5 Days, 3 Provinces: Guide to Exploring Central Visayas (Cebu-Siquijor-Dumaguete)


If you want to visit three or four provinces in one go but have limited time, there is no better region to do it that in Central Visayas.

Central Visayas, also known as Region VII, consists of four island provinces in Visayas: the bigger and urbanized provinces of Cebu and Bohol, and the smaller provinces of Negros Oriental and Siquijor.

The region offers diverse attractions, from blinding white beaches and vibrant reefs to kid-friendly mountains and historic ruins. Among its most popular are Camotes Island and Osmena Peak in Cebu; Panglao Island and the Loboc river cruise in Bohol; the sea turtle sanctuary in Apo Island, Negros Oriental; and Cambugahay Falls and unspoiled beaches in Siquijor.

More importantly, the four provinces in the region are conveniently interconnected by ferries, making it possible for travelers to reach one island to the next in just one to two hours - no need to fly out. A Central Visayas trip is relatively cheap too, with ferries ranging from P200 to P700 one way, and decent inns as low as P500 or less.

The primary hub for sea joureys is the Cebu City pier, but ferry companies like Oceanjet and Montenegro also operate from Bohol, Siquijor and Dumaguete. From South Cebu, Maayo Shipping Lines operates ferries that go straight to Larena, Siquijor.

Tip: Ferry schedules tend to change from time to time. Please always check with ferry companies prior to your trip. With Oceanjet, you can book seats as early as 14 days prior to the departure date.



Along with my five-year old, I visited three out of four provinces in Central Visayas for five days last summer: Cebu, Siquijor and Dumaguete. We had very limited time though, so I opted to leave out Bohol for future trips. If you are planning to include it in your itinerary, two additional days are enough to tour all four provinces.  I provided separate itineraries for Cebu-Siquijor-Dumaguete and Bohol-Dumaguete-Siquijor-Cebu at the end of this post.

Although we weren't able to extensively tour all the islands, we were able to glimpse into each  highlights and local culture. Here's what we did - and what you can do too.


 CEBU

We took a night flight from Manila to Cebu. It was the only one we can get on sale. However, there are several daily flights to Cebu, and if you want to make most of your time, simply book an early flight to the province. The flight from Manila or Clark takes around one hour and twenty minutes. Cheapest regular one-way fare is around P1,499. During seat sale, fares can go as low as P699.


  • CEBU CITY AND MACTAN

Magellan's Cross, Cebu City

Mactan Island is the entry point to Cebu. Beach resorts in Mactan Island lie 10 to 15 minutes from the airport, some with their own marine sanctuaries like Movenpick Resort. En route, you will pass by the famous 20-meter high Lapu Lapu Shrine in Punta Engano.

Meanwhile, Cebu City is around 30 minutes (without traffic) from Mactan. The city is notorious for heavy traffic jams though, so it's wise to add one or two more hours for traffic when heading to the provincial capital. Cebu City is famous for its Spanish-era structures: Fort San Pedro, Sto. Nino Church, and Magellan's Cross, all within walking distance of each other.

Ferries that go to Camotes Island, Liloan, Bohol, Siquijor, and Dumaguete dock in the pier in Cebu City, so if you're going to any of these places, I would recommend you make Cebu City your hub to save time, given that the traffic going to Cebu City can get horrendous, especially during peak hours.

South Cebu is around two to three hours away from Cebu City. It is known for Osmena Peak, the pebble beach in Santander and the Oslob whale shark (I don't encourage whale shark watching there though, because environmental issues). Buses going to Dalaguete (jumpoff to Osmena Peak), Oslob and Santander are located in the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City.

We stayed at Robe's Pension House near the pier and South Bus terminal. A spacious double room like this with air conditioning, cable TV and private bathroom with shower costs only P700/night.


Recommended stay in Cebu City:

We stayed at Robe's Pension House, a four-level lodge just a few minutes away from the South Bus terminal, Cebu City pier, and Ayala Mall. Air conditioned rooms start at P700 for two persons.

