Dumaguete is a cozy little coastal city in the southern Philippines. Being the Negros Oriental’s capital and largest city, this is also a resort town that has great diving opportunities nearby.
It has been nicknamed “the city of gentle people”, and with good reason because of its peaceful ambiance. And while being very tranquil, the city is also home to many colleges and universities. Students actually make up almost a third of the city’s population, so you’ll definitely feel the youthful energy in the air.
But, what we love the most about Dumaguete is its convenient positioning, which allows travelers to explore some of the country’s most sought-after natural landscapes. We’ve compiled a list of all the types of activities you should be doing in Dumaguete and its surroundings.
Top Things to Do in Dumaguete
The most defining characteristic of Dumaguete is its surrounding natural beauty. From active volcanoes to postcard-worthy beaches, you’ll never be far from an unforgettable nature experience.
1. Stroll Through the Rizal Boulevard
One of the most essential things to do in Dumaguete is walking along the cosmopolitan Rizal Boulevard. It’s the most visited tourist spot in the city and it provides visitors and locals with a scenic promenade attached to many restaurants/bars.
There’s lots of seating space for nature admirers to sit and absorb the view in, from sea-facing benches to grassy areas. The boulevard is also adorned with large palm trees and stretches for almost 800 meters, so you’ll definitely be able to find a space to sit and enjoy.
2. Visit the Dumaguete Belfry
Other than nature experiences, there are also culturally informative things to do in Dumaguete. And one specific structure that details the city’s history is the clocktower, being one of the oldest remaining buildings in the city.
Its purpose was to be a watch-tower to warn locals about pirate attacks. It now stands as a symbol of strength for the city that survived through all the hardships.
3. Visit the Continent’s First American Educational Establishment
The Silliman University in Dumaguete is the first American establishment dedicated to education in the country, as well as the continent. So, it’s a symbolic landmark for the city that was once under American colonization for almost 50 years.
There’s even an Anthropology Museum on-site, which was opened in 1970 to maintain the artifacts of the Cultural Research Centre. Some of the collections trace back as far as 200 BC!
4. Explore One of the Oldest Structures on the Island
The St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral was one of the first buildings erected in Negros and is the oldest stone church in the province. It was built in the 1700s by Spanish friars and still maintains the same foundation today.
It’s locally referred to as the Dumaguete Cathedral and has a very extravagant exterior. There are four stone pillars by the entrance of the Cathedral, making it extremely picturesque. The church is centrally located in downtown Dumaguete and offers some spiritual peace away from the bustling city.
The Tumalog Falls should be on everyone’s bucket list. The falls were only discovered in 2012, so it’s become an upcoming attraction. It provides some desirable exploring through the surrounding forest.
It’s a massive waterfall in the nearby Cebu Island that attracts many visitors because of its turquoise pool and close proximity to Oslob (a 20-minute drive). It’s not difficult to arrive at as there are lifts for those who don’t want to climb the steep hill for 10-minutes. Another exciting feature of the falls is the mini viewing point on the mound beside it.
Have you ever wanted to combine a Maldives holiday with a Filipino setting? Well, the Manjuyod Sandbar is about the closest result you could find to that.
This sandbar is an oasis with shallow, transparent pale blue waters stretching across 4 miles of soft white sand.
And just like the Maldives, you’ll find thatch cottages on stilts above the calm, shallow waters. The sandbar emerged as a shoal, with sand as its base rather than rocks. However, you’ll find the sand mixed with tiny corals at some points.
Unusual Things to Do in Dumaguete
Maybe you’re interested in the non-touristy things to do in Dumaguete. If so, here are some really cool things to do in Dumaguete off the beaten path.
7. Discover a Hidden Coastal Chinese Bell Church
Dumaguete is filled with hidden beauty, and not just naturally – there are some architectural masterpieces too. And one of them is the Chinese Temple.
This Church Tower is on the far southern end of Rizal Boulevard and once you eventually find it, you’ll be impressed by the colorful extravagance of the exterior. There’s dragons, Chinese inscriptions, and bell towers, to name but a few characteristics.
But, what makes this Chinese temple so unique is its positioning on the sea coast, which is extremely picturesque. So, spend some time absorbing the multicultural atmosphere and appreciating Chinese architecture.
