Siquijor Itinerary: Exploring the Island of Fire

by Apr 25, 2020Itinerary, Philippines

© Andrey Armyagov – adobe.stock.com

Before heading to Siquijor, I’d heard through the backpackers’ grapevine that the island was special. It’s much better than the other islands in the Philippines. These rave reviews were usually from other travelers who like me had seen so many islands and beaches in the count4y that they all were starting to lose their tropical glamour. So, I had rather high expectations for this island. Was Siquijor so great as everyone said? Would this island live up to its hype?

Let’s read to find out. Here is my detailed and easy-to-follow 4-day Siquijor Itinerary.

If you’re looking for where else to travel to in this beautiful country, check out my 15 favorite places to visit in the Philippines.

You can also find ALL of my Philippine posts on my Philippine travel guide page.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  Please see this website's Disclosure for more info.

Siquijor: The Island of Witches

Siquijor (pronounced Seekeehor). The Spanish called it Isla del Fuego, the Island of Fire. There were so many fireflies on the island that at night it appeared as if the island was on fire. But it has another more mysterious name: The Island of Witches.

During colonial times, the Visayas (the area where Siquijor is located) was a popular trading area for the Spaniards. When sailors got sick, they’d stop off in Siquijor to get treated. But once they figured out how they were actually being treated (shamans and sorcerers), they gave the island the name “Island of Witches.” Even until now, the island has become known for its witchcraft and sorcery.

Ok. Siquijor doesn’t have any witches like what we imagine witches to be like. At least I don’t think it does. It does have shamans or faith healers. These are people who use herbs, faith, and other unorthodox methods like water and stone or blowing down the back of your shirt to cure people’s ills, ward off evil spirits or make others fall in love with you. My guide says that locals, including himself, really do go to these healers when they are sick or when they need some luck. Visiting a shaman is something you can do while in Siquijor. I did and I’ll tell you later in this post whether it’s worth it and how you can do it. 

map of the Philippines showing where Siquijor is

You’ll find the small island of Siquijor stuck between Bohol, Cebu, and Negros. You can reach it from either of those islands, which you can read about in the section below on How to Get to Siquijor and in my Bohol Itinerary post

When I first saw Siquijor on a map, it looked small compared to its neighbors. So I expected it to be easy to get around by foot. Hah! Boy, was I wrong! When you get there, you realize it’s a lot bigger than it looks. It can take you 3-4 hours by motorbike to make it around the whole island. Your but can get really sore sitting on a motorcycle during those 3-4 hours! And getting from Larena port to the main tourist area can take 45 minutes.

There are several small towns that dot the coast of Siquijor. The main ports are in the towns of Larena and Siqujior. Most people arrive at the port of Larena. The Siqujior port is used more for tour boats.

Here are some of the main towns:

Larena: the main port for boats to Bohol and Lilo-An; Sandugan Beach, and some resorts

Siquijor: the main port for boats to Dumaguete; some good resorts and beaches

San Juan: Tubod Beach and Marine Sanctuary; lots of hotels here

San Antonio: located in the interior/ it’s where you can find shamans

Lazi: famous for its Spanish colonial church and Cambaguhay Falls

Maria: the closest town to the cliff diving on Salagdoong Beach; check out Kagusan Beach

PRO TIP: No one likes to think about insurance, but accidents do happen. I highly recommend getting World Nomads. This is what I've used for short-term travel. When  I quit my job to travel around the world, I switched to Safety Wings. They're very affordable (less than US$100 a month depending on age) especially for those of us who are over 40 years old. They now cover COVID19.

Why visit Siquijor

Visiting a shaman isn’t the only reason you should spend a few days in Siquijor. The island has some fantastic waterfalls, great beaches, and terrific snorkeling and diving spots. It’s also close enough to Apo Island and its famous turtles that you can easily take a boat trip to.

Fantastic waterfalls

The waterfalls were my favorite part of my Siquijor itinerary. You’ll find several waterfalls to choose from, but the best one is Cambugahay Falls. Here you can swim, rest in a natural jacuzzi, and jump from a rope into a pool of the bluest water you’ll ever see. Be warned that if you go during the dry season, some waterfalls will also be dry.

Great beaches

The water off the coast of Siquijor is unlike other islands I went to in the Philippines. There are literally NO WAVES! The sea is so calm that its surface reminds me of a swimming pool with no one in it. You can easily walk directly from the beach to a coral reef teeming with sea life. The best beaches are Paliton Beach, between San Juan and Siquijor, and Tubod Beach, in front of Coco Grove Beach Resort. Other good beaches include Sandugan Beach in Larena, Kagusuan Beach between Maria and Lazi, and Monkey Beach near Lazi.

Snorkeling and diving with turtles

Siquijor is an hour boat ride from Apo Island, a marine sanctuary swarming with giant sea turtles. If you’re into wildlife, then this adventure is a must. It’s a popular diving and snorkeling spot.

Beautiful sunsets

Siqujior’s best beaches are facing southwest, making them the ideal spot for watching sunsets. Make sure you get out to Paliton Beach or try to snag a table at a restaurant along the coast for the perfect sunset.

