You know the thing about spontaneity is that it would surprise you in so many ways. You never know where your decisions would take you, but you’re sure that you will have new memories and new stories to be told. Philippine Airlines had a seat sale before, and me being the spontaneous person that I am, booked a flight to Dumaguete. I really didn’t have any place in mind. I just thought “Hey, Dumaguete sounds nice” and indeed it was.
Dumaguete is part of the Visayas region of the Philippines. It is also known as the “City of Gentle People”. As always, my travels start out rainy. It was raining in Manila on the day of my flight. Luckily, Dumaguete welcomed me with sunshine. It was a short one hour ride from NAIA to Sibulan Airport.
I chose to stay with The Flying Fish Hostel via Airbnb. They are a solo-backpacker friendly hostel and I have nothing but good things to say about The Flying Fish. I loved the style of the place, the bunk beds and the service. I stayed in a 6-bed dormitory and thanks to this hostel I met new friends! I think they put me in an all-girls room, but they also have a mixed-dormitory. The beds were comfy and you have your own power sockets and light. The shower and toilet area are very clean. They also have a common area where you could grab a drink and meet other travelers. For a hostel, I was really impressed.
It was my first day in Dumaguete and I decided to visit the downtown area. Getting around was easy from The Flying Fish Hostel. You just hail a tricycle, tell them where you’re going and if they are also going in that direction they’ll let you in, if not, you can hail another one. Usual tricycle trips around the area cost 10 pesos per person but I heard it can get a little bit expensive if you’re going to the Ceres bus terminal because it is pretty far.
I first opted to have lunch at the famous Sans Rival restaurant. I got the lengua rice meal, fresh calamansi juice, and of course I couldn’t leave without trying a slice of sans rival. I do need to warn you it’s really sweet. My meal at the Sans Rival restaurant cost me at around Php 272 only. It was very filling and very affordable for an upscale-looking restaurant. If I had a meal like that back in Manila, it would cost me up to 300-600.
After eating, I then strolled along Rizal Boulevard. It does resemble Roxas Boulevard in Manila quite a bit. The area was filled with different restaurants and shops. During night time, it has a life of its own. Bars come to life and street food vendors fill the street.
I then went back to the hostel to prepare for my early trip to Apo Island the next morning. There I met Kylie, my bunk bed buddy (She got the top bunk bed). We had a couple of drinks and tried out a Korean restaurant in Dumaguete called Blue Pearl Meat. We got an order of Samgyeopsal for only Php 200 each.
The day I arrived in Dumaguete, I already looked into how I could get a tour to Apo Island. One of the staff at the hostel recommended I reserve a slot as a joiner at Harold’s Mansion. They offer tours every day (I think) to Apo Island. You need to go there and sign-up at least a day before if you’re planning to join their tours. They also have tours for Manjuyod Sandbar. I woke up early to prepare for the trip. Meet-up time was before 6:45am at Harold’s Mansion. Being my paranoid self, I was the first one to get there. The fee for a whole day tour at Apo Island with snorkeling cost me Php 1,200 as a solo joiner. They provided me with snorkeling gear.
The tour started with a jeepney ride to the port of Dauin. It was a long ride that I fell asleep. We arrived at the docking area and a huge boat was waiting. Remember to wear your swimming attire before going to Apo Island. You will get wet just by hopping onto the boat. The boat-ride to Apo Island took about an hour. We were divided into groups and was assigned a snorkeling guide. Our group consisted of other solo travelers. The boat stopped just by Apo Island, we were informed that area was our first stop for snorkeling. One of the tour guides persuaded me to jump into the water. I was so scared at first but when I jumped and got to see what’s under, it was marvelous.
The first area was kind of deep. It was where we saw most of the Pawikans or Sea Turtles. I didn’t know how to free dive, but if you do know how, this would be a great diving site for you. The waves made it hard for me to swim around. This area was heaping with Sea Turtles and we were lucky enough to swim alongside them.
The second snorkeling area was a shallow swimming site. This time, we could see the corals more clearly for it was hitting the faint sunlight. The area was booming with biodiversity. This is where we saw clownfishes and sea snakes. I was in awe of the reef. It was so colorful and full of life.
We were then provided a small lunch inside the boat. There was a third snorkeling site that we went to but I was so tired that I couldn’t go down the water anymore. We then left the island with nothing but good experiences to keep. Though I was hoping we could explore island. I was kind of disappointed that we were on the boat the whole day and did not set foot on the actual Apo Island. This tour is probably okay for solo joiners like me who can’t find a group to go with.
The next day, I went to Casaroro Falls in Valencia. I went there by ‘angkas’/’habal’ or motorcycle ride since I was just a solo traveler. I met Kuya Lando during my first day in Dumaguete. He was the tricycle driver who dropped me off Sans Rival restaurant. I got to chat with him a bit and asked him to name his price if he were to take me to Casaroro Falls and the Sulfur Vents. We both agreed at Php1,000 for the tour because it was quite far out and the roads were rocky uphill.
