How To Tick Off MALDIVES From Your Bucketlist by wengwengwanders

I dream about Maldives as other people dream about Paris.

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I never thought that I could actually afford it.  What I’m about to write is not the ultimate cheap skate about this place because in all honesty, nothing is freaking cheap in there and it would ruin every experience possible if you try to cut costs.  I come from the Philippines and there is no denying that Boracay and Siargao are both heaven and every beach is just much the same.  However, Maldives for me is the epitome of all great beaches and what you pay for is that luxury experience uniquely present on the islands.

Itinerary

Day 1
Bacolod 08:50am
Manila 12:40 pm
Kuala Lumpur 06:25 pm
Male 07:45 pm
Immigration/Customs 08:30pm
Depart from Airport via private speedboat 09:30pm
Fihalhohi Island Resort 10:30pm(Male time) 11:30pm (resort time)

Day 2
Breakfast, Lunch at Resort
Beach
Checkout 12:00pm
Kaani Beach Hotel (Maafushi) 05:00pm
Dinner

Day 3
Breakfast
Anantara Beach Resort 09:00am
Lunch and Cocktails
Dinner at Maafushi

Day 4
Swimming at Bikini Beach
Maafushi Island via public speedboat 05:30pm
Male 08:55pm
Kuala Lumpur 08:20am
Manila 12:15pm
Bacolod 05:25 pm

Transportation

There are three means of transportation in Maldives:

Public Speedboat that only travels from Airport, City and Maafushi (Public Island) and runs on schedule : 20USD per person per trip
Private Speedboat chartered based on your own schedule
Male Airport to Maafushi: 150USD per boat per trip
Male Airport to Fihalhohi: 70USD per adult per trip and after 6pm additional of 25 USD per adult per trip
Seaplane: 200 to 400USD per person per trip

For bookings: contact your hotel or though http://www.atolltransfer.com

img_3870Where to Stay

Fihalhohi Island Resort

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We arrived at the resort late at night.  On our way there, we were accompanied by 4 staff in the speedboat as I have prearranged it for pickup from the airport privately.  The boat was big enough which can accommodate for about 20 people.  It was the most dangerous thing I have ever done in my life frankly.  There were no lights nearby; telling me that if the boat were to sink, we’ll be left in the middle of the ocean.  But it’s just me overthinking things.  It took us about 50 minutes hell of a ride to arrive at the resort and we were welcomed with drinks.  In the left side of the reception, is the list of activities you can do throughout the week, you can write your name to reserve your slot if you fancy fishing, boating, snorkeling or swimming with the manta rays.  Around 11pm, we settled and had our dinner at the nearby cafe.

The next morning, I was so saddened.  On the glass window, I freaking saw that it was raining hard and looked like there was a storm. I checked the weather update and to my dismay it was really a bad day.  I thought to myself that I didn’t come all the way with 24 hour trip just to have it raining on the beach.  We had our international breakfast at their main restaurant. We had free breakfast and dinner buffet which was included in the room rate.  Next to the restaurant is the concierge and in front of it is the dock for the welcoming guests.  Knitted and aesthetic chairs lazed around the wooden dock for you to have that perfect tan and the gorgeous view of the blue waters.

After our sumptuous meal, we looked around. And to my surprise, I have found my new favorite beach. Not because of the luxury and the facilities, but because this is where I saw the most beautiful beach I have ever seen in my entire life.  I don’t want to be so overwhelming or anything, but it’s just hands down the best beach ever.

Picture a very fine and the whitest sand you can ever think of. Hugging it is the foamy and aquamarine to turquoise clear water.  Now wouldn’t that be perfect?  There was still no sun yet so we just continued on our tour.

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At the back of the resort is the manmade cottages over the water.  From there I knew that I’m definitely here in Maldives when I saw it.  They were just too pretty to look at during the day and they’re the best backdrop for the travel hashtag you have been thinking.

Fihalhohi is definitely a small resort compared to the others but while scanning through the other resorts, they have definitely great reviews and best rates, they are one of the nearest to the airport so it’s definitely a plus when scouting for a place to stay.  You can finish your tour to the island for only 20 to 30 minutes.

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We had our lunch and thankfully, the sun was out. Oh, I’ve been dreaming for this.  We went back to the beach and took some photos and had a swim while waiting for our boat.  With too much time to just laze around all day, it was time to transfer to Maafushi which they call the public island.

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Maafushi

The most public island I have ever seen on Maldives, is the capital of Kaafu Atoll.  With only 2000 in population, the natives mostly live here.  It’s relatively small and can only be compared to one station in Boracay Island.  You can roam the island in 30 minutes.  Their port is a 5 to 10 minute walk from the hotels which are situated in the Bikini Beach.

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I booked at Kaani Beach Hotel but there are inns and hotels that offer a cheaper rate like it can go down to 1000 pesos per room.  However, I preferred Kaani because the beach is just exactly in front of it.  I heard about Maldives that with their beaches inhabited by planktons, it tends to glow in the dark and sometimes, if you’re lucky you can see it in this island.  But tried going out late at night even with a local guide but it was an unfortunate time for us.  Locals informed us that we have to take a flight to a Vaadhoo Island to see that glowing blue tide at night.

Bikini Beach is the only liberated place in the island. Wooden makeshifts lined as walls along the beach to serve as a border for the tourists to be on their swimwear.  The beach is very clean even if it’s very open to everyone.  It is not as fine as one can expect but it’s very white.  But the water is just impeccably clear and blue.  One can do paddle boarding or just laze around the hammock planted on the water.  Sun beds are laid on the beach to achieve that tan you want.  You can definitely experience paradise at a cheap price.  Keep in mind, when wandering around the island, you have to make sure that your are covered up to your arms and knees. This place reminds me so much of Boracay when it comes to the island vibe minus the nightlife.

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Anantara Resort

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A ten to fifteen minute ride from Maafushi is the luxurious Anantara Resort Dighu and Veli Maldives.  Two resorts are exactly different with the guests they cater.  Although both have wonderful spas they offer with the ever gorgeous view of the island, one is for the family and the other is more for couples, respectively.  We arrived first in Anantara Veli wherein the setup is mostly copied from a Balinese slash Japanese zen.  As usual, you are welcomed with a drink and a cold towel.  We had a little tour first on the island wherein you can roam around in 20 minutes.  After the short tour, we spent most of the time on their own jewelry shop.  They have the most exquisite colored stones I have ever seen.  They claimed to import it from Sri Lanka which is very famous for that.  So if you want a best kept souvenir, you should head here.

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From the entrance, is an infinity pool overlooking the massive waves of the Indian Ocean. Next to it is a bar and blue lazy boys that you can chill in and just soak in the sun.  Continuing the path, is the concierge and their Japanese restaurant.  Just across it is their main restaurant where everyone can enjoy their breakfast.  You can have the option to have your breakfast next to the beach and they set up the table for you.

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On the other route, is a small pathway lined with plants which direct you across the water bungalows and hammocks right next to the white beach.  This is where you find a small port that gets you to the other side of the island, which is another resort, Anantara Dighu.

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Anantara Dighu Maldives Resorts is a more luxurious one with eight restaurants, a spa, gym, and a private island you can free dive or snorkel.  It just promises an ultimate getaway. With a 5 minute boat ride to transfer from Veli, you get welcomed to an unfathomable Maldives experience.  Welcoming you is a spa located on the left side carefully designed in their water bungalows.  On your right is the path to the unparalleled whitest and finest sand and water with indescribable clarity.

Asking the locals; of all the resorts they say, you should definitely see Anantara because it comprises those gorgeous rainbow colors of blue waters that Maldives is very known for.  It is a large resort compared to the others and you can get lost in it.  Thankfully, you get a map so you can work your way throughout.  We were on our way to their private island because I wanted to do some snorkeling and see the underwater.  We first borrowed some snorkeling gears from their watersport and everything was for free by the way.  Their lobby is located near the Fushi Restaurant where the main jetty port is located.  Note that there are two ports on the island, one is for the transfer to Veli and the other which is the Main Jetty to transfer to their private island hideaway called Gulhi Fushi.  It takes about 5 minutes to get into the island and all you have to do is inform the lobby that you want to visit and you get the boat in about 10 minutes.

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Their private island was such a total bliss.  It was scorching hot so I got to witness that majestic view.  Well, I can’t say it again but the beach and the sand and the water are uniformly beautiful and just breathtaking.  Adjacent to the island are the over water pool suites giving you a perfect backdrop.  Did I just mention that you can snorkel anywhere? And if you’re lucky you get to see manta rays.