Visiting a shaman

As I wrote earlier, you can visit a shaman who can heal you of whatever ails you. It’s best to go to San Antonio to find authentic shamans. According to my guide, the ones you find in San Juan or Siquijor town are fakes. If you’re dying to get someone to fall in love with you, you can also buy some love potion. If you’re worried about future calamities, you can also buy an amulet to ward off evil spirits.

a man standing in the ocean

WHEN TO GO TO SIQUIJOR

From January to May, the island is at its driest. This can be both good and bad. The good is obvious, but the bad is that some waterfalls will be empty. 

Its coolest time is from December to March. Temperatures average 33 degrees Celsius from April to November.

Siquijor seems to be more popular with Europeans than local Filipinos. Keep in mind that Europeans like to travel from December to March, when their own countries are at their coldest. So, during these times. you’ll find a lot of the more popular places booked.

When is the ultimate best time to go? I might go in December and January as those two months might give me a better chance to see more waterfalls. 

 

HOW EXPENSIVE IS Siquijor

Prices in Siquijorl are the same as those in other places in the Visayas (Moalboal, Malapascua, Bohol). However, they’re cheaper than in Palawan (El Nido, Coron, Port Barton).

On average, I spent around US$54-$60 a day. This included the following:

  • transportation to/from the island: 950 pesos (US$19) total
  • transportation around the island: 300 pesos/day (US$6) for scooter rental
  • a bed in a dorm room: US$10/night
  • food:  300 pesos/day (US$6); breakfast was included in hostel price
  • island-hopping tour (US$40)
  • entrance fees: 210 pesos total (US$4)
  • parking fees: 25 pesos total (US.50 cents)
  • guide: 500 pesos/day for 2 days (US$10)
rice fields and hills on Siquijor

What’s Siquijor like for Solo Travelers

Siquijor is a good place for solo travelers.

As a female traveling solo, I felt quite safe.

There are two popular hostels (Love Shack and Tagabalayon Lodging) that are good for solo travelers.

If you’re on your own and you don’t drive a motorcycle, you can hire a guide/ motorcycle driver for 500 pesos (US$10) a day plus for the motorcycle 300 pesos (US$6).

You can get more tips and insider info on what it’s like to travel alone in this beautiful country in my Solo Travel Guide to the Philippines. 

PRO TIP: Here's a list of essential items to pack for all of your island-hopping tours while in the Philippines:

  • Dry bag - You're going to get wet while in the boat and your things will get wet if you don't have a dry bag. Leave your backpack at your hotel.
  • Waterproof bag or pouch for your cell phone especially for your visit to such places as the Big Lagoon and the Secret Lagoon in El Nido.
  • Water shoes - It's important to have a pair because sometimes you'll need to be walking on rocks to get to your destination. You'll thank me later for bringing them.
  • Sunscreen - Make sure to put it on 30 minutes before being in the sun and/or water. Banana Boat worked the best for me. You can buy it in the Philippines, too, but it's pricey (500 - 700 pesos depending on the store--shop around!)
  • Mask and snorkel - OPTIONAL - Most tour companies provide you with a mask and snorkel, but if you want to bring your own, I highly recommend the full face mask and snorkel. It's ideal for those who aren't confident swimmers.

HOW TO GET TO SIQUIJOR

Most people get to Siquijor by ferry. But there is a private airport for those who can afford private jets.

The following prices are from February 2020. These might change when the world opens up after COVID-19 and when you travel. 

Ferry: Bohol – Siquijor

Ferries leave from and arrive in Bohol from the port in Tagbilaran. For info on traveling around Bohol, check out my Bohol Travel Guide.

Ferries to and from Bohol arrive at and depart from Larena Pier in Siquijor.

COST TO/FROM BOHOL: 700 pesos (US$14) + 17 pesos for the terminal fee

WHERE TO BUY TICKETS IN BOHOL: Buy your ticket at least the day before from the ticket office right outside the port in Tagbilaran. You can buy them online from 12Go.Asia, but that website usually says tickets are sold out when in fact they are far from it.

WHERE TO BUY TICKETS IN LARENA: Buy from a ticket office outside Larena Port (see photo below)

DEPARTURE TIMES: 10:20 am from Bohol; 12:30 pm from Larena

LENGTH OF JOURNEY: 1.5 hours

Ferry: Cebu – Bohol – Siquijor

It’s a little trickier to get from Cebu City to Siquijor. You need to first go to Bohol before getting to Siquijor.

And if you’re coming from Manila, you’ll still need to fly into Cebu. For info on traveling in the capital, read my Manila itinerary post and my Tips for First-Timers in Manila

COST FROM/TO CEBU: 1,200 pesos (US$24)

WHERE TO BUY TICKETS IN CEBU: Pier 1

WHERE TO BUY TICKETS IN LARENA: Outside of Larena Pier

DEPARTURE TIMES FROM LARENA: 12:30 pm from Larena + 2:40 pm from Tagbilaran in Bohol arriving in Cebu at 4:40 pm

Ferry: Dumaguete – Siquijor

There are two ferry companies that I know of that ply the Dumaguete and Siquijor route: Oceanjet and Montenegro Lines.

COST TO/FROM SIQUIJOR: 250 pesos (US$5) to/from Siquijor Pier. For Larena Pier, they cost 204 pesos (US$4).

