So technically, I’ve already declared paradise found at least twice on this blog. First, way back in 2009 when I landed on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia and felt certain that I had indeed discovered Heaven on Earth. Then, in 2011, I found myself on Koh Rong in Cambodia, and my Eden-Meter went wild again. Over the years I visited islands throughout Southeast Asia, The Caribbean, Central America and the Mediterranean, but never found another that truly competed with the raw beauty I had found on those two islands.
Finally, in 2013, I found Malapascua — and the trifecta was complete.
Photo by Heather Holt
Just one drop in the Philippine’s 7,000+ island chain, Malapascua came on to my radar based on the effusive recommendations of one of the most seasoned travelers I know. It didn’t even make the list of Lonely Planet’s top seven Visaya Region highlights — but something about the way Lindsay gushed inspired a serious case of wanderlust in me.
After another long, epic day of transportation hell that started before dawn and ended at sunset and defined travel in the Philippines, Heather and I landed on a dark, quiet beach. Along with a third traveler we befriended on the boat over, Megan, we settled for the first beachfront bungalow we could find and quickly succumbed to travel fatigue. And when we woke in the morning, this is what we found.
Photo on right by Heather Holt
Our little bungalow faced directly out to Poblacion Beach, a small C-shaped curve of sand stretching around a bay filled with bangkas providing transportation to and from Cebu island. Our little two story bungalow was quite pricey by Filipino standards at 500 pesos each, though I know that in many places $12 a night per person for an oceanfront room seems quite the bargain.
Giddy with excitement over finding the white sand and turquoise waters we had been hoping for, we set off to explore the southern stretch of the island, where the small hum that is tourism in Malapascua is centered.
Poblacion Beach is stunning, and could hold its own in a World’s Best Beaches competition — let me just establish that before I say what I say next.
Poblacion Beach is a dump compared to the sensory-numbing beauty that is Bounty Beach.
Photo on left by Heather Holt
Photo by Heather Holt
Photos by Heather Holt
Time on Malapascua melted away, and scheduled hours were replaced by casual moments in which we were laying out our sarongs for beachfront massages, taking endless photographs of colorful bangkas, eating lazy lunches with toes in the sand, or snuggling with members of the island’s resident adorable puppy pack.
Photo by Heather Holt
Oh, and sometimes we swam. And by swam, I really mean: moved slowly in a dreamlike state through the warm tourmaline waters, marveling at the way Malapascua had managed to make a real version of the HDR photography so favored for desktop computer screensavers.
This kind of paradise isn’t really conducive to raucous nightlife — it brings about a contemplation in people for which Full Moon Party-style antics would only be a nuisance. Appropriately, the most happening place in Malapascua once the sun starts it’s inevitable descent is a quiet sunset bar floating a couple hundred feet from shore.
Luckily, there’s a free ride.
Photo by Heather Holt
Malapascua was exactly what I needed, and along with Batad would be one of my top two destinations in the Philippines. Together, these two places taught me a lesson. Paradise does exist — it’s just never easy to get to.
Stay tuned for our adventures around the island and under the waters of Malapascua! What’s the most beautiful island you’ve ever been to?
That WATER! Those PUPPES! that BAR!
I’m not sure what puppes are, but puppies are cute….
(and just a not to other readers, this is my sister — so I’m allowed to respond obnoxiously to her!)
Not sure what a not is, but notes are informative…
perfection. pure perfection. I cant even handle how amazing this is….and just the pictures. I can’t imagine it in person. wow
Just wait for the next two posts 🙂 It only seems to get better!
That…looks……AH-mazing! Such great photos and it really does look like a paradise, so cool.
Thanks Frank! I’m definitely missing this beautiful island from where I sit today in cold, dreary New York!
Oh my god! This place indeed looks like “the heaven on earth”. And the colour of the sea is like a painting. It doesn’t seem real. So amazing! 😀 I have no doubt you had your best time there! Envy!!
Thanks Sujin! This place definitely inspired me to break out a paintbrush…. if only I could travel with my art supplies!
That water looks awesome. I hear the diving in that area is good too. Is there much to do for non-divers?
