Siquijor Island: Untouched Beauty In The Visayas

Siquijor island in the Visayas

Philippines tip: Siquijor island, a laid back island in the Visayas

With 7107 islands it is extremely hard to put together an itinerary for travelling the Philippines. Why did we choose to visit Siquijor out of all the islands? We want to relax, hang around the beach, explore an island that is not too touristy, go diving and work on our blog. Siquijor island seems to be the perfect place to do all that. We tell you what you can do on the untouched island and what it costs to get and stay there.

What to do on Siquijor island – Relax, explore, dive

Siquijor island is with 338 km2 and a coastline of about 100 km quite a small island in the central Visayas. It is possible to cruise around on a motorbike in a day and explore the area. There are nice beaches, waterfalls, hills, small villages and lots of restaurants where you can have a freshly squeezed fruit juice.

Rent a motorbike and explore

It’s really easy to explore the island on a motorbike. Ask at your resort, guesthouse or just walk along the streets and you will find motorbikes to rent. That’s how we do it. We go to the main road, choose the one that we like and ask for the price for 24h. We just fill out a form, sign it and off we go. In other Southeast Asian countries we often had to give the passport as a guarantee. Not on Siquijor island.

Siquijor from above

Cruising around Siquijor island is terrific. The interiour is lush green

What can you see? You can cruise around the island along the coastal road. It’s about 75 km once around. There are many beaches to explore. You want to go for a swim or do some snorkelling? We can recommend Paliton beach which has good beach access to the reef.

Our plan is to explore the hilly interior. All roads are sealed and easy to drive. Watch out for potholes and dogs, the latter tend to run across the road without looking.

Church in Siquijor town

The Church in the center of Siquijor town

We start our motorbike tour in San Juan and our first stop is Siquijor town. There is not a lot to see in the small village. We check out the coral-stone church built in 1783. Along the coastal road to Larena we enjoy to watch the old houses and sometimes we even get a glimpse of the sea. In Larena there is a reliable ATM that was the main reason why we went there. There is a port in Larena but the majority of travellers arrive and depart at Siquijor port.

Larena is laid back and there are a few restaurants and a market. Next on our list is Mount Bandilaan, the highest peak of the island. The roads are steep but our motorbike can manage easily. Between the small village Cang-apa and the Butterfly Garden we have an amazing view. We stop several times to take pictures.

We turn right at the Butterfly Garden to get to the viewing platform on Mt Bandilaan. On the way we pass the Cantabon Cave. It is possible to explore the cave but with a guide only. We decide to continue and finally find the way up to the highest peak. The viewing platform is disappointing. From the promised 360 degrees view there is only about 120 degrees left. The rest is obscured by trees that have grown too high.

It’s getting late and we decide to return via San Antonio to Siquijor back to San Juan.

Driving around Siquijor island on a motorbike is so much fun. Kids along the street are cheering and waving when we pass by. We feel like kings and they probably don’t see so many tourists. What a great experience.

Sunset on Siquijor

Siquijor is the perfect place to watch sunsets. Each evening a real spectacle

We keep the motorbike for a couple of days to explore more of Siquijor island. We like to see more of the lush green interior. We heard about two waterfalls that are worth to visit. The Lugnason Falls are not far from San Juan and we check them out. We have a rough idea where to go. Coming from San Juan we turn left right after the Coco Grove Beach Resort. We go straight for a few kilometres and have to stop at the road fork. There is no road sign leading to the Lugnason Falls. Well, no problem. We ask people walking along the road for directions. The Filipinos are friendly, helpful and most of them speak English.

Lugnason Falls on Siquijor

You want to cool down?

The entrance to the Lugnason Falls is free by donation. From the parking lot it’s a 5-minute climb down to the falls. Hidden in the rainforest, we suddenly stand in front of a big pool with ice-blue water. Do you want to cool down? Jump in. It’s super refreshing.

We heard that the Cambughay Falls outside of Lazi are even more spectacular. Well, we can’t tell as we have not been there.

San Isidro Labrador Church in Lazi

It’s all about colours in the San Isidro Labrador Church in Lazi

Besides nature we also visit a church and convent. In the town of Lazi which is located 15 km from San Juan we make our way to the St. Isidore Labradore Church. We walk in and are surprised by the colourful paintings of the Roman Catholic church.

Convent in Lazi on Siquijor

Lazi is home to the oldest Catholic convent in the Philippines

The Catholic convent on the other side of the road is the oldest in the Philippines. The two storey building is built in a U-shape. We’re standing in front of the huge convent trying to take a good picture. The building is just too big to get in on the picture.

We use the App Maps.me for navigation. It’s an additional help finding the way around and not getting lost.

Go Scuba Diving

Siquijor island has a few great dive sites. We did a bit of research and Last Frontier is the recommended dive centre in the Lonely Planet. They offer boat dives, shore dives and courses. A two tank dive is what we want to do and we book in for the next day. The first impression is great.

Scuba diving on Siquijor

1 – 2 – 3 – GO!

We bring our own equipment and after signing in, we are ready to go. Because of the low tide we have to drive with the Minivan to the harbour. The boat is an old bangka. We assemble our equipment and double check. There are not enough DIN tanks and the spare adaptor is back in the dive centre. Well, we have to wait another half hour. Finally, we’re ready to go. The first dive we do at the famous Paliton Wall. We listen to the briefing and can’t wait to explore the cavern on 33 metres the guide is talking about. Unfortunately, our guide is very inexperienced and he’s missing the cavern. What a pity. The wall is covered in soft corals. A fantastic dive spot.

