15 Best Things to Do in Dumaguete (the Philippines)
Dumaguete is the capitol city of the Negros Oriental province, nicknamed “The City of Gentle People”. A very educated city with 4 universities and a handful of colleges, Dumaguete’s student population is about 30,000 out of 113,000 residents total. What does this tell you about Dumaguete? That this city is safe, has plenty of learning opportunities, and has lots of entertainment and food to please the diverse collection of people that come from all over the country, and region to study here.
In addition to the progressive infrastructure, Dumaguete is blessed with a beautiful coastline, active volcanoes, serene waterfalls, fascinating wildlife, and hiking trails galore. Your visit here will likely be a very active one as Dumaguete’s nature beacons you to come out and play!
You’ll find the locals to be extremely friendly, helpful and polite. This city welcomes foreigners from all over to come and explore everything Dumaguete has to offer.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Dumaguete:
1. Talabong Mangrove Park & Bird Sanctuary
This 400-hectare area protected by the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) is a fun day trip to take from Dumaguete.
A nature enthusiasts dream, expect a large natural area where you can walk around with binoculars to do some fantastic bird watching, discover different species of mangroves and zen out with the echoing sounds of wildlife around you.
The highlight of this sanctuary visit is the mangroves! A place where locals dive in fully-clothed to catch fish for dinner, you can dip your toes in the water and watch the fishes swim by. When you’re done, take a walk on the a long pier which jets out into the water leaving you feeling like you’re floating in the middle of the sea.
2. Mt. Kanlaon
Have you ever seen an active volcano before? Now is your chance! This centerpiece of Mount Kanlaon Natural Park is impossible to miss standing 2,430 meters high. Climbers flock to Mt. Kanlaon for a 3-day hike full of wildlife, views, and hot springs.
Mt. Kanlaon belongs to the Pacific Ring of Fire and has erupted 28 times with 9 eruptions since 2001 and the most recent eruption in 2016. Most of these eruptions involve steam expulsions and earthquakes but some have been more serious.
If you’re a dare devil, this might be the perfect mountain for you to climb. Head to the DENR office in Bacolod to apply for a hiking permit beforehand.
3. Mount Talinis
Mount Talinis is known as “Cuernos de Negros” or “The Horn of the Negros”. At 1,903 meters high, Mt. Talinis is the second tallest mountain in the region, right behind Mt. Kanlaon. Mt. Talinis is only a “potentially” active volcano and does not see as much action as its neighbor but does see a lot of hikers.
Mt. Talinis is a natural beauty with many volcanic lakes which add to the already incredibly scenic hikes. Visit Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park where you’ll find three lakes: Lake Kabalin-an, and twin lakes, Balinsasayao and Danao. Or go on a hike via some easy nature trails that are easy for any hiking ability.
4. Lake Balanan
This freshwater lake deep in the forest, surrounded by lush jungle and rolling mountaintops, is a sight you shouldn’t miss while in Dumaguete. This is a natural lake that was created by a tectonic earthquake in 1925. 3 nearby creeks and rivers gave way during the quake and are now what feeds the pristine body of water.
If you want to explore Lake Balanan, it’s pretty accessible. There is a long cement pathway where moss has began to grow so heavily that the cement looks like it is part of the environment. This path will lead you to the shore where there are docks and huts on the river. Give yourself a few hours to swim, rest, and take in the beauty. Oh, and bring a picnic.
5. Dolphin Watching in Tanon Strait
Dolphins are most active in the morning and it will take you about an hour to reach them from Dumaguete. So, if you want to see them in action, you’ll have to be willing to get up at the crack of dawn and head to the Tanon Straigt.
You will be put on a catamaran boat with other tourist anxious to see the amazing creatures swimming, splashing, and jumping out of the water. As you may know, dolphins hunt for fish in groups. They are very tactful and strategic in their tireless efforts to acquire a meal. It’s really incredible to watch.
6. Pulangbato Falls
It’s the rusty red rock walls and the rusty red waterfall basin created by sulfur that makes Pulangbato Falls so unique.
The falls are also heavier than other waterfalls you will come across in the Philippines. There is nothing delicate about Pulangbato Falls as it comes down a visible rapid river above and plummets with rage, creating a loud sound that is almost too deafening to talk over. And then, as if nothing happened, the waterfall basin mellows out to create a calm pool in which to swim. Rest on the rocky riverbed, but just not for too long otherwise you might walk away with a rusty red stain for a souvenir.
