malapascua island

Explore the many diving spots in Cebu’s Malapascua Island and swim with thresher sharks. When is the ideal time to go diving in Malapascua Island in Cebu, Philippines? What’s the best way to go to Malapascua Island? What are the top Malapascua resorts, tourist activities, and local eats you shouldn’t miss? How many days should you allot to get the best of your trip to the idyllic island? Check out this ultimate guide to the picturesque island of Malapascua!

Malapascua Island, which is located in the northern part of Cebu, Philippines, is just one of the many islands and islets you’ll find in this part of the country. But what makes this small island so popular among local and international tourists, especially among divers, is that Malapascua Island is the only place in the whole world where you can dive with thresher sharks daily.

Compared to other more popular island destinations in the Philippines such as Alona Beach in Bohol and Boracay Island in Aklan, 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 wonders.

Even though most people visit Malapascua Island to dive and see the amazing sea creatures such as the thresher sharks, hammerhead sharks, blue ring octopus, and the psychedelic Mandarin fish, the small island culture, the smaller crowds, and long stretch of white-sand beach make tourists from around the world come back over and over again for a true taste of island paradise.

If this is your first time to visit Malapascua Island, this ultimate guide can help you make the most out of your trip to this hidden gem in Cebu, Philippines. Bookmark this page because this ultimate guide will dive deep into details you don’t want to miss.

  • Check activities and attractions in Malapascua Island, Cebu read our Things to Do article.


How to Go to Malapascua Island?

malapascua islands

The easiest and fastest way to get to Malapascua Island is to fly to Cebu first. From Mactan International Airport, which is located in Lapu- Lapu just outside Cebu City, you can take a private car or a bus to New Maya Port where you can hop on a boat that would take you 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.

Majority of the Malapascua resorts are just a short distance away. You can either walk or take a habal-habal, which is an improvised 6-seater public motorbike and the most popular way of getting around the island.

Here are your travel options whether you’re traveling by air, land, and sea.

Traveling to Malapascua Island by Air

malapascua island by air

Cebu City’s Mactan International Airport will be your gateway to the island. Here are some routes you can take depending on where you’re coming from.

1. Flying from Manila to Cebu, Philippines

If you’re coming from Manila, flights to Mactan 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.

2. Flying from Pampanga to Cebu, Philippines

If you’re coming from Pampanga or nearby areas in Northern Luzon, flights from Clark International Airport in Angeles City to Mactan International Airport in Cebu 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.

3. Flying from Davao to Cebu, Philippines 

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.

4. Flying from Outside of the Philippines to Cebu

The Mactan International Airport has several direct international flights including Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Dubai, and Taiwan. If you’re coming from outside of the Philippines, flying straight to Mactan International Airport in Cebu will save you time instead of flying through Manila first. 

When is the Best Time to Visit Malapascua Island?

The best time to visit is sometime between May and October. It’s always best to schedule your trip to Malapascua Island during the dry season, where there are fewer chances of rainfall and typhoon. If you want to avoid large crowds, don't travel here between March and April. This is the Holy Week season in the Philippines and many local tourists flock to the island destinations.

How to Get Around Malapascua Island? 

getting around malapascua island

Malapascua Island is pretty 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. Farmers also use the habal-habal to transport goods, produce, and even livestock.

While you can always walk around the island, the heat can be harsh, especially during the summer months of March, April, and May. If you do plan on walking some short distances, bring an umbrella and a bottle of drinking water to keep hydrated.

What are the Things You Can Do in Malapascua Island? 

malapascua diving

Malapascua Island is more than just the home of the thresher sharks. It has something for any type of traveler, even foodies! So don’t worry if you’re not fond of diving, here are the amazing things you can do on the island that will make you come back for more.

1. Explore the Malapascua Diving Spots and Meet the Marine Life

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.

2. Discover the Quieter Beaches of Malapascua Island

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 the main beach in Boracay.

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 tourists to hop on and do some exploring.

3. Have a Relaxing Stay at These Malapascua Resorts

malapascua resortsIf 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. 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. 

If you want a more “homey” type of accommodation, the Malapascua Garden Resort guest rooms that look like a row of townhouses with beautiful gardens in the premises, thus the name. 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.

Where and What to Eat in Malapascua 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.

La Isla Bonita is 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 for as low as PHP 200.00 per dish.

Pub lovers should check out cocktails, beer, and pub eats at The Craic House. Good for large groups, they have Mezze and Tex-Mex platters for jus PHP 295.00 and the serving here is huge! After a night of drinking, you can grab some breakfast at Ging-Ging’s Restaurant and Food Garden. They have comfort food favorites starting at PHP 100.00 per dish, including salads and their tropical food salad is served with fresh fruits like mangoes and bananas.

