great place to relax and enjoy this peaceful piece of paradise! Closer to Cebu, spoil yourself at one of Mactan’s luxury resorts. Shangri La Resort Cebu with its beautiful beach front and restaurants that offer some of the finest dining in Cebu, Crimson Resort with its massive infinity pool, Plantation Bay Resort Mactan has its famous beautiful lagoons, Imperial Palace Cebu Resort with its water park and plenty of activities to keep couples occupied. All these resorts have their own luxury spas to indulge your body and soul in the company of your loved one.

Beautiful Alegre Beach Resort in Cebu's north

Spoil yourself this Valentine's Day at the beautiful Alegre Beach Resort

If you prefer a secluded beach resort to spend Valentine’s Day, you may want to have a look at Sumilon Resort in Cebu’s south, the only resort on the island of Sumilon. It has its own infinity swimming pool complete with amazing views over the ocean. Closer to nature, there are a couple of lovely spots on the beach to swim at. To end the day, treat yourself to the resort’s spa. In the north of Cebu you have the luxury Badian Beach Resort with its luxury spa and white sand beach to relax at. Alegre Beach Resort is another beautiful resort in Cebu’s north which offers some romantic getaway options.

Cebu has plenty of romantic options to do, and you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune. The local newspapers are full of Valentines special deals and packages at the resorts or restaurants. Make sure when you make a reservation or booking to do it early and don’t leave it to the last minute. Whatever you do, the more you put into a relationship the more you get out of it, make sure to treat your loved one with some TLC. It will make the day more memorable.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

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Rob Brand

Feb 03

Discover the Best of Malapascua Island, Cebu Philippines

Bounty Beach Malapascua Island Cebu

Beautiful Bounty Beach in Malapascua Island

Malapascua

I first visited Malapascua Island back in 2000; so much has changed since then. I think the boat ride from Maya pier was around 20 P and I stayed at Malapascua Bluewater Resort, right at the back of the resort in the “garden cottages”. I think then the rooms were 400 P overnight (now they are 1500 P overnight). Back then 24 hour electricity wasn’t available, only a few of the resorts who had their own generators were able to provide 24 hour power. Otherwise electricity was only available at night time so at least you could sleep with a fan running. I remember having my first drink on the beach right out in front of the resort. Lying on the beach under the stars with the sounds of the waves breaking, my head a bit tipsy, I really did think I was in paradise.  Those moments you don’t forget, simple as they may be. It still brings a smile when I think about that night.

Malapascua Island has come a long way since then, 2009 the island got 24 hour power and new resorts have been popping up rapidly. I have made a guide to the resorts in Malapascua on YouTube as well as our main guide to Malapascua on the main website for further reading. I recommend checking them out.

Video guide to Malapascua Island

Video guide to the resorts in Malapascua

Malapascua Island Cebu

Malapascua Sunset

Diving in Malapascua

The biggest draw card to Malapascua is its diving, particularly the Monad Shoal where you can see the thresher sharks on early morning dives. The area is known as “cleaning station” where cleaner fish remove dead skin or parasites from the thresher sharks.  Manta Rays can also be seen.

I’m not a diver myself but a mate of mine is, and I asked him about his trip to the island

“Malapascua is cool, chilled out place to hang for a few days with the several good dives shops to pick from. I found the standard of the dive shops normal for what you would get from a tropical island in the Pacific.

Thresher Shark in Malapascua

The dive to see the Thresher Sharks is at some ungodly hour. From memory we were off by 5:30am to motor to the dive site. There is a specific site that all the dive shops go to witness the sharks. The site is a submerged island probably about 30 meters across and 26 meters down. The dive itself was pretty boring. Descend to about 26 meters, find a clear area to settle on the bottom (which isn’t hard due to the obvious damage caused by numerous other divers) and wait. You are guaranteed to see lots of other divers down there as most dive shops obviously run the same morning dive when the chance of seeing the Threshers is the best.

Unfortunately, our travel plans only allowed for two nights on the island and although I dove both mornings, we saw very little except for a couple of huge mantras that motored past on the last morning. The lass I dove with was staying on, so I asked to email her results. She reported back very happily, the next day they saw several sharks and that is was a fantastic experience.

