Alone But Never Lonely in Malapascua Island

Cliff diving in Malapascua

Malapascua Island welcomes those who travel in February with slightly wild and wavy seas. But the waves were not as playful as they were in Carnaza Island or Apo Island on my recent visit. What brought me to Malapascua? I thought you wouldn’t ask!

Well, I’ve been wondering what this island has in store for a casual backpacker or non-diver like me. Plus, Neil left me for Singapore so I was free to go anywhere for a solo weekend getaway. And maybe this is too much information (TMI), but if  you might want to know, I just quit my cushy full-time office-based job to start a new journey.

Enough of me. You’re here because you want to iron out your trip to Malapascua. If you’ve been wondering what it’s like to visit the island alone, you’ve stumbled upon the right blog post. I’ve made a few mistakes on my recent trip so here are three tips I’d like to share so you won’t repeat my ‘happy accidents’.

For a safe and sane solo trip to Malapascua, here are some of my thoughts:

1. Bring enough cash.

My prepaid BPI card (Visa) didn’t work in some restaurants in Malapascua so I can’t guarantee that yours would work. The nearest ATM is located in the town of Bogo so during your stop, be sure to withdraw cash before heading to Maya Port.

Food can be expensive, especially if you want to eat well. (And who doesn’t want to eat great food when on vacation?) To give you an idea, a buffet breakfast at Ocean Vida costs P 450, a simple baguette sandwich at Little Mermaid Dive Resort is about P 200, and a plate of fried vegetable noodles will set you back at P170 at Mabuhay Thresher Dive Resort’s restaurant.

I didn’t plan to stay the night because I thought I could just take a day tour and return before the last bus trip from Maya Port. But my 32-year-old body refused this rational and frugal travel plan. By the time our boat docked in front of Cocobana Beach Resort, thoughts of food and a place to nap gripped me. I knew then and there that I had to stay the night if I wanted to enjoy this weekend-long vacation.

Mabuhay Thresher Dive Resort RateMabuhay Thresher Dive Resort offers this air-conditioned room with a bathroom at P 1,500/night. 

2. Be prepared to pay a little more if you want to stay in Malapascua’s best Beachfront properties.

While I was in Maya Port at the Tourist Area waiting to board the next boat to Malapascua, I was checking agoda for budget-friendly yet decent properties so I’d know my options. When it’s your first time in a new island, you tend to favor beachfront properties over those resorts hidden blocks away from the beach. I thought it was worth paying more for a room near the beach.

If you want to stay as close as possible to the beach to swim or snorkel, think again. The beachfront properties in Malapascua Island face the shore where boat-owners usually dock and park so it’s a busy area and the water isn’t so appealing for swimming or snorkeling. Although the shore is great for afternoon walks and people-watching, it’s not a swimmer-friendly spot.

I burned P 1,500 for a room without breakfast at Mabuhay Thresher Dive Resort just because it was close to the beach. There are better beachfront properties in the island such as Ocean Vida Beach Dive Resort, Cocobana Beach Resort, and the Little Mermaid Dive Resort but you have to book well in advance to get a better rate. If you’re seeking some peace and quiet, Mangrove Oriental Resort and Moonlight Resort Bar Restaurant might appeal to your taste and budget.Malapascua Cebu

3. Your overall enjoyment of this trip depends on the attitude you bring.

The downside to traveling alone? No one will take care of you if you get sick. While I had the best intentions of exploring the beauty and bounty of Malapascua, I happened to have the worst luck of catching a fever on my first day in the island. Lack of sleep plus a heavy workout the previous night were just some of the reasons why I wasn’t in tip top shape during this trip. So you either wallow in self-pity or fight. I chose to control my happiness. I fed myself good food, rested for long hours, and hugged myself to sleep. I smiled to staff at resorts where I ate and slept. They smiled back, too. All is well. Malapascua

You might also want to read: The Ugly Truths About Most Weekend Travels

Want more practical travel planning tips to Malapascua?

Consider your bladder. I’m the worst person to bring along on a long drive. My bladder couldn’t stand four hours of inactivity. It’s just how it works. Fortunately, the trip from Cebu North Bus Terminal to Maya Port is only four hours and there’s a pee break after the first two hours. Be alert and take note of this schedule. When you dock at Maya Port, don’t expect a rest room. There is a makeshift tourist center, some small stalls to buy food and drinks, but there’s no bathroom. The boat, luckily, has a tiny toilet but if you’re like me who’s shy about peeing in public, it’s better to wait until you reach the island.

Boat to Maya Port from Malapascua

 

Befriend your driver-tour guide. Most people who grew up in the island tend to be curious. If you don’t like sharing too personal information, prepare questions to ask. On my island tour (P200/hour) on two wheels, Rami asked what I was doing alone in the island. Of course, it’s strange for a woman to be alone in an island flocked by couples, groups, and families. My story was simple. I was in the island to scout the place for my holiday plans with friends. I also said that I worked as a researcher (which is true, I love research). His parting gift was an extension of the tour without extra charge (though I gave him a pretty hefty tip). He brought me in the town center to proudly present a festive Sinulog celebration, Malapascua-style.

Malapascua Island Sinulog Festival

Is it worth visiting Malapascua Island?

Initially, I thought about visiting Siquijor but the unpredictable weather in February dissuaded me from taking this route. Our Apo Island adventure, while unforgettable, is something I wouldn’t dare attempt alone. It was okay to get stranded in an island with friends – I can’t imagine getting stuck in a strange, new place without company. Bacolod was the next on my list but the 7-8 hour bus and ferry trip didn’t appeal to me. I thought by the time I get to Bacolod, I’d probably spend my first day in the city inside a hotel room sleeping.

So I decided to go to Malapascua, instead. The trip from Cebu North Bus terminal to Maya Port only takes about four hours, if you manage to get to the bus station before 5am. From Maya Port, you simply need to take an outrigger boat to Malapascua for 30 minutes or so. This means, you’ll arrive in the island before 11am, just in time for lunch or brunch. Planning a trip to Malapascua makes the most sense and I totally loved it.

Well, I’m tired talking. Here are some snaps I took with my Iphone 5s during my February visit to Malapascua Island.

Memories of Malapascua

los bamboos malapascua

Typhoon Yolanda destroyed this property in Los Bamboos Island. It hasn’t been renovated since.

Malapascua Lighthouse

Malapascua Island’s lighthouse is functional but tourists are not allowed inside. That’s a relief.

Malapascua real brewed coffee

If you’re like me who can’t start a day without brewed coffee, head over to Ocean Vida, you’ll find this treasure.

 

What’s Malapascua like in February? Moody.

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If you have been to Malapascua Island and you want to add your thoughts here, feel free. Cheers!

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