Cycling the Central Visayas

The Central Visayas lie at the heart of the Philippines. The Capital of the Visayas, Cebu City is the Philippines second largest city and sitting on the east coast of Cebu Island is ideally suited to serve the whole region.  It is the base for Cebu Pacific Airlines and many inter-island ferries.

From here we traveled to Malapascua to dive with Thresher sharks, to Bohol and the magnificent "Chocolate Hills" and to lovely Camiguin in Mindanao province before returning to Dumaguete on Negros Oriental.

Schedule

  1. Malapascua
  2. Bogo to Danao
  3. Camotes Islands
  4. Danao to Cebu City
  5. Cebu to Tagbilaran
  6. Tagbilaran to Jagna
  7. Camiguin
  8. Jagna to Loboc
  9. Loboc to San Isidro
  10. The Chocolate Hills
  11. Return to Atmosphere


Our ride descriptions give an account of the ride that we completed. As part of the description we also provide links to google maps and elevation profiles based on mapping data available through the internet. The ride profiles are smoothed to give what in our opinion is a more beneficial view of the profile. We use paper maps, GPS and on line data to plan and conduct our rides. We are happy for you to use our descriptions, but be aware that we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided as situations surrounding any ride change over time.

Central Visayas - Day 1 - Malapascua


  • Distance 50km by bus and ferry

We started our Central Visayas tour with a trip to Malapascua Island

We left the bikes in the hotel garage to travel to Malapascua island, just off the north coast of Cebu. This island is supposed to be like Boracay was 15 years ago with white, coral sand beaches, good diving and not too many resorts.

We got a trike to the bus station then had an hour's ride on a bus to Maya, on the north coast. From here there are bangkas to the island. There is a small jetty but unless it is high tide, the bangkas anchor offshore which means that you have to pay for a small boat to take you to the ferry. The process is repeated at the island which just seems like another way to con everyone out of another 40 peso

On the island there are no roads, just a few sandy tracks and motorbikes. We stayed at Evolution Dive Resort, owned by a friend of our son, Simon's.

View_from_Evolution

Central Visayas - Malapascua - 3 Days Off

We spent three nights at the resort, enjoying the good food in the restaurant and relaxing on the beach. Steve did two dives. Having to get up at 4.30am was not easy, but the reward was diving with the thresher sharks at Manod reef.

Thresher_Shark

Central Visayas - Malapascua to Bogo - Ferry and bus

Being in no hurry to leave, we spent the morning on the beach and then had lunch at a restaurant. High tide was about 3pm today so we could get directly onto the ferry. It quickly filled with the minimum ten passengers so the crew cast off and then tried to start the engine. It had no electric starter so the five crew had to pull start the engine with a rope.

Starting_the_Engine

Despite their energetic efforts the engine showed no signs of life after about eight attempts. By now it had drifted well away from the shore. The crew re-anchored and the youngest one was sent swimming back to shore to fetch oil.

That did the trick and the engine started at the next try. At Maya there was a Ceres bus waiting to get us to Bogo where we jumped on a trike. He also had engine problems and took several tries to get going.

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Central Visayas - Day 2 - Bogo to Danao

  • Distance           82km
  • Max Elevation    152m
Bogo_to_Danao_profile

Central Visayas - Bogo to Danao Raide Profile

Ride Description

The bikes were still safe in the hotel garage and it was nice to get back on them again. For the first time in weeks we had a choice of route and needed to check the Google map to find out how to get onto the minor road along the coast for the next stage of our Central Visayas ride.

It was a lovely ride along a well surfaced road. There were a few patched potholes which we could easily avoid as the traffic was very light. The road climbed gradually to about 200m, through palms, sugar cane and mango orchards, then descended again to join the national highway at Sogod.

Thirty more kilometers on the flat coast road took us to Danao where we went to the port to check the times for the ferries to the Camotes Islands. A fruitless search for accommodation in the town followed and we ended up going about 3km inland to the 'Intersan Resort'. It has a water park and a variety of rooms. We were the only guests and chose the cheapest option, a little chalet close to the swimming pool.

