Siquijor

The tiny island of Siquijor, named Isla de Fuego (Island of Fire) by the Spanish when they first arrived on the island in the sixteenth century, has maintained an air of mystery. To this day some Filipinos believe it to be the center of witchcraft in the Philippines. The name Isla de Fuego came from the fiery light emitted by the swarms of fireflies that can still be found in the island to this day. Going around Siquijor you will find a peaceful place, full of friendly locals with big smiles on their faces, beautiful beaches, waterfalls, architecture, as well as seventy-two kilometers of paved coastal roads that make riding easy and pleasurable.

What to do in Siquijor?

Beaches in Siquijor

Take advantage of the cemented circumferential road and ride around the island and check out the island’s beaches.  Paliton beach is still fairly undeveloped and quiet and has fine white sand and coconut trees perfect for sunbathing, swimming, reading a book and a great instagram post. Whatever you decide to do, stick around and watch the sunset from the beach. It is still blessed with very few visitors, no vendors, and if you are lucky no tricycle drivers waiting for their passengers while blasting really loud music.

Cambugahay waterfalls is a three-tiered waterfalls and a swimming hole with clear water. Important to know that rain the night before or the same day usually turns the water brown as all the silt in the bottom is stirred up. Swings from which you can throw yourself from, have been placed around the falls to add an element of fun to the whole experience. Other less known falls are Lugnason and Lagaan which can be an option if it gets too crowded in Cambugahay.

Salagdoong beach is another popular destination among beach lovers.  Buy some food at a local market and cook it in the bbq pits available in the area.  Salagdoong beach also counts with a slide and a couple of spots from which you can dive if you are not scared of heights.  On the downside, if you are looking for peace and quiet, this may not be the ideal location as you may find yourself in the middle of a bit of a karaoke session blasting music which will be heard loud and clear from the beach.

If you are looking for peace and quiet, a beach and the friendliest service in miles, head down to Villa Marmarine.  This cozy beach resort is built right next to a beautiful white sand beach, fairly near the port of Lucena and away from the crowds.

Lazi beach is perhaps the most remote of all, don’t expect white sand, or sand at all as it is mainly rocks and crushed coral.  Lazi beach is another alternative for great sunsets and no people, just remember to bring river shoes as getting in the water can become a painful experience.

Other sights in Siquijor

If you fancy the outdoors but have had enough beaches, you can make your way to the famous Balete tree and have fish do your pedicure, or head down to Capilay Spring Park, a cold natural fresh water park, that is free to the public.  This may be the perfect place to wash away all the salt after a day at the beach.

Finally, go see one of the oldest churches on the island the San Isidro Labrador Parish Church or commonly called Lazi Church. It’s a neoclassical church built from sea stones with wood flooring, it also has 2 pulpits and a striking blue ceiling.

Where to stay in Siquijor

If you are looking to stay inn the area of San Juan, and budget is not much of an issue, U Story Guesthouse and Coco Grove Beach Resort are 2 great options. Both might fall on the pricier end but definitely offer more than just a place to rest your head after a full day of activities. Coco Grove has a private beach front with white sand, only accessible to guests (you cant swim in it if you are just eating at the restaurant), a good restaurant, and although its entrance is along the main road everything else is tucked away and offers a quiet haven. They also have a dive centre and is the only resort on the island which offers day trips (for both scuba divers and snorkelers) to Apo Island off the coast of Dumaguete. U Story  Guesthouse on the other hand is so eye catching. It doesn’t have the white sand beach but it does provide access to the sea via some steps that lead down into the clear water below that you can just jump right into and start swimming. It also has an amazing restaurant with a pretty cozy hangout area with big pillows on the floor and relaxing yellow lighting. They also have tables set-up among the trees placed at a distance from each other that give a feeling of spaciousness and privacy. Relatively close to the Siquijor Pier ant the port of Larena, is Villa Marmarine which offers both fan and A.C. rooms with a sea view and each room has their own dedicated router and internet access too! Add to this, a truly pristine and beautiful fine white sand beach with no one else around and a restaurant that offers delicious Japanese food and other dishes.

Where to eat in Siquijor

Part of where to eat is already discussed above, and although walk-ins are accepted in all of them, it might be best to call ahead and make a reservation especially at U Story Guesthouse as they get full during dinner. Another place with great ambiance and scrumptious food is Baha Bar which offers vegetarian options and all their products are locally sourced.  Their kinilaw (a Filipino take on ceviche) is delicious. If you are also looking for a nice place to have some sunset drinks or have a few after dinner, just 500 meters down the road from Baha Bar is Republika with a few tables and chairs, hammock, and a swing for people to sit on in a very laid back garden setting. It’s also right next to the beach so you can hear the crashing of the waves on the shore.

