Caohagan is one of Olango Island Group’s most popular islets. But is it worth a visit?
I say skip it, if you have to pay or if you’re in Cebu for a limited number of days. If you’re paying for the trip, you’re better off going somewhere else, like Bohol. If it’s part of an island hopping trip, spend as little time here than you would in nearby islands. If the trip is free, by all means, go. Free summer outings are like shooting stars – rare, almost magical. But clear expectations (on this post, I’ll see what I can do to help you set these right) will let you enjoy a few hours of your stay on the island.
Getting to Caohagan Island from Cebu City (Ayala Mall)
Getting to Caohagan Island from Cebu City takes about two hours on a non-school day. That includes an hour trip from Cebu city to Cordova and another hour for the boat journey. For an island hopping trip in Cebu, this is relatively fast.
For example, if you want to go to Bantayan Island from Cebu City, you need to ride a bus to Hagnaya Port for three hours (that is, if you leave early in the morning; for later trips, it can take longer) and spend another three hours on a ferry boat to reach Sta. Fe, a municipality in Bantayan.
Another example is Sumilon Island. It’s a popular side trip for tourists bound for Oslob to meet and greet Cebu’s whale sharks. The bus trip from Cebu City (South Terminal) to Oslob takes three hours (give or take, depending on traffic). From Oslob, getting to Sumilon Island only takes a good 20-30 minutes. There’s only one resort on this island and if you’re not planning to stay in Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort, there’s a spot on the island where non-paying tourists can go to snorkel, swim and sunbathe.
Speaking of snorkeling, Pescador Island is a hot destination among summer vacationers visiting Cebu. This small piece of uninhabited coral island is surrounded with underwater jewels and fishes of different colors and shapes. It takes 45 minutes by boat and a land trip of three hours from Cebu City to Moalboal to get here.
My point is, most awesome island destinations in Cebu are far from the city center. Since Caohagan Island is one of the easiest Cebu Islands to reach, it’s understandable why tourists flock here in the summer. When your boat docks here at noontime, expect to be swarmed by bikini-clad foreigner girls (this isn’t so bad, right?) and middle-aged Chinese or Korean tourists haggling with locals selling seafood and souvenirs (this can be off-putting so keep your mood in check).
Bring Your Own Sunshine in Caohagan Island
Am I kidding? You’re on vacation. You’ve waited for it for so long, planned everything and paid for everything to make sure you get the most of every minute on your big summer break. You deserve no less than the best from an island escape.
But, hear me out please.
Caohagan Island is blissfully unprepared for the attention it has attracted. While the residents are willing to forgo half of the island for tourists, they want to cash in on its popularity, especially among foreign visitors. That’s why it felt more like a marketplace than a pleasant stop for island hopping vacationers.
The vibe in Caohagan Island is far from relaxing. The beach front is crowded by cottages filled with tourists devouring seafood. The seashore is packed with floating boats waiting for tourists to hop back on for their next island destination.
If you’re not carrying a sunny disposition, the scene can be disappointing. But curiosity and some empathy can save you.
Exploring the Charming Areas of Caohagan Island
You have to know that you’ll be sharing this island with long-time residents. I mean, residents who have to survive each day with limited electricity (power is only available from 11pm to 6am), source of income, and education.
Almost everywhere you look, you’ll spot a boat, so the island dwellers must depend a lot on marine resources for sustenance. (I’m only making these guesses based on observation. Feel free to get the facts straight from the local government.)
There’s an elementary school in the area, a church, and some abandoned looking rest houses. Kids seem happy and healthy, whiling away afternoons playing with live sea creatures or twigs falling from trees.
Some girls are busy ridding their younger sisters or playmates of head lice; others are eagerly making money (from donations) by flushing the toilet after each island visitor.
You see, so much is happening in this island. Homes are built and rebuilt. Most of houses have tasteful design yet your eyes will be drawn to the roof tops. The craftsmen here surely take roofs seriously.
I was glad I didn’t find a good swimming spot. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have wandered around the island, looking for solitude and some amusement to pass the time. (We were here only for a half-day trip, from 12nn-4pm. At 4pm, the island is restored to its normal state and the residents could enjoy it for themselves.)
Caohagan Island Travel Tips
I encourage you to explore Caohagan Island with the curiosity of a child. You know what’s that like, right? That’s the annoying side in all of us, asking why’s after why’s or what’s after what’s?
If you’re still reading, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Look for the school (there’s only one and it’s within easy reach from the main swimming area). There’s a trail you can follow to the backside. Here, you’re likely going to be alone with sights to behold. (Instragram-worthy details also abound – all you need is a playful mindset.)
Bring something to sit on and soak up the view. Every now and then, you’ll spot a boat leaving and its passengers would be waving at you. Wave back. They couldn’t see your face but they will notice your white teeth from afar. Smiling will make you feel good.
As you scan the horizon, you’ll also notice nearby islands which have also turned into famous island hopping stops. Gaze around and you will see a mangrove tree sitting proudly by the shore (take a pic and tag me @islandtrotters or @issapix when you find it). It reminds me of a movie scene but I couldn’t quite remember the title of the film.
On selecting souvenirs
Before you leave, you might want to get something from the island to take home with you. You will stumble upon some unique items within minutes of looking at souvenir stalls. Buy, if you found an item you like.
You’ll be helping the locals pay for daily electricity. I know you can find cheaper versions in Colon or Carbon but who usually go to these places when they’re on a summer vacation in Cebu? I got three souvenir items from each of the three different vendors. (Three thread necklaces for P100 was the deal I settled for.)