We didn't fancy going back into Danao to eat so had dinner in the resort restaurant, all alone.

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Central Visayas - Day 3 - The Camotes Islands

Ride Description

Our destination today was the Camotes Islands which are part of the Central Visayas and part of Cebu province.

Breakfast was again a lonely affair but at least we got fast service. The ferry was a ro-ro, departing at a very civilised 8.30 am, for the two hour journey to Consueles on the island of Pacijan. Our plan was to ride around this first Camotes island today, stay for the night  at Santiago then cycle over the causeway to the next island, Poro. From here, the Rough Guide and the ferry web site assured us, we could get a fast ferry into Cebu City. We needed to spend a day in Cebu to extend our visas.

The small scale map that we had showed the road following the coast but in fact it was quite a distance inland, mainly through coconut plantations and fairly flat countryside. As we passed through Santiago we booked into a small guest house at the edge of a beautiful pale sand bay, meaning we could continue without the panniers. The south-east coast was the most enjoyable part with plenty of shade and several short steep hills. There were a few sections of unsurfaced road but practically no traffic and ocean views.

Coming to the north of the island we decided to find a nice beach.Turning off the road at a signpost for a beach, we followed a track for several kilometers. The beach was at a closed down resort and the whole place had a massive fence and a padlocked gate. Instead we returned to Santiago and had a swim there.

In the evening we strolled to a little seafood restaurant with tables on the beach just below our accommodation had some fantastic  sea-food. We asked the resort owner about the times of the ferry from Poro to Cebu and were told that it only operates in high season. So there was no option but to get the ferry back to Danao and ride to Cebu City on the national road.

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Central Visayas - Day 4 - Danao to Cebu City

  • Distance          30km
  • Max Elevation    32m
Danao_to_Cebu_profile

Central Visayas - Danao to Cebu City Ride Profile

Ride Description

We felt a bit cheated having to go back the way we had come, but there was no alternative. As we got off the ferry in Danao a port official approached Karen and asked her for money. Steve was well ahead and she tried desperately to ignore him. With the port gates in sight we continued but he showed amazing agility, sprinting ahead and closing the gates, blocking our exit. He said we had to pay extra for the bikes on the ferry. When Steve argued with him, saying we hadn't had to pay for them on the way out, he made us pay double!

View_to_Danao

The road from Danao to Cebu was busy and for the first time we saw a lot of local road cyclists, out for a Sunday ride. Approaching the city the traffic got manic, with hundreds of jeepneys and 4WD's. At least everything moved very slowly. We had booked a room at 'Kiwi Lodge' which was conveniently just a hundred metres off the main road and convenient for the Immigration Office and the Port.

Cebu_Railings

The next day we had to get our visa extensions and apply for our i-cards. As we climbed out of the taxi, a man spotted Steve's shorts and ran across to hire him a pair of jogging bottoms as shorts are not allowed in the immigration office. It was busy in the visa office with lots of people waiting, but the organisation was much better than at Dumaguete, with an easy to understandable system of collecting, filling in, handing in and paying. After an hour we had another month's visa and paid for the i-cards which had to be collected in three weeks.

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Central Visayas - Day 5 - Cebu to Bohol


  • Distance       93km

Ride Description

Tosay we would travel by ferry to the Central Visayas island of Bohol.

We planned a route from the hotel to the harbour which, although along main roads, only involved right turns so once we had negotiated a first left turn it was plain sailing.  Finding the ferry was more complicated as the information on the internet was out of date.

Having found the right pier we then had to go 100m further and round the corner to the ticket office, then over the road to another office for the freight tickets and finally go to the departure waiting area at the pier. The 11.00 ferry was fully booked so we had to wait for the 2pm departure. We wished we'd booked in advance, a lot of package holiday groups use this route.

When the ferry arrived at Tagbilaran there was chaos on the pier as two ferries were unloading passengers. They were all scrambling to find their luggage as the passengers for the return journey were trying to embark. It was difficult to find enough space to prop the bikes and clip the bags on.

We didn't ride far up the road before finding a reasonable and cheap hotel and booked in for the night.

