Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental might be a university town, but for a place well-known for its academics, it’s neither sleepy nor stodgy. Instead, tourists can expect to be schooled in the province’s colorful history and the breathtaking beauty of Mother Nature when they visit the so-called City of Gentle People.
Check out this list of must-try experiences in Dumaguete and its nearby areas this year—many of which will make you want to come back! Let this seaside city be your gateway to Negros Oriental.
Campanario de Dumaguete and St. Catherine of Alexandria CathedralThe Campanario de Dumaguete or Dumaguete Belfry is one of the oldest surviving structures from Spanish colonial times; it was built in the 1800s as a watchtower and warning system against raiding pirates. Right beside it is the St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral, and below it is the grotto of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where supplicants light candles and pray.Continue reading below ↓
Take a stroll down the city’s famous seaside boulevard. It’s the best way to get a sense of Dumaguete’s vibe, plus you’ll be in walking distance of several of the landmarks on this list.
Silliman Hall and the Silliman Anthropology MuseumDumaguete’s famous Silliman University is beautiful and historically significant. Check out the oldest building on campus, Silliman Hall. This used to house the anthropology museum, which has since been moved to the also iconic Hibbard Hall. The museum showcases ethnological and archaeological artifacts dating back to 500 to 200 BC. Entrance fee is P40 for students and P100 for general admission on Mondays through Saturdays, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 to 4:30 p.m.Continue reading below ↓
Silliman University CENTROP (Center for Tropical Conservation Studies)The lush A.Y. Reyes Zoological and Botanical Garden, known popularly as CENTROP, was started in the 1960s as a tree planting project and location for field studies by the university’s biology department. In the 1990s, it expanded its purpose to include captive breeding programs to endangered Philippine wildlife, including the Philippine Spotted Deer. CENTROP is located on Ipil Street in Daro, Dumaguete City, and open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.Continue reading below ↓
Fresh SeafoodDumaguete’s location on the coast of southern Negros Island means seafood is fresh and abundant. Tried-and-true local favorites are Lab-as Seafoods and Hayahay Treehouse Bar and Viewdeck, they’re right next to each other and a prime source of delicious seafood. One local’s tip: Warm your insides with the Camiguin Express, a coconut milk based seafood soup, and indulge in your shellfish cravings!Continue reading below ↓
Sweet SilvanasSans Rival Cakes & Pastries’ famous silvanas are a favorite pasalubong for any Dumaguete tourist. These sweet disc-like desserts traditionally feature a buttercream center in a nutty meringue coating and just about melt in your mouth! Sans Rival also offers Chocolate Silvanas, for added indulgence.
Ninoy Aquino Freedom Park
Known by locals as just Freedom Park, this is about 10 minutes away from the airport. The park’s perimeter is marked by acacia trees over a hundred years old; its pathways are lined by flowers. Wide open space makes it a prime spot for local events, including the Buglasan Festival and Christmas festivities. It’s also a great place to find some street food or have a picnic.
Chinese Bell ChurchThis Taoist temple located on the southern end of Rizal Boulevard is known for its peaceful ambiance and landscaped gardens, complete with waterlilies in a courtyard pond. Come here to practice a little mindful relaxation. Entrance is free, so you can roam and ruminate to your heart’s content.Continue reading below ↓
Fil-Am Japanese Shrine
Located outside the city in the hills of Valencia is the Filipino-American-Japanese Amity Shrine commemorating the lives lost during World War II. Built in 1977 on the site of an actual WWII battlefield, the shrine features a three-sided obelisk to represent the three forces that fought here: Filipino, Japanese, and American.
Casaroro FallsAn absolute must-see when in Valencia are the Casaroro Falls, just under 10 kilometers from Dumaguete. The narrow waterfall drops from a rock crevice about 100 feet above the pool it plunges into. It’s a bit of a climb, but the stunning view is well worth it. Fortunately, the locals have added stairs to make it easier—the only thing is, it’s about 350 steps up to the falls’ plunge pool.Continue reading below ↓
Pulangbato Falls and Hot SpringThere’s more than one waterfall to chase in Valencia! Pulangbato Falls (also known as Malabo Falls) is found at the foot of Mount Talinis. The dramatic vista of the twin cascades against the sulfur-stained red-orange rocks make for a picturesque sight. Nearby is the Red Rock Sulfur Hot Spring; its warm water is said to have healing properties.Continue reading below ↓
Hiking up Mt. Kanlaon or Mt. TalinisChallenge your mind and body with Negros Oriental’s volcanos! Though if you’re planning a climb, it’s best to check if the mountains are open for trekkers. Mt. Kanlaon is an active volcano and is closed as of this writing, but when it opens again, mountaineering friends assure us this is a not-to-be-missed peak. In the meantime, there’s also Mt. Talinis, a hike you can schedule alongside a visit to the Pulangbato Falls and Hot Springs.Continue reading below ↓
Baslay Hot SpringThe sulfur-rich waters of the twin springs of Barangay Baslay in Dauin, Negros Oriental, are said to possess therapeutic properties. These are found near the base of the Cuernos de Negros Mountains. Be forewarned: the road to these springs is rough and rugged and mostly uphill.
Tañon Strait Dolphin WatchingEco-adventurers and animal lovers absolutely must make a stop in Bais Bay for dolphin watching in Tañon Strait, the Philippines’ whale and dolphin highway. Bais is a little over an hour’s drive north of Dumaguete and the best-known jump-off point for this activity. Dolphins can be found here all year round. Board a boat via either Capiñahan Wharf in South Bais Bay or Canibol Wharf in North Bais Bay. On a good day, you might find your boat surrounded by hundreds of dolphins! A pro tip: Go early in the morning for the best chances of dolphin acrobatics.Continue reading below ↓
Manjuyod Sand BarA stop at the Manjuyod Sand Bar is included when you go on the Bais Bay dolphin watching adventure. This stretch of white sand is submerged during high tide, but above water in low tide. If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive just as the tide is going out and get fabulous photos where it looks like you’re walking on water. Even at high tide, though, the turquoise water is picture-perfect.Continue reading below ↓
Talabong Mangrove Park & Bird SanctuaryBefore leaving Bais, head to Talabong Mangrove Park about 15 to 20 minutes from the Capiñahan Wharf to learn a little more about the delicate ecosystem that maintains the bay. And for a photo op along the long walkway that extends through the mangrove forest.
Apo IslandYet another must-try experience is snorkeling off Apo Island, popular because it’s a feeding ground for sea turtles, or pawikan. The wild turtles are so inured to the presence of tourists that they will often swim within a couple of feet of you. This means you get great shots with these gorgeous creatures, so make sure to bring (or rent) an underwater camera. Where the water is shallow, be careful where you step to make sure you don’t trod on a turtle!Continue reading below ↓
Lake BalananThis natural lake in Siaton, Negros Oriental, didn’t exist a hundred years ago. The lake was formed in 1925 after an earthquake triggered a landslide that in turn created a natural dam blocking the flow of the Balanan River. Popular activities here include a trip to the floating cottage, ziplining over the water, engaging in water sports like paddle boating, camping, picnicking, and stargazing.Continue reading below ↓
Mabinay Cave Tour
There are about 100 known caves in the cave town of Mabinay, called the Cave Capital of the Philippines, but only a handful of these are open to beginners. The Bulwang Caves, the Panligawan or “Courting” Cave, the Pandalihan or “Marriage” Cave, and the Crystal or “Honeymoon” Cave are the best bets for newbie spelunkers.