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Travel Guide to Negros Occidental: A Sweet Escape to Sugar Beaches Edit

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Michelle Tobias  • Contributor
Opinions expressed by Explora.ph Contributors are their own.

Cover photo by Rina Leilani. Graphics by Manel Solsoloy.

At a Glance

Negros Occidental is home to the flavorful chicken inasal, the Mardi Gras-like MassKara Festival, and the Philippines’ deadliest volcano. Because of its boom in the sugar industry, the province has produced many beautiful vintage houses, some dating all the way back to the Spanish era.

Overview

The sugarbowl of the Philippines, Negros Occidental derives much of its wealth from sugarcanes, as the province supplies about two-thirds of the country’s sugar. Vast plantations of this tropical grass sweep the lowlands towards the hills of Mt. Kanlaon (2,435m). This is the largest and deadliest volcano in the Philippines. It is a strenuous trekking destination, featuring emerald-green lagoons, which turn out to be its old craters.


From Negros’ sugar boom in the past century came stately homes and mansions, a majority of which are found in the town of Silay. Very much like the old town of Vigan, Silay is hefty with vintage colonial houses such as the Hofilena Heritage House, Balay Negrense Museum, and the pink Bernardino Jalandoni Museum. A short drive away in the next town, meanwhile, is the highly rated, neo-Romanesque mansion The Ruins.


Meanwhile, saltwater junkies will find tranquil white beaches, protected islands, and an astonishing 44 dive sites and wrecks in Negros Occidental. Campomanes Bay, Sugar Beach, and Punta Ballo Beach are just a 10-minute distance apart from each other. A must-visit for nature lovers is Danjugan Island, a 43-hectare marine reserve and sanctuary rich in limestone forests, lagoons, beaches, pristine coral reefs, and island activities.


Stealing the spotlight in the province’s diving scene, on the other hand, are the barnacle-crusted Julien’s Wreck and the country’s largest marine reserve Carbin Reef. Other notable destinations to see in the province are Mambukal Mountain Resort, Mag-Aso Falls, Bantug Lake Ranch, and Punta Bulata Resort and Spa.


The best time to explore Negros Occidental is during its MassKara Festival. Held every fourth Sunday of October in Bacolod City, this Mardi Gras-like event is the country’s happiest. Locals parade in the most colorful and decorative smiling masks, a prominent feature that aptly describes Bacolod as “The City of Smiles.”

8 Must-See Tropical Jewels in Negros Occidental

Written by Colleen Cabili

Campomanes Bay

Are you up for some extreme activities? Surrounded by massive karst formations and deep yet calm turquoise waters, Campomanes Bay is a popular destination in Sipalay for thrillseekers who want to give rock climbing, scuba diving, and kayaking a try. 

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Photo from instagram.com/rodelosreyes.

Carbin Reef

Ever wondered what it’s like to have your own island? You should check out this sandbar in the middle of a 32,000-hectare thriving marine sanctuary.

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Photo from instagram.com/traversephilippines.

Mag-aso Falls

You don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket just so you can cool down in this sweltering heat. Check out Mag-aso Falls, an enchanting 8-meter cascade that is just one of the many attractions in a government-owned resort located in Kabankalan.

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Photo by Brylle Perez Cuyos.

Sugar Beach

Framed by a golden coastline and karst formations that resemble Bohol’s famous Chocolate Hills, Sugar Beach is the laid-back version of the famed Punta Ballo stretch. 

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Photo from gotmarked.com.

Danjugan Island

It’s no secret that Negros Occidental is abundant with dreamy seascapes. Another must-visit gem in this province is Danjugan Island, a crescent-shaped verdant peninsula surrounded by crystalline waters in varying hues of blue. 

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Photo by Kristine Gutierrez.

Mambukal Resort

Located 1,200 meters above sea level, this mountain resort in Murcia is teeming with cascades and natural springs to make up for the lack of saltwater. Make sure to try out their warm sulfur pool to calm your sore muscles after the hike!

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Photo by JM Uytiepo.

Mayana Peak

The summit of Mayana Peak can be reached in less than an hour by foot and 15-20 minutes by motorcycle, but don’t be fooled! This purely vertical climb will get you huffing and puffing the whole way, and if that’s not enough, the view at the top will leave you even more breathless. 

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Photo by Maria Phus.

Julien’s Wreck

Julien’s Wreck is one of Sipalay’s 44 magnificent diving spots that’s named after the sunken cargo vessel found in the area. What remains of the ship is now covered in barnacles and corals which serve as home to several schools of fish and other marine creatures. 

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Photo from gotmarked.com.

Where is Negros Occidental

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Negros Occidental can be found in Western Visayas, sandwiched by Iloilo and Cebu. Graphics by Manel Solsoloy.

How to get to Negros Occidental

From Manila or Cebu, the fastest way to get to Negros Occidental is by plane. Book a flight with Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines to Bacolod City. Travel time is 1 hour, 20 minutes. From Bacolod-Silay Airport, you can get to other towns by bus, van, or jeepney. Bacolod’s city proper is just 15km away. A more affordable alternative is to travel by 2Go ferry, which takes about 32 hours from Manila. To get around a town or city, just hop on a tricycle, pedicab, or habal-habal (motorcycle).


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