Speak of getaways and the usual suspects such as Koh Samui and Bali will pop up. This summer, do away with those cliche destinations and jump right into the well-balanced world of idyllic beaches and rustic charms.
Situated north of Cebu and in the Visayan Sea, Malapascua Island is a paradise that boasts white, sandy beaches and clear, blue waters – the recipe for a perfect getaway to take your mind off worldly worries. To make things even better, the locals are so friendly that you will probably feel like a VIP returning for the tenth time.
The hospitality of the locals on the island is nothing surprising, given Filipinos’ friendly and helpful nature. In fact, this is one of the Philippines’ greatest charms that never fail to swoon travellers from around the world, making them return to the Philippines again and again. Add to the fact that you are on one of the paradises in the world, there is no doubt people are generally happier and less stressed out.
If you are looking for a place to wind down, Malapascua would be the perfect place to take life at a slower pace. Besides deciding what to have for your meals, there is pretty much nothing else to worry about. On that note, this is also your chance to kick your urban habit of instant gratification. Do not expect food and drinks to be served within 10 minutes here, except for that bottle of Red Horse beer that almost everyone on the island knows about. We are talking about island life here after all, so take a chill pill and calm down!
The journey to Malapascua Island is no easy feat – you have to cut through the sky, cross 132 km of land, and take a 45 minutes boat ride – but proves to be one that is worth every second and effort. If adventure is what you seek, this destination is definitely for you.
A direct flight from Singapore to Cebu takes slightly under 4 hours, followed by a 3.5 to 4 hours car ride to Maya Pier, where a local banca boat will take you across the sea. In about 45 minutes, you will find yourself setting foot on the white sandy beach that is otherwise known as Bounty Beach. Find this hard to digest? No worries. Simply have the resort you are staying with make the arrangements for you.
Tip for the adventurous:
You can always make your own way to the island! Grab a taxi from the airport and head to the Northern Bus Terminal. Look for the big, yellow Ceres Tours buses (Ceres Liner is without air-conditioning). This air-conditioned ride will get you to Maya Pier comfortably in about 4.5 to 5 hours.
At Maya Pier, local boatmen will try to offer you the highest price for the transfer to Malapascua Island. A full boat of 10 people will typically get them 1500 pesos and locals usually pay 80 pesos for the crossing, so do your math and do not be scammed. Also, the boat typically does not set off until the boat is full (or you have paid enough for a private crossing).
Explore the island
Home to about 3,000 people, Malapascua Island is only about 2.5 km by 1 km, and can be easily and fully explored by foot in half a day. If an exciting party is what you seek, drop by the village at night and join in the party at their “basketball court-by-day and disco-by-night” dance floor. Alternatively, you can also visit the popular nightspot, Maldito bar, where both locals and foreigners who have come to make Malapascua their home, hang out at.
Go snorkelling or Scuba diving, island-hop and barbecue!
Many divers visit Malapascua every year for their chance to encounter thresher sharks, rays, hammerheads, and more. If you are into diving, head on out to Monad Shoal, a world-class dive site and probably the only place in the world that promises you a chance to see a thresher shark! Other popular dive sites in the region include Gato Island and Dona Marilyn Wreck.
A day-trip out to the picturesque Kalanggaman Island is also recommended. With one of the best sandbars in the Philippines, Kalanggaman Island is an island that you will not regret visiting. Spend your day lazing on white sand, right next to the crystal clear water where you can snorkel too! Plus, divers can head on out for a quick dive as well. It’s pretty much the perfect destination that fits all. And to end it all, you will probably have lots of postcard-worthy shots!
Treat yourself to a luxurious spa session
A beach retreat would not be complete without a spa session. Head on to Buena Vida Resort and Spa for a professional and soothing full body massage. If possible, book a room with Buena Vida Resort and Spa for convenience. You may just get addicted to this indulgence that you want to book a half-day of massage, facial, and manicure and pedicure!
Words and photos by Grace Ng