When we first started to look at our itinerary for the Philippines, Bohol seemed to be the obvious choice after Moalboal. Close enough, beachy enough and the Chocolate Hills seemed super cool. But after digging a little and talking to people who had recently went, we realised it was way too touristy for our taste and started looking for something a bit more quiet. Opinions on Siquijor Island, located at the south end of Cebu Island were mixed. While some people had loved it, others said it had nothing special and not much to see.
We were intrigued by its reputation and decided to make an opinion for ouselves.
We left Moalboal around 11 to catch the 11:30 Ceres bus to Bato where we arrived at 1, there we caught a tricycle to the port and the 20 mn ferry to Dumaguete. Once there we took another tricycle to another Dumaguete port (yes, the port to Cebu island and siquijor is NOT the same one) which took forever and finally made it to the port… too late for our 2 O clock ferry and by the time it took us to buy the tickets and the terminal fee (yes, you have to pay to get into the terminal…) we had missed the 2:30 as well. Just as we were starting to loose home, we found out there was a boat leaving at 3 or 3:30 (can not accurately remember) on another company than Ocean Jet but we took it. While a tiny bit longer, it only took us 1:30 to reach the the town of Siquijor on… Siquijor.
There we were welcomed by trycicles and scooter renters and learned that to take a tricycle between towns on the island is 250 pesos per town (Siquijor-San Juan: 250 pesos, Siqujor-Lorena: 500 pesos etc). Much more expensive than in Cebu but hey still just about 5 euros!
30 mn of tricycle later we had made in to our accommodation in the sleepy little town of San Juan where most of the hotels and restaurants are located and… it kind of was love at first sight!
Why? Because the coastline is beautiful, the locals are even friendlier than in other places in the Philippines (if that’s possible), food is pretty good and it’s super easy and safe to drive around. Now, what’s there to do on sleepy Siquijor?
1. Paliton Beach
The first beach we went the next day of our arrival. About 10 mn scooter ride from San Juan, it’s a postcard perfect beach at the end of a dusty road! Don’t stay where you park your scooter though, keep walking right until the end of the first “little beach”, climb the rocks keep walking and you’ll reach the main beach with the palm trees in the back which makes it such a scenic background! There’s even a bent palm tree to take some pictures if you want or you can just find yourself your own little place of shade and enjoy this stunning beach!
Ps: don’t hesitate to do a little beach clean up while you’re there. While it’s not as bad as other places, we still managed to fill up a bin bag within 20 mn.
2. Tubod Marine Sanctuary
One of our favorite place on Siquijor! Located in front of Coco Grove, a luxury hotel, this 7 acres marine reserve is a must see! First of all because the ladies who guard it are the NICEST. They make you pay 50 pesos for environmental fee and you can rent snorkelling gear from there but they are seriously the funniest and nice ladies on the island. Then because you are not ready for what you’re about to see! Because fishing is prevented and there’s high fees in case of degradation, the underwater life is thriving! Hundreds of fished are swimming around you at all time and you can even take a rest at the wooden platform about a 100m away from the beach.
3. Saladoong Beach
So, we didn’t actually go to Saladoong beach because we’re not that big on cliff jumpings but if you are, it’s apparently really cool! Bit of a drive from San Juan but the colour of the water is apparently worth in on its own!
5. Cambugahay Falls
The main falls on Siquijor Island. Between 30 to 40 mn from San Juan depending on how you drive, the falls are located down a flight of steep stairs.
There’s 3 pools so blue it almost looks fake. You can also pay small fee and use the role to jump or the wood rafts to get around the pools. Alternatively, you can just enjoy the place as it is. We flew the drone and the view is absolutely stunning. It’s definitely the kind of place you can end up staying at for hours because it’s so refreshing and enchanting. We would, however, advise to come super early if you really want to enjoy the place. We were there at 7:30 and it was lovely as there were only a couple of other tourists plus some locals but as we left at 8:30 it was getting crowded with orange vests tourists. Not that nice. Definitely one of the highlights of our Philippines journey!
5. San Juan Beach
While not as spectacular as Paliton Beach, it’s still a very enjoyable beach which runs along San Juan. However, watch the tides! When we were there, the tide was high in the morning and super low in the afternoon, meaning you had to walk at least 60 to 100 meters to reach the water. It was still fun though as while withdrawing, the sea was leaving these little pools of saltwater to lie down in.
6. Caticugan Marine Sanctuary
I discovered this place while going diving with Siquijor Divers. Definitely not easy to find as it’s off the main circular road and at the end of a very dirty road, this place is another little gem. There’s literally nothing that indicates it’s there except a hammock, a bench and a table and it can often be empty when the locals arnt there. There, you’ll find the most beautiful staircase right into the crystal clear blue sea. You have to swim for about 100 m before you find anything interesting but it’s really worth it as it’s often empty of other tourists.