We arrived Casaroro Falls early in the morning. I was the first one there because the person who was supposedly to collect fees, still wasn’t there. You need to pay an entrance fee of Php20. Kuya Lando said I could already go down if I wanted to and so I did. I started the 350 steps down the stairs. I could already imagine me struggling on my way back up. I was kind of scared at first because I was alone and I could hear all sorts of things in the forest. As I descended down deep into the forest, I could already hear the river streaming down below. The staircase ended and the stream from the waterfall welcomed me. The man-made pathway to the waterfall has been destroyed because of the typhoon. I had no idea where to go. So I decided to just follow the water upstream. There were big boulders you had to cross which made it really difficult for me because I was alone and I wasn’t sure if I was in the right path. I was scrambling among boulders until one tour guide found me. The tour group was kind enough to let me walk with them to the falls.
Alas, after 20 minutes of trekking we reached the falls. Nature’s power was right before my eyes. It was amazing to see such beauty, it made all the trekking worth it. I couldn’t take much photos with me in it because I was on my own. I was also having light issues as to why the falls may look over exposed in my shots.
I cannot even begin to explain how grueling it was for me to hike back up the 350 steps. I kept having small breaks on my way back up. You really need to be physically and mentally prepared if you are going to visit Casaroro Falls. Remember to bring water with you. I couldn’t walk properly for three days after this hike. I wasn’t prepared, but it was still worth it.
After Casaroro Falls, we went by the Sulfur Vents of Valencia. I really wanted to visit this place because it looked amazing. It smelled like century eggs in here which was funny. It was really cool to see this site.
We ended the tour earlier than I expected. I still had time to have lunch at my favorite place along Hibbard avenue called Sta. Teresa Resto. They are a very affordable restaurant/canteen that offers a variety of Filipino dishes. I also went here with Kylie and I came to love this place because they have so much food!
I still had plenty of hours to spare after having lunch. Good thing I met Kuya Guyz from the Flying Fish Hostel. He was a tricycle driver for the hostel and offered me a tour at Twin Lakes. Without hesitation, I said yes. It cost me around Php 600 for the Twin Lakes tour. Kuya Guyz drove me to San Jose with his tricycle, there we met his contact who would take me up to Twin Lakes. It was another motorcycle ride uphill for me.
When you reach the gate, you need to pay the entrance fee of Php50. I needed the Kuya to accompany me up to the entrance of the lake itself, so I also paid for his fee and parking, total of my entrance payment was Php82.
The lake was so serene and calm. It was a very nice place to just chill. You can rent a boat to get to the other side. Luckily, I met a fellow solo traveler whose name was Mark, and we shared a boat which cost us Php 250 (Php125 each). The scenery was just so relaxing. Made me feel happy and grateful that I get to witness these things. Mark and I went up the viewpoint to see Lake Danao on the other side (Yes, more hiking!).
I have to warn people who are planning to come here. There will be a bit of a hike and some may find it difficult because it involves walking up stairs for about 15 minutes. The views are so worth it though. Just like Casaroro Falls, you need to be somehow physically prepared for this. Can you imagine my day consisting of climbing stairs and boulder scrambling? No wonder I couldn’t walk properly for three days. But that’s the great thing about traveling isn’t it? You never know when you could visit a place again. So you do what you can do.
That sums up my Dumaguete trip. There are still so many places you could go to from Dumaguete like Siquijor, Bacolod or Cebu. I wish I had more time. I loved Dumaguete so much because it was so laid back but with the right amount of adventure. The province life with the hint of night-life. I know Dumaguete is still not that touristy like Siargao, but please do give it a shot. It will surprise you. It truly is the “City of Gentle People”.
I’m making this blog for future travelers, especially solo-travelers like me who are looking for ways to get around. I’m going to leave contact numbers of the Kuyas who offer ‘angkas’ or motorcycle tours for solo travelers. I become so attached to places I go to. Leaving is always the sad part. Who knew that all you needed was confidence, a bit of luck, a lot of street-smart and a happy personality to interact with everyone you meet so you could have the time of your life. Dumaguete will definitely have a special place in my heart.
Drivers who offer angkas/tricycle tours:
Kuya Lando Curay– 0905-470-6729
Kuya Guyz from Flying Fish– 0935-740-4185
*** Please do mention that I recommended you or tell them you found them through Kat 🙂 I told them that I will be blogging about them. Also, please understand if they can’t cater everyone. They’re also working other jobs.
Recommended restaurants/canteens in Dumaguete:
Sta. Teresa Resto
Hibbard Avenue, Piapi, Dumaguete, 6200 Negros Oriental
Price Range: Php 50-150
Sans Rival Restaurant
San Jose Street, Dumaguete, 6200 Negros Oriental
Price Range: Php 100-300
Pick & Carry’s Food Net
Sta. Catalina Street, Dumaguete, Negros Oriental
Price Range: Php 20-80 (BEST PLACE TO EAT! VERY AFFORDABLE!)
E Rovira Dr, Bantayan, Dumaguete, Negros Oriental
Price Range: 100- 250 (Great breakfast food!)
Try Dumaguete’s famous tempura!
Rizal Boulevard, Dumaguete, Negros Oriental
ENJOY YOUR DUMAGUETE TRIP!