8. Hike Up an Active Stratovolcano
The Philippines also creates intrigue for nature enthusiasts who want to know more about volcanoes.
With 13 volcanoes throughout the entire country, Dumaguete is fortunately near Mount Kanlaon – Negros Province’s highest point. And by near, we mean a 4-hour drive – but worry not because it’s totally worth it.
The mountain/volcano stands almost 2500-meters above ground and is even central Philippines’ highest point. It has two summits with craters which have made it a popular hiking destination. If you’re looking for adrenaline-seeking things to do outside Dumaguete, then you should definitely try one of the three hiking trails up the mountain.
9. Buy Literally Anything at Malatapay Market
When you visit a developing country such as the Philippines, it’s important to contribute to the local economy. And every Wednesday, you can visit this market that’s just outside Dumaguete in the nearby district of Malatapay.
Here you can shop for absolutely anything, from toolkits to seafood. What makes this market unique is its extremely friendly vendors, who are from all different parts of the Negros Oriental.
Safety in Dumaguete
Dumaguete has been ranked as one of the top 10 safest cities in the Philippines, which is already a relatively safe country. It’s called the ‘City of Gentle People’, so you won’t find much violence here.
Locals navigate the city by foot, public transit or by tricycle. Either of these methods is safe, but remain vigilant throughout.
If you get lost, English is widely spoken throughout the city due to its large expat population. So, you will be able to engage with locals. But, as is when traveling to any foreign place, be cautious with your belongings, avoid walking alone at night, and stick to the busiest areas.
Taking safety measures and ensuring you have everything on your Philippines packing list can ensure you enjoy your time in paradise. Check out our roundup of the best travel insurance.
Things to do in Dumaguete at Night
The most popular things do in Dumaguete at night are simply to fine dine, or to get a drink at one of its bars.
10. Eat Traditional Filipino Dishes
The Philippines is known to be the birthplace of many delicious creations. Our favorite is the delicious, sweet Silvana. These are frozen cookies with a layer of buttercream inside. The buttercream is actually placed in the middle of two crumby wafers, and is truly scrumptious.
The Cake House serves the best Silvana dishes in town, so you simply have to try this. Given that this is a dessert, we suggest that you also visit its sister restaurants, Sans Rival Bistro as well as the Cake House. You’ll find the most authentically traditional Filipino dishes here, from savory to sweet.
11. Watch the Sunset at Silliman Beach
Being on the eastern section of Negros island, Dumaguete, Philippines naturally isn’t home to any white-sand beaches. Rather, it presents a different type of beaching experience – smaller beaches enclosed by tall tropical trees.
The one and only public beach in Dumaguete is Silliman Beach, which comprises a promenade and sandy area. The water is conveniently calm, so it’s pleasant to swim in, should you want a late-day dip.
The sunsets here are unparalleled because you can walk along the ocean, watching the sun go down behind the water that reflects the colors.
12. Have a Drink at Hayahay Treehouse Bar
If you’re looking for hip things to do in Dumaguete, then this bar/viewing deck boasts some of the most scenic ocean vistas, with a retro vibe. It’s adorned with wooden features, giving it the impression of a treehouse.
There are two stories, the lower of which sometimes has live music performances. The venue also stays open until 1 am, so you won’t have to feel rushed. Being positioned directly next to the ocean, you’ll be smelling the fresh sea scent throughout your night here.
Where to Stay in Dumaguete
Dumaguete is a small city that doesn’t have one preferred neighborhood. And that’s because nothing is far to reach here given the city’s small size. But, if you’re looking for things to do in Dumaguete city center, then be sure to stay near:
- Rizal Boulevard
- Silliman Beach
- The Dumaguete Belfry
Best Hostel in Dumaguete – Antwet Backpackers and Rooftop Bar
This sociable hostel has a bar, restaurant, and communal area. Its rooftop bar boasts some pretty impressive views of Mount Talinis and the sunsets are incredible. It’s also in close reach to all major landmarks such as the Silliman University.View on Hostelworld
Best Airbnb in Dumaguete – Marina Condo Dumaguete 6th Beach View
Dumaguete may not be a beach destination, but you can still have scenic ocean views. And why not have your own one from your 6th-floor bedroom window? This condo is a truly great catch because it’s also furnished with one king-sized bed and one queen-sized bed. It’s even centrally located, being a 5-minute drive to the Belfry.View on Airbnb
Best Hotel in Dumaguete – Rovira Suites
This upmarket accommodation boasts an outdoor pool, sun terrace, and garden. The rooms are reasonably priced and finished with modern fittings. Each room also has beautiful views of the surrounding tropical greenery. The airport is extremely close, as is the coast (a 4-minute drive from Silliman Beach).