There is heaps of other diving to do in the area if that is the main focus of your trip. If planning the trip specifically to see the sharks, I would advise going for at least 3 or 4 nights to ensure you have very good odds of seeing them.”

 

Malapascua Island Resorts

The resorts in Malapascua have been rapidly growing over recent years giving the tourist a far bigger range of choice. If you haven’t booked a resort prior to arrival, don’t always believe the touts who greet you as you come off the boat, they are always going to take you to the resorts they get the best commission from.  Having gone many times, I had the mobile number of one of these touts and text him to see if he could book a certain resort. He text back it was fully booked, I then rang the resort direct and was told they do have rooms available! So just remember these guys are looking after themselves first!

Most of the resorts are located on Bounty Beach, by far the most “touristy” spot on Malapascua and rightly so as it’s a lovely stretch of white beach sand. Here you will find restaurants, dive shops and bars, all pretty much low key.  Out the front of Sunsplashed Resort, Hippocampus/Ocean Vida Resort (weather permitting) they set up chairs and tables along the beach, great for relaxing with a beer or cocktail while watching the sun set. It’s a nice way to end the day; you can also have your meal here as well.

Malapascua Legend Resort

Luxury. Malapascua Legend Resort

For those looking just for a cottage or bungalow by the sea, without all the luxuries, Cocobana Beach Resort and Daño Beach Resort provide the basic cottages, some with beach views and choices of fan or air conditioned rooms. If I had the choice, I find Cocobana cottages a little nicer and a better restaurant. For those who need to stay in a bit more style, Malapascua Legend Resort has some really nice rooms and if the ocean doesn’t look inviting, then you have their huge swimming pool. Ocean Vida Resort has some great rooms with balcony facing out onto Bounty Beach. Great for sun set watching. I also love the rooms at Kokay’s Maldito Dive Resort, very Mexican inspired rooms and being recently built everything is spanking brand new. Malapascua Exotic Dive Resort has some various standards of rooms, their Super Deluxe rooms having mini bar and satellite TV.

Bantigue Cove Beach Resort Malapascua

Romantic Bantigue Cove Beach Resort Malapascua

The resorts behind Bounty Beach offer some great value and are usually only a few minutes walk away. The biggest being Purple Snapper Resort complete with its own swimming pool. Hideaway Cottages offers a couple of nice budget cottages. White Sand Bungalows Resort is set right on the nice Poblacion Beach on the south western side of the island. On the cliff above stands Tepanee Beach Resort and Logon Beach Resort (with arguably cottages with the best views on Malapascua Island) both run under the same management. A bit of a walk from Bounty Beach is the lovely Mangrove Oriental Resort. Set in some nice garden grounds and having its own little private beach. The resort has various standards of rooms from fan up to large air con cottages. Located on the north of the island on a small private cove is the beautiful and secluded Bantigue Cove Resort. The resort has only 10 rooms (cottages and duplex rooms) and offers probably more value for couples. For a more detailed guide to Malapascua Resorts please visit the link at the top of the page.

Malapascua doesn’t have an ATM on the island, so if you run out of cash the nearest place is Bogo on the mainland of Cebu. Some of the resorts will accept credit cards for payments of their rooms (I know Legends Resort does) but they tend to charge a percentage fee ranging from 3-5 %. If you pre book your room before hand, sometimes they will ask for a deposit into their Philippine bank account which can be a hassle at times especially if you are booking outside of the Philippines. For me, I mostly use Agoda to book resorts as they have the biggest range on Malapascua. Although they are not always the cheapest I just like the convenience of being able to book online and it’s all confirmed and done on the spot!

 

Bounty Beach, Malapascua Island

There is also the floating bar, run by Sunsplash Resort which I call the “magic bar” as it seems to disappear and reappear ever year! One year it’s there next year it’s been damaged by a storm and under repair! So if it’s there when you arrive, it’s a nice place to have a drink or two!

The beauty of Bounty Beach (other than its natural beauty) is that it’s so compact, you can walk from one end of the beach to the other in around 20 minutes, so where ever you stay, it’s always within walking distance. The restaurants serve up pretty good food and as many of the tourists are from overseas so there is lots of choice of international as well as local cuisine. Don’t forget to head behind Bounty beach too, as there are a number of restaurants worth eating at as well. Malapascua also has plenty of fresh seafood available too.

