Being an archipelago, it's no surprise that the Philippines is home to a lot -- and I mean, a lot -- of great beaches. But the idea that there are also a few good ones in the southern part of Negros Occidental in the Visayas seems largely unheard of for most Filipinos. One of these is the kilometer-long Sugar Beach in the city of Sipalay, a land far, far away.
The lovely Sugar Beach.
Looking for a nice, quiet beach far from the chaotic Holy Week crowd, My Bibe and I spent four nights at Sugar Beach. I first read about it from a magazine when we were at Anda, Bohol back in 2010, and was convinced to include it in my travel list. Finally the time was right.
Going to Sugar Beach reminded me of my earlier travels with My Bibe, where we regularly sought off-the-beaten-track destinations, usually with no hotel reservations whatsoever. We didn't completely dive back to that, however, as we still managed to afford ourselves some level of comfort.
We flew to Bacolod City and hired a car to take us to Sipalay. It did cost us money but we weren't too keen on riding a non-airconditioned bus that stops every few meters to unload and pick up passengers along the way. That said, a three to four-hour private ride would easily stretch to five hours or more.
No thanks to our delayed flight and several ongoing road construction projects along the way, it was already dark when we got off three kilometers from Sipalay, in a sleepy place called Montilla. We took a tricycle to Nauhang, traveling along an inland road bordered by rice fields and later, mangroves, walked a bit, then hopped on an outrigger boat that took us in front of our resort.
Outrigger boats such as this one ferry visitors from any coastal point in Sipalay to Sugar Beach.
In the morning that followed, we finally got to see the beach for all its beauty. The sun was perfect and as expected, it was practically quiet. For the entire stretch of beach, there were no more than ten people swimming at any given time.
Unheard of by most Filipinos, Sugar Beach gets very little visitors, and most of them are Europeans. The only Filipinos that come are largely from Bacolod.
Up close, the sand is a medley of brown, gray and white (it's not powdery-fine, though). Collectively, they give a sugary, light brown appearance under the sun (hence, the name) but instantly darken when wet. With nary a rock or seaweed in sight, it's basically what makes up the beach, which, along with its perfect gradual slope, make it an ideal spot for swimming. Just don't come during typhoon season when the waves are huge and the beach is littered with driftwood and whatnot.
The beach is generously lined with coconut and other trees that provide lots of shade, much like this one here:
Seriously, not all coconut trees here are this short.
While for two days it rained every mid-afternoon, it was still sunny for the most part. So I wasn't denied of my sunbathing sessions here.
These clouds caused me a bit of panic. Was it gonna rain all throughout our stay?
Thankfully the clouds parted and the sun's afternoon rays cast a warm glow over the beach.
The beach is bookended by large rock formations, providing a nice backdrop for photographs.
Facing north, what a lovely stroll.
Down south, the rock formations are smaller, apparently small enough for goats to climb. What, you didn't spot the goat?
There are no more resorts along this area. Still a pretty spot nonetheless.
This area leads to a small community. I suppose if you go inland, you'll see the tidal river that people have to cross to get to Sugar Beach.
Being in a rural coastal area, it's not uncommon to see fisherfolk casting their nets along the shoreline for fish. Even this close to shore, they do catch fish!
A couple of kids reining in their nets.
A kid pours seawater over their fresh catch.
I don't know what these fish are called but I'm happy that at least a family or two can have a decent meal tonight.
Animals on the beach
The resort where we stayed in had two dogs. I also saw the resort next door had a huge white one. I don't know but I always love the sight of dogs on the beach. They all look their happiest to me when they're playing in the sand and more so in water. So imagine how thrilled I was when I saw a whole bunch of doggies frolicking on the beach! At first there were two, then a couple more came running toward them to join in the fun.
It's nice to know that there's still a beach in the country where dogs can simply be dogs. I hope Boracay would reconsider.
Apparently dogs weren't the only ones who were free to roam the beach. There were goats, too. Goats that scale huge boulders!
I'm afraid that with the moon nearing full, these goats will shape-shift into something else.
I haven't seen a cat here, though.
With Sugar Beach facing west, you're guaranteed glorious sunsets almost everyday. I've actually shot loads of sunset photos during my stay (You can check out Sunsets at Sugar Beach).
The residual clouds following the rain actually provided interesting formations in the sky.
Sunsets are simply beautiful here.
Where to stay
There are only a handful of resorts in Sugar Beach, all of which are pretty basic. Most of the accommodations, in fact, are fan-cooled native bungalows and nipa huts. Here's about everything:
The Bermuda Beach Resort beachfront.
Right smack in the middle of Sugar Beach, this is where we stayed. With ten rooms, only three are airconditioned; the rest are fan-cooled native bungalows. All things being relative, this is definitely a great place to stay in Sugar Beach (Read my full Bermuda Beach Resort review).
Takatuka Lodge and Dive Resort
Colorful, eh? Takatuka has some teepee-inspired cottages for shade.
Just right next to Bermuda, this place is as wacky as it can get with their eight uniquely themed rooms. Imagine a cave or pirate-inspired room! I was actually considering this place but My Bibe said all that kitsch is gonna drive her mad. I think kids will love it, though. Also, this is the only resort on Sugar Beach that offers diving.
This place prides itself in using only native materials for their bungalows. They also say that no two nipa huts are the same. I just don't know how many huts there are.
Sulu Sunset Beach Resort
This place has nine native cottages, all fan-cooled. They range from the most basic to bigger, more refined ones complete with veranda and hammock.
Langub Beach Resort
I don't know much about this one other than it's been around for a long while already. There's reportedly a kitchen that can be rented if you feel like cooking your own food. However, I suppose this is the least peaceful of resorts in Sugar Beach because with its day cottages for rent, this is where day trippers on a picnic normally go to.
My Bibe and I at Sugar Beach, before our skin darkening sessions in the sun.
Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Airphil Express, and Zest Air all operate daily flights from Manila to Bacolod, and except for Zest Air, to Dumaguete as well. There are also flights from Cebu.
Whether coming from Bacolod, hop on a Ceres bus (+6344334993; +6344342386; +6344342387) going to Hinoba-an, which will pass by Sipalay; if from Dumaguete, take one going to Sipalay (<'Php200, non-aircon). Aircon buses ply the route only once a day (check schedules with Ceres). If coming from Bacolod, go to the bus terminal in Sambok where the south-bound buses are.
Get off at Montilla, then take a tricycle to Nauhang (Php100 to Php150). Once there, you'll have to cross a tidal river on a paddle boat (>Php20/person), then walk all the way to your resort. Alternatively, you can get off after the bridge, walk a few feet to the beach, then board a motorized outrigger that will take you straight to your resort (Php150 to Php200/trip).
Another option is to get off at Sipalay proper and take a boat straight for Sugar Beach. It's best to arrange this with your resort in advance, though (approx. Php350/trip).
Private trips to Sipalay can be arranged at the airport (Php 3,500 to Php 4,500/trip from Bacolod; I don't know how much if from Dumaguete). Or better yet, arrange this ahead with your resort to avoid being taken advantage of.
As with the bus option, you can get off at either Montilla or Sipalay proper. The same directions apply.