Romantic Things to Do in Dumaguete
Dumaguete has an extremely relaxed vibe; a true escape from the chaotic, larger cities. This will allow you and your partner to reconnect here because of the peaceful ambiance and unspoiled nature.
The Balinsasayao and Danao Lakes are freshwater twin craters tucked away in luscious green mountains. And a little ridge divides these two into identical lakes. The lakes are 300 meters above sea level, making them a bewildering natural phenomenon.
You and your partner can rent paddle boats and/or kayaks to venture through the lakes. The surrounding area of the lakes is brimming with fauna and flora. And what’s more, is that there are scenic waterfalls that are only a half-hour walk from the lakes.
This is the ideal activity for adventurous couples; you can bring along a picnic basket while you glide to the middle of the lakes.
14. Unwind at the Forest Camp Mountain Resort
If you and your partner want some privacy, then you should visit the Forest Camp, which is located 20 minutes away from Dumaguete. The resort spans almost 3-hectares and is 240 meters above sea level.
You and can relax in one of the 9 man-made cold rock pools, which give the impression of natural lagoons. And once you’re done lazing in all the pools, you can dine at one of the traditionally-Filipino restaurants on-site.
If you want to dedicate an entire day to romantic things to do in Dumaguete for couples, we suggest you book an overnight stay at one of the resort’s modern cottages.
Always Be Insured
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favorite travel insurance provider.
To find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
Best Free Things to Do in Dumaguete
We’ve compiled some of the best inner-city, free adventures for you.
15. Browse the NOAH
Also known as the Negros Oriental Arts and Heritage, this building is dedicated to promoting local artworks. And since the entrance is free, you can window-shop as much as you’d like, while still appreciating the effort put into the artifacts.
The objects you’ll find are all made out of Filipino gemstones that are incorporated to make handy items such as home and fashionwear.
It’s a stone factory that sources its raw resources from all over the country, diversifying the product line. So, you’ll find vast ranges of products here, all locally handcrafted.
16. Escape the City in Freedom Park
You may notice that Dumaguete is generously scattered with tropical green trees, but you may not find many green spaces in the city.
There’s the central Quezon Park, but the Ninoy Aquino Freedom Park provides much more seating space. As well as views of the majestic Mount Talinis and cultural performances such as the Buglasan Festival.
The park is a popular attraction among students because it is located beside the Silliman University. So there’s youthful energy at the park. It’s detailed with ancient Acacia trees and colorful gardens, and is ideal for picnics or chilling.
17. Hike Up Mount Talinis
If you’re looking for things to do in Dumaguete on a budget, set a day aside to hike up Mount Talinis. It’s a complex volcano that’s about a 40-minute drive from Dumaguete city, Philippines. Plus, entry is free.
It’s the second-highest peak (after Mount Kanlaon) on Negros Island. But, it’s much closer to Dumaguete than Mount Kanlaon. Its highest peak reaches 1900 meters, and is quite a challenging hike. But, it’ll be worth the trek because you’ll encounter lakes, waterfalls and dense forests en-route.
Dumaguete Packing List
1. Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottles are tough, lightweight, and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!
2. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
3. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.
4. Camera or Cell Phone Camera Accessories: One thing’s for sure – Japan is a picturesque destination! Get perfect shots from your phone using clip-on-lenses with wide-angle, close-up and optical zoom. With the ability to turn travel pictures from basic to professional, this universal lens sits neatly over any phone camera and comes with a durable, travel-friendly case!
5. International Adapter: Japanese outlets accommodate typical US two-pronged plugs, but for electronics that have three prongs, or if your plugs are of a different variety, you’ll need an adapter. Save yourself the hassle of trying to track down an adapter at your destination and paying twice as much than planning ahead by buying one online.