DEPARTURE LOCATION IN SIQUIJOR: Most ferries depart from Siquijor Pier. See departure times in the table below. 

Siquijor to Dumaguete Ferry Timetable

Ferry: Lilo-An – Siquijor

If you’re trying to get to Moalboal or Oslob from Siquijor and vice versa, then you can take a ferry to/from Lilo-An on Cebu Island. The ferry company that plies this route is Maamyo Lines.

COST:  200 pesos (US$4) + 17 pesos (40 cents) terminal fee.

WHERE TO BUY TICKET IN SIQUIJOR: You can only buy your ticket from outside the Larena Pier on the day of departure (see photo below).

DEPARTURE LOCATION IN SIQUIJOR: Larena Port

DEPARTURE TIMES: 10:00 from Lilo-An; 5:00 pm from Siquijor

LENGTH OF JOURNEY: 3 hours

I took the ferry from Siquijor to Lilo-An with the intention of getting a bus to Moalboal. When I got to Lilo-An, it was 8:00 pm and I was told by several people that the last bus left at 7:00 pm. I’m not sure if this was true. But it was late, so I decided to not try my luck at the bus station and get a taxi. Luckily, I found a couple from Germany, and we hired a taxi for 1,200 pesos (US$24)  (they originally wanted 2,000 pesos) for an 90-kilometere trip to Moalboal.

ticketing office at Larena Port
People walking onto a car ferry going to Lilo-An

HOW TO GET AROUND Siquijor

Like most places in the Philippines, there are no public buses. On Siquijor, you mainly have to rely on tricycles and motorcycles or scooters. Tricycles are expensive. Expect to pay at least 150 pesos (US$3) for a 5- or 10-minute ride somewhere.

You can rent a motorcycle or scooter from your accommodations or at the port for 300 pesos (US$6) a day.

But if you don’t know how to ride a motorcycle or scooter, you can hire a guide and driver to take you around. That’s what I did. I paid 300 pesos (US$6) for the motorcycle plus gas and 500 pesos (US$10) for the guide per day. He drove the motorcycle and I just sat on the back of the motorcycle. I got to go to places that I would not have found on my own.

Getting from the port to your hotel can be costly. I’ve been told that there are jeepneys that do the route, but I didn’t see any. I arranged a pickup through my hostel. It cost me 250 pesos (US$5) for the pickup. I can’t remember the price for a tricycle, but I know it was at least 500 pesos (US$10).

PRO TIP: ALWAYS contact your hotel or hostel before arriving to find out the best way to get from the bus station/train station/ferry port to the hotel/hostel. They usually know the ins and outs of the public transportation system and they know the most current and best way to get somewhere compared to a guide book, another traveler on a forum, or a blog post. Sometimes newer places or more corporate places don’t know (like Crazy Bears Hostel in Moalboal gave me the wrong information).

a paved road on Siquijor

4-Day 3-Night Siquijor Itinerary

My Siquijor itinerary was 4 days and 3 nights long. Here is a summary of the itinerary:

Day 1 – Arrival + Tubod Beach and Marine Sanctuary

Day 2 – Island tour – waterfalls and beaches

Day 3 – Island hopping tour to Apo Island

Day 4 – Countryside tour of the interior + Departure

Day 1: Arrival + Beach Time

Day 1 was spent settling in, relaxing at the beach, snorkeling, and having one of the best dinners during my time in the Philippines.

1. Tubod Beach and Marine Sanctuary

I arrived in Siquijor from Bohol at around noon. After having lunch and checking into my hostel, my first stop was Tubod Beach and Marine Sanctuary, which was across the street from my hostel and in front of the swanky Coco Grove Beach and Dive Resort.

beach in Siquijor

The best part of Tubod Beach is that there’s Marine Sanctuary in front of the beach with fantastic coral and fish. You have to pay 50 pesos (US$1) to swim in the Marine Sanctuary and 100 pesos (US$2) to rent masks and snorkel. There’s a little hut right before you enter the beach area where you pay the entrance fee and rent the gear. You can also rent gear from the Coco Grove Dive Center, toward the back of the beach. Rumor has it that their equipment is better than the stuff you can rent from the Marine Sanctuary.

The water in front of the beach was as calm as a pond. There wasn’t a wave or even a ripple on the surface.

There is a lot of coral close to the shore, so you can easily swim out to it or even walk out to it and swim around. The coral is pretty healthy, so you should be able to see lots of colorful coral fish. Just please DON’T walk on the coral.

Be aware that there are jellyfish.

COST: 50 pesos (US$1)

LOCATION: Google Maps

PRO TIP: Make sure to buy sea shoes/water shoes for your trip to the Philippines. The bottom of the ocean is rocky and it’s easy to cut yourself or break your toe or foot while walking in the shallow part of the ocean.

2. Dinner

I hadn’t been very lucky at finding good food in the Philippines up to that point, but dinner on day 1 of this Siquijor itinerary was fantastic. There is an outdoor pop-up restaurant kitty-corner from Casa Miranda Hostel (just tell the tricycle driver that you want to go to Casa Miranda Hostel) on the road that runs around the island.

motorcycles and a pop-uproadside restaurant in Siquijor

The people who run the place set up a food cart with trays of food and a barbecue grill on Lalao Bridge (or near it). The food in the trays has already been cooked, but they grilled chicken and fish right there in front of you. You point to what you want and servers put the food on individual plates and then bring them to your table. They record what you ordered in a notebook and add up the bill at the end of the evening.

table filled with plates of food

The food is fantastic and reasonably priced. They had potato salad, green beans, grilled fish, grilled chicken, fried bananas, this mango cake, spring rolls, noodles, choco balls covered in bits of coconut. Most of the dishes are vegetarian.

