Explore Cebu's Malapascua Island, known for being a diving destination where you can swim with thresher sharks. Find out about the best time to visit, how to go, where to stay, other top attractions, and local food you shouldn't miss in this guide.
Malapascua Island, located in the northern part of Cebu, is just one of the many islands you can explore in the Philippines. But what makes this small island a must-visit is that it's the only place in the whole world where you can dive with thresher sharks on a nearly daily basis.
Compared to other more popular island destinations in the Philippines. Malapascua Island is less commercially developed. And that relaxing and friendly beach vibe actually makes the island even more inviting.
With a length of 2.5 kilometers and a width of 1 kilometer, you can explore the whole island in less than 2 hours, depending on how long it takes for you to marvel at its many tourist spots and activities.
Even though most people visit Malapascua Island to dive and see the thresher sharks and other marine life, its small island culture, smaller crowds, and the long stretch of white-sand beaches are what makes travelers come back for more.
This travel guide will help you make the most out of your trip to this hidden gem in Cebu.
The Province of Cebu, including Malapascua Island, is open to domestic tourists in the Philippines or non-residents of Cebu provided they comply with the travel requirements:
Based on the Province of Cebu’s Executive Order No. 12, persons traveling to the province for tourism must present the following:
The best time to visit is between the months of December to April. It’s always best to schedule your trip to Malapascua Island during this dry season, where there are fewer chances of rainfall and typhoon.
Source: Weather Spark
If you want to avoid large crowds, avoid March and April. This is the Holy Week and summer season in the Philippines where more local travelers will be exploring the island destinations.
Photo by Mactan-Cebu International Airport
The easiest and fastest way to get to Malapascua Island is to fly to Cebu directly through the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, which is located in Lapu-Lapu City just outside Cebu City.
From there, you can ride a private vehicle or board a public bus to New Maya Port. Travel time from Cebu City to New Maya Port is around 4 hours. From there, you can hop on a boat going to Malapascua Island. The boat ride is between 30 minutes and 1 hour long.
The earliest boat leaves at 6:30 AM while the last boat leaves at 4:30 PM. If you miss the last boat heading to Malapascua Island, you can stay at the small lodge near New Maya Port.
There’s a boat every 30 minutes so don’t worry if you miss one. Each boat leaves when there are enough passengers on board. But if you want some privacy, you can also rent the entire boat.
If you’re prone to getting seasick, it’s advisable to take medicine for motion sickness before boarding the boat to the island. The boat ride from New Maya Port to Malapascua Island can be a bit rough so it’s best to be prepared.
Mactan-Cebu International Airport will be your gateway to Malapascua Island. Here are some routes you can take depending on where you’re coming from.
Photo by Philippine Airlines
If you’re coming from Manila, flights to Mactan-Cebu International Airport will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes. The Philippines’ flag carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL) has 10 nonstop, daily flights from Manila to Cebu daily. Cebu Pacific has 11 nonstop, daily flights while AirAsia has 9 and Cebgo has 4.
If you’re coming from Pampanga or nearby areas in Northern Luzon, flights from Clark International Airport in Angeles City to Mactan-Cebu International Airport will take about 1 hour and 15 minutes. PAL and Cebu Pacific have two nonstop, daily flights from Pampanga to Cebu while AirAsia has one.
If you're coming from Davao, flights from the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao to Mactan International Airport will take just about an hour. Cebu Pacific flies four times daily from Davao to Cebu direct. PAL flies three times daily while AirAsia flies once daily.
From International Airports
The Mactan-Cebu International Airport services several direct international flights from Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Dubai, and Taiwan. If you’re coming from outside of the Philippines, flying straight to Cebu will save you time instead of flying through Manila first.
Malapascua Island is small. You can hop on a motorcycle or on a habal-habal, which is a popular mode of transportation in many small islands in the Philippines, especially in the southern provinces of the country.
While you walk around the island, the heat can be harsh, especially during the summer months of March, April to early May. If you do plan on walking some short distances, bring an umbrella and a bottle of drinking water to keep you hydrated.