Typical_Bohol_House

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Central Visayas - Day 6 - Tagbilaran to Jagna

  • Distance            67km
  • Max Elevation     110m
Tagbilaran_to_Jagna_profile

Central Visayas - Tagbilaran to Jagna Ride Profile

Ride Description

There was a clear blue sky today and so it was  very hot. Riding out of town we passed the 'Blood Compact Memorial', but even early in the morning there was a crowd of Chinese tourists taking photos so we didn't stop.

Baclayon_Church

The road hugs the coast and passes through some pretty towns with some surviving Spanish era buildings, though many of them could do with repair. The road was quiet and there were several long stretches right on the beach side.

Bohol_Rice_Paddy

It was Sunday so we had trouble finding somewhere to get food at lunchtime. It was past 1pm before we found a little eatery. The whole family came in to chat to us while we ate. As there was no school today there were fewer 'hello's' but the roadside rest houses were full of men drinking the local rum and offering to share it with us.The sea was crowded with families cooling off.

Sunday_Bathers

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Central Visayas - Day 7 - Camiguin  Island Circuit

  • Distance          73km
  • Max Elevation   115m
Camaguin_Circuit

Central Visayas - Camiguin  Island Circuit Ride Profile

Ride Description

Strictly speaking, Camiguin isnot part of the Central Visayas, being actually part of Mindanao province, but we had heard how lovely it was and were determined to visit it.

There are two ferries from Jagna to Benoni on Camiguin island, a slow ro-ro and a faster passenger one. We decided to use the ro-ro as it would be easier to get the bikes on and cheaper. On the way past the port on Sunday we enquired at the ticket office to make sure that it operated on a Monday. Yes, was the answer, departing at 1.00 pm. But 24 hours later there was a notice to say that it was cancelled because of engine problems.

So there was no choice but to go on the passenger ferry. This reduced the journey time to two hours. Compared to the other ferries we have traveled on here, this was a relatively well organised operation with a comfortable waiting room and a wide easy gangplank onto the boat so the bikes went on with the panniers on the racks. Departure was delayed by 15 mins and the journey time was nearer to 2hrs 45 mins so it was 4.30 pm before we got on the road in Camiguin with about 24km to the main resort area of the island, just beyond Mambajao.

It was an enjoyable ride, along the east coast, with the volcanoes disappearing into the clouds on our left and the ocean to the right. As usual there were hoards of children walking home from school but their greetings were very polite and respectful, with no demands for money. The road here is cement, in very good condition and flat all the way so our progress was rapid and we arrived at Mambajao in under an hour, but it was already getting dark so we needed to find somewhere fast.

The first resort we passed was full but they directed us to another place a few hundred meters along the beach called Seascape. They had a simple hut on the beach for 600 peso as well as a bar/restaurant and the sun was just setting, time to have that beer.

Logon_Bay

A short distance down the hill is the 'sunken graveyard' which is under the sea following  a volcanic eruption in the 18th century.

Graveyard_Cross

Then there's the ruins of the church, another victim of the eruption. Taking a left turn we climbed up into the hills to swim at the 'Soda Pool'.  By now it was well past midday and still another 50km to go.

So we had to forgo the pretty waterfalls,  the hot and cold springs and the giant clams to make sure we got back to our resort before dark.

Church_ruins

Central Visayas (actually Mindanao) - Camiguin circuit

With a circumference of just 65km Camiguin is a great island for a day's ride. It has a lot of things to see but a day is not enough time to do the ride as well as visit them all. We set off with a will and arrived at the old volcano, where you can climb up the steps and footpath to a viewpoint, passing the 15 sculptures depicting the Crucifiction.

View_from_old_volcano

Central Visayas - Mambajao - Day Off

We hired a motorbike for the day and rode back to the north to see the giant clam sanctuary. It was a lot further from the national road than we expected and there were a couple of steep hills to climb and descend on a rough track.

Clam_shells

We hired snorkeling gear and went with a guide to see the huge, twenty five year old clams and spent a long time chatting to the sanctuary manager and her staff while we had lunch.

