Dumaguete isn’t just another city for us, it holds a very special place in our hearts. What should’ve been a 2 day stop on a month-long road trip around Negros Island turned into 10 months, the longest we’ve stayed anywhere. The pandemic kept us in Dumaguete, but we sure made the most of it, determined to see as much as we could during our time there. That’s why you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more detailed guide to the best Dumaguete tourist spots. We’ve done our homework!
WHERE IS DUMAGUETE
Dumaguete is a small city in the province of Negros Oriental, on the island of Negros in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. Negros island is split between Negros Oriental on the east, closest to Cebu, and Negros Occidental on the west. Dumaguete City is the capital of Negros Oriental, and whilst it’s a small city it has just about everything you need, from the functional like hospitals and shopping malls to an abundance of recreational activities just outside the city limits.
HOW TO GET TO DUMAGUETE
You can fly directly from Manila to Dumaguete daily, or you can do what we did and travel from South Cebu to Dumaguete via ferry. South Cebu is one of our favourite places in the Philippines, so we absolutely recommend checking those sites out then crossing over to Dumaguete on a short 30-minute ferry. There’s also ferries running from Siquijor and Dipolog.
BEST DUMAGUETE TOURIST SPOTS
We’re going to kick this off with a brutally honest statement – there’s not a whole lot in Dumaguete. It’s a city after all, and a small one at that. So then, you might be wondering where all those amazing tourist spots in Dumaguete are? The waterfalls, diving spots and sandbars you’ve probably seen photos of. They’re actually in the neighbouring towns, all within driving distance of Dumaguete, but because they’re not inside the city limits we’d be lying if we gave all the credit to Dumaguete. So, in saying that, here’s all Dumaguete tourist spots (actually in Dumaguete), which you’ll be able to hit in one day.
Perhaps one of the most iconic Dumaguete tourist spots is the Dumaguete Boulevard, also known as the Rizal Boulevard. This bustling waterfront strip is packed with bars, restaurants and vendors, from ice cream carts to tempura stands.
The Dumaguete Boulevard is in the heart of the city, less than a kilometre from the port, and overlooks the vast sea and Siquijor Island in the distance. It’s a beautiful spot to visit in the evenings for a stroll under the ornamental street lamps, to try the famous Dumaguete tempura and to stop for dinner at one of the boulevard restaurants.
FULL BLOG POST: DUMAGUETE BOULEVARD GUIDE
Along the Dumaguete Boulevard is the most famous restaurant and bakery in all of Dumaguete, Sans Rival. This ancestral house turned bistro is a landmark in the city, known for its trademark “silvanas”, a buttercream cookie that brings in literally thousands of visitors a year. It would be a crime to visit Dumaguete and not try a silvana. The bistro is also one of our favourite places to grab a very tasty and affordable pasta and salad lunch!
FULL BLOG POST: SANS RIVAL DUMAGUETE REVIEW
Sans Rival is just one of many awesome restaurants in Dumaguete. If you’re looking for more ideas for where to eat in Dumaguete, check out our recommendations here.
The Dumaguete Belfry is one of the historical Dumaguete tourist spots, right in the very centre of town. It’s hard to miss, given its size, and is often surrounded by tourists, religious faithfuls, vendors and beggars. The Dumaguete Belfry has stood since the 1760s, serving as a watchtower to look out for pirates and invaders. Now, with pirates no longer a threat, the belfry is a religious site and a place to pay respects.
FULL BLOG POST: DUMAGUETE BELFRY GUIDE
4. SILLIMAN UNIVERSITY
Dumaguete is ironically both a retirement city and a university city, with Silliman University taking centre stage as one of the major Dumaguete tourist spots. Ranked within the top 10 universities in the Philippines, Silliman University is a popular choice for students near and far. Built in 1901, it’s also a beautiful campus that warrants a look around while you’re in town. Unfortunately, the campus was closed the entire time we were there because of the pandemic, so we had no choice but to admire from afar, but normally you can wander through the historical grounds.