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While waiting for our lunch, I went for snorkeling.  The current was very strong so I didn’t risk going deeper and farther from the island.  After our delicious lunch, we got back to the main island and had some cocktails in Aqua Bar.  Next to it is the infinity pool and just below it is the beach.  I went for another swim and was aiming to go to the hammock in the middle of the sea but I just couldn’t  lose my life and I haven’t seen any lifeguard on duty.  Finished my tour of the island with just chilling on their beach huts next to the restaurant.  It rained again and went back to Veli to have some afternoon snacks.  We ate non stop that day and had some fine wine, even I was still full.  Thankfully, the rain stopped and we got to enjoy the sunset at its finest.

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With recent changes including locals to be allowed by the government to have their own homestay, guesthouses and build restaurants, Maldives is now more practical and cheaper compared to previous years where the tourists are only confined on luxurious resorts.  Anyone can definitely travel.  You just have to put your mind to it and scout for great deals. I guess you’re now ticked off from my bucket list, Maldives.  You’re one hell of a pristine beach.

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Rates from Maafushi (cheapest):

Snorkeling Trips

Maavilaath (60 minutes) 4 pax: 12USD PP
5 pax + : 10USD PP

Banana Reef & Manta (60 minutes) 4 pax: 25USD PP
5 pax + : 20USD PP

Turtle Reef (60 minutes) 4 pax: 35USD PP
5 pax + : 30USD PP

Coral Garden (60 minutes) 4 pax: 35USD PP
5 pax + : 30 USD PP

Whale Shark Trip (Ari Atoll) 4 pax: 200USD PP
8 pax + : 100USD PP

Night Fishing: 4 pax + : 25USD PP

Dolphin Watching (60 minutes) 4 pax: 25USD PP
5 pax + : 20USD PP

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Island Hopping Day Trip

Fihalhohi Island Resort
Day Trip: 49USD PP
With Lunch: 74USD PP
With Day Room: 93USD PP
Transport: 4 pax: 30USD PP
5 pax + : 25USD PP

Biyaadhoo Resort
Day Trip: 43USD PP
With Lunch: 67USD PP
With Day Room: 80USD PP
Transport: 4 pax: 15USD PP
5 pax + : 12USD PP

Adaran Club Rannaalhi
Day Trip with lunch and unli drinks: 70USD PP
Transport: 4 pax: 35USD PP
5 pax + : 30USD PP

Kandooma Maldives
Day Trip: 150USD PP
Transport: 4 pax: 17USD PP
5 pax + : 15USD PP

Adaaran Prestige Vadoo
Day Trip with Lunch, Unli Drinks and Transport: 100USD PP

img_3963Travel Tips

  1. When charging electronics, they have European adapters.
  2. It’s better to transact in Maldivian Currency and US Dollars. If you’re changing from other currency, opt for US Dollars so you can use it when you’re traveling across countries.
  3. Check with your hotel regarding the time zone.  Other hotels such as Fihalhohi is one hour advance Male time.
  4. When booking for hotels, make sure you know how far it takes from the airport to your destination.  Hotels may be cheaper because they’re farther from the airport but the cost of transportation will be higher.  Choose wisely.
  5. Maafushi is a public beach.  Male is a Muslim country so selling and drinking alcohol is prohibited.  Locals informed us that you have to ride a small boat away from the island if you want to drink.  Furthermore, wearing of shorts and sleeveless is not appropriate.  You can only wear bikinis on their Bikini Beach which is just a short walking distance.  However when you’re in the resort, you can wear and drink whatever you want.
  6. Most of the food served in the hotels are of European cuisine.  Maldivian food is not very much endorsed.
  7. To tell you frankly, traveling by speedboat can be very frightening especially at night.  Waves can be gigantic as it is an open sea and you get to feel every high when you’re in a small group.  Islands are dispersed and can take from 30 minutes to 2 hours on transfers.  Make sure you are ready for the bumpy ride or you get the option to ride a seaplane instead.
  8. Wifi is available in resorts and the airport.
  9. In booking for your rooms, consider if you want to book half or full board meals as you can really save much if you book meals with your room.  If you’re not staying at the resort and have a lot of activities throughout Maldives Islands, you can only book halfboard or just for a free breakfast.  They offer flexible rates to adjust to your liking.

Expenses

Plane Ticket BCD – MNL – BCD14089PHP
Plane Ticket MNL – MALE – MNL 32000PHP
Terminal Fee 400PHP
Water 50 PHP
Travel Tax 3240PHP
Adapter 200PHP
Lunch 710PHP
Snacks 600PHP
Tip 10USD
Fihalhohi (Room and Halfboard) 481GBP
Kaani (Room and Breakfast) 231GBP
Dinner 60USD
Anantara (Lunch and Cocktails) 340GBP
Food 2USD
Water and Sunblock 12USD
Tour Guide 10USD
Pasalubong 75USD
Public Boat 40USD
Anantara Boat 50USD
Lunch 40USD
Snacks 40USD
Dinner 30USD
Ramen 35USD
Lunch and Coffee 850PHP

Total Expenses 143 830 PHP for two
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When in Antique: Take a dip at Sira-an Hot Springs

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It’s overwhelming that for a quiet province like Antique, there is so much to offer. Lying in Western Visayas, this quaint and humble place is slowly making headlines now. Millions of tourists travelling to Boracay Island bypass it, rerouting into a shorter route. But if you have an ample time for an extended stay and for worthy exploration purposes, then Antique is waiting to be relished.

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I actually made an itinerary which lasts for three days because there are just too many places which I’m dying to visit. Sadly, I was only able to go the nearest ones and hopefully, I can go back to this place to explore the rest.

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Going to Antique was the most unplanned trip ever as I was originally going to dive at Apo Island with friends. The morning I woke up, my parents asked me where I wanted to go so the first thing that went to my mind was this. As numerous plans were already postponed going here, I thought that this was the best time.

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Travelling from Bacolod, we took a RORO going to Iloilo. Travel time is 2 hours excluding the waiting time. From the Iloilo Port to Anini-y, Antique, taking the southern route, lasts you to about 3-4 hours depending on your car speed.

Points of Interest:

Sira-an Hot Springs

While scanning on Google, I came across a folklore about this place. There was once a forbidden love affair involving the daughter of the Malayan chieftain named Anini and Nogas who was a former slave and a farmer’s son. Since they belong in different statuses, their love story ended badly when Nogas was killed and his body was casted into the open sea. An island formed which is presently named after him. Devastated by the death of her lover, Anini died and left her remains by the rocky shore facing the island. On her burial site there appeared a mini hot spring representing her tears and a sleeping volcano making her heart still beating for her true love.

There lies now the refreshing hot springs in the southernmost town of Anini-y making it a public go to place of the locals and now the tourists. This irresistible view is made of sulfuric pools which are believed to heal diseases and skin disorders, making it a health resort.

Heading your way from the entrance lies a small mound that is said to be a dormant volcano and placed at the top is the grotto of Mama Mary. There presents a cliff that sits you on the edge witnessing the panoramic view of the humbly picturesque Nogas Island.

On the left side is a big swimming pool, filled with natural sulfuric waters which are turquoise to deep moss green in color. Getting further is another small pool, not an infinity one but is placed on the edge of the cliff with a great view of the pure shores.

What catches the tourists’ attention are the perfectly placed hot spring pools in miniature sizes that only allow one to two people. With your own tub of health spa, you can stay as long as you want and lounge until sunset.

Opposite lies the natural beach that is unlike any other. The beach front is filled with medium sized stones making it similar to Dauin beaches in Negros. It has black coarse sand which sets it apart from the rest. Cottages and private rooms line up facing this gorgeous scenery.

Near the entrance is their mini bar and restaurant. Cheap seafood and videoke are available. The humble vibe reflects the availability to the public.

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Nogas Island

For just 500 pesos boat ride, you can spend the day in this enchanted yet majestic island. It takes about ten to fifteen minutes from the resort to get to this place. With high expectations, the beach is not as fine as Boracay but can be likened to the beaches of Siquijor and Guimaras. The sand is coarse with tiny pebbles but perfectly pearly white. Its water is crystal clear, without a tinge of pollution and exposes naturalness. It is relatively small wherein you can finish touring in just under 15 minutes.

Nevertheless, there are small cottages made of nipa huts wherein you can have lunch and just chill. The setup actually reminds me of Dako Island in Siargao. There are no canteen or restrooms so all in all it is a virgin island.

Nogas Island Lighthouse

Making your way to the lighthouse, you are welcomed with calachuchi trees lined up in opposite sides of the path. It extends to about 150 meters which is just a perfect backdrop for picture taking. The lighthouse is closed to the public but the caretaker let us in and climb up. It is a two storey staircase and to be frank, it was very steep. The lighthouse, situated at the the center, makes a panoramic view of the small island. Non functional but well preserved.

