Not Just A Sidetrip: Sumilon Island’s Sandbar

Sumilon Island is a small, 24-hectare island on the southeastern tip of Cebu just off the town of Oslob. It’s a picturesque island surrounded by pristine white sand beaches and therefore seemed an attractive side trip destination after our whale shark encounter at the latter. However, we did not even bother checking out a possible visit to the island knowing that a private resort occupied the whole place. Even a day trip here would surely be an extra burden for wallets already stretched for a 4-day vacation covering several destinations.

A friend however told us that it is possible to visit the island without checking in at the resort. It turns out that the Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort has opened the most attractive natural section of the island – namely its white sandbar – to the general public for an entrance fee (P50). We just needed to rent a boat on the beachfront at Tan-awan, Oslob (the site for our whale shark-watching tour) to take us there. The trip took less than 20 minutes.

writers' boat approaching the sandbar at Sumilon Island

Approaching the sandbar at Sumilon Island.

The tide was already rising when we reached Sumilon’s sandbar but we still saw a good stretch of white sand trailing off from the island. Like other sandbars we’ve visited before, this sandbar must be visited at the height of low tide to see the sand fully exposed. But with our whale-shark watching tour dictating our schedule, it was just not possible on this day.

boat parked at Sumilon Island's sandbar, Oslob, Cebu

One of the many boats parked at the sandbar; practically all carried tourists who just finished whale-shark watching at Oslob.

Even with a considerable portion of the Sumilon Island sandbar submerged it was still an amazing sight. Crystal-clear turquoise waters blanketed the sandbar, the colors all the more beautiful, magnified by the clear blue skies above and the fine, almost blindingly white sand underneath.

coral rock at the sandbar of Sumilon Island

Lone coral rock with crystal-clear turquoise waters all around.

Our first business on reaching Sumilon was: lunch! We bought this from one of the many food establishments or restaurants along the Tan-awan beachfront and ate it on our parked boat. Afterwards we had an enjoyable swim. The waters around the sandbar were shallow such that, even with moderately strong waves, it wasn’t risky to move around. We were careful not to test the far edges of the sandbar, however, since the sea bed suddenly slopes down at a steep angle there.

writers' boat at the sandbar of Sumilon Island

Our boat and the shallow waters of the Sumilon Island sandbar.

After a while of frolicking around the sandbar we decided to climb the steps to a rocky promontory where the sandbar joins the island. There are restrooms up there that seem open to the public (at least the island caretakers didn’t stop anyone from going), but we also wanted to get a panoramic view of the sandbar.

boats and sandbar viewed from a vantage point at Sumilon Island

View of the sandbar from a vantage point on the island.

Alike a few other sandbars in the Visayas, the Sumilon sandbar changes shape and shifts locations depending on changing currents and weather conditions. From our vantage point we got an even better appreciation of this sandbar’s beauty. We also noticed the sudden change in color of the waters at its edges from turquoise to deep blue. This signals a sudden drop of the seabed – a dangerous area for novice swimmers but also an area potentially rich in marine life and attractive to snorkelers and divers.

bamboo hut at a vantage point on Sumilon Island, Oslob, Cebu

Bamboo hut at a vantage point on Sumilon Island looking down at the sandbar below

Just like our subsequent stay at the Manjuyod Sandbar in Bais, many of us would be lulled to sleep after lunch or after bumming around Sumilon’s sandbar. Such is the sense of tranquility one encounters in this place. It was only after a thoughtful glance at our smartphones did we realize it was nearing mid-afternoon and that we had better get going for our return trip back to Dumaguete City on the Negros mainland.

By this time other boats have begun packing up and preparing to move out as well. The wind was also up and the waves were stronger. In just a few minutes we were back in Oslob and thanking our boatmen for the experience that was Sumilon’s sandbar. This kind of destination warrants being treated more than just a side trip. If we had only allotted more time…

For directions on how to get to Sumilon Island via Oslob and for more travel tips, please go to this page.

20 thoughts on “Not Just A Sidetrip: Sumilon Island’s Sandbar

  1. so beautiful! we’ll be there in August!! how’s the waves goin there? :/ where did you stay in Oslob? Is it fine to eat at the boat? or is it a little to shaky? thanks! 🙂

    1. Hi Lyndz. The waves were somewhat strong back in April but are manageable. I’m not sure if it’s the same thing in August but you can always check with PAGASA.

      We didn’t stay in Oslob. We just went on a day trip there from Dumaguete but there are several resorts in Bgy. Tan-awan (that’s the barangay in Oslob where whale shark watching takes place) where you can stay. Actually it’s better to stay at Oslob at least overnight so you can visit other attractions such as the Tumalog Falls and the Oslob Heritage Park.

      You can eat at the boat once it reaches Sumilon Island’s sandbar where the boat can park. It’s only 15-20 minutes away from Oslob.

    2. Hellow mam this is haidee one who arrange the boat in sumilon island sand bar,whaleshark and i have also a van pick up and drop off in airport i can arrange also the tour for moalboal,kawasan,city tour if you want and also chasing waterfalls this is my 09235964918/09336279538/09990100055

  2. Hi. Thank you for this informative and persuasive blog of yours. Would like to ask how much is the rental fee for the boat from oslob to sumilon sand bar? 🙂

  3. Hi there! Around what time did you leave Sumilon Island? We’re planning to go there on our last day right after we go whaleshark swimming/watching in Oslob. Our flight anyway is not until 1AM of the following day. What time do you suggest we should head back to the city? 🙂

    If ever you think we still have enough time to go somewhere else, what are your suggestions? 🙂

    Nice post! Very informative! More power to The Shoestring Diaries!

    1. Thanks Jai. We must have left Sumilon at past 2PM and made our way back to Dumaguete in Negros Oriental. We were back in Dumaguete before 5 PM but that was because we had to wait for our ferry at Liloan port in Santander longer than expected, otherwise the trip would have been shorter. There are hourly ferries from Liloan port to Sibulan port on the Negros main island with the last ride at 7:30PM (am assuming you’re headed to Dumaguete – Cebu City is a different matter). Liloan port is 30-40 minutes by bus or trike from Tan-awan in Oslob while the fast craft ferry ride to Sibulan is about 20 minutes. From Sibulan to downtown Dumaguete is another 30 minutes – in good traffic.

      There are other spots to visit in Oslob and even in Santander. At Oslob, not far from the whale-shark watching spots at Tan-awan, is the Tumalog Falls. You can just rent a trike to get there. You can also visit the Oslob Heritage Park which includes preserved Spanish colonial era buildings.

      We have more info at our other website:

  4. Hi are there any cottages in the sand bar where we can stay and get shade?:) Thanks

    1. Non-guests at the Sumilon Resort can only stay on the boat on which they came (so better be sure that your rented boat has a shade). We actually had our lunch right on our boat which had docked at the sandbar. The cottages at the resort are for the resort guests (We only visited the sandbar and chose not to stay at the resort there.) They however allow non-guests to use the nearest restroom on the island resort.

    1. We didn’t try that at Sumilon since we were with our family. However you could try talking with other visitors about it. We’re sure they want to save money. We tried that at Kalanggaman Island last year with a Fil-Amercan couple who were very happy to share the expense with us.

  5. Hi shoestringdiary, thanks for sharing this article.. I just want to ask if where exactly we could rent boat going to sumilon? last 2 years I’ve been to whale watching tanwawan resort but did not know that there are rental boat going to sumilon… just wanted to know where can we rent aboat that can bring us to sumilon is the boat you have rented is connect with the tanawan resort? or we can just look on the beach front and have deal with the boat men? please let me know.. awesome pic btw 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s