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
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.