This is a place you want to go to with other people. 

sunset over the ocean in Siquijor

An added bonus is that you can watch a stunning sunset over the ocean while you wait for and eat dinner.

The restaurant disappears at the end of the evening until the next evening. I didn’t see it on my third evening on the island, though.

I don’t know what the name of the place is, but you can’t miss it. You’ll see a long line of foreign tourists along with a few locals. It’s not far from the Aloha Restaurant.

PRO TIP: Download these apps onto your phone for your trip to any country in Asia. They will make your life so much easier!

  • Grab: - Grab is the ride-sharing service that people use in Southeast Asia. It's a must-have for getting around Manila, Hanoi, Singapore etc. It's not so necessary on the smaller islands.
  • Klook - Klook is a tour-booking website used by lots of travelers in Asia. You're more likely to book with an honest tour company through Klook than through anyone else.
  • WhatsApp: What's App is the best service to use for getting in touch with other travelers, tour guides, and businesses in the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, etc.
  • Booking.com: I think Booking.com is the best website to use for booking accommodations in Asia.
  • MAPS.ME & Google Maps: I have both of these apps on my phone. Sometimes MAPS.ME works better than Google Maps and vice versa. Make sure to download your maps to your phone before you start your adventure so you can view them offline. If you switch SIM cards, you might lose your downloaded maps.

Day 2 – Island Tour

You shouldn’t skip day 2’s itinerary. Compared to everything else on the island, this is the best part of the itinerary.

The key to having a great island tour is to start really early because some of these sights are pretty popular and they can get quite busy. But even if you can’t leave early, don’t fret. You’ll still have a fantastic time. I started my itinerary at 9:00 am, but I would have liked to have started at 8:00 am.

TRANSPORTATION: THE only way to do this tour is to rent a motorbike or scooter. The island is too big to cover with just a tricycle. If you can’t drive a scooter or motorbike, don’t worry. You can hire a guide and rent a motorbike. He or she drives the motorbike while you sit on the back of it. This is what I did, and it worked out well because my driver took me to some places that I would have had a hard time finding on my own. My hostel arranged everything for me. It cost me 300 pesos (US$6) to rent the motorbike, 500 pesos (US$10) for the guide, and around 300 pesos (US$6) total for gas for the whole day.

JOIN A TOUR: If you’re coming from Dumaguete, you can join a day tour of Siquijor. You’ll see some of the same sights that I saw on day 2 of my Siquijor itinerary.

1. Balete Tree

The first stop of the day is a 400-year-old tree called the Balete Tree.

balette tree in Siquijor

There’s a little pool in front of the tree where you can soak your feet in and have fish nibble on your dead skin. It’s supposed to be therapeutic.

If you’ve been to the Angkor Wat temples and seen how the trees have wrapped around the temples in Cambodia, this tree isn’t anything special.

              OPEN: 6:00 am – 6:00 pm

              COST: 10 pesos to enter and 5 pesos for parking the bike

              LOCATION: Google Maps

2. Lagaan Falls

The next stop on day 2 of this Siquijor itinerary is Lagaan Falls. There are several waterfalls dotting the island of Siquijor. When I was there in February (the height of the dry season), though, only 2 waterfalls had water. One of the better waterfalls, Lugnason Falls, was dry.

Lagaan Falls in Siquijor

Lagaan Falls is harder to get to than the more popular, Cambugahay Falls. It’s over a bumpy unpaved road. After you park your bike, you have to walk along a path without signage. It’s a small waterfall, but it’s not crowded. When I was there, there was only one other group of tourists. There is a rope that you can use to swing and jump into the water. You can also slide down the waterfall.

              COST: 50 pesos (US$1) for entrance free and 10 pesos for parking

              LOCATION: Google Maps

3. Lazi Church and Convent

The third stop on today’s itinerary was at the simple but beautiful Lazi Church and Convent, called the San Isidro Labrador Parish Church and Convent.

Lazi Convent in Siquijor

Both the church and convent were built in the 1800s, and both were made out of coral. You can tour both the church and the convent. The convent has now been turned into a museum. The museum houses some old but uninspiring artifacts. I’d suggest just entering the convent, take a photo of the staircase inside the entrance and leave.

COST: convent is 20 pesos (.50 cents); church is free

LOCATION: Google Maps

4. Cambugahay Falls

The highlight of Siquijor is Cambugahay Falls. It’s a beautiful waterfall and a lot of fun to spend an hour or two hours swimming, swinging from a rope, or just relaxing. The other great thing is that you can easily get to the falls by tricycle as well as motorbike.

Cambugahay Falls on Siqujior

This is a multi-tiered waterfall. Each tier has pools that you can swim in. One pool has a rope that if you’re patient enough to wait in line in, you can swing from. There are also these smaller pools that are like sitting in your own natural jacuzzi.

