A little over two hours by boat from mainland Cebu, the island municipality of San Francisco advocates for safe travel under a pandemic with a variety of nature destinations for visitors.

The town is located on Pacijan Island that forms part of Camotes and hosts the sweeping Santiago Bay with its wide swathe of fine white sand beach and clear shallow sea.

Clustered around it and throughout the island are accommodations that suit a variety of needs and budget. Visitors can choose from luxury resorts, unique hostels, secluded homestays, bed and breakfasts, and apartments.

The Mangodlong Paradise Beach Resort infinity pool.
The Mangodlong Paradise Beach Resort infinity pool.

With more people picking nature sites for getaways because of COVID-19, the town of San Francisco has a big potential for becoming a choice destination even under a pandemic, said Mayor Alfredo A. Arquillano, Jr. The Municipal Government is coordinating closely with the San Francisco Tourism Council and San Francisco Hospitality Association to improve travel facilities and services and ensure that health measures are in place as the town reopens to visitors.

With all health protocols in place and resort staff close to a hundred percent vaccinated, the town is ready to accept tourists, added Joel Pulvera, San Francisco Tourism Council President.

Festive San Francisco welcome by dancers reenacting a performance during the town’s Soli-Soli Festival.

San Francisco tourist attractions

San Francisco’s top tourist attractions include the 648-hectare Lake Danao, white sand beaches, caves and subterranean lakes, and marine sanctuaries.

Lake Danao features such activities as a boat tour with a side trip to a central islet named Canlingiw, ziplining over the water, hydrocycling, and dining on floating cottages. Food may be ordered from the restaurants along the lake.

As the lone town on the Camotes island of Pacijan, a long stretch of San Francisco’s shoreline hosts beaches with fine sand and clear water. Aside from Santiago Bay, worthy of mention are Mangodlong, Heminsulan, Mesiyas, Nonok Beach, and Tulang Dako Beach. Just a 10-minute ride from Tulang Dako by motorized boat is Tulang Diot island, which hosts a marine sanctuary that’s perfect for snorkeling. This activity, however, will need clear seas and may not be possible in times of bad weather. The island is still a good venue for an outing and swimming even if waves are present.

Where to stay in San Francisco

The town also hosts underground lakes within its cave systems. Paraiso Cave has a small lake that’s reachable after going down a short flight of well-lighted steps hewn from rocks. The lake found inside the Amazing Cave is bigger and suited to more adventurous guests.

An interesting facility that is worth a visit is the Canlusong Airsoft and Gun-Club Firing Range. Visitors can test their shooting ability by signing up for a session. It offers several affordable packages and non-members are welcome.

San Francisco Mayor Alfredo A. Arquillano, Jr. talks about the town and its tourism destinations during a short dinner activity at the Baywalk.

Food, drink choices

Food in San Francisco is varied, scrumptious, and surprisingly affordable, whether served in standalone restaurants or in accommodation establishments.

Restaurants in the San Francisco Baywalk offer quite a selection: from pizza and pasta to samgyupsal and other Korean dishes to barbecue and seafood.

Santiago Bay Garden and Resort infinity pool.

Resorts offer diverse choices in the menu and some even host buffets for lunch or dinner. Check out this list of restaurant choices in San Francisco.

Steven Lim, San Francisco Hospitality Association President, said he is optimistic about the town’s prospects particularly because all the tourism stakeholders are united in their promotion objectives.

How to get there

From mainland Cebu, San Francisco in Camotes is reachable by boat via the Danao City Port or Pier 1 in Cebu City.

Jomalia Shipping Corp. makes several trips between mainland Cebu and Consuelo Port in San Francisco. The Jomalia roll-on, roll-off vessel ferries both passengers and vehicles to and from the Danao City and Consuelo ports. Check the Jomalia FB page for booking inquiries or schedule changes.

Another option is taking the Oceanjet fast craft from Pier 1 in Cebu City to Poro Port, which is about a 20-minute drive from the San Francisco town center.

Marlen is the editor of MyCebu.ph and co-founder of Cebu-based journalism startup InnoPub Media.