                                                                                                            Island Hopping around Malapascua

Calangaman Island Philippines

Stunningly beautiful Calangaman Island

If you want a change from diving or bored of just lying on the beach every day, there are some nearby islands worth checking out. The best being Calangaman Island (the sign board on the island spells it as Kalangaman) this is a beautiful little island surrounded by amazing turquoise waters. One side of the island is blessed with this amazing white sand beach. There are entry fees to the island (foreigners paying more! – again details at the link at the top of the page) and you can camp overnight. It makes for a great day trip (around 2 hours boat ride).

 

Lamanok Island Malapascua

Malapascua Island hopping - Lamanok Island

Another great island to visit is Lamanok (not sure if this is the correct spelling) which is basically two tiny islands joined by a sandbank in the middle, during low tide you can actually walk between the two islands. The island has some nice areas to swim at. Lamanok has a few fishermen living on the island and we were able to buy some fresh seafood which our boat crew barbequed. It was amazingly good!

Carnassa Island I wasn’t so impressed with, while the beaches where ok, it was nowhere near as nice as Calangaman. We did this as a stop over from visiting Lamanok Island which both can be done on the same island hop trip.

Lastly is Higatangan Island that has a lovely little white sand bank that is great for swimming at.  The boat crew cooked up another amazing barbeque lunch (arranged beforehand). We also spend an hour checking out the small island, which has a tiny village and a small resort. Power to the island is limited to 4 hours a day, so buying a cold drink at the local sari store meant you can only buy room temperature drinks; when you’re thirsty you take what you can!

I have put the video showing these islands on the main page of BeyondCebu Malapascua page.

 

Is Malapascua for you?

Overall Malapascua Island is one fabulous island you must visit in Cebu, certainly if you’re a diver, and even if you’re not, there is plenty to do for everyone looking for a tropical island holiday getaway. Malapascua actually offers more than the nearby Bantayan Island. It has better snorkeling and diving, although the beach is not quite as good as Bantayan. It’s still got that lazy idyllic island feel to the place and is not as commercialised as that of Boracay (the biggest tourist island in the Philippines). I love it!  To experience at its best, March/April provides the best weather conditions as well as the waters being flat and calm.

 

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Rob Brand

Jan 21

The 10 Best Tourist Attractions in Cebu

                        Top 10 Tourist attractions in Cebu

 

Bantayan Island beach in Cebu

One of the beautiful beaches in Cebu

Cebu is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Philippines. Rich in history, amazing beaches, luxury resorts, terrific diving and not forgetting the friendly Cebuano people. Tourism in Cebu has been outpacing the rest of Asia as more and more people are discovering the amazing attractions Cebu has to offer.

If you have never been to Cebu before, please check out my blog on first time to Cebu for travellers or visit the main page of BeyondCebu which you can view in more details on all these wonderful places and things to do in Cebu.

 

 

1. Bantayan Island

Bantayan Island in Cebu

Gorgeous white sand beaches in Bantayan

Cebu is famous for its beaches and nothing beats the gorgeous beaches in Bantayan Island. With names like Sugar Beach and Paradise Beach you know it’s something special. Bantayan has some of the best beaches in the Philippines. With the exception of Holy week when the island transforms into a crowded tent city, Bantayan is an idyllic tropical island that you expect to find on postcards. There are plenty of low key resorts in Bantayan to relax and enjoy paradise. Time for you to check it out! Read more about this amazing island here.

 

 

 

2. Malapascua Island

Malapascua Thresher shark

The thresher shark is of Malapascua's main attractions

Great beaches, superb diving and in fact one of the few places to get the chance to see thresher shark. With a fantastic choice of beach resorts it’s no wonder Malapascua is one of Cebu’s most popular tourist spots. It’s amazing such a small island has so much to offer for the tourist, so much so, even if you’re not a diver, you still will love the place! Check out our guide to Malapascua for more details.

 

 

 

3. Cebu SInulog Festival

Sinulog Festival in Cebu

Sinulog Festival street dancer

 

 

 

It’s the biggest festival in Cebu, full of colour, celebration and nonstop fun! Tourists flock from all over the Philippines as well as from overseas to experience Cebu’s culture at its best. The Filipino’s love their festivals and this no exception – one is not to be missed when in Cebu! Sinulog is held annually on the 3rd Sunday of January. Make sure to book your hotel early!

