sumilon island

Sumilon Island: The First Marine Protected Area in the Philippines

Sumilon Island is a 24-hectare coral island located 1.4 kilometers off the coast of Oslob Oslob. Discover more about Sumilon Island!
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Sumilon Island is a 24-hectare coral island sitting 1.4 kilometers off the coast of Oslob, a tourist town located 125 kilometers south of Cebu City and approximately 4 hours bus ride away. The word Sumilon is derived from the Bisaya language of the same word which means “to take refuge.”

A Key Part of Oslob’s History

During Spanish rule, slavers and marauders launched a decades-long series of attacks in Oslob. In 1782, the biggest invasion happened and left a Catholic church in Oslob looted and destroyed. The spate of attacks ended in 1813 after the locals won against the pirates.

Key to this victory is the strategic defense plan developed by a young Spanish Augustinian monk named Julian Bermejo who led the locals in their quest to defeat the attackers. Part of Bermejo’s defense plan is the structures he and the locals built to protect them and foresee the coming of the aggressors.

One of those structures is the watchtower in Sumilon Island which still stands to this day and is one of its main attractions. The two-story watchtower, or baluarte, which is now more than 200 years old, served as a warning device to thwart slavers and marauders.

First Marine Protected Area in the Philippines

Sumilon Island has rich flora and fauna with the entire island still covered in lush green forests. It is also home to various species of animals and is often visited by different species of birds.

The beauty of Sumilon Island does not end with what’s on land as it has one of the most diverse marine life in South Cebu. In 1974, the Sumilon Island Marine Sanctuary became the first local marine protected area (MPA) in the Philippines under the supervision of the Silliman University Marine Reserve of Dumaguete in active collaboration with the Cebu government. This means limits are in place on human activity, particularly fishing, to help preserve the island’s marine life.

Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort

Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort has been critical in the preservation of the island being the lone commercial entity allowed. Built in 2006 and last renovated in 2013, this eco-luxury resort in Cebu has 27 accommodation rooms.

Bluewater Sumilon is one of the most popular resorts in Cebu among local honeymooners and foreign holidaymakers and is often the favorite location for weddings, romantic dinners, and team building. It features an infinity pool, a restaurant, a bar, massage parlors, and bungalow-type rooms that are mostly constructed from wood and thatched roof. Some activities the resort offers include snorkeling, glass-bottom kayaking, pedal boating, glamping, hiking, fishing, fish feeding, and scuba diving.

sumilon island pool
The infinity pool of Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort

Despite that, Bluewater Sumilon manages specific areas of the island only where it does business activities. The opposite side of the resort has a local neighborhood which they have no jurisdiction over.

Visitors may only enter the island through a day pass available from Bluewater Sumilon. Day pass users are the priority. Walk-in visitors are subject to availability as daily visitors in the island are controlled under certain numbers. All boat transfers to the island are handled by Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort.

Features of Sumilon Island

Sumilon Island features several natural and few man-made attractions.

Dive Sites

Sumilon Island has four major dive sites, namely: Garden Eel Plaza, Nikki’s Wall, Coral Landscape, and Julie’s Rock. These dive sites are known for their incredible visibility, vibrant reefs, and rich marine biodiversity. Blacktip sharks are known to pay occasional visits around the island.

sumilon island
One of Sumilon Island’s underwater wonders


The fascinating shifting white sandbar of Sumilon Island has become its icon. It changes shapes and locations around the island depending on the season. It only appears in all its glory during a specific time of the day.

sumilon island sandbar
An aerial view of Sumilon Island’s shifting sandbar


A few white sand beaches can be found on the island on top of the sand bar. The main beach area is right within the premises of Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort where events like parties and weddings are held. Activities like glamping, kayaking, and paddleboarding are done here.

sumilon island beach
An aerial view of Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort’s main beach area


The natural lagoon is part of the resort’s jurisdiction, located below the cliff facing mainland Oslob. Its emerald-green water is calm and shallow enough to do kayaking and paddleboarding. The lagoon is also a good spot for fishing and bird-watching.

sumilon island lagoon
A thatched-roof hut in the middle of Sumilon Island’s lagoon


A couple of natural caves are found in the island. They often serve as a refuge for local fishermen in times of violent storms and raging seas. Guests can find them by trekking or hiking.


The lighthouse is located on the south side of the island, right inside a protected tree park. It is the tallest structure in the island. The lighthouse is currently used as a safety signal to sailors and pilots.


The historical watchtower was built in the 19 century under Spanish rule. It was used as the locals’ warning device to thwart incoming slavers and marauders.


There are a few hiking trails in the island that lead to caves as well as footpaths that lead to the lighthouse and watchtower. Most of them are easy hikes.

How to Get to Sumilon Island

To get to Sumilon Island, you need to take a bus from Cebu South Bus Terminal in Cebu City bound for Bato via Oslob. Get off at Island Front – Bancogon Resort and Restaurant and then take a boat to the island. Total travel time is 4 hours.

Alternatively, you can get to Sumilon Island from Dumaguete. Take the ferry at Sibulan Port to Liloan Port in Santander and then take a bus bound for Cebu City via Oslob. Total travel time is 45 minutes.

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Mario Manlupig
Mario Manlupig

Mario is the Founder of CEBU INSIDER. In March 2018, he left his full-time job at the Philippines' biggest TV network and became a digital nomad, traveling all over the country until the pandemic happened. He now calls Cebu City his home.

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