Speaking of comfort food, you can get really good pizza at Ristorante Angelina along with other Italian and Asian favorites like pasta, crispy pasta, and even Indonesian fried rice starting at PHP 250.00! The best part? They have homemade ice cream!

Lastly, do 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) at The Ocean Vida Restaurant and Beach Bar. 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? For only PHP 250.00, you can order their famous Pizza Malapascua.

Malapascua Danggit

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.

Where to Stay in Malapascua Island? 

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. It’s a waste of time walking around the island just to find a place to stay.

Here are some of the best Malapascua resorts you can check out based on your budget and itinerary.

Luxury Accommodations in Malapascua Island

After that long boat ride from New Maya Port, a little luxury won’t hurt. If you’re looking for a lavish stay on the island, here are some top hotels to check out.

1. 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. 

Rate: Starts at PHP 4700.00 per night.

2. 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. 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.

Rate: Starts at PHP 3800.00 per night

3. Malapascua Exotic Island Dive and Beach 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 tourists 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.

Rate: Starts at PHP 3600.00 per night

Comfort Accommodation in Malapascua Island

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.

1. Blue Water Resort (Malapascua 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.

Rate: Starts at PHP 3500.00 per night

2. Mangrove Oriental Resort

Its close proximity to the Mabuhay Thresher Dive Center makes it a comfortable choice for tourists, 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.

Rate: Starts at PHP 3000.00 per night

3. 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.

Rate: Starts at PHP 2700.00 per night

Budget-Friendly Accommodation in Malapascua Island

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.

1. 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.

Rate: Starts at PHP 350.00 per night

2. 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.

Rate: Starts at PHP 320.00 per night

3. Malapascua Budget Inn

You can choose from dorm-type and single or family room accommodations. The rooms are simple, but they have air-conditioning. The bathrooms also come with hot and cold showers. 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.

Rate: Starts at PHP 300.00 per night

Planning Your Stay on Malapascua Island: Sample 2 Days and 1 Night Itinerary

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 natural wonders,  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.

Day 1: Arrival + Motorcycle Tour + Sightseeing

  • 06:00 AM - Departure from Cebu City to New Maya Port via bus or private vehicle 
  • 11:00 AM - Hop on a boat going to Malapascua Island 
  • 11:30 AM - Arrival at Malapascua Island 
  • 12:00 NN - Arrival at Ocean Vida Beach and Dive Resort Have lunch at the in-house restaurant 
  • 01:00 PM - Early check-in at Ocean Vida Beach and Dive Resort 
  • 02:00 PM - Start or Malapascua Motorcycle Tour 
  • 05:00 PM - End of Malapascua Motorcycle Tour 
  • 06:00 PM - Early dinner at the hotel. Order a nightcap, relax
  • 08:00 PM - Call it a night. Start bright and early the next day

Day 2: Beach Tour + Snorkeling + Departure

  • 06:00 AM - Have a light breakfast at the hotel
  • 07:00 AM - Time to swim and explore the beaches and marine life of Malapascua Island 
  • 10:00 AM - End of swim and snorkel. Back to the hotel. Freshen up
  • 12:00 NN - Hotel checkout. Lunch at Ging-Ging’s Restaurant & Food Garden 
  • 02:00 PM - Habal-habal ride to New Maya Port 
  • 02:30 PM - Hop on a boat back to Cebu City
  • 03:30 PM - Board a bus back to the hotel in Cebu City

Travel Tips and Reminders Before You Visit Malapascua Island

While some hotels, restaurants, and commercial establishments accept credit cards, it’s still best to bring enough cash with you. 

  • There are no ATMs in Malapascua Island. Better withdraw enough cash before you board the boat from New Maya Port.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • While many locals drink the tap water, it can be a bit salty for tourists. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Even if you don't plan to dive to see the thresher sharks, it's best to get travel insurance beforehand. And if you do plan to dive, acquaint yourself with the dos and don'ts before you visit the island. Better yet, if there are diving or snorkeling lessons offered in your city or country, take some classes. It’s worth the investment.
  • It can get pretty hot during the summer months. Apart from your trusty sunglasses and sunscreen, you can also bring along a portable fan to keep cool.
  • If you’re diving with thresher sharks, eat two hours before you dive or just take a light meal.
  • If you’re not a professional diver and trying out diving in Malapascua for the first time, it’s important to know that you have to wait for at least 24 hours after diving before flying on a plane.

Plan Your Ultimate Trip to Malapascua Island

Malapascua, Cebu, Philippines

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 weekend 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 tours and activities that you can add to your itinerary.