View_from_Camiguin

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Central Visayas - Day 8 - Jagna to Loboc

  • Distance             51km
  • Max Elevation      118m
Jagna_to_Loboc_profile

Central Visayas - Jagna to Loboc Ride Profile

Ride Description

After returning to Bohol on the ferry we cycled back along the coast as far as Loboc before turning inland to cycle a couple of kilometers up the Looc valley to get to a riverside resort called 'Nut's Huts. The easiest way to travel is by boat from just north of the village but we didn't fancy having to load all the gear onto a small boat. Instead we rode further up the road, climbing for about 1km through beautiful forest.

Beach_near_Jagna

At the top was a signpost pointing along a rough track off to the left. This dropped back down into the narrow river valley, ending at the top of a steep flight of steps down to the resort. The bikes could be locked in the outbuilding at the top but we had to carry the bags down to the accommodation by the river.

Nuts_Huts

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Central Visayas - Day 9 - Loboc to San Isidro

  • Distance           68km
  • Max Elevation    174m
Loboc_to_San_Isidro_Profile

Central Visayas - Loboc to San Isidro Ride Profile

Ride Description

It was quite a toil hauling the bags back up the 400+ steps from the riverside to the track back onto the road. Riding back up the hill wasn't as bad as we remembered, but there was no option but to push up the steepest rocky sections, especially as a light shower of rain made all the surfaces very slippery. Once on the road we cruised down the hairpins and back into Loboc.

Loboc_zip_line

This is one of the most attractive towns we have seen in the Central Visayas, with its traditional style wooden buildings, church,  bell tower and even a small museum. From here we took the inland road back to Tagbilaran and then crossed over the causeway to Panglao Island.

Loboc_Store

The weather was overcast and grey and we didn't have a detailed map of the island which didn't help us as we searched for the resort we had booked.  It started to rain, there were lots of roadworks and we ended up riding round most of the circumference of the island before we found it.

Scarecrows

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Central Visayas - Day 10 - The Chocolate Hills

  • Distance             166km
  • Max Elevation       351m

Central Visayas - The Chocolate Hills

Ride Description

We hired a motorbike again to do some sightseeing around Loboc - the 'Chocolate Hills, butterfly gardens and tarsier sanctuary.

Chocolate_Hills
Butterfly
Tarsier

Of all our trip of the Central Visayas we felt that Bohol was the most divers and beautiful island and we will definitely be returning here in the future to explore more by bike.

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Central Visayas - Day 11 - Return to Atmosphere

  • Distance   33km land  74km sea
  • Flat

Ride Description

San Isidro to Tagbilaran - bus

It poured with rain all night so we expected to awake to blue skies. Instead it just got heavier and the forecast for the rest of the day suggested it would continue. This meant either booking in for another night at the resort and hoping it would pass by early tomorrow, get soaking wet cycling the 12km to Tagbilaran or get the resort owners to take us into town in the jeepney. We opted to go in the jeepney and were glad that we didn't have to ride through all the standing water on the roads.

Tagbilaran to Dumaguete - ferry

It was still raining in the morning and the ferry was due to leave at 8.30am. We had an early breakfast and checked out then had to don our rain capes for the short ride to the ferry terminal. Arriving there we were told that the morning ferry to Negros had been cancelled due to high winds at Dumaguete. If the weather improved then the afternoon one might still sail so we went back to the hotel and spent the morning in their cafe drinking coffee and using the internet.

We made many calls to the ferry offices in Dumaguete, Cebu and Tagbilaran to try to find out if the afternoon ferry would run but they went unanswered. Convinced we would be stuck for another night we returned to the ferry terminal and found that the boat was sailing.  With a four hour journey we would not arrive until 7pm. This meant that we would need to be picked up at Dumaguete as riding in the dark is far too risky there. Because of the morning's cancellation the boat was absolutely packed and the time passed very slowly.

Simon was waiting for us at the port and took us back to Atmosphere to meet up with Steve's brother and sister for a two week family holiday.

Our ride around the Central Visayas had concluded and it had been a really great 7 weeks.

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