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.

 

Rides

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Bohol

Bohol is the 10th largest island of the Philippines. It has become extremely popular among local and foreign tourists for its Chocolate Hills, the tiny Tarsier monkeys (smallest apes in the world) and the infamous Alona Beach in Panglao Island.  However, Bohol is big enough to keep you busy for weeks, and if you venture a little, you will discover plenty to do away from the masses while enjoying its beautiful nature.

Scuba diving and snorkelling in Bohol

If you are looking for an off the beaten path experience, you should stay as far away from Panglao Island, and especially Alona Beach, as possible.  There is one reason, however, for which this should be a place to include in your itinerary.  Balicasag Island is perhaps one of the best places to dive or snorkel with turtles in the Philippines.  Some say it is like Apo Island (off the coast of Dumaguete) on steroids.  Only 150 divers are allowed to dive in Balicasag every day, and it does fill up, so do plan and book in advance.  If you don’t get a spot to dive Balicasag, you can find a number of great dive sites around Cabilao Island, Anda and of course Panglao Island.  Pata Negra Divers could be one of the best dive centres in the area.  Tucked away in a back street close enough to Alona Beach and far enough to keep it out of the hustle and bustle.  The staff is very professional, friendly and they go the extra mile to ensure your experience is one you won’t forget.

Nature in Bohol

Bohol is majorly known for the Tarsiers and the Chocolate hills which can be seen in a day trip during which one can also see the man made forrest.  But Bohol has much more to offer.  White sand beaches, cave pools and waterfalls are some of the many sights one can see in this gorgeous island.  Anda is slowly becoming more and more popular, but it is safe to say it is still a place to get away from the crowds and enjoy its beautiful beaches, cave pools and diving. Another popular tourist destination to enjoy nature is the town of Loboc.  Here, one can go on a river cruise or visit Loboc Church which was badly damaged, along with Baclayon Church, by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in 2013. However, if you are looking for a different and interesting way to see Loboc River and get a bit of exercise too, try your hand at Stand-Up Paddle.

Where to stay in Bohol

Depending on your budget, there many lodging options to choose from. Best value for money would probably be Bohol Sea Resort which is beachfront and offers decent sized air conditioned and / or fan cooled room with cable TV, Internet, hot & cold shower, and a really comfortable bed. The resort is located 15 minutes’ walk from Alona Beach where all the bars and restaurants are.

Where to eat in Bohol

There are a few go to places in Panglao for good food. Enjoy the vegetarian dishes offered at Bohol Bee Farm and to round off your visit, book a massage with them with views of the sea. Shaka Bohol offers breakfast bowls and shakes and this branch in particular also offers heftier meals if you are really hungry. There is a “carinderia” that serves well-priced and tasty Filipino food and it can be found along the road that leads to Pata Negra Dive Center and Eco Hotels.If you are craving Italian pasta dishes and / or pizza then head to Oca Golosa.

A plus for motorbike riders is the fact that most roads are well paved and going around Bohol is eaiser on two wheels when it gets congested. Not only that, you get to explore places on the island that not a lot of visitors get to see and since it’s a rather large island, there is enough road to travel. One road worth the mention are the twisties through the man-made forest that takes you to both the Tarsier Sanctuary as well as Chocolate Hills in about an hour and a half or the beautiful coastal road from Panglao or Tagbilaran (2-3 hours). they are not only picture perfect spots but very enjoyable rides as well.

Geting to and from Bohol

If you are not flying and are travelling by road, Bohol is well connected to its neighbouring islands.  From the port of Tagbilaran, you can get to Siquijor, Cebu and Dumaguete.  Fastcat operates the Cebu – Tubigon line and you can also go to Camiguin from the port of Jagna or Bato, in Southern Leyte from the port of Ubay.

Check out our map of the different roro ports in the Philippines.

Southern Leyte : Padre Burgos

The Philippines has over 7000 islands. The most popular ones being Palawan, Boracay, Bohol, Siquijor and Siargao. If you are planning your trip to the Philippines, chances are, most of your destinations are in some of the islands mentioned. On the other hand, the islands of Samar and Leyte (excluding western Mindanao), are among the less traveled in the country. Leyte still shows the damage caused by typhoon Hayan (Yolanda) in places like Tacloban and the East coast.  Having visited almost all the islands in the country, Leyte deserves a lot more attention than it gets.  Padre Burgos, in southern Leyte, is not only a great place for scuba diving but also an ideal place to learn about and swim with whale sharks in a non intrusive, eco friendly way. There is more than enough information on the internet to know why you should not go to Oslob to swim with whale sharks. Going there and paying to swim with these beautiful creatures is highly discouraged, among other reasons, because the fish are fed, touched and abused by the thousands of tourists that jump in the water with them every month (about 1000 per day). The interaction with these animals in southern Leyte is, on the other hand, conducted by scientists volunteering for Lamave, the largest independent non-stock, non- government organization dedicated to the conservation of marine megafauna and the marine environment in the Philippines. Their volunteers will not only guide you through the interaction but will also answer all the questions you may have about whale sharks and what they have learned through years of study, research and observation.

A ride through the less densely populated Southern Leyte is an amazing way to appreciate and admire the islands nature.  The scenery is stunning — with beautiful coastal roads that run through Burgos, Sogod, Liloan, San Ricardo, Bato and Maasin, and twisting roads that cross the mountainous areas as well as the breathtaking views from Agas-Agas bridge (the tallest in the Philippines).  If you like winding roads and an easy joy ride with very little traffic, then Leyte is one of those places to put on your list.

Sogod Bay Scuba Resort is a nice, clean and cozy resort, the staff is extremely helpful and friendly, the beach front is clean and beautiful with crushed corals and the food is simple but very tasty. Don’t forget to try their homemade apple pie! They also organize scuba diving to the best dive sites in the area as well as tours to swim with the whale sharks. Remember the whale shark season goes from December to May.

Padre Burgos is easily accessible by road. It takes around 3 and a half hours from Tacloban.  It is also close to the ports of Bato, to and from which you can travel between Cebu or Ubay (Bohol), the port of Maasin, the port of Liloan, from which you can take the Fastcat ferry to Lipata (Surigao City), and the port of San Ricardo, from which you can take the Montenegro Shipping Lines ferry to the Macapagal terminal, also in Surigao City.

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