Siquijor Island - Why we love this hidden gem in the Philippines

Siquijor island: this is the one to get to before everyone realises just how wonderful this little gem is. Though it doesn’t have beaches as incredible as Palawan or Boracay or waterfalls as magnificent as Cebu, Siquijor has charm in buckets and it’s a place we loved.

This is the Philippines we remember from seven years ago. The vibe is completely chilled, everyone stops to chat and you aren’t forced to have unnecessary guides for everything ( I’m looking at you, Cebu). It’s the kind of place you could come to for a few days and end up staying a few weeks.

Getting around is a breeze with excellent and quiet roads. The sunsets are dreamy and don’t forget to look up at the night sky, the stars are magnificent.

Here’s all the reasons you need to make sure you include Siquijor in your Philippines itinerary.

Read next: The best things to do in Coron and how to plan the best itinerary for Cebu


Why go to Siquijor?

If you’re heading to Cebu and are looking for a place where kicking back to relax is practically mandatory, with few other travellers, a great vibe and plenty of beautiful spots, then this is the place for you.

Siquijor is just a few hours by ferry from Cebu City or Liloan (useful if you’ve been visiting the Cebu waterfalls) and feels like South-East Asia before mass tourism and resorts arrived. It is changing though, as there are lots of hotels currently under construction and locals are clearly expecting a boom.

Right now the restaurants are often shacks, the roads are pretty much empty and you’ll be able to get a feeling of pure relaxation which can be harder on the more popular islands. We loved Cebu, but couldn’t escape the constant noise.

Siquijor is also a lot cheaper than the more popular islands, with most meals being under 100 pesos (about $2.50 USD) and upmarket restaurants being about 300 - 500 pesos ($7.50 - $12.50 USD) for grilled fish and fancy mains. An upmarket meal in Siquijor is about the same price as a budget meal in El Nido in Palawan.


Best things to do in Siquijor

If you can peel yourself away from relaxing at the beach, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Siquijor.

Cliff diving Salagdoong

Even if you don’t want to do it yourself, the cliff diving at Salagdoong is well worth a watch. From this little craggy outcrop, tourists and locals alike line up to dive from just over 10 metres up into the paradise water below. If you prefer there is one slightly lower jump too.

It isn’t for the faint hearted and there’s a mix of those who run and dive head first and others who need a bit more time to get the courage to dive! Most people seemed to love it but more than a couple said the water felt like a slap when they landed. Consensus seemed to be hold your body taut and it shouldn’t hurt.

The cliff jump itself is free but you do have to pay a fee to the Salagdoong Beach Resort to enter the area.

It’s a beautiful place to spend an hour or so taking in the views, watching the divers or swimming in paradise blue waters. There is also a place to rent kayaks, paddle boards, huge unicorn floaties and other water sports equipment.

Essential Information about Salagdoong

You’ll need to pay an entry fee of 25 pesos per person and 20 for motorbike parking. Head to the Salagdoong Beach Resort and park there. The ride from San Juan should take just under an hour. The jumps open at 9am and we were there until sunset and they didn’t really close, people only stopped jumping when it got dark.

 

Cambugahay Falls

The star attraction of Siquijor is Cambugahay Falls which is tucked into the countryside just outside of Lazi.

Famed for its bright blue water, Cambugahay is a three tiered waterfall that has pools for those who fancy a swim and swings for those who still like to let out their inner child! There are plenty of shaded areas to chill in or a bamboo raft to float on.

On a hot day (which is most days in Siquijor) Cambugahay is a refreshing place to cool off.

Cambugahay Waterfall in Siquijor
Cambugahay falls in Siquijor Island

Cambugahay is really popular with the locals and we saw a lot of kids hanging around the third level, primarily to swing out and dive into the falls below! It made for some really fun photos.

Cambugahay Waterfall in Siquijor Island

It is one of the most beautiful places on the island, but also one of the most popular. We recommend going early as you can as it can get pretty busy.

