Malapascua, a tiny island north of Cebu, is said to be the next Boracay (whitest sand beach in Philippines), so we decided to check it out.
From Cebu City (northern bus terminal) we took a bus to Maya. The price was fairly low, only 160 pesos (4 USD) each, this was after all an old and cramped bus without air-con. In the bus was also two local guys and their main task was to get attention from the people on the street (by shouting, blowing whistle etc), aiming to get more passengers on board (thus earning more money!!). They seemingly did a great job, because to our annoyance, the bus stopped frequently to pick up new passengers. The whole journey took more than 4 hours, and we were glad to finally get off the bus at the boat terminal in Maya.
It was now 1pm, but still well in time before the last bangka boat to Malapascua. We paid 80 pesos (2 USD) each, and luckily the boat was full and ready to depart when we boarded it. In worst case expect to wait up to one hour for the boat to fill up. The sea was somewhat rough, so the bangka went slowly to avoid the passengers getting wet during the crossing. Unfortunately we were sitting in the front, so we eventually got soaked in salty water anyway.
The crossing took no more than 30 minutes and most of the time I was talking with a Slovenian guy opposite us, who had been cycling around the world (and more!!) during the last 5 years. I'm always impressed by people who have the strength and willpower to complete such crazy projects. But what will happen to this hardcore adventurer now? Will he be able to adapt to a normal life again, after all these years on the road?
Jumping off the boat at Bounty Beach, we were met by half a dozen of touts aiming to earn some commission from the resorts. Sometimes these touts can actually prove very useful, especially in cases where you have no ideas where to stay (we did not have a guide book!!). We were asking them for a cheap place, and one of the guys took us to a nearby resort (behind Tresher Shark Divers). We had a look inside the concrete cabin, and it was clean and neat. We were able to knock the price down to 700 pesos (16 USD) per night, so we decided to take it for 3 nights. It was already getting fairly late in the afternoon, so we had a late lunch, played chess and relaxed. For dinner we went to Sunsplash Resort, because this was the only restaurant with seating (sofas) and candle lights on the beach. This fairly expensive restaurant seemed like the only place with customers (15 or so), while the other restaurants looked completely deserted.
We were actually surprised by the numbers of resorts at Malapascua, especially since it seemed to be so few tourists on the island (less than 50 in total for sure). But this was low season and midweek. We've heard that Christmas and Year End will be fully booked weeks in advance and the prices doubled or more.
Next day we walked the entire island from south to north (it's less than 2 km in length) and back again. During the walk we found 4-5 beaches where we cooled down in the clear sea. Between the beaches we walked through several small villages, where the local people were tending their daily life. From what we could see they were mostly hanging around and doing nothing. They were living in basic bamboo huts, a simple life indeed. We returned to Bounty Beach in late afternoon, and watched the beautiful sunrise while sitting in the sand.
The third day, we spent entirely on Bounty Beach. We hired a snorkeling mask for 100 pesos (2 USD), and went swimming in the water all day long. When not in the water, we relaxed under a palm tree, in shade of the hot sun. Next morning we took an early bangka boat back to Maya (notice that the last departure is 2pm) and then a bus back to Cebu City.
So is Malapascua the next Boracay? No we don't think so. Malapascua is a much smaller island. The sandy beaches are not as white as Boracay. The sand is much rougher, and there are many sharp rocks in the shallow water. The nightlife is totally non-existent and the few restaurants serves very basic food compared to Boracay. If you are a solo traveler, never consider Malapascua, because you are most likely ending up very alone.
So why come to Malapascua? We think it's the perfect place for couples who seek a relaxed holiday on the beach, and divers who don't need the bars and fun. Unlike Boracay there are plenty of space on the beach (if they only could move away all the boats on the shores). There are no pushy sales guys or massage ladies disturbing you. Everything (especially accommodation) is much cheaper than Boracay. So the two islands are indeed very different. We hope that Malapascua will stay this way and not become the next Boracay!