Dumaguete City, a 3,362-hectare seaside town and capital of Negros Oriental in the Philippines, is one of the most surprising tourist destinations in the country. Also known as the “Land of Gentle People”, this beautiful destination has only recently caught the attention of international travellers who are now busy preparing a Dumaguete Itinerary.
However, Dumaguete Philippines has long been known as the number one destination for retirement in the Philippines, thanks to its low cost of living, excellent quality of life, friendly people, an absence of big-city traffic, and great food to name a few.
Dumaguete and its nearby towns have also attracted divers from all over the globe who come to enjoy world-class dive sites not far from the city. Dumaguete is recognised for being a top university town where students from other parts of the country and the world come for affordable yet good-quality education.
Over the last few years, intrepid travellers and outdoor enthusiasts began trickling into the city, lured by unique travel experiences that no other place in the Philippines can offer. It’s hard to describe what makes Dumaguete tourism stand out; it means something different to everyone who has fallen in love with this city.
It’s no surprise that a Dumaguete trip is slowly becoming a top off-the-beaten-track destination for local and foreign tourists – many of whom have become so enamoured by the city’s charm and laid-back vibe that they have decided to stay for good.
Despite gaining popularity as a tourist destination, Dumaguete is void of mass-tourism. Also, while it’s a progressive city, there are no skyscrapers nor are there too many hotels, yet the best places to visit in Dumaguete are only a few minutes away.
With so much to do and see, where do you start during your trip? Well, let this Dumaguete travel guide take you the rest of the way in inside the incredible Philippines destination.
Dumaguete Itinerary – A Guide to the Popular Philippines Destination
Where to Stay in Dumaguete
Dumaguete hotels run the gamut. Generally speaking, everything on this island is affordable compared to other destinations in the Philippines.
The most famous luxury hotel here is Atmosphere Resorts, which is a dive resort in Dauin. It’s renowned for a reason: it’s beachfront, has a world-class spa, critically-acclaimed facilities, and a beautiful pool.
The best mid-range hotels in Dumaguete City include Hassaram Courtyard, La Residencia, and the Bricks Hotel. For those on a budget, check out Flying Fish Hostel, Gabby’s Bed and Breakfast, and Hotel Essencia.
Historical and Cultural Tourist Attractions in Dumaguete City
Dumaguete has a rich, colourful history spanning centuries and gets its name from “dagit” a Cebuano word that translates to “snatch”. Dumaguete, or swoop, became apt as a name long ago since Moro pirates would frequently raid the coastal town.
Here are some of the prominent historical and cultural places to go in Dumaguete:
Rizal Boulevard: Named after the Philippines’ national hero, Dr Jose Rizal, the Rizal Boulevard is the most distinct and iconic attraction in the city. It’s a vast stretch of road by the sea, framed by swaying coconut and majestic acacia trees. The locals sure love the boulevard; by dusk, it’s buzzing with activity as people come to watch the sunset or enjoy a bite to eat while taking in the breeze.
Silliman University: Silliman University is what placed Dumaguete city on the map. It was established in 1901 by American protestant missionaries, and today is a top school in the Philippines. The campus grounds are beautiful and have lots to offer a traveller: the school’s elegant yet old architecture is gorgeous, while the museums feature exciting exhibits.
Bell Tower: Another iconic landmark, the Dumaguete Bell Tower was built in 1811 as a means of warning the locals when pirates were approaching. It is also the oldest belfry in the Visayas region of the Philippines.
Aside from these exciting historical and cultural attractions that appear in every Dumaguete tourist spot, many of the city’s streets feature homes, buildings, and other establishments that remain relatively unchanged. That’s why it feels like you’re taking a step back in time when visiting certain areas, and that’s one of the many fantastic things about this place.
If you want to make the most of your Dumaguete itinerary, it’s best that you have at least three days and two nights. The city itself, as well as numerous nearby destinations, have a lot to offer without requiring you to travel more than an hour.
Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao: A significant tourist attraction in Dumaguete, the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao and Danao are two natural bodies of water perched on top of lush forest-covered mountains. Considering how popular it is as a tourist attraction, it has remained pristine and untouched all these years.
Manjuyod Sandbar: Touted as the “Maldives of the Philippines”, the Manjuyod Sandbar off Bais boasts of a white sandbar through the middle of the ocean. Although Philippine beaches have many sandbars, the qualities of this are unique primarily because of its proximity to land and the colours of the sand as well as water. You can find great day tours with Klook to Manjuyod Sandbar.
Pulang Bato Falls: Located in Valencia Dumaguete, Pulang Bato Falls, appropriately named after its rustic, orange-red stones from which a majestic set of falls flow through. There are small cafes and picnic sites nearby, and it makes for a pleasant afternoon trip, especially if you want a respite from the tropical heat.
Casaroro Falls: A real Negros Oriental gem, Casaroro Falls is a breathtaking natural attraction. You’ll need to go through a challenging hike over boulders and rocks, but it will be worth it. The cascades are jaw-dropping.
Forest Camp: Forest Camp in Valencia is one of the beautiful places to visit in Dumaguete for family travel in the Philippines. It features swimming pools, forests, valleys, a camping area, wall climbing, and a zip line.
Siquijor: The Island of Fire is a tropical paradise just a 40-minute boat ride away from Dumaguete. Though it’s possible to take the first boat in and the last ship out to spend the day in Siquijor, the best way to experience its stunning white sand beaches, fiery sunsets, and the mystical superstition that surround it is by staying at least one night. Find great tours in Siquijor with Klook with this link.
