If you’re traveling in the Philippines on a budget and without a tight schedule, you might consider taking a ferry from Cebu to Donsol instead of flying. While flying is easier and faster, the ferry trip will most likely be cheaper and you might have a little adventure on the side. Check out our guide on how to get from Cebu to Donsol, keeping in mind that things may change as time goes on and cancelled ferries are common.
Step by step Guide
- Take a ferry from Bogo in the north of Cebu Island to Cataingan on Masbate Island (6 hours)
- Take a bus or minivan from Cataingan to Masbate City (1.5 hours)
- Take a ferry from Masbate City to Pilar (2-4 hours)
- Take a jeepney from Pilar to Donsol (30 minutes)
Ferry from Bogo to Cataigan
The first step of your journey will be getting to Bogo in the north of Cebu Island. The tiny town is about one hour away from Maya, the port where you can take a boat to Malapascua Island or 3-4 hours by bus from Cebu City. The port in Bogo isn’t in the town itself, but 5 kilometers north. Buses can drop you on the main road and from there you can take a tricycle for around 20 pesos pp. There is a big waiting room with AC and TVs at the port, as well as a few restaurants and shops.
The ferry by Montenegro Lines leaves from Bogo to Cataingan every day at midnight (except on holidays such as Good Friday) and should take around 6 hours. The ticket office only opens at 5pm and at the time we traveled, we paid 455 pesos pp. We were allowed to board the ferry at 8pm. Instead of seats, there are tons of bunk beds on the outer deck and inside as well. As long as you don’t show up right before the ferry leaves, you should be able to secure a bed. There are some snacks and drinks sold on the boat, but you might consider bringing your own since the options are very limited. The sleeping situation wasn’t too bad, the only issues being noise from fellow passengers and roosters (yes, people take their rooster everywhere in the Philippines).
Bus from Cataingan to Masbate City
Once the ferry arrives at Cataingan, there will be buses to Masbate City waiting at the dock. You can try to get on one of those or walk for a few minutes straight from the dock to the town. There will be a small square with minivans parked. The minivan takes around an hour and a half to Masbate City and cost 150 pesos pp. If you have a lot of luggage (big backpacks for example), you might have to pay for another seat to store it. From the bus stop in Masbate City you can take a tricycle to the harbor, which shouldn’t cost you more than 20 pesos pp. Masbate City is a decently sized city where you can find accommodation, supermarkets, and in our case even a colorful parade in the streets.
Ferry from Masbate City to Pilar
At the corner of the main road to the port you can find the ticket office for the ferries to Pilar. To our knowledge, currently there are four Montenegro ferries leaving daily from Masbate City to Pilar, with the earliest being at 5 am and the latest at 2:30 pm. The ferries will take around 2-4 hours, depending if you get on the fast craft. We didn’t actually take the ferry trip from Masbate City to Pilar though, as we detoured to Ticao Island instead before moving on to Donsol.
Jeepney from Pilar to Donsol
From Pilar it is easy to move on to Donsol, there are plenty of jeepneys heading that way. Depending on traffic and how many times it’ll stop, the trip to Donsol should take around 30 minutes. If you have a lot of luggage it might get a little cramped, but most jeepneys have room on their roofs to store it (you might get to ride on the roof as well, which is actually way more fun than inside)! You can read about our experience of swimming with the whale sharks in Donsol here.
- There is a weekly ferry directly from Cebu City to Masbate City (12 hours). Unfortunately, we can’t provide any information about costs or schedule, you will have to enquire at the port in Cebu City.
- From Bogo another ferry leaves every day at midnight to Cawayan on the west coast of Masbate Island.
- If you have time, you could detour from Masbate Island to nearby Ticao Island and then move on to Pilar/Donsol from there. Ticao Island is virtually untouched by tourists and is a great place to relax at a lone beach or to adventure to Snake Island. Click here to read more about Ticao.
- Always expect the ferries to be delayed or even canceled, this could be due to a holiday or bad weather. If you’re on a tight schedule you might consider flying from Cebu City instead.
- If you do get stuck, there are a few hotels and guesthouses in Bogo.
- The ferry times and prices we have listed may change at any time.
- Coming the other way from Donsol, you might want to stay one night in Masbate City in case you cannot make it to Cataingan port from Donsol before noon (the ferry from Cataingan to Bogo leaves at 12pm) and there is not much tourism infrastructure in Cataingan.