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SIPALAY BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE (itinerary, expenses and top attractions)

UNDERSTANDING SIPALAY

The city of SIPALAY in the province of Negros Occidental was once a mining center and the copper belt of southern Philippines for more than five decades until 2001 when the industry faced its tragic slowdown. The open pit mining operation, which had catapulted the thriving community into the greater heights of a city life, dwindled and left Sipalay into the rustic feel of a rural village. Nowadays, the city of Sipalay, while trying its best to rise high above its economic setbacks, is all but farmlands and fields of green.

Through the traveller’s eyes, what has happened to the city somehow is more of a blessing than a catastrophe for it kept what beauty has remained to the place. Sipalay is home to verdant land masses and photogenic waterfronts. At its seas are rich marine life and natural wonders which make it a go-to-destination for diving enthusiasts.

Read through and learn more about this another well-hidden gem in the Philippines, the city of Sipalay.

A usual scene in the morning: the locals of Sipalay on a rice field.

QUICK FACTS & TIPS ABOUT SIPALAY

  1. Even in the early days, Sipalay had been frequented by locals and Chinese traders for its abundance in rice which gave birth to its name. Sipalay is derived from the native phrase Si Palay which means There is rice.
  2. Some barangays have suffered water issues brought about by 5 decades of open pit mining operations. The town proper and areas for tourists however are safe and have enough source for potable water.
  3. During Charter day which happens every March, Sipalay celebrates Barongoy fish-tival where everyone grills and eats fish for free. It is a sort of thanksgiving for the abundance of fish and sense of fellowship that locals and tourists can both enjoy. The festivity happens at Poblacion beach.
  4. Sipalay also observes the Pasaway festival every December (since 2011). The festivity honors bounty for copper and gold, and features street dancing and merry making where contingents from each barangay wear costumes in the guise of the said minerals.
  5. Sipalay food park is the go-to destination for good and affordable eats which is located at Poblacion beach. Enjoy the sunset while you munch on some favorite local cravings.
  6. Cellular reception is patchy in some areas. Before finalizing your booking, contact your accommodation and gather information about their internet connectivity and data signal for your network provider.
  7. Be aware of the topography to where your accommodation is located. Some resorts at brgy. 4 of Sipalay can be challenging for the unfit and old.
  8. There is only one (1) ATM servicing in Sipalay. Withdraw a considerable amount of cash as you go on a tour, or if you are staying outside the city proper.
A few meters long grill used during the Barongoy fish-tival.

HOW TO GET TO SIPALAY

Sipalay is in between the cities of Bacolod and Dumaguete (the two capitals of Negros, respectively one for Occidental and the other for Oriental) which are the only points of access by plane and ferry. Once you arrive to any of the city, you will embark on a 4-hour bus ride.

  • For Bacolod:  Head out to the SOUTH bus terminal and take a bus or van bound for Sipalay, which leaves in an hourly basis. You can also take a bus bound for Hinoba-an and get off at Sipalay bus stop. Fare is P300.
  • For Dumaguete:  Go to the bus terminal nearby Robinsons mall. Take the only Ceres bus bound for Sipalay which leaves once a day at 1PM. If the bus has left, you can ride a bus bound for Hinoba-an or for Bayawan (P145.00), then to Hinoba-an (P85.00) and take another at its stop for Sipalay (45.00). Total fare is P275.00.

Local destinations that offer trip to Bacolod

  • Manila (by ferry and plane)
  • Cebu (by ferry and plane)
  • Iloilo (by ferry only)

Local destinations that offer trip to Dumaguete

  • Manila (by ferry and plane)
  • Cebu (by plane and ferry. For ferry, travel to Liloan, Santander port from South bus terminal. Travel time is 4 hours)
  • Siquijor (by ferry only)
  • Bohol via Tagbilaran (by ferry only) click here for the schedule
  • Dipolog (by ferry only)
  • Zamboanga via Dapitan (by ferry only)

Click here for Dumaguete ferry schedule and ticket price.

The Capitol hall of Sipalay which can be located outside the city proper.