OPEN: 7:00 am – 5:30 pm

COST: 50 pesos (US$1) + 10 pesos for parking

 LOCATION: Google Maps

5. Monkey Beach (Secret Beach)

The last stop before lunch was at Monkey Beach. This is the beach that backpackers talk about as the mysterious “Secret Beach,” where locals go. If you’re on your own, it might be hard to get to. BUT it’s not impossible to find as Monkey Beach is on Google Maps and there are signs pointing the way after you make the correct turnoff from the main road.

sign to Monkey Beach

After you follow the directions on Google Maps, you’ll come to a forest on your left and a restaurant on your right. There is a sign and a  stuffed monkey nailed to a tree pointing in the direction of Monkey Beach. You can drive your scooter through the forest until the road becomes impassable. You can also park it next to the sign with the monkey. Keep on walking until you come to a cliff. Go down the rickety old stairs to the beach.

Monkey Beach

You are now at Monkey Beach / Secret Beach. Ok. To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed. It’s a quiet beach. Just two other groups of travelers were on the beach. What I didn’t like was that the waves were pretty rough and the ground was very rocky so that swimming wasn’t much fun here. The beach was also strewn with lots of seaweed and other debris from the ocean.

If you don’t ever make it here, don’t sweat it. It’s not THAT great.

COST: free

LOCATION: Google Maps

6. Lunch

By now, we were pretty hungry so my guide took me to Chef Joe’s Cuisine in Maria.

My guide promised to take me somewhere local and inexpensive. I’m pretty sure Chef Joe’s Cuisine is NOT where locals go because the only people at the place were foreign tourists. The prices were typical foreign tourist prices but it wasn’t overly expensive. The food was decent for the Philippines. The menu was a mix of Chinese and Western dishes.

By the way, they have WiFi. Just ask for the staff for the password.

LOCATION: Google Maps

7. Cliff Jumping at Salagdoong Beach

Guide books and some travelers rave about Salagdoong Beach. I wonder what drugs have they been smoking. This is the worst beach on Siquijor that I went to. It’s overdeveloped and small, and you have to pay to enter.

a man jumping off a cliff at Salangdoong Beach in Siquijor

The main reason for going to Salagdoong Beach is to do the cliff diving. You climb up this rock or tiny hill where you’ll find two platforms for diving. One platform is at a lower height than the other. This lower one is sometimes closed when the tide is out.

I didn’t want to jump but my guide chose to do it twice! When you’re standing up at the top of the rock and looking down, it looks pretty far and scary. But when you’re standing on the beach and looking up at the rock, it looks pretty tame.

Salangdoon Beach in Siquijor

The beach is really small. I just don’t understand why so many people come here.

COST: 50 pesos (US$1)

LOCATION: Google Maps

8. Paliton Beach

Day 2’s Siquijor Itinerary ended with a stop at Paliton Beach, the most popular and most beautiful beach on Siquijor.

people on Palliton Beach at dusk

Like Tubod Beach near Coco Grove Beach Resort, the water at Palliton Beach is as calm as the surface of a glass of water. Not a ripple or wave. The beach is long and wide. You’ll also find places to eat and drink.

sunset at Palliton Beach in Siquijor

It’s a great beach for watching the sunset.

I would have liked an extra day during my stay in Siquijor just to hang out on this beach during the daytime. I was there pretty late in the afternoon.

COST: free

LOCATION: Google Maps

Day 3 – Turtle Spotting on Apo Island

I wanted so badly to see turtles in the wild, so I was very excited for day 3 of my Siquijor Itinerary because I was going to Apo Island, a place famous for its abundant sea turtles that are unafraid of humans.

hawksbill turtle

A couple of places offer island hopping trips to the island to snorkel with the turtles. Coco Grove Beach and Dive Resort offered turtle tours of Apo Island for 1,950 pesos (US$40). Another place that offers tours to snorkel with the turtles is Ocean Life Explorers for 1,750 pesos (US$35).

I tried to book a tour with both places. At first, when I tried to book with Coco Grove on day 1, they were full, so I put my name on a waitlist. On day 2 of my Siquijor itinerary, I tried to book with Ocean Life Explorers, but they were also fully booked. Luckily, a seat opened up with Coco Grove.

1. Departure

My tour started at 7:30 am from the lobby of the Coco Grove Beach and Dive Resort. Just looking at the fancy lobby of the resort, it should have been obvious what kind of tour this was going to be. It wasn’t just any ordinary Philippines island-hopping adventure done on a local fishing boat.

boat going to Apo Island
fishing boat

The above picture is the boat that we took. The boat on the right is a typical island-hopping boat in the Philippines. The boat on the left is the one I took to Apo Island. The interior was just as nice.

There must have been over 30 people on this tour from as young as under one years old. I was the only solo traveler.

Apo Island

It took an hour (8:30 – 9:30) for our boat to get to Apo Island. Apo Island is a tiny volcanic island (716 inhabitants) an area of 74 hectares. When I first saw it from the boat, I was quite disappointed. From the Siquijor side, it looks like one massive rock. It’s not until we got to the other side of the island that you’ll see a beach, buildings, and a lot of boats.