Books to Read in Dumaguete
The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here.
Playing with Water: Passion and Solitude on a Philippine Island: Ever wondered what life on a deserted island would be like? Well, James experiments with this, spending months on uninhabited islands in the Philippines, going back to the basics of survival and diving into the ‘real Philippines’.
History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos: For the history nerds, this is an awesome background of The Philippines, the culture and what went into making it the incredible country it is today. Seriously, well worth a read!
Things to Do with Kids in Dumaguete
You’ll be relieved to know that there are still family-friendly attractions, natural and man-made in Dumaguete.
18. Have Endless Fun at Tierra Alta
Tierra Alta is a Santorini-themed resort that is only half-an-hour away from Dumaguete city. Located in Valencia, one of the major attractions here is the zipline, which is the longest of its kind on the island, as well as the first.
And we can assure you that all ages will love this experience. You’ll zipline for a length of 600 meters and can choose between four riding styles. This resort also has a really picturesque lighthouse that boasts a panoramic view of Dumaguete.
And that’s not all – this multifaceted resort even has two restaurants, one being a cafe and one a pool restaurant.
19. Have a Family Day at Pulangbato Falls
The kids may be unable to hike to some of the Negros waterfalls, limiting your choice of options. But luckily, this sensational waterfall is easily accessible, with the parking lot based next to it.
Pulangbato Falls is located in the Ocoy Valley and is only a 30-minute drive away from Dumaguete, Philippines. The cascading flow of water against a tropical backdrop and red rocks is truly serene.
You have the option of swimming, picnicking or venturing to the nearby red rock hot springs.
Other Things to Do in Dumaguete
Now that we’ve spoken about all the natural things to do in Dumaguete, it’s important to talk about the city’s historical landmarks too. And a city with such a rich history as Dumaguete deserves acknowledgment.
Almost 30-miles away from Dumaguete lies Bais, another city in the Negros Oriental. The city’s bay area is known for its high concentrations of marine life. This is because the bay’s seafloors are rich in tropical coast vegetation, or mangroves.
Snorkeling here is heaven-like because it is the breeding grounds for many fish species. But the Bay is the most popular for dolphin watching. There are three dolphin species that are commonly spotted here; pantropical, bottlenose and long-snouted.
The convenience and ease of Dumaguete is its close proximity and easy access to other nearby islands. And Siquijor is no exception to this because it makes up for the lack of beaches in Dumaguete. Here, you’ll find crystal blue, transparent waters on white-sand beaches.
Siquijor is only a 90-minute ferry ride from Dumaguete and is home to world-class beaches like Salagdoong Beach. But, beaching isn’t the only activity you should do here.
The three-tiered Cambugahay Falls in mainland Siquijor is an essential feature to visit on the island. The falls culminate in a large blue swimming pool that you simply have to swim in. To make things even more exciting, there are rope swings across the pools for you to unleash your inner-Tarzan.
22. Visit the Cata-Al World War II Museum
Porforio Cata-al lived through World War II in Valencia and was a member of the guerillas. After the war, he set out to excavate remnants, and through his search, he managed to emerge a museum.
The museum is scattered with World War II antique pieces left over by the Japanese and American soldiers. Here, you can expect to find the exact guns and ammunition used during the war. This museum is located in the nearby district of Valencia and showcases the personal collection of Porforio and his son, Felix.
23. Visit the Japanese Shrine
Only a short drive from Dumaguete center lies an important landmark for Filipino heritage. The monument is elevated high up in the Valencian peaks and is the exact site where battles took place in World War II.
The pillar was built in the late 1970s and has three parts to represent the USA, Japan and the Philippines. The purpose of its construction was to commemorate all those who died in the war.
Day Trips from Dumaguete
Dumaguete is in close proximity to some marvelous natural features. From volcanic mountains to tropical beaches, you’ll find it difficult to choose one. Here are our top picks.
1. Set a Day Aside for Apo Island
You’re in the Philippines, so you’re probably after crystal blue waters and tropical island experiences. And fortunately for you, one of the best day trips from Dumaguete is in close reach to some of the country’s most breathtaking landscapes.