Well, in terms of organized activities — no. Maybe some snorkeling? But for those looking to bum around on the beach and relax, it’s wonderful! We also did a walk all the way around the island one day — stay tuned for that post!
Your photos are incredible! I’ve never really considered the Philippines as a travel destination but you’ve shown me the error of my ways!
Thanks Sam! I definitely don’t think the Philippines are getting the attention they deserve in the blogging world. They are amazing!
Why did you leave this place??? This place is stunning and I’ve added to my must visit list (which keeps getting longer and longer thanks to you)
Believe me… I didn’t want to go 🙂 I think I could have spent a week just diving and doing nothing on these beautiful beaches!
Gorgeous! What a place!
Thanks Dayla! It was amazing.
Dammit Alex!! My DMTs are meeting here in August and keep trying to get me to go, and I was all “who cares about Mala-whatever, I’ve never even heard of it”…don’t think I can get away with it now! Looks INCREDIBLE! Did you dive here??
I did indeed! Just wait till you see the photos. I’ll give you a hint though — THRESHER SHARKS!
I have been suffering some wanderlust lately and have tried and failed to avoid your blog because it does not help! However this post just made it worse. It looks like a truly beautiful place and the laid back part you described is so me. This place is now on my list!
Haha, oh no! I never thought of people avoiding me for that reason 🙂 I say don’t fight the wanderlust… you’ll have to scratch the itch at some point!
TAKE ME THERE!!!
Hmmm…. how about YOU take ME there instead, for our next family vacation?! 🙂
Oh wow, this place really looks like paradise on earth! I’m still not sure if I’ll head to the Philippines or a different country in conjuction with my planned Thailand trip next year, but this post really shows me that I need to give it more consideration: It’s gorgeous!
Manila is a super cheap and easy flight from Bangkok, Melanie! Check out Tiger Airways — they have great deals!
WOW! This looks like a place that’s hard to leave. Can’t wait to read more!
Thanks Skuli! Lots more to come!
I Love how time slows down in places like this. Soak it all in!
Thanks Shaun! I really never wanted to leave. Destinations like this are getting more and more rare…
Gorgeous!! My favorite island is Zanzibar!! I went a few months ago and was absolutely stunned by how beautiful it was!
Oooo… I don’t know much about Zanzibar! Heading to the Google machine now…
Sigh. Another place you managed to make it to in the Philippines that I didn’t despite my spending nearly 2 months there! Malapascua was already on my list of places to hit the next time we go back, but this post has pretty much pushed it all the way to the very top of our list.
Based on what I heard when we were traveling through the Philippines, everyone said that the real slices of paradise left in the country are the ones that are hell to get to. The ones that are accessible just so quickly become overrun, so in order to find these gardens of Eden, you’ve got to be willing to suffer a bit!
Yup, Malapascua is a real challenge to get to! First you have to get to Cebu, which is a flight or long boat ride to get to in the first place. Then you have to get a bus to Maya, which is a long, crowded, hot and sunny ride away. And you better hustle, because the last boat to Malapascua leaves at 4pm — and you’ll have to deal with the boat mafia trying to charge you 5x the posted price anyway. And then, they claim not to be able to bring you all the way to the beach — so another tiny boat has to come get you (and charge you even more, of course). At least once we got there it was more than worth it!
All I can say is wow. The photos are so, so gorgeous! I only wish I could spend a few days laying on the beach there!
At the moment I’m sitting in New York and it’s raining once again… so I wish the same! 🙂
*Emoji-style heart-eyed* yet AGAIN! I feel awed just by viewing these photos (over & over again), this is just. pure. beauty.
I’d go through all that hassle and more to spend time in this beautiful little corner in the world.
And seriously that floating bar is dangerous because I’d probably spend just about all my time there, consuming too much sun and too many drinks, like why would I ever leave?? Lol!
Thanks Kristen! It’s a joy to photograph such a beautiful place. And I hear ya on the floating bar… thankfully we weren’t the ones having to captain the boat back!
Amazingly beautiful! Reminds me of Tonga and why I don’t particularly want to be going back to Leeds next month!
