This post was written before Earth Vagabonds went into quarantine and community lockdown in the Philippines. We advocate for travel — when it is safe to do so again. In the meantime, we decided to post this for lighter weekend reading – unrelated to the virus.
This is a list of sweet spots to experience in Negros Oriental — away from “organized tours.” These places are great for retired budget travelers visiting the Philippines because they cost little money, and – maybe more importantly – they give a sense of adventure to the authentic traveler.
If you want first-hand experience on where to go around Dumaguete, please keep reading! But, let me tell you right up front, if you are looking for information on group tours to Apo Island or Siquijor, which are the most common (and expensive) things to do, you won’t find that here.
We spent a month on the southern part of Negros Island, where the region is called Negros Oriental. These are my favorite spots in the area around Dumaguete that you shouldn’t miss if you’re in this part of the world.
Negros Oriental for retired budget travelers
Reminder: This is an independent blog. We get nothing in return for reviews. These are Ellen’s honest opinions.
Where to eat
Cliff House offers the best burgers in Southeast Asia. Seriously. We couldn’t believe the size and taste — and price! They’re $5 to $6, depending on the type you order.
Cliff House also serves lots of other tasty food. Another favorite of the spouse was the spaghetti and prawn dish. And during our visit, the owner was experimenting with lighter fare like salads, which were better than any salad anywhere — I’m not exaggerating. (And I get nothing in return for positive reviews.)
We ate there several times a week during our stay. That’s right — it’s also a bed and breakfast! There is only one apartment currently available – and we were so lucky to have snagged it for a full month.
The owner is awesome, and her staff are wonderful ladies.
Go for the view – and for the food and the service!
During our stay at the Cliff House, my spouse Tedly’s mom celebrated a birthday, so we asked the owner Jenny to order a cake. I was blown away by how awesome it was! So was Tedly – who is not a big chocolate cake eater. “This is the best cake we’ve had in years,” he said. And it was true!
Well, it turns out the cake was from Sans Rival, a popular local French-style pastry shop in Dumaguete that’s been around since 1971. And I just had to go there one day when I needed, well, a slice of delicious cake. One slice of cheesecake and a strong brewed coffee cost less than $2. I mean really – what’s not to love?
Sans Rival also serves regular food, but I didn’t have any of that. However, one expat shared with me he eats there often with his wife, because he said the food quality matches the cake.
Where to hike
So after all of that eating, Negros Oriental has plenty of hiking trails — many of which are around the dormant volcano named Mount Talinis. The following suggestions come from that region. The Cliff House, where we stayed, is within walking distance of these three spots. Surely there are more places in Negros Oriental to hike, but these are three I, or Tedly and mom, have experienced.
The most well known falls in the area. They. Are. Gorgeous.
If you ride a motorbike up to the entrance, you’ll go down 325 steps to get to a well-kept, concrete path with three bamboo bridges that take you to the falls.
We walked up the hill from the Cliff House, so it was several hundred feet up. It was good exercise for me. And one time, I was there early in the day and lucked out — with the entire site to myself for nearly one full hour!
This can be crowded with tourists, but if you go on a weekday, and early, and on a cloudy day, there generally will be fewer people.
Admission is the equivalent of 60 cents.
Mom Diane also hiked up the trail to the right of the falls. It’s steep but well marked.
The “Original” Casaroro Falls
Tedly and mom went out exploring one day while I met with some friends in Valencia. They were intrigued by the “original falls” marked on Google maps. They asked around on how to get there, and Tedly filed a previous post, dedicated to getting there.
The Filipino-American-Japanese Amity Memorial Shrine
The Filipino-American-Japanese Amity Memorial Shrine is easy to get to on a motorbike. Or, you can take a lovely walk through farm land and rural areas where you are not likely to pass many souls other than chickens, cows, and goats.
From the Cliff House, there is a sign that points to the Casaroro Falls on the left, and the Shrine to the right.
It’s a long uphill walk (2,260 foot elevation), but the steep dirt and paved roads are in good condition, there is no traffic, and the views at the top are beautiful. On a clear day, nearby Cebu Island is easily spotted.
The shrine is a simple obelisk that stands at the site of a World War II battle in the Valencia highlands.
Free admission, but a woman with a box collects donations. There is a sari sari at the top (small neighborhood mom-and-pop convenience store) that sells water and snacks.
Where to snorkel
Dauin Marine Sanctuary
The Dauin Marine Sanctuary is tops on my list for snorkel spots anywhere in the Philippines. It’s so easy to get to the reef, there are no boats allowed near the reef, and it’s free.
This place is so awesome, it claimed its own previous post.
Where to visit hot springs
Red Rock Hot Springs
There will be some tourists at the Red Rock Hot Springs when you go – but usually not too many if you go earlier in the day when the sun is still high. This seems to be a popular place once the cool-off happens on the mountain each day.
There are many more details in a previous post.
And yes, there is another hot springs spot near Dauin, but I never made it there. However, an expat who lives here says it’s worth the hike.
Where to see great views
Already mentioned for the food!
Sheintan Ridge View
The Sheintan Ridge View place has fabulous views!
If you go on a clear evening, you will be rewarded with amazing views of the sea and nearby Siquijor Island, and the southern tip of Cebu Island.
We were so lucky: we went on a clear night when the “worm” moon rose. Bam!
There is a restaurant and bar at the top. We ordered chicken nuggets, fish filet, chicken wings, all with fries. While edible, our dishes were not something we would order again.
My advice: skip the food, order drinks, take in the view.
(There was a small entrance fee without a food order: 50 cents at the time of this writing.)
Already mentioned for a hike!
Japanese World War II Monument
Already mentioned for a hike!
Where to shop
Lee Plaza in Dumaguete offers less expensive items than Robinson’s Mall and department store. In general, prices were more reasonable at the plaza.
Aside from prices, the ladies department had underwear large enough to fit my American ass. (That can be a challenge to find in Southeast Asia! Oh, Jockey size L, how I miss you!!)
Any local market
Just about every town around Dumaguete has local markets. Some days, like Sundays in Valencia, have pop-up shops and extra produce vendors who come in from more rural areas.
Also, Dumaguete’s market is large enough to fill a few city blocks.
Where to stay
We chose to stay west of the town Valencia, on the mountainside, as I mentioned. The temperatures at 1,300 feet were slightly cooler – and a much welcome break for me.
Even Valencia town is a little cooler than Dumaguete, but not as much cooler. Still, I’d rather stay in or around Valencia that Dumaguete, which is a city worth visits, just not my preference for long stays.
If we come back to Negros Oriental, I would like to try a stay around Dauin. There are many diving spots and snorkel spots.
Negros Oriental: Really cool place
As with everywhere else in the Philippines, the people really made our visit special. Filipino people always made us feel welcome. They’re so kind! A few times trike drivers told me to pay them what I wanted. We were invited to dinners and picnics.
Many expat Americans have relocated to the area around Dumaguete. There are more expats in Negros Oriental than any other Philippine destination we’ve been to so far. Perhaps even any other Southeast Asian destination, and second only to some areas of Mexico.
Clearly, these expats have discovered the areas around Dumaguete, Dauin, and Valencia are special places.
Thanks for reading “Negros Oriental for retired budget travelers.”
Posts to read next: