A favourite among travellers, the university town of Dumaguete is far more hip and urbane than your average provincial capital. It’s a confident place that really knows how to be a town, and its cosmopolitan harbourfront promenade is a great place for a stroll or to stop off at its upmarket seaside restaurants and bars.
Located 14km north of Bacolod, Silay was once the jewel in the crown of the Negros sugar boom. The town first tasted sweet success when a French resident planted sugar cane in the 1850s, and its pier swiftly became an international port of call. Silay’s golden age was between 1880 and 1935, when its 31 recognised ‘ancestral homes’ were built.
San Carlos is the main port city connecting Negros to Cebu, with daily ferries heading to Toledo, on Cebu’s west coast. The place is not overflowing with charm, but it’s fine for an overnight stay. Sipaway Island is a 15-minute boat trip away, and has some nice beaches. Otherwise there are falls, caves and rice terraces in the area.
Bulata & Danjugan Island
Twenty kilometres north of Sipalay lies the little town of Bulata. Turn off here and a long dirt track will lead you to the swish Punta Bulata White Beach Resort. Accommodation options range from Asiatic ‘spa’ rooms in a semicourtyard around a swimming pool to small nipa bungalows and large stilt houses. There’s an elegant beachside restaurant with an impressive seafood menu.
Sagay City is a combination of Old Sagay, on the coast, and New Sagay, on the National Hwy – 5.5km apart, it’s P9 by tricycle between the two. But it’s best known as the proud guardian of the 32,000-hectare Sagay Marine Reserve, established in 1999 to protect one of the only areas on Negros still teeming with marine life.
Mt Kanlaon Natural Park
With its dense forest and hike up to the summit of an active volcano, the 24,388- hectare Mt Kanlaon Natural Park is one of the most popular treks in the Visayas. The central highlands are home to some critically endangered species of wildlife and birds, and also several species of orchid.
Rugged and volcanic, the minuscule 72- hectare island of Apo is fast becoming known for having some of the best diving and snorkelling in the Philippines. And if that’s not enough for you, there are also some gorgeous white coral-sand beaches, great short walks and a friendly island community. Electricity is available only in the mornings and evenings.
Dauin (dow-in) is the largest of the southern towns and known for its macro diving in the marine reserve of Masaplod Norte. There is a pleasant brown-sand beach and good snorkelling over the drop-off about 20m out from shore. There’s also the sulphur Baslay hot springs, along a bumpy road 10km off the main highway, best accessed by motorcycle or habal-habal.
Like neighbouring Sagay, Escalante is a city of two parts – with Old Escalante on the coast and New Escalante on the highway. City Hall, the town plaza, the bus terminal and Equitable PCI bank are all in New Escalante; the port of Danao, from where the boats to Cebu leave, is in Old Escalante. It’s 7km between the two, and a tricycle will cost around P10 (15 minutes).
With just a handful of eclectic, home-spun resorts, a gorgeous stretch of beach and psychedelic sunsets, Sugar Beach remains one of Negros’ best-kept secrets. Its beach is a lovely sweep of tanned sand that slopes at a perfect gradient into the sea – without a rock or weed in sight, it’s ideal for swimming.