Abaca in Cebu serves mouthwatering desserts, breads, and rice meals


Recommended eats: 

Cebu is well-known for its lechon. I've tried CNT, Zubuchon, and Rico's in Mactan, and personally, I like Rico's the best. I've heard pretty good things about the lechon in Carcar, too. Another staple whenever I visit Cebu is Abaca, a popular pastry shop and cafe. You can never go wrong with its Danish pastries and tarts (ranges P90 to P200+ a piece).  Abaca has branches: in Crossroads and Ayala Mall.

If you are on a budget, Robe's Pension House offers instant noodles, drinks, hot choco, and coffee at the reception area.


  • OSMENA PEAK IN DALAGUETE 


At 1,013 meters above sea level, Osmena Peak is Cebu's highest peak. But don't be intimidated by its sheer height. Osmena Peak is among the gentlest of hikes in Cebu - probably in the entire country. The hike starts at around 700 meters, after a 30-minute habal-habal ride from Dalaguete. So that means you are only left to hike 300-so meters, give or take.

From the jumpoff, Doi, Issa, Lia, and I were able to reach the summit after 45 minutes. That's considering we were hiking (slowly) with a five-year old. Some can do it in 20, some at one hour max. Surrounded by spire-like hills, Osmena Peak is a sight to behold, especially at sunset.

Tip: The trail to Osmena Peak offers no shade, so you might want to do your hike in the early morning or in late afternoon.


How to go to Osmena Peak: 

From the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City, Dalaguete is around two to three hours away, depending on the traffic. Buses take this route to South Cebu: Cebu City > Dalaguete > Oslob > Santander. Board any bus going to Santander, Liloan, Oslob, or Dalaguete. Tell conductor to drop you off at the Dalaguete junction.

Habal-habal drivers are available at the junction to take you to the jumpoff. Or you can walk two hours to the jumpoff. One habal-habal can sit two passengers and costs P500 RT (P250/head). Please be advised they also ask for a tip because they will wait until you finish the hike (two hours, including picture taking). We gave P100 per habal-habal as tip.

After Osmena Peak, you can choose to hike nearby Casino Peak (same area, but as of summer 2017, guides do not recommend it yet for kids) or do the six-hour traverse hike to Kawasan Falls in Badian. If you're not keen on hiking, just tell your habal-habal driver to take you to Kawasan Falls. Travel time is around one to 1.5 hours. Drivers ask for P1,000 to P1,200 for an Osmena Peak - Kawasan trip. There are buses to South Cebu or Cebu City at Kawasan Falls.

  • SANTANDER 

Santander sits on Cebu's southermost tip, and as such, takes longer to go to. From the South Bus terminal, a bus ride to Santander takes around three hours from Cebu City or one hour from the Dalaguete junction. Santander is known for the pebble beaches in Liloan.

Ferries going to and from Sibulan, Negros Oriental; Larena, Siquijor; and other destinations in Cebu, including Tampi, Bato and Cebu City can be found in Liloan too. Note that Liloan in Santander in South Cebu is different from Liloan in North Cebu.

What I like about Santander is that while its white sand beaches are composed of pebbles and crushed corals and not fine as other popular beaches in the country, they are still relatively untouched. Even at the port, the water is clear and spotless.



Recommended stay in Santander: 

We stayed at Santander Pebbles Resort. I got an air conditioned hut for 2 with twin beds, coffee, toiletries, private bathroom with shower, and a private veranda for only P900 (discounted with Traveloka; regular price is P1,999 with breakfast for two). The resort has two pools and its own beach. The staff is very helpful. They even gave us a free habal-habal ride to the port!


SIQUIJOR

 Paliton Beach, San Juan, Siquijor


At only 337 square kilometers, Siquijor is the third smallest province in the country. In fact, one can tour the whole province via the Siquijor Circomferential Road in just one day. Yet for its small size, Siquijor packs a punch.

Renowned for stories of mysticism, this province is accessible only via a ferry from Dumaguete, Bohol, or Cebu. There is no air strip as of writing, which is perhaps why Siquijor remains largely unexploited. Brimming white quiet pockets of beaches and marine sanctuaries, travelers going to Siquijor are ensured peace and quiet in a tropical setting.

There are two ports in Siquijor: the Larena port and Siquijor, Siquijor port. From Santander, Maayo Shipping serves the Larena port. Oceanjet sails to both Larena and Siquijor, but only from Cebu City.

If you're not too much into hikes and forests, you may choose to forego Mt. Malabahoc, so you can spend more time in other destinations. Going to and from the mountain takes around two hours from Lazi, excluding the 10-minute hike.

Cliff jumping in Salagdoong Beach in Maria, Siquijor

If you won't be cliff jumping, I also recommend doing away with Salagdoong Beach. This beach is probably the most crowded of all in Siquijor, and the rows of tourists, coupled with a so-so beach, can be off-putting. Check out the beaches and marine sanctuaries in San Juan instead. They easily beat Salagdoong.

Note: We stayed only one day in Siquijor. I cannot recommend a specific eatery as we only ate in carinderias. I most certainly cannot recommend the lodging we stayed in, which was Tumamak Lodge. Please stay away from this overpriced junk. Post on why to come soon.


NEGROS ISLAND (DUMAGUETE CITY + APO ISLAND)




Negros Oriental makes half of Negros Island (the other half being Negros Occidental). The province is known as the seat of Siliman University, located in the capital of Dumaguete. Dumaguete is also home to the famous Sans rival pastry shop. As well, the capital serves as the primary jumpoff point to Apo Island, a famous sea turtle sanctuary and dive site.

We made an early trip to Apo Island at 7 am. This is recommended, especially on peak season as there could be shortage of boats, especially small ones.

Apo Island, Negros Oriental


How to go to Apo Island: 

From Dumaguete City, take a bus going to Zamboanguita and have the conductor drop you off at Malatapay Market. Walk toward Malatapay Wharf where boats to Apo Island are found. The wharf is around 45 minutes away from Dumaguete City.

Register and board a boat. Boat rental rates are standard: P2,000 for 6 people and P3,000 for 8 people. Travel time from Malatapay Wharf to Apo Island is around 30-45 minutes, depending on sea conditions.

Please note that once you get back to Malatapay Wharf from Apo Island, buses going back to Dumaguete City may be full. You can opt to rent a tricycle going to Dumaguete City and have the driver drop you off at your hotel/ lodge. Fare is P300 (can accommodate 3-4 passengers).

White Knights in Dumaguete City proper features rooms with work desk, a wall-mounted TV, air conditioning, and private bathroom for as low as P550. They also serve cheap meals as low as P50, which you can request as room service.

Recommended stay in Dumaguete City: 

There are a couple of lodges in Apo Island, although most people opt to do a daytrip from Dumaguete City, since electricity and water in Apo Island are limited.

In Dumaguete, we stayed at White Knights, situated only 10 minutes away from Dumaguete port. White Knights offers good air conditioned rooms with TV, desk and private bathroom for as low as P550 per night for two people.

Alternatively, you can go straight to Zamboanguita and stay there instead. There are several beachfront lodging options and it's much nearer to Malatapay Wharf.

Recommended eats:

A visit to Dumaguete is never complete without dining in Sans Rival. A household name in the province, Sans Rival offers pasta, sandwiches, local rice meals, cakes, and other desserts in huge portions. Meals range from P90 to P250.  Don't forget to take home a box of Sans Rival's famous silvanas or sans rival!

White Knights also has an in-house restaurant serving Filipino and Western meals for as low as P50.

BOHOL


Dumaluan Beach in Panglao Island.

If you have more than five days and want to explore all Central Visayas provinces, simply add two more days to visit Bohol. A popular beach destination, a visit to Panglao Island in Bohol is a great introduction to the province. The island is lined with white, powdery beaches - some isolated, some filled to the brim with tourists - including the famous Alona Beach, whose short, nearly non-existent strip is packed with hotels, tourists and hawkers.

If you prefer something more intimate, head to Doljo Beach further out or Dumaluan Beach. Home to the posh Bohol Beach Club, Dumaluan Beach has the same sand quality although it's livelier, given that it is a public beach. Panglao Island is accessible via a 45-minute van ride from Tagbilaran airport and seaport.

There are ferries at the Tagbilaran port going to Ormoc, Cebu, Siquijor, and Dumaguete. Be advised though that unlike ferries to Cebu, ferries going to Siquijor arrive at noon because these are the same ferries that leave Cebu in the morning. 

Please note that the Oceanjet ferry going to Dumaguete leaves at 12:10 pm. Travel time from Panglao to Tagbilaran is 30 to 45 minutes. Be at the Tagbilaran port 30 minutes to an hour before the ferry departs.

