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Sven

Sven's guide to Camotes 2015 - where to stay or eat - with pictures

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Sven

First a bit about my starting point and preferences..:

On this occasion, I went with my Pinay girlfriend, and we travelled by car - which I thought was a great way of seeing Camotes.

I am not a budget traveller and absolutely not looking for the cheapest fan room when out and about - so this thread is not about that.

Wherever I go, I would tend to look for a clean, modern, well-maintained room of a good size, with a private bath, hot and cold water and, if possible, a sea view. Being a light sleeper, I also wish to avoid roosters and traffic noise.

I am quite happy to pay from 1500 to 2000 pesos per night for a suitable place. The rooms that I like would always have air-con, although I don't really need that.

When it comes to food, I am quite able to survive on pure filipino street food - but my preference would be to eat in a restaurant with some international dishes.

As we shall see below, it is not easy to satisfy all these wishes in a remote place like Camotes, but I did find some gems which I really liked.

We are not big eaters. When I refer to eating in a restaurant, and what it costs, we would probably have had two main dishes, a couple of sides, and maybe 3 drinks between us. Below is a typical bill (this is from the Santiago Bay Garden Resort, and I have no idea why the forum software is turning it sideways).

Sven

 

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Edited by Paul
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Sven
This was my first time in Camotes, and so I followed earlier advice that Santiago White Beach would be a good starting point.

 

I can only agree with this. Santiago has a nice beach and a good choice of places to stay and eat, hence I guess one cannot go wrong here.

Even as I arrived there on a Friday without a reservation, I had no problems getting some rooms offered.

 

There are around 7 places to stay along Santiago beach. One can easily see them all by just walking around... which was exactly what I did.

 


There are also a few other rooms for rent here and there which are not marked as such. By asking around, I guess it is possible to find some budget options.

 


The beach is long and beautiful but shallow, as others have remarked. There are jet skis, banana boats and the like for rent. Most of the eating options are at the Western end of the beach.

 

What I learned to appreciate only later, is that beyond the hotels and restaurants, Santiago has an actual community. The village has a school, a church, and so on. There are even signs with street names on most street corners - a rare treat in this country. I am guessing maybe a thousand people live here...? Hence, you don't feel like in a tourist trap here.

 


I was unable to use my mobile phone on the Sun or Smart network anywhere in this area... but it looks like Globe has a good signal. Internet access seems tricky around here overall.

 


 

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Edited by Sven
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Sven
 


The Western end of Santiago beach is dominated by the Santiago Bay Garden Resort. Beautifully located on a cliff, this resort is probably bigger than all the others on this beach combined. I also think it is the only one with a pool here.

 

The grounds are looking impressive overall, and I had a quick look at a room which seemed big and nice. I did not stay here, however, as they were fully booked for the upcoming weekend.

 

I was quoted p1700 for a big aircon room with a sea view, which is a bit more than the going rate in the area, but probably worth it, if one is not travelling on a budget.

 

Others have commented that the staff at the Garden Resort are rude and ignorant, but this was not my first impression. I did see some grumpy faces, but only among guests, not staff. I hope to come back and stay here some other time. 

 


We also had dinner once at the Garden Resort. Here we had a positive experience - both the gf and myself liked the food and the place.

 

There is an amazing view and an extensive menu with a choice of international dishes, including pizza. We were told everything was in stock except for the sea food - not my thing anyway.

I had a burger and a very nice mixed salad, while my gf had a Filipino dish which she said was nicely done. We both had excellent fresh juices. Their juice bar seems popular.

 

The service here was just normal for the Philippines - a bit reactive and confused, but friendly enough. It took them 20 minutes to serve the food, which I think is fine.

The total price came to 490 pesos for the meal for 2 - see bill above. I thought this was very good overall, everything considered.

 

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Sven

The next resort on Santiago beach, moving East, is Bella Vista Mare.

This looks like a charming, smaller place which I would like to try, but they were full when I visited.

It seems they have about half a dozen rooms, most with a nice view. When I visited, the price quoted was p1350 with aircon, or less for a fan room... p850 I think.

 

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Edited by Sven
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Sven

Next East is a very rustic and somewhat alternative looking small house on the beach itself, named "Dreams House" and with a sign saying "Room for rent"...

They have about 4 rooms upstairs. I had a look - they are very small, very basic, and very cheap. Prices seemed negotiable - I heard 400-600 pesos, but it is probably possible to stay here for less.

I would perhaps consider this place if I were travelling alone - it does not have the conveniences I usually seek, but it seems like a fun and friendly place.

 

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Sven

Next, moving East, are some public areas, including the church and a basketball court, etc.

Then there are two small places next to each other - Masamayor and Payag. They both quoted p1500 for an air-con room, and they both seem to have less than half a dozen rooms. Both sell drinks but I did not get the impression they serve any food.

 

Masamayor is not actually on the beach, but in the street behind.  The rooms are ensuite and facing away from the sea.

It seems Payag have two rooms directly overlooking the sea, and two behind. All rooms at Payag have shared bathrooms, I think.

 
I did not like either place, as the location is likely a bit noisy, and the rooms did not seem inviting to me - not for that price anyway. So I moved on quickly.

 

These two places both call themselves "resorts" - which I thought perhaps was a bit pretentious... Is it a resort if you only have four rooms, no pool and no restaurant?

But later during this trip, I would learn they have a much better claim to the word here than some other places also using it..!

 

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Sven

Still on Santiago Beach, and still moving East, we come eventually to the end of the beach.

There is a narrow road leading away from the "centre" to a couple of hidden gems - and this is where I actually stayed.

In the end of that road are two places next to each other: Swiss Lagoon, and Aizawa.

