Dumaguete Travel Guide and Itinerary

Moon Cafe in Dumaguete (Photo: Hersley Ven Casero)

This coastal city has the languid and gentle charm of the bucolic Negros province but also the youthful energy of a university town.

About Dumaguete 

Dumaguete is a quintessential university town, centered around 120year-old Silliman University, one of the country’s top educational institutions. The beautiful campus, with mountains on one side and the sea on the other, injects a vibrant, youthful energy into the city and is a hub of culture and the arts.  

On the other hand, thanks to its walkable streets, friendly locals and low cost of living, Dumaguete is also known internationally as one of the best places to retire — evident in the multicultural community that has put down roots in and around town. 

Referred to as “The City of Gentle People because of its famous hospitality, Dumaguete has a population of about 130,000swelling to an estimated 400,000 during the day with workers coming in from neighboring places — but still maintains its small-town feel due to its friendly and polite residents. English is widely spoken here so foreigners will find communicating a breeze when engaging with locals.  


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The heart of the city is Rizal Boulevard, which has a brick-paved promenade where locals go for a run or converge for Zumba by the sea. You’ll also find restaurants, bars and a few small hotels lining the boulevard. Unlike other roads in the country that are named after the national hero, Jose Rizal, Dumaguete’s Rizal Boulevard can boast that Rizal himself walked on the road along the shore — Dumaguete was Rizal’s first stop on his way to exile in Dapitan City. Rizal’s former home by the bay remains standing and has been converted into the Honeycomb Tourist Inn.  


Highlights for the Traveler 

Many students from the Visayas and Mindanao come to Dumaguete for their college education or to pursue higher studies. Among the four universities in town, Silliman University is the most prominent. Founded in 1901 by Presbyterians, it is the first American university in Asia. It currently has a population of 9,000 students, hundreds of whom are international students from Europe, America, Africa and other countries in Asia. 

The university features American colonial architecture, well-maintained grounds and a thriving cultural scene: Here, you’ll find the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, considered the “Cultural Center of the Southern Philippines, where plays, concerts and other events are held, bringing together not just the students but also the surrounding community. Silliman University also hosts the annual National Writers Workshop, which gathers local literary stars and aspiring writers, and which has produced a number of notable alumni.  

Beyond the campus grounds are other historical and architectural points of interest: Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also called Dumaguete Cathedral, built in 1754 and the oldest stone church in Negros Oriental; Saint Isidore the Farmer Parish Church in Lazi; the Saint Nicholas of Tolentino Parish Church in Dauin; and the Saint Isidore the Farmer Parish Church in Zamboanguita. 

When in the downtown area, it’s easy to soak up the youthful, collegiate vibe in coffee houses, bars and hostels. But while there are plenty of places to go for affordable drinks at the end of the day and loads of modern conveniences like a shopping mall and fast internet connectivity, Dumaguete is no party town. You can find pockets of activity in the evening but the town does get quiet, and you’re more apt to hear the chirping of crickets than the thumping of dance music late at night. 

The synergy of being on a coastline and having a mix of Spanish, American and Asian heritage makes for an interesting fusion of culinary offerings. Seafood is a mainstay and there are a number of places serving international cuisine. To get an unadulterated glimpse of local life, head to the public market to chat up the vendors and have a breakfast of budbod (a native rice cake) and hot chocolate for a steal. 

There are a number of resorts that are only about 15km from the downtown area with beaches that mostly have volcanic sand. If you’re looking for white sands, you’ll need to travel farther out: Take a bus and a boat to Manjuyod Sandbar in Bais, about an hour away; if you’re traveling between March and October, you might catch a glimpse of the dolphins in Bais. You can also hop on a ferry and head to the mystical island of Siquijor, which has white-sand beaches, waterfalls and an intriguing reputation for sorcery and witchcraft. Ferries can also take you to other key provinces in the Visayas, including Cebu and Bohol. 


By Patricia Barcelon, as of January 2020.

Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

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