I've been to many provinces in the Philippines, especially since my day job allows me opportunities to travel. However, my trip to Dumaguete City, Apo Island and Siquijor has truly given me an awakening — these places are so mystifyingly beautiful. Going to these parts of the Philippines made me feel like I found something raw and undiscovered. Not a lot of people I know would have these places at the top of their minds when choosing their next hotspot to visit. Though, I seriously think they should be. These places in Negros Oriental & Siquijor DESERVE MORE ATTENTION. That is why I want to share my story and my adventure with you. I fell in love with the sceneries, the activities and the people in these places. The provinces I visited were gems with its natural wonders. Other countries may have majestic man-made buildings but they will never compare to our lush green mountains and our clear blue oceans filled with amazing creatures. Aside from the natural wonders, there were numerous bucketlist worthy activities I was able to experience: swimming with sea turtles, rope swinging into waterfalls and riding a motorcycle across the city. Excitement was around every corner. Moreover, the people we encountered during this trip were warm, hospitable, full of humour and helpful beyond what we asked for. It felt good to see once more how remarkable we Filipinos are. If you want to have a one-of-a-kind adventure as well, continue to read on below!
WHERE TO STAY: Islands Leisure Boutique Hotel & Spa
Address: Hibbard Avenue, Bantayan, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
One of my favorite parts about this trip was being able to stay in Islands Leisure Boutique Hotel and Spa. We booked this hotel for a fair price of PHP 5,600 or PHP 2,800 per head for 4 Days and 3 Nights. This already includes our breakfast meals, free wifi, cable TV and access to dipping pool. The hotel is only 10-15 minutes away from the airport and from Dumaguete Port. It's also 5 minutes away from the city proper where there are a lot of affordable eateries and restaurants. It didn't only win in accessibility, Islands Leisure also wins in design and comfort. The boutique hotel was vibrant and open. It featured different parts of the world like decors inspired from India, France and Italy.
The interiors deserved a 10/10. I actually took a lot of photos because I wanted to somehow use it as "pegs" for the design of my future home.
As you can see, our room was very spacious. It even has its own couch! I slept soundly in this room for my entire stay in Dumaguete.
Not to mention, the staff was very friendly and youthful.
WHERE TO GO
< DAY 1 >
1. Casaroro Falls, Dumaguete City
Address: Bgy. Valencia, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
When we got to Dumaguete, we decided to travel to Negros Oriental and visit the famous Casaroro Falls. First, we took a roundtrip tricycle for PHP 200 because it was a couple of barangays away from Dumaguete City proper. This dropped us off near the plaza where a hoard of drivers were waiting for us to get our 2nd ride, the "habal-habal" or a motorcycle built for 2-3 riders! The roundtrip motorcycle cost PHP 200 per head. This took us up to the higher areas going to the falls.
Riding the motorcycle added to the excitement of our whole journey. (Sorry mom, they didn't have helmets!) Initially, I was quite nervous because I always hear about motorcycle accidents in Manila. However, since the roads of Negros were not plagued with traffic, we had a safe and leisurely ride. Our journey to the waterfalls in itself was quite an experience because it included an abundance of scenery.
GIF above: me and JB riding the "habal-habal"
Once you arrive, you need only to pay PHP 10 as your entrance fee. Going to the falls was quite a challenge. We had to take a staircase with 355 steps going down and going up to see the falls upfront. Also, the pathway to the falls was ruined by typhoon Sendong so we had to go with an alternative route that involved a 10-15 minute trek. However, that experience made seeing the view all the more WORTH IT and fulfilling.
The falls was as tall as a building and the cool water was exactly what we needed to refresh our bodies.
Don't be fooled by the photo, it's actually 30 meters high in real life.
2. Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao, Dumaguete City
Address: Sibulan, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
For our 2nd destination of Day 1, we went to another known tourist spot called Twin Lakes. This was much less challenging compared to Casaroro Falls because we didn't have to endure 300+ steps going up and down. To get there, ride a roundtrip trike for PHP 400 to the Twin Lakes "habal-habal" terminal along the main highway. Ride the motorcycle which costs another PHP 400 per head. It's a bit more pricey compared to Casaroro Falls because it's also farther. As we arrived, I saw how peaceful and quiet the lake was. The pictures below really didn't do justice to how beautiful it is in real life. It felt as if I was travelling in a different country, like New Zealand.
We decided to rent a boat to get to the Twin Lakes Viewing Deck for only PHP 250 (PHP 125 per head for 2 pax). This fits around 5-6 people. The beautiful mountains are visible from the lake and the water is absolutely clean! Sadly, tourists are not allowed to swim because they want to ensure safety. This, however, did not make the place any less gorgeous.