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Century Old Balete Tree

On the other side of the island, with a 3 minute walk from the lighthouse is the century old balete tree. Like any other balete tree, “lunok” the native term for it is believed to be home of enchanted people coming from other world dimension. It creates a spring water amidst the island filled with saltwater and cannot be explained where the water comes from. Going further, you get to witness numerous mangroves.

We didn’t get to stay long, and we decided to head back to the resort after exploring the beautiful Nogas Island.

Assemblage Point

If you want luxury in your stay in this quaint province, try to book into this newly opened resort in San Joaquin. The rooms are very spacious and you get the option for a seaview or a pool view. You can enjoy relaxing on their bar and restaurant overlooking the stony beach of Antique.

All in all, I can say that if you like Siquijor then you would be a fan of this place. There is just so much to do and see and I’m surely coming back for more.

How to get there:

From Aklan: from international airport, take a tricycle to Kalibo bus terminal then take a Ceres Bus or van for hire heading to Antique

From Iloilo: from international airport, take a van to Molo terminal, then another van, bus or jeepney to Antique

From Bacolod: take a RORO to Iloilo, then follow GPS
Dumangas RORO reservation: 034 493 0414

 

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Where to stay:
The Assemblage Point Resort and Convention Hub
Lawigan,San Joaquin – Aniniy Road, Antique
033 503 3477 / 033 336 2147
0998 541 4511
http://www.facebook.com/TheAssemblagePoint/

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Travel tips:

If you have ample time, stay in Nogas Island and wait for the high tide so you can see the true beauty of the islet.
Soak in the sulfuric mini pools as you watch the sunset.
Don’t forget to pass by Miag-ao Church. It is a UNESCO heritage site.
If you’re in groups, it’s better to bring a car with you so that you can tour the whole province without hassle as public transportation is limited especially if not at peak hours.

Budget: 8000 all in (2666 each)

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When in Pangasinan: Relish the View of Bolinao Rock Formation


Want a paronamic view of the West Philippine Sea?  Make the small town of Bolinao in Pangasinan your next domestic haven.  Still unexplored by many, you get to see this natural wonder.  Boasting its clashing features of having rugged terrains of rock formations and long, polished stretch of cream sand beach on opposite ends, you’ll be amazed of what it has in store.

Honestly, I’ve never heard of Bolinao.  My friend was the one who arranged our itinerary for our trip and we were aiming for the Hundred Islands in Alaminos.  She came across an info about Patar Beach and we decided to check it out because we would never miss a trip without going to our ever special place, the beach.

We left Zambales after lunch and it was later than we expected when we arrived at Bolinao.  We thought it would just take 3 hours to get there when we checked Google Maps.  Unfortunately, our travel time was doubled because we were commuting.  We had dinner at a restaurant near the terminal and checked in at Casa Almarenzo at almost eight in the evening.  We had night swimming because we thought it would be a waste not to make use of their pool.  That evening, we already arranged our day tour with the owner.  There are numerous tourist spots at Bolinao but we were so pressed with time and we had to make our itinerary fit for only three hours because we had to visit the Hundred Islands in Alaminos  that day too.  Thankfully, the driver was very punctual and recommended the great places worth our visit even with our limited time.

Points of Interest:

Bolinao Rock Formation

First on our tour is the best stretch of rugged coral formations at the Patar Rock Beach Resort.  Originally, this wasn’t included in the itinerary but the driver insisted that we should check out the place as one of the famous celebrities shot some scenes there.  Welcoming you are the simple nipa huts lined up at the beachfront and we thought this was nothing new.  Much to our surprise, we saw the best view of Bolinao just in front of the coast.  Only a few people knew about this place as this is not much advertised by their tourism.  The gorgeous view extends to about 20 kilometers of rocky formations and on the left end, there is a small shed providing a gorgeous backdrop for photographers.  You will never get tired of this beautiful landscape.  You can also spend the night here at a minimum fee of only 300 pesos.

16th Century Cape Bolinao Lighthouse

On our way to Patar Beach, we made a stop at the famous lighthouse in this town which is the Cape Bolinao Lighthouse.  Standing to about 100 feet, this makes it the second tallest lighthouse in the Philippines.  Constructed on top of Punta Piedra Point, you get a great view of the South China Sea.  Sadly, tourists are now restricted to come up the lighthouse.  But when you get to climb the top, you can overlook the white sand beaches, mesmerizing rock formations, and lush greenery.  Now being a cultural heritage site, it is carefully preserved and has garnered a lot of tourists with its amazing architecture.

Cape Bolinao White Beach

Being the hidden jewel of the North, Patar Beach is considered a treasure as it is situated where the Lingayen Gulf meets the South China Sea.  The stretch of the tan to creamy white sand beach and its aquamarine water make it one of the best beaches of the town.  The sand is not so fine but grainy, which is similar to the texture of the sand in Pundaquit, Zambales.  But what makes this place unique is its natural and unexploited beauty.  Even if it’s a public beach, the place has maintained its cleanliness and it is uncrowded.  If you want a tranquil break from your work and bask under the sun, then this beach is just a 4-5 hour drive from the capital.

Enchanted Cave

There are three caves that you can visit on your tour namely: Cindy’s Cave, Wonderful Cave and Enchanted Cave.  Of all the three, the driver recommended the latter to be the most beautiful.  It is indeed enchanted with so much to see.  According to our tour guide, the place was submerged under water ten million years ago as you can identify the limestone coral rocks and huge fossil clams around the area.  Its charm wins you with its crystal clear and jade fresh water that can rise up to six feet.  As an added attraction, there are monkeys on the trees who are able to roam around freely.  So don’t miss this enchanting place as it allures you with its magic.

How to get there: (travel time up to 6 hours from MNL)

  1. private car – SCTEX route and pass by Alaminos and Bani to Bolinao, refer to google maps
  2. public bus – Five Star Bus Line (http://www.5starbus.co/contact-us/), Victory Liner and Dagupan Bus Line
    ride a tricycle from the Bolinao Terminal to the resort

Where to stay:

Casa Almarenzo Bed & Breakfast

Patar Road, Brgy. Estanza, Bolinao, Pangasinan, Bolinao, 2406 Pangasinan

+63 922 858 8455

http://www.casaalmarenzo.com/

Travel tips:

Beware of tricycle tours who would overprice with their charges.  Ask locals for the normal rates.

If you have an ample time you can visit other attractions:

  • Balingasay River
  • Bolinao Falls
  • Tara Falls
  • Bolinao Museum
  • UP Marine Sanctuary
  • Church of St. James the Great

Buy their local delicacy, Binungey, as your pasalubong.

Deal a travel tour with the tricycle drivers to maximize your time and for a cheaper expense.

Travel Expenses:
From Zambales to Bolinao : group of 4

  • Fare to Sta. Cruz 760
  • Sparkle 40
  • Sta. Cruz to Alaminos 308
  • Alaminos to Bolinao 204
  • Dinner 780
  • Tricycle to Hotel 120
  • Hotel Room 3000
  • Tricycle Travel Tour 600
  • Rock Formation Entrance 200
  • Enchanted Cave 420

Total 6432 (1608 each)

Itinerary:

Day 1 – Capones Island, Zambales
https://wengwengwanders.com/2014/08/23/backpacking-in-zambales-day-tour-at-capones-island/

Day 2 – Bolinao, Pangasinan
https://wengwengwanders.com/2015/07/02/when-in-pangasinan-relish-the-view-of-bolinao-rock-formation%E2%80%A8/

Day 3 – Alaminos, Pangasinan
https://wengwengwanders.com/2015/08/06/when-in-pangasinan-cliff-jump-at-marcos-island-hundred-islands%E2%80%A8/

When In Iloilo : Seek Adventure in Gigantes Islands

Lying in the northernmost part of Iloilo are the most charming islands of Gigantes.  With its remoteness and naturalness, one cannot fathom the decadence this place has to offer.  If you’re willing to seek the ultimate adventure, a break from the overcrowded and overdeveloped tourist destinations, then this unexampled experience is for you.  One thing that seduces the adventurers in exploring the island is its cheap expense.  If you’re on a budget and travelling by group, then this adventure is definitely worth more than you are paying for.  This haven yields abundant and cheap seafood; reasonable tour fees; instagram worthy backdrops of white sand beaches, pristine blue waters, jagged rock terrains and amazing hospitality of the people.