7. Tulapos Marine Sanctuary
Didn’t actually visit BUT it often got super windy on the south coast of Siquijor in the late morning/early afternoon which meant the current was too strong to snorkel/swim/dive and when this cas the case we were advised this location instead. Located on the North side of the island, we heard some people saying they saw mantas and sharks during their snorkel expedition. We were obviously a bit jealous but gives us a good reason to come back! 🙂
8. San Isidor de Labrador
We wanted to visit after the Cambugahay falls as it’s on the way back to San Juan but unfortunately it was being renovated when we were there. It’s still lovely from the outside and I’m sure it’s totally worth stopping by when not renovated anymore.
9. Sunset watching at Coral Cay Resort
Sunsets on Siquijor are nothing short of spectacular! I recommend Coral Cay Resort to watch it while sipping a cocktail or a local beer at happy hour price, try the swing and enjoy the company of super nice puppies. Go early as it gets crowded and sunsets in Philippines tend to come before 6!
Where to eat?
We mainly ate within San Juan as this was our base for our explorations and also the place where most restaurants are :)
Definitely a favorite among travellers, we understood why when we received fluffy pancakes and a delicious fruit platter for breakfast! The vibe is really chilled, the space big and there’s always nice music playing (even live some nights). However, we went back for dinner and were super disappointed so would definitely recommend as more of a breakfast place. Also, it’s a bit pricy and there aren’t that many veggie options.
An Italian restaurant with one of the most beautiful view over San Juan beach and its incredible sunsets! Pizzas were good and pasta 2 but their main assets? GARLIC BREAD! We went back twice and were very happy both times.
Our 2nd home during our stay. While we passed by it several times in our first days on the island, we didn’t think about stopping because from outside it didn’t look that nice but what a mistake! The staff is lovely and the food is so so yum! They have incredible smoothie bowls which are big and filling and delicious vegan options for any meal which isn’t breakfast. Yes it’s a tiny bit pricy but it’s so so worth it if you’re a picky vegan eater.
How to get around?
Once again, scooter is your friend. Because most of what’s to see is outside of San Juan (including the nearby Paliton beach 10 mn away), a scooter will give you the freedom you need to do whatever you want want you want and will prove itself cost effective very quickly. If you don’t feel like driving and want to optimise your sightseeing, there’s also the option to “rent” a tricycle and a driver for a whole day (around 1.200 pesos) and ask him to show you the highlight of the island.
Where to stay?
San Juan makes the perfect base to explore the island and still be able to eat out easily and fairly cheap.
Sand 1: Where we stayed. A very small family owned hotel right on the main road close distance to most of the main sights and still very quiet at night. The bathrooms are very small but it’s totally worth the price of about 25 euros per night.
Coco Resort: If you’re looking for something a bit more luxurious, this is your place. In front of the Tubod Marine Sanctuary and with restaurants in it, you’ll never even have to leave the resort if you don’t feel like it!
Kiwi Dive Resort: if you’re looking to be off the beaten path, this is your place! Located on the north shore of the island, it’s a bit rustic but apparently the view and nearby beach are stunning!
Any Sustainability initiatives?
Most of the restaurants we went to had bamboo straws which was really nice. At the marine sanctuary, you are advised not to bring plastic which is also very positive and the road sides are very clean! We didn’t see too many fire burning waste so that was pretty cool as well. Overall, the island seems to be one of the eco-friendliest we’ve seen during our stay!
How to get there?
Siquijor is easily accessible from Dumaguete and Bohol and Cebu.
From Dumaguete: There’s several companies who operate the transfer from as early at 7 until about 5 at night (watch out some companies have different timing depending on the day of the week). The most expensive one is OceanJet but it’s also the fastest (75mn), the others take about 90 mn. Here is the timetable for 2019.
We paid 120 on Montenegro line and it’s 250 on Ocean Jet.
Cebu: We left Siquijor to go to Cebu and we wanted to avoid going back to Dumaguete and having to go back up north for 5 or 6 hours. While most of the people we asked told us this was the only way (hum), our instinct told us to keep looking and we found what we were looking for! A Siquijor to Cebu ferry! It’s not advertised as such because it’s technically 2 different journeys: Siquijor-Bohol and Bohol-Cebu but the stop is only 20 mn and you don’t even have to leave the boat! This journey leaves Siquijor port at 12h30, lasts 4 hours overall and cost us about 1280 per person. Bit pricy but so convenient!