Siquijor is easily accessible from the ports of Tagbilaran in Bohol, Liloan in Santander (Cebu) and Dumaguete.

 

Siargao

Siargao is a tear-drop shaped island in the Philippine Sea and is part of Surigao del Norte and the Mindanao group of islands. It’s known for surfing and for the beautiful white sand (smaller) islands that surround it. Siargao ,although a less well known fact, boasts the largest mangrove forest reserves in Mindanao and is home to some 3,000 Indo-Pacific saltwater crocodiles. Don’t let its size fool you either, it will take a good part of your day ride around the island and you will need more time than you may think to see everything.

Surfing is probably the top reason why people go to Siargao and surfers of every skill level have plenty of spots to choose from. There are those who say there is surfing all year round, however, the more experienced surfers and local residents will agree that from March to August it is more or less flat and that the real period to surf falls between September to March, with the peak falling on the months of November and December.  Some international surfing competitions are held in Cloud 9 during this time. There are a number of different surf spots around the island, some of which are accessible from the shore and others by bangka.

Cloud 9, the most popular break on the island has a coral bottom and powerful waves and most ideally surfed a couple of hours after the tide has started to rise. This spot is best for advance level surfers and should be avoided by beginners, who can surf in Quicksilver, which is a stones throw away from Cloud 9.

Another spot for the highly skilled is Pacifico located in the northern part of the island and away from the crowds of General Luna, here the waves can get big and crazy but also a lot less crowded than Cloud 9.

Worth a mention, are the offshore breaks of Daku Reef and Cemetery, for beginners and experts, which are accessible only by bangka. The bangka ride costs about Php 250 per person.

Some other activities that can be enjoyed while in Siargao inlcude:
Island hopping to Daku, Naked and Guyam Islands. A less well known option is Mam-on Island, located a bit further out but this means less crowds while having full access to a beatiful beach.

The clear waters of Magpupungko Tidal Pools in Pilar, are another favourite among visitors, and is best during low tide.

A quick ride from General Luna brings you to Del Carmen where boats go to Sugba Lagoon.  The 30-minute ride takes you through mangroves which are the home to saltwater crocodiles but once past this the sea color changes from brown to aquamarine. Entering a natural enclosure of jagged rocks, the lagoon has a floating structure which houses a restaurant, SUP and kayak rental and plank to jump off from.

Food is another thing that Siargao has a good handle on. The small island is filled with restaurants that can cater to anyone’s palette. Vegetarians and vegans will also be happy as some places give this option for their dishes. Bravo, is a resort with a very good restaurant offering some tradional Spanish dishes such as Albondigas (Meatballs), Tortilla de Patata, Boquerones and more. Kermit serves some pretty mean authentic wood-oven baked pizzas, really good pasta and some amazingly tasty desserts. Another place serving authentic Italian food is La Carinderia which can be found along the main road across from Mama’s Grill. Healthy shakes and breakfast options are available in Shaka Siargao  located across the street from the entrance to Cloud 9. A little distance from the other restaurants is CFC which serves big sized burritos and australian beef hamburgers.

Hotels occupy most of the prime properties along the beach. There are more than a few to choose from and depending on your budget and preference. Seaside properties usually mean higher rates as well, resorts along the coast are Bravo, Isla Cabana, Arka Hayahay, Siargao Bleu, Romantic Beach Villas to name a few. Kawayan and Kermit are also good options for places to stay although not along the beach. For the budget conscious Paglaom Hostel offers very clean accommodations and the opportunity to make new friends. Pacifico Beach Resort in Pilar, which has it’s own surf spot right in front, is the perfect hideaway from the noise and crowds.  If money is not an issue, then Dedon is a little slice of paradise and exclusivity.

Siargao used to have a super laid back and backpacker feel to it with unpaved roads. Now, with paved roads, exploring areas outside of  the very busy General Luna, one can stil find peace and quiet among towering coconut trees along the shore of virgin beaches.

At the time of writing, Loose Keys Moto Culture were about to open their shop, right next to La Carinderia.  Check them out if you want to grab a bite, a drink, or if you need a surfboard or even get new items for your wardrobe.  Did we say they have a really nice fleet of small motorcycles built by the guys from 3B Customs in Surigao City???

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