We had a call time of 10:00am in Daan Banwa Port, Victorias City.  Upon arrival, the trip was moved to 12:00pm so that the boat can dock at the port at high tide.  We decided to have lunch in the nearby carinderias since the whole trip can take up to seven long hours.  If you’re looking for comfort, I suggest you take the longer route which is via RORO Dumangas in Iloilo since the trip can be a bit wet and by what I mean with wet is that water can get inside the boat so it was a bit of a hassle in summary.

After two hours, we barged in at Culasi, Ajuy in Iloilo which is just an hour bus ride to Estancia Port.  We then rode a tricycle from the bus terminal to the port.  Our contact from the Hideaway Inn was already waiting for us.  We arrived around 5pm so we weren’t able to make it in time for the public boat which has only one trip per day.  As a result, we chartered a private one to get to the island.

It was one hell of a two-hour ride from Estancia Port to Gigantes Island.  The waves were getting bigger as the sun was at dusk.  I was in the fore end of the boat and I got all the water splashing on my face.  It was so cold and the only warmth I got was from the lifejacket.  It took us forever to reach the island.  It was scary as the only light to guide us the way was a small flashlight.  Thankfully, we landed safely.  The boat docked straight to the lone island of Gigantes Hideaway Resort.  It is connected to the Gigantes Norte Island with a long sandbar.  The resort was lined with camping tents with various sizes.  The place expressed a laid back feel and I wished we could just stay there.  It was a perfect camp site with the beach and gorgeous white sand;  it was just irresistible.

We went for a 20 minute walk along the sandbar separating the two islands to get to the Gigantes Norte Island.  The water was about two feet above the sandbar and we were very careful not to drop our belongings.  We had a bountiful dinner which was composed mainly of seafood at the Hideaway Resort campsite.  We then moved to the other resort riding the habal-habal.  We arrived at the Jesa Beach Resort later than 9 in the evening and we wasted no more time and took a shower and got a good night sleep.


Jesa Beach Resort is situated fronting the beach.  It was a perfect morning to wake up to when you see a perfect backdrop of gorgeous and VSCO filtered terrains.  With blue curtains laced in the bungalows, it was the perfect spot to just chill on the beach.  Sadly, we had to leave early due to our fun packed itinerary for the day.

Points of Interest:

Gigantes Norte Lighthouse

Welcoming you to the entrance is the keeper’s house in ruins with a door directing you straight to the lighthouse.  We didn’t get to climb up to the tower deck because it is now closed for the tourists.  The lighthouse stands in 12 meters high and becomes one of the main attractions of the island.  Overlooking the cliff is a perfect terrain and the beach below reminds me of Capones Island in Zambales.  The paradisiac waves illuminating against the light composes a perfect exposure for your pictures.  Never a miss a shot with the single-storey house which is composed of stoney walls, still standing despite of being damaged by the typhoon.

Bakwitan Cave

After our breakfast, we rode a habal-habal to explore a cave.  There are numerous caves in the island with a total of more than seventy caves for your eager soul.  If you have two hours to spare and just for the sake of experience, check out the Bakwitan Cave.  This cave got its name for being the evacuation center during the World War II.  Now, being the main spelunking area for the tourists in the island, it offers an exploring of more than you can ask for.

We were briefed by our cave guide before starting our tour.  He handed us three flashlights for a group of 9 people so we made sure to have a buddy system.  The cave is divided into three stages.  The first stage is just for exploring the whole cave, giving you the feel of being inside it.  He gave us mini lectures about the different stalagmites and stalactites.  He told us not to touch anything to preserve the system.  If you don’t want to finish the three stages, you can decide to return back to the main entrance after the first stage.  However, if you want to have a little adventure and decide to pursue, you have to carry on with the trail towards the exit because going back  to your previous path can never be an option.

Stage two continued with crawling on a small opening.  We had to duck and move forward for about a meter.  We had to be careful not to rise up suddenly because we could get hit by the sharp stalactites suspending above.  It was then followed by spelunking.  We had to climb the cave to reach stage three.  As long as you are following the guide’s instructions and being aware of where your left or your right foot goes then you’re good to go.  As we reached the top, there was another path that we need to climb towards the exit.  Stage three is a bit more complex since one wrong move and you’re gonna fall back to where you started in stage two.  You have to make sure to get a good grip and to watch your every step.  At long last, we saw a light and went up to about ten meters and reached the exit after the challenging spelunking.

Just when we thought that the challenge was done, the trail going down the mountain was definitely the most exciting and fearful way.  Frankly, it was more challenging than spelunking.  There were no railings to protect you and the path was made of huge sharp rocks.  Just be careful with your every step making sure the rocks that you step on are stable because you can slide directly to the ground due to the steep path.  After thirty minutes of descent, we reached the ground unharmed.  We went back to the Hideaway Resort for breakfast.

Bantigue Island Sandbar

After checking in at our second resort, we went on hopping at the islands of Gigantes Sur.  First on our list is the Bantigue Island.  After a 15 minute boat ride, we set foot on the dazzling and fine sandbar of the island.  It is very clean as there is no advancement in the island but only a few locals and the tourists who charter boats to visit this amazing place.  The luminous sandbar extends to about 250 meters and at the edge lies a small village, a few trees and the rocky terrains lining the island.  With its grainy but pearly white sand and its transparent sapphire water, it is without a doubt that Gigantes Island is hailed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.  With the scorching heat of the sun, take a dip and make the sierras on one end of the sandbar part of your photoshoot.

Cabugao Island

There are two Cabugao Islands: the Gamay and Dako.  Sadly, we were only able to visit the Cabugao Gamay Island.  What sets this beach apart from all the places I’ve been to is that its seafront is not composed of fine sand but with tiny and bleached pebbles.  Its water is so surreal and with a touch of opacity, it can be so inviting that you want to get drenched in this unequalled paradise.  However there can be immense waves as it faces an open sea.  Upon docking, you are received with the unique coastline and huge rocks that are lined at the end of the beach.  We couldn’t resist the charm of the surroundings so it took a little while for us to finish our photo op.  In the middle of the island are coconut trees faultlessly placed to give you shade.  The highlight of this island lies on its viewing deck situated at the top of the cliff, giving you the panoramic view of the island.  You need to do a little trek to get to the peak.  The path is still undeveloped and you must be careful as there are only ropes to get you secured on your trail.  But this tiny difficulty can be paid off when you get to see the perfect scenery of the beach.  The iconic view is what made Gigantes Island known.  You can never complete your trip here without getting a selfie with this gorgeous background.

Tangke Saltwater Lagoon

Located in Gigantes Sur, Tangke is a must see for the adventurers.  Surrounded by cliffs made of limestones, this natural saltwater pool is illuminated by its crystal persian green waters.  One can totally enjoy the lagoon especially during high tide.  There were a lot of tourists visiting the tangke especially that it was a holiday.  A total of almost 30 boats were lining up and the only way the tourists could come in and out were through the footpath made by bordering the boats in a single file.  Reaching the entrance, the path into the water is steep and sharp because it is made of rugged limestones.  Life vests are secured when bathing as it can go deep up to ten feet.  We spent a lot of time bathing in this enchanting lagoon.  It was dreamlike as one cannot imagine the beautiful facade of limestones encircling the Tangke.  We were in a hurry to get back because it was 2 pm and we haven’t had our lunch yet. Instead of waiting for the long queue to get into our boat, we jumped and swam into the open sea, heading to our boat which was at the end of the line.  It was very tiring and I felt like having cramps especially when I didn’t have a lifejacket with me.  Thankfully, we were able to reach our boat safely and after a twenty minute ride, we arrived in the lone island of Gigantes Hideaway Resort to have our lunch.

Antonia Beach

Of all the places in Gigantes Island, this is definitely my favorite.  There are no high end resorts or a beautiful fine white sand, but the sheer laid back vibe and unparalleled serenity are what made me fell in love with the scenery.  It’s like you are transported into a different place.  It was very lucky for us that we made it in perfect time where the sky is most beautiful in color and the sun is not burning as you get a great exposure for your “tumblr” photos.  This site was not included in the tour fee and each person had to pay at least 75 pesos for the entrance and 40 pesos for the environmental fee but we arrived near sunset and thank God the collector was nowhere in sight so we got to enjoy this wonderland for free.

There are two sides of the beach.  On the west side are the rugged terrains where the formed stones create parallel lines that make a unique texture.  It is also where the boats dock.  On the east is a barren edge facing the open sea.  Unique stone formations also sit at opposite ends of the bar.  There is also a small canteen in the island and most tourists find this a perfect spot to have lunch and some drinks.

We reached the end of our tour but our tour guide, Juni, introduced to us a place which is great for viewing sunsets.  It was a port in the Gigantes Norte Island.  It was amazingly clean and the turquoise waters were so inviting.  The sand was so fine and white, one could not mistake it for a port.  The guide pointed a small cave next to it but it was almost six in the evening and we had no more time to explore it.