Photo by Tepanee Beach Resort
Just because it’s a small island doesn’t mean accommodations are limited. But we do recommend booking your accommodations before you even fly or hop on a bus to Cebu City.
After that long boat ride from New Maya Port, a little luxury won’t hurt, especially if you're going on a honeymoon in the Philippines. If you’re looking for a lavish stay on the island, here are some top hotels to check out.
Ocean Vida Beach and Dive Resort
This Malapascua resort has been voted one of the best places to stay when visiting the island with 12 sea-view rooms and 8 garden-view rooms.
The air-conditioned rooms all come with a private balcony, a mini bar, hot and cold shower, safety box, and abaca and mahogany furniture. They also have one family room that’s perfect for vacationing families.
Ocean Vida Beach and Dive Resort has its own beach-side bar, on-site restaurant, and gym. Apart from the diving options, they also offer yoga classes to their guests.
Tepanee Beach Resort
If you want cozy rooms with private access to the beach, book a room Tepanee Beach Resort. The rooms and cottages feature tasteful bamboo furniture, which adds to the resort's tropical, laidback vibe.
Photo by Tepanee Beach Resort
The air-conditioned rooms come with their own minibar, refrigerator, safety box, terrace, double bed, free WiFi, and hot and cold shower. The resort’s gardens are teeming with frangipani, a type of flowering plant.
Malapascua Exotic Island Dive and Beach Resort
Photo by Malapascua-Exotic Island Dive Resort
If you're looking for luxury accommodation in Malapascua Island with very good reviews about its diving options, book this beach resort. It is one of the first dive centers on the island as well as pioneers of diving encounters with thresher sharks.
They have different types of accommodations, including the GoPRO Lodge for visitors who want to experience luxury accommodation but do not want to spend so much on a big space.
The rooms here are air-conditioned and come with queen-size beds, a mini bar, satellite cable TV, private balcony, and hot and cold showers.
These accommodations on the island are perfect for big families and groups who want comfort but don’t want to spend extra for luxuries. Check these out if you’re traveling on a budget but do not want to skimp on comfort.
Blue Water Resort (Malapascua Beach Resort)
Photo by Blue Water Beach Resort
This comfortable resort in Malapascua Island is perfect for travelers who want to relax by the beach. They have rooms for big groups and solo travelers. The air-conditioned rooms are spacious and come with double beds, a private bathroom with shower, and basic furnishings.
The resort is family-friendly with a laidback vibe. It has its own restaurant, beach bar, and a list of watersport activities that the whole family will enjoy. During special occasions, the restaurant serves the famous lechon baboy, a local roasted suckling pig dish.
Mangrove Oriental Resort
Its close proximity to the Mabuhay Thresher Dive Center makes it a comfortable choice for travelers, especially divers. The resort has 20 garden view rooms with its own mini bar, large seating area, hot and cold showers, a private safe, and free Wi-Fi.
Traveling families with small children are provided with cots. There’s also a game room for the kids.
Mangrove Oriental Resort has beach activities including snorkeling, scuba diving, and beach volleyball. There’s a 24-hour bar at this Malapascua resort, where guests can get a nightcap after a tiring day of exploring the island.
Slam’s Garden Resort
Located a short distance from the Malapascua Island Lighthouse, this family-friendly beach resort has all the comfortable amenities travelers will love. The air-conditioned rooms have double beds, a private balcony, a safety deposit box, and a private bathroom with hot and cold showers.
The resort has a small bar and an on-site restaurant serves up both local and international cuisine. Slam’s Garden Resort also offers island tours and massage treatments.
If you’re solo or with a small group and looking for a backpacker-friendly accommodation, here are the best choices you can check out.
Photo by Malapascua Budget Inn
Romantic Place Guesthouse
Great for solo travelers, especially backpackers! You can choose from renting a single bed in an 8-dormitory room or budget double room. The rooms are not air-conditioned though.
They have electric fans instead. The bigger rooms have private bathrooms while the dorm-type rooms have shared bathrooms. Guests will love hanging out on the rooftop with a great ocean view or taking a dip in their on-site pools.
