White sand and palm trees on Sugar Beach Philippines

WIT: A Quick Guide to Sugar Beach, Sipalay

Sugar Beach is as sweet as it gets in Sipalay, on the beautiful island of Negros. It’s one of the prettiest beaches in the Philippines and, astonishingly, there’s nobody there. Impossibly blue water laps up on to gorgeous white sand and at first, you might believe there really is nobody there. Hidden by the palm trees are a few low-key resorts, guests relaxing on hammocks and birds, dogs and cats relaxing in the shade. In our quick guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about getting to Sugar Beach from Sipalay.

White sands of Sugar Beach with trees in the distance
Apparently Boracay looked a little like this around 20 years ago

How to Get to Sipalay

Sugar Beach isn’t the easiest place to get to. Negros also isn’t the most visited island in the Philippines, and you can tell. Everything is just a little bit more difficult in comparison with backpacker hotspots nearby, but your efforts are absolutely rewarded.

Negros is a stunning island and one that we think every backpacker should make time for. Visitors to nearby Siquijor, Bohol and Cebu would all do well to make a few extra days for it. If you’re backpacking around the Central and Western Visayas, be sure to check out our other Philippines travel guides for more information and handy tips.

A girl walks in to the Sugar Beach sea with rocks nearby
We walked to the other end of Sugar Beach. See? We did something

We think Sugar Beach is one of the best beaches in the country, let alone Negros. You’ll need to get to Sipalay first, the closest ‘city’. From there you can get the boat, whether you’re visiting for a day trip or a longer stay.

AIR

There’s no airport on Sugar Beach, nor in nearby Sipalay. Your best two options are Dumaguete-Sibulan Airport and Bacolod-Silay Airport. Even then, you’re still 4 hours away from Sipalay. Both airports are well served by Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Cebgo, with frequent flights to and from Davao, Manila and Cebu.

BUS

Now the fun begins! You’ll need to get the bus from either Bacolod or Dumaguete. We came from Dumaguete, so these are your options from there.

First, you’ll need to get a trike from Dumaguete to Ceres Bus Terminal (P10pp).

We believe there’s a direct bus from Dumaguete straight to Sipalay. It’s supposed to leave around 11am, but we found no sign of it. Instead, we got the bus to Bayawan, then to Hinobaan, then to Sipalay. You might have to as well.

Dumaguete – Bayawan
  • P130. Pay with cash at the counter
  • No luggage fee
  • First departure 07:30, then hourly with Ceres
  • 3 hours

Bayawan Bus Terminal is a busy place, and there are loads of food and fresh fruit stalls in the streets around it. A short walk away there is also a handy ATM.

Bayawan – Hinoba-an
  • P79. Pay with cash at the counter
  • No luggage fee
  • We left at 10:45, there are regular buses again with Ceres
  • 1hr30

There is absolutely nothing in Hinoba-an. Nothing whatsoever. It’s honestly not even worth getting off the bus! Now for the last bus of the day.

Hinoba-an – Sipalay
  • P33. Pay with cash on the bus
  • P10pp luggage fee
  • We left at 12:30, there are regular buses again with Ceres
  • 30 minutes

On our last bus, the conductor was a little surprised to see us, but asked where we were going. Naturally, we said Sugar Beach. If you do, they’ll drop you on the outskirts of Sipalay City. The conductor will shout for his mates on trikes and they’ll suddenly become very interested in your onward journey.

The new city hall building in Sipalay
You can get dropped off at the City Hall by the bus for a cheaper onward journey

WEE TIP: A better idea would be to stay on the bus and get off at New Sipalay Government Centre. From there you’ll have crossed the river, and you’ll be able to get a much cheaper trike. Just realise that there’s very little at the centre, whereas in Sipalay you’ll have everything you need.

But you’ve made it to Sipalay! There’s still a bit of work to do from here.

Staff on Sugar Beach play volleyball when the sun goes down, Sugar Beach
Getting to Sugar Beach is a lot more hectic than when you actually arrive

How to Get to Sugar Beach

Trike and Walk to Sugar Beach

If you get dropped off on the outskirts of Sipalay, you’ll need to grab a trike (15 minutes) over the Barangay Nauhang River, until the road pretty much stops. It’s a surprising P100pp, but we couldn’t haggle any lower than that.

When you arrive at the end of the road, you can take a boat for P300 total. We managed to find two other backpackers but we still thought that was too much. We’d also read online that you could walk all the way to Sugar Beach and we were right…kind of.

We managed to walk about 90% of the way. Unfortunately, the river had flooded and turned in to a pretty deep estuary. There was no way over, and we certainly didn’t want to walk back. It also looked to be around head height, and wading through the water with our bags above our head seemed like trouble.

Luckily, a local guy appeared with his boat and his small kids. He started at P80 to take all four of us over the river, but dropped down to P50. Total. It takes just one minute, since you’ll only need to cross basically 10 metres. But these are the joys of travel.

The wee boys will want to walk you the last 10 minutes and stick out their hand for some coins. We didn’t and they didn’t seem too bothered.

Walk from Poblacion Beach to Sugar Beach

You can also walk to Sugar Beach all the way from Poblacion Beach, if you’ve packed light enough. Your walk should take around an hour, and might be tough going on sand. Probably not a great value-for-time option, since it’s pretty cheap to get to Sugar Beach anyway.

Boat from Poblacion Beach to Sugar Beach

The easiest option of all is to take a boat from Poblacion Beach (one-minute walk from the bus drop-off point) all the way to Sugar Beach. It should only take around 20 minutes, but as always, the quickest way to get there is also the most expensive.

If you know where you’re sleeping on Sugar Beach, you could also pre-arrange a boat ride with your accommodation, which would work out pretty well and save all the hassle!