After getting a sumptuous dinner and a good night sleep, we left this bewitching island the next day.  Since we chartered a private boat, we decided to see Cabugao Gamay Island one last time.  There were fewer people this time and we got to privately experience the whole sandbar.

Overall the charm of Gigantes Island is unparalleled.  Making its buzz being in the list of top beaches in the Philippines has invited a lot of travellers for the recent years.  Although I was expecting a fine and pristine beach like Boracay Island, this was nowhere like it because it was uniquely beautiful.  This place is filled with adventures, non stop challenges and fun memories to share with friends.

How to get there: (travel time = 5-8 hours)

From Iloilo:
ride a bus or private van to Estancia  or Carles
ride a tricycle to the port
public or private boat to Gigantes Island

From Bacolod:
two routes

  1. head to Bacolod Pier
    ride a ferry (RORO) to Dumangas Port
    ride a bus or private van to Estancia or Carles
    ride a tricycle to the port
    public or private boat to Gigantes Island
  2. head to Victorias Daan Banwa Port
    ride a ferry bound to Culasi, Ajuy
    ride a bus or private van to Estancia  or Carles
    ride a tricycle to the port
    public or private boat to Gigantes Island

From other provinces or countries : fly to Iloilo International Airport

where to stay:

Gigantes Hideaway Resort

rates:

Asluman, Gigantes Norte, Carles, Iloilo
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gigantes-hideaway-tourist-inn/658225324256539
http://carlestourism.com/
+63 918 468 5006 (Joel Decano)
at least 200 pesos per person

Jesa Beach Resort & Travel Services

Granada, Gigantes Norte, Carles, Iloilo
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jesa-Beach-Resort-Travel-Services/510270005676935
+63 922 838 4773 (Christine Alobin)
at least 800 pesos for 2 pax

Travel Expenses:
Travel Tour inclusive of private boat, food, transportation 1935 each (9pax)
Daan Banwa to Culasi ferry 115
Lunch 50
Water 15
Estancia 73
Tricycle 12
Tricycle to Jesa Beach Resort 30
Tricycle to Hideaway Resort 30
Mt Dew Softdrink 20
Jesa Beach Resort 300
Souvenir 90
Drinks 100
Tip for Juni 50
Tip for Boatmen 40
Tricycle Port 10
Private Van 200
RORO ferry via Dumangas 96
Lunch 90

Total : 3256 (individual budget for a group of 9 pax)

Travel tips:

  1. If you’re coming from Bacolod, I suggest you take the usual route which is via RORO Dumangas because they have trips for 24 hours.  Leave early in the morning so that you can make it in time for the public boat schedule which only has one trip per day at 1pm.
  2. If you want comfort, don’t take the Daan Banwa route as trips are delayed and leaving late at Estancia Port can be very dangerous because the waves can be unforgiving and there are no emergency flares in case of accidents.
  3. Book a tour with the resorts.  It is cheaper than a walk-in reservation and seeing the island by yourself.
  4. Check your calendar to make sure that when you visit the Tangke, it is in high tide.
  5. There is still no running water on the lone island of Gigantes Hideaway Resort, so if you prefer camping, you have to transfer to the other island, their main resort in Gigantes Norte to bathe.
  6. Buy souvenirs at Gigantes Hideaway Resort Shop.
  7. There are only selected areas having cellular signal.  You have to go to the “mountain-ish” place and spend 30 pesos for the habal-habal just to make a call.  The lone island of Gigantes Hideaway, peak of Antonia Beach and Jesa Beach Resort already have a signal.
  8. Keep in mind that it is an adventure trip going to Gigantes Island.  There are no luxury resorts and lounging on the beach is just optional.  However, if you want to explore the whole island, there will be non stop trekking, all day sun bathing, hiking on steep terrains and swimming in an open sea.  Be safe always.
  9. Please keep the environment clean and preserve the ecosystem.

When in Negros : Soak in the Crystal Clear Waters of Panal Reef in Sagay

I’ve been searching for the best beaches in Negros and I’ve definitely found my one true love.  Just a short road trip from the capital of Bacolod City, the rich marine life of Sagay City is just an easy reach.  Unlike any other beaches where its remoteness and virginity can only be experienced with the hustle of long travel time, this place has maintained its quality due to the strict rules implemented by its tourism and through the cooperation of the tourists to limit overcrowding and unmanaged waste disposal.

Sagay City has the largest marine reserve in the Philippines enveloping 32,000 hectares.  With its main attraction, Carbin Reef, it has caught the attention of beach bummers craving for white sand and clear waters.

However, what has intrigued us is the unplugged attraction in Panal Reef.  When the famous Carbin Reef reaches its maximum capacity, tourists are then directed to this amazing destination.  In our case, our target area from the tourism office is this place.  If ever you wish to visit the other islands as well, just inform the boatman and negotiate some additional fees.

After 40 minutes of travel, you can witness a long stretch of white sand bar reflecting the transparent and clean waters of Panal Reef.  Even on low tide, the beach is submerged in water but only to a minimum level of about half inch.  The only thing that protrudes is the fine stretch of white sandbar that is so thin, the waters in opposite ends meet. Its sandbar is similar to the Bantigue sandbar in Islas de Gigantes but with clearer waters and whiter sand.  It is a coralline island so one can expect the sand not to be fine but to have little corals instead.  It is with pure luck that we got to take a glimpse of this attraction on low tide because otherwise, everything is submerged and you can’t appreciate the beauty it has to offer.

My friends went for a swim as I wander around to take pictures because I had my period.  There were plenty of sea creatures under water.  It was just amazing to know that you can enjoy snorkeling and watch the colorful fish even when you’re just near the beach.

At the end of the white sand stretch, there is a watch tower with two floors wherein you can stay for the day.  They charge at a minimum fee of only 300 pesos.  One must be careful in going up to the tower because the surface of the stairs can be slippery.  There are railings for your added security.  On the first floor, there is a bench circling the area and there are comfort rooms and a small kitchen for the two watchmen.  The topmost level is a wide area for your panoramic view of the island.  There are also tables and chairs where you can eat in and enjoy the day.

We borrowed a one-eyed binocular from the watchmen and we spotted another island.  It was so beautiful at long distance and upon negotiations with the boatmen, we had a good deal so we decided to check it out.

It was a twenty minute boat ride going to Maca Reef. But God, it was by far the best white sand bar I’ve seen in my province.  I have found the Naked Island of Siargao in Negros.  The bar extends to about 250 meters and curves on the edge forming a picturesque view of the island.  The sand is finer and whiter than Panal and Carbin Reef but it is grainier than Naked Island in texture.  The beach is surrounded with corals and other water living things that you can see against the clear water.  The water level is very low and you have to go far from the beach to get a good swim.

Similar to the previous reef, there is a small tower at the end of the beach.  There are no cottages in the island and you can enjoy the candor all to yourself.  We had some sunset session before we bid goodbye to this stunning semblance.

Other Attractions:

Carbin Reef

This tongue-shaped, white sand island situated in the center of the largest marine reserve in the country has definitely garnered tourists.  The beach has maintained its simplicity with only five cottages of makeshift wooden sticks.  Each cottage is provided with a table and few chairs.  What makes this beach special is its cleanliness and natural vibe.  Tourists are only limited to 70 persons a day so the environment and crowd is controlled.  The water is very glaring and blue and the sand is white with a touch of beige mixed with little coral rubbles.  Snorkeling can also be enjoyed with a tour guide in the nearby waters.

Suyac Island

If you’re looking for a different experience, then head on to Suyac Island Mangrove Eco-Park.  It’s very cheap and just adjacent to Carbin Reef.  Plus, you get to see the oldest and biggest sonneratia alba mangrove in Negros.  If you’re from the jump off point then it’s just an estimate of about 20 minutes travel time.  There is a mini beach area from the docking point and you have to walk for at least 5 minutes to reach the entrance area wherein you need to register.  We had a little tour as we walked around the mangroves on their wooden path.  Near the boundary are the cottages wherein during the summer the water level becomes high and the mangroves are submerged in water.  Thus, a mini dipping pool is naturally formed in the middle of the cottages.  This place is best to visit during high tide.