 

Swiss Lagoon has not only rooms but also a restaurant - a Swiss one, nothing less.

I guess this is the only foreign-owned place on the beach. The owner seemed nice - Andi, I think. The restaurant looks impressive from the outside, and the menu has some European dishes. However, they did not have any food available when I visited. I hope to come back to eat and stay here some other time.

I did not look into the rooms, but I think it is the ones in this picture. According to the menu, rooms are 2000 pesos incl. breakfast for 2. I think this place is also mentioned elsewhere on LinC.

 

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Sven
Aizawa have around a dozen rooms and a fine location in the very end of the beach and the road. Hence this is a quiet and pleasant corner of Santiago. This was where I actually stayed for a couple of nights.
 
The aircon rooms are very clean and nicely presented, most of them have a partial sea view, and there is a pleasant upstairs terrace. Beds have proper duvets. There is only cold water.
Air-con rooms are p1500. They also have some fan rooms around the back for 900 pesos.
Like other places in the area, it seems they are more or less empty during the week, but get full on a Saturday.
 
I had no particular problems with Aizawa, except it turned out not to be a good place to eat. They call it a restaurant, but food is actually brought from elsewhere, and it was not very good when it came.
However, the breakfast was okay, and plenty of food is available at nearby venues anyway. 
Service was friendly and average. Aizawa have wifi available, but it was slow and unreliable, which I later found to be the norm in Camotes. 
 
I wish the curtains would keep more light out, and one can hear some roosters nearby, but overall I had a good sleep here.
Coming to think of it, the only way to avoid roosters anywhere in the Philippines is probably to stay in the biggest possible hotel..!

 

In the pictures you also see the Swiss flag over the Swiss Lagoon, next to Aizawa.

 

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mikewright

Thanks Sven, very helpful.  What is the procedure and costs of taking a car from Cebu?

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Irenicus

I hate to interrupt the thread, but awesome job, Sven!!

 

Serious thanks.

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Highlighter

 

 

Swiss Lagoon has not only rooms but also a restaurant - a Swiss one, nothing less. I guess this is the only foreign-owned place on the beach. The owner seemed nice - Andi, I think. The restaurant looks impressive from the outside, and the menu has some European dishes. However, they did not have any food available when I visited. I hope to come back to eat and stay here some other time. I did not look into the rooms, but I think it is the ones in this picture. According to the menu, rooms are 2000 pesos incl. breakfast for 2. I think this place is also mentioned elsewhere on LinC.

 

I have stayed at the Swiss Lagoon about 18 or so months ago. Comfortable and very reasonable, I think we paid somewhere in the region of 1500 per night, air con room with hot and cold water. Breakfast was included however the cook was absent (looks like he still is) so no breakfast available, they did give a discount.

 

Excellent report and info Sven.

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Sven

Thanks Sven, very helpful.  What is the procedure and costs of taking a car from Cebu?

 

I was using the Jomalia Shipping ferry from Danao to Consuelo and back.

As others have mentioned, this is a pleasant way of getting to Camotes.

Getting the car on the ferry is just a matter of arriving an hour before departure, providing a copy of the OR/CR for the car, and paying.

It seems the ticket office opens 90 minutes or so before departure.

Cars will be asked to board the ferry before other passengers. The ferry was less than half full with vehicles when I travelled, but I did avoid the typically busy times.

 

For a normal car or SUV it is around 1200 pesos, including the driver, one way. Additional passengers are 180 each (or 200 for the air-con lounge). Then there are some extra terminal fees here and there, which I never quite understood but it came to a few hundred pesos. Hence the grand total for the round trip was around 3000 pesos for the two of us.

 

I thought the terminal in Danao was not nice, but if you have a car, you can just stay in it. On board the boat there is plenty of pleasant seating, tidy bathrooms, and the Lounge Cafe which has a good choice of food and drinks.

I thought the portions were small, so had 2 dishes for myself.

Please see menu, pictures, up to date timetable, and contact information below. Apparently you can also book in advance.

 

Overall I came to like Jomalia. They seem professional, boats go frequently, and then even have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jomalia-Shipping-Corporation/179072295462797

 

There is also another ferry from Danao to Camotes - the Super Shuttle - but it was not going when I asked. No proper explanation was given. A third option from Danao apparently is a pump boat of some sort.

 

In Poro I was told there are no boats between there and Cebu.
 
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Sven

So you might be asking, how about other eating options around Santiago Beach?

 

I have already mentioned the Garden Resort and the Swiss Lagoon. Those would be the two more classy options, I think.

 

Pito's Sutokil, in the Western end of the beach, seems to be the centre of the tourist industry here, and they offer a good choice of food (see menu below).
 
We had a lunch here which was quite good, if not fabulous. I think it was around 350 pesos for our usual meal.
 
They were just in the process of building some new CRs apparently, as we visited, so the place was a bit messy.
 
There is a dive shop here, and things for rent like jetski, banana boat, kayaks, and so on. Pito's Sutokil also have wifi (by the hour), which I did not test out. They even have a few rooms for rent in the hill above, and can probably advise on all sorts of other matters.
 
There are also a couple of other similar-looking eating places on the beach nearby.
 
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Sven

That is about it for Santiago ... however, there is a secret to it.

 

The very best location around here is actually reserved for the dead..!

 

Just a few hundred meters to the west from the main beach, is another set of two white beaches...

 

These are every bit as nice as the main beach, perhaps even better. And they are all but deserted. Here you can be totally alone, if you don't mind the graveyard.

 

You can actually swim to here, from the main beach - or if you have motorized transport, just follow the sign to the cemetery, from the main road a bit outside Santiago.

 

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