Lionfish Backpackers Malapascua
This top-rated backpacker hostel also has dorm-type accommodations for those who only need basic amenities. The double rooms are great for couples and families who want some privacy. All rooms have a private balcony, a kettle for hot coffee and tea, and a garden view.
Malapascua Budget Inn
Photo by Malapascua Budget Inn
There is a lounge and a bar where guests can chill out with fellow travelers. It's a great place to stay if you want to immerse yourself in the backpacking culture.
Malapascua Island is more than just the home of the thresher sharks. It has something for any type of traveler, even foodies! Here are the amazing things you can do on the island that will make you come back for more.
Thresher sharks hold celebrity status here. After all, Malapascua Island is the only place in the world where you are guaranteed 100% sighting every single day. But what makes it even more interesting is Malapascua diving is also 100% eco-friendly, making it a sustainable industry.
The thresher sharks swim every morning to Monad Shoal, the most popular dive spot on Malapascua Island, for a natural cleaning session with the wrasse, a type of cleaner fish.
Diving rules are strictly enforced to make sure it’s safe for everyone, including the sharks. Take note that diving to Monad Shoal to see the thresher sharks is open only to divers with at least an Advanced Open Water Diver license.
Gato Island’s underwater wonderland make up of rock formations and tunnels that you can swim through. You’ll find sea snakes and whitetip reef sharks resting in some of the caves too!
Other notable dive spots include Bugtong Bato and Kemod Shoal with large schools of fish. And if you’ve always wanted to try night diving and underwater photography, you can dive at the Lighthouse Reef and capture stunning photos of the psychedelic Mandarin fish.
Bounty Beach is probably the most commercialized beach on the island with its lineup of shops, hotels, and restaurants facing the sea. Still, it is less crowded and more peaceful compared to other popular beaches in the Philippines.
If you want some peace and quiet, go to Langub Beach and Guimbitayan Beach. It’s almost secluded that you can practice yoga here in peace.
If you want to capture panoramic shots of the sea, land, and sky, go to Lighthouse Beach and climb the lighthouse. The views are spectacular, especially during the sunset.
Lastly, if you want to capture scenes of small island life, Logon Beach is a good spot to practice with its rows of motorboats moored on the shore, waiting for travelers to hop on and do some exploring.
If you just want to enjoy the tropical island life in Malapascua Island, check out some of these resorts where you can unwind and live the beach life.
Tepanee Beach Resort is a Bali-inspired hotel with rooms facing the ocean. They even have an in-house spa and a jacuzzi guaranteed to pamper you after a day of diving, swimming, and exploring.
Photo by Tepanee Beach Resort
At AABANA Beach and Watersport Resort, there are “hidden” cottages strategically placed away from the beachfront’s foot traffic. It is a great accommodation for travelers who want to commune with nature.
If you’re particular about your carbon footprint on this planet, you can stay at Evolution Dive and Beach Resort. Their efforts to save the planet include not using disposable vanity kits and straws at the resort premises. Plus, they have one of the top snorkeling and diving tours.
For the younger travelers who want to stay in hip places, you can check out the newly renovated Hippocampus Beach Resort, one of the brightest-looking hotels on the island.
When you’re vacationing on an island, take advantage of the fresh seafood you can find. But sometimes, all you really need is some pizza after a tiring day of exploring. Apart from glorious seafood dishes, Malapascua Island has all the comfort foods you need from various cuisines.
When it comes to local delights, danggit (salted and dried rabbitfish) is a pride of Malapascua. It’s crispy, salty, and best eaten dipped in vinegar or some atchara (pickled papaya) during breakfast with some eggs and fried rice.
For dessert, nothing beats the fresh ripe, mangoes from Cebu! You should also try the binignit, a sticky, creamy, sweet dessert soup made of coconut milk, tapioca pearls, cooked bananas, sticky rice, and taro root to name a few.
And if you love chocolate, you should order a cup of hot sikwate, the local’s version of hot chocolate made of table de cacao (block of cacao), milk, and sugar. It is prepared using the traditional wooden whisk called batirol that makes it frothy and velvety at the same time.
Here are some of the highly recommended places to eat in Malapascua Island and the must-order dishes and drinks.