How to get there:

Travel time : approximately 3 hours

From Bacolod: private car or bus bound to Sagay
from terminal ride a yellow trike bound to Old Sagay Port
drop off at Sagay Tourism Office

From other countries and provinces : flights bound to Bacolod- Silay Airport

Rates:

Reefs

Entrance

Non-Residents – 100
PWD/Senior Citizen – 82
Children <12 – 40

Residents – 30

PWD/SC/Children – FREE except Port Fee (10)

Sagay Island Pumpboat
1-10 pax – 1200
11-15pax – 1500

Shed – 300 (single), 500 (double)

Suyac Island

Terminal Fee – 10
Entrance – 10
Cottage – 500
Paddle Tour – 300/pax
Pre-Nup Filming – 500/day

Snorkeling

Package of 2 – 600 (Inclusive of snorkeling guide, SMR snorkeling fee, complete snorkeling gear and life vest)
One Pax – 400
Gears Only – 250
Guide Only – 250

Contact
sagaycityinfo@yahoo.com
+63 34 488 0649 / +63 908 811 6815 (Bebe)

In case of emergency : +63 999 318 2837 (Bantay Dagat Head) / +63 919 259 3489 (Rescue)

Travel tips:

  1. Make Carbin or Panal Reef your jump off point from the Tourism Office instead of Maca because it will be more expensive otherwise.  Paying for additional fees to visit other islands will be cheaper.
  2. You can just stay in your boat if you opt not to take a cottage to limit your expenses.
  3. Plan your trip ahead of time or make reservations because the number of tourists are limited: 70 pax for Carbin Reef and 100pax for Suyac Island.
  4. Staying overnight is not allowed in all the reefs.
  5. Don’t take anything and don’t leave anything. Garbage-in and garbage-out policy is strictly implemented.
  6. Maximum of 15 pax are allowed to snorkel at a time.
  7. Please don’t step on the corals.  It takes a year for a centimeter of corals to grow.
  8. Apply sunblock liberally on your skin.
  9. Observe smoking only in the approved areas.

Travel Expenses

Panal and Maca Reefs

Bus to Sagay 168
Grocery 127
Lechon Manok 175
Rice 30
Trike 21
Trike to Old Sagay 27
Port 1730
Maca (additional) 800
Trike 30
Trike to terminal 14
Bus to Bacolod 381

Total : 3503 / 3 pax (1167 each)

Carbin Reef and Suyac Island

Bus to Sagay 200
Grocery 211
Rice 40
Boat with Cottage 1900
Fee 40
Trike 200
Bus to Bacolod 508

Total : 3099 / 4 pax (775 each)

When in Siquijor: “Tarzan” Jump at Cambugahay Falls



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The smallest province in the Visayas region, Siquijor, has stimulated the curiosity of most people.  The idea of magic, witchcraft, and love potions either progressed the tourism industry of the island or give hesitations for the adventure seekers.  No matter how scary visiting this enchanting site, nevertheless; we still had the guts to see this magical place last summer without any regrets.

I really prepared myself before heading off to the island.  As I’m a little bit of OC, I did a lot of checking if the myths were really true and how to avoid certain spells against black magic just for prevention purposes.  I interviewed people if certain “aswangs” really live there and a friend told me that they already transferred in Bantayan Island and almost all of those who were practising witchcraft usually reside in remote areas and reserved mountains.  I admit I was in paranoia that I even brought with me a lot of ginger and incense just to drive away negative spirits.  My father kept on threatening me that witches usually put a spell on you even just by staring at you just to make a profit as they are the ones who can only undo it.  But all these hearsay and legends are all fiction.  Siquijor is one of the most unique places I’ve been to and it has amazed a lot of travellers with its otherworldly setting.  Well, for the record, I’ve never met an “aswang” or “mangkukulam” there but only the many humble and receiving people of Siquijor that I’ve come to love.

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We finished our trip for a total of two days.  We caught the bus from Bacolod to Dumaguete and left about 12:00 am.  Thankfully, there weren’t a lot of stops so we arrived at the port around 4:30 am and rode the ferry.  Even when we were half awake during the whole trip, the dolphins kept us excited as they swam next to our ferry while on our way to the island.  The tempting and pristine blue waters of Siquijor welcomed us after an hour of travel.  There were a lot of tricycles lining up outside the port offering tours of the whole island.  After making a great deal with the driver, we first checked in with our resort, Villa Marmarine, near the pier and started on our coastal tour.

Our first stop was the century old church of St. Francis of Assisi.  It is made up of white coral stones.  This facade has stood since 1783, receiving the tourists, as it is situated near the pier with its large sign in front of the church that says ‘Welcome to Siquijor’.

We made our way to the Capilay Spring Park, San Juan.  It is a natural spring but it has been renovated into a manmade pool.  You can cool off with its natural and fresh water and even take a small climb at Mama Mary’s grotto next to the area.

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We interviewed our driver about the best resorts in Siquijor and he brought us to one which is Salamangka Beach and Dive Resort in San Juan.  The resort has an entrance fee for the visitors of 250 pesos each which is consumable for our food.  It a very luxurious feel and the villas are situated near the pool and beach.  If you want the ultimate relaxation then this is definitely the best place to splurge in.

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Instead of white sand, San Juan beach has a stony texture which is comparable to Dauin beaches.  As a traveler, you have to catch sight of this unique characteristic of the beach.  Moreover, its clarity of the waters still remain throughout this coralline island.

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There are only three century old creepiest Balete trees in the Philippines.  One can be found in Lazi which is said to be four hundred years old.  According to folklore, balete trees are believed to be home of fairies, elves, giants, demon horses and other mystical creatures.  Natural spring water flows from the tree which is a little enchanting since people don’t know where the water originates from.  They have constructed a mini pool of spring water where you can enjoy a fish spa for a minimum donation.  You can also buy your souvenirs where the stands are lined along the entrance.

One of the oldest convents in the Philippines, Lazi Convent, is in Siquijor.  Situated next to it is a parish church of San Isidro Labrador.  It is considered a national cultural treasure and UNESCO world heritage site candidate as one of the Baroque churches in the country.

IMG_8322

Making our way further to the circumferential road of the island is the Cambugahay Falls.  You have to descend to about 200 steps on your way to the falls.  Welcoming you from this exhausting decline is the unbelievable and decadent backdrop. Of all the places in Siquijor, this is my most favorite.  The water is powder blue, not transparent, but very soothing.  Cambugahay is a multi-level cascading falls and I’ve only climbed up to the 3rd level where you can find mini waterfalls.  On the bottom, there is a large rope tied to a huge tree where you can jump to the water to about 10 feet just like Tarzan.  It’s not that scary and the water is not too deep but just make sure to get the perfect timing and release your hands when you jump because a friend of mine got a fracture because he wasn’t able to let go.

IMG_8315

The best beaches in Siquijor can be seen in Salagdoong.  On your way, you will pass through a gorgeous path of colorful trees.  It’s like you’re in the Beautiful Creatures movie.  When you reach the resort, you can witness the beautiful waves of Salagdoong with its deep blue waters.  The sand is not very fine and white but it is made up of little pebbles and it’s quite tan in color for the island is a marine reserve.  The beach is very clean and there are only a few tourists so the place maintains its humility and preserved charm.  In the center of the resort lies the spot for cliff jumping.  There are two levels for diving: ten and twenty feet.  The slide was still under construction when we went there.  Upon reaching the top, the scenery can be overlooked and you can witness the most instagrammed picture of the beach where it is enclosed in wonderful terrain.  We had our late lunch at the cafeteria and we even met a famous instagrammer, ninjarod with his girlfriend.

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We had a chance to see the Tulapos marine sanctuary, mangroves, and the oldest surviving house in the island, Cang-Isok, a century old home built in the 1800s in the town of Enrique Villanueva.  We passed by Larena so that my friend could withdraw from his ATM.  We were in a hurry to go back so that we could still view the amazing sunset.

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As we got ready to eat, my friend went to the “manghihilot” because of the pain and the suspected fracture he earned from jumping at the falls.  We had dinner and drank sake by the beach and enjoyed our free homemade icecream.  The next morning, we took pictures at the beach and had a quick morning dip.  Thankfully, we were able to ride the 9am ferry trip just in time to catch the aircon bus at 12pm bound for Bacolod.  It was time to kiss goodbye to this amazing wordliness here in this charming island of Siquijor.