7. Japanese Shrine
Most hikes take you on a scenic journey with no real destination in mind. The Japanese Shrine, however, gives you something to work towards as you hike the 2 ½-hour journey through the mountain across foot-bridges, through villages, and around a few boulders until you reach its location 2175 feet above sea level.
Deep in the woods, this shrine will teach you a little about Dumaguete’s history. The shrine was built to commemorate the surrender of Japanese forces on Sept. 22, 1945, marking the end of the fierce battle and monumental invasion.
Open 7 days a week, Malatapay is an amazing outdoor market selling food, beverages, handicrafts, furniture, hats, machetes, and the list goes on. This is very much a local market and not just here to entertain the western tourists- which in turn, is very entertaining to the western tourists!
Wednesday is the biggest day of the week for the Malatapay market where you can expect a feast with whole roasted lechon and some Filipino delicacies for you brave eaters. There is also live animals auction selling pigs, chicken and cattle to local farmers and butchers.
9. Rizal Boulevard
Take a walk along the seaside on Rizal Boulevard. On one side you have the ocean, and on the other you have shady trees with grassy knolls, park benches, trinket hawkers, and intermittent food stalls.
At night, the Boulevard is illuminated with bright lampposts that provide both a safe and romantic atmosphere. Have a stroll or a seat while you look out onto the water at the large ships and small boats passing by. As night falls, more and more food stalls come out, including the ever-so-popular tempura stands. There are even plastic chairs and tables for you to sit down and enjoy.
10. Aquino Freedom Park
Aquino Freedom Park is a cute little plot of land where you can sit in the grass, chill on a park bench, watch frogs swim around in the pond- but it’s what surrounds the park that has even more to offer.
The busy street is lined with permanent Filipino food stalls, each lovingly named after its owner. Order some Adobo chicken, tapa cured beef, longganisa Philippine sausage, or the holy grail of Filipino food: Lumpia, which is deep-fried Filipino spring rolls.
Aquino Freedom Park is one of the best places to get authentic Filipino food for cheap.
11. Belfry Tower
Learning about the history of Dumaguete and its people is best done at Belfry Tower. This ancient watchtower has played a massive role in securing the city and protecting it from pirates who used to raid the port to steal produce, material wealth, and even humans to use as slaves. Once it was built in the 1800’s, the watchtower began to serve as Dumaguete’s defense.
You can visit this regal brick tower and imagine what it may have looked like in action. Climb up the weathered stairs to say hello to a modern statue of the Virgin Mary or wait for sunset when the tower lights up providing a comforting atmosphere in the night.
12. Center for Tropical Studies (CENTROP)
The zoological and botanical gardens at CENTROP are home to flowers, plants, and adorable animals in their natural habitats. Founded and maintained by Sillman University CENTROP Tropical Studies Center, this is a place for both field professionals and the public to learn about wildlife of the Philippines.
During your visit, you’ll be paired with a caretaker who will guide you through the gardens, teaching you about the breeding and research center for endangered animals where wart hogs, bats, and spotted deer thrive. You’ll be surrounded by towering trees and singing birds that will make you never want to leave.
13. Three-Cave Bulwang Tour
Strap on your cute little green helmet, put on a sweater, and head underground to explore the Panligawan Cave, Pandalihan Cave, and Crystal Cave.
These caves are extremely diverse, comprised of dark underground tunnels, space-ship sized open grottos that let in shining beams of light, and icicle formations covering the ceiling everywhere you look.
These three caves are relatively close-by to each other so they make for the perfect day tour. You’ll need to wear active shoes as there are steps to climb and rocks to hobble over.
14. Makawiwili Ridge
Also known as the “Saddle in the Sky”, Makawiwili Ridge is a hiker’s dream destination with stunning views of mountain peaks in the clouds and green rolling hills all around. Located between Mt. Kanlaon and Mt. Mandalagan of Silay, expect a somewhat challenging hike that will certainly get your heart pumping.
Hikers are welcome to camp once they reach Makawiwili Ridge where they’ll be able to go to sleep under the stars with zero light pollution and wake up to stunning views of the sunrise. It’s recommended to sign up for an organized hike with a guide who can get you there safely.
15. Casaroro Falls
‘Picturesque’ is the word that best describes Casaroro Falls and the journey to reach it. You’ll walk up a rocky hill, make your way across a charming hanging bridge, climb down 355 steps of stairs, monkey your way over a rocky riverbed and finally, make it to the bottom of the falls where a cold swimming basin awaits!
This expedition is a bit of a challenge but the reward is magnificent. The fall itself is a pristine flow from 100ft high surrounded by rich green jungle foliage and nothing else.
You can hire a private driver to take you or ask your hotel to arrange one for you.