If you turn up on Poblacion Beach to get the boat, you can expect to pay around P600.

A volleyball court with the sea in the distance on Sugar Beach
Big Bamboo’s volleyball court

Things to Do on Sugar Beach

There’s a surprising amount to do around Sipalay, and Sugar Beach is one of those highlights. On Sugar Beach itself, you can snorkel, kayak and scuba dive. Your accommodation will be able to organise diving and snorkelling trips to nearby Danjugan Island.

There are also some caves to explore, hikes to the two hill viewpoints (an hour there and back) and Naglag Falls.

A view of the sand from the water, with boats on the sand and trees in the background, Sipalay
It doesn’t get much better than this

We’ll be honest, we didn’t really do anything at all on Sugar Beach. We’d been super busy in the nearby islands of Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor and to be honest, we were really happy to just relax in such a beautiful place.

Sip banana shakes in the sunshine and catch up on your reading. When it gets a little too hot, walk the length of one of the best beaches in the country and take it all in. It’s quiet, save the sound of turquoise water drumming up against the sand. Go for a swim, play pool and repeat until it’s time for sunset volleyball and the SMB’s.

A girl sits on a swing between palm trees on Sugar Beach
Instagram swings for all

WEE TIP: try to keep hold of any small change you have when you’re on Sugar Beach. It was hard to get change even from a P500 note, so you’ve been warned!

Where to Stay on Sugar Beach

There’s a good range of accommodation on Sugar Beach, and yet it’s still completely unspoilt. As in, it couldn’t be any more low-key. Locals told us that Sugar Beach is what Boracay looked like 20 years ago.

Almost every resort will have their own sun loungers, kayaks, volleyball courts, Instagram swings and pool tables. You wouldn’t know it looking at the sprawling, dazzling stretch of sand. It’s all tucked away behind the trees, leaving the beach in all its glory.

Big Bamboo Beach Resort

Big Bamboo wasn’t the place we intended to stay, but it was just perfect for us. We were charged P500 per night for a tiny but comfortable Nipa Hut, with its own mosquito net. This is just a little box for sleeping in with a veranda attached, but it’s all you need. You’re going to spend most of your day on the beach.

The food was really tasty, portions were generous and the staff were great. They were building new rooms when we were there, on top of their nicer rooms which were P1200 per night.

Kayaks are P250 p/h, and they organised snorkelling trips too. Recommended.

Nipa Huts from P500

The silhouette of a girl with sunset in the background on Sugar Beach

Driftwood

Driftwood has long been the backpacker’s go-to on Sugar Beach. It has great reviews and it’s not far from Big Bamboo with a lovely, colourful outdoor seating area on the beach. Just remember that all of the accommodation options on Sugar Beach have this.

They’re the only accommodation on the beach to offer backpacker dorms, starting at P250. But, with a Nipa Hut next door for the same price, we opted to stay there instead. Cheap digs, backpacker vibes, sunset swings and volleyball courts. If you stay at Driftwood, leave a comment below to let us know how it is!

Dorms from P250

Buenaventura Beach Resort

Buenaventura is the place we had actually decided that we wanted to stay before we arrived on Sugar Beach from Sipalay. They have budget rooms from P390 and incredible reviews online. They also have the best pizza in town, but sadly we never got to sample it. Did we tell you how lazy we were when we were there..?

Budget rooms from P390

Water foams on the Sugar Beach sand during sunset
Impressive sunsets every night

Moving On

If you’re looking to head back to Sipalay to see some of the amazing sights that aren’t Sugar Beach (link coming soon), thankfully it’s a little easier to organise from the Beach itself. Big Bamboo will take you back on their private boat for P400 for up to x6 passengers. For any passengers after that, it’s P65pp.

We walked to the end of the beach around 08:15 on a Saturday morning. A local guy had just anchored and was having a ball with his two kids on a Saturday morning in the Philippines. He agreed to take us for P250 total, and off we sailed. We got lucky, but if you head to the end of the beach then you may have a chance of finding a cheap ride too.

When you get back to Sipalay, there’s still plenty to see there as well. Check out our guide to the Best Day Trips in the Sipalay Area (coming soon) to make the most of your time in the area!

A view of lifejackets on a boat with the open sea in the background, Sipalay
The ‘we-got-lucky’ boat back to Poblacion Beach, Sipalay

Sugar Beach Budget Breakdown

Getting There:
  • Trike to Ceres Bus Terminal P10 pp
  • Dumaguete – Bayawan bus P130 pp
  • Bayawan – Hinoba-an bus P79 pp
  • Hinoba-an – Sipalay bus P33 pp
  • Hinoba-an – Sipalay luggage fee P10 pp
  • Sipalay – Sugar Beach trike P100 pp
  • Boat over the river P25

Total: P749 ($14.5)

Accommodation:

Big Bamboo Beach Resort

  • Nipa hut
  • P500 per night (x3 nights)

Total: P1500 ($29)

Attractions:
  • n/a

Total: n/a

Food & Drink:
  • water refills P200 (x10 refills @ P20 per refill)
  • breakfasts x4 P550
  • light lunches/dinners x6 P1803
  • soft drinks x4 P140
  • coffees x5 P245
  • banana shakes x2 P150
  • beers x8 P525

Total: P3613 ($69.5)

Moving On:
  • Stroke-of-luck boat P250

Total: P250 ($5)

Total for 3D/3N: P6112/$115

The above budget is for x2 people. Food and drink is likely to vary

This budget breakdown isn’t meant to be an exact record of what we spent, but should give you a rough idea of what you’re likely to spend.
*all currencies accurate at the time of writing (Jan ’19) [$1 = P52 – roughly]

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