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How to get there:

  • From Bacolod to Dumaguete: Ceres bus (Aircon) 12 am and 12pm daily
  • From other provinces and countries: Manila,Cebu, Davao, Iloilo International Airport – Dumaguete Airport
  • From Dumaguete: ferry to Siquijor

for a list of ferry schedule : http://www.siquijordirectory.com/ferryshipping.html

Where to stay:

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Salamangka Beach and Dive Resort

Siquijor Circumferential Rd, San Juan, 6225 Siquijor

+63 917 588 6873

info@salamangkaresort.com

https://www.salamangkaresort.com/

rates at least 3480

04

Villa Marmarine

Candanay Sur, Siquijor, Siquijor, Siquijor Circumferential Road, Siquijor

+63 035 480 9167

http://www.marmarine.jp/en/

rates at least 800

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Salagdoong Beach Resort & Hotel Agripino

Olang, Maria, Siquijor

+63 035 344 2088 / 344 2015

tourismsiquijor@yahoo.com

rates at least 800

For a list of all the resorts with rates and contact no. :

http://www.visitmyphilippines.com/index.php?title=Hotels&Resorts&Page=1&pid=1211

 

Travel tips:

  1. You can have a day tour at Siquijor.  When you’re in Dumaguete and have at least 6 hours to spare, then you can already check this charming island.
  2. If you want to explore the whole island like trekking and diving or have a coastal tour, you can spend overnight at any of the numerous resorts.
  3. There are two kinds of tours: coastal and mountain tours. If you are staying for 3 days 2 nights, you can have the option to take the mountain tour and  trek at Bandilaan National Park which is the peak of the island.  You can also swing by Butterfly Sanctuary and visit the caves namely: Cantabon, Dacanay, Eugenia, Tagmanocan and Baljo.
  4. There are two ports in the island: Siquijor Pier and Larena Port.  Both have trips to and from Dumaguete.
  5. There are no cellular signal there except near the ports.
  6. ATMs are also available at Larena.
  7. According to the locals, the best beach in the island is at the Coco Grove Resort.
  8. Don’t forget to buy souvenirs near the Siquijor Pier.  They are selling charms, body ointments  and other witchcraft necessities.  Love potions are for sale for only 250 pesos.

IMG_8313

Travel Expense Estimate: good for 3 pax overnight

  • Ceres Bus back and forth 2100
  • Ferry back and forth 1260
  • Room 1850
  • Food 3000
  • Coastal Tour 1000
  • Entrance Fees and Tip 200
  • Souvenirs 500total: 9910 (3303/pax)

IMG_8308

 

When in Cebu: Laze around Bantayan Island

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The first time I ever set my eyes on the perfect imagery of Bantayan Island, I could not ask for more. It is the perfect epitome of my dream beach and I keep on going back here everytime I get the chance. With its fine and powdery white sand likened to White Beach in Boracay, and its crystal clear and unpolluted blue waters, there is no denying that Cebu is very blessed to have one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.

Due to its remoteness for being one of the isolated towns of the northern part of Cebu, Bantayan Island is a little exhausting for some travellers because there is no easy way like having direct flights going there and you have to commute from the city proper taking up to six hours travel. Sure it will all be worth it once you take a glimpse of this picturesque heaven. It’s very lucky for me since there are scheduled boat trips directly to Bantayan Island from Cadiz City in Negros so it’s one hell of a shortcut for this paradise with only a three hour travel from my hometown.

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Bantayan Island owns unexplainable white sand with the consistency of that of a flour. It is rich with aquamarine waters and when it reflects the warming sunlight, the water becomes so luminous that it’s like you’re swimming in the pool with nothing but water and a flat sandy surface. This paradise conveys a sense of serenity and lavish relaxation. Even the world renowned beaches like Kauai Island could not be compared with the pristine waters of this jewel as it has maintained its naturalness and purity. Moreover, there are only a few tourists and resorts lined up at the beach and this has exempted the island from overdevelopment.

Activities:
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Beach Bumming
It is undeniable how the beach of Bantayan Island is one of the best I’ve been to. When you just want to get a tan or relax with a drink in your hand at Sta. Fe Beach, then it’s the perfect place to laze around and think happy thoughts.

Swim at Ogtong Cave
Ogtong Cave can be found in Ogtong Cave Resort. It is a small cave which extends to about fifty meters filled with freshwater. With its crystal clear aqua waters, it is definitely soothing for the intense warmth this summer. One must be a guest of Ogtong Cave Resort or its sister company, Sta. Fe Beach Club to swim in this beautiful wonder of Bantayan. The resort itself is the most luxurious in the island but for a hefty price, it’s definitely worth it once you get to swim in the mystical cave. Natural rocks surround the resort and it is lined with white sand and picture worthy scrim.

Hop at Virgin Island
Picture the perfect beach of Bantayan Island. Then imagine a finer and whiter sand and transparent waters that glitter as the sun touches the calming waves of the sea. There are nipa huts at the beach front to give you shade and enjoy the alluring landscape. Rocky formations can be found at the end of the white beach that make this terrain a wonderful backdrop for the name of Virgin Island that welcomes the boat upon docking. Sumptuous lunch is served on the island at a very worthy price. With their seafood fresh and abundant, tourists can definitely enjoy eating there.

So much has changed at Virgin Island with my recent visit there.  Before, it was all barren and just an island and some huts.  Now, tourists flock them and several boats line up on the shore.  There are numerous tables and rooms you can spend the night in. Or you can bring a tent to indulge in nature.  Irregardless of the development, although I am deeply saddened, it still remains a beauty.

Discover Sto. Nino Cave
Little do people know that there is another cave at Bantayan Island worth seeing.  When I saw a picture of the cave from a friend, I found a way to revisit this gorgeous island to check this out for myself.  Found at Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort, Sto. Nino Cave is named as that since a statue of the beloved Sto. Nino was spotted inside upon its discovery.  It is a larger cave compared to Ogtong Cave.  Similarly, it is filled with freshwater that one can lavishly swim in.  With its gorgeous lighting, it gives the impression of yellow to orange luminescence that one can stare in awe.  If you choose a day tour in this resort, the cave is open until ten in the evening.  Moreover, the resort offers an overnight stay, fish spa, swimming pool, mini zoo and garden.  You will never get bored.  Just a 40 minute drive from Sta. Fe Beach, there is definitely no hustle.

Move In to Kota Beach Resort

Have you watched the famous movie Camp Sawi? Well, they shot almost all of their scenes here in this resort.  After having seen the most exquisite beach and unpolluted water, I don’t wonder why the producers picked this as a prime location.  With two beautiful sandbars within your reach at the beachfront, you are definitely in for some natural rehabilitation.  If you’re not planning to check in, you can pay 50 pesos as entrance fee just to see and swim on the beach.

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How to go there:

From Bacolod: go to CADIZ City port (1 hour)
take a ferry to Bantayan Island at 9:00am daily (2 hours)

From Cebu: take a bus from North Bus Terminal near SM city
bus leaves every 45 minutes at 150 pesos (3 hours)
head to Hagnaya Wharf in San Remigio (30 mins)
take a ferry to Sta. Fe Port (1 hour)

Super Shuttle Ferry
+63 916 905 2348 / +63 919 525 1388
Hagnaya to Sta. Fe – 4AM / 7AM / 8AM / 10:30AM / 12:30PM / 2:30PM / 4:30PM
Sta. Fe to Hagnaya – 6AM / 8:30AM / 10:30AM / 12:30PM / 2:30PM / 4:30PM / 6PM
Island Shipping Corporation
+63 922 284 5892 / +63 922 875 9769
Hagnaya to Sta. Fe – 5AM / 6:30AM / 9:30AM / 11:30AM / 1:30PM / 3:30PM / 5:30PM
Sta. Fe to Hagnaya – 5AM / 7:30AM / 9:30AM / 11:30AM / 1:30PM / 3:30PM / 5:30PM

From Leyte: take a bus from San Ildefonso and Tacloban to Bogo City in Cebu via RoRo
take a bus from Bogo City to Hagnaya Wharf
take a ferry to Sta. Fe Port

From other provinces and countries : take a direct flight to Cebu City

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Where to stay:

Ogtong Cave Resort
Santa Fe, Cebu
(032) 438 0165 / +63 920 899 9456 / +63 932 433 6282
info@stafebeach.com
http://www.ogtongcave.com/
*rates for 2 pax at least 2500

Sta. Fe Beach Club
Sta. Fe Beach Club Rd, Santa Fe, Cebu
(032) 438 9090 / +63 928 778 7770 / +63 932 541 2954
http://www.stafebeach.com/
*rates for 2 pax at least 900


Anika Island Resort
F. Roska Street, Santa Fe, 6047 Cebu
+63 917 701 4168
http://www.anikaislandresort.com/
*rates for 2 pax at least 1500

Beach Placid
F. Roska Street, Sta. Fe Beach, Cebu
+63 32 406 5686 / +63 32 438 9070
+63 917 722 2993
beachplacid@gmail.com
contact@beachplacidresort.com
http://www.beachplacidresort.com
*rates for 2 pax at least 1600