5. QUEZON PARK
Quezon Park is a large green space in the heart of the city, directly across from the Dumaguete Belfry. Known for being one of the most popular places to visit in Dumaguete, Quezon Park was built to honour Manuel L. Quezon, the 2nd President of the Philippines. There are historical statues around the park, as well as a large pavilion to take shelter from the sun. It’s a popular park with families and kids and is worth a stroll through if you’ve just visited the Dumaguete Belfry across the road. Keep in mind, there are often a lot of homeless people around Quezon Park.
6. SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA CATHEDRAL
In the same area as the Dumaguete Belfry tower and Quezon Park sits the St Catherine of Alexandra Cathedral. You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the intricacy and architectural beauty of this building. Inside the Dumaguete Cathedral you’ll find elaborate artwork, glittering chandeliers and people from all walks of life coming to worship and admire.
BEST DUMAGUETE TOURIST SPOTS – OUTSIDE THE CITY
Now that we’ve covered all the things to do in Dumaguete, it’s time to get down to the exciting stuff! There are three major nearby towns we spent most of our time in – Dauin, Valencia and Amlan. We also visited Siaton, Zamboanguita, Bayawan, Santa Catalina, Pamplona, Tanjay and Bais. There are more towns in Negros Oriental but these are the ones we explored the most, as they were all an easy day trip from Dumaguete city.
7. APO ISLAND
One of the most magical Dumaguete tourist spots and our favorite place to visit in Negros Oriental is Apo Island. This tiny, rocky island off the coast of Dauin is home to the largest sea turtles we’ve ever seen and had the privilege of swimming with. You don’t need a diving certification to swim with these big guys, and in some parts the water was so shallow, we could touch the bottom.
The water around Apo Island was so vibrant and turquoise it blew us away, but the good thing is you don’t need a drone to see it from above. Once we were done swimming with the turtles, we hiked to the tip of Rock Point View Deck, which served as an incredible vantage point to glimpse Apo Island from above.
FULL BLOG POST: ROCK POINT VIEW DECK
The towns around Dumaguete are home to a lot of waterfalls, especially the town of Valencia. One of the most impressive and popular waterfalls near Dumaguete is Casaroro Falls in Valencia. This was the first of many waterfalls in Negros Oriental for us, but it remains one of our favorites.
It’s a beautiful 30-minute hike upriver to Casaroro Falls, which appears seemingly out of nowhere from around a fern-covered corner. Casaroro Falls sits at the end of the canyon, plummeting 100ft into the basin below. If you visit at the right time, the daylight illuminates the water spray giving the whole area a magical glow.
FULL BLOG POST: CASARORO FALLS GUIDE
Pulangbato Falls is another super popular tourist spot in Dumaguete, just outside the city limits in Valencia. “Pulangbato” literally translates to “red rock”, and it’s obvious to see where this waterfall gets its name from.
The waterfall itself is undeniably beautiful, but unlike Casaroro Falls which has been kept completely natural, a resort has been built around Pulangbato Falls. It’s something to keep in mind before visiting, but if you’re looking for an easy day out in nature with a lot of facilities, Pulangbato Falls is your best bet. Our hot tip? Hike a little further to Upper Pulangbato Falls for some real nature.
FULL BLOG POST: PULANGBATO FALLS HONEST REVIEW
FULL BLOG POST: UPPER PULANGBATO FALLS GUIDE
There are too many waterfalls near Dumaguete to list in this guide, and we figured it deserved its own dedicated guide for waterfall enthusiasts anyway. If you’ve got more time in Dumaguete and you want to visit more than Casaroro Falls and Pulangbato Falls, check out our guide to 23 epic waterfalls in Negros Oriental.
Aside from waterfalls, Dumaguete is also home to some incredible hot springs. Red Rock Hot Spring is just down the road from Pulangbato Falls, and like Pulangbato Falls a resort has been developed around the spring, but it’s still a great place to soak on a gloomy day. It’s a pretty big hot spring with a lot of picnic tables, making it a good place for lunch with family or hangouts with friends.