We had extra money so our 1st day was a bit pricey. However, if you're working on a limited budget, you may opt to choose only 1 of the two.
< DAY 2 >
3. Apo Island
Address: Dauin, Negros Oriental
Day 2 is dedicated to the #1 reason why I wanted to travel all the way to Western Visayas in the first place: PAWIKANS (sea turtles)! The sea turtles are abundant in Apo Island so we booked our Apo Island Tour with Harold's Dive Center, Dumaguete for only PHP 1,200. The tour includes our jeepney & boat transfers, our lunch, our snorkelling gear and our guide (who, by the way, takes great photos and videos).
The boat ride was such a fun experience because it wasn't your usual "bangka". It was a two-story boat that made us feel like we were sailing on a yacht.
Photo above: What you see here is Apo Island! It reminds me of the shape of a sea turtle facing sideways.
The left side is the head and the right side is its shell.
Side comment: I specifically chose to wear a dark green bikini top to match the surroundings. (Lol #arte)
Anyway, we were happy that the package included flippers because not a lot of tours would include this (ex: Coron tours would ask you to pay extra for diving slippers). We wore our snorkelling gear and as soon as we got to the island, we were ready to jump off the boat!
Surely, this experience did not disappoint. I've seen so many sea creatures in my life — clown fishes, dolphins and whale sharks. Though, nothing quite compares to my experience swimming with the pawikans. It's much more rewarding finding sea turtles because you have to really search for them.
Since it was low tide that day, we found it a bit more difficult to find the pawikans; but when we did, we were all ecstatic! They came in various sizes. Some were almost the size of my entire leg while some would be just as big as my head. Regardless of the size, all of them were absolutely cute!
< DAY 3 >
One of the reasons why I love Dumaguete City is because it's so accessible to a lot of places like Cebu and Siquijor. Since JB and I have both been to Cebu already, we opted to go to some place underrated: Siquijor! To get to Siquijor, we took a trike to Dumaguete Port for PHP 8 and then we bought tickets from Ocean Jet at PHP 230 per way (Dumaguete to Siquijor at 9:40am & Siquijor to Dumaguete at 5:10pm). Port Terminals Fees are PHP 14-15.
Upon arriving at the port of Siquijor, we went outside and rented a tricycle for the whole day for PHP 1,000 per vehicle or in our case, PHP 500 per head. However, this tricycle can easily fit 4-5 people (PHP 200 per head for a group). You can also choose to rent a motorcycle but if you're not a licensed driver, I would advise against it. The tricycle is better since it includes the driver who can easily navigate to the places below:
4. Capilay Spring Park, Siquijor
Address: San Juan, Siquijor
It was a simple park which also had a staircase to a grotto. This place has free entrance and if you have packed lunches, it's a great park to enjoy a picnic.
We took our time to cool down and breathe in the fresh air of the park before heading to our next destination.
5. Century Old Balete Tree & Fish Spa, Siquijor
Address: Siquijor Circumferential Road, Lazi, Siquijor
Our next destination was the Old Balete Tree. For this place, you need to pay an entrance fee of PHP 10. This also includes access to the Fish Spa.
The balete tree was gigantic. We found out that it was over 4 centuries old but it still looked so alive and majestic to me.
The pond connected to the Old Balete Tree also has some fishes that eat dead skin cells off your feet! You simply soak your feet in the pond and they'll approach and nibble on the callused parts. It was a tickling sensation but don't worry, it won't hurt.
P.S. Look how many fishes are eating the dead skin cells on JB's feet! HAHA.
6. Cambugahay Falls, Siquijor
Address: Siquijor Circumferential Road, Lazi, Siquijor
After lunch, we went to one of the highlights of my entire trip: Cambugahay Falls. I've been to a lot of falls in my life but this is MY FAVORITE. For me, this trumps even the well known Tumalog Falls of Oslob because 1) the water isn't too cold 2) it has a ROPE SWING which you can use non-stop for only PHP 20.
Cambugahay Falls brings to life that iconic scene from the Notebook where Noah screams at Allie to "GET IN THE WATER!" and Allie
comes rope swinging and drops into the lake.
I probably used this swing 10 times and I still felt a bit nervous each time! This part of the falls is 10 ft. deep that's why not a lot of people swim in this area.
I used to be a swimmer so I easily swam up and got back to land.
If you're not used to swimming in deep waters, don't be sad. There is also a smaller waterfall with shallower waters with a rope swing.
There are also cute black salbabidas for rent. I wasn't able to note the amount since they let us borrow it for free because they liked us so much!
That's me being pushed into the waterfalls to drown... My boyfriend is evil.