In 1982, the sea around Apo Island became a marine sanctuary. No one was allowed to fish using dynamite or cyanide or the banging of rocks to scare fish into nets. As a result of this protection, the coral around Apo Island is very healthy. This makes it a great place for snorkeling and diving. There are 650 species of fish and 400 species of coral.

2. Snorkeling in the Coral Garden

I was surprised by the snorkeling that we did. I thought the boat would anchor near some reef and then we would freely snorkel around the boat, get back on the boat, go for lunch, drive to another reef, and then snorkel some more. It wasn’t at all like that. Instead, our beautiful yacht anchored off the coast of the island and then we swam to the island in groups of 4. Each group had their own guide, who had a life preserver.

If you’re wondering what we did with our stuff. Not to worry. The tour leaders took our bags and anyone who couldn’t swim like small children on a small boat to the island.

The problem with the whole experience was that the water was really rough and the current was strong and against us. As a result, we couldn’t stop and observe the turtles. We had to keep on swimming and swimming to get to shore. And it was a long ways to shore.

It was called a coral garden because there were massive mounds of coral. I’d never seen such huge coral. It wasn’t brightly colored coral like I saw on Pamilacan Island, but the coral was huge. They say that there are 650 different species of fish around Apo Island.

hawksbill turtle

And most importantly, I saw lots and lots of turtles. Yes, indeed! We saw around 10 turtles that morning. Apo Island has so many turtles because this is where the female turtles go to feed. And most importantly that since it’s been a marine sanctuary for so many years, the turtles have no predators here and there’s lots of food for them to eat.

The turtles were massive. I think some of them were the size of a dining room table that could seat six.

There are two kinds of turtles on Apo Island: green turtles (actually brown colored) and hawksbill turtles. The Hawksbill turtles have these pointy beaks and shells that look like puzzles.

They would swim right next to us or right under us, completely unafraid of us humans. They’re not scared of humans because as a protected area, there are no human predators here, just a lot of annoying but innocuous tourists.

3. Lunch

We swam to the shore and rested on the beach. It was difficult and painful to walk on the beach as it was full of broken coral. Luckily, I had sea shoes on. But you can have your guide tie your flip flops to the life preserver.

people on a beach on Apo Island

The Resort gives out beautiful fluffy towels to everyone that you then have to put in your dry bag so that you have it when you get back to the boat.

Now lunch was another sign that I was traveling among people who weren’t budget travelers.  I could taste the high quality of meat and vegetables.  I hadn’t tasted food like this since I left the United States. I think I’d been spending too much time in cheap restaurants in the Philippines. And we had fancy silverware that you would never get in those cheap restaurants I frequented.

4. Snorkeling back to the boat

In the afternoon most of us snorkeled back to the boat, while a handful of people went off diving. I wasn’t sure what the difference was between the morning and afternoon snorkeling sessions were since we were basically swimming in the same area. The morning snorkel was called Coral Gardens and the afternoon was for the turtles. We saw the same kind and amount of turtles and coral in both.

I’d say we saw around ten turtles that afternoon. 

PRO TIP: When you arrive in the Philippines, you can buy a SIM card at the airport. There are 2 companies used throughout the Philippines: Globe and Smart. Each of them gives you 10 or 12 GB of memory for 30 days for 1,000 pesos (US$20). I used 2 GB in 30 days.

If you have to "add load" (add minutes or data) for some reason, you can do it at a convenience store around the Philippines. Tell them you want to "add load". You need to give the clerk your phone # to complete the transaction (I usually store my SIM card # in my Contact,s List).

BUT that's not it. You then need to register your phone. If you have Globe, dial *143#. I usually have the store clerk or someone at my hostel or hotel help me complete the registration. If you don't register after every time you add data to your phone, the minutes and data disappear.

DAY 4 – Visiting a Shaman in Siquijor

My final day on Siquijor was spent touring the interior part of the island. Most people do not get to see this part of the island. They focus more on the coast. But I was really eager to explore the interior. I heard there was a secret lagoon, a famous cave, and the highest peak on the island. But what I was most excited about was a chance to visit a shaman who would tell you your future and heal whatever is wrong with you physically. 

I went by motorcycle with the same guide, Mcken. The following itinerary took from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.

1. Kamp Aninipot

Our first stop of the last day of my Siquijor itinerary was at Kamp Aninipot (Camp Fireflies).

a view from Kamp Aninipot

There’s a campground with a restaurant and accommodations overlooking Siquijor and the ocean at Kamp Aninipot. The views are gorgeous. I’m sure the sunsets are as well.

Hobbit Hut at Kamp Aninipot

You can stay at the campground up here (also called Hobbit Huts), small huts that look likes they come from Lord of the Rings. There’s also an Airbnb that’s a treehouse up here.

COST: 10 pesos

LOCATION: Google Maps

2. Secret Lagoon

I was really excited about seeing the Secret Lagoon. I was expecting something kind of special.

rice field

However, the best thing I can say about Secret Lagoon was that we passed some scenic rice paddies on the way up to the place.

Secret Lagoon

Other than that, the place is to put it kindly a waste of time. It turned out to be a tiny pond! 

COST: free

LOCATION: not on Google Maps

3. Shaman

This was going to be the highlight of my day—a visit to a shaman. Was he or maybe she a sorcerer? Would he tell me my future? I’m not sure why but I assumed the shaman was going to be a man. Lonely Planet says that the shaman uses stone and water. I was nervous but excited. I’d always had a fear of having my future told. What if it were horrible?

