I’ve heard about Siquijor island from so many travelers and I was intrigued to find what is it about, what’s so special about it. So, I headed there with my new friends, Timm and Anthony, a French and a German that I’ve met in the workaway Thad’s Place.
How to get to Siquijor?
There are three ways to get there: from Dumaguete (Negros Island), from Santander (Cebu Island) and from Bohol Island. Because Thad’s Place was on Negros Island, we came with a ferry from Dumaguete. We took the public ferry, the cheaper one, and we paid 130 pesos (2.5$) for almost 2 hours of journey.
How to get around Siquijor?
It took me a few days to find out how things work on this island. There are some unwritten rules which the locals are not gonna tell the tourists and, in a way, I understand them. There are two types of motos: public and private. The private ones are for the tourists and the public ones are for the locals. A private moto could get up to 400 pesos (7$) if you really don’t know how to negotiate, and the public ones are 20 pesos. You need to understand that these people are really poor and this is why the prices need to fit their budgets too.
So, to get from the Siquijor port to San Juan is only 20 pesos by moto, but you need to go out of the port a little bit. There are going to be only the motos for the tourists.
Rent a scooter
We found a pretty good price to rent scooters in Siquijor port with only 350 pesos (6$) per day. You need to negotiate of course because they might even ask for 450 pesos.
Where to stay in Siquijor?
I suggest you stay in San Juan, it’s the most happening place on the island and it’s great for the sunset. Also, I recommend booking in advance your accommodation if you come in a high season period. We visited Siquijor in mid-April and we weren’t expecting to find that hard a dorm. The first night we had to sleep in a slightly expensive villa (1500 pesos/29$ a room for 3 persons, no AC) and from the second night, we moved to the best accommodation in all my Filipino trip: JJ’s Backpackers.
It’s a clean hostel, with tall rooms and really good food, slightly more expensive (150 pesos/3$ per meal) but there are cheaper options around.
Here I had the best office since I’m in Asia: on the beach, under the palms’ shade, in a hammock, with a sea view. Early morning, when everybody sleeps, is the best time to work on the beach; the ideas flow faster. I managed to finish all the work for the day in a few hours in the morning and I’ve been more productive in a few hours here than in 8 hours in a cubicle, in an office. You should try it at least once.
What to do in Siquijor?
Waterfalls, white sand beaches, fishes with dog faces, fluorescent plankton, rainbow sunsets, caves, century-old trees, butterfly sanctuaries and friendly people, these are just a few things that can keep you busy for a week.
You can ask for a map with the main attractions, at the tourist center, at the port, when you arrive.
Siquijor Must Do:
1. Night Dive
Why do it?
-During the night more interesting fishes are active and you can see more sea creatures, like the octopus for example.
-The colors are more intense. When you dive during the day, the sea water filters the light that gets to the corals and the fishes, so some of the colors are lost, for example, the red. In a night dive using the light from the flashlight, you can see the true colors of the corals and of the fishes.
-Here in Siquijor, you can find the fluorescent plankton and the best time to experience it is during at night.
Maybe I didn’t convince you yet because you are scared, but let me explain to you what’s my situation in this chapter. I panic only on the thought that my mask will fog and I’ll have to clean it underwater (a simple procedure of feeling my mask with water and blowing air through my nose to fill it back with air). So, you can only imagine that I get goosebumps of thinking to dive in the dark; I feel like in the dark I won’t even have air. But, even with all these fears, I managed to do it! Yes, me! I just had to occupy my mind with something in order to forget about these nonsenses fears. Just give me a few fishes and I’ll be like a dog chasing cats when I dive.
I recommend to you to dive during the sunset while there is still light in the sky; it will start getting dark slowly and you can get used to the dark gradually. You’ll feel like a kid again when you’ll on your flashlight and you’ll use it on everything around you. You’ll be mesmerized by the vivid colors and you’ll forget about all the fears you had till that moment. The highlight of this experience is the fluorescent plankton. I shook my hands and laughed, for more than10 minutes, seeing that all around the water catches sparks from my movements. It’s a unique experience, hard to explain, but that I’ll never forget. I could have stayed there till I would have run out of air if I wasn’t obligated to go further.
The prices are mainly the same for all the shops here in Siquijor. We went with Last Frontier Dive and the prices are:
1550 pesos – 1 dive
2800 pesos – 2 dives
3750 pesos – 3 dives
And if you want to dive at night you need to add + 410 pesos more
There are plenty of waterfalls on Siquijor, some very touristy and some almost unknown, so, I chose one of each.
