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Island Hopping in Mactan

snorkeling cebu

Under the sea! Cebu is blessed with rich marine diversity.

One of the most common activities which I often hear from visitors requesting instead of me suggesting is Island hopping. There are plenty of places to go Island hopping in Cebu but the easiest and most convenient would be in Mactan. Just less than an hour away from Cebu City, the Island of Mactan is well known as a diver’s school ground for basic diving courses, and also a favorite activity among tourists: Island Hopping. The best thing about Island hopping in Cebu is that it’s not just going from one island to another, you actually get to swim in the waters, dock on the islands and experience the natural beauty surrounding you. It’s you stepping away from the city and just experience the Islander’s life. 

How much is Island Hopping in Mactan?

Island Hopping mactan

Taking a boat to visit the neighboring islands

This happens to be the first question of most visitors, “How much?” Well it varies from boat, to distance to travel, to food to buy and other variables. Normally I’d say 500php per person in a group of 15-20 would be okay already. You can see that I don’t price an entire package as different tours have different prices for packages.

Mactan Island Hopping Guide

  1. Boat costs can range from 2,500.00-3,500 php (60-85$) for whole day use.

    Island hopping Boat

    Our boat from my latest sland hopping trip

  2. Usual Islands to visit are Nalusuan, Hilutungan, Olango, Caohagan to name a few, and if you go further like up to Pandanon then they might charge a bit more.

    island in mactan

    one of the islands we passed by

  3. You will be charged docking fees whenever you go from one Island to another as these are mostly private-owned Islands
  4. Bring a trusted local with you, if you try to rent a boat, especially if you’re a foreigner, they will give you a “premium” price. Locals know the actual price
  5. Bring your own food, it won’t be easy to find places to eat around there as these are sanctuaries devoid of shops and restaurants (except in some areas, then again, more recommended to bring own food)

    Island hopping food

    Island hopping without a lechon in Cebu? NO WAY! :p

  6. Secure all gadgets and other stuff that should not get wet in a dry-bag or a container. Do not be overconfident as several accounts of cameras, cellphones, and jewelry have been lost in sea due to sheer carelessness
  7. Not all boats come ready to rent fins and snorkel those most are
  8. Do check low tide and high tide schedules, low tide allows closer viewing of corals and fishes at the sea floor
  9. Wear comfortable clothes as there may be times you walk across a plank (no this is not a pirate joke, you do need to walk across a plank) and get on a small boat (again, not a pirate joke)

    snorkeling attire

    Just the right attire for snorkeling

  10. Depending on how many people, Boats are pretty spacious
  11. SOME boats have wifi , hooray for foursquare seafarers!
  12. DO NOT PANIC if currents or winds suddenly get strong, Cebu weather is erratic
  13. SWIM AND SEE the beauty underwater, you’re missing out on all the fun if you just stay on board

    underwater life in mactan

    colorful underwater life beginning to show in first dip

  14. BE CAREFUL IN THE WATER as currents around Mactan are pretty strong, and there are many boats moving about, you just might get hit.

Underwater Life in Mactan

underwater life in mactan

There are plenty of dead spots due to lack of conservation

If you’re a frequent diver and you’ve seen several life underwater then I’m sorry to say that in terms of diversity Mactan might disappoint as it isn’t necessarily as diverse as the likes of Moalboal, Malapascua, and other places but then again they’re still full of fish, mostly Sergeant majors. There are even areas quite “dead” looking because of lack of conservation. Then again I still believe that there is hope in the restoration of Mactan Marine Biodiversity.

sergeant major fish

One of the most common fishes you will see: Sergeant major Damselfish

If you’re looking for the famous “nemo” fish then yes you will find them. Just look for a sea anemone, you know those tentacle thingies, then there’s bound to be an orange fish swimming in and out of them. You can also see several starfishes, sea urchins, soft corals, hard corals, red corals, and even crabs.

trigger fish

There’s a trigger fish in this photo. Take a good look

blue fish

Spot the fishy in the coral

sea urchin

sea urchin or “Tuyom” as the locals call it

Scuba Diving in Mactan

air bubbles

Air bubbles! Signs of scuba life just below!

There are those of you who might want to try the scuba diving experience while you’re on your Island hopping trip. Make sure you have a dive master or have contacted a dive shop about your plans because you don’t really need a license if you will go for the Discovery Scuba Dive. It’s some sort of introduction to the feel of diving and the dive master practically does everything for you. This way you can  really experience life underwater.

For the more daring and skilled freedivers, going down to the bottom won’t be a challenge since there are some areas only as shallow as 15-20 feet.

scuba divers

Scuba divers just below


gold coral

gold coral

The entire experience cannot be fully written down and explained in the blog. That weekend feeling you get from riding the boat away from the city life and just dipping in the crystal clear waters around the marine sanctuaries just hits the spot. Being around with your friends enjoying good food under the beautiful sun and then finally jumping into the cool waters seeing a vast array of colorful sea life. I can go on and on about how awesome Island hopping is in Cebu but nothing compares to you experiencing it yourself.

Oh and to end this post: the obligatory Nemo shot just below:


found nemo

I found nemo!!

NOTE: All shots underwater, except for the selfportrait shot, were shot using a BB 8520 in an underwater sleeve. 



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