Welcome Faithhealer signs

Arriving at the shaman’s residence, we were greeted with not one but two signs in English. On the one hand, seeing the name of the famous Ponce family, I felt assured that I was getting a legitimate shaman. On the other hand, was the sign in English an indication that this was a tourist trap? But then again almost all signs in the Philippines are in English.

Two young children, a boy and a girl, were home. But no shaman. She (not a he) was out grocery shopping. Why weren’t the children in school? I had noticed this many times in the Philippines. Young children out on the street or in their front yard during school hours.

The place was a dump. It was a wooden shack strewn with garbage and empty beer bottles. We took off our shoes even though the floor looked like no one had ever cleaned it.

karaoke machine

We decided to wait amongst the empty beer bottles and trash. And then my guide saw a dilapidated karaoke machine from the 1980s perhaps and got the bright idea (sarcasm) to sing karaoke right there at the home of this shaman. We were in the middle of the jungle! And he sang this love song about forbidden love in Tagalog or the local Cebuano (there were English subtitles). Was he singing it to me? But because the karaoke machine looked like it was found at a garbage dump, it also sounded like it. Screeching and scratching. The whole experience that should have taken place in a karaoke bar was so out-of-place in this idyllic countryside setting.

a woman sitting in a chair

Before Mcken could finish his song (thank God!), the shaman returned from shopping. She was an unsmiling, short middle-aged woman. She had me sit in the middle of this dark room, whose walls hung pictures of Jesus and Santa Claus.

She felt my pulse for five seconds, massaged my shoulders neck and arms, and blew down the back of my shirt. This lasted more or less ten minutes. Upon finishing, the first words out of her mouth were a disappointing sales pitch, “You want a potion to ward off evil and bad things?” “How much?” “1,000 pesos.” (That’s US$20.) “No, thank you.” “So, what’s wrong with me? What are my ailments? Did you find anything wrong?” Her assessment of one of my chronic ailments was surprisingly spot-on. But she didn’t offer any medicine for it. And she said I hadn’t had a massage in a while. Also very true. 

Shamans can’t charge for their services directly. Instead, you give a donation. My guide was of little help. “Give whatever you think.” I’m bad at assessing prices. I usually give too much or too little. Using Lonely Planet as my guide, I gave 200 pesos (US$4). I’m not even sure she was worth that much. I think you can get an hour-long massage for 300 to 500 pesos.

amulet necklaces

You can buy other kinds of potions. The potions are herbs that are encased in stone and then hung around your neck (see photo above). The potion to ward of evil comes in two sizes. The small one is 500 pesos (US$10) and the big one is 1,000 pesos (US$20). There’s also a love potion to help you get others to fall in love with you. Maybe I need that one I thought. But it’s 1,000 pesos as well.

We thanked the sorceress for her time and then got back on our motorcycle. So that was a shaman. It all seemed more like a scam to get money out of tourists than something real. I had a hard time accepting that this was someone that locals really went to. Maybe I got the foreign tourist treatment, while locals get something more authentic.

4. Cantabon Caves

The next stop on my last day in Siquijor was a visit to the Cantabon Caves. I’m not a big cave person. There are bats in caves and bats have been known to be the origins of many of today’s deadliest diseases like Ebola and not to mention our current COVID-19. However, reviews of the caves on Trip Advisor were very positive, so I decided to go.

Unfortunately, the reviews and my guide didn’t mention that the water in the cave goes up to your waste. I hadn’t dressed for that much water. So, I didn’t go into the cave.

If you do want to explore Cantabon Cave, first go to the ticket office to pay the fee and get your guide and gear (helmet and lights) before proceeding to the cave, which is several meters away.

COST: 550 pesos (US$11) for 1 person or 650 pesos (US$13) each for 3 people or more

LENGTH OF VISIT: 1-2 hours

LOCATION: Google Maps

5. Mt Bandilaan

The highest point on Siquijor is Mt. Bandilaan, at 632 meters above sea level. You can see 360-degree panoramic views of the island.

stairs to Mt. Bandaan

There are two ways to get up to the top. There is a stairway built into the side of the mountain and the other way is a pathway that is lined with stations of the cross. I guess this is a popular place during Easter Week. I took the stairs because that’s where my guide stopped. 

a view of Siquijor Island from Mt. Bandilaan

At the top of the hill is a viewing tower. It’s ok. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see this place.

COST: free

LOCATION: Google Maps

6. Buying Tickets to Lilo-An and Lunch

I ended my trip to Siquijor with purchasing tickets to Lilo-An, where I would get a bus (turned out to be a taxi) to Moalboal.

a beach with a tire swing

I had lunch at the highly-recommended Aloha Restaurant. If you order off the menu, it’s expensive, and if you order from the buffet, the food is disgusting. I think it is the worst food I’ve ever eaten in the Philippines. The only good thing about this place is the stunning view from the restaurant.

The restaurant at my hostel, Tagbalayon Lodging has decent food . There’s an inexpensive buffet and a more expensive menu. 

Where to stay on Siquijor

Most travelers stay on the southwest coast of the island in San Juan.

