Dumaguete is charming little university city in the Negros Oriental province with plenty of day trips, scuba diving, and friendly people. It was easy to make friends in the city known as “The City of Gentle People”. Some of the Pinoys I met also said it’s a hip city, and I agree with them. Aside from going scuba diving in Dumaguete, I enjoyed walking around the boulevard area and exploring the good restaurants and bars.
The city doesn’t have a tourist vibe per se, but there are still plenty of foreigners here. Dumaguete is a retirement hot spot for westerners. It’s much less expensive to retire here than in Europe or North America. Western men are finding younger or much younger Filipinas here to settle down with. Go to Why Not bar one night and you’ll see what I mean. I never saw so many white-haired men partying like university students at a frat party. Also I met other younger expats and travelers working in one of the many scuba dive shops south of Dumaguette, near Dauin.
Scuba Diving in Apo Island
I took the open water advanced diving course at Acqua Dive. My dives near Apo island had the best visibility of anywhere I’ve ever gone diving. During my drift dive there was an area where I swear I could see an underwater valley in the far away distance, maybe 500 meters away or more. Is that even possible or is my mind playing tricks on me? It looked really far away and it gave me this feeling for a few seconds that I was floating around in outer space, in another world.
There are several dive shops with good reviews south of Dumaguete. I was referred to Acqua Dive from a local, and now I can also recommend it as an excellent place to dive. It’s a newer dive shop and it’s closer to Apo Island than the dive shops in Dauin. So if you dive from here your boat trip to the island will be significantly shorter. Ask for Anna, if she’s still around she was great to learn from.
During the dives I saw turtles, frog fish, many variations of coral, and swam down to 30 meters as part of the advanced course. I didn’t see anything exotic like a shark, still I was very impressed with the visibility and quality of the dives here.
Now that I completed the advanced course, I want to get an underwater red filter and light system to mount my SJCAM (like a GoPro) on to get better quality pictures. Plus a wide angle lense would be nice if I can find one. The SJCAM already has 170 degrees wide angle lense, but the wider the angle, the better. I got a couple good pictures on this dive, but they would look better without the blue-green color cast.
Motor Bike to Twin Lakes
I took a nice day trip on a motor bike out to Twin Lakes in the mountains. Like any drive in the mountains in Southeast Asia, this one included many stunning views. It also included some problems with the bike 🙁
About 3/4 of the way to Twin Lakes the bike decided to call it quits. “Oh shit”, I thought, “I knew I shouldn’t have trusted the fuel gage when renting this bike.” After physically checking the fuel tank, I confirmed that I was completely out of fuel. Fortunately some youngsters were hanging out nearby and they were willing to fetch some more fuel.
Later in the drive, right after the park entrance there’s a very steep hill. It was so steep that my bike couldn’t make it up all the way. I even had the semi automatic in the lowest gear and it still died. I needed more power! There was no other option but to walk it up. Fortunately it wasn’t for very long before the hill leveled out some and I could drive the rest of the way.
Tip: Go early in the day so you have enough daylight to boat around the lake. And of course, make sure to fill up your bike and don’t trust the fuel gage which isn’t reliable half of the time.
Transportation in Dumaguete
One of my favorite things about Dumaguete is the tricycle prices. In case you don’t know, tricycles are like taxis, but as a motorbike with a sidecar attached. It only costs ₱8 or ₱10 if you’re traveling within the city. To put that into perspective that’s about 20 cents USD. Only once did a guy try to rip me off. He said the traffic is bad going to the bus station so it would be P50. When I got there and realized he tried to rip me off (there was almost no traffic) I gave him ₱20 and told him to quit trying to rip off foreigners.
You can fly in to Dumaguete from other major cities in the Philippines or you can take a bus from Cebu City. I took a bus from Cebu City that drives onto the ferry and then continues the drive to Dumaguete after arriving on Negros island. It was cheap and comfortable and that’s what I would recommend doing if you’re already in the Visayas.
Restaurants & Bars
Dumaguete has so many good restaurants and I didn’t get to try all the highly recommended ones. These are a few I tried that I can recommend.
Hayahay – My favorite spot for flavorful food, drinks, live music, and a party atmosphere in the evenings. I didn’t try anything on the menu that I didn’t like. If you’re a solo traveler like me, post up at the bar and you’ll be sure to meet some friendly people.
Sans Rival – Whatever you order here, make sure you also try the silvanas for dessert, because it’s made from mostly butter and so they’re very scrumptious.
Moon Cafe – Mexican food on the Boulevard. Try the chili sticks. I wish they came with Mexican queso that you get in Tex-Mex restaurants back in North America, but the sour cream cheese dipping sauce they provide is pretty good also.
Florentina – If you’re a bit north of central Dumaguete, come here to get Western food in a Tuscan style resort
Why Not – The popular Swiss restaurant is connected to the Why Not nightclub. It’s a little expensive but the entrees are large and delicious so it’s worth it if you’re really hungry. I went on November 1st, during All Saints Day and they were still open while most everywhere else was closed.
Rock Box – I got a tip from a local to check out this place. They have music videos on TVs surrounding the bar and restaurant area. I just went here for dinner one night and it wasn’t very busy but I hear it fills up later in the evenings.
Prime Bar & Night Club – Check out this high energy nightclub that has a younger crowd than Why Not.
Amber Restaurant – At the top of C & L Suites Inn, enjoy local or western food while taking in a view of the city.
McDonalds – What? McDonalds? Yes, try the ice-cream coffee float, it’s delicious. I’ve never seen this sold at a McDonalds, or anywhere. Then again, I rarely go to McDonalds.
I stayed in a couple different places during my stay in Dumaguete. They were both fantastic.
Flying Fish Hostel – One of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed in. It has this modern industrial/farm-house style, like fishing cabin meets city loft. The only downfall, it’s brand new so not many people were staying there.
Golden Gate Suites – I switched to this hotel after a few days after getting a recommendation. It’s a great all around hotel and in the same building as a 7-Eleven which makes it really convenient.