And Apo Island is certainly no exception to this, being only a 30-minute ferry ride from Malatapay (30-minute drive from Dumaguete). Apo Island spans over 70 hectares and has gained a reputation for providing some of the globe’s best snorkeling and diving experiences.
The forested island is enclosed by transparent blue waters. A unique characteristic of the island is its rarely large amounts of turtles!
2. Explore the Cave Capital of the Philippines
If you’re more of an inland type of individual, then the municipality of Mabinay has some intriguing natural features you may want to scout. And by natural features, we mean a system of caves – four of which are open to the public for exploring. All of this, only 2-hours away from Dumaguete.
Each of the caves comes attached with a historical purpose, such as the Panligawan Cave which was used by locals to bring their ‘sweethearts’ to. Caves are the perfect alternative for things to do near Dumaguete, especially if it rains.
This is a unique experience because each cave is designed for different levels of hiking abilities. Some caves go extremely deep and are long in length, and others are shallow and easy to navigate.
3 Day Dumaguete Itinerary
Feeling overwhelmed by all the diverse Dumaguete things to do? Worry not, because we’ve planned a 3-day schedule for your convenience.
Day 1 – Start with the Basics
On your first day, we suggest scanning the city’s major landmarks and grasping the history. You’ll begin by exploring Rizal Boulevard, the #1 tourist attraction in the city. Try some of the restaurants for brunch and walk along the promenade.
Then, walk for 10-minutes from the Boulevard to the Dumaguete Belfry. This clock tower is architecturally beautiful and is a key historical feature for the city. After that, walk again for just under 10-minutes to Silliman University. Try to visit the Anthropology Museum here too.
Finally, take an easy 20-minute walk from the University to Silliman Beach, where you can buy food and drinks and watch the sunset after a culturally informative day.
Day 2 – Explore Negros Oriental
The Negros Oriental is bursting with diverse natural beauty that deserves to be admired. And this can be achieved in one day if you prepare well. Today, you’ll either need a hired car or a scooter.
Start with a 1.5-hour drive to the Manjuyod Sandbar from Dumaguete. Walk in the transparent ocean water in the morning before it gets too hot, and then head for Bais Bay (a 20-minute drive away).
Here, you’ll find one of the most unmissable things to do in Dumaguete and the Negros Island – snorkeling. And there’s plenty of diving companies that will show you the rich marine life and mangroves.
Finally, drive to the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes, which is one of the most beautiful inland features of the Negros Oriental. Luckily, the lakes are in the same direction as Dumaguete from Bais Bay, so you can make this possible.
Rent a paddleboat in the twin lakes, possibly watching the sunset there. From here, it’ll only be a 45-minute drive back to Dumaguete.
Day 3 – Go Island Hopping
Now that you’ve seen the Negros Oriental major attractions, it’s time to expand your adventures to the nearby tropical islands. These are namely Apo and Siquijor Island, which are both pretty close to each other and Dumaguete.
Once again, we suggest you start pretty early for this one. Be sure to check the schedule for when the ferries depart. From Dumaguete Port, catch a 1.5-hour ferry to Siquijor Island. It’s a pretty big island so we suggest you visit Cambugahay Falls and Salagdoong Beach.
To get to Apo Island from Siquijor, contact Siquijor’s Coco Grove Resort, which offers the only direct route from Siquijor to Apo Island. Be sure to contact them beforehand to check availability. It’ll be another 2-hour ferry ride to Apo Island, where you can spend the afternoon and relax on the beach.
You’ll only need to travel 30-minutes by ferry to get to Malatapay from Apo Island.
From historic landmarks signifying World War II to a charming boulevard and promenade, the inner-city of Dumaguete doesn’t lack much. Well, except white-sanded tropical beaches, which you’ll only have to travel for short amounts of time to arrive at.
And trust us, you’re really spoiled for choice here in terms of natural features; Dumaguete is conveniently positioned in close reach to many national geographic attractions.
So, while Dumaguete may be the ‘city of gentle people’, it’s also the base for some wild nature adventures. Dumaguete is a city that’s usually overlooked by travelers (who use it as a gateway), but we’ve shown you exactly why you should stay right where you are when you’re there.
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