TOP ATTRACTIONS IN SIPALAY

  • Poblacion beach
A public beach that has been a  major come on to the wanderlust for its long stretch of ivory sand which makes for an excellent site for camping. Pitch your tent here for free while watching the fascinating sunset. Beside the beach is the Sipalay Food park where there is a lineup of affordable grill and restaurant. Visit the food park at sundown for dinner and taste some of the city’s delicacy.

Rating: 3/5

  • Sugar beach
It is yet another long stretch of sand, but sugary brown in color, that gives the right sweetness for those who love to find themselves in a quiet and secluded beach front. The beach is located at barangay Nauhang, outside the city proper, and can be reached by either going on a boat ride for 20 minutes from Poblacion beach (fare is P300 per boat) or by chartering a tricycle (for P100) from the town to brgy. Nauhang where you can find small boats that will take you to the beach in a minute (the entrance to the beach is only a sight away) for P10 per person. You will be met by a mix of low to mid-range resorts – some offer a snorkeling and scuba diving activity (like Takatuka and Driftwood village resorts) which is a must-do while here because of the strong sense of marine life and underwater attractions at the off coast of the beach. Sugar beach also faces the west and is suitable for a sunset experience. Give it a twist, hike up the hill and watch the sunset as it slowly dives deep down the horizon of a 360-degree Sugar beach view.

Rating: 3.5/5

  • Punta Ballo beach
The beach is frequented by tourists not only for its kilometer strip of white sand and cool blue waters but also with its first class diving resorts that assemble as backdrop to its fine shores. Some of these diving resorts are Artistic Diving, Easy Diving, and Nataasan beach resorts. The beach is another spot to grace the sunset. While going to its waters, be wary of the sea urchins that seem to form like gardens in the little holes of its seafloor.

Rating: 3/5

  • Perth Paradise resort
Arguably, the one to blame for the influx of tourists in Sipalay. Not that it’s meant in a bad way, but the resort is a magnet for a fascinating view of an infinite azure that stretches from the waters of its pool to the horizons of its seas where awaits an iconic sight of dotted, limestone hills. The resort is a 15-minute ride from the town proper. Entrance fee is P80, with a separate fee for use of pool for P100. Cottage is P500 and kayaking activity per person is P250. Contact them at +63 946 059 0076.

Rating: 3/5

  • Tinagong Dagat
The resort is on the same level when it comes to offering a fabulous view of the green mounds which Sipalay is known for. Yet, unlike Perth, Tinagong Dagat is cheap with only P30 as entrance fee. The resort is hidden, by which it gets the name “Tinagong” Dagat resort, but easily accessible from the main road of sitio Latasay, the same area where Perth Paradise is situated. The resort is composed of clustered islets that are connected by wooden footbridges. The first islet connected to the mainland offers a full view of the surrounding resort when you climb up to its top. Contact them at +63 920 902 2300, +63 917 304 1748.

Rating: 3/5

  • C View Haven Resort
The newest addition to the resorts that share the view of clustered islets at the waterfront of Sipalay. It is nearby Tinagong Dagat but closer to Perth Paradise. The resort also offers a swimming pool that makes for a fair vantage point for sunset viewing. Use of pool is P100 for adults, P50 for kids (free use for checked-in guests). Contact them at +63 923 612 1555, +63 923 460 6977.

Rating: 3/5

  • M/V Guimaras Julien’s Wreck
Sipalay is easily a haven for scuba diving enthusiasts. What makes it a standout is its underwater attractions that are only few minutes away from mainland. Julien’s wreck is one, which can be explored even by snorkeling or free dive since the tip of the shipwreck is only a few feet away from sea level during low tide. If you are at Sugar beach (the nearest beach to the shipwreck), arrange your snorkeling experience with Scuba Planet for a fair and affordable underwater experience. Contact them at +63 908 128 6766.
Another shot of the shipwreck which is now shrouded with a strong presence of marine life.

Rating: 3/5

  • Anhawan Turtle Island
One of the protected areas in Sipalay, the island is often visited by turtles to lay eggs, thus, the island’s name.

Rating: 3/5

  • Panaon Pulo
A small cave at the left end point of Poblacion beach that works like a window dispensing a view of cool blue waters splashing through the clustered rocks at the caves foreground.

Rating: 2/5

  • Maricalum Mining View
One of the abandoned open pit that has slowly turned into a basin of stagnant water. It is massive in scale that is surrounded by a lush vegetation, which is giving life to a now dead land form. Entrance fee is P20.