La Isla Bonita
Touted as the best restaurant on the island. It serves a lot of Cebuano and Filipino dishes but you might be surprised to find some German comfort food on their menu. La Isla Bonita is well embraced also because of its vegetarian and vegan offerings.
The Craic House
Pub lovers should check out cocktails, beer, and pub eats here. Good for large groups, they have Mezze and Tex-Mex platters and the serving here is huge!
Ging-Ging’s Restaurant and Food Garden
After a night of drinking, you can grab some breakfast here. They have comfort food favorites and salad served with fresh fruits like mangoes and bananas.
Speaking of comfort food, you can get really good pizza here with other Italian and Asian favorites like pasta, crispy pasta, and even Indonesian fried rice. The best part? They have homemade ice cream!
The Ocean Vida Restaurant and Beach Bar
Load up on seafood while you’re on Malapascua Island. We’re not just talking about grilled fish. You can get some sashimi and kinilaw (ceviche) here.
Their buffet option offers guests with a delectable array of morning must-haves like croissants, bacon, and even made-to-order omelets. Craving for pizza? Order their famous Pizza Malapascua.
While some hotels, restaurants, and commercial establishments accept credit cards, it’s still best to bring enough cash in Philippine Peso (PHP) with you. There are no ATMs in Malapascua Island. Better withdraw enough cash before you board the boat from New Maya Port.
The internet connection on the island is poor. Hey, you’re in a tropical paradise, put the screen down and enjoy the sun, sea, and breeze. But if you really need Wi-Fi access, it's good to know that most hotels and big commercial establishments have it.
While many locals drink the tap water, it can be a bit salty for travelers. Most hotels provide their guests with access to purified water through a dispenser. While you can always buy bottled drinking water, you can also bring your own water bottle and just refill to avoid unnecessary plastic waste.
The entire island gets power from a small electrical plant. There are no cables from the city so you might experience power interruptions from time to time. But don’t worry, some establishments and hotels have their own backup generators.
While there are street lamps around the island, they’re quite faint and some areas do not have one. Better bring a flashlight or headlamp with you if you’re planning to walk around the island at night.
There are a few small stores on the island selling snacks. Nothing fancy or expensive, just a few local chips and candy. If you have dietary restrictions, a picky eater, or you want to munch on something, better get your snacks from the city.
Certified divers stay in Malapascua for longer days since diving tours are best when not rushed. Malapascua Island is often a day tour destination when exploring Cebu or nearby Kalanggaman Island in Leyte for non-professional divers.
If you’re one of those who just want to experience Malapascua Island’s beaches, it’s best to stay for at least 2 days. Here’s a sample 2 days and 1-night itinerary to make the most of what the island has to offer.
06:00 AM - Departure from Cebu City to New Maya Port
11:00 AM - Boat ride going to Malapascua Island
11:30 AM - Arrival at Malapascua Island
12:00 NN - Lunch then check-in at the hotel/resort
02:00 PM - Explore the beaches
06:00 PM - Dinner
06:00 AM - Breakfast
07:00 AM - Explore more of the beaches and go snorkeling
10:00 AM - Back to hotel/resort
12:00 NN - Hotel checkout then lunch
02:00 PM - Travel to New Maya Port
02:30 PM - Boat ride back to Cebu
03:15 PM - ETD to Cebu City
Plan Your Ultimate Trip to Malapascua Island
Malapascua Island may not have heritage sites or museums to explore, but if you think about it, the sea creatures in the waters and their natural habitat can rival any museum there is.
It’s absolutely amazing how the locals are able to protect its natural resources that provide their major livelihood.
Malapascua Island is truly an oasis waiting to be explored, especially its underwater scene! The mesmerizing sunsets, friendly local, and laidback lifestyle on this island make up a different kind of island experience that makes people come back craving for more.
Whether you’re preparing for a deep dive with the thresher sharks or not, a stay in Malapascua Island will give you an island experience that will stay with you for a long time.
Itching to explore the tiny island of Malapascua, Cebu soon? Research Malapascua Cebu tours and activities that you can add to your itinerary.