Getting to Cambugahay is easy as the roads are well paved. There are no signs, so you’ll want to cache your google maps before you go.

There is no entrance fee for Cambugahay Falls, but you’ll have to pay 10 pesos to park your motobike (19 c in USD).

 

Paliton Beach

Paliton Beach is beautiful, with white sand, palm trees and a really calm sea, perfect for swimming. On a sunny day, this is a stunning place to relax and it is also one of the best sunset spots on the island (the sun sets directly in front of the beach).

Paliton Beach from above - Siquijor Island, The Philippines

There are two or three beaches around Paliton, but we recommend to keep walking as far as you can (through the small forest behind the beach) to the furthest beach which we’ve marked on the map below. This is where the beach becomes a lot wider and more picturesque than the small ones you see first.

Sunset at Paliton Beach in Siquijor, The Philipiines

It can get a little busy, but the beach is big enough to find some space, although if you can avoid the weekend that would be best. It is a beautiful place to have a dip at high tide (we’ve heard that at low tide it is not so pleasant due to rocks and coral). Seeing a signature Siquijor sunset from this beach topped off an amazing afternoon.

Paliton is on the western side of the island and a 10 minute ride from San Juan town. The last road to the beach isn’t in great condition, so you may want to park a little earlier and walk the rest of the way.

 

Lugnason Falls

If you want a jungle waterfall without the crowds of Cambugahay, then this is the waterfall for you. Lugnason Falls is confusing named at the entry as it says “Zodiac Falls” and points to Lugnason as one of 12 falls to visit. The reality is that although you can walk and explore others, Luganson is the main attraction.

Whilst not quite as impressive as Cambugahay, Lungason has a lot less people visiting and has a bit of a wilder feel. There is just one set of steps down to the pool and you’re surrounded by jungle in all directions. You don’t need to worry about going early to this one as we visited on a Saturday afternoon and had it to ourselves for the most part!

It does have a rope swing and a huge jumping platform, but we wouldn’t recommend going for it unless you are pretty confident, as the pool looks precariously small from above!

It is another waterfall with coldish water, helping to cool you down from the midday heat in Siquijor. It is not too far away from San Juan, but requires about 10-15 minutes of riding along another bumpy dirt road. Drive along the Circumferential Road and look for the U Story sign. The turning is opposite the U Story sign and the falls are along the road there.

Entry is free and they don’t charge for parking your motorbike either.

 

Happy hour at Coral Cay

There are plenty of beautiful swings in Asia (most famously in Bali and Sri Lanka), which are quite expensive and have huge queues after becoming Instagram famous. The one at Coral Cay resort is up there with the most picturesque but has none of the crowds. In fact the only people we had to share with were a couple of kids 😂

Tied to a palm tree, set on a white sand beach and the flattest sea we’ve seen, you couldn’t ask for a better location.

It is also metres away from the bar at Coral Cay which serves food and drinks for the perfect sundowner. It isn’t the cheapest happy hour on the island, but when you can get a beer for 50 pesos ($1 USD) with this view, you can’t complain!

Coral Cay Resort is a five minute ride from San Juan. They put up signs that each external visitor has to make a minimum spend of 100 pesos ($2 USD) but we didn’t see anyone enforcing it (although we thought that it was excellent value for the swing alone!). The bar is pleasant, but only has wooden seats, so you’ll want to grab the hammock that’s on the beach for more comfort!

It isn’t the best place to swim as the water is very shallow and a little grubby. As there are no waves here, the dead leaves and coconuts that drop into the sea just stay there and rot. You’re better off going up the road to Paliton if you are desperate for a dip. Coral Cay is all about chilling out, and you really couldn’t ask for a better spot. Stay for another famous Siquijor sunset.

 

The Century Old Balete Tree

One of the more random things to do in Siquijor is see the Century Old Balete Tree just outside of Lazi. Siquijor is a very superstitious island and is known for its beliefs in witchcraft as well as myths and legends. The Balete Tree is one place that has a lot of stories to tell.