Blue seastar Philippines

These blue seastars are everywhere in the waters of the Visayas

For the second dive we go to the Marine Sanctuary; it’s just in front of Last Frontier Dive centre. It’s a nice coral garden and great for Macro lovers. What we miss on the reefs is the fish. Around Siquijor the fishes we see are very small. No schools of mackerels, no fusiliers, no tunas, no sharks only a few reef fish. We have the impression that the area is heavily overfished.

Baby sweetlip

A baby sweetlip is trying to hide from us

In general, the service is good at Last Frontier Dive and the rental material they use is in good condition. Unfortunately, we were unlucky with our dive guide. He missed the right spot to get to the reef and we missed the highlight of the dive. Anyway, Paliton Wall is a fantastic dive spot.

Tipp: You can also do daytrips to Apo Island. You will find colourful reefs, turtles and an amazing coral garden. We loved it. We have been to Apo Island from Dauin on Negros.

Relax on one of the beaches

Siquijor beach San Juan

There is not a single soul at San Juan beach in Siquijor

San Juan Beach is our favourite. White sand, palm trees and crystal clear water. That’s all you need to relax. There is great snorkelling too, but it’s quite a swim to the reef. Go when it’s high tide as there are lots of sea urchins between the rocks and in the sand. San Juan is also the area where you find most of the accommodation and restaurants.

San Juan beach on Siquijor

Amazing colours just before the sun sets

A nice and quiet beach is definitely Paliton Beach. We have been there during the day. On weekends and evenings it can get busy by locals.

Kagusuan Beach is another beautiful beach in a small bay located between the towns of Lazi and Maria. Take the steps from the parking lot that lead down to the beach. About 10 km to the North past Maria is Salagdoong Beach. Great for swimming.

Siquijor beach clean up

The tides bring lots of seagrass to the beach

How to get to Siquijor island

The easiest way to get to Siquijor is by public ferry or charter a private boat. We took the ferry which is quite cheap.

From Dumaguete (Negros) to Siquijor you can choose between the fast ferry Ocean Jet which takes about one hour or the cheaper GL Shipping which takes about 90 minutes. Ocean Jet also runs from and to Tagbilaran (three hours) and Cebu (six hours). Always check schedules at the harbour as changes of times are common.

Taxi on Siquijor

Taxi… taxi…

Where to eat

Along San Juan beach there are a few resorts where you get breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our favourites for local food is Charisma Resort. The baby squid Adobo (soy sauce based) is delicious.

For BBQ the Grill Master just after the bridge going direction San Juan village has delicious BBQ chicken and skewers. It’s open air, so go there when the weather is good.

At JJ’s you get the best burgers on Siquijor or maybe in the whole Philippines. Waiting time is about 30 to 45 minutes because they freshly bake the buns. Super yammie and so cheap.

We are currently living on a small island in Raja Ampat in West Papua. Somewhere in the middle of the ocean and far away from everything. Therefore when we travel we love to go out for a pizza. Our recommendation for the best pizza on Siquijor is Treasure Island. You find the restaurant on the main road in Solangon, about 3 km away from San Juan village.

Where to stay

There are many options from cheap backpackers to upper-class resorts. You can even sleep in a tent at JJ’s Backpackers. Prices vary from PHP 350 – 5000 or more per night.

We stayed at Charisma Resort in the front double bungalow. There are two daybeds and the sea view is spectacular. And the sunsets… a dream! Every evening the colours are even more spectacular.

The room is basic with fan and bathroom but there is everything you need. The only downside is the walls are very thin and you hear every word from your neighbours.

The staff is super friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, we had a terrible incident. One night when we were out for dinner someone has broken into our bungalow and they have stolen our cameras, laptops, watches and many other belongings. Our worst nightmare happened. So be careful what you leave in your bungalow. Take your valuables with you. The police mentioned that thefts and robberies are quite common and a major problem on Siquijor island. We soon publish a blog post about what happened and what we could have done better.

PS: If you plan to travel in peak season between Christmas and New Year (that’s what we did) make sure you pre-book your accommodation between 24-31 December. You may be lucky and still get a room but the good B&B’s, guesthouses and hotels are usually fully booked. Christmas is a big event in the Philippines and the locals are travelling a lot.

Good to know – ATM situation on Siquijor

There are ATM’s on Siquijor island but many do not accept foreign cards. We went with the motorbike to Larena on the west coast to get some cash. There is a BANCNET Bank which worked fine. We heard from other travellers about a new ATM (Metro Bank) in Siquijor Town where foreign cards are accepted.

We recommend to bring enough or at least some extra cash.

Cost – Summary

CHF 1 = PHP 47 / EUR 1 = PHP 52 (February 2016)

  • Ferry from Dumaguete to Siquijor (GL Shipping): PHP 130 + 15 Terminal Fee
  • Ferry from Siquijor to Dumaguete (Oceanjet): PHP 210 + 14 Terminal Fee
  • Ferry from Siquijor to Tagbilaran / Bohol via Dumaguete (Oceanjet): PHP 910 + 14 Terminal Fee
  • Bungalow with fan & private bathroom from PHP 1200
  • Bungalow with AC & private bathroom from PHP 1700
  • Room with fan & private bathroom from PHP 1000
  • Budget room from PHP 650
  • Dorm from PHP 350
  • 24h Hire for motorbike PHP 300
  • 1 Dive with own equipment PHP 1100 & 100 Marine Park Fee
  • Pork skewer PHP 10-15
  • BBQ chicken leg with rice & beer PHP 180
  • Burger at JJ’s PHP 180
  • Pizza at Treasure Island PHP 200
  • 1 Liter of Water PHP 20-30
  • San Miguel Beer 33 cl PHP 40-60
  • San Miguel Light 33 cl PHP 45-65
  • Rum Coke (local rum) PHP 40-60

 

Do you plan to visit the Philippines? Which place or island is on your radar? Drop us your comment below, on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you!

 

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