Imagine the perfect beach: white sand, blue sea, and palm trees leaning languidly over the shore. Believe it or not, after traveling for almost a year and staying in countless beach huts, we hadn’t found that perfect beach. Maybe that’s because we had been looking for great coral and sea life, which doesn’t always come with the prettiest beaches. The Philippines is known for its beautiful beaches, so our first goal was to find white sand, turquoise water, and palm trees leaning at the perfect angle. We found it all on the sleepy island of Siquijor in the Visayas.
Our Story: The Beaches of Siquijor
We were sitting in the rain in the Banda Islands, deciding what to do next. We were itching for sun and sand, and the weather forecast in the Philippines looked beautiful. We moved up the dates of our Philippines trip to take advantage of the great weather. But how to choose a beach? The Philippines has thousands of islands, all of which look amazing. The most famous beach destinations, like Boracay, are overrun with people. To make matters more complicated, we were going to arrive in the country at the tail end of Easter week, when locals travel en masse and hotels are booked solid.
A French-Canadian couple at our hotel in the Bandas recommended Siquijor (pronounced see-KEE-or) in the Visayas in the central Philippines. The island has a reputation for black magic and sorcery, so Filipinos would stay away during Holy Week. There are no famous sights or landmarks on Siquijor, just a lot of laid-back beach towns. Sounded like the place for us!
- All of the beaches that we visited, especially Paliton Beach
- Snorkeling at Tubod Marine Sanctuary was better than expected
- The Bruce cottages were great value
- The weather was great
- There’s not much to do when you get tired of the beach
- This isn’t the right destination for amazing reefs or marine life
Siquijor’s low-key tourist scene is centered around several beach resorts along Solangon Beach north of San Juan town. Our hotel, the Bruce, was at the northern end. We arrived on Easter Sunday and only made reservations a few days in advance, so we were lucky to get a room at such a great place. We had a big, breezy room for about $22, which we would find out later was unusually good value for the Philippines.
Solangon Beach isn’t the best for swimming despite the warm, sparkling water. The water is barely deep enough to swim at high tide, and the sea goes way out at low tide. What it does have is a curve of golden sand fringed with palm trees.
The sunsets are amazing too.
Even the stray puppies on the beach are adorable.
This is it! The picture-perfect beach of your dreams is a few kilometers north of Solangon, down a side road marked “Paliton Marine Sanctuary.” Where the road peters out, cross two tiny pocket beaches to get to Paliton Beach. It is completely undeveloped (so far…) and consists of a grove of tall palm trees backing a stretch of pure white sand. The far end of the beach is the preserve of fishermen with their colorful bangkas (outrigger fishing boats) lined up in a row.
The beach was almost empty when we visited. There were a couple of European tourists and a Filipino family. The kids in the family had a beach ball, which got swept out to sea by a gust of wind. I swam out to retrieve it, and the family invited us to share their picnic. They were an extended family from Dumaguete having a reunion. They had made lechon, or roast suckling pig. Pork isn’t usually our favorite, but this was surprisingly tasty. The whole family was really friendly and gave us a great first impression of people in the Philippines.
The water at Paliton Beach was a little deeper and better for swimming than in front of our beach. We took turns swimming and taking in the views. A few meters from shore, the sandy bottom turns to sea grass, and we didn’t swim out far enough to see if there was any coral. There weren’t many fish either, but this place is all about the aesthetics above the surface.
We liked Paliton Beach so much that we came back for sunset on our last night on Siquijor.
Tubod Marine Sanctuary
Tubod Marine Sanctuary is a protected reef off the beach in front of the Coco Grove Resort a little south of San Juan. To get there, take the narrow path signed for Tubod Marine Sanctuary off the main road. Tricycle drivers know the way. There is an entrance fee of 50 pesos.
The beach here is more built up than Solangon or Paliton, but it’s still low-key and relaxed.
The snorkeling surpassed our expectations. We had read that Siquijor was badly affected by dynamite and overfishing, and indeed we didn’t see many fish at Solangon or Paliton. But the Tubod sanctuary houses an expanse of healthy coral at 10-20 meters from shore, and the water was teeming with fish. We didn’t see any big marine life, but there were lots of the usual reef fish plus some unicorn fish and a few large titan triggerfish.
And Coco Grove has a picturesque jetty! This deserves some explanation. Ever since we got to Southeast Asia, I have wanted to take a photo of a wooden jetty leading the eye back to the turquoise sea. This kind of photo is ubiquitous in tourism marketing materials but surprisingly hard to track down in real life. I was so happy to find this highly photogenic jetty in front of Coco Grove.
Perfect Beaches. Check! Next?
Siquijor was our first stop in the Philippines and it gave us what we wanted: a perfect beach (three of them, in fact). But, there isn’t much else to do besides go to the beach, and neither of us are the type to lie in the sand with a book and work on our sunburn, so it was time to move on and see some serious marine life at Apo Island.
Siquijor was the first incidence of what came to be a common theme of our trip through the Philippines. Each place we visited had one, but only one, amazing thing to see or do. Once we had seen or done that thing, there was no compelling reason to linger. That’s no a terrible thing in an archipelago nation with thousands of places to visit.
What is the most perfect beach you have visited? Let us know in the comments!
When We Were There
March 27-31, 2016. The weather was perfect: hot, sunny, and not too humid.
Getting There and Away
We entered the Philippines in Dumaguete via Manila. We spent the night in Dumaguete and took the Ocean Jet fast ferry to Siquijor the next morning. We shared a tricycle to our accommodation with another couple for 400 pesos.