During our month long trip to the Philippines, Lynette and I spent two weeks in the north of the country. After trekking in the rice terraces of Banaue, we caught a bus to Manila and then a flight from there to Dumaguete on Negros Island. From the airport our first stop was Kookoo’s Nest in Tambobo Bay, a place recommended to us by friends who had stayed previously.
Looking for information about North Luzon? Check out Exploring the Cordillera, North Luzon!
Kookoo’s Nest is one of the few accommodation options in this area; the coast here is rugged and the scene is mellow. It took us a while to reach Tambobo Bay. After our flight to the island we had to catch two buses; we were then dropped on the side of the road at around 7pm in the pitch black.
A sign reading “Tambobo Bay: 7km” pointed down a track of rough-looking road; it took a great deal of bartering with a handful of motorbike taxi drivers to take us there. Each loaded onto a bike with our bags, we set off on what I can only describe as the most hair-raising ride ever!
We eventually made it to our destination where, after descending down to the bay via steep concrete steps, we arrived in a very nice-looking open-air restaurant. Our room was the Library Cottage which, despite being made almost entirely of bamboo, was very clean and comfortable.
Due to time constraints we only stayed two nights, but for us that was more than enough. Kookoo’s Nest is completely on it’s own in an isolated little cove. There is nothing else around for miles; because of this we had to eat in the restaurant for every meal. We were worried that it might be expensive but it turned out to be reasonably priced and good quality too.
In Tambobo Bay there is nothing more to do than either sit back in a hammock and relax or swim in the sea. Because of coral around the shoreline, access into the sea is via a long board-walk; you have to walk along it and then jump into the water further out, where it is deeper. The sea is clear and clean and there are no waves, so it’s great for swimming and snorkeling.
The owners of Kookoo’s Nest are originally from England, so it was nice to chat with them; we also met a few other travellers during the time we were there. After a very active two weeks in North Luzon, we enjoyed having a bit of time to slow down and unwind.
Tambobo Bay, however, wasn’t the picture-postcard beach that we were hoping for. When the time came to leave we were more than ready to move on.
Our next destination, Sugar Beach, was again secluded and took much effort to get to. After two bus journeys we arrived at Sipalay bus station, around the coast from Sugar Beach; there we were met by our free pick-up. This involved a 20-minute boat ride directly from the main city beach; it was the only way to reach our destination!
Sugar Beach was what we had been looking for, a long stretch of idyllic sand with a string of resorts set back into the trees. The resorts blend in well with the surroundings and the area does not look or feel overdeveloped; the limited access to the beach will hopefully keep it this way.
We stayed at Sulu Sunset Resort, owned by Yogi, a friendly German who has made the Philippines his home for the past 17 years. Our bungalow was one of the best places we stayed on our trip, clean and spacious with ample power sockets and shelves to put things on. There was also a nice private veranda out front and an outside tap to avoid the inside getting sandy or dirty… as much as we might like the beach we hate sand getting everywhere!
Sugar Beach was another place where our only eating options were at the resort or one of the others nearby. We mainly stuck to our own, occasionally visiting another for breakfast. The food was very good but had an annoying mark-up price.
The actual beach was one of the nicest we have been to on our travels; the sand was white and clean and the water beautifully clear and cool. With very little waves, it made a wonderful place to swim! There were also sunbeds freely available to use, which we took full advantage of!
Lynette and I loved Sugar Beach; it was a fantastic place to relax for a few days and was definitely one of our highlights of the Philippines.
After three days of chill-time on Sugar Beach, we were ready to move on and pick up the pace again. From Sipalay we journeyed back to Dumaguete, where we stayed one night, before taking a ferry the next morning onto our next island – magical Siquijor.
If anyone were to ask me for a recommended place to kick back, do nothing and relax for a week or two, then I would highly recommend either of the places that we stayed at during our time on Negros island. Sugar Beach especially is, in my opinion, a fine example of the quintessential coastal paradise that typically comes to mind when one thinks of the Philippines.
Food in the Philippines
Just a quick note for all foodies out there; the Philippines doesn’t offer much in terms of “traditional food”. Apart from dishes with rice, most menus cater towards western tastes, offering options such as pizza, chips and burgers. In all the major cities that we went to, fast-food joints and modern conveniences were everywhere; any local-looking joints didn’t look inviting or appealing.
Being vegetarian, Lynette and I struggled to find different things to eat; we were mainly limited to only one or two options on menus. After a month of boiled mixed vegetables and steamed rice, we were pretty bored of the food and were definitely ready for a change!
Click to find out all about Bohol, another unmissable island in the Philippines!