Oh wow, Tonga! You’ve made me think about lots of new destinations today…
This looks amazing and I am getting more and more jealous with your experience in the Philippines. I will be there next month for the very first time and I don’t know where to start with the Philippines more than 7,000 islands. I do agree from lots of comments here that Philippines seems to be the most understated and least visited country in Southeast Asia but got so many potentials and unrivaled tourist spots. I don’t see a lot in the blogs so thank you very much for your very informative page. Whilst reading your blog, I feel like I am with you in the travel and who will question you with those amazing pictures. I will stay in Manila for 3 nights, what is your best recommendation to explore next? I heard about El Nido and other islands of Palawan but it looks like I am tempted to go straight to Malapascua…7000 + islands seems to be a year holiday for me. I only have 2 weeks because I need to go back to work:)
Thanks for the kudos, Edward! I definitely recommend Malapascua as a good starting place, though just warning you…. you might get stuck! It’s a nice spot to start because from there you can travel overland and by boat to many destinations in the Visayas. Good luck!
If there was a definition of heaven on Earth, THIS would be it. After reading your posts, I’m getting excited for my trip to Croatia in two weeks!! 🙂
Croatia is definitely having a moment — I hear SO many people talking about trips there! Enjoy your travels!
This looks incredible! In fact, your posts have made me re-plan my trip in December to include Donsol & Malapascua! I only wish I had time to make it to Batad & Banaue also.
Emma I’m so happy to hear that! You’re going to love them both 🙂 Make sure to check out my Malapascua post from today as well… you’ve got to take time to walk all the way around the island!
Oh wow! Just seen all of your beautiful pictures in the latest post. I only wish I hadn’t already booked up my 4 month trip so I could include a full 3 weeks in the Philippines. Nevermind, there will be a next time!
Ah yes, once Southeast Asia gets it’s hooks in you…. there is always a next time!
Just curious, how many months out of your life have you spent in SE Asia?
Hmmm, tough question — but I think at this point around 17 months!
Nice! I’m adding you to my list of favorite links on my site – don’t see too many people going to the Philippines and I enjoy your coverage. It’s been on my list for a long time.
Keep up the good work!
Thanks Frank! Agreed — The Philippines don’t get much blog love. And they deserve it! Thanks for adding me to your favorite sites!
I’m a bit late to the outpouring of wows to this post, but what the hell.
You’re right in that my country doesn’t get a lot of travel blog coverage, but then again, I think that’s okay. The fact that it takes a bit more of an effort to get here and to get around here (compared to say places in Southeast Asia mainland) assures me that places like Malapascua might just remain to be the quiet paradise for a little while longer.
Very true! It might actually be a plus if Malapascua stays a bit of a secret…. though I guess I’m not helping much here! 🙂
Your pictures are beautiful! Planning on spending a couple of months in the Philippines and Malapascua will now be a definite stop! Would you ever recommend booking accommodation before you arrive? I really like the look of the bungalow you stayed at- does it have a name? And to continue the interrogation, how regular is transport to the island? 🙂
Hey Ali, the transportation situation to Malapascua is kind of a headache. You have to catch a bus (or I suppose a private taxi if you’ve got the cash) from Cebu City to Maya. The bus we were on was long, bumpy, hot, and extremely crowded — just so you know what you’re in for. From there, we were meant to catch the last public ferry of the day to the island. When we arrived at the port though the boatmen refused to take us for the stated price saying we were “too late” despite being well within the time frame. It turned into a nightmare with us feeling very ripped off and taken advantage of. So my advice is to arrive early when you have more negotiating power (we didn’t want to be stuck in Maya for a night so basically had no choice but to bend to their demands.)
The bungalows…. argh, I can’t quite remember…. but it had “White” in the name, and was right next to the Italian restaurant!
was considering malapascua for my filipino adventure this fall & now i definitely want to go! so glad i stumbled upon your blog alex, you’re a traveling delight!
Thanks Becky, that is so sweet! Definitely add Malapascua to the list (and consider Batad as well.) Total gems!
Argh – you make me wanna go RIGHT now!! 🙂
Hope you get there soon Lily 🙂
WOW !!!! I just stumbled upon your website and I must say that island is so gorgeous !!!