The first waterfall we went was Lagaan. It’s a small one but very well maintained for the 50 pesos entrance that you pay at the entrance. We didn’t plan to visit it and we found it randomly from a street sign. I was surprised to see that the natural pool formed in front of the waterfall was even cleaned from the leaves that fall from the trees around it, by the guards.
Here was the first time in my life when I jumped from a rope in the water and when I slid on a natural water slide. I think this is the cheap and natural version of a water park. Pretty amazing.
The second waterfall that we went is Lugnason, which are actually 12 waterfalls spread a few meters one from another one and they are named after each of the zodiacal signs.
The biggest and the most beautiful one is the only one you can swim in. You can jump from the rope here too, but because the distance was too big, I preferred to not do it.
There are three places where you can snorkel on the island and for all of them you need to have your own snorkel mask.
- Tulapos Marine Sanctuary – Here you can see giant clams, star fish, and the typical clown fish and other colorful fishes. At this place, we had to rent a boat and a guide to take us to the snorkeling spot, because the currents were strong and it is kind of far from the shore. For the entrance, boat and the guide, we paid for two person 400pesos (7.5$)
- Beach Paliton – Here you can snorkel from the beach, but you need to swim a little bit to find the corals and the fishes.
- Tubod – This place is behind Coco Grove Beach and for me was the perfect place to snorkel on the island. After a few meters from the shore is a cliff in the bottom of the sea and you can find a garden of corals and plenty of colorful fishes to see.
If you already stay at JJ’s, you have the best spot for the sunset. Here the sunsets are magical! I’ve never seen in my life so many colors in a single sunset, it looks like a Photoshopped postcard.
*The first three pictures are from the same sunset
If the accommodation you stay at doesn’t have the sunset view, you can head to Paliton beach. Is a small beach but has a great view of the sunset and great cliffs to pose for some great photos.
5. The island viewpoint
This viewpoint is in the middle of the island on Mt. Bandilaan and you can get there only by moto, but no public moto gets there so, you need to rent one or a driver with a moto. When you get there you need to climb a few stairs and a metal tower. From there you’ll be able to see all the island.
6. A ride around the island
The best way to explore Siquijor and to find the hidden waterfalls and beaches is to take your scooter and go on a ride around the island. We discovered interesting places this way.
7. Have a cheap fancy meal
One night, we went a little too late for dinner and we ended up by mistake at a really fancy restaurant. And because there weren’t any other options around, we decided to stay. We were surprised to see that the prices were actually ok (aprox. 200 pesos/dish) and the food was really delicious. The dishes are really big and I struggled to eat all of mine but was too good to leave anything on the plate. The place is called U Story Guesthouse Siquijor. They have really good reviews everywhere and the prices are more than ok for the services they offer. We liked it so much that we came back also during the day.
8. Meet the locals
As everybody in the Philippines, people here are really friendly. If you only pass by on the road in front of their houses, they will gladly invite you, even if is the middle of the day, to sing some karaoke and have some beer with them.
9. Go for some live music
If you stay in San Juan you can go almost anywhere on a 10 minutes walk. This is how we got to Monkey Business, a really cool bar with live music and a great vibe. Even if they close the bar you can still stay in it as long as you want if you are still having fun.
*copyright Monkey Business
10. Go to a party
Because Siquijor is a small island, there are not many places to go party. Czar’s Place is one of the few bars opened where you can dance and it’s only opened on Fridays.
*Copyright Czar’s Place
How to leave from Siquijor?
You would think it’s an easy thing, just by going to the port and getting on a ferry, but it’s not like that. If you are heading to Bohol Island or to Cebu Island, then you’ll have to leave from another port, called Larena.
Here are 2 companies that operate the ferries, a public and a private one. The private one is 700pesos(2 hours) and the public one(4-5 hours) is 250pesos if you want to sit on a bench or 330pesos if you want a bed. But, these ferries don’t operate every day, so you need to check in advance the schedule.
Wait, there is more! The public ferry is all the time crowded so you need to book your spot in advance and you can do this only by going to the port a few or one day before. They don’t issue tickets before the day of departure and the bookings expire 2 hours before the departure. So, you need to go in advance to buy your ticket, either in the morning or at least 2 hours before the departure because is a long cue.
For the private ferry, things are way much easier. You just show up at the counter before the departure and you buy the ticket. A triple the price ticket, but you are paying for convenience.
Siquijor was my magical week in the Philippines with great experiences and new first times. Learning how to be a digital nomad got easier on this island. I’ve learned from its people how to take my time and how to listen to my own pace.