Moon Fools Hostel in Panglao Island offers rooms with free breakfast for a slow as P500.


Recommended stay: 

You will never run out of accommodation options in Panglao Island, whichever beach you may choose as your base. We've previously stayed in Moon Fools Hostel, a hip hostel along the road, just a five-minute walk from Alona Beach. Dorm rooms are priced at P500 a night and private air conditioned rooms at P1,200/ night. Both have shared bathrooms. 

Bohol island hopping:


Bohol island hopping tours tend to be on the expensive side, ranging from P2,000 to P2,500 for a boat with a capacity of four. They also start early. You would have to leave at 5:30 am to catch the dolphins in Pamilacan. There are boatmen hawking tours in Alona Beach. It's best to scour for rates the day before and compare it to agency rates.

Doljo Beach in Panglao Island. No people except locals.


SAMPLE ITINERARY FOR 5D/4N CEBU-SIQUIJOR-DUMAGUETE TRIP

Below are our itinerary for this five-day sojourn.

Please scroll down to the bottom if you wish to see the itinerary for Cebu-Bohol-Siquijor-Dumaguete.

DAY 1: CEBU CITY TOUR

Take AM flight to Cebu from Clark, Manila, or other airports

9:00 AM - Arrive at Cebu Mactan International Airport

9:30 AM - Start tour

Tour option 1: Mactan Island beach day trip

Tour option 2: Cebu City (can be done in two hours max)

  • Magellan's Cross
  • Sto. Nino Church
  • Fort San Pedro

Tour option 3:  Spend 3 hours in Mactan Island and 2 hours in Cebu City tour

5:00 PM - Check in Robe's Pension House (near Cebu City pier and South Bus Terminal)

6:00 PM - Take cab or Uber to Ayala Mall OR Crossroads Banilad

6:30 PM to 7:00 PM - Dinner at Abaca

8:00 PM - Take cab or Uber back to hotel

9:00 PM - Rest



DAY 2: OSMENA PEAK + SANTANDER

5:00 AM - Freshen up; eat breakfast in Cebu City or Robe's Pension House

6:00 AM - Leave for South Cebu bus terminal (10 minutes away from Robe's Pension House)

9:00 AM - Arrive at Dalaguete Junction. Take habal-habal going to Osmena Peak

9:30 AM - Osmena Peak trailhead; register

10:15 AM - Arrive at Osmena Peak summit; photo taking

11:15 AM - Start descent to jumpoff

11:30 AM - Back at jumpoff. Habal-habal back to Dalaguete Junction

12:00 PM - Arrive at Dalaguete Junction. Eat at gotohan across the street

1:00 PM - Take bus going to Liloan in Santander

2:15 PM -  Arrive at Liloan Port; take habal-habal or tricycle to Santander Pebbles Resort

2:30 PM - Check in at resort; swim in beach

7:00 PM - Dinner at resort or nearby food stalls; rest


DAY 3: SIQUIJOR CHURCHES, SANCTUARIES, FALLS, MOUNTAIN

6:00 AM - breakfast; swim

9:00 AM - freshen up

9:30 AM - Check out hotel
-  Go to Liloan Port (5 mins away)

10:00 AM - Depart for Larena, Siquijor via Maayo Shipping ferry

12:00 PM - Arrive at Larena port, Siquijor
- Lunch

12:30 PM - Hire trike; Start half-day tour
> Sandugan Marine Sanctuary (photo taking only)
> Tulapos Marine Sanctuary (45 minutes)
> Cai-isiong House (photo taking only)
> Salagdoong Forest Reserve (photo taking only)
> Salagdoong Beach  (45 minutes)
> Cambugahay Falls (45 minutes)
> St. Francis of Assisi Convent (photo taking only)
> Century-old balete tree (15 mins)
> Mt. Malabahoc/ Bandilaan (5 to 10-minute hike; 30 minutes)
> Lazi Church (photo taking only)

5:30 PM Arrive at San Juan Beach; sunset viewing

6:00 PM - Check in lodge or hotel in San Juan
- Dinner; request late checkout
- Rest


