Camotes Islands

The Enchanting Camotes Islands: A Hidden Paradise in the Philippines

Under Presidential Proclamation 2152 of 1981, the islands of Ponson, Poro, and Pacihan were designated as Mangrove swamp forest reserves.

The Camotes Islands are home to the rare and critically endangered Cebu Cinnamon tree species (Cinnamomum cebuense). These trees have been discovered on the islands, highlighting their ecological significance.

Palm trees dominate the plant life on the islands, creating a lush and tropical landscape. Additionally, the islands boast a variety of native fruit trees, including bananas, mangoes, and pineapples.



Limited information is available about the early history of the islands. Although archaeological studies have been conducted in the twentieth century, no significant findings have emerged.

One notable expedition was led by Carl Guthe from the University of Michigan, which explored various sites across the archipelago from 1923 to 1925. Guthe conducted an archaeological dig in a cave on Tulang Island, unearthing bone fragments, teeth, and various artifacts. However, the overall historical significance of these findings remains unclear.

Otley Beyer, known as the "Father of Anthropology" in the Philippines, never visited the Camotes Islands but described them as a place with interesting archaeological discoveries.

Spanish Conquistadores

The islands were first mentioned by Antonio Pigafetta, a survivor of Ferdinand Magellan's voyage, in 1521. Pigafetta noted that they waited off the islands for several days before proceeding to Cebu. Miguel de Loarca, writing in 1582, described the islands as small islets inhabited by indigenous people under the jurisdiction of the city of Cebu.

During the Spanish colonial period, the Camotes Islands were part of the Leyte province before being transferred to the province of Cebu during the American period.

Modern Times

During World War II, the Camotes Islands were occupied by Japanese forces. In 1945, a massacre occurred in Pilar, where Japanese soldiers killed most of the inhabitants. The islands were liberated soon after when Philippine and American soldiers landed and engaged in the Battle of Camotes Islands.

The economy of the Camotes Islands is primarily based on farming (including crops like corn and rice, as well as livestock such as pigs, chickens, and cattle), fishing, and tourism. The islands have numerous tourist resorts, public and private beaches, and attractions such as Buho Rock, Greenlake Park, Mt. Calvary (Kalbaryo), Lake Danao, and various caves and waterfalls. The tourism industry is seen as a key driver of economic development for the islands, with a focus on their pristine white sand beaches and safe environment.

The major employers on the islands include CELCO (Camotes Electric Cooperative), Camotes Hillside Academy, and Kinoshita Pearl Farm. The islands also have educational institutions such as Cebu Technology University (Camotes) and Mount Moriah College.


The Camotes Islands, situated in the Camotes Sea in the Philippines, are a collection of islands with a combined area of 236.36 square kilometers (91.26 sq mi). These islands are located to the east of Cebu Island, southwest of Leyte Island, and north of Bohol Island. They are approximately 34 nautical miles (63 km; 39 mi) away from Cebu City and are considered part of Cebu. As per the 2020 census, the population of the Camotes Islands is 109,278, showing a growth of 42.5% since 1990, with an annual growth rate of 1.19%.

The nearest landfall from the northern end of Ponson Island to southern Leyte is about 7.2 kilometers (4.5 mi; 3.9 nmi). The distance from Consuelo port to Danao is approximately 32 kilometers (20 mi; 17 nmi) in a straight line. From the southern part of Pacijan to Bohol, the distance is around 47 kilometers (29 mi; 25 nmi).

Often referred to as the "Lost Horizon of the South," the Camotes Islands have witnessed an increase in visitors, tourism, and the growth of an expatriate community in recent years. In addition to the natural attractions on land, there are numerous dive sites scattered around the islands.

The Camotes Islands, an archipelago situated in the heart of the Philippines' Visayan region, serves as a hidden gem showcasing the country's rich biodiversity, cultural heritage, and exceptional natural beauty. This essay aims to explore the unique facets of Camotes Islands, shedding light on its history, natural attractions, culture, and the indomitable spirit of its people.

Located in the Camotes Sea, east of Cebu and west of Leyte, the Camotes Islands comprise four primary islands: Pacijan, Poro, Ponson, and Tulang. The name "Camotes" is derived from 'camote,' a local term for sweet potato, which was once plentiful on the islands. This agricultural heritage remains evident today, with the islands' fertile lands providing a plethora of produce.

Each of the four islands possesses its own distinct allure. Pacijan, known for its scenic Lake Danao, offers tranquil surroundings perfect for relaxation. Poro, the cultural heartland, brims with historical landmarks and vibrant festivals. Ponson, on the other hand, is celebrated for its immaculate white sand beaches, while Tulang's untouched beauty is a haven for those seeking a serene retreat.

The natural attractions of Camotes Islands are indeed breathtaking. From the crystal-clear blue waters of Santiago Bay to the mesmerizing Timubo Cave's subterranean pool, each site presents an opportunity for exploration and admiration. The islands’ marine biodiversity is equally captivating, making snorkeling and diving popular activities amongst visitors.

Beyond its natural beauty, the Camotes Islands' cultural richness is deeply woven into the fabric of daily life. The locals, known as Camotesnon, are recognized for their warm hospitality and resilience, reflective of the Filipino spirit. Their vibrant festivals, such as the Soli-Soli Festival in San Francisco and the Search for Kakanin in Tudela, showcase their rich cultural heritage and tradition.

Furthermore, the islands' historical significance cannot be overlooked. The Battle of Camotes during the Philippine-American War is a testament to the islands' resilience, a narrative echoed in the inhabitants' daily lives. Additionally, the centuries-old Spanish-built churches, such as the Poro Church and the San Francisco de Asis Parish, stand as enduring symbols of the islands' colonial history.

Despite modernization, the Camotes Islands have managed to preserve their natural and cultural heritage, providing a unique blend of tranquility and vivacity. They are a testament to the harmonious coexistence of man and nature, a virtual paradise that remains largely unspoiled.

In conclusion, the Camotes Islands are more than just a tourist destination; they are a rich tapestry of history, culture, and breathtaking natural beauty. Visiting the islands provides a unique opportunity to experience authentic Filipino hospitality, immerse oneself in a vibrant culture, and admire the awe-inspiring natural attractions. For those seeking an off-the-beaten-path destination, the Camotes Islands are certainly a worthy consideration.