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It’s been said that if Bacolod and Negros Occidental is the home of party people, Negros Oriental—and its capital, Dumaguete City—is its chill sister. With its lush mountains, unspoiled beaches, and laid-back charm, it’s definitely the place to be for travelers looking for some R&R. And while some thrilling activities are also found in this province, it’s definitely balanced out by a huge number of opportunities to just relax and escape the daily grind.
As the name suggests, Negros Oriental is located on the eastern half of Negros Island, facing Tañon Strait and the island of Cebu. This geographical location not only means an abundance of beaches and dive spots; it also means easy accessibility to the heart of the Visayas. It may also be the reason why most locals here speak Cebuano (Bisaya); compared to residents of Negros Occidental, who speak Hiligaynon (Ilonggo).
Most travelers start their journey in Dumaguete City, the capital of the province, and where most transportation options are available. This city, nicknamed “The City of Gentle People,” is known as a laidback university town due to the presence of several institutions of higher learning. Travelers can then move on to the province’s top tourist draws, from diving at Apo Island to the many natural wonders the provinces has. And of course, all these activities and attractions are made better with local hospitality; these are all offered with a warm, welcoming smile.
The province of Negros Oriental is served by the Dumaguete Airport, which receives flights from Manila and Cebu. Travel time from Manila to Dumaguete is one hour and 25 minutes, while it only takes 45 minutes from Cebu to Dumaguete. The Manila to Dumaguete route is flown by both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, while the Cebu to Dumaguete route is only served by Cebu Pacific.
Negros Oriental is also well-connected to the rest of the country by ferry and RoRo services. You can reach Dumaguete from Tagbilaran and Siquijor via the fastcraft services operated by Ocean Jet. Meanwhile, Montenegro Lines offers Dapitan to Dumaguete trips; Cokaliong Shipping Lines offers Cebu to Dumaguete trips.
Ceres Bus operates a Bacolod to Dumaguete route. This route passes through several towns and cities of Negros Oriental, such as Mabinay, Bais, Tanjay, Amlan, San Jose, and Sibulan.
To reach the other parts of Negros Oriental, you can hop on a bus or a jeepney from Dumaguete City. For transportation inside towns and cities, pedicabs—motorized ones, similar to tricycles—are the most convenient option. Taxis are also available inside Dumaguete City.
The best way to begin a trip in Negros Oriental is in Dumaguete City, the provincial capital and a chilled out university town. Hence, to learn more about the city’s development, a visit to the Silliman University Campus is a must. Its University Hall, built in 1909, is the oldest still-extant American colonial structure in the country and considered a landmark of both school and city. Inside its beautiful halls is the university’s Anthropology Museum, which houses some artifacts that are a thousand years old.
Travelers can then head to the Parish Church of Saint Augustine of Hippo in Bacong. A declared National Cultural Treasure, this centuries-old church has the tallest belfry in the province that also served as a watchtower. But its real gem lies inside: a pipe organ that was imported from Spain and installed in the church back in 1894.
Negros Oriental also has a wealth of natural wonders. First is Apo Island in Dauin, one of the world’s top diving sites. With over 650 species of fish and 400 types of coral to be spotted in the crystal-clear waters, snorkeling around this island is a must.
There’s also the province’s collection of white-sand beaches. These include the White Sand Bar in Manjuyod, Lag-it Beach in Bais, Camangyawon Beach in Basay, and the pebbly Antulang Beach in Siaton. These shores are the perfect escape from city life.
While diving or snorkeling at Apo Island is a given, there are also a number of other activities in the water to enjoy. For example, you can go on a dolphin-watching tour at the Tañon Strait, with the jump-off point at Bais City. Or try surfing at Bayawan City’s four breaks: Piggy Bank, Sande’s Point, and Bonawan. If the beaches are not for you, try kayaking at the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao and Danao in Sibulan.
The mountains separating Negros Oriental from Occidental are also great options for hiking. First is Mount Kanlaon, one of the most active volcanoes in the country and the highest point on the island. Another is Mount Talinis, known as the “Cuernos de Negros” or “Horns of Negros,” due to its two peaks’ shape.
And if you’d like something less strenuous, you can also enjoy a leisurely round of golf in Dumaguete City. Choose from two golf courses: the 18-hole fairway at Ang Tay Golf and Country Club or the 9-hole green at Bravo Golf Hotel.
There’s no shortage of good food in Negros Oriental. Begin your gastronomic adventure on the streets of Dumaguete, where you’d find top-rated restaurants such as Mooon Café, Pasta King, and the Sans Rival Cakes and Pastries shop. Then you can head to Tanjay to try one of Negros Oriental’s most popular snacks—budbod, the Negrense version of suman. And if you’re looking for local seafood, you can enjoy that while visiting the Manjuyod Sandbar. Here, fishermen will sell you freshly-caught cuya shells, which are very similar to oysters.
Most nightlife options can be found along Rizal Boulevard in Dumaguete City. This seaside road has a promenade on one side, while the opposite side is lined with various restaurants, bars, and clubs. One popular option is Why Not?, which houses a deli, restaurant, and disco under one roof. Another top pick, the Hayahay Treehouse Bar and Viewdeck, is just a few meters off the boulevard.
Most travelers in Negros Oriental opt to stay in Dumaguete City not just for convenience, but also for the good number of accommodation options in the area. These are mostly in the form of boutique hotels, such as Bethel Guest House and Hotel Essencia. But if you’re looking to stay on the beach, head to Dauin, which has a number of dive resorts. Options include Liquid Dumaguete Beach and Dive Resort, Atmosphere Resort, and Mike’s Dauin Beach Resort.
When traveling during the low season, allow a bit of flexibility in your travel plans, especially if you’re taking the ferry. Weather disturbances such as typhoons may mean canceled trips.
If climbing Mount Kanlaon, make sure to secure permits and deal with the paperwork at least one week in advance. Since it is an active volcano, a notarized waiver is also required.
Make sure to book your accommodation in Dumaguete City in advance. While the city has numerous hotels and hostels, they can be fully booked at times, due to the numerous seminars and fora held in the city.