Dauin: A haven for underwater photographers and divers, Dauin and its nearby reefs are abundant with rare marine life, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world. From the Dauin resorts’ house reef to the turtle sanctuary located in Apo Island, there’s more than enough underwater excitement to fill up several days of your itinerary here.
The entire coastline of Dauin is one dive resort after another, so whether you want ultra-luxurious or an affordable stay, you can have your dream dive holiday your way.
Dumaguete transportation available to the tourist
The main form of transportation in Dumaguete City is the tricycle, which is a lot like Bangkok’s famous tuk-tuk. The fare starts at just AUD 0.27 for nearby destinations within the city, though it can get more expensive the further you go.
Adventurous and skilled travellers prefer to hire a motorbike for the day. If you have a license and know how to drive a motorcycle well, then it’s advisable to do so. Dumaguete is mostly a motor-run city, sharing the roads with tricycles. However, driving a motorbike allows you to get to the outskirts and many other destinations out of town with ease. Just make sure always to wear your helmet.
If you’re travelling with a group and intend on seeing many sites outside the Dumaguete travel guide, then you should consider renting a vehicle. These are generally affordable and provide you and your group with a much more comfortable way of getting around. Dumaguete’s roads are well-paved and maintained, and traffic isn’t a problem.
Alternatively, you can also book a tour, hassle-free with the many travel agencies found throughout town. It’s the preferred way of sightseeing for many travellers, especially those who want to sit back and relax while a friendly tour guide takes the lead.
Where to Eat in Dumaguete
The diverse array of cheap and delicious restaurants in Dumaguete City also make it a top foodie destination. A large expat population means that you’ve got access to authentic European food in delis and restaurants, but the local cuisine is compulsory eating.
Here are some culinary experiences you shouldn’t miss while you are preparing your Dumaguete Itinerary
Painitan: The painitan of Dumaguete, which translates to “a place to go to warm up”, is as authentic and traditional as you’ll get to local eats. It’s the furthest thing from a restaurant, though; in fact, it’s just an outside portion of the public market.
However, the superstar here is the suman budbud, or budbud kabog; both are varieties of rice snacks, sometimes with a bit of cacao mixed into it and wrapped in greasy banana leaves. Ask for a cup of hot cocoa and some sweet mangoes on the side, and you’ve got yourself the ultimate Dumaguete snack.
Sans Rival Bistro: If I could say that Dumaguete travel could do just ONE thing well (though that would be a lie because they do many things brilliantly!), then it would be their sweets. Trust me; this city knows their desserts. Can you blame them? Negros Oriental and its neighbour Negros Occidental were pioneers of the sugar industry eons ago.
Remnants of this fact are still very much evident in the abundance of dessert shops throughout town. However, among them, only one is king, and that is the Sans Rival Bistro.
They are responsible for inventing the famous buttery, sugary delight that is the Silvanas cookie, and its cake counterpart, the Sans Rival. Sans Rival Bistro is an old ancestral home-turned-restaurant, once home to the lady who invented these sugary treats long ago. It’s also conveniently located right at the heart of Rizal Boulevard, so come in the afternoon for a coffee and cake.
They also offer a wide array of savoury dishes including salads, soups, and portions of pasta; every single item on their menu is delicious. (Tip: after eating at Sans Rival Bistro, pass by their dessert shop attached to the restaurant. It’s where you can get the Silvanas for takeaway and don’t be surprised if the lines are long. Yes, it’s a cult-worthy dessert that you’ll understand, after you’ve sunk your teeth into it.
Hayahay Treehouse Bar: If you love seafood, don’t miss out on Hayahay Treehouse Bar. At night it comes alive with pumping dance or reggae music, but from lunchtime onwards it’s an excellent seafood dining joint.
A coastal town like Dumaguete would naturally have lots of seafood to offer, and this is one of the best places to get it fresh. The restaurant even has several aquariums where you can choose your fish and ask them to cook it for you the way you want. Otherwise, you can select from what’s already in the menu.
There’s just so much to talk about concerning the food scene in Dumaguete. Maybe we’ll leave that for another article entirely. Only trust me when I say that you should come with an appetite.
Where to go in Dumaguete for Shopping
Dumaguete surprisingly has lots of great buys considering it’s a province with lots of little-known discount shops at really affordable prices.
For the best shopping in the Philippines, many will tell you to visit big cities such as Manila or Cebu. Now if you like a grand bargain, you’re in for a real treat in Dumaguete. Thrift shopping is enormous here, with large markets found in certain areas in the city. An authentic Roxy backpack for AUD $1? Yes, those are some of the great finds you can expect here when having a Dumaguete food trip.
For other kinds of bargains, head over to Lee Plaza. A famous department store in the central part of town, you will be shocked at just how cheap clothes, furniture, and other handmade goods are here. That doesn’t mean they aren’t of quality artistry. You’ll be surprised at the many cheap finds here.
For all other needs, you can visit Robinson’s Place Dumaguete. This chain of shopping malls is well-known in the Philippines, so you’ll find what you need here.
For souvenir shopping in Dumaguete, look no further than Subida Souvenirs and Handumanan, you are bound to find a great bargain or ten.
There you have it, a rundown on the Dumaguete tourist spot that has many incredible things to see and do when seeking that brilliant Philippines holiday.