FULL BLOG POST: RED ROCK HOT SPRING GUIDE
Red Rock Hot Spring isn’t the only hot spring near Dumaguete, just the most visited. There are two more in Dauin that get a lot less foot traffic but are well worth the journey to get to. Read our guide to the top 3 hot springs near Dumaguete here.
History lovers will get a kick out of the Cata-al World War 2 Museum in Valencia. Not your typical Dumaguete tourist spot, the Cata-al World War 2 Museum is a personal collection of Japanese, American and Filipino artefacts, most of which were found right there in Valencia and nearby towns by Felix Cata-al and his father. Felix will happily take you on a tour of his prized possessions and give you all the details of his most fascinating finds.
FULL BLOG POST: CATA-AL WORLD WAR 2 MUSEUM DUMAGUETE
12. JAPANESE SHRINE
While we’re on the topic of World War 2, the Japanese Shrine in the mountains of Valencia is one of the Dumaguete tourist spots with a lot of history. The Japanese Shrine marks the site where the American and Filipino combined forces fought the Japanese Imperial Forces during World War 2. Now, a symbol of peace, the Japanese Shrine is visited by people who want to reflect as well as take in the incredible view of Dumaguete.
FULL BLOG POST: JAPANESE SHRINE DUMAGUETE GUIDE
13. FOREST CAMP
Man meets nature in the best possible way at Forest Camp Valencia. This family-owned resort is a jungle oasis in the foothills of Valencia, not far from the city centre of Dumaguete. There are countless pools that are fed from the river running through the property, as well as just about every tropical tree and plant you can imagine. For something a little different, there’s a skate park, hanging bridge, rock climbing wall and even a sustainable farm. Not to mention the food at Forest Camp is world-class.
FULL BLOG POST: FOREST CAMP VALENCIA GUIDE
14. MANJUYOD SANDBAR
We’re straying a little further from Dumaguete about an hour north to the famous Manjuyod Sandbar. They call it ‘the Maldives of the Philippines’, and whilst we’ve never been to the Maldives so can’t compare, we can tell you Manjuyod Sandbar is pretty spectacular. It’s also huge, we really weren’t prepared for how big it was!
Our day at Manjuyod Sandbar was one of the best days we had in Dumaguete, with hours spent swimming in the pristine water, walking along the endless white sand and playing on the tube rides. If there’s one of the Dumaguete tourist spots we recommend you visit, it’s Manjuyod Sandbar! You might even get lucky and see some dolphins on your way out there since dolphin watching is another popular tourist attraction in Dumaguete.
FULL BLOG POST: MANJUYOD SANDBAR GUIDE
Kookoo’s Nest in Siaton is by far one of the most talked-about Dumaguete tourist spots, and after putting off visiting for almost an entire year, we wish we’d have gone sooner. This tiny eco-lodge is open for overnight stays as well as day-use for visitors to have lunch, swim, snorkel, kayak and just enjoy a little peace and quiet. We spent all day here with some friends, exploring the house reef, eating fish and chips and walking along the private beachfront.
FULL BLOG POST: KOOKOO’S NEST SIATON GUIDE
16. TAMBOBO BAY
Just down the road from Kookoo’s Nest you’ll find Tambobo Bay, a small marina home to dozens of yachts owned by Dumaguete’s wealthiest. But you don’t need to own a yacht to enjoy Tambobo Bay, it’s a beautiful spot to go for lunch and enjoy the sea breeze. Make the most of it and visit on a Friday when they have a buffet for $4 USD!
FULL BLOG POST: TAMBOBO BAY GUIDE
Turtle Island in Siaton is one of our favorite Dumaguete tourist spots and was such a random find for us. Despite its name, Turtle Island is not actually an island and can be reached on foot, nor did we see any turtles. A lot of people take pump boats to Turtle Island but we were up for the adventure of trekking on land. We weren’t really sure what to expect but ended up being blown away by the white sandbar and turquoise water that we found at Turtle Island Siaton. The best part is, the only other people we came across were locals from the colourful little village we passed on our way.
FULL BLOG POST: TURTLE ISLAND SIATON GUIDE
Turtle Island is just one of many amazing beaches in Dumaguete. If you’re looking for the best beaches in Dumaguete, check out our recommendations here.