Virgin Island
Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu
+63 917 322 2115 / +63 922 726 6579 / +63 920 118 3521
*rates
entrance: 500 for 2 pax and 100 per additional pax
cottages: 300, 500, 600, 1000
tables & chairs: 300
overnight: 1500 for 2 pax (bamboo house) 1500 for 5 pax (open cottage)

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Kota Beach Resort
F. Duarte St. Sta. Fe, Cebu
+63 32 438 9042
+63 956 276 4410
*rates for 2 pax at least 900

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Travel Expense Estimate: for 3 days 2 nights good for 2 pax

  • Bacolod to Cadiz – 140
  • Terminal to Cadiz Port – 40
  • Ferry Fare – 500
  • Trike from Port to Resort – 100
  • 
Resort – 1800
  • Meals – 2400
  • Island Hopping – 1000
  • Entrance to Virgin Island – 500 (2pax); 100 additional pax
  • Trike from Resort to Port – 100
  • Ferry Fare – 500
  • Cadiz Port to Terminal – 40
  • Cadiz City to Bacolod – 140

Total: 7260 (3630 each)

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When in Negros : Snorkel and Swim with the Pawikans at Apo Island

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They say the best memories always happen with bad decisions but there is no such thing as regret when you enjoy it with your partner in crime. The most spontaneous trip that we’ve done so far was deciding to go to Apo Island. The first time I went there, I never got to enjoy the underwater world since I was still a child.  When I discovered how the island made some great reviews from its visitors for being a popular dive and snorkeling site then it has been on our travel list to visit this awe-inspiring scenery. We went to Dumaguete for official business but we finished earlier so we opted to have a sidetrip to this place. Thankfully, my friend brought her GoPro cam with her since I just dropped my phone in the toilet and had nothing to use to cherish the memories. With little money that we had, we took a risk of pursuing this travel as cheap as possible.

“Apo” came from our dialect which means grandchild. The island is situated in the southeastern part of Negros. Named as one of the top diving sites of the world, this marine reserve should definitely be at the top of your travel list this summer. It has become a habitat of more than 650 fish species and 400 kinds of corals. The richness of the marine life is indeed incomparable.

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How to get there:

  • From Manila : flight to Dumaguete
  • From Cebu: take a ferry from Liloan Port to Dumaguete
  • From Bacolod City : Ceres Bus to Dumaguete
  • From any coastal point in Negros: Ceres Bus bound for Zamboanguita

From Dumaguete:

  • Jeep Route to Zamboanguita
  • Ceres Bus to Bayawan
  • Private Car or Rent a Van

Make sure you drop off at Malatapay Wednesday Market at Zamboanguita which is around 45 minutes travel from Dumaguete.  From the highway, walk or drive to the end of the market road which is around 50 meters long, then you can find the boat post.

Travel Boat Fees:
contact number : +63 9263658260

Medium (good for 4) = 2000
Large (good for 8) = 3000

Excess pax per day = 250
Excess pax per overnight medium = 200
large = 400

Where to stay:

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Apo Island Beach Resort
+63 910 219 3359
http://www.apoislandresort.com/
https://www.facebook.com/apoislandbeachresort

If you want to have luxury in the island then you can stay in this resort. With its rooms situated at the beachfront, you can definitely relax easily especially with their exclusive view of the island. If you are not a guest of this resort, you have to pay 50 pesos for the entrance fee if you choose to take pictures with the amazing backdrop of Apo Island.

Liberty Lodge Resort
+63 9176039987 / (035) 424-0888
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Liberty-Resort-and-Dive-in-Apo-Island/216770895005643

There are only 2 resorts in the island and if you want cheaper rates then you can opt to stay here. With only 2000 pesos per room good for 2 people, you get your breakfast, lunch, dinner for free. Imagine how cheap is that.

Activities

Scuba Diving

I’ve always wanted to try scuba diving just to have another exciting experience being underwater. Sadly, we haven’t had enough cash and time since the trip was unplanned. Hopefully, I get to visit this wonderful place again. I always thought scuba diving was very costly because rates can be at least 3500 pesos per dive and up to 15000 pesos for the lessons and I was shocked to see how cheap it was for the Mario’s Scuba Diving and Homestay to offer 1100 pesos per dive inclusive of everything. With a good price like this, there is no excuse not to try.

For more info about diving courses : http://www.apoisland.com/index_files/Page370.htm
For the cheapest diving rates: Mario’s Scuba Diving and Homestay
+63 9063617254/ +63 9196223671 / http://mariosscubadivinghomestay.com/

Snorkeling

This offers a preview of the abounding marine resources this place exhibit. There are a total of eight reefs lining the island namely: Coconut, Largahan, Balay, The Chapel, Katipanan, Kan Oran, Mamsa, Olo Reefs and the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary. We made our way to the Apo Island Beach Resort where we started our route for snorkeling in the Largahan Reef. You have to be a good swimmer to go snorkeling since the water current can be very strong and part of the reef waters can be deep. It took us about an hour and a half to complete our route. At the end of our path, we witnessed the bubbles from the sandy bottom the volcanic island was making. It was very tiring but the experience was very worth it.

Swimming with Pawikans

After we had lunch at Liberty Lodge Resort, we went to take a dip with the sea turtles. These lovely creatures can be found near the beach and you don’t have to swim across the deepest sea to find them. If you want to take a picture with them, you have to be speedy since they don’t like to be near humans. You have to make sure they don’t see you or it will be a hard time for you to chase them to get a decent “selfie” based on my experience. Swimming with the endangered species is definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me.

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Travel tips:

  • If you want to go snorkeling, make sure you have a tour guide because it is not safe to be alone in the shore and if you’re not familiar with the route.
  • Apo Island can be enjoyed as a day tour if you have a limited time.
  • For cheaper rates, contact the resorts directly in the island. Resorts in the mainland tend to overprice but if you want the island tour as package without any trouble going there then they also provide a good deal.

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Budget Breakdown: good for 2

  • Ceres Bac-Dum vice versa 1400
  • trike to Robinson’s Mall 18
  • jeep to Zamboanguita 40
  • boat good for 4 2000
  • Apo Island fee 200
  • toilet 10
  • snorkel 200
  • booties 200
  • entrance to Apo Island Resort 100
  • tour guide 200
  • lunch 400
  • wash 10
  • shower 20
  • jeep to Dumaguete 40
  • trike to hotel 18

total: 4856 (2428 each)

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When in Cebu: Go Cheap in Camotes Islands

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When you’re looking for a short break from the busy city of Cebu, there lies a group of islands of Camotes situated at the eastern part of the the province.  Known as the “lost horizon of the south”, Camotes Island is one of the undiscovered jewels in Visayas.

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DCIM126GOPRONamed as one of the best island destination in the Indian Ocean-Asia region, Cebu prides itself as a ground for international tourism and with its laid-back lifestyle and humble vibe, Camotes Islands give you an evolving summer experience.

Camotes Islands can be likened to Siquijor in Negros and Bantayan Island in Cebu.  With its transparent crystal waters and impeccable powdery sand, tourists will be allured with its scenic and panoramic views.  Although its sand is not pure white but with a tinge of gray; its texture is what keeps the beach unique.  Its sand is one of the finest I’ve set foot on and its cleanliness is what the sightseers regard for. What sets it apart from the other beaches in Cebu is that it has maintained its natural and modest energy with a great involvement from the locals.  Without pretense, it is definitely a place for luxurious relaxation.

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How to get there:

total of 4 hours travel time from Cebu City Proper

  • 1 hour from Cebu to Danao
  • 2 hours and 30 mins from Danao to Consuelo
  • 30 mins to resort

From Cebu city to Danao Port

  1. Private vehicle – overnight parking fee (300); roro fee (1200)
  2. Ceres Bus (Northbound)
  3. Taxi – one way fee (500-1000) : for cheaper rates 09254685809 (Zaldong Tisoy)

Danao Port to Consuelo Port (San Fran.)

Jomalia Shipping Corporation

  • Regular Adult – 180 (economy) / 200 (aircon)
  • Student, PWD, PNP, BFP – 150 / 170
  • Senior Citizen – 145 / 160
  • Child 3-10 yrs old – 90 / 100

Schedule

Danao to Consuelo : 09284066617 / 09261346930

  • 5:30am / 8:30am / 11:00 am / 2:00pm / 5:30pm / 9:00pm (Fri, Sat, Sun only)

Consuelo to Danao : 09176315951 / 09396021738

  • 4:00am (Sat, Sun, Mon only) / 5:30am / 9:00am / 1:00pm / 3:00pm / 5:00pm

Where to stay:

  1. Santiago Bay Garden and Resort
    San Francisco, Camotes
    (032) 345-8599 / (+63) 917-3292448