I’ve found a new love, sweet love in Sugar Beach. Waking up the following morning after an evening arrival by five-hour bus from Bacolod City, my soul surrendered to the symphony of sea and sand in an instant. It finally saw the remote beach I’ve bucket-listed for years with my own eyes.
Hemmed in by limestone formations reminiscent of the thousand or so world-famous hills in central Bohol, this less-visited beach in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental had all the elements that made me fall in love with Port Barton, Palawan. A secluded strip embraced by lush greenery with an unpretentious village atmosphere and carnelian sunsets over the Sulu Sea.
Originally called Langub Beach (langub means “cave” in the native tongue), a name still used by some locals, this kilometer-long stretch of fine sand was later renamed Sugar Beach by resort owners, upon the recommendation of no less than German travel guidebook writer Jens Peters who visited in the early 2000s.
If you have more than a couple of days to explore the area, there are a number of outdoor activities you can do. Besides sun-worshipping on the beach or enjoying the sheer delight of doing nothing in your private bungalow’s hammock, resorts can arrange mangrove kayaking tours and easy hikes to nearby hilltops and caves. There’s even a sunken cargo ship called Julien’s Wreck shallow enough (6 to 15 meters) to be admired just by snorkeling, similar to Skeleton Wreck in Coron, Palawan. Not far away, underwater marvels can be had while scuba diving at Punta Ballo, south of the city proper.
How to Get There
Bacolod, Dumaguete or Cebu to Sipalay City
- Sipalay City is five to six hours by public bus (PHP 209, non-A/C) from Bacolod or Dumaguete (via Bayawan). From Bacolod, take a bus bound at the Ceres South Terminal along Luzuriaga St. for Hinoba-an, the southernmost town of Negros Occidental after Sipalay City. Traveling from Cebu? It’s a long haul but, according to locals, there’s are Ceres bus that ply between Cebu City and Sipalay City that leaves once a day at 5:00 AM from either city. Travel time takes roughly 12 hours.
Sipalay City to Sugar Beach, Brgy. Nauhang
- There’s no road access that can take you directly to Sugar Beach. One can either alight at Gil Montilla junction near the ostentatious city hall (you won’t miss it) before the city proper. From here, take a tricycle (PHP 100 for a chartered trip) for 15 minutes to the mouth of a stream at Barangay Nauhang. Small canoes can then be hired for PHP 5-10 to take you across to the southern end of Sugar Beach, where you’ll have to walk to your resort of choice.
- An alternative way, that’s ideal for bigger groups, is to charter a 15-minute bangka ride (PHP 300 per way, 1-10 persons; + PHP 50 for night trips) from the beach front at the city proper to your resort on Sugar Beach.
Where to Stay
- Among the dozen or so resorts on Sugar Beach, I highly recommend Driftwood Village Beach Resort, with its rustic native bungalows tucked in a shady grove of coconuts and eucalyptus trees. This laid-back affair whips up delicious food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Thai red or green chicken curries are standout dishes you’ll crave for. Accommodations start at PHP 250 for a dorm bed, and PHP 900 for a loft-type bungalow with private toilet and shower, good for two persons. Free wifi available. Tel: +63 9209003663 or +63 9192367055. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sugar Rocks Music Bar, Restaurant & Lodging is a new joint built over limestone rocks at the northernmost end of the beach. Accessed by steps wrapped around a limestone outcrop, the cozy music bar has commanding views (see the first photo above) and musical acts during the peak season. There are a few rooms: PHP 650 for the huts, good for two; and PHP 350 for the dorm beds – all with shared T/B. Tel: +63 9084298413.
- While not keeping to the rustic atmosphere of the destination, Takatuka Lodge and Dive Resort is one of the quirkiest place to stay with midrange rates staring at PHP 1,275. They cater mostly to couples and families with children with their creatively designed theme rooms. Check out the cave and submarine rooms! Tel. +63 920 679 2349