Twin Lakes is one of the first places people will tell you to visit in Dumaguete. Made up of two lakes side by side – Lake Balinsasayao and Lake Danao – Twin Lakes isn’t just one of the Dumaguete tourist spots, it’s also the major water source for Dumaguete City. Because of this, you can’t go swimming in the lakes, but you can hire boats and kayaks, hike around the shoreline, birdwatch and relax. There’s also a restaurant and view deck at the top of the hill which you won’t miss on your way in and out of the lake.
FULL BLOG POST: LAKE BALINSASAYAO & DANAO TWIN LAKES
19. SULFUR LAGOON
The Sulfur Lagoon in Amlan is definitely one of the most unique places we’ve been to, which also makes it one of our top places to visit in Dumaguete. Photos really don’t do this place justice – the colours are honestly out of this world, not just the incredibly blue water but also the orange rocks and dense foliage surrounding the lagoon.
Full Blog Post: Sulfur Lagoon Amlan
The Sulfur Lagoon is an old mine site that’s been filled by a natural sulfur spring, giving it a bright blue colour. It’s perfectly safe to swim in, but we wouldn’t recommend drinking it. As with all places sulfur based, the water does taste like coins but thankfully it doesn’t have the rancid smell of rotting eggs we’ve experienced elsewhere. If you hike around to the back of the lagoon there’s even a spot to cliff jump!
20. MALATAPAY MARKET
Malatapay Market is a bit of a different tourist attraction in Dumaguete, but it’s great if you’re looking for a cultural experience. Unlike your average wet market, Malatapay Market is a place where farmers come to buy and sell pigs, goats, cows, water buffalo, you name it they probably have it at Malatapay Market! Aside from livestock, they also have fresh fruit and veg, second-hand clothing, handmade machetes and freshly cooked lechon. It’s open every Wednesday, bright and early and is at the entrance to the public port leading to Apo Island.
FULL BLOG POST: MALATAPAY MARKET
If you’re looking for your Instagram moment, Reef’s Farm in Tanjay is as Insta-worthy as it gets. There are multiple sunflower fields to frolic and snap a pic, as well as an old vintage VW Bug in a rice field. At the entrance to the farm sits a bamboo A-frame where you can stop for a coffee and taste the local delicacy, Budbud sa Tanjay! It’d be a crime to visit Tanjay and not try Budbud, which is sweet sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf, best served with hot chocolate.
FULL BLOG POST: REEF’S FARM TANJAY GUIDE
Take a walk on the wild side at the Sta. Catalina Monkey Sanctuary, one of our favorite Dumaguete tourist spots less than 2 hours from the city. The monkeys here are totally free range and will steal your bananas, face masks and just about anything they can get their hands on. They’re curious creatures and will happily climb into your lap if they think you have food and aren’t afraid to pickpocket for a prize. But fear not, there are caretakers present in case anyone tries to get a little brazen!
FULL BLOG POST: STA. CATALINA MONKEY SANCTUARY GUIDE
Up in the hills of Dauin is a tiny town called Baslay, and at the very end of the road stands the bamboo fortress that is Baslay Highland Brew Coffee. More than just a coffee shop, Baslay Highland Brew Coffee is a plantation, where the beans are farmed, roasted and brewed on-site, guaranteeing 100% organic coffee. You can purchase your fresh brewed coffee and enjoy it up in the bamboo tower overlooking Apo Island and Mindanao further out.
FULL BLOG POST: BASLAY HIGHLAND BREW COFFEE GUIDE
Atmosphere Resort is a destination in and of itself, taking up a huge area of land in Dauin, 20 minutes away from Dumaguete. It’s not just the best resort in Dumaguete though, it’s up there as one of the best in the Philippines. With such a reputation comes a hefty price tag, but if you’ve got a little extra money to spend, Atmosphere Resort is where you want to spend it.
FULL BLOG POST: ATMOSPHERE RESORTS & SPA REVIEW
All their rooms are incredible, but their pool villas are the fan favourites. The resort has 3 huge pools, but their pool villas afford you the extra privacy.
