Smiles and Sharks in Malapascua, Philippines

It was the idea of diving with thresher sharks that put this little island on our radar, but it was the promise of small island vibes that convinced us to spend some time here. Here’s how we spent our 5 nights in Malapascua, Pete’s favorite place we visited in the Philippines!

Accommodation

We stayed at Malapascua Garden Resort (MGR) and highly recommend it. For $40/night, we got a large room with fantastic wifi, air-conditioning, and hot water. Our price included breakfast, which we think was worth it. I started every morning with a pancake stuffed with fresh mangoes…need I say more?

Banana pancake MGR

The services was great, the staff were very friendly, and it was very central (only a 5 minute walk to the beach).

MGR Malapascua
Excited about the MGR hotel

We found this hotel through Agoda. Search for availability here.

 

Food/Drink

I’d read that the food on Malapascua is expensive, compared to the rest of the Philippines. Since we came from Japan, however, we found it to be very reasonable. Here are some highlights of our drinking/dining experiences on Malapascua.

La Isla Bonita

This restaurant’s great food for pretty good prices had us coming back for seconds. Their sweet & sour pork, and the fish curry pretty much blew our minds.

Fish curry on a fish plate
Fish curry on a fish plate

The service was very slow, but honestly it’s hard to find a place with fast service on this island.

Amihan Restaurant & Pizzeria

This was our “splurge” meal, and we relished every second. The ambiance is fantastic and overlooks a cove. This place is the one exception to what I said about service on the island; our food was delivered very promptly. The food is delicious, which didn’t surprise us given that it’s owned by Italians. I loved my homemade gnocchi with fresh mozzarella and basil; Pete wasn’t a huge fan of his fettuccine with sausage & tiger prawns.

gnocchi amihan malapascua
Missing this gnocchi right about now

Don’t miss the mango float, a.k.a. the Filipino tiramisu!

Mango Float Amihan Malapascua

The Craic House

I didn’t really get the name of this place until I saw the back of our waitress’s shirt that said “Craic dealer.” The food and service here was pretty good, nothing life-changing. I really enjoyed my Thai red curry wrap, but I’d suggest getting the fries instead of the sweet potato crisps, which tasted very stale. Pete got the club sandwich and would recommend it.

Ocean Vida

We got happy hour here a few times (2 for 1 drinks).

Happy Pete at happy hour
Happy Pete at happy hour

Great scenery; extremely strong drinks (you’ve been warned!).

Ging-Ging’s

Despite reading some less-than-appetizing reviews, we decided it was worth checking out the cheapest restaurant on the island. The prices were awesomely cheap (main dishes less than $2), but the food quality was very average.

The Market

We found a little group of stores right outside the Malapascua Starlight Resort that I’ll call the market. One of these stores sells fresh mangos, which I was dying to try since I heard the Philippines has the best mangoes in the world. We bought fresh mangoes and bananas for about $2, and yes, they are truly the best mangoes we’ve ever tried.

Other Restaurants

We didn’t try Ristorante Angelina, but heard great things. It’s right next to Amihan with about the same prices and reviews.

Activities

Scuba Dive

This island is a magnet for scuba divers, since it’s one of the only places in the world that you can consistently see thresher sharks (every day, year round). These sharks were the main draw for us, and we lucked out and saw two of them during our dive in Malapascua. We dove with Sea Explorers. We chose it because it’s connected to our favorite happy hour place, and we saw many happy divers getting off the dive boats. We’re glad we chose them – they were very professional and had nice equipment.

Note: Monad Shoal, where you can consistently dive with thresher sharks, is an advanced dive site. Since we were only Open Water certified, we had 2 options to dive with these sharks: either get our advanced certification ($270), or take the deep advanced class with them as part of the early morning, thresher shark dive ($58). We decided on the latter.

Would we do it again? Yes! Seeing thresher sharks up-close was a really neat experience. We also saw tons of lion fish. Was this our favorite dive experience ever? Nope. We are probably spoiled from our unbelievable dives in Palau, and while we were pretty awed by the sharks, we’re not into macros (yet), the other main attraction for divers at Malapascua. We were content with our single dive, but didn’t feel the need to go again.

Explore the Island

As I’ve mentioned, this island is pretty small and you can walk around the whole thing in less than 2 hours. Exploring the windy paths was an enjoyable activity: it provided good exercise and great insight into how the locals live.

The people who live on Malapascua are some of the friendliest people we’ve ever met. I thought Thailand was friendly, but this island takes friendly to a whole new level. Every single person, young and old, said Hi to us with a huge, genuine smile as we passed. Here’s an example. One of the “things to do” on the island is visit the lighthouse on the less-touristy side of the island. When Pete and I got close to the lighthouse, 3 young girls ran over to us and offered to take us to the lighthouse. As they took us up the short hike, we realized we never would’ve found the path without them.

The adorable girls who showed us the way to the lighthouse
The adorable girls who showed us the way to the lighthouse

Watch the Sunset

If this post seems pretty similar to our Gili Air Travel Guide, it’s because it is 🙂 We did very similar things on both of these islands, including watching the gorgeous sunsets.

Sunset Malapascua

We enjoyed watching it on the beach during happy hour, but we heard the best views are from the lighthouse we mentioned.

Have I convinced you to visit Malapascua? Do you know of any other gems in the Philippines?

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