I’m definitely going for sure. 😀
Hey Benny! Glad you found me, and glad you are heading to Malapascua someday 🙂 It really is stunning!
Really a paradise!
I returned my reading in your blog to help to choose my next vacations destination (i am thinking about bali or hawaii) but since I started to read about Philippines I am totally in love ! It is so difficult to find information about tourism there in my language in travel blogs, magazines, travel guides…I will recommend it to everyone.
Hey Carla! You really can’t go wring with Bali, Hawaii, or the Philippines! Best of luck in choosing, and planning your trip 🙂
Glad you loved Malapascua island. I recently came back from a trip there just this weekend and it is indeed a lovely place. It felt quite odd though that it seemed that we were the only ‘local’ tourists there at that time. It rained for a couple of nights but it didn’t dampen the island’s charm one bit.
P.S. You and your sister are quite lovely by the way. Mabuhay! from the Philippines. 🙂
Heather is actually my friend, not my sister — fun that we look enough alike to be mistaken for them, though!
Hey Alex, after reading this months ago and swooning, I am now in a position to go and wanted any accommodation tips you may have? The hut you stayed in looks really cute, but would you recommend staying on Bounty Beach?
My winter holiday time isn’t until January but I am already SO excited, thanks to these photos!
I loved that bungalow (I think it was called White something? It was in Lonely Planet. Sorry, I really need to be better about adding accommodation info to my posts!) But that was on Poblacion Beach. Bounty Beach is definitely the more beautiful of the two! However we didn’t find a place quite as charming. Tough conundrum!
How funny, I just emailed a place called White Sand Bungalows… was that it?!
Definitely a tough conundrum, but for the amazing price at Poblacion, I think we’ll definitely go with that.
Yes! That was totally it. Don’t worry, it’s a small island… you can’t really go wrong 🙂
Wonderfull Picts girls.
These ones put you the ambition to go there and this is why we’ll go there in July 2014.
Let’s keep in touch to have ideas and informations???
Oh by the way, I come from Belgium so I don’t speak very well English so sorry for my sentences! :s 😉
Hey Kent! Glad to hear you are planning a trip to Malapascua in 2014. Unfortunately I probably won’t be there at the time, but I hope this post was helpful in your trip planning!
Have you seen the current status of Malapascua after being hit by category 5 typhoon?
It is. As soon as I saw the news I sent what I could to the recovery. Heartbreaking.
Hi, this post is amazing and photos are overwhelming, I’ve been in Malapascua too but haven’t found any post of Malapascua beautifully-described as how you did.
Love your blog!
Thank you so much, Fritzie! Hope you stick around and keep enjoying more posts, and cheers to another Malapascua lover!
Ahhh, Malapascua, my favorite island in the province of Cebu. Beautiful photos!
Thanks! It was a magical place!
What camera did you use with your shots? 😀
Hey Jamie! Check out my Gear and Products page (in the navigation bar at the top of the page) for all kinds of in-depth info!
Hi! I’m a Filipino and it was my first time to go to Malapascua last weekend. I still can’t get over it and stumbled over your blog. I’m happy that you enjoyed the Philippines and I hope that you’ll come back to experience more of our islands and smiles!
I absolutely plan to someday 🙂 You have a beautiful country, and Malapascua is a true gem!
Beautiful paradise! You should consider visiting Coron, Palawan. Another paradise in the Philippines. I am planning to go to Malapascua early 2015. Thank you for your post.
I always hear great things about Coron, and can’t wait to go there someday! You are very welcome, by the way 🙂
Feel embarassed to see foreigners talk about the beauty of my country,prolly the perks of being out working abroad for a long time..nice blog Alex? Have u been back to malapascua again lately ?
I have not, Ed! Would love to return someday 🙂
I’ve been looking for tips about the Island.I’m gonna take diving seriously,already booked for a OW course to where I am now so that I can dive when I get there by the end of June this year. Also I am travelling alone so anyone in here that will be there by those times it would be great & helpful to connect,hit me up ! 😀
That fantastic beach place is White Sand Bungalows. I stayed there too in 2014, it’s a marvellous location and there is no place like it on the island. Everywhere else it’s only concrete hotels. Actually a shame, but some may call it progress. I planned a few days on the island but ended up staying 10 days!