 

 

 

 

4. Magellan’s Cross

One of the top tourist attractions in Cebu, Magallen's Cross

 

 

 

Nothing defines Cebu’s history or in fact the Philippines is the arrival of the Spanish in 1521 with the religion of Christianity. The first Catholic Mass was held in Cebu and was marked by a wooden cross Magellan brought with him. Thousands of tourists come to Cebu to see Magellan’s Cross in downtown Cebu. Bring your wide lens camera!

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño

Basilica Minore del Sto Niño in Cebu

The famous Basilica Minore del Sto Niño in Cebu

 

Houses the most sacred Christian relics in the Philippines; Sto.Niño de Cebu (the infant Jesus). Small statues of Sto Niño can be found all over Cebu, in taxi dashboards, in people’s homes, hotels, establishments and Cebu’s biggest festival – Sinulog. It truly shows how much Sto Niño is embedded into Cebuano culture.

 

 

 

6. Osmeña Peak

Osmeña Peak with its amazing views

If you thought Top’s Lookout in Cebu City had some great views, then Osmeña Peak will blow your mind!  It forms part of the Mantalungon Mountain Range and is the tallest peak in Cebu. From here you get this incredible panoramic view around Cebu. One side you can see Bohol, the other you look over Badian Island towards Negros. Getting there you can do it the easy way by riding a motorbike and then hiking for around 20 minutes to the summit. Or for the more adventurous, you can actually hike back down to Kawasan Falls, which conveniently falls into the number 7 spot in the top 10 tourist spots in Cebu!

 

7. Kawasan Waterfalls

Kawasan Falls in Badian Cebu

The most famous waterfall in Cebu - Kawasan Falls

 

 

Cebu has a number of waterfalls dotted around the island, none so more spectacular and as large as Kawasan Falls. It’s around a 20 minute walk to the 1st falls (there are 3 in total) and many tourist don’t go further than the first falls. The natural pools under the falls make a great place for a refreshing swim to escape the tropical heat of Cebu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Olango Wildlife sanctuary

Olango Bird Sanctuary Cebu

Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary

If you’re a bird lover (the feathered kind) then the Wildlife Sanctuary on Olango Island is a must. The birds use the sanctuary as a stopover point when they migrate from and to northern Asia from Australia. There are not many places for bird watching (and not the ones in the bikini bars) in Cebu, so it’s a treat to go see the birds in their natural habitat. Olango Island is a short boat ride from Mactan Island; there is a regular service every 30 minutes or so and around 15 P. A lot of the resorts in Mactan, or some of the touts can offer special trips to see the birds as well. Make sure to bring a camera with a big zoom!

 

9. Oslob – Whale watching.

Whale Shark in Oslob Cebu

Swim with the whale sharks in Oslob

One of the most controversial attractions in Cebu in recent times has to be the swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob (in the south of Cebu). The sharks naturally swim past Oslob on their migrating route, but some of the entrepreneurial fisherman starting feeding them, in the hope they would stay, and they did! It all became a huge tourist attraction basically overnight. The fishermen take you out in boats and while they feed them you can swim with the whale sharks. The problem was that it all became a money making racket, and greed became more important than the welfare of the sharks. Fishermen in the area where making more money than fishing! Manila ordered the immediate stop to feeding the whale sharks but the Governor of Cebu ordered more “studies” and delayed the order until this study was completed. It lead to some people detesting the feeding of the sharks, but with all the politics aside, it has to be said swimming with these whale sharks is an amazing experience. Whether the chance to swim with the sharks will be available much longer is anyone’s guess, but if you can it’s well worth the experience!

 

10. Moalboal

Dive Moalboal Cebu

Diving at Moalboal

One of Cebu’s most popular dive spots has to be at Moalboal located around 90 km south of Cebu City. Most action in Moalboal is located at Panagsama Beach (though not much of a beach!), this is where the resorts, dive shops and restaurants are located. Dive around Pescador Island for schools of sardines and tuna as well shallow reefs and caverns to be discovered. Moalboal offers some great snorkeling as well just offshore from Panagsama Beach. For those looking for a white sand beach, just head a few kms north of Panagsama to the surprising named area of White Beach!

 

 

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