If you don’t get chatting to a local you won’t really discover anything about the legend of this tree though. We’d heard there were still people there selling love potions and sharing stories but they weren’t around when we visited.

In reality, it’s a huge banyan tree with a fish pond at the base. You can sit there and contemplate while fish nibble at your feet. Or you can give it a miss. After all, it is just a tree at the side of a road!

The entrance fee is 10 pesos ($0.19 US) per person and 5 pesos to park your scooter. The tree is at the side of the road, around 20 minutes drive from San Juan town.

 

Dine in style at U Story

If you’re looking for somewhere fantastic to spend the evening, then head to U Story (even if you’re not staying there). It is a Balinese themed restaurant (and guesthouse) where you can relax on cushions or dine with your feet in the sand. The restaurant serves great food (try the mahi mahi) and is set in a beach garden full of palms and other trees. It looks especially atmospheric at night.

For chilling and unwinding, there’s nowhere better on Siquijor.

U Story is a 10-15 minute ride South-East of San Juan. There’s a sign on the road and then you’ll go along a dirt track for a few minutes. They have a policy of outside guests needing to book ahead, but if it isn’t busy you should be able to rock up. We dined there twice without booking in low season but if you want to be safe, book ahead.

 

Getting around Siquijor

Getting around Siquijor is very easy, but it is best to have your own form of transport. You’ll want a motorbike as the costs of tricycles (the Filipino invention of putting a metal shell around a motorbike) will add up.

Motorbikes in Siquijor are a lot cheaper than the other Filipino islands and should cost a max of 350 pesos per day (compared to 500 pesos in a lot of places in Cebu).

Siquijor is a great place for novice motorcyclists. The roads are well paved and very quiet; you’ll rarely see a car or anything bigger than you on the roads here.

If you do prefer tricycles they are abundant and can be booked for whole days.


Getting to Siquijor

Getting to Siquijor isn’t as simple as many Filipino islands. It does have an airport, but we could only see flights from Cebu going there and as they were very small planes it is an expensive route. The way most people arrive is by ferry from either Cebu City, Tagbiliran (Bohol), Dumaguete (Negros) or Liloan (Cebu).

All ferries go to Larena ferry port on Siquijor (around 40 minutes from San Juan town).

There are two companies to choose from: Ocean Jet and Maayo Shipping. Ocean Jet is the quickest and most comfortable, whereas Maayo is really a cargo ship with plastic benches added (and it is a lot slower). If you can, we’d recommend taking an Ocean Jet boat that operates out of Cebu City, Tagbiliran or Negros to Larena on Siquijor.

All ferry times listed below at correct at time of writing, we used the Maayo Shipping route from southern Cebu and the Ocean Jet route to Cebu City on the way back. Both were fine though if money is no object then Ocean Jet is better and ran on time.


Cebu City to Larena (Siquijor) Ferry times

The most obvious way to get to Siquijor is to hop on the Ocean Jet ferry that runs from Cebu City. There is only one per day, but it is pretty quick (about 4 hours in total). The ferry leaves at 8am and goes via Tagbiliran. It leaves from the ferry terminal in the city which is about 15 minutes from the centre by taxi.

The ferry back from Larena leaves at 12.30pm and also goes via Tagbiliran, taking 4 hours. Due to the slow tricycles in Siquijor, the journey can take up to an hour from San Juan but should only be 40 minutes.

Cebu City to Siquijor Ferry cost

There are technically three classes of ticket, but there’s little between them. “Business class” is essentially a padded seat rather than a wicker chair, but the wicker chairs are comfortable enough. We wouldn’t say that Business Class is worth paying the extra 800 pesos for ($16 USD).

The main choice is really air conditioning or outside.