If you’re anything like us and you have a hell of a hard time relaxing, always feeling the need to be doing something, Atmosphere Resorts has plenty of activities. You can work up a sweat with treehouse yoga, or take advantage of the PADI dive school and get your scuba diving qualification with world-class instructors. Dauin is a diving destination after all!
25. MOUNT TALINIS
Mount Talinis is a must-do Dumaguete tourist spots that we accidentally didn’t do, oops! Hiking enthusiasts and mountaineers won’t want to miss out on scaling the slopes of this potentially active volcano in Valencia. Not for the faint of heart, hiking to the summit of Mount Talinis will take most of the day and you’ll need to be relatively fit and healthy.
Guides aren’t just recommended, they’re required, so you can contact our friend Klydie on 09056482640. He’s part of the Negros Oriental hiking community and can help you arrange a guide for Mount Talinis. Whilst we never made it to the top of Mount Talinis, we did hike to Lubas Falls about halfway, which was gruelling but beautiful.
FULL BLOG POST: LUBAS FALLS GUIDE
26. SUBIDA SOUVENIRS
After exploring all the Dumaguete tourist spots, you can’t leave without picking up a keepsake from Subida Souvenirs. Forget tacky, mass-produced keychains and fridge magnets, at Subida everything is handcrafted by local artisans from all over Negros Oriental. We had the privilege of seeing where the magic happens at the Subida workshop, but you can buy a souvenir from their store at The Marketplace in Dumaguete, or along the Valencia highway across from Bumblebees Convenience Store.
We hope you enjoy your time in Dumaguete as much as we did, exploring some amazing tourist spots and destinations. You can access all of our guides to Negros Oriental here, or if you have any questions don’t be shy to drop a comment or shoot us an email. Dumaguete is like home for us and we want everyone to experience its beauty!
Just across the Tañon Strait is the Province of Cebu, a mere 30 minutes by ferry from Dumaguete. Continue your Philippines adventure in Cebu, with our guide to the 28 Best Cebu Tourist spots.
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WHERE TO STAY NEAR DUMAGUETE
Most people who visit Negros Oriental are told to stay in Dumaguete, but what they really mean by that is stay around Dumaguete. True, Dumaguete City has plenty of tourist inns and budget hotels, but it’s the surrounding towns of Dauin and Zamboanguita that offer the best spots to stay. There’s not a whole lot to do in the city itself, so when you stay in the nearby municipalities there’s plenty of nature to explore whilst still being nice and close to Dumaguete City. Check out our top picks for accommodation near Dumaguete City.
LUXURY: Atmosphere Resorts & Spa, Dauin
Atmosphere Resorts & Spa in Dauin is the resort to stay at if you’ve got a big budget and fancy the finer things in life. Atmosphere has hosted its fair share of local celebrities and deep pocketed divers looking for the best beachfront luxury in Dauin. Read our full review of Atmosphere Resorts & Spa here.
MIDSCALE: Mike’s Dauin Dive Resort, Dauin
If you want to stay by the ocean without breaking the bank, Mike’s Dauin Dive Resort in Dauin is a comfortable midscale accommodation option perfect for diving enthusiasts. If you’ve never dived before, you can get your certification at Mike’s, and divers of all skill sets can enjoy the abundance of macro diving opportunities in and around Dauin.
BUDGET: Bongo Bongo Divers, Dauin
Bongo Bongo Divers is one of the most popular hostels in Dauin for backpackers looking for cheap accommodation in a convenient location. The rooms are simple, without any glitz and glam, but the vibe is fun and welcoming. They have a variety of room styles to choose from, ranging from couples rooms to AC or fan only dorms.
AIRBNB: Villa Amani, Zamboanguita
Villa Amani in Zamboanguita is the perfect holiday home for small families or groups of friends looking for privacy that a traditional resort or hotel can’t offer. The main house sleeps 4 with additional space for 2 in the guest house, or you can book the guest house separately if it’s just the 2 of you and you’re on a budget. The property has a swimming pool, an unbeatable view of Apo Island and kayaks to use whenever you want. Read our full review of Villa Amani here.