Rating: 2/5

MUST-TRY ACTIVITIES IN SIPALAY

  • Dive Safari – A 5 or 6-day diving experience that covers 40 of the dive spots in the Visayas including the ones in Apo, Sumilon, Panglao and Pescador. The safari is exclusively offered by Easy Diving and Beach Resort at Punta Ballo which requires that you are a certified diver to join. Contact them at +63 918 979 2804.

An underwater shot of the pass going to the cave, as one of the featured stops in the snorkeling adventure.
  • Beach bumming
Water bending at the white beach of Punta Ballo. *wink
  • Kayaking – Go round the clustered green mounds on a kayak and see for what makes Sipalay the hidden jewel of Negros Occidental.
Kayaking activity at Perth Paradise for P250 per person, good for an hour.
  • Sunset Viewing – It is a cliche of an activity that never loses its charm. Spare some time for it as Sipalay makes for one fascinating sunset experience.
The Golden hour at Sugar beach.

SIPALAY SAMPLE ITINERARY

The sample 2-day itinerary below assumes a party of two and sets you back with a P2,850.00 budget per person excluding accommodation. It covers both land and island hopping tour. Contact information for tour providers are found below.

Day 1

Activity Time Budget
Arrive in Sipalay 1:00PM
Tricycle Tour P750
Tinagong Dagat 2:00PM P30
C View resort 3:00PM P100
Perth Paradise 4:00PM P80
Maricalum Mining 5:00PM P20
Depart to Sugar Beach 5:30PM P60
Chill until Sunset
Lights Out

Day 2

Activity Time Budget
Snorkeling tour at Sugar beach 8:00AM P700
Julien’s shipwreck
cave
marine sanctuary
Lunch 12:00PM P200
Island Tour 1:00PM P750
Punta Ballo beach
Campomanes Bay
Back to Town Proper 4:00PM P60
Sunset at Poblacion beach 5:00PM
Sipalay Food park 7:00PM P200
  • Fremand Agravante +63 936 773 6953 P500 only for 2 persons
  • Edison Militante +63 999 391 8411
  • Boatman +63 912 677 4562
  • Tricycle Driver +63 921 786 5615
An assembly of palm trees at Poblacion beach.

WHERE TO STAY IN SIPALAY

Sipalay is a laid back city and most of the accommodation are local standard. Apart from the resorts cited in the list of top attractions, here are other accommodation that are arranged by town.

Jewel Guesthouse (where I stayed on my first day)
Magtolis St, Brgy. 3, Sipalay City (dorm type at the town proper, near the plaza), +63 998 950 8031

Manna Pension House
Quirino Street, Sipalay City (dorm type at the town proper, near the plaza), +63 998 950 8031

Big Bamboo beach resort (where I stayed in Sugar beach)
Sugar Beach, Brgy. Nauhang, Sipalay City, +63 926 825 4159

Driftwood Village Resort
Sugar Beach, Brgy. Nauhang, Sipalay City, +63 920 252 9474

Takatuka Lodge and Dive Resort
Sugar Beach, Brgy. Nauhang, Sipalay City, +63 920 230 9174, +63 920 679 2349
offers island hopping and scuba diving experience

Artistic Diving and Beach Resort
Punta Ballo, Brgy. IV, Sipalay City, +63 919 409 5594
offers island hopping and scuba diving experience

Easy Diving and Beach Resort
Punta Ballo, Brgy. IV, Sipalay City, +63 918 979 2804, +63 910 492 6622
offers island hopping and scuba diving experience

Nataasan Beach Resort
Punta Ballo, Brgy. IV, Sipalay City, +63 921 611 9107
offers island hopping and scuba diving experience

Tinagong Dagat with its wooden footbridges connecting two islets.

USEFUL PHRASES

English to Hiligaynon (main language)

Good morning – Maayong aga
Good afternoon – Maayong hapon
Good evening – Maayong gab-i
Thank you – Salamat
Where is… – Diin ang…
How much – Pila

Having the entire Sugar beach to myself.

BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER

Lastly, have fun! Don’t just travel for Instagram. 😉

EXTEND YOUR TRIP

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