  • 1,150 for open air (non reserved seating)

  • 1,200 for normal seat in air con section (assigned seat)

  • 2,000 for “business class” (assigned seat)

  • All passengers pay a 10 peso terminal fee (20c USD) and a 45 peso fee for any large bag (just under $1 USD).


Liloan (Cebu) to Larena (Siquijor) Ferry times

If you’ve been chasing waterfalls in the South of Cebu and can’t face the four hour bus journey back to Cebu City (we couldn’t either) then an easier option is to get the local ferry that goes from Liloan every day.

Don’t expect comfort though, this is a cargo ferry run by Maayo Shipping with plastic seats that are open to the elements. It started raining on our journey and everyone got soaked! You’ll have to haul your luggage onboard as well.

The ferry leaves at 10am every day and we were told that the ferry takes only two hours, but ours left 30 minutes late and took four hours, meaning we arrived at 2.30pm.

Liloan (Cebu) to Larena (Siquijor) Ferry Cost

  • Tickets cost 200 Pesos per person ($3.80 USD)

  • You will also have to pay a 10 peso Terminal fee per person (20c USD).


Tagbiliran (Bohol) to Larena (Siquijor) Ferry Times

If you' fancy a stop in Bohol, then you can get the once a day Ocean Jet Ferry that goes between Tagbiliaran and Larena. This leaves Tagbiliaran at 10.20 am and takes about 1 hour 20 minutes. The same ferry goes from Siquijor to Tagbiliran at 12.30pm.


Tagbiliran (Bohol) to Larena (Siquijor) Ferry Cost

  • Air conditioned tickets cost 700 pesos per person ($14 USD)

  • “Business class” costs 1,020 pesos per person (a little over $20 USD)

  • You’ll also have to pay the usual 10 peso terminal fee (20c USD) and a porter fee of 45 pesos per person (just under $1 USD).


Dumaguete (Negros) to Larena (Siquijor) Ferry Times

The most regular ferries to Siquijor are from Negros, with Ocean Jet running four in each direction per day.

From Dumaguete, you can get the 7.20am, 9.40 am, 2.40pm or 5pm service to Larena. If you’re wanting to go from Larena to Negros, you can get the 6am, 8.30am, 1.30pm or 3.50pm boat.

The journey is one of the shortest at just 50 minutes.

Dumaguete (Negros) to Larena (Siquijor) Ferry Costs

  • 250 pesos ($5 USD) for standard seats in air conditioning

  • 380 pesos ($8 USD) for “business class” seats

  • 10 Peso Terminal Fee (20c USD) and a 45 peso porter fee for large luggage (just under $1 USD)


Where to stay on Siquijor Island

The great news is that Siquijor has plenty of good accommodation that isn’t too expensive. The bad news is that the best can sell out in advance, so you don’t expect to be able to just rock up to the best ones and haggle for a room.


Best choice - U Story

We really wanted to book U Story, but it sold out a long time before we visited Siquijor. The whole place is Balinese themed and instantly relaxes you when you arrive. The rooms are spacious, comfortable and in a really quiet location to rest and unwind.

The hotel is just a 10 minute ride by motorbike or tricycle from San Juan town, but the food at U Story is so good that you won’t need to go to San Juan for every meal! Whilst we couldn’t stay we ate there several times and not only was the food great but the setting was absolutely stunning.

Budget choice - Gold View

Having failed to get into U Stay, we opted to go to Gold View Resort. It is a good option as the hotel is set on a wilder beach than the likes of Paliton or Salagdoong, and it is very quiet and a nice place to rest after a day exploring.

The rooms are a bit spartan, but the beds are as soft as they come in The Philippines and are comfortable. The wifi can only be used at the restaurant area which can be a pain, but most wifi and phone signal in the Philippines is shocking anyway.

It is 15 minute ride (around 7km) from San Juan and down a short dirt track to the entrance. The staff were the friendliest we met in the Philippines (a famously friendly country) and the laundry was the best we had in three months in Asia.

Booking.com
Booking.com

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