I loved it there too… if only they had wifi 🙂
Looks amazing! Palawan in the Philippines is our top pick for Paradise!
I’m definitely due for a return trip to the Philippines. Palawan will be next on the list!
Wow, it sure looks like paradise!! Malapascua has just been added to my Philippines wish list 😉
It is like a dream. I really hope to return someday!
Hey! Love these photos!! Booking a trip to the Philippines soon but I’m hemming and hawing between Malapascua. I’m going with my mom so diving won’t be on the agenda. Do you think Malapascua would be a good option even if we don’t dive?
Absolutely! Beautiful beaches, nice snorkeling and a lovely island to walk around… I think it would be a great place to relax for a few days!
Have a month in the philippines and man is it a hard place to pick where to go in that amount of time. This post reaffirms I definitely need to keep malapascua on the agenda (and also batad!). My favourite island paradise I’ve been to so far is the corn islands, the bar is set high!
Oh man, I’m dying to get to the Corn Islands. I think I’m returning to Nicaragua in 2016, and that is high on the agenda!
Hi! Can you still remember the exact name of the floating bar? Is it located in Poblacion Beach where you stayed? We’re bound to go there next month! Your blog is a big help to us in finding the perfect beach in Cebu! Thank you 🙂
Sorry Rachelle, I don’t have any info other than what’s written here (my memory is literally atrocious). That said, the island is laughably small so I promise you that if it is still there, you will not have any trouble finding it 🙂 Enjoy your trip!
Hi Alex…Lisa here!
I just answered your survey questions today on your latest post and came upon your recommendations for the Philippines just in time for my planning!
Did you dive on Malapascua? I am trying to decide which island or two to visit while I’m there…almost an impossible decision that you just made easier so THANK YOU!!!!
Hey Lisa! Indeed I did… you can read all my Malapascua posts here! Enjoy!
Thank you so much!!!!
Sounds like I shouldn’t make my way all the way there to see Whale Sharks.
If you’re into threshers though, Malapascua is a must!
Thank you Alex! I might be there in May so would love to see the sharks 🙂
Hey Alex! My girlfriend and I were trying to fill the last 5 days of our 30 day trip to The Philippians and you’ve convinced us! Malapascua it is! Do you remember the name of the beach huts you stayed at??
Sorry Ryan, if it’s not in this post I sadly don’t remember! I’m sure a lot has changed since I was there regardless 🙂
Such a wonderful place, Malapascua…Very interesting article with wonderful photos. I really like your post. Keep it up.
Thank you! Malapascua is one of my favorite islands in the world!
wow…nice read…planning to go there this 6/17..
Ah, enjoy! I’d love to go back to Malapascua.
Alex and Heather stayed in White Sand Bungalows.
There is only one place like it on the island (and maybe elsewhere too).
Contact: +639194815190 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Indeed we did! Thanks Melda!
fantastic, want to visit this year
do you have any additional suggestion?
Hey Marika! I pretty much put it all into these posts 🙂 You can find my full Philippines archives here, hope they help!
I love posts that feature the Philippines! I’ve never been to Malapascua but they have great islands.
I absolutely loved Malapascua! And stay tuned… haven’t announced it yet but I’m actually heading back to the Philippines soon 😉 You heard it here first!
Truly a paradise! Have you been to Cebu as well? 🙂
Just passing through 🙂 Haven’t really explored it!
I am considering doing my dive master on Malapascua Island but since I’m going alone wanted to make sure I could meet some people so I won’t get lonely!
I don’t need raging nightlife but hoped there might be enough people to have a drink with – do you think this island has enough going on to meet people whilst doing the course?
Bit of a heavy question I know – just looking for your first impressions!
Hey Charlie! It’s been so long since I was there, it’s possible the island has changed a lot. Spots like this in Southeast Asia tend to! My impulse would be to say yes. There’s a super active dive community and the threshers attract travelers from all over. But I’m not sure how many courses they do, which might effect your experience (I would GUESS it’s more fun divers there to see the sharks, but I’m basing that on nothing but a guess!) Good luck whatever you decide to do 🙂