7. Salagdoong Beach, Siquijor
Address: Maria, Siquijor
This beach has a day tour fee of PHP 25 per head. Tricycles also have a parking fee of PHP 25. Salagdoong Beach is popular for its white sand and heart clenching cliff diving spot!
The water of Salagdoong Beach was probably the clearest I've seen in all the beaches I've visited. It's quite rocky so don't expect soft sand once you enter the waters. Nonetheless, the multiple hues of blue will still captivate you.
It also has a huge slide that leads you straight to the ocean!
If you're quite the adrenaline junkie like me, you're going to LOVE Salagdoong's cliff diving spot! It's as high as 35 ft. above the sea.
< DAY 4 >
8. Dolphin Watching & Manjuyod Sandbar, Bais City
Address: Bais City, Negros Oriental
On our last day, we decided to take a half day tour going to Manjuyod Sandbar. Manjuyod Sandbar is dubbed as the "Maldives of the Philippines" because of the white sand and tiny cottages that are situated on the island. To get there, ride a bus at Ceres Bus Terminal going to Bais City for PHP 55 per head. Get dropped off at Mercado De Bais, Manjuyod. Afterwards, ride a tricycle to Canibol Wharf for PHP 50 per head. This is where we met up with our boatmen who will take us to Manjuyod Sandbar. We rented the boat for PHP 3,000 (originally PHP 3,500 but I was able to haggle). This can fit around 10 people so if you're travelling with a group, it'll cost only PHP 300 per head.
On our way to Manjuyod, we were able to encounter these adorable dolphins!
It was a magical moment seeing so many of them swimming as we travelled on the boat.
When we arrived to Manjuyod, it was sadly high tide so the sandbar wasn't visible. However, the water was still pretty shallow and we still got to enjoy the beach. Though, I wouldn't recommend going there if you're not travelling with a group since it can be costly. The boatmen said that the best time to see the sandbar is during September because that's when it's low tide. Nonetheless, seeing Manjuyod was still something we were happy to cross off our bucketlist!
We took the same way going back to Dumaguete City (trike then bus from Mercado De Bais). Soon, it dawned upon us that it was our last day. Suddenly, it felt very real to me and JB that the 4-day adventure we had was coming to a close. I can truly say that this was one of my favorite trips to date. A lot of tourist spots I've visited in the Philippines have the usual snorkelling and sightseeing but my Dumaguete - Apo Island - Siquijor experience definitely offered a lot more activities and firsts. I'd definitely suggest this for people who are game for some excitement!
1. Get a tricycle OUTSIDE of the airport.
When you arrive at Sibulan airport, make sure to get a tricycle outside because it costs much cheaper than the ones inside. Outside = PHP 25, Inside = PHP 120.
2. Save on food. Explore eateries and cheap restaurants.
Since JB and I didn't travel with a group, we had less people to share our expenses with. In order to save, we explored eating places that offered value for money. All of these restaurants are an 8-Peso trike ride away from our hotel so simply ask the drivers and they'll take you there. Some of our favorites included:
(L-R): Jo's Chicken Inato (PHP 100 -150) | Neva's Pizza (PHP 80 - 160) | Baroroy (PHP 35 - 50)
3. Bring underwater cameras or cases.
Majority of the tourist spots in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental and Siquijor feature their beautiful bodies of water. This is all the more crucial especially if you're going to Apo Island. I assure you that you will want to take many photos and videos of the pawikans.
4. Buy pasalubong at Sans Rival Cakes and Pastries.
Yet again, one of the reasons why I love our hotel is because it's also close to one of the top pasalubong centers and cafes in Dumaguete. We, Filipinos, love to give pasalbuong. In light of this, Dumaguete is known for its creamy silvanas (PHP 150 per box) and rich sans rival cakes (PHP 350) which you can take home.
5. Talk to the locals to get the inside scoop.
The people of Visayas are extremely friendly. Do not hesitate to ask about tourist spots, rates and great eating places especially from your tricycle drivers. We were able to haggle for prices and easily find gem locations because we spoke to the locals.
6. Key Contact Numbers
Islands Leisure Hotel: 0915 349 1132
Harold's Dive Center: (035) 522 0144
Siquijor Tricycle Tour Guide: Kuya Randy - 0949 953 7985
Dolphin Watching & Manjuyod Island: Kuya Fred - 0926 498 9961
**If you do decide to contact Kuya Fred / Kuya Randy, do mention JB & Pat gave you their numbers. Hopefully they remember us!
ITINERARY & EXPENSES
If you're planning to visit these places as well, feel free to copy the itinerary JB and I made!
We spent a total of PHP 10k per head ALL-IN (Flights, Hotel, Tours, Transportation & Food).
Time to make your own memories! Happy Travels!