DAY 4: SIQUIJOR BEACHES + SNORKELING

6:30 AM - Breakfast

7:00 AM - Swim at Siquijor Port
- Buy ticket to Dumaguete in advance
- Photo taking of Siquijor Church (5 minutes)

8:00 AM - Start tour of San Juan Beaches

8:30 AM - Arrive at Kagusuan Beach

10:30 AM - Arrive at Tubod Marine Sanctuary

12:30 PM - Arrive at Paliton Beach
- Take

2:30 PM - Go back to hotel to freshen up and check out

3:00 PM - Take trike to Siquijor, Siquijor Port

3:30 PM - Arrive at Siquijor, Siquijor Port
- Buy ferry ticket to Dumaguete

5:10 PM - Take Oceanjet ferry from Siquijor to Dumaguete

6:00 PM - Arrive in Dumaguete; Check in White Knights hotel

7:00 PM -  Dinner/ rest


DAY 5: APO ISLAND + DUMAGUETE CITY TOUR

6:00 AM - Breakfast; freshen up

6:30 AM - Take trike to bus terminal going to Malatapay Public Market in Zamboanguita

7:30 AM - Arrive at Malatapay Public Market
- Walk to Malatapay Wharf

7:35 AM - Register at wharf and take boat to Apo Island

8:15 AM - Arrive at Apo Island; register
- Rent snorkel gear and get a guide for sea turtle spotting (required)

12:00 PM - Lunch at Apo Island

1:00 PM - Trek up to lighthouse

1:30 PM -  Arrive at lighthouse

1:45 PM - Start descent

2:00 PM - Back at beach

3:00 PM - Depart Apo Island for Malatapay Wharf

3:30 PM - Arrive at Malatapay Wharf; freshen up
- Take bus or trike to Dumaguete City

4:45 PM - Arrive in Dumaguete City
- Back to hotel to freshen up

5:00 PM - Dumaguete City tour
- See Siliman University
- Dumaguete Boulevard
- Dinner at Sans rival

6:30 PM - Dinner in Sans rival in Boulevard; Buy advance ticket for Oceanjet ferry to Siquijor

8:00 PM - Rest and take early flight out to Manila the next day OR take night flight back same day

Apo Island lighthouse

ITINERARY FOR 7D/6N BOHOL - DUMAGUETE - SIQUIJOR - CEBU TRIP


DAY 1: BOHOL (PANGLAO ISLAND)

Take AM flight to Tagbilaran from Clark, Manila, or other airports

8:30 AM - Arrive at Tagbilaran airport
- Buy Oceanjet Tagbilaran-Siquijor ferry ticket for the following day
- Take van to Panglao Island

9:15 AM - early check-in Moon Fools Hostel

9:30 AM - Start tour of Panglao Island
>  Panglao Church
> Doljo Beach
> Alona Beach
> Bikini Beach
> Dumaluan Beach
> Mag-Aso Falls

6:00 PM -End of tour; dinner at seafood grill station near Alona Beach

7:00 PM - Free time; rest

Note: You may also do a daytrip to Tarsier Botanika, a resort perched on a cliff in Panglao. They have a museum, spa, and seaside restaurant that serves food on the mid-range price level (P300 and up per dish).


DAY 2: BOHOL HALF-DAY TOUR + DUMAGUETE BOULEVARD

5:30 AM - Depart for island hopping tour
> Pamilacan Dolphin Watching
> Balicasag Island marine sanctuary
> Virgin Beach

10:00 AM - Back to Alona Beach to freshen up

10:30 AM -  Take van from Panglao Island to Tagbilaran pier

11:15 AM - Arrive at Tagbilaran pier

12:10 AM - Depart for Dumaguete via Oceanjet ferry

2:10 PM - Arrive in Dumaguete port
- Take trike to White Knights Hotel
- Check in White Knights hotel; Rest

4:00 PM - Take trike to Dumaguete Boulevard
> See Siliman University
> Sunset at  Dumaguete Boulevard

6:30 PM - Dinner at Sans rival

8:00 PM - Back at hotel, rest


DAY 3: APO ISLAND 



6:00 AM - Breakfast; freshen up

6:30 AM - Take trike to bus terminal going to Malatapay Public Market in Zamboanguita

7:30 AM - Arrive at Malatapay Public Market
- Walk to Malatapay Wharf (5 minutes); register at wharf and take boat to Apo Island

8:15 AM - Arrive at Apo Island; register
- Rent snorkel gear and get a guide for sea turtle spotting (required)

12:00 PM - Lunch at Apo Island

1:00 PM - Trek up to lighthouse

1:30 PM -  Arrive at lighthouse

1:45 PM - start trek down

2:00 PM - Back at Apo Beach

3:00 PM - Depart Apo Island for Malatapay Wharf

3:30 PM - Arrive at Malatapay Wharf; freshen up
- Take bus or trike to Dumaguete City

4:45 PM - Arrive in Dumaguete City
- Back to hotel to freshen up

5:00 PM - Dumaguete City tour
- See Siliman University
- Dumaguete Boulevard
- Dinner at Sans rival


6:30 PM - Dinner in Boulevard; Buy advance ticket for Oceanjet ferry to Siquijor

8:00 PM - Rest


DAY 4: SIQUIJOR WHOLE-DAY TOUR (BEACHES, FALLS, MOUNTAIN, AND CHURCHES)

6:00 AM - Breakfast; freshen up

6:20 AM - Leave for Dumaguete port; Arrive at 6:30 am

7:20 AM - Depart for Siquijor, Siquijor va Oceanjet ferry

8:10 AM - Arrive in Siquijor, Siquijor
- Hire trike and do whole day tour
> Siquijor port beach
> Siquijor Church
> Tubod Marine Sanctuary
>  Paliton Beach
> Mt. Malabahoc/ Mt. Bandilaan (5 to 10-minute hike; 30 minutes)
> Cambugahay Falls
> Century-old balete tree
> San Isidro Labrador Convent
> Lazi Church


6:00 PM - Check in at Maria, Siquijor

7:00 PM -  Dinner; rest


DAY 5: SIQUIJOR WHOLE DAY TOUR (SNORKELING)

6:00 AM - Breakfast

7:00 AM -  Hire trike; Start whole day tour
> Salagdoong Forest Reserve
> Salagdoong Beach
> Kagusuan Beach
> Cang-Isok House
> Tulapos Marine Sanctuary
>  Sandugan Marine Sanctuary

3:30 PM -  End of tour; freshen up

4:00 PM - Head to Larena port for Maayo Shipping Lines ferry to Liloan,  Santander, Cebu

5:00 PM - Depart Larena to Liloan

7:00 PM - Arrive in Liloan port
- Take habal-habal or tricycle to Santander Pebbles Resort

7:10 PM - Check in; dinner at resort; Rest


DAY 6: SANTANDER + OSMENA PEAK

6:00 AM - Eat breakfast; swim

9:00 AM -  Freshen up, check out

9:30 AM - Take bus to Dalaguete Junction

10:45 AM - Arrive at Dalaguete Junction. Take. habal-habal going to Osmena Peak.

11:15 AM - Osmena Peak trailhead; register
- Start hike

12:00 PM - Osmena Peak summit

12:30 PM - Start descent to jumpoff

12:45 PM - Back at jumpoff. Habal-habal back to Dalaguete Junction

1:15 PM - Arrive at Dalaguete Junction
- Eat lunch at gotohan across the street

2:00 PM - Take bus from Dalaguete to South Bus terminal

4;30 PM - Arrive at South Bus Terminal

4:45 PM - Check in at Robe's Pension House (5-10 minutes away from Ayala Mall and bout 15 minutes away from Robe's Pension House); freshen up

5:30 PM - Take cab or Uber to Ayala Mall OR Crossroads Banilad

6:30 PM - Dinner at Abaca or any other eatery


DAY 7: CEBU CITY HALF-DAY TOUR / HOME

6:30 AM - Freshen up; breakfast

7:00 AM - Take cab for start of Cebu City tour:

7:30 AM - Start of Cebu City tour
(NOTE: All these are within walking distance of each other, and can be done in less than two hours)
>  Magellan's Cross
> Sto. Nino Church
> Fort San Pedro

9:30 AM - End of tour
- Take cab back to pension house

10:00 AM -  Freshen up

10:30 AM - Check out and take cab or Uber to Cebu Mactan International Airport
 - Fly back to Manila or other airports

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