Formerly known as “Isla Del Fuego” (Island of fire), named by Spaniards due to the swarm of fireflies around the island, Siquijor is a small island with big surprises. Also known as the Mystical Island for its famous herbal healing tradition and myths about witchcraft, this beautiful pearl-shaped island is nestled in the Bohol Sea and encompassed by two major islands: Visayas and Mindanao.
Unlike other major tourist attractions in the Philippines, Siquijor is one of the most underrated and least commercialized destination. The island is a synergy of natural beauty and mystery, comprising of beautiful beaches, centuries-old churches, amazing dive sites, and relaxing waterfalls. It is a bliss waiting to be explored!!
View from my room
The closest commercial airport is located in Dumaguete, which caters to regular flights from Manila and Cebu. Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific are frequent flyers to Dumaguete Airport. Flight time from Manila to Dumaguete is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes and from Cebu, it is 40 minutes. On a personal note, if you are planning to travel from Cebu, it is way cheaper to take a bus!
Ceres liner takes nearly 5 hours to reach from Cebu South bus Terminal to Dumaguete Port. Buses start as early as 6 in the morning. The route involves a sea crossing into Negros Oriental, all the way to the drop point near Dumaguete Port. Not sure about the non-air cons, but the one I took was an air-con Ceres Liner and Sea Crossing fee was not included in the bus fare.
Sandugan Beach Sunset
From Dumaguete to Siquijor:
If travelling via air, one can flag down a tricycle for mere PhP 150 – PhP 200 for a drop to the port. In the case of the buses, they tend to drop you right in front of the port gate.
From the port, one can opt for an Ocean Jet or a Regular Ferry. Ocean Jet is scheduled to leave around 12:30 P.M. every day and will cost around PhP 210 for open air and PhP 350 for Business Class. The jet takes around 1 hour to reach Siquijor port. Regular ferries are more frequent but take approximately 2 to 3 hours.
Sunrise at Dumaguete Port
Siquijor has recently become famous among foreign nationals and yet to be adulterated with excessive tourism; hence, the stay options are limited to resorts or really budgeted motels that are located in the town of San Juan or in Larena. There are not many mid-range or average budget hostels or hotels on this island (something that a backpacker, like me, looks for!!).
Coco grove at Tubod Beach, San Juan is one of the highly rated and popular resorts amongst the tourists. As for backpackers, JJ backpacker in San Juan is a good option, though unfortunately the place was fully booked during my visit. As for me, I decided to crash into Casa de la Playa in the town of Larena. The price was definitely on a higher side but my sea facing room with beautiful sunsets every evening and starry nights made it all worth.
view from my room
Just look up, we are both under the same starry sky
It has been my habit not to count on local transport or rent private services when on a secluded island like this one. I prefer to rent a bike, grab a map and pace my travel at my own will with random stops here and there, enjoying the nature and calmness, which I desperately need every 3 to 4 months.
Here is the list of few places that I decided to feast my eyes on
1. Paliton Beach
This was my first stop during my excursion on the island. The beach is located in the town of San Juan, which was approximately 2 hours of ride from my resort. To reach the beach, you must either have your own transport or be ready to walk for at least 2 km. You need to deviate from the national highway and slip onto a narrow pathway that carries on for another 2 km. before hitting the Paliton beach coastline. The beach is by far one of the most famous ones in Siquijor with pearl white sand beach and crystal clear water. The beach is completely secluded with barely anyone around (that can be said for every beach on Siquijor Island).
Paliton Beach Sunset
2. Salagdoong Beach
A government run resort, Conference Hall, Restaurant and an awesome curved shaped beach line has made this one a popular among the local tourists. Like most other beaches at Siquijor, Salagdoong is a white sand beach with strikingly clear water that tends to create shades of Aquamarine, blue and turquoise. Huge limestone blocks, carved with time, add to the stunning beauty and also provide an amazing elevated view of the beach. The resort authorities have added 2 slides and a diving sledge. Not sure about the slides but the sledge is worth the try.
Cure for anything and everything: The sea ( shot taken from the sledge at salagdoong
In a place like Siquijor, lined with beautiful beaches, you don’t have to stick to the regular tourist spots. Take an offbeat track towards the coastline, and you will end up on another spectacular white sand beach. Kagusuan beach is one of those, where you are nearly lost trying to make your way to the coastline. I personally had to ride through two villages to reach this beach. Completely secluded and off the tourist radar, it is a place of tranquility.
Get lost on Kagusuan Beach
Located in the town of Lazi, Cambugahay falls is by far the prized possession of Siquijor. Ever seen Siquijor wallpapers with a picturesque waterfall in the backdrop? This is it! A trip to Siquijor cannot be considered complete without visiting this masterpiece of nature. It may not be the biggest fall in the Philippines but definitely worth the visit with its crystal clear pools divided into different levels. At the lower level, you can see many locals swinging around like Tarzan and taking a dive into the pool. Be nice and you may get a chance to take a swing as well!! I had my share of it and it was fun. Of all the places visited by me in Siquijor, Cambugahay fall was my favorite destination!!
How about a swing?
It is an old tree, said to be dated 400 years old with a pond in front of it; filled with beautiful fishes. The tree is believed to be the source of water for the pond (that’s what the locals believe). Anyhow, whatever the reasons are, it seems like a nice pit stop on the way to San Juan from Lazi. The tree is located very close to the national highway and, therefore, cannot be missed. Buko juice and free fish massage seem like a good option to me on a hot summer day!
6.Other places to visit
Though I have mentioned few, Siquijor is loaded with many ancient churches, buildings and more than 44 caves. The town welcomes you on the port with the site of St. Francis De Assisi church. There is a beautiful inscription in front of the church which is a sign of welcome to every stranger in town.
Night shot of St. Francis De Assisi with town square in the front
Another famous spot is Lazi’s St. Isidore Church which is considered as one of the oldest church of Philippines (dated back to 1884). The church homes a bell tower with an old Lazi Convent in front of it. Thought the convent in itself is not being used anymore, but a part of it is still utilized as Catholic elementary school.
St. Isidore Church
Other than this there are many caves positioned in the interiors of Siquijor, with Cantabon as the most famous one. Close to Cantabon is Mt. Bandilaan, which is the highest peak of Siquijor.
Where to eat?
Not being a mainstream tourist island has its own perks. You get unadulterated natural beauty with barely anyone around. On the contrary, you have limited food joint options. Other than Triad café and restaurant, located on the top of a hill with a panoramic view of Siquijor, there is absolutely nothing much to choose from. Out of my 3 days trip to the island, I tend to have my dinner in my own resort or try out local stalls during my excursion around the island.
If absence of nightlife and food joints doesn’t bother you and you look for a place away from the crowd with limitless beauty, then Siquijor is the right place for you!!
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