I stayed at Tagbalayon Lodging House (BOOKING.COM), a hostel directly across from Tubod Beach and Coco Grove Beach and Dive Resort in San Juan. Perfect location!

The people who own the place were wonderful. I liked how the people who worked there always greeted me by saying my name despite that there were so many other people saying there.

The dorm rooms are kind of tightly packed and the showers flooded, though. I often found myself walking over everyone else’s backpack to get anywhere in the room.

a room with wooden deck chairs on a balconey

There’s a nice common area on the second floor with comfy couches and lounge chairs. The hostel has a decent restaurant with an inexpensive buffet and more expensive dishes from a menu. There’s also a little grocery store for you to buy snacks and drinks.

If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale or don’t like dorms, here are some other good choices:

Budget: Emocion Guesthouse (AGODA | BOOKING.COM) is a budget option for those who don’t do dorms. It received good reviews on Booking.com.

Mid-range: Tropical Fun Ta Sea Rentals (AGODA | BOOKING.COM) is a mid-range place right on the beach in San Juan. Rooms have sea views. It’s got good reviews on Booking.com.

Mandala Tribe Treehouse (AGODA | BOOKING.COM) is a unique hotel with rooms in not treehouses exactly but rooms in their own two-story bungalow (rooms on the second floor and Bali-style bathrooms on the second floor).

Luxury:  Coco Grove Beach Resort (AGODA) – This place is famous and often booked weeks in advance. Book early. It’s right on the beach in San Juan.

What to Pack for Your Trip to Siquijor

Full Face Snorkel Mask

I love these full face snorkel masks. They're helpful if you're not a great swimmer or if swimming in the ocean freaks you out. THIS is the best thing I bought for my trip to the Philippines!

Waterproof Dry Bag

Another must-have item on your island hopping tours in the Philippines is a dry bag. I like this one because it comes with a waterproof phone case. And the price is pretty reasonable.

Water Shoes

Another of my best packing decisions was a pair of water shoes for when you need to walk from the boat to shore. I met someone who broke her toe on an island hopping tour in El Nido. These shoes will help prevent that from happening.

There you have it! I hope this travel guide helps you in planning your trip to Siquijor.

So, did Siquijor live up to my expectations? Hiring a guide and driver was the best decision I made. I got to go to places like Monkey Beach and experience seeing a shaman that I wouldn’t have done on my own. And US$10 a day for a guide is a pretty good deal. You’d spend twice that at a restaurant in the United States.

I would have liked to have stayed a day longer on Siquijor, visiting a few more beaches.

Also, since it was the dry season, some of the waterfalls were dry, so I couldn’t see them.

Siquijor is a great place! Is it touristy? It’s less touristy than some of the other places I’ve been to in the Philippines. But then again it was February 2020 when I went, which meant there were no tourists from China (they make up 1/4 of the tourists to the Philippines).

By the way, if you’re looking for more info on the Philippines, check out my Philippines Travel Guide page

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waterfall in Siqujior
Everything You Need to Know Siquijor Philippines and photos of 2 waterfalls and hawksbill turtle

More Info on the Philippines:

11 Comments

  1. This is a pretty budget friendly trip! You did an amazing job breaking down all possible details to be considered for planning!- Pinned for our future philippines trip!

    Reply
  2. I am so happy I found this guide! It’s so detailed and covered everything I could want to know. Im hoping to visit next year and island hop for a couple of weeks!

    Reply
  3. Wow Siquijor sounds like a really special place which I would love to visit.did u find fireflies ? Thanks for sharing this itinerary

    Reply
  4. Looks magical! Will definitely hire a driver when I go, thanks for the tip! Beautiful post!

    Reply
  5. Siquijor seems like a peace of heaven on earth. When I read that it’s name may come from fireflies I thought it was a small and magical location but the reality is that it is much larger than I thought with plenty of activities. And the beaches are so beautiful! And good to you for cliff jumping, even once, I don’t think I would have done it!

    Reply
  6. Can’t wait to go back to the Philippines! So many islands to explore and they all have such beauty. You’ve added Siquijor to my list!

    Reply
  7. Wow! This looks so beautiful! Thanks for the super useful information about transport. I am looking into a solo trip to Asia later this year or 2021, and I appreciate your insight into Siquijor as a solo female friendly destination.

    Reply
  8. Great info! I want to stay in a Hobbit Hut!

    Reply
  9. You had me at waterfalls and the marine sanctuary! Wow this seems like such a gorgeous place.

    Reply
  10. Thanks for sharing this, Julie. There are so many islands in the Philippines that it’s difficult to pin down which ones to visit. This comprehensive guide to Siquijor tells me all I need to know.

    Reply
  11. This place looks heavenly. I chase waterfalls everywhere we go, your long exposure capture of the falls is SO GOOD. How does the full face snorkle mask work? Does it fog up easily/get filled with water?

    Reply

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About the Bamboo Traveler

Julie Krolak

Hi! I’m Julie, the Bamboo Traveler!  This blog is devoted to helping the inquisitive traveler explore Asia’s history and culture. On this site, you’ll find itineraries to help you plan your trip, reviews to help you make more informed decisions, lots of history and cultural information to help